An Environment of Discernment

I’m a pastor.  And, listen, I know exactly what my community needs.

Photo by trapdoor_1873 (Creative CommonsPhoto by trapdoor_1873 (Creative CommonsIt needs a food pantry.  Or it needs a counseling center.  Or it needs a tutoring ministry.  Or it needs a family-focused ministry.  Or, well, something like that…

So, to get this new ministry off the ground, here’s what I’ll do.

I’ll take my staff and church board through a process of strategic planning.  We’ll decide exactly how to implement this new ministry—or better yet, multiple ministries.  Then, let me tell you, we’ll really be able to connect with our neighborhood. 

Yeah, right…


Stop with the Strategic Planning!

No doubt, there are times when a church needs to do some strategic planning.  But Alan Roxburgh, in The Sky is Falling, suggests that “missional communities…must set aside goal-setting and strategic planning as their primary model.”  (I wrote more about strategic planning here.)

Instead, what churches need to do is cultivate “an environment within which God’s people discern God’s directions and activities in them and for the communities in which they find themselves” (from The Missional Leader, by Roxburgh and Romanuk).


Cultivate an Environment of Discovery

But how do you create that kind of environment?  How do you create space for learning and discovering and discerning what God is doing—without assuming you already know all the answers?

How can church members find out what God is doing, not only in their neighborhoods, but also in their own lives?  And how can they put this all together in order to detect where God is calling them in ministry?


Neighborhood Connection Groups

At my church we came up with something called “Neighborhood Connection Groups.”  Their purpose was to cultivate an environment where we could discern together what God was up to in our neighborhood, in our church, and in our own lives, so that, ultimately, we would become the church God wanted us to be for our neighbors in this time and in this place.

Neighborhood Connection Groups work because they send church folks out into the neighborhood.  Then they come back together to share what they experienced in the neighborhood.  Then they go back into the neighborhood again.

And then we do it again.  And again...

This has been a huge blessing for our church and for those who participate.  I’ll tell you more about Neighborhood Connection Groups in the coming weeks.


Has it been challenging to create an environment of discernment in your church?  How has your church gone about sending your people into the neighborhood?  How has your church gone about learning and discerning together the ministry God is calling your church into?

Add New Comment