MAP for bigger churches

MAPping New Horizons...

Bigger churches (typically in smaller benefice groupings) will often have greater resources to draw on, enabling them to be more ambitious in the scope of their Mission Action Planning than smaller churches - not just one degree shifts, but breaking new ground and sometimes taking bigger bolder steps.

Here’s an example from St George’s Church, Pontesbury – Mission Strategy

In 2012 as a community, we have been using the Growth Spiral as a Model for evangelism taken from Stephen Cottrell’s book ‘From the abundance of the heart’ and recommended by the diocese. The model shows how seekers can become encouraged to become disciples through contact, nurture, commitment and growth. We found that we had lots of contact points with adults and children, but there was a lack of appropriate nurture to help them grow and become disciples. We began looking at ways in which we could provide this nurture by building relationships with those we came into contact with and also providing specific courses for discipleship and bible study, first communion for children and a pastoral care scheme which includes bereavement support. We looked also at our outreach through baptisms, weddings and funerals and realized we needed a dedicated group of people to enable and inspire others and to help us all make the important 1 degree shifts in our ministries. We commissioned an LMDG in 2013 to help us grow spiritually and numerically. The people Jesus called as his disciples, were the ones he commissioned to be apostles. We had to become more intentional in encouraging people to be both - to follow and to lead. To follow Christ and to be sent out by Christ to lead others to him.

One of the priorities for the LMDG was to look at our provision for growing young disciples and the PCC took the hugely important step of being bigger and bolder in our intentions by employing a full time children and families worker, who started work in February 2016. The principle tasks being to engage with the existing ministry and to nurture the faith of children and families. For the community at St George’s, this was really breaking new ground. With a small vision group, we now have an intentional strategy of Sowing, Reaping and Keeping, which we used to look at all the activities provided by the church. There were only a few that could be listed as Reaping and Keeping. We began Messy Church as a pilot from May to July, which gave us a new regular congregation of 45+ attending monthly. We decided to continue and we now have 25+ families attending with 83% of them being 35 and under.

Being intentional with the strategy has meant we have been able to look at activities and target the young families we already have in the Little Dragons (parents & toddlers) as well as the contact with families in the primary school through the work we had been doing there. Having a full time person dedicated to this work has meant contact with both the primary and secondary schools has increased substantially. We can support the RE coordinator and offer mentoring as well as run initiatives such as Open the Book and Pray, Bake Read with a growing number of volunteers. We were able to provide two prayer labyrinths during Holy Week this year – one in St George’s and one in the primary school. Inviting families to our activities usually brings the children and mum in. This has is good but we want to engage with dads as well. We are now looking at how we can intentionally work with dads by inviting them to a dads and children morning. We are looking at the Saturdads model and will provide breakfast with games and activities. We feel that if we can get alongside the dads then when we invite the family we will get the whole family unit.

As Pontesbury Deanery is a Group Ministry, the children and families worker has also been providing help and support to the other 5 benefices and is beginning to attend activities in other parts of the deanery. There is tremendous potential for this to develop and for to provide a good resource for training and encouraging leaders in other churches.