As you begin to imagine the kind of project you will propose for the Vital Worship Grants Program, you’ll find it helpful to reflect on your church or organization and analyze your current situation and how you might develop and foster vital worship practices.
A very helpful method for doing this is called “SWOT,” which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Following this method will help you to discern fruitful directions for your worshiping community. While this exercise is helpful for evaluating the entire ministry of a church or organization, try to focus your discussions on the area of worship.
You may want to think about this exercise as a practice of prayerfully pondering the institution you represent and how it can be the most fertile ground for nurturing spiritual growth. You might even formulate your lists as items for prayer:
“We give thanks to God for our church’s fruitfulness.” (Strengths)
“We acknowledge and lift up our institution’s vulnerabilities.” (Weaknesses)
“We pray for grace to recognize our institution’s fertile soil.” (Opportunities)
“We ask for strength to face our church’s chilling winds.” (Threats)
A helpful practice is to use a SWOT chart (pdf) and have people fill it out individually first, then gather in small groups to share their thoughts, and then bring the input of the small groups to the entire body. The more input you gather, the better quality assessment you will receive.
In each category, ask yourselves some of the following questions:
As you consider your community and the worship services and liturgical practices you embrace, what are your strengths? What do you do well? What do people remark on and note as gifts that your church has and uses well? How does your organization function effectively? How does it bring glory to God? How does it affirm the gifts of God’s people? What unique resources do you have at this time that others don’t have?
After recognizing and celebrating your strengths, spend a little time considering the weaknesses of your church or organization’s worship services and liturgical practices. Some probably came to mind as you discussed your strengths, since they are often two sides of the same coin. In what areas of ministry do you too often falter? What types of activities do you find it hard to sustain? For what areas of potential ministry do you seem to lack the appropriate gifts? What sorts of potential directions give rise to resistance quickly? How do your people deal with change?
Extending your reflection into the community and environment around you, ask: What opportunities for ministry exist near you that you have not pursued? What possible matches can you see between the gifts God has given you and the needs that exist within and around you? What population might you address more? What trends might you take advantage of? What resources and connections could you tap into? Where do you see energy building for new ideas and activities?
Realistic assessment requires recognizing threats that may prevent a new initiative from succeeding. What challenges and obstacles might you face? What attitudes or trends might endanger new ideas or initiatives? What economic or demographic trends affect you negatively now, or might in the future? Where might you expect resistance to new initiatives?
At the end of your time together, you might pray the following discerning prayer, using Philippians 1:9-11:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in love and depth and insight, so that you all (______ at institution ______) may be able to discern what is best (in light of your present opportunities and challenges) and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.