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Message from the Ministry Team - March 2018

At the Circuit Meeting at Allerton on 6th March I challenged our circuit churches to be honest with themselves about their mission and ministry, and the obstacles and opportunities they face in fulfilling their calling to serve God in today’s world. Two factors led me to do this.

Firstly, the fact that a number of our churches are facing difficulties, with various combinations of the following factors making life challenging:
  • ageing congregations and a lack of people able to take on leadership roles;
  • the continuing state of austerity in society, leading to reduction in groups wanting to use our buildings with subsequent loss of income; 
  • changes in demographics, bringing questions of how ministry and mission should be exercised in areas where the majority of residents are Muslims;
  • suites of buildings that are either not fit for purpose or unsustainable financially;
  • a cumulative tiredness in those carrying the burden of leadership. 
Secondly, the request from last year’s Methodist Conference that:
  • “Each year, every Church Council be encouraged to address and answer the question ‘Do you have a growth plan or an end of life plan?’, with the answer to be presented to the Circuit Meeting in order to aid its wider, strategic, oversight of mission and ministry.”
In offering the challenge to be honest, I said a number of positive things:-
  • In every place good things are happening – celebrate them! 
  • Challenges are being faced with faithfulness and dedication;
  • We need to remember what we are, and what we are not. We are a people called by God to praise, serve, learn, and share God’s love with others. We are not small businesses struggling to turn a profit –and we are not independent congregations needing to struggle alone. 
But I also asked some questions and the Circuit Meeting agreed unanimously that, between now and the next CM (13 June), each church will consider these questions and bring some answers (or at least some working out) to that meeting. Indeed, the meeting asked for those responses to be with the Circuit Office by June 1st so that we can circulate them to members and begin to reflect. 

Here are the questions: 

  1. What good things happen because of your church?
    For each good thing identified - Who benefits? Who makes it happen? What (realistic) resource would be needed to increase the benefit? How might that resource be identified? 
  2. What would be missed if your church wasn’t there? And by whom? 
  3. The Conference asks, ‘Do you have a growth plan or an end of life plan?’ Is this a question with an obvious answer (which kind of plan you should have), or is it more difficult? 
  4. If it’s obvious, and it’s growth, what is the plan? 
  5. If it’s obvious, and it’s end of life, what is the plan? 
  6. If it’s not obvious, what are the factors to weigh in coming to a view? And who are the potential partners you could consult in discerning the way forward? 
My hope and intention is that, from the June meeting, we will be in a position to discern some strategic direction, identify some partnerships, and initiate some action. Each church will work with the questions in ways appropriate to them. Please contribute appropriately in your church, with a spirit of openness to God’s calling, and holding one another in prayer as we journey together. 

Yours, 
Nick 

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