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                                                                                                                                                           Conducting the Ministry Inventory The first step is to gather a team of people who will lead the study: either the church's leadership body (e.g., session, elders, church council), or a small group of members designated to conduct the inventory. Select people who care about the church but can be objective in describing it. The group should reflect the diversity of the church. The process of conducting the ministry inventory is flexible. Decide the methods that best suit your church's size, style, and situation:  Which question sets will you include in the inventory? The ministry inventory guide (starting on p. 5) includes ten sets of questions. Not every question set may be relevant or helpful to your context. If you need to shorten the process, consider using at least the first five question sets. Feel free to adapt, add or delete questions for your own purposes. The inventory refers to a number of worksheets in the supplemental tool section (starting on p. 21) that can stimulate critical reflection on your church's ministry activities and priorities. Select the most helpful tools for your use. Recommended tools to get you started are Assess Your Church's Foundations for Outreach; Assessing Benchmarks of Community Engagement; Directory of External Ministry Programs; Does Your Church Smell Like Mission?; Ministry Priorities and Patterns; and the Outreach Ministry Opportunities Worksheet. If you have limited time, you can use a selection of these tools to conduct a "mini-inventory."  How will you gather the information? This inventory is most fruitful when a group of members are involved in answering the questions, drawing in diverse perspectives. There are two main options for conducting the inventory: A) The inventory team may conduct the assessment on its own, meeting together at least once to discuss the selected questions. (More than one meeting will probably be necessary.) Assign one or more team member(s) to take notes on the discussion and write up the inventory report. B) The inventory process may be opened to a large group of members (or even the whole congregation, in a small church). One method is to set up a discussion table for each question set. Assign participants to tables, or allow them to choose the question they would like to discuss. Identify volunteers to be facilitators and recorders at each table, writing up their notes afterwards. (It may help to entice people to stay after church for a fellowship meal, then set them to work on the inventory.) The first option is the simplest to implement; the second yields a broader range of input. A few notes: Some question areas require more information, or more sensitivity, to complete than others. It may be appropriate to combine the two methods outlined above: select some questions to be discussed by a broader group, and others to be handled by the team. For certain questions, the team may wish to interview specific church leaders and individual members who bring a particularly valuable perspective. Other sources of information for the inventory may include relevant church documents (e.g., annual reports, prior surveys or assessments), and people outside the congregation with a useful perspective on the church's outreach or reputation in the community. Don't expect consensus in answering the questions. There are no "right answers." If you encounter diverging answers to questions, simply note this in your report. Participants in the inventory should understand that the purpose is not to critique the church, but to prepare the church for next steps in ministry by building on the church's strengths while confronting weaknesses and avoiding past mistakes. Try to promote an attitude of sober humility and open-minded optimism.  How will you summarize and share the information? First, drawing on all the information and insights gained from the inventory guide questions and related tools, create a report that provides a brief overview of the key points. The next step is to process the inventory report using the reflection questions on p. 17 to discern its implications for ministry development. Plan how you will share the fruits of your learnings with the congregation. Make a summary of the report available to members, and share highlights in the church bulletin or newsletter. Consider a special worship service that celebrates God's unique gifting of your church for holistic ministry.  How will you act on the information? Without a plan for action, your ministry inventory report is likely to end up gathering dust in a file folder. The information gathered in the inventory process becomes useful when it serves the process of transformation. God seeks to transform each church into a vessel of healing, pouring God's love and hope into a hurtful, hurting world (Romans 15:13, 1 Thessalonians 3:12). This is the work of God's grace, but also of our faithful preparation (Colossians 1:10, 2 Timothy 2:21). Set a plan for following up on the inventory. The guide and worksheets include many suggestions for next steps based on your findings. The action plan does not need to be ambitious – in fact, it's best to identify two or three small, achievable steps that build on past successes, address a weakness in the church's approach to ministry, strengthen the church's relationship with the community, build a bridge between an asset and a need, or equip the congregation for outreach. Choose first steps that will make the congregation want to respond with a "Yes!" Identify best-practice models, training, networks and capacity-building resources (such as the many excellent resources available through www.fastennetwork.org) that can help you sustain the momentum sparked by this self-study – being confident that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6). MINISTRY INVENTORY GUIDE Overview The Ministry Inventory consists of ten areas of questions related to the congregation's outreach (including all forms of evangelism and service). The questions focus on local outreach, but do not exclude international missions. Some questions ask about what the church does, others focus on how and why the church engages in external ministry.   1. Ministry History 2. Ministry Activities 3. Ministry Organization 4. Ministry Assets 5. Ministry Connections and Collaborations 6. Ministry Balance 7. Ministry Involvement: Evangelism 8. Ministry Involvement: Social Action 9. Ministry Bridges and Barriers 10. Ministry Outcomes Note that at the bottom of each page of the inventory guide are "summary reflection" questions, which invite real-time comments by participants on what they have learned through the discussion. The ministry inventory takes stock of the overall status of ministry at your church. You may opt to follow up with a more in-depth program evaluation for each major outreach program (see the Program Revision and Evaluation Guide on www.fastennetwork.org). 1. Ministry History Each church's external mission reflects its unique history and heritage. Looking at where the church has been can be helpful in planning its next steps. a) Ministry heritage: Is there anything in the story of the founding of your church that relates to mission and local outreach? What do you know about a missional heritage in your denomination (if your church belongs to one)? a) Ministry history: When has your church been at its best in missional outreach? Has the congregation ever gotten "burned"? Have there been conflicts surrounding outreach, and how have they been resolved? Create a timeline of major church efforts relating to evangelism, social action or global mission over the church's history, including discontinued ministries, key partnerships, major changes in ministry funding or leadership, and new initiatives planned for the future. How does this history of ministry engagement correspond with high and low points in the overall life of your church? a) Main characters: Who has played a key role in the church's ministry development? Tell about "heroes/heroines" or "saints" in the church who have made a difference in the community or beyond. a) Ministry record: Which ministry efforts do members point to with pride, and which have not worked out so well? What has generated the most excitement, and what has been like pulling teeth? Complete this sentence: "The most successful ministry we have undertaken is …" What factors made this a positive ministry experience? a) Ministry identity: Which of the following images best describes the character of your church's ministry over its history: Pillar churches are a stable civic anchor in the community. Pilgrim churches provide a shelter for minority groups and immigrant cultures. Survivor churches take risks to stand with people on the social margins. Prophet churches proactively challenge immorality and injustice in the world. Servant churches quietly provide help to individuals in need, near and far. Family churches support their members as a close-knit, caring group. Lighthouse churches seek to shine the gospel to those who are unchurched. Entrepreneur churches are catalysts for community development. Yeast churches exercise influence primarily through individual members. Other  -- come up with your own image. See Carl S. Dudley and Sally A. Johnson, Energizing the Congregation: Images that Shape Your Congregation’s Ministry (Louisville, KY: Westminster/Knox, 1993). Summary reflections: What main themes emerged in the responses to these questions? Did you gain a helpful perspective on your church's outreach, learn anything surprising about your church, or spark ideas for ministry through this exercise?           3. Ministry Organization Carl Dudley notes in Community Ministry, "In our common concern for social ministry, the way we mobilize in each congregation is unique to the people involved and the problems they face." When it comes to outreach, how does your church get things done? a) Decision-making: What is the process for making and implementing decisions that involve the church's outreach (for example, launching a new ministry, allocating funding, assigning leadership)? What values or principles guide these decisions? What kinds of informal, "behind the scenes" activity goes into decision-making? a) Planning: Does the church have a strategic plan for ministry development, or does it develop more spontaneously? Is there a central focus or set of priorities that guides outreach, and/or are efforts scattered in various unrelated directions? Does the church have a vision statement for its community ministry? (see the worksheet, "Assessing Benchmarks of Community Engagement") a) Organizational structure: How is external mission reflected in the organizational structure of the church? Is there a place for outreach goals in staff job descriptions, the committee structure, the budget format, etc.? a) Volunteer management and support: What is the church's system for recruiting, training, placing, tracking, evaluating and recognizing volunteers? What opportunities do members have to share with one another about the ministry work they are doing outside the congregation, and ask other members to contribute (i.e. volunteer time, in-kind goods, donations, prayer support)?  a) Leadership: Where do ideas, energy and initiative for outreach ministry come from — pastors, lay leaders, small groups, individual members, community leaders? Note which of these tasks represent current leadership strengths and challenges: starting new initiatives, sustaining and growing programs, mobilizing church members, ministry evaluation and accountability, networking and partnerships, cultivating resources for ministry, long-range vision Summary reflections: What main themes emerged in the responses to these questions?           D                                                                                                                                               Did you gain a helpful perspective on your church's outreach, learn anything surprising                                                                                                                       about your church, or spark ideas for ministry through this exercise? 4. Ministry Assets What resources for ministry does your church have to work with? Inventory the major assets — tangible and intangible — available to the congregation, and note the extent to which they are currently being used for external ministry: a) Financial resources: Endowment, tithes, mission offerings, fundraisers, major donors, grants, etc. What is the church's overall financial health? How much of the budget currently goes toward external ministry? (note local vs. international) a) Material resources: Building, equipment, vehicles, educational curricula, etc. (See the "Ministry Space Use Analysis" tool.) a) Human resources:  List staff and volunteers from the congregation engaged in outreach. Identify potential human resources from outside the congregation (e.g. consultants, interns, community volunteers). Note special skills and interests that are represented in your congregation (managerial, electrical, artistic, health care, cooking, etc.). a) Intangible resources: Intangible assets (which are often overlooked) include: Reputation: A positive reputation in the community, a proven ministry track record, or association with a trusted community service organization.  Visibility: Recognition outside the church, gained for example by consistently sending representatives to community meetings. Energy: Momentum for ministry flowing from spiritual dynamism, a passion to make a difference, a positive outlook, and youthful (or young at heart) enthusiasm.  Time: Who in the congregation has time to share with others? Consider the volunteer potential of stay-at-home parents, college students, people with disabilities who do not work, and retirees. Trust in leaders: A healthy respect for leaders that encourages the congregation to follow leaders down new paths of faith in action. Ministry experiences: Motivational stories of past ministry achievements, or the encouragement of members who have led by example. Connections: Access to people or institutions who could contribute to ministry — e.g. donors, banks, colleges, politicians, foundations, artists, hospitals, etc.  a) Spiritual resources: What main biblical or theological foundations for outreach mission are taught at your church? What role models or sources of inspiration are important to your understanding of mission (e.g. denominational legacy, Christian authors or speakers, other churches or church leaders, etc.)? Summary reflections: What main themes emerged in the responses to these questions? Did you gain a helpful perspective on your church's outreach, learn anything surprising about your church, or spark ideas for ministry through this exercise?                                               5. Ministry Connections and Collaborations No church is — or should be — a lone ranger when it comes to outreach. Every church is embedded in relationships with the broader community, with the wider Christian fellowship, and with ministry partners. What connections does your church have with other organizations, and how does your church relate to its community? a) Partners: What outside groups does the church connect with to carry out ministry goals (e.g. the denomination, foundations, community agencies, para- church organizations, church coalitions, government, etc.)? What kinds of cooperative arrangements exist between the church and these outside entities (e.g., shared space or equipment, jointly sponsored programs, collaborative fundraising projects)? How healthy are these partnerships? (See the worksheet, "Qualities of Healthy Ministry Partnerships.") a) Community relations: What community events or programs has the church hosted or participated in? Does the church ever invite local leaders or agencies to special church events? Has the church sought out people from the community to help plan, take part in, or give feedback on church projects that affect the community (such as ministry programs, building projects or outdoor services)? a) Associations: Does the church or pastor participate in local or national associations or networks such as a pastor's prayer group, a community organizing coalition, a denominational association, Christian Community Development Association, etc.?  a) Representation: Does the pastor or other church leader represent the church in some official capacity out in the community, such as on a public task force or the board of a non-profit agency? a) Guidelines: What principles (if any) guide the church's selection of partner agencies and projects — for example, whether to participate in secular or ecumenical projects, or whether to accept government funding? Summary reflections: What main themes emerged in the responses to these questions? Did you gain a helpful perspective on your church's outreach, learn anything surprising about your church, or spark ideas for ministry through this exercise? 6. Ministry Balance Maintaining a healthy church is a continual balancing act. Church life involves multiple, seemingly competing, dynamics: in-reach and outreach, local and global mission, evangelism and social compassion. It helps to step back and assess these dynamics with a big-picture perspective. (See the tools, "Does Your Church Smell Like Mission?", and "Ministry Priorities and Patterns.") a) Nurture/outreach: What is the balance between ministries of internal congregational nurture, and outreach ministry to those outside the church? Which is your church's priority, in terms of staff and volunteer time, resources, attention from the pulpit, etc.? How satisfied is the congregation with this balance? a) Mission focus: What is the balance between local and global mission? Which is your church's priority, in terms of staff and volunteer time, resources, attention from the pulpit, etc.? How satisfied is the congregation with this balance? a) Evangelism/social ministry: What is the balance between evangelism and social outreach? Which is your church's priority, in terms of staff and volunteer time, resources, attention from the pulpit, etc.? How satisfied is the congregation with this balance? a) Integration: How much overlap or integration is there between evangelism and social activism? Are they totally separate ministries, interconnected ministries, or integrated within the same ministries? Do compassion and evangelism ministries serve the same community, or are they focused on different groups of people? (See the tools, "Sharing Faith Through Community Ministry Programs" and "Ways of Connecting Evangelism and Social Outreach") a) Top down / bottom up: What is the balance between ministries that are initiated and organized by church leadership (top down), and ministries that grow more informally out of the interests and involvement of members (bottom up)? Summary reflections: What main themes emerged in the responses to these questions? Did you gain a helpful perspective on your church's outreach, learn anything surprising about your church, or spark ideas for ministry through this exercise?
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