Hidden in the background papers for this weekends General Synod is some analysis of how £45m of mission development money is being spent in the CofE. The Fund has been in place since 2002, and is used in a widely varying way between the 43 Dioceses. 10 years in, and we are just about to get some evaluation of how well this money is being spent. Ah well, the CofE never did things in a rush.
The totals by diocese are here, and a project-by-project breakdown for 2011 is here. (and if we can get a full run-down of all the 2011 projects and their funding by June 2012, why can't we do the same with membership data?)
There seem to be 3 different approaches to using the money
- significant funds for a small number of strategic projects, usually a mixture of Diocesan and local (e.g. Bristol, London, Southwell & Nottingham)
- fund a lot of small projects in as many corners as possible (e.g. Bath and Wells, Durham)
- fund strategic Diocesan posts and initiatives to resource mission across the whole Diocese (e.g. Exeter, Ely)
There's an impressive array of different things going on and being tried out, as well as one or two things where it looks like money is being spent either on things which should already be in the budget, or things which aren't obviously to do with mission start-up costs.
It's obviously harder to evaluate lots of smaller projects than it is to evaluate one or two big ones. But it's also indicative of the way the CofE works. I can guarantee this: even if the evaluations demonstrate that one of the above 3 approaches is far more effective than either of the other two, the vast majority of Dioceses will carry on doing what they currently do. Why? Because the CofE may offer plenty of scope for experimentation, but there is no robust system for identifying, and then implementing, best practice. Every Diocese is its own kingdom, and every parish within them is a mini-Diocese.
Stop me if I've said this before, but until the CofE develops, and learns to accept, strategic national leadership, we will not make the best of the current window of opportunity for mission which the Mission Fund and Fresh Expressions gives us. If you want to get into that debate, look at the comments on this post from last week, on projections of vicar numbers.