Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mission Resources and Fresh Expressions on Diocesan Websites: Bath and Wells to Coventry

Occassionally I stumble across a real gem on one of the 43 Diocesan websites around the country - most recently it was Bristols' section on Fresh Expressions (see below). So I thought I'd try to gather together all the useful links on mission and fresh expressions from the Diocesan websites in one place.

It's proven to be a bit more work than I thought, so I'm going to break it up a bit. This is the first of 4 posts, the others will cover:
Derby - London (12 dioceses)
Manchester - Rochester (8 dioceses, hopefully in 2 weeks time)
St. Albans - York (12 dioceses, ditto)
A full list of diocesan websites can be found on Anglicans Online (remember them?)

Basic Ideas:
1. This is a survey of what's on a diocesan website related to mission and fresh expressions
2. If I couldn't find it in 5 minutes, it's not listed - sorry if I've missed something important!
3. Of particular interest was anything which could be used by folk outside the particular Diocese. There is a heck of a lot of reinventing of wheels going on, and plenty of scope for a common core of mission material which could be hosted in common on every diocesan website.

1. Bath and Wells: has a mission homepage, mostly centred around the 'Changing Lives' diocesan strategy. Most of the info is contacts, though an article on 'mission in our culture' is a useful summary of the mission challenge, with a brief 'starter for 10' booklist.

Main highlight of the site is a great 13 page resource booklet on how churches and schools can work together, packed with good ideas on mission and engagement.

Nothing on fresh expressions, and the 'Back to Church Sunday' link was broken. Aside from the schools booklet, there'd be little of interest if you weren't in the Diocese already.

2. Birmingham: A website which clearly expects non-Christian visitors, with a substantial section for enquirers called Exploring Faith. This covers what a Christian is, testimonies, FAQ’s, how to find out more, books to read etc. This would be an easy template for other dioceses to copy and link from their homepage.

Brief section on ‘mission strategy’ which is based on Mission Action Plans at parish level.

A ‘local projects’ section lists the community/mission projects run by local churches, with a contact name. It's a very helpful browsable list, giving an at-a-glance idea of what other churches are up to, from healthy eating cafes to projects for the housebound and those with learning difficulties. Digging around reveals a specific list of projects working with the elderly.

There’s no specific mission section, and there were no mission resources either apart from the introduction to Mission Action Planning. The local projects list is a good idea.

3. Blackburn The homepage has the diocesan vision and the Mission Action Plan (MAP) prayer. The Mission and Unity page is mostly a list of subgroups, and hasn't been updated since their missioner moved to parish ministry (I know this because his name’s still at the top).

Mission Action Plans are at the heart of the ‘Going for Growth’ diocesan strategy. The site has a substantial booklet on what MAP’s are, what the Diocesan strategy looks like in detail, and how it works at a local level.

One great idea – a ‘resources directory’ listing resource people/networks around the Diocese in a variety of areas, such as evangelistic preaching, IT, Men, fresh expression, interfaith etc. This is an excellent way of sharing expertise without centralising it. Obviously not much use if you're not in the area, but the idea is one that any Diocese could use.

Small fresh expressions section, linking to the national site and the Mission Shaped Ministry course. Finally, I have to mention the mildly dysfunctional design, in 3 columns which didn't seem to be speak to each other.

4. Bradford. A very brief mission and ministry homepage, and not much here that would help folk from outisde the Diocese. There's a decent resource on developing

Otherwise, the main resource is a section on forming Ministry Development Teams in a parish, as a way of taking forward local church ministry and leadership, which probably makes more sense if you're doing this process within the Diocese already. Nothing on Fresh Expressions.

5. Bristol. Now we're talking. It’s a neighbouring Diocese, and one where I know the bishop takes his role as ‘leader in mission’ more seriously than most. The diocese has a Growth Programme based around 4 clear principles – growth in Commitment, Partnership, Influence and Numbers. There is a fully downloadable Going for Growth Lent course with course leaders notes, icebreakers, you name it. It all seems very well put together.

But it gets better. This diocese has a Church Planting Policy and a selection of Youtube videos on local fresh expressions Even the Back to Church Sunday section has a selection of useful pdf resources on welcome, publicity etc. which could be used pretty much anywhere. Their Community section is mission focused too.

Superb. Well worth a visit, plenty of stuff here to inspire or borrow. The Back to Church Sunday section, for example, could be the nucleus of a standard offering across all Diocesan websites, to save people having to go scratching around for resources. Also a great example to any Diocese looking to attract mission-minded leaders. Many of us will use the diocesan website to give us a flavour of what the Diocese takes seriously, and if you compare the Bristol site to those of its neighbouring Dioceses, it's in a different league.

6. Canterbury The Board of Mission pages are mainly contacts, what information there is will only interest you if you belong to the Diocese already. Nothing worth linking.

7. Carlisle You don't find many Dioceses with a sidebar link to ‘Revival’! The Diocesan strategy of 'Survival to Revival’ has a section of downloads for reviewing the life of the church. These are mainly for internal consumption, but are well put together, and user-friendly. Some of the ‘resourcing revival downloads’ are an excellent example of Diocesan communication aimed at every church member.

There is also an X-Change section, for online sharing of ideas and resources. Great idea. It’s under construction, not much posted as yet, but covers things like worship, buildings, stewardship, debt, tourism, children, publicity etc. Each of these has subsections – e.g. Children has Holiday Clubs, Godly Play, Schools links etc. Something every diocese should have, but hopefully with a bit more specific content! Or even the national site....

8. Chelmsford A few little gems:
Excellent resource: a 1-page worship audit questionnaire. Lots of good, searching questions, very practical too, usable in pretty much any church.

The Making ConneXions section links to dozens of single-page summaries of ministry situations: Deanery curate, new housing estates, lay hospital chaplaincy, community outreach worker, marriage preparation, planting a new congregation, harvest fun day, etc. It has other subsections for worship, children, church organisation, and fundraising. Very good resource. There is a nice collection of 1-2 side resource papers for childrens work, from after school clubs to Easter drama.

It's a bit like browsing a second hand bookshop: you can find a lot more on the sitemap than seems to be available through the main menu buttons, including the entire RE syllabus!

9. Chester We have a winner. A recently published survey of resources which has a brief survey of what's on the market for:
- discipleship courses
- children adn young people's discipleship
- small groups
- faith sharing
- enquirers courses.
- equipping and supporting small group leaders.

Invaluable, great starter for 10 if you're wanting to do something in one of these areas but don't know where to start.

There's a small Fresh Expressions page, mostly about the 'mission shaped intro' course.

Hot off the press is the Growth Action Planning page, led by the Bishop, and launched in April 09. This is Mission Action Planning by another name.

Highly commended for being easy to navigate. Great template for other dioceses to note (Blackburn!!!)

10. Chichester A subsantial Mission and Renewal section, including:
- a full list of registered Fresh Expressions in the diocese (15 at the time I looked)
- Mission Action Planning section emphasis on growing healthy churches.
- public criteria for applying for Mission fund money. Great idea, all Dioceses should do this. They also list all the projects which ahve recieved grants, which gives a good idea of what's possible (see Paul Bayes for the full national list)
- very helpful Communications section, with a ‘communications health check for parishes’ and downloadable fliers on copyright, media relations, noticeboards, how to make your story ‘news’ etc. Yet another thing which could be copied across all 43 Dioceses.

11. Coventry Has a ‘development and evangelism’ section, but most of the pages are fairly brief.

The major thing here is a stonking 50+ page ‘shaping your church for mission’ booklet launched in 06, which pulls together material from Warren's ‘growing healthy churches’. Looks at how to develop the church in worship, making new Christians and transforming communities. It's worth looking at for the GHC stuff, which anyone could easily use in their own context, and you wouldn't need any other resources beyond this to explain what it all means and do the evaluation.

Thoughts so far:
- Fresh Expressions is a long way from being at the heart of the CofE. It's not even mentioned on some sites. The picture on mission is no less patchy.
- Some cracking resources/ideas which could be easily shared across sites, cutting down on work for everyone involved.
- Top Picks: Bristol, Chelmsford, Chichester, the Chester resources survey.


  1. Our fantastic Dave Male has a page on the Ely website here:

    and runs a course for people interested in pioneer ministry

  2. Thanks Maggi. Derby - London is scheduled for tomorrow, and Dave gets a mention, thanks for the link.