- A study group might read a book on the sacraments.
- The book club might use the lens of sacramentality of the world as the basis for choosing their books for the year.
- A retreat might be held for those caring for the elderly around the meaning of the sacrament of anointing.
A themed approach, of course, necessitates long-range plans, perhaps an over-all plan for three to four years, then a detailed plan for each year.
Pam Coster mentions in “Drink for the Thirsty: Planning for Adult Faith Formation, in the Fall 2009 issue of Lifelong Faith Journal: “An exhausted adult formation team helps no one. Ambitious plans are wonderful. Certainly we are ambitious for the Gospel! But steady, sure development is better than a long list of poorly done programs with no follow-up. Churches should know what is possible for their staff and team and plan accordingly. This is why an annual plan is so important. It takes the stress out of seasonal planning provides sufficient lead time for preparation and marketing, and gives everyone the opportunity for input in a calm and constructive way. Once the plan is agreed upon, the team can execute it with confidence and support.”
This approach, of course, is the opposite of what some congregations do: a “flashbulb” approach to faith formation: someone suggests a four-week Scripture study which gets plopped into the calendar, a week later someone thinks of a three-week prayer series which all of a sudden then appears on the church calendar.
Long-range planning produces a very different approach. Specific programs and processes that are planned to fit together is the cohesive method, rather that scattered programs that are thought of, and therefore, flash on people’s screen (awareness) at the last minute.
At the same time – this might seem contradictory, but it’s not – because we live in a rapidly-changing world. Therefore, we also need to adapt, within our long-range plans, to changing conditions while not losing our focus or our vision.
“Adaptive planning,” “tweaking” our integrated long-range plan is a necessary step with today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, if we’re going to be ready to meet the needs that arise and surprise us. Our long-range plan – necessary as it is – is always also open to addressing new needs.
Some churches have said:
- “Our most successful programs were in response to what was happening in ‘popular, everyday’ culture – the needs of the people.”
- “What people needed were responses/help to what was happening in their lives, our nation’s life, our Church’s life which we didn’t know was going to happen when we set our long range goals.”