Take a moment to imagine a congregation in which the lives of parishioners, neighbours, family members, and friends are being radically transformed by Christ. There is a sense of common gospel-purpose amongst parishioners that is energizing and inspiring people to action. People are learning to live Jesus-shaped lives and participating in God’s restorative work of love in their communities, neighbourhoods, and cities.
This type of renewal is happening in the Church, and the Diocese of Niagara’s Mission Action Planning (MAP) process is designed to help parishes align their ministry with the renewing power of the Holy Spirit that animates God’s mission. The MAP process is a tool that when embraced fully, guides congregations not only to discover where God is at work in their churches and in their communities but also to join in that work through initiatives that align with God’s purposes.
The hesitation that parishes have about engaging in a visioning process is that they’ve done something like this before and, once the dreaming and discerning was over, little or no action was taken to bring the new mission to life. Do a quick Google search about “moving from vision to action” and you’ll realize that this issue is not unique to the church world.
One of the reasons that organizations end up shelving new missions is lack of buy-in from those within the organization. Another reason is lack of concrete and actionable items that allow those within the organization to live out the new vision.
The MAP process addresses both common pitfalls by including the whole congregation in the visioning process. The process is also set up so that, at the end of the discerning and visioning part, parishioners choose several specific initiatives and immediately start forming working groups that will move the initiatives forward.
An integral part of putting the action part of the plan into motion is the Parish MAP Advocate—a person chosen by the rector and wardens who will support the working groups. When congregations reach this point in the MAP process, sometimes it is challenging to figure out who should take on this important role. Ideally, the Parish MAP Advocate should be someone who has participated in the MAP consultations, exhibits a passion and enthusiasm for God’s mission, and has strong organization and communication skills. After helping get the working groups started, the MAP Advocate’s role is to be a cheerleader, connector, and collector and sharer of stories.
The MAP process is a tool that is helping us not only to see where God is at work, but also to participate in God’s mission in dynamic, engaged, and active ways. As more and more parishes start the action part of the MAP process, we will share stories of God’s work in the congregations, neighbourhoods, cities, and towns that make up the Diocese of Niagara. We will celebrate that—one action step at a time—we are living into being a mission-shaped church.
If you have a story you would like to share about your parish’s MAP initiatives or have any questions about any part of the MAP process, please be in touch with Emily Hill – Parish Development Missioner for the Diocese of Niagara at [email protected] or visit niagaraanglican.ca/mission.