Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations
Gil Rendle and Alice Mann
The Alban Institute, 2003. xxvi & 289 pages.

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The authors provide the Intentional Interim Pastor with an extremely useful book filled with numerous tools. They lay out the text   in four parts: What Is Strategic Planning?; Taking the Process Apart; Issues in Strategic Planning; What Planning Looks Like In Process. As you read the text,  I would encourage you to read the chapter end notes. The end notes have many useful nuggets including web page references. Also, the chapters refer to resources that are included at the end of the book.

These resources are especially important for the reader. One can use them as resources with a planning process or individually as the Interim works through the Developmental Tnsks. Once you purchase this book the resources are available on the Alban Institute in a downloadable format. All you need is an Adobe reader. This way you have handouts much easier to reproduce.

As I read through this book, I grew to appreciate better the holy conversations that occur during congregational planning. Early on in this book the authors emphasize “. . . the task of the leader is to help the people have a purposeful and meaningful conversation about who they nre and what they believe is important to do” (p. xii)).

Congregational planning is a time for holy conversations; it is a time for spiritual discernment among the believers in the church. At the heart of the conversation are three critical questions.

  • Who are we?
  • What has God called us to do or be?
  • Who is our neighbor? {p. xiv)

The authors invite the reader to keep four focusing questions in mind. These questions will help you how best to utilize the process as well as the tools. These questions are:

  1. What holy conversation about the congregation’s future do I believe we need to have at this moment in history?
  2. When I consider the full planning  process, what part is most important and appropriate for us to work on at this moment?
  3. What strategies can I develop and use to involve people in a structured, open, and positive way?
  4. What tools or information will we need to have ths holy conversation ? (p. xv).

The planning process and tools can be used in its entirety or in part depending upon the congregation’s needs. It is a systemic approach to planning.The authors distinguish between different planning processes and different audiences. Parts of this process could be easily adnpted to a Transition Steering Team during the Interim Process.

If I had to recommend three Alban books to a beginning Intentional Interim Pastor, I would place this book next to Temporary Shepherds and Beginning Ministry Together.

Martin J. Homan