Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why Do I Need a Ministry Action Plan?

Every now and then I get apiece of mail that excites me. I don’t mean email; I mean a piece of paper actually delivered to my mailbox. It is usually embossed with a monogram or has some special font that shares who sent it. It is often on heavier paper than normal and occasionally even has a fancy seal that is keeping it closed. It is an invitation to a party. Maybe it's a wedding of a friend or a child I baptized a long time ago. It could be a holiday gathering, a milestone birthday, a retirement, or even just a youth pool party. Whatever the occasion, I love getting an invitation. When I get an invitation I realize that I’m an important part of somebody’s life (or that they just want a wedding gift, but I’m going with important). I learn what type of party it is, what I’m expected to wear if I show up, where and when it is happening, and what I need to bring. I love invitations. 

 A MAP is an invitation you create that lets others in on the dream that God has given you. I genuinely believe God has a unique plan, path, and purpose for your life. Part of that divine calling is creating a new faith community that will reach people who are seeking God, even if they are not aware that it is God that they are seeking. God has given you a dream of what can be, of a preferred future, of a community that authentically models God’s Kingdom here on earth. Your job is to live out that calling in such a way that the dream becomes a reality. The best way to live out that dream is to invite others to the party. The MAP does three things to facilitate the invitation: it helps you understand the dream. You must define the kind of party you are creating. It helps you communicate the dream. What fun is a party if nobody knows the theme or reason for the party? Lastly, and maybe most importantly, it helps you invite others to join the dream. It is the invitation to be part of the party.

Understand the Dream: Interpretation

“[The Lord] asked me, ‘Human can these bones live again?’ I said, ‘Lord God, only you know.’” Ezekiel 37:9

Consistently in the scriptures when someone had a dream it required some level of interpretation. They could be divinely interpreted like the prophets who shared their visions and explained their meaning, or humanly interpreted; the way Daniel did for the king. Dreams need interpretation. The MAP is a tool that will help you take the amazing dream that God has given you for a new faith community and begin to make it come alive. Like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, your dream needs to move from idea, to understanding, and finally to action. All of this will not happen by accident, but by intentionally living out God’s dream. The act of interpretation allows you to clarify the dream and get clear on the language you want to use regarding it. You will learn how take the abstract idea of a gathering of people to serve God and make it so real that others will desire to be part of such a divine endeavor. Interpretation will allow you to create the culture of the community you are called to lead and understand how it is unique. The MAP will help you understand the dream, and by understanding you will be able to communicate it with others.

Share the Dream: Communication

The Ministry Action Plan also acts as a tool for communication. It provides you a tangible document that describes an intangible endeavor—a dream. The MAP takes the dream and clearly paints a word picture so clear it seems to already exists. Most people do not regularly think in abstracts; we like concrete ideas. The MAP takes the abstract concept of creating a small piece God’s kingdom and makes it seem possible through careful descriptions, specific goals, and real life examples. One of the tasks you must master is what I call the one-minute; one-cup of coffee; one-hour method of communicating your dream. God has given you a dream. Now, you have to be able to communicate the key concepts, values, and aspirations of that dream in one minute. This brief encounter will help you establish a connection with whomever God puts in your path. Then you need to be able to share it over one cup of coffee with enough passion that they actually ask to read your MAP. This time of casual conversation can be a divine appointment. Excitement is caught, not taught. During coffee conversations your passion for God’s dream can be transferred and ignite their passion to be part of something great for God’s kingdome. You must also have a one-hour presentation to share with groups who might desire to partner with you (thirty-five minutes with plenty of time for questions). Whether it is to churches you desire to ask for support, groups in the community who are wondering what you are up to, or to your denominational supervision team, this presentation should generate interest and excitement. The presentation needs to be well rehearsed, clear, and invite a minimum of three levels of partnership.
A good MAP helps you navigate the wilderness of ministry.

The MAP acts as a guide for you and provides you the language and guidelines for each level of communication. When you communicate it passionately, clearly, and have real ways to invite others to join in the dream you will be amazed at what can happen.

Invitation to the Dream: Participation

One author writes that we live “lives of quiet desperation.” We have forgotten how to dream and most of us crave to give our lives to something bigger than a mortgage and SUV payments. We fill our days, but have empty lives. We cram our calendars, but go to bed empty, wondering if anything we did really matters. A powerfully sculpted MAP invites others to join you on a dream journey that will have eternal consequences. Isn’t that why you are called to create a new faith community? You want to provide people who are searching and hurting a way to connect with God, the One who loves them and seeks to make them whole? On a practical note, the MAP also acts as a way for you to share the dream with your district superintendent, other clergy, and anyone else who might want to assist you make the dream a reality. It shows that you clearly understand the challenge that is before you. It demonstrates responsibility for the gift of a year or two that you have been given to get the dream up and running. A MAP includes goals, benchmarks, milestones, and funding objectives that assist you in establishing priorities and making decisions. Every great journey needs a MAP.

Last Words on “Why?”

A Ministry Action Plan is really an invitation to a party. It is a document that takes an incredible amount of time to create. It requires you to articulate abstract ideas in tangible goals and timelines. It is also so much more than that. It is an invitation that allows others to give their time, resources, and gifts. There are many Christians who desire to do something significant for God, the MAP you create will act as an opportunity for them to do just that! However, that is not all your MAP will do. In addition to acting as a conduit to invite Christians to be part of a God-sized dream, it also can be part of an invitation to somebody who has given up on God. Studies consistently reveal that new faith communities are the most effective way to reach people who have either no faith experience or who have given up on previous versions of “church.” The MAP intentionally invites those people to reconsider their faith. It invites them into the presence of God to experience the healing power of God. The MAP may be the invitation they need to create a better future for themselves and their family. Your MAP is an invitation that is waiting to be written. Dream the dream that God has uniquely given you, then wake up, write it down and share it. What are you waiting for?

Need Details on How to Write the Plan?

Now that you realize you need a plan, do you need help? Below is a short ebook I wrote that gives an outline for how you can write your own Ministry Action Plan.

Effective Ministry Action Plans: Your MAP Out of the Wilderness of Ministry - Kindle edition by Marty Cauley. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

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