Discernment and Mapping Pt 1 w/ Hector and Juan Carlos Barrero

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In this episode, our host, Cara Garrity, interviews Hector Barrero, GCI pastor in Bogotá, Colombia, and his son, Juan Carlos “Juanka” Barrero, Hope Avenue Champion in Bogotá. Together they discuss practices of discernment and strategic planning.

“We evaluate the goals based on the questions that the MAP proposes. And the questions are like this, does this outreach provide the opportunities for church members to volunteer and serve? So important. Does this give the opportunity for neighbors, for the community, and for organizations to participate with the church in events that are not … the Sunday gatherings and are more related with the community? Also, another question that we ask is, is this outreach inclusive?” — Juanka Barrero


Main Points:

  • What best practice have you found that helps your team plan together? 1:23
  • What process do you use to decide team priorities? 3:03
  • How do you unite as a team in your planning so that you/your ministry avenues do not become silos with completely separate plans and priorities? 7:18
  • How does your team work together to articulate specific Healthy Church growth goals in you MAP based on your priorities? 14:29
  • How is preparing a strategic MAP different from a document that lists what activities/events will be done? 23:37



  • Ministry Action Plans – an Equipper article with templates and practical input for developing your Ministry Action Plan.
  • Google Sheets – a resource mentioned by Juan Carlos that allows their team to collaborate on online spreadsheets in real-time
  • Church Juice – an organization dedicated to church communication resources and best practices.


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Program Transcript

Discernment and Mapping Pt 1 w/ Hector and Juan Carlos Barrero

Welcome to the GC Podcast, a podcast to help you develop into the healthiest ministry leader you can be by sharing practical ministry experience.

Cara: Hello friends and welcome to today’s episode of GC Podcast. This podcast is devoted to exploring best ministry practices in the context of Grace Communion International churches.

I’m your host, Cara Garrity, and this is the first episode of 2024. And in this first quarter of 2024, we’re switching things up a little bit. We’re going to be bringing you three mini episodes focused on the process and practices of discernment, strategic planning, and ministry action plans (MAP).

And so today here to talk with us about their experiences with Team Based—Pastor Led discernment, strategic planning, and ministry action plans are Pastor Hector and Juanka, coming to us from Comunión de Gracia Internacional Bogotá. Thank you both so much for being here with us today.

Juanka: Hello, everybody. How are you?

[00:01:08] Cara: We’re doing well. We’re doing well. I appreciate y’all spending your time today. And so why don’t we just jump right in because we got some mini episodes, and I know y’all have some really insightful things to share with us in just a little bit of time.

So, when we talk about team-based discernment and planning for the ministry locally there in Bogotá, what is a best practice that you guys have found that helps your team plan all together?

[00:01:36] Juanka: Yes, Cara, thank you for that question.

We can honestly tell you that we can describe our planning into virtual planning meetings and face-to-face planning meetings, using the MAP. And definitely virtual meetings are more practical for maybe the first part of planning. And the face-to-face meetings are also very important because we plan, and we analyze what we did. Maybe more ideas are shared.

And generally speaking, we gathered via Zoom to collaborate and that’s the best practice that we have. And within those two practices, they complement each other. As I mentioned before, we use the MAP document or the idea of the ministry action plan. Basically, that’s what we have.

Very practical and very cut to the chase.

[00:02:53] Cara: I like that, practical and cut to the chase. That’s good. Just get to those priorities of participating in Jesus’s ministry.

And that idea of cutting to the chase: when your team’s coming together to plan, in these meetings virtually and in person, what process do you use to decide what your priorities are going to be either that year or that month that quarter?

[00:03:22] Juanka: Yes, most of the time we meet for example on December the 1st or some time in December, let’s say. And we write down all the necessary and most important events and ideas based on our calendar. Our calendar is the most important thing for us.

It’s like our infrastructure. Let’s say that the calendar has everything related to every single Avenue’s planning. In that calendar, we have all of the activities and the events with the dates, with the person in charge. So, the calendar is something super important, and so the calendar has to be ready beforehand.

We can modify it in the Zoom meetings that we are telling you about. And in those meetings, we, as a team, step-by-step, can determine which tasks are truly important for each Avenue and for each ministry.

And because of this, we have to stick to a schedule and some dates that reflect, for example, the priorities, and how are we going to fulfill those priorities. So as a team, again, the calendar is so important.

And finally, I guess I will say that the process to decide those priorities is that we gather with each ministry leader, and we evaluate the goals based on the following questions, right? The questions that the MAP proposes.

And the questions are like this, does this outreach provide the opportunities for church members to volunteer and serve? So important. Does this give the opportunity for neighbors, for the community, and for organizations to participate with the church in events that are not, for example, the Sunday mass or the Sunday gatherings and are more related with the community?

Also, another question that we ask is, is this outreach inclusive? For example, if we want to go and make an event for elderly or for children, are we being inclusive for the community? And all of these priorities and all of these plans are based on: how can we make our community participate in what we’re doing?

Yes, basically that’s the answer.

[00:06:25] Cara: Yes, and I don’t want it to be lost, that last thing that you said. When your ministry leaders come together, you filter through these questions for priorities. Really, it’s filtering through these questions that help you identify: are these things in alignment with the purpose of our church and the particular ways that your local church in Bogotá is wanting to and feeling like God is inviting you to be present in your neighborhood and to engage that local community?

Because that’s the priority to be the church. And I think that’s an excellent practice that you guys have, to come together and identify those priorities.

And then I love that idea of the calendar. That’s really practical and an excellent way to do that. And that speaks to even this next question that I have for you. As a whole team in the church, what are some ways that you come together as a team when you plan, so that the Avenues don’t become disconnected and put together completely separate plans or priorities that don’t have anything to do with each other?

[00:07:43] Hector: I would say, Cara—this is Hector—that in our monthly meetings with everybody, with all the leaders, we make emphasis in our friendship, we share together. And we take time to share with each other. So, our meetings are very friendly, and all of us give ideas. In fact, the calendar is open for everybody to add ideas. Not right in the meetings, but after the meetings.

For example, anybody can get into the calendar and add an idea. And we have a system to approve those ideas or to say no. It’s not the moment. It’s not the time, for example. So, everybody participates in a direct way in what we are doing. And we have been seeing a different environment, I would say, or a context different than before, and it is that everybody is participating.

I am really moved, could I say that, to see how people are getting involved in everything, in every aspect of the church because of this way of doing things. It is more intentional too in our meetings, our friendship, and inviting everybody to participate.

[00:09:13] Cara: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I love how there’s a relational foundation there. That in those relationships, that’s what that collaboration in ministry participation is built out of.

And I love how you’re saying there’s been that increase in people participating and being in that, and people can have that direct, hands-on participation.

I also want to highlight that you said you have a system; everyone gets to share their ideas and put their ideas out there and everyone’s voice is heard. And you also have a system for how those ideas are approved or maybe “not right now” or “later.” So that it’s clear to the team, to the members of the church, how those decisions are being made. That’s so excellent. I love that.

[00:10:09] Juanka: The system basically is a sheet file like on Google. And we have nine or ten sheets on Google that we shared with all the ministry leaders and all the people in charge of the Avenues, the servers in all the ministries of the church. And basically, they can upload information, and they can write their plans because there’s a space for everybody, and they will communicate what they’re doing, what they’re planning.

Basically, we have the mission, the vision, the goals, the theme of the year, our values, and it’s divided into several important topics in which we can access anytime, anywhere.

So, it is a practical system, and we can see what the youth ministry, for example, has planned for next Sunday. Anybody can see it. We have support from the other ministries in case someone wants to attend or wants to help. And so, this is definitely working for us. I had the idea of using the MAP, but sharing the document for all, not all the members of the church, but all the people involved in the ministry, in the leadership.

[00:12:02] Cara: Yes. And as you say that it makes me think that then those lines of communication are open, right? Like you said, you can see what Children’s Church is doing as a leader of another area, and then that support can come or even that collaboration. As leaders, you know what each other is doing and so you can support one another, and it’s clear what is happening. That really strengthens that team-based aspect of your planning.

[00:12:38] Hector: I have seen that everybody wants to participate doing things this way. And I am so glad that everybody is feeling more important, in the sense that they know that their opinion is important. And it is. Their opinion is important for all of us.

And it has given them, all the leaders, some maturity and also respect in the sense that their ideas are taken into consideration and their participation is growing more and more. And frankly, I feel so happy with that because I don’t have to do everything. I am allowed now to take my rest.

I concentrate on giving my sermons whenever I have to preach. I see more people capable and prepared and able and with the desire to preach. So that’s very good. And things happen even without me knowing every specific aspect. So, it’s good to see everybody working and doing their own job.

[00:14:03] Cara: Pastor, that makes me so happy too. When we say Team Based—Pastor Led, what you’ve just described there is exactly that. And just the words that came to mind, really what y’all are doing, you’re equipping the saints for participation in Jesus’s ministry. That’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing.

And I’m wondering as you’re doing that and participation is increasing and people are feeling like their gifts and their opinions are valued, how do you continue to work together to articulate those specific goals that you have that are being written out?

Like Juanka, I heard you mention that you’ll have a specific theme for the year and these specific goals each time. How do you work together to articulate what those specific aspects are each year for your congregation?

[00:15:06] Juanka: Great question. Great question. For example, our theme 2023 is “Rebuilding the Church,” starting from scratch, let’s say, because of the pandemic situation, because many things changed.

And so, we wanted to have a vision to be a church that honors God by proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ through community service, so that people can grow in faith, hope, and love in a way that makes a difference in their lives. And basically, with saying this, we wanted to focus a little bit more on the Love Avenue.

We are, I will say, pretty strong in the Hope Avenue. We have been [for] years having incredible rhythms for the gatherings and the worship and the sermons. But we needed to go out. So, this leads to this incredible opportunity of having our first Outside the Walls event.

It was on August 26, 2023, and basically to answer your question, we just gathered as I told you before. First virtually, we discussed ideas. Sometimes it’s challenging because there are too many ideas, and we have to get, again, practical, and to write things that are understandable for everybody. So, we took some time defining the terms, but once the terms are defined, the values are defined, the goals for each Avenue, including the pastoral avenue, are defined.

So, we will gather face-to-face, and that’s where all the magic happens, we make plans, we talk about budgets, we talk about providers, everything. And we make sure that the plan is going to work and because of that, it is so important to gather first virtually and then face-to-face be aligned with the concept of a healthy church in our mission vision and objectives.

[00:17:26] Cara: That is such an intentional process. Can you tell us a little bit more … or go ahead, Hector. Were you going to add?

[00:17:40] Hector: Yes, I was going to mention that I was impressed with that activity, this first Outside the Walls activity. It was so impressive for myself that I was not confident that it was going to be a success.

I was the first one who was in doubt. I wasn’t secure. It was the first time we were going to work and invite the children of our community to an activity. Our strong point in the past was inviting through radio, but this time it was not radio. It was going house by house, building after building, inviting people of our community to bring their children to our community.

And I said, no, nobody is going to come. I think that is going to be very difficult. I was very negative at the beginning. But this work of teamwork, that everybody was so enthusiastic, inspired me.

To see people involved, people planning, calling the providers of services to this activity, all of them doing their work, ended up in an excellent activity.

We had a lot of people, and the fruit of that is that we have new people attending our weekly church services, and I am looking forward to the next event. I am totally changed by this activity. I now know that it is possible to reach our community.

And I am very enthusiastic now. I changed my point of view from very negative—I have to confess that—to a mind of faith and to be more secure that things are possible. Yes, we can do things, and people will respond. If we have good planning and activities and things to offer, people will come.

[00:20:04] Cara: Praise God. Praise God for that. And I really admire that in the intentionality of your planning that—and you mentioned this, Pastor Hector—within the teamwork, that you guys were able to pursue a goal that maybe felt bigger than any one of you thought you could do on your own or it was something really new, right?

Juanka, you even mentioned that the Love Avenue was not the Avenue that felt the strongest for you all at first, but you intentionally, in discernment, you thought about: Look, we’ve had this pandemic. What does it mean to rebuild the church? This, for you, meant to be in your community and to focus on the Love Avenue.

And so that opportunity to come together as a team and to discern and be intentional, wow, how powerful that’s been! Just hearing the difference that’s made for you all as leaders, for your community, and for your gathering church membership, that’s incredible.

It’s incredible to hear.

[00:21:21] Hector: I would say that to release people, to allow them to participate is the results are incredible, because people take their responsibility to levels that are higher than even what you expect. And people participate when you give them the opportunity. They will give everything, more than what you think they will be involved with.

I saw them involved with a lot of enthusiasm. It was a surprise for me to see those results and everybody was enjoying their assignment. So, it was excellent. It was a good experience.

[00:22:13] Cara: I love that.

[00:22:14] Juanka: Yeah. In addition to this, we are also grateful because of the support from GCI, because of Pastor Heber and all of the ideas of the Avenues were crucial in making this possible, especially to expanding the Love Avenue.

Four years ago, we were not centered, and we were not thinking about the Avenues and how they are so important and different phases of the church, different missions of the church. So basically, yes. Thank you so much for your support because you guys are always creating ideas and different perspectives and different documents and things that allow us—all the churches in Latin America and in the world—have these rhythms and good practices that allow the Spirit to just touch people and reach with the love of Christ.

[00:23:28] Cara: Amen. It’s an expression of a team based all across the denomination, right? Yeah. So good to see. I have one last question for you guys for today.

One of the things I’ve been struck with is the intentionality that you all have had in your planning with your team. And so how is preparing a strategic ministry action plan, an intentional ministry action plan different for you all than just a to-do list of things? Like, we’re going to do this this year and this this month.

What difference has that made for you guys in the local congregation?

[00:24:11] Juanka: Yeah, excellent question. Maybe talking about the opportunity to expand our minds with new material, I will say that the difference of just writing down a to-do list is that we can actually create like a more organized system. In our case, we created this sheet, a Google file, that everybody can see and the TMAP [team ministry action plan] and the IMAP [individual ministry action plan] which you guys shared. I think it was in last month’s Equipper. It’s definitely applicable because everybody knows what to do. There are due dates, there are responsibilities, a person in charge of something or some process. And everybody is organized, focused on what needs to be done, and at the same time, we are informed of the process.

We can see, in a nutshell, for example, what is happening with the ministry, the children’s ministry, or with the worship ministry, and how we are participating in an event. And it is beautiful to say this because we feel part of a community.

Sometimes in the past it felt like you were living, for example, your job during the week and then Saturdays and Sundays at church, but now you’re connected all the time. And so, there are more conversations, there’s more information, more ideas. And definitely this ministry action plan is way different than just a to-do list.

A to-do list works maybe for an individual, but the ministry action plan and the TMAP and IMAP, I will say that they organize better. Our ideas, they make better and the process easier. Because we don’t have to create anything because you guys sent everything for us just to write down the specifics and all the things that we need to do to reach the goals.

[00:26:41] Hector: I would add that we cannot take for granted this job that Heber has been doing with us through more than a year and teaching us the basic things: Love Avenue, Hope Avenue, Faith Avenue. It sounds very easy, but it takes time to pass the ideas to the congregation, to the leaders.

So, I feel that we already did that job, which is great in my opinion. I think that everybody now understands which are the things we are working on. And it is clear for the congregation, which is very important because everybody knows now that there is a Faith Avenue, a Hope Avenue, a Love Avenue, and what does it mean.

And everybody wants to participate somehow in one of these three areas. And for me, that’s an accomplishment. It’s something that, of course, we didn’t do by ourselves. It was, again, your support and Heber’s support. I think that we already are in a situation in which everybody understands those basic concepts.

[00:28:19] Cara: Yeah. And that lays such a great foundation to move forward in unity, in vision, and ministry. Oh, this has been so rich! Thank you so much for sharing some of your experience with us. I know that it’ll be helpful to our listeners because this is just so practical. Like you said at the start, we’ll just cut to the chase and bring that focus.

And so, thank you for spending your time with us today. Pastor Hector, would you be willing to say a prayer over our pastors and ministry leaders in GCI for their processes of discernment, strategic planning, and putting together ministry action plans?

[00:29:10] Hector: Yes, of course. So let us pray.

We are so thankful, our Lord Jesus, for what you are doing with our denomination. Our prayers as pastors are for you to stay with us, to provide us the ideas, the planning, all those things that make our church, our denomination continue going forward, growing as a healthy church.

I want to bless our president, Greg, the job he’s doing, with so many people around him, all of them doing a great job. We ask for your blessing for our denomination; we always pray for us. I always remember that we paid a high price to come out from our past and be in this beautiful present and to have a beautiful future.

Our Lord Jesus, please continue helping us, giving us the vision to do things. Please bring growth to our denomination, in the congregations, pastors to be mature, to delegate, to put in practice what we have been receiving and your Spirit in us, guiding us through these challenging times, difficult times But with your help and your presence among us, we are very confident that we will continue growing and existing. We ask these things to you, our Lord Jesus, our Savior. Amen. Amen.

[00:31:17] Cara: Amen. Thank you all so much, and until next time, keep on living and sharing the gospel.

We want to thank you for listening to this episode of the GC Podcast. We hope you have found value in it to become a healthier leader. We would love to hear from you. If you have a suggestion on a topic, or if there is someone who you think we should interview, email us at info@gci.org. Remember, Healthy Churches start with healthy leaders; invest in yourself and your leaders.