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Contemplative Strategic Planning

Posted on May 22nd, 2009

Over my 22 years of pastoring NLF, we have contracted with an outside coach to lead our pastoral staff in a strategic planning process at least 5 different times. I was reluctant to do a strategic plan again. The church was doing well. Yes, we were at a transition in a number of areas. We were growing. But I carried bad mem0ries of striving, about internal my own motivation (e.g. Was this really for God, or was this really about me and the need to prove something?), and of  tensions between staff that I had been unwilling to address. This is my first time since my journey into the contemplative almost six years ago. It has been a wonderfully relaxing, enjoyable process. Why? I think the answer is the addition of contemplative spirituality and deeper integration of emotional health into our leadership. What has been different? The following is my short list. 1. God’s will is really what matters. Something has broken inside of me with regards to an unhealthy need for growth. I believe it is God’s will to add people to His kingdom — but in His time, in His way. Cf. Ps. 27:4 2. Courage to live in the truth has penetrated us on a senior staff/elder level. I used to think the marriage relationship was the only crucible for integrating emotionally healthy spirituality. I am convinced that leadership is equally challenging. My own breakthroughs in this area (see Skimming article in Leadership Magazine Jan.2009 online) has made a large difference. 3. I believe we have the right persons in the right place with regards to leadership. While we have challenges like any church, we are living and relating in truth and integrity. Thus, we are functioning as a staff, I believe, without any elephants in the room. 4. Emotionally healthy skills are now part of our common language as a leadership so that even the most challenging topics can be talked about with mutual respect and gentleness. 5. I finally am getting it. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed – apparently insignficant, apparently powerless and apparently defeated. Nonetheless, it is enormously powerful and will, one day, fill the earth. There is no need to rush, to paint it beautiful, or to make NLF bigger, better, and larger according to some Western standard.  6. As a church, we continue to sharpen and grow in our own differentiation level. Our move to a Rule of Life, and recent tightening of our Mission Statement reflects this. As a result, we are less apt to stray into “good” projects that are not central to God’s purposes for us. We are more comfortable in our own skin. I could go on, but these are my initial reflections on our one-year process. (We are now six months into it). I think we prayed more formally at other strategic planning times. Yet this is the one that is, I believe, the least anxious and perhaps most prayerful in spirit. What fears do you, or do you think others, carry with regards to entering into this kind of challenging process?

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Church Culture Revolution: A 6-Part Vision That Deeply Changes Lives