The title is "Think Strategies, Not Programs." I resonate with Bob's opening sentences: "It is important to have a strategy to achieve your vision and mission. Most congregations are simply going along and are guided by the calendar of events."
Wow! I say this because I see many of our churches being guided more by the event calendar than anything else. When an event works we naturally want to do it again next year. A program calendar can easily become packed with successful events leaving little room for new initiatives. The question needs to be asked, "What criteria shall we apply to all of our church's events to determine whether or not they should be continued?"
Bob Farr writes that UM Churches do not need to spend time writing a mission statement. We have one which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. "Our mission is clear; the only question is how your local church is going to carry it out." The answer to this is our vision. "Once you have your vision, make sure it is easily understood by all, and that it is obvious and strategic so that the congregation will support it by putting feet to it to make it so." (p. 51)
Farr believes that everything we do in our churches should be measured by whether or not it is achieving the mission. When talking about a church preschool he writes, "There's value in having weekday ministries for children, but you must ask if that value is in line with the overall mission of the church. Too many churches have lots of separate little ministries going on that are good but don't align with the mission. They may look like they are not hurting anything, but they take up needed time, space, and energy and thus lessen our ability to achieve the overall purpose of growing our church." (p. 53)
"A CHURCH IS NEVER FACED WITH THE CHOICE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD. IT'S ALWAYS A CHOICE AMONG WHICH GOOD." (p. 54)
It has been my experience as a pastor and superintendent that we generally do not do a very good job of measuring our ministries by our missional purpose. We find it difficult to turn down a traditional event we've had every year for 30 years. We don't want to risk hurting others who value an event. But as Bishop Mike Lowry advised us at annual conference in Homer, "mission always trumps niceness."
I don't think this is a call to become less nice. Rather, it is a call to put mission first. The major issue for our leaders is to keep the mission and vision of the church before our congregations. Farr's words are a helpful challenge to us all as we seek to be faithful to the mission God is giving us.