Our Planning Strategy

I recently tried to summarise the approach we took in Perth to develop a new Presbytery Plan. I thought it might be interesting to share our methodology.

What we produced is not perfect nor is it necessarily the only effective approach. But in the interest of collaboration and sharing practice perhaps it will be of use.

I should say this is a personal blog and really I am sharing my interpretation of our planning process. The Perth Presbytery Planning and Development Committee have not endorsed this message. For clarity, the official report of the committee and the convenors presentation can be found here (https://perthpresbytery.org.uk/resources/).

My recollection of the planning process is as follows:

A. Firstly we agreed planning principles with Presbytery. This was given approval long before the GA issued mandatory figures but the principles remained relevant.

Our planning principles were to prioritise churches that displayed evidence of:

1. Growth (including spiritual vibrancy, not only numerically or financial)

2. Sustainability 

3. Innovation 

During the most recent planning process we also kept an eye on areas of population growth, in particular brand new housing developments. Eg One of our two Presbytery Mission Initiatives is a greenfield village development beside Perth to which we had already allocated 0.6 FTE. This allocation was maintained in the new plan proposals. 

B. Our next step was to request specific evidence from every church – we called this a toolkit. I believe a few variants of this document may be in circulation amongst Presbyteries. On receipt of this information, we gave around 2-3 hours per church in review and discussion of the evidence provided. We graded this evidence based upon our planning principles and allowed this to guide our weighting of staff allocations. 

C. We had already initiated the formation of local (geographical) networks and we used these as the building blocks of the plan, although some churches moved network during discussions. 

D. We did not use population as a first level principle – ie Growth, Sustainability and Innovation were given primary weighting in staff allocations. However, population did help us refine our allocations once we had a rough idea of networks and resource requirements.

E. Resource Parity was also not a first level principle – ie we did not simply divide the Presbytery into networked parishes and then allocate based solely on population. However, a level of parity was taken into account as a secondary organising principle.

F. We focussed our resources where there was the greatest potential for further growth. Churches that best evidenced a willingness and ability in mission were given greater resources. We believed this to be a better long term strategy than ensuring absolute parity of resource. Our belief is that growing missional churches will ultimately aid the resourcing of mission across the Presbytery. We recognise that this resonates with Jesus’ parable of the talents.

G. Our proposals mean that nearly every church within our bounds would experience a relative reduction in resources. Those areas that we have prioritised are proposed to received a smaller reduction than others. However, churches that are considered to evidence the greatest potential for further growth are being asked to take on additional responsibility. Eg – Some churches are keeping their present (or close to their present) staff allocation but they are still being asked to take over the pastoral care or development of mission in other locations in the Presbytery.

H. We attempted to honour churches that are likely to continue to experience decline, ie where possible, and within the limitations of the centrally allocated numbers, we have attempted to allow pastoral care and worship to continue into the next plan period. However, some church buildings and congregations have been proposed for closure.

I. We took a relatively gradualist approach, ie often we have proposed linkages rather than going straight to unions. While this may not be the most radical method, we believe it is more achievable.

Perhaps the outline of this process will be helpful. However, it comes with the caveat that our plan has not yet been approved.

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