Exploring and Learning (The Grove's Strategic Visioning™ Model)

hands holding each otherEvery church, group or community has something positive at its heart.

Churches have more confidence and are better equipped for the journey of change if they carry with them something from their shared past. However, it’s important that the past has life and hasn’t become dry bones.​ 

The Exploring and Learning stage concerns asking carefully framed questions which can shift thinking and release change. Gather as much information about your church and local context as possible to see the big picture about where you are. Ideally, this is done with as many people inside and outside the church as possible. 

The aim is to ask questions about what is working, where God is moving and to collect stories and memories of when the church operates at its best. Choose carefully the language used and what to focus on as these can free or restrict our thoughts. Notice what’s growing, discern opportunities and see what can be built on to bring any change needed.  Look for themes or common elements among these positive moments. What are the core strengths of the church? What is its DNA? Everyone experiences things in different ways and differences need to be heard and valued. Take time to celebrate together and prioritise what’s good. 

Parish Review Resources

Appreciative Inquiry Discovery Questions

  1. What do you most value about your church and want to thank God for? 

  1. In your experience, what does your church do really well? 

  1. Tell a story of when you’ve seen your church be most alive in following Jesus, serving others and transforming your community? 

  2. What was the source of being most alive? Is your story about being open, generous, creative, brave or some other value? 

For more information about an Appreciative Inquiry approach, go to visit their website  or access slides from the Oxford Diocese Parish Planning Tool based on these principles.

  • Natural Church Development - This long-term strategic approach to church growth prioritises the quality and health of churches as the means to growth in terms of quantity. NCD looks at churches as organisms rather than organisations and offers a survey (cost £200) which identifies strengths and assets and recognises areas of weakness that limit. 
  • Leading Your Church Into Growth Local Course - This seven-session free course could be used with a PCC or in small groups as a basis to reflect on and review existing church culture and practice. 
  • Our Church’s Future Story - Easy-to-use guidance and resources for mission planning from the Methodist Church which take you through an 8-step mission planning process. 
  • Church Growth - From Evidence to Action (FETA) - this was developed building on findings from the Church Growth Research Programme.  Their materials are based around some common factors which were found to be linked with growth and can be used to stimulate discussion with PCCs and the wider church.  All the material on the site is designed to help those who want to reflect and act on these findings, whatever their context. 
  • Listening in Community -This is a resource from The Diocese of Bath and Wells using material and learning from the Church and Community Mobilisation Toolkit, part of Eagles Relief and Development Programme, Malawi. The process goes deeper than a community survey and has been found to be more helpful in building relationships and an accurate picture of community needs.
  • Visit your Local Community - A guide written as a result of a project St Luke the Evangelist, Brislington did which sought to reach out into their community through prayer and visiting every house in the parish. 

► Go to stage 3 - Agreeing current realities

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