LEADING OUR CHURCH INTO GROWTH

LEADING OUR CHURCH INTO GROWTH

 

The 2018 growing season is just starting, buds are on the trees, snowdrops have given of their best, daffodils are at the ready and new growth is about to spurt into spring colour. Nature is coming alive again after the winter. [Apart from this week with the coldest weather conditions for years that is – Ed]. Many a gardener has already been preparing the soil, cutting back old dead wood and planting seeds in readiness for Spring. What of  our church though? Where are we preparing for and seeing new growth?

 

With our seemingly endless assortment of activities and events it would be easier not to redesign the garden of church life and to leave things as they are. Yet if we want lasting growth to happen, we need to develop positive growth strategies. Often our planning and church life is dominated by the 3 B’s of Budgets, Bureaucracy and Buildings rather than engaging us with taking us out of a ‘cycle of decline’. Research shows that to stay the same and do nothing may lead us to diminishing attendance, deteriorating finances and a spiral of decline that we have learned to manage but not reverse. However, actively and purposefully engaging with strategies for growth, means we could see significant NEW growth. Leaders in the church are being asked If you are not leading your church into growth, then where are you leading them?  It is a salutary question.

 

During February, five of us from our parish attended an intensive Diocesan Training Conference – Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCiG). It was a very challenging few days that explored how we as a group of churches might grow in numbers and depth of discipleship. It challenged us to think strategically and intentionally, instead of just letting things happen or carrying on with things we’ve always done. It challenged us to think about our purpose and mission and to measure everything against the yardstick of that purpose. It challenged us not only to be disciples, but to make new disciples within the context of our own situation.

 

So just what are we doing about growth?

 

The 2020 Vision is all about growth. If our mission is to reach beyond the walls of the church then we are not simply maintaining St Oswald’s and St Thomas’ or redeveloping the building of St John’s but growing a vision to reach out to our community with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about developing ourselves and our church life to reflect God’s love for his world. So, we will look more carefully at our worship and ask if it could be better and does it help us to grow? Are we intentional about discipleship? What will help us grow in confidence to tell our own faith stories? Are we taking opportunities to be invitational? What are we doing to help young people find faith? In other words, by developing LYCiG in our parish, it is going to help us deliver the 2020 Vision!

 

Prayer

Being intentional about prayer is the first step. Prayer absolutely sustains our journey of faith as individuals and as a church. It is specifically about engaging with God in the process of living out our faith in the real world, seeking his will, and being direct about praying for growth.

 

I am amazed by just how much we do in this parish. Let me assure you that LYCiG is not about doing more stuff, but about prayerful and planned pursuit of growth. It will lead us to ask difficult questions of what we are doing and why. It will help us develop a ‘Mission Statement’ [purpose] and to be strategic in using existing contacts and activities for evangelism. It may even lead us to do less but do it better, to change tack or even stop doing certain activities. It will help us to focus on what needs to be done as well as to engage us in deepening our own faith and discipleship. Growth starts with attentive prayer and to this end I would invite you to adopt the LYCiG prayer as a daily intentional prayer for our parish life.

 

God of Mission

Who alone brings growth to your Church,

Send the Holy Spirit to give

Vision to our planning,

Wisdom to our actions,

And power to our witness.

Help our churches to grow in numbers,

In spiritual commitment to you,

And in service to our local community,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey