There are over 1.5 million people in our Diocese and just 1% of them are connecting with our churches. That 1% is made up of committed, wonderful people who have faithfully served their churches and communities for decades. But there has to be some acknowledgment that many of our models of inherited church are not, and may never, connect with certain groups of people. And we have a mission to serve and reach out to the other 99% in innovative and pioneering ways.
At the heart of the Shaping the Future funding bid to the Church Commissioners (as part of Transforming Church) is a freedom and a permission from our bishops to try new things and that’s what is at the very centre of any strategy for Church Planting or fresh expressions of Church. Bishop Ric Thorpe describes it as “reaching new people, in new places, in new ways.”
Church planting is a key aspect of this funding bid. Church planting isn’t a new thing. Every church in our Diocese is the result of efforts, at some point in history, to establish a congregation, build a building, engage missionally and encourage Christian discipleship across the breadth of traditions.
Church planting strategies are complex and full of ‘what if’s?’ and they are necessarily both top down and grassroots but at it’s heart about reaching new people, in new places, in new ways. There are three key areas of focus:
- Encouraging healthy churches to consider Church Planting as part of their mission strategy
- Review struggling churches (which of course is difficult to define!), especially at the key moment of a vacancy, to see if there are opportunities to revitalise a church by sending a leader and bunch of people
- Actively seeking areas of new housing or unchurched locations where there has been dramatic demographic change for which the parish system is not currently giving adequate provision.
The Church of England - Birmingham is in the process of appointing a Church Planting Enabler. Once that person is in post there will be more information posted here.
Clearly the Church of England in London is different to Birmingham but they have produced some helpful documentation which you may wish to look at. Find it by clicking here.