Last updated 30th July 2019
Producing a Vision Action Plan
Churches have been ‘doing discipleship, mission and leadership’ for years, but most have found that the work involved is not easy! For a start, what is meant by ‘mission’? How does a busy church decide on priorities? How does a traditional church prepare its people for doing new things? How does a church council agree and manage the many actions that may ensue?
The Mission Action Planning process (now called Vision Action Planning in this Diocese) came about to answer these questions, and to provide a tried and tested process to help churches listen to God and create a vision that is God's vision for their church.
The method used to produce a VAP (the VAP process) is described briefly below to help a church's leadership as they engage in the difficult work of deciding on their discipleship, mission and leadership priorities and actions. There is a template here.that might help you record your VAP.
There are four phases of the process: Review, Discern, Plan and Act. which are illustrated in the diagram on the right and which can be downloaded as an image here. The cross of Christ is at the centre to remind us that all our work should focus on Jesus Christ with a passion for carrying out his commandments, and that prayer should accompany all the phases.
“Desire”: before you start the process
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote “If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organise the work, rather teach people to yearn for the wide, boundless ocean”.
In the same way, if you want your church to engage effectively in making disciples, being witnesses and growing leaders, don’t get a group together immediately to start work on each M/VAP phase in turn. Instead, teach people to yearn to respond to Jesus Christ’s teachings about mission.
We recommend all parishes wait until at least two thirds of the church council really understand the five ‘Marks of Mission’ and really want to engage. We hear many stories of where a church group has produced a VAP but then has neglected the Act stage to the point where nothing changes. We even know of one church that framed the VAP document – to look at and admire; but no effective actions were taken.
1. Stage 1 - “Review”: Knowing your situation and opportunities before God
In the Review phase of the VAP process, a church aims to discern God’s mission plan for the communities they serve by prayerfully looking at and understanding the situation that a church finds itself in including the location, the people, the activities that the church is engaged in and what activities could be started.
These values are summarised in a “Purpose statement” – which captures a sense of these - why this church is here. This statement should be limited to one sentence.
Example Purpose Statement: - “Christ Church is here to share the love of Jesus Christ with all ages in this community”
2. Stage 2 - “Discern”: your future calling and priorities
Whilst the Review phase is concerned with the present time, the Discern phase is all about the future. People may have many ideas about what the church could be doing, but resources are finite and choices have to be made.
Example Vision Statement: - “St Anne’s will become a church community where all members are growing in faith and using their special gifts to spread Jesus’ saving love.”
3. Stage 3 - “Plan”: what, who and when
During the planning phase, each priority can be taken in turn and fleshed out into the main actions that are necessary to reach the goal.
4. Stage 4 - “Act”: on the plans
This is where the practical work gets done. Often, the owner of each action invites others to form a team – to share the work and support each other. It is vital that there are regular reviews of progress – perhaps at PCC meetings – to ensure that the people involved are supported and encouraged in their work. It may be found necessary to re-visit the plans in the light of work done so far. For completed actions, give thanks and celebrate!
5. Stage 5 - Keep going
As indicated by the arrows on the chart at the top of the page, the VAP process is not linear but is cyclical and included within the process is a cycle to reflect, review and revise the VAP. We recommend a three year cycle, but each church is encouraged to choose its own period.
On the second and subsequent cycles, the Review phase will include a review of what has been learned about the Vision work and the VAP process itself - what has worked well and not so well, so that skills, learning points and experience can be acknowledged. During these repeat cycles, the health check is updated and the PCC reviews it’s Purpose and Vision statements.
Usually and crucially, the mission priorities will be updated to reflect the current opportunities and position.
The VAP process is described in more detail in 'How to do Mission Action Planning' by Mark Ireland and Mike Chew ISBN 13: 9780281075645 – which contains many examples and tips (some of which are taken from Diocese of Blackburn parishes).