Resourcing Church Initiative
The St John’s Story
Just over three years ago, in Nov 2014 some new faces appeared in St Johns. The first new face was myself, Sami, as I was licensed as ‘curate’ to St John’s and began to lead services. Then between Nov and Christmas many other new people began to appear. By early 2015 around 60 people had arrived (half were children) and began to get involved. These people had come from Holy Trinity and were sent out by them with their blessing to ‘merge’ into the existing congregation at St John’s to strengthen the existing mission and ministry of St John’s. Since that time, we have been on a journey of change which has seen the revitalisation of the church and significant fruitfulness with people coming to faith, growing in their discipleship and many new leaders being identified and trained.
All this happened because Holy Trinity had the vision and generosity to send people out in this way. Holy Trinity did this with joy, but it was a sacrifice for them as they sent some of their best people and with them, their financial giving. This left a hole in Holy Trinity that needed to be filled. Additionally, Holy Trinity supported St John’s to get off the ground children’s work, a closer relationship with the school, sung worship and operations. Since then many other people have joined and contributed to the life and mission of the church. But it remains true to say that much of the life we now see at St John’s was born in the sacrificial ‘Spirit-led’ generosity of Holy Trinity.
Generosity is something we have talked a lot about at St John’s over the past three years. We have been keen to recognise that as this phase in the life of St John’s was born in generosity, we want to continue in generosity. We have also repeatedly reflected that our generosity is rooted in God’s generosity. Our faith, hope and life begins in the goodness of God, that he ‘…so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…’ (John 3:16) who lived, died and rose again for us – it’s God’s radical love, goodness and generosity that is the source of life.
These reflections have caused many of us to wonder how it would be if we could do for another church what Holy Trinity did for us. How would it be if we were able to send out a leader and a team of people (even if only a small team) to go and strengthen the life, mission and ministry of another church, wouldn’t that be good?! Even before the team from Holy Trinity arrived at St John’s and since many of us have had the growing conviction that God is not simply calling us to grow St John’s, but to replicate and multiply what we have experienced at St John’s at other churches and in other places.
While all this has been going on, under the leadership of Bishop Martyn Snow, the Leicester Diocese has been developing its vision for mission and renewal. Part of this vision is to establish six so called ‘Resourcing Churches’. Resourcing Churches are churches that have a vision to plant several churches and missional communities and to resource and stimulate lots of different types of mission in any one area. Initially two Resourcing Churches were designated, Holy Trinity and the benefice of churches based in and around Market Harborough. Then in late 2017, Bishop Martyn invited other churches to express an interest in becoming a Resourcing Church inviting them to join a process of discernment in partnership with the diocese. Due to our story and our vision/desire to bless others in the way that we have been blessed the church leadership team and PCC felt that God was prompting us to be part of this process. Then shortly before Christmas we received the exciting news that St John’s would be designated as a Resourcing Church.
We have always believed we are a ‘church planting church’ and now we have been designated as such.
Why is the Diocese creating ‘Resourcing Churches’?
Our nation is changing and the number of people attending church is in decline. Around 93% of people in Leicestershire are not part of any Christian community; the figure is even higher in the city of Leicester. Only 1.4% of our population attend a C of E church. Many of those who don’t come to church are more than one generation away from a time when their family regularly attended church and so have little sense of association with Christianity or church. And yet, the call of Jesus is to ‘make disciples’ of all people.
‘…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ Mat 28:19-20
‘…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”’ Acts 1:8
One way of fulfilling the call of Jesus is to seek to grow our church, we can engage in all kinds of missional programmes and activities, Alpha, invitation services, children’s and youth work and so on and as we do so prayerfully, our church will grow. But can we expect this approach alone to enable us to reach all the 93% of people who don’t come to church? It is estimated that at least 50% of people would never come to church despite our best efforts to attract them. In our highly diverse community, this percentage is likely to be even higher. The Jesus model was not to simply invite people to come to him, he went to where the people were, Jesus was the ‘sent one’ sent by God to the lost, the least and the broken in the world. The call of Jesus in the verses above is to ‘go’. If we are to make disciples in our local community and beyond, as well as becoming a growing church, we must become a ‘going’ church, a church that sends people out in mission to those around us.
One way of ‘going’ is to plant churches. Planting churches may mean starting completely new churches or ‘grafting’ into existing churches. Another is to seek to set up new ‘missional communities’ or ‘fresh expressions’ of church of different shapes and sizes out in our community. An example of this might be to set up an ‘after school church’ in a local school, to establish a Bible study for young mums in someone’s home, or to start a group for students that meets in a coffee shop or pub. Another way we can ‘go’ is to send short term mission teams to pray for or talk to people out on the street. All these are proven and effective approaches to mission and evangelism.
Many dioceses now have a church planting strategy and a strategy for starting new missional communities/fresh expressions. Some dioceses have a strategy of establishing Resourcing Churches. The Leicester diocese is one such diocese seeking to establish six Resourcing Churches.
The exciting news is that St John’s has been designated as one of these six Resourcing Churches.
What does being a Resourcing Church mean?
Under the Resourcing Church model, we will receive some additional resources to stimulate missional activity. These will include, a full-time associate vicar, two curates, four ministry apprentices (interns) and a sum of money. But the emphasis of Resourcing Church is much more on what we can give away rather than on what we receive. A fundamental value of Resourcing Church is GENEROSITY – a radical giving away of leaders, teams, money and ministries. The experience of church planting churches is often that they need to send out their best people when starting new church plants or new missional communities and give financially. But we do this because of our desire to further the Kingdom of God. There are some specific outcomes expected of Resourcing Churches. These are:
- Church-planting/transplanting – 2 churches in 5 years
- Reproducing and multiplying missional communities/fresh-expressions of all shapes and sizes
- Double in size in 10 years
- Achieve financial sustainability within 5 years
- Sending teams to support and strengthen other churches and impact the city
We have some developing plans, but we do not know the detail of what all this means in practice. So, for example, we do not know when or where we might complete our first church trans-plant. We know that this will involve receiving, training and sending a curate out to lead that which is a process that will take 18 months to two years or more. And when we send out this curate, we don’t know who or how many people we might send with him/her. There is even a possibility that we might do this in partnership with Holy Trinity, so some people are sent from that church too.
There are lots of questions and the vision is so big it means we are completely dependent on God to make it happen. Please join with me in praying for the leading of the Holy Spirit in all of this.
How does being a Resourcing Church fit with the rest of our vision?
Our developing vision is to become a ‘white-hot missional sending centre’ – an extended family on mission going deep in three relational directions: passionate worship (Up), radical community (‘In’) and missionary zeal (‘out’). Our vision is to grow and to go…
St John the Baptist Church Connecting People to God, transforming communities, changing lives in Clarendon Park and beyond.
Connecting Renewing Transforming
Fundamentally we want to build a ‘culture’ at St John’s that will lead to certain types of activity. The key features of this culture which are our motivation as individuals and as a church include:
God’s goodness motivates our GENEROSITY
Our personal experience of God’s mercy, grace, love and healing and transforming power in our lives motivates and inspires our worship and mission.
His holiness motivates our HUMILITY
He is Holy, and he is Lord, we seek to follow him ever more deeply through repentance and faith, standing on his word, pursuing the way of love and following his example to be the servant of all.
Jesus calls and he sends – our motivation for PARTNERSHIP
Jesus calls and sends us as part of his wider family to share the Good News and pray and work that his Kingdom might come on earth as on heaven. We partner with others for the sake of his kingdom.
All things are possible with God – our motivation for AUDACITY
His purpose is to renew all things– He promises to be with us in all we do for him giving freely of his Spirit. We set ‘God-sized’ goals for the sake of his glory trusting him for all we need.
We want to encourage a culture where we are encouraged to grow as disciples and individually, to hear and respond to the call of God to be sent out into the world whatever that means for us given our own unique passions, gifts and circumstances. Clearly Resourcing Church fits very well with all this and in addition to the specific Resourcing Church outcomes we continue to seek and grow our existing ministries and to orientate them towards enabling and supporting the above.
- Children, young people, families and schools – growing our children’s church, increasing our missional activities with families, appointing a youth worker, developing our mission partnership with the school by employing a ‘chaplain’.
- Evangelism and Discipleship – developing Alpha and small groups, sending teams out on mission in our local area, equipping and empowering all of us to be missional disciples in our day to day lives.
- Seeking how we can engage in ‘transformational’ loving service of our local community especially with the marginalised.
In addition to all this, we are developing an exciting buildings programme to modernise and develop our whole site to enable and support all the above – further details are available in separate publications.
How will being a Resourcing Church affect me?
We are very excited about our vision to become a Resourcing Church. The Resourcing Church future is a future that will affect all of us. We are a church planting church, so that means some of us are not going to stay at St John’s in the future, some of us will hear God’s call to go. And some of us will be called to give financially to enable church plants to happen. Not all of us will be called to go, some of us will be called to stay and build up the centre so we can send even more people.
What this will mean for all of us is CHANGE. We have been on a journey of change and this journey continues. All aspects of our church life will continue to develop including our buildings. Change can be unsettling, particularly if things change that have remained the same for some time. We need to look out for each other during this continued change, listening and supporting each other.
For all of us, I invite and encourage you to pray and to reflect on all the above. Please do send me your questions, comments and your feedback – tell me what you think God is saying and tell me what excites you and what you find scary!