Last year I came across a project that was being launched by the Church of England to give funding to churches that might be able to show how the Church could grow on estates. Given our recent launching of our congregation in Roundshaw I was keen to bid for it. Southwark Diocese encouraged us to team up with St Paul’s, Brixton and see if there was a good amount of overlap. Meeting Ben Goodyear (twitter @revbengoodyear) and discussing the project with him it became apparent that we could both work together.
We spent a long time as a staff team looking at some of the underlying reasons why we believed we might be growing as a church and what we need to do more of to ensure that this continues. We shared this with the PCC and this post is a sharing of some of those underlying reasons which we wish to test out and eventually start to embrace through the rest of Springfield.
The first thing to say is that our Values are re-enforced by the 5 reasons set out below. So our values of:
- All Involved
- Becoming Disciples
- Creating Community
- Doing Mission
- Encountering God
are, if anything, re-enforced by our proposal and we see them as 5 things that can help us re-enforce our values and help our mission.
These 5 are:
On reflecting on our ministries over the years we noticed a pattern emerging. This pattern showed that more often than not ministries developed and grew in clusters. We noticed that ministries that were on their own found it harder to either continue to last over the long term or struggled. We also noticed that ministries that grew and developed often occurred because people not only found that ministry worked for them but also that there was a series of other ministries that they could go to. The importance of this was that relationships could be grown and it gave people multiple opportunities to see what we were like and to see if it was a safe place to come to.
The classics of this overlapping are things such as our children and youth ministries and events where there are multiple opportunities for children and youth (and their families) to come to. To check us out before committing to joining. So, we have one off events such as cinema trips, Feast in the Field, Holiday Clubs and cell socials which are primarily aimed at building trust and relationships. Then we have regular events such as Footsteps, Tiptoes, Christian Club, Sunday Club, The MiX etc where we build deeper relationships and share the good news of Jesus. People enter at different places and different times and for some ministries like Footsteps become their church. We are seeing this same process slowly start to occur around Ashby Cell which uses two local sheltered accommodation venues and has evolved to include the Caring Cupcakes ministry and more recently a scrabble club. They are building real community and seeing people becoming more and more involved.
Missional Community Groups
The second is our cell groups with a slight twist. Here we are looking at the cell groups being what it says on the tin – missional and communal. We are called on to reach out into our community. We have wanted at least some cell groups that formed around a ministry or missional activity and that is what we are looking to do with our Roundshaw cells. Already we are seeing most people excited by this possibility. What is interesting is that this is happening elsewhere more and more (especially on other successful bids to help with mission on estates). Over time it would be great to see some cells at Wallington Girls created to support a ministry or area of activity.
Using our strengths to grow
As a church there are certain areas that we have strengths and lots of experience in. Instead of looking to see where we are weak and trying to plug those gaps and become spread to thinly we want to use our strengths to grow. This ensures that we have something real to offer people. One of our key strengths is our children and youth but I do expect that this will develop over time and include social issues – but this may include coming out of our work with children and youth as it will be stronger by working on the overlapping ministry principle.
Growing our Leaders
How do you ensure that we have a diversity of leaders? How do you make sure that a community that we are seeking to reach is represented in leadership? It’s by encouraging and nurturing people from that community into leadership. That doesn’t include making them into our image but rather to realise that this may mean that the Spirit is already at work in them. It is interesting to realise that the apostle Paul usually setup churches very quickly and often appointed leaders and then had to leave them to the Spirit to grow and nurture – very different from the way we work today! Over time we hope and pray that God will raise up leaders in Roundshaw that will own and lead the congregation – but we need to be intentional about this.
Quality vs Relational
We want to do things well – slapdash doesn’t honour God BUT we need to be careful. Sometimes we can focus on getting things perfect and ignore the relational aspect of Church; in other words we can hide behind the task! We therefore want to ensure that the Quality of what we do is good (and we come prepared and ready and in time) but then we focus on relationship, relationship, relationship. People will stay not because of how great our services are but because they find that they are loved and accepted.
We are in an exciting time of Springfield’s life and I hope that insights gained from all of this is shared across the whole of Springfield and indeed with the wider church.