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As we begin the new academic year 2022-23, once again we are tasked with the responsibility of planning our mission at all levels. While the Province is already in the process of completing the Annual Plan, I am certain that the communities also will be sitting down together and making plans for the coming year. Therefore, I would like to reflect with you on the importance of planning together and adopting a synodal process of planning for the mission.
Fundamentally, synodality is about journeying together. This happens through listening to one another in order to hear what God is saying to all of us. It is in realizing that the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone to help us walk forward together on our journey as the People of God. The teaching of Scripture and Tradition show that synodality is an essential dimension of the Church. Through synodality, the Church reveals and configures herself as the pilgrim People of God and as the assembly convoked by the risen Lord.
Planning helps us to be accountable for what we do. Planning helps us decide how best to use our resources (people, time, money, information, equipment) so that they make the most significant contribution to achieving our goal. Planning lays the basis for us to assess and evaluate our achievements effectively. Planning is the first primary function of management that precedes all other functions. The planning function involves the decision of what to do and how it is to be done? Therefore, we need to focus a lot of attention on planning and the planning process.
A Biblical Perspective on the Need for Planning
Many aspects of an envisioned future can be influenced or changed by decisions and actions you make today. We need to have the realization that through prayer and obedience each one of us can be a catalyst to help bring about a future that is in alignment with God’s will. Through prayer, the framework for plan is established. Implementing strategy requires continued daily prayer for direction accompanied by obedient action in response to what God reveals.
Some of us may think and even quote James 4:14: “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”So why plan? The next verse goes on to say, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” The real issue therefore is not whether we should plan; it is whether we will put God’s will first in our planning, always deferring to His wisdom and sovereignty.
Our attitude when we plan should result in this kind of prayer: “God, we want Your will above everything else. We’re not just asking You to bless whatever plan we devise—we want Your wisdom.
We want to move by Your direction and in Your timing. Please guide our thoughts and keep our hearts tuned to Yours.” God designed us with the ability and need to plan. From the moment He placed Adam in the Garden “to work and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15), planning became essential. If anything, it is even more important after the Fall: “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15–8). These verses warn us to be wise and not just do what comes naturally with no organisational strategy. That results in weakness and missed opportunities to live for God in a worldly environment. Planning is a necessity, helping us to be aware and make the most of the opportunities God provides. The key is to make plans by seeking God and asking for His discernment.
A good planning process keeps us humble and constantly returns us to God for His perspective. While planning, we continually ask, “Lord, what is your direction in this area?” Every mistake revealed on a planning sheet saves the cost, pain, and waste of the same mistake in real life. When God gives us understanding, we gain favour with man. “Good understanding wins favour” (Proverbs 13:15). People will see that we know where we are going and how to get there, that we know the costs as well as the consequences. Being diligent assumes planning, and those plans lead to plenty. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). We need to be prudent, carefully considering our steps; “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).
The Planning Process
The process of planning is actually more important than the specific plans themselves. In the final analysis, planning is valuable because it facilitates inter-sector communication in the mission, vision-sharing and member interaction. It is these interpersonal processes that actually provide progress and effectiveness in the mission. This involves listing out the concrete steps that you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals. An action plan explains who is going to do what, why, by when, how, for whom, assisted by whom, always keeping the vision of the community in focus to reach its goals.
The design and implementation of the action plan depend on the nature and needs of the community. There is no one planning model for all our communities, but the planning process includes certain basic elements that will explore the vision, goals and concrete steps of an effective strategic plan. It is not my intention to give you planning models in this Circular. I only wish that every community takes seriously the need for planning well and planning together:
1. Participation and involvement at all levels: Salesians, Staff, Beneficiaries, Sector Experts
2. Discussion on the Vision and Aim of the Mission (Sector-wise)
3. Sharing of past experiences
4. Suggestions from all present, including the newcomers
5. Decision-making for concrete implementation and eventual evaluation
The community’s plan of action is a living and dynamic document. It must drive the community and must be integrated into every sector of the mission of the community, so that all staff and beneficiaries move in the same direction. All the best missions and strategies in the world are a waste of time if they are not implemented. A community which is devoted to the successful implementation of the plan is key to its effectiveness. The plan needs to be supported with people, money, time, systems, and, above all, communication. Communicate the plan to everyone in the community. Hold a monthly or bi-monthly meeting to report on the progress toward achieving the goals. Take corrective actions as needed. Above all, remember that implementing the plan requires continued daily prayer for direction accompanied by obedient action in response to what God
The plan should cover the areas of:
1. Community Life (Personal and inter-relational)
2. Prayer Life (Personal and communitarian faith formation and faith experience)
3. Individual Sectors of the Community Mission (non-compartmentalized collaboration)
4. Neighbourhood Outreach (justice and charity)
5. Fostering Unity in Diversity in Society