Mission Action Planning
Mission Action Planning is a tried and tested way of putting flesh on to what we say of ourselves as a Church and Parish, exploring our strengths and the challenges that face us, and putting together a realistic plan for the way forward that God is calling us to.
There is no one ‘correct’ way of producing a Mission Action Plan (MAP), but there are a number of important considerations for a MAP to be of use to a parish, rather than just a collection of grand ideas. This leaflet offers basic guidelines on Mission Action Planning.
Mission Action Planning is integral to strategic planning and delivery of effective mission and ministry by parishes in the Diocese of London. In line with Capital Vision 2020 every parish is actively encouraged to have an up-to-date MAP. Each Episcopal Area has in place strategies to support and encourage Mission Action Planning.
Mission Action Plans are regarded as prime documents for those involved in the support and development of parochial ministry. An up-to-date Mission Action Plan will be key in the offering of such support and development work.
Many parishes include Mission Action Planning (or equivalent) as an ordinary part of parish life. The sole Episcopal / Diocesan involvement in the process for many will simply be to receive copies of the MAP. However, the Area Directors of Training and Development are at the front line for supporting and encouraging parishes, as appropriate, in the development of Mission Action Planning, on behalf of the Bishops.
Today the majority of churches in the Diocese have Mission Action Plans, with a clear expectation that every parish will move in this direction. Mission Action Plans are used by churches to focus on the priorities that they have set for themselves. They will also be used in the assessment of every church’s health and viability and used as a tool in clergy development programmes.
What is a Mission Action Plan?
The aim is for this to be an organic document, expressing your church’s DNA. As a working tool it should also grow and change as your work for the Kingdom in your particular locale develops.
Mission Action Plans vary widely from parish to parish depending on whether it is the first or fourth Mission Action Plan for a church; the size of the church, its location and church tradition. Some examples are available from the resources section at the bottom of this page. One crucial factor in preparing a Mission Action Plan is that it should be an activity which has the widest possible involvement across your congregation.
Where do we start?
- Parish Profile: describe as many aspects of your church as possible such as: styles of worship; a profile of the people who come; church school; church resources; activities within the church.
- History Audit: an exploration of the themes that have shaped the church and community, including points of growth and sticking points.
- Community Audit: compile a profile of your neighbourhood. Include information about local organisations and amenities. Use Census data to profile the population. Plot the demography of your Parish on a map.
- Envisioning Exercise: brainstorm with as many people as possible to come up with new ideas and ventures. Be bold – don’t worry about practicalities at this stage.
- SWOT Analysis: take the ideas from the envisioning exercise and consider the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for each one. This will help you to think realistically about what might be possible. Remember to include financial and buildings considerations in the process.
- Resources: consider what people and skills will be needed to accomplish your objectives. Will local partners need to be involved? Who in the church community might take this forward? What else might be needed?
- Prioritise: divide your ideas into three categories – ‘Quick Wins’: things that can be introduced and make an impact quickly. ‘Medium range’: things that will require preparation. ‘Long range’: things which will need an investment of significant time and resources.
- SMART Checklist: make sure all your objectives are; Specific and Stretching, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Realistic as well as Time bound and Timely.
- Draft: prepare a MAP which sets out your parish priorities and how you intend to achieve them. Be sure this is a collaborative activity so the whole congregation has ‘ownership’ of the plan.
- Launch: celebrate your vision with your community; both churchgoers and those groups and people who have links with your church.
Once prepared and underway, it is vital that the implementation of the Mission Action Plan is monitored both for what goes right and what goes wrong.
Review the Plan regularly. Make sure that subject areas within it are placed on PCC agendas for discussion. Give regular feedback to church members and arrange an occasion when the whole congregation can review the plan once a year and agree any modifications.
AND FINALLY remember that this is not a ‘tablets of stone’ exercise, nor is it a box-ticking exercise. A Mission Action Plan is a practical document, constantly in use and developing organically with the inevitable movements in the life of you Parish.
Although the Bishop and the Area Director of Training and Development would like to have a copy, you are undertaking this exercise for the life and vitality of your parish, and not for anyone’s filing cabinet!
If you need help at any stage in the process (and particularly at the early stages), please contact your Area Director of Training and Development / Area Office / Archdeacon, any of whom will point you in the right direction. Or email, as appropriate:
There are resources for Mission Action Planning in the resources section at the bottom of this article; do have a look around these. There are also more resources referred to there.
Good practical handbooks to assist the process include:
- Mike Chew & Mark Ireland Mission Action Planning (SPCK. 2009)
- Neil Evans & John Maiden What can Churches learn from their past? (Grove. 2012)
- Bob Jackson The Road to Growth (CHP. 2005)
- Robert Warren The Healthy Churches’ Handbook (CHP. 2004)
- General Synod Mission-Shaped Church (CHP. 2004)
- General Synod Moving on in a Mission-shaped Church (CHP. 2005)
There are also plenty of web-based resources available, including www.freshexpressions.org.uk where you can look at what other parishes are doing.
Sample Mission Action Plans
Writing a Mission Action Plan for the first time can be a daunting task. These four plans give good examples from churches of varying sizes, locations and traditions, and may provide inspiration. As you will see, the plans have common themes, but are heavily shaped by the communities they reflect.
- St George, Southall is a small but vibrant congregation in a multi-ethnic suburb of West London. Its 2009-10 Mission Action Plan focussed on Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism and 100/100 Vision.
- St John, Notting Hill is a medium-sized church with an attached Filipino Chaplaincy in Kensington. It identified with the idea of pilgrimage, involving Companionship with God, with each other and with those we meet along the way. Its 2007 Mission Action Plan examined worship and prayer, the fabric of our buildings and grounds, and outreach.
- St John, Stanmore is a medium-sized evangelical church in the Harrow Deanery. In its 2006-7 Mission Action Plan, it looks at concentric circles of commitment, and examines how the church can love God and love those with whom it comes into contact, with a focus on Welcome and Service, Youth, and Worship.
There are two documents from St John’s – a summary document and a more detailed plan.
- St Mary, West Twyford is a small, community-focussed church between Ealing and Wembley. Their 2006-7 Mission Action Plan looks at how the church can grow by worshipping together, meeting together, building bridges together, and by growing in a personal walk with God.