Another question I receive about the new materials is, “Do we have to follow the Leader Manual completely and do the entire in-depth immersion experience, or can we pick and choose among the materials? Can the resources be used separately?”
While working with Abingdon Press on the new materials, one value we maintained throughout is “maximum flexibility.” I do not like “everything-in-the-box,” “you- have-to-follow-every-requirement-or-else” resources. Every congregation is different. The contexts, needs, settings, staffing, leadership capabilities, timeframes, budgets—all these are different for each church. The key is to mix and match among the materials to determine what your congregation finds most useful. If it’s not useful for you, my friends, don’t use it! Don’t be squeezed into a mold by these resources or anyone else’s.
I remember someone telling me that some congregations can take the seed of an idea, and with that seed they can grow great ministries. Some congregations are ready, they have the people resources, the organization and creativity and passion such that all they need is the seed. (You know these congregations—they write their own church-wide devotional materials, develop their own stewardship campaign models, and become teaching congregations to others! Many of our ideas in the new Five Practices resources are taken from congregations who used the original book as the seed, and then developed great, in-depth, congregation-wide, strategic initiatives. We’ve learned from them!)
On the other end of the spectrum, there are congregations that need more than a seed—they need the potted plant, complete with detailed instructions for care, and even a water bottle! Most congregations are somewhere in between—full of creative and passionate leadership and working with committed and gifted pastors, but needing some framework, direction, resources, and learning from others.
The book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, the daily devotional readings book Cultivating Fruitfulness, the five Planning Workbooks that help leaders explore a given practice with greater depth to prepare strategies for congregations, and the Leader Manual and Media are all available to offer maximum flexibility for congregations to adapt to their own context.
Choose what is most helpful for your context. Some congregations will use all the materials, and some will use only the original book or the original book plus the every-household daily devotional readings book, Cultivating Fruitfulness. This way of doing it deepens and extends the power and effectiveness of the sermon series by having everyone preparing their own hearts before the sermons begin.
Some churches may want to use the original book for their church council, and then use one or two of the Planning Workbooks for more in-depth exploration and planning with their missions or worship committees.
In a congregation that does not adopt the whole outline, a particular adult Sunday school class may opt to use Cultivating Fruitfulness for its members while the teacher leads from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.
The five DVD videos that include about 8 minutes of me speaking on each practice, plus an intro and closing, will be used by many churches to stimulate the work of the leadership teams who are using the Planning Workbooks. They’ll undoubtedly be used by other congregations for teaching in adult classes, or even to supplement the sermon through video clips in worship.
The primary overview of the plan, the phases of preparation, the formation of leadership, and the communications and DVD material are contained in the Leadership Manual and Media book. I can imagine some creative congregations using the timelines and organizational plans included in that to create and adapt their own material!
These resources are meant to be used for the glory of God and the strengthening of the church, and you can blend the materials as you see fit. When you find your right mix, let us know by sharing your congregation’s experience here on the FivePractices.org website!
Yours in Christ,