This past month an outstanding committee, chaired by Ken Henderson, began talking about strategic planning for Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Linda Ferm Fagan, a member of the committee and a whip-smart professional who helps nonprofits with their institutional planning, began our first session by reminding us that many people think “strategic planning” is a dirty word. Not because planning is a bad thing, but because we have seen it done so poorly and ineffectively in other settings.
Strategic planning can evoke memories of mind-numbing meetings, piles of disconnected “facts,” convoluted presentations and lengthy final reports that now gather dust in a file drawer somewhere.
Still, we keep trying. Mainly because we all recognize the importance of pausing to check our compass from time to time — the importance of asking: Are we heading in the right direction?
In the case of the church, questions of direction are grounded in our faith. We continually ask ourselves: What is God calling us to do and to be, right here, right now?
To answer these questions, the Strategic Planning Committee needs your help. Don’t worry, we don’t want you to fill out a survey. Not yet. We don’t even want you to start composing a letter filled with your best ideas for FAPC. Not yet. We invite you to start the way the Committee is starting… with prayer.
In the chapel at Austin Seminary, there is a wooden kneeling bench with a simple shovel carved into its face. The shovel image is an old one. John Calvin once described the gospel as a map and prayer as a shovel that enables Christians to dig up the treasured wisdom of God.
So here’s my invitation: Will you pick up your shovel and join us by entering into a period of structured prayer for this church?
What should you pray? Well, being type-A, Presbyterian, “strategic” and all that, we have a series of things we will be asking you to pray about in the coming months. But for now, let’s start with this: Every day for the next two weeks, we ask that you offer thanks for a moment in which you have encountered God in or through FAPC.
It doesn’t always have to be the same moment. Yet, every day, please thank God for one of those specific events, one of those precious times when the Spirit has found you and lifted you up in this church.
Oh, and one more thing — please keep a log of what you pray about. Eventually, we are going to ask you to consider sharing your prayers with us.
Thank you for your help in this, and bless you for your faithful support of this house of God.