When training for ministry thirty years ago, there was no part of the course that taught us about planning for the future; the church had come through generations without much change and it was assumed that things would continue as they had been for years to come. It was our task to keep things going, to keep an eye on things and deal with any problems that might arise. In 1986, when I was ordained, no-one could have imagined the Ireland that we now have. One of the things we must now do is to think about the future, make plans as to how God’s work is going to continue.
Planning for the future is not some idea from the modern world, it is what Jesus tells his followers they must do in Saint Luke Chapter 14. He tells them they must be as sensible as a builder constructing a tower or a king facing a war.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.”
In our own parishes, we need to look at what is working and what is not working. We need to look at how often and at what times we have services. We need to look at what things we might do to strengthen our churches as communities that people will want to join, as places where people will wish to come to worship: this is not some modern, trendy idea, this is the way Jesus expects his followers to think.
We need even to think about ministry in our parishes, do we need to have ministers who are not clergy being paid stipends? If you don’t think changes are happening, just look at the diocesan magazine and how many parishes are now part-time posts and how many more are going in that direction. Like the builder and the king in Jesus’ teaching, we need to sit down and think.