Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Strategic Celebration

I'm currently reading through some papers on church growth strategies, for a conference hosted by the Centre for Church Growth later this month. There's lots of helpful and quotable stuff, but I was struck particularly by this:

One vicar said, “I have been here for twenty years, in which time the church has grown hugely and this in a diocese that has shrunk numerically more than almost any other. Yet until our new Diocesan Bishop called on me the other week nobody from the diocese had ever shown the slightest interest in how or why we had grown or whether there might be any lessons or inspiration for others.”

So one key strategy element should be to identify, honour and learn from churches that have been growing numerically, spiritually or in effective service of their community. Bishops and others should seek to learn the lessons and pass them on, and diocesan communications should tell the story and highlight the lessons for the rest of the diocese. Stories should be told in diocesan conferences and synods. All this changes the culture through highlighting what is now seen to be important, improves morale through celebrating what is going well, and spreads good practice through inspiring others. (emphasis mine)

As at the church level, so at the individual level. As leaders we're so used to fire-fighting and problem solving that we forget that a key leadership role is identifying and celebrating success, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. It was great to be in on a meeting this afternoon, talking about some excellent work with younger people in groups of 7-8, and agreeing that it was more important to do that in-depth work well than to grow the numbers but sacrifice the quality. 

In the spirit of that first paragraph, I had a look at our diocesan membership stats in Bath and Wells. A worrying fact - of the 38 churches larger than ours in the Diocese, only 1 grew in any meaningful way last year, 3 were stable, and the rest lost members, some quite dramatically (Did I hear you say 'clergy vacancy?' you'd be right). Trying to find a church that's our size that hasn't plateaued or fallen away is quite a challenge. I was hoping to find some churches I could make contact with and say 'tell us how you're doing it'. But it looks like the questions may have to be a bit different!

1 comment:

  1. Twurchsteward1/5/13 4:53 pm

    You are so right - we are so very bad as an organisation at celebrating success (in whatever form) and sharing our good stories around.

    Probably the most challenging part of my job is getting parishes to share information with me when things go well so that I can spread it around to other parishes - it never ceases to surprise me the reactions I get - some simply don't have the time to reflect and talk about what went well, others are often suspicious when a diocesan officer wants to hear about or talk about how well things have gone - which is a worry in itself !