Monday, January 12, 2009

Nurture Courses

Start the Week have a fascinating bit of research on the use of nurture and enquirers courses around the CofE.

43% of parishes/churches responsed 'yes' to the question "In 2006 did your parish/church provide an enquirers course or group for those seeking to know more about the Christian faith?" Among these nearly 6,000 parishes, Alpha was the favourite (over 1/3 using it), closely followed by home-grown materials, 'other published material' (it would have been interesting to see how well used were Christianity Explored and Journeys), just under 20% used Emmaus, and 6% used START.

I would guess the high number of home-grown things may be that they are confirmation courses, which would just about qualify as a 'yes' to the question.

The figures are broken down by Diocese, so in my own (Bath and Wells) 174 parishes/churches (out of a total of 570 churches in 490 parishes), so about 1 in 3. That still means that 2/3 of our churches have no provision for people exploring the Christian faith: is this because there are no new people joining them, for lack of resources, or some other reason?

It's hard to know how to interpret the figures without knowing the total number of churches in each Diocese. If only 42 churches are using these courses in Bradford, is that a decent proportion? One of Bob Jacksons findings was that regular use of a Christian basics/nurture course seemed to correlate with a growing church, though I wonder which came first - any church worth it's salt which gets new members would probably set a course up in response.

Another thought on the Diocesan figures: there is a bit of a Robin Gamble effect with the START course, in that 3 dioceses (Liverpool, Manchester and Lichfield) make up over 1/3 of the users, with it nearly outstripping Alpha in Manchester Diocese. Personally I think it's a great course, 6 weeks, very interactive and down to earth, and works well if you use Alpha or Emmaus to follow it up. Funnily enough, I've had 2 local enquiries about it in the last fortnight.

If you find the brand names all a bit confusing, then help is at hand. Tucked away on Southwell Diocese website is a real gem: On Course: Resources to Encourage Mission is a 20-page summary of courses in Christian nurture, faith sharing, and discipleship, with a brief description of each one, what's involved in running them, and who they'd be suitable for. It's free to download, and the kind of thing that makes me think there should be a central bank of CofE resources like this, shared by all Dioceses, to prevent them all reinventing the wheel and duplicating one another's work.

1 comment:

  1. You might wish to be aware of the website which is the only UK website dedicated to the nurture of new Christian believers.