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hope for churches in stress

Setting Direction IV

Greg Starr, pastor of New Life Church of Hershey (Pa.), customized an approach to setting direction that fits New Life. With his leadership team, Greg considered several envisioning approaches (see Setting Direction I, II, and III) and melded them into one that engages the whole church.

A first step was to invite everyone in the church to complete a survey. Since the questions themselves can influence responses, Greg and the leadership team developed survey questions together.

As a second step, Greg talked with each member of the leadership team, noting their hopes and ideas. Meanwhile, the leadership team fanned out among church attenders for similar one-to-one conversations.

At the end of the three weeks, responses from the survey and conversations were given to Greg. Greg compiled the feedback and disseminated the resulting document to a leadership group comprised of the pastor, the leadership team, and ministry leaders—with their spouses. This expanded leadership group met twice to process the feedback and discuss potential vision and priorities.

With these conversations in mind, Greg articulated vision, emphases, and action steps. This second iteration was distributed to the leadership team and, together, Greg and the team refined and affirmed the this document.

Next, the vision, emphases, and action steps were shared with the full congregation. Everyone was encouraged to give feedback. Once this was done, the leadership team finalized and approved the vision document.

As a concluding step, Greg and the leadership team evaluated the envisioning process and proposed upgrades for the next time around.

The strength of the New Life approach is: (1) the initiating role of the pastor, (2) active engagement by key stakeholders, (3) opportunity for everyone in the church to participate, and (4) the humility to keep improving the process, year by year. The one-to-one conversations and meetings for group discernment require a burst of activity several months in duration, but the potential yield is helpful feedback and strong ownership by the church.

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