JanAshtonDear All,

The strap-line of our diocese is, ‘A Bigger Church makes a Bigger Difference’. It’s a good aim to want a growing church and not a shrinking one.

At the moment, there’s lots in the press about churches getting older and smaller and this might be true for most churches. But there are some churches growing. It’s intriguing to know why one church grows when the others around it are shrinking. The reason might be obvious if the popular church is ‘stealing’ people from the less popular ones. But that’s not always the case. So how is the growing church attracting people who haven’t been to church before?

By the time you read this, the churchwardens and I will have been to a four- day course called ‘Grow your Church’. I’m wondering what they’ll say.

Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, North -West London, is very interested in why some churches grow and he’s looked at what is different about these growing churches. I’ve summarised his findings into 10 tips. He gives these tips in his usual outspoken way!

The Bishop of Willesden’s Tips for Growing your Church:

  1. Serve decent coffee: no more grotty instant in ancient teacups.
  2. Get a properly trained welcome team - not a bunch of depressed-looking people who stand at the back poring over the hymn books.
  3. Have a back-door policy: keep a track of who's new, visit them early, invite them to a welcome lunch. And if they don't stick around, go back to them, and find out why they stopped coming.
  4. Provide a menu of service options. Consumerism means that we have to give people many choices, including café church, ambient worship, services parents don’t mind bringing their fractious children/stroppy teenagers to, traditional.
  5. Get outside your building. The old "come to church and discover the Mystery" stuff has less traction when people won't darken your door. Do festivals, mass in the park, acts of kindness in the community. Be known.
  6. Have a decent website, properly maintained. Most people now search online for a church to attend.
  7. Carpet your church if you can. And get decent chairs. Nobody goes to rough old pubs any more, and they don't want to sit in a draughty building on wooden pews with moth-eaten cushions and kneelers.
  8. Get rid of the dynasty of people who have run the church for the last 40 years. Persuade them to stand down. Honour their contribution. They stop being part of the solution and become part of the problem when they block everything.
  9. Plant vigorously. Don't be afraid to try stuff and fail. Start new churches on estates, in schools, in pubs and cafés.
  10. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. And pray. Nothing will work unless it's rooted in God and the life of the Spirit.

I’m not sure if Bishop Pete is being provocative or not. Would you stop going to a church if the coffee was ‘grotty’? Perhaps the best pubs are those which are ‘rough’ and ‘old’! And many of our best people in church have been there a long time! But perhaps number 5 is interesting.

We know unless things change they die. But what changes and how might these be done? Fortunately, at St Stephen’s, our church council has wise Godly people and we will think long and hard before any change. What changes do you think we should make at St Stephen’s?

Jan
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool

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