Congregational planning provides direction and shows opportunities

September was a big month for Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. Not only did its school start its first year as a Wisconsin Parental Choice school partially so it could reach out to the lower-income Hispanic families in its neighborhood but also it found out that a Spanish-English bilingual pastor had accepted the church’s call to minister to those same families. 

This didn’t happen overnight. It was the result of God’s grace—and significant self-assessment and years of planning. 

“You take a solid look at your ministry; you listen carefully to what people are saying; and you open your eyes and take a good look around,” says Aaron Christie, pastor at Trinity. “Then you make some ministry decisions and put down some good plans. Will all these things happen exactly as you plan? Likely not. But can significant things happen in a timely manner? Absolutely!” 

The process started about four years ago when Trinity put together a five-year planning committee. Their plans were put on hold, however, when major church repairs were needed. When the church began to revisit the plans, it decided to use a synod program called Self-Assessment and Adjustment. Developed by the Commission on Congregational Counseling (CCC), this program helps congregations assess their current ministry and provides ideas and strategies for the congregation to adjust its ministry as needed. 

The process started with the congregation spending several months to put together congregational and community profiles as well as to survey its members about their views on the church and its ministry. 

Further assessment continued when a CCC counselor spent a day leading 50 congregation leaders in a Bible study about what Scripture says about various areas of ministry, including worship, outreach, youth ministry, governance, and stewardship. After this study, attendees broke out into small groups and talked about how the congregation was doing in these areas and what could be improved. The counselor then compiled a report of the key findings, listing ideas that the congregation could implement and resources that could help them. 

“You can get so focused on the everyday running of ministry that you don’t always see things that are right in front of your face, let along the big-picture items,” says Christie about the 1,450-member congregation and its ministry. “It was good to have Christian, cordial, and meaningful conversation about how we can serve the Lord of the church best with the people and the abilities that God has given us.” 

Among other things, Trinity determined that it wanted to increase its effort in reaching out in its Hispanic neighborhood. It began offering English as a Second Language classes and quarterly Spanish-language worship services. By winter 2017, the congregation had 40 people in ESL classes. It also spent the year registering its school for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Then in April 2018, Trinity received an enhancement grant from the Board for Home Missions so it could call a full-time bilingual pastor. Now with nine Choice students at its school and a new Spanish-speaking pastor coming, Trinity can move on to its next step to spread the gospel in its community. Each reached goal brings Trinity closer to its vision of becoming a church that is largely Spanish-speaking. 

Jon Hein, CCC director, says that this type of long-range strategic planning can be transformational for congregations. ““The proclamation of the gospel never changes, but how we carry it out might need to be adjusted, depending on our resources and what our community is like,” he says. “Strategic planning is assessing the current reality in your congregation and community, envisioning a desired future, and establishing goals that move you from that current reality to the desired future.  

He continues, “Once you have that vision, it allows you to make bolder moves in your ministry.” 

Learn more about the CCC and its programs at 

 Besides offering counseling to individual congregations, the Commission on Congregational Counseling offers a weekend-long School of Strategic Planning for groups of congregations that want to improve their short- and long-term planning. Jon Hein, CCC director, says more than two dozen of these workshops have already been offered around the country.  

Aspects of this program now will be offered online. Congregations can go through modules that discuss creating a mission statement, clarifying core values, setting goals, and developing a long-range plan through a program called Comprehensive Congregational Planning.  

The first modules are now available at 


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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