Well here it is. Kathleen Graham’s last magazine! I commend it to you. It will be as good a read I’m sure as many of the others! Thank you very much Kathleen for all you have done to serve Hope Parish so faithfully as our magazine editor these past 26 years. You are very much appreciated by us all.
This month, 16th to 19th April, the Diocese are taking another 80-ish people on the “Leading your Church into Growth” Course (LyCiG) held in Swanwick, Derbyshire. They have already made another block booking for 2019 too.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend last year’s course. Let me tell you about it. ‘LyCiG’ was one of the most inspirational courses that I have attended. I came away affirmed by much of what we’re doing here, excited about trying new things and convinced that church’s really can and will grow.
The truth is our denomination (The Church In Wales) on the whole is in decline. 80% of our churches are not growing. There are a few churches however that are bucking the trend. But these are in the minority. I would love Hope and Emmanuel to become such churches! What LyCiG does is teach you the tried and tested methods and means that growing churches today live by that has helped them to grow. Here is some of what was put to us…
A church that is ‘outward looking’ grows. A church that is ‘inward looking’ as a general rule however declines. By ‘inward’ looking I mean that is focussed primarily on ‘looking after its own’. Don’t get me wrong (!) this in many ways is a good and important thing to do! But if a church’s ‘priority’ is only on looking after its own then it will decline and in time it will close. A church that is ‘inward looking’ will decline ‘numerically’ because no one new will be introduced or welcomed into the church. ‘Spiritually’ it will decline – put simply – because part of our Christian discipleship is to be willing to share the reason we have for our faith with others. ‘Missionally’ we will decline too – because we will only serve ourselves rather than others in our community with the good news of the Jesus Christ.
By an ‘outward looking’ church however I mean a church that is focussed on helping more in the local community to understand the church, to understand the benefits of the Christian faith and ultimately helps others to get know Jesus Christ for themselves too – as their leader and guide, or Saviour and friend, or help and strength, or hope and joy for through life.
By an ‘inward looking church’ LyCiG describes a church whose primary energy goes into the ‘7 Ps of Maintenance’ – Paying the bills, Preserving the building, Playing the annual round, Protecting the past, Pleasing the insider, Prioritising the present and Pretending decline is not happening. An outward looking church however is a church that lives by the ‘7 Ps of Mission’ – Praying for growth, Prioritising the outsider, Promoting the faith, Preparing our people to welcome, Putting money into evangelism, Prioritising fresh ways of doing things and Publicising everything well (great that we have both new magazine and website editors on board too!)
To quote ‘LyCiG’ again, a ‘maintenance church’ (declining church) is generally speaking led by a ‘maintenance leader’, is focussed on pastoral activities, traditional worship, lives by a strategy based on what ‘we have done in the past’, operates as an institution, they are increasingly ‘disappearing’ (closing) and live by the question – How do we keep going? Or if the vicar him/herself is not ‘maintenance-focussed’, the congregation may well be and so expect the vicar therefore to do ‘everything’ – especially in ‘maintaining the church’ and consequently because the vicar actually can’t do everything these church’s decline, close and die. Such a model for a vicar as this only worked when the culture was that ‘everybody’ went to church.
A ‘mission church’ (growing church) however is led by a ‘mission leader’ who says yes to those in the church who want to have a go at growing the church, who focusses on evangelistic activities, creates ‘user-friendly’ worship, applies a strategy based on what ‘we must do now’ and operates more as a movement than institution. Such churches are increasingly ‘appearing’ (many churches are closing but new churches are opening all the time too!), and such churches live by the question – How do we start growing? Or how do we keep growing?
I find all of this to be challenging stuff. Much of it is also incredibly uncomfortable to hear too. But it can also be very exciting and rewarding. If you want to know and see growth in our churches – why not this month begin praying DAILY the ‘LyCiG’ prayer found at the top of our Prayer Page? The Lent Course now over why not join a house group on a Tuesday or Thursday evening and think through your own faith further? Or if you’re new or dusty to faith and curious as to why Christians get so excited about serving Jesus (or why I wanted to have a go at growing a church that I was willing aged 26 to give up teaching for a life in the ordained ministry) – why not consider signing onto our next Alpha Course too – there’s more information on this inside too!
In Christ, Adam