Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some Reflections on our Passion For Life Events Week Mission with students from Oak Hill College

I might have more to say by the end of the week / after all the reports are in and Christianity Explored has finished but here are some initial thoughts so far:

(1) leafleting the entire parish and putting up many posters seems to have produced no one whatsoever coming to an event. If that is the aim, as I guess it was, the many person hours and the expense put into this were utterly wasted. I have stressed many times the crucial importance of personal invitations but I have been really struck by the utter uselessness of these traditional forms of advertising. Facebook has proved to be of some use.

(2) Small events can be good. If the hall doesn't cost too much and isn't too vast and a certain number of customers are not needed for an event to work it is quite easy and risk free to put on a good, useful, enjoyable event. 4 teams of 6 are enough for a quiz night, for example. 20 people can get together to watch a film and discuss it. 10 people could come to a grill a Christian / Any Questions evening. Events which could cope with an unknown number between 10 and 100 where pre=booking is not essential are valuable.

(3) There is value in an outside team for freshness, interest, maybe youth, energy, conviction. Our team have been brilliantly charming, helpful, can-do and encouraging. They have been flexible and laid back without being careless or casual and confident without being brash. People have enjoyed just chatting to them and significant conversations have taken place. It has been really good to have them staying in different places and eating with different people even if it has presented some logistical challenges. 

(4) A mission can really benefit regular church members.

(5) There are things (perhaps like some of the above) one can learn by having a go at stuff.

(6) Perhaps even your most keen people are unlikely to come to everything as some people might in say a student mission but some people may come back more than once. A concentrated series of events can have a certain sort of momentum though numbers might be higher if events are well spaced out.

(7) Sunshine helps morale and makes life so much easier for kids work

(8) A holiday club can be quite relaxed and informal in parts. The helpers need not pre-prepare much. Sporty games can work well. Music on a CD or laptop can be fine. A double act upfront can be fun.

(9) People enjoy going up the church tower and that isn't hard to organise. Paper planes and teddy bear parachutes can work.

(10) Screwing down some of the admin to the Nth degree is worthwhile - e.g. hosts need numbers and timings of meals confirmed in advance. Last minute changes of plan are not great.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mum's Job Description



You can find this sort of thing elsewhere on the interweb but I thought I'd post some jottings I used at today's Mothering Sunday Family Services here:

Long sometimes anti-social hours, 7 days a week, on call 24 hours a day
Holidays rare
Sickness not really allowed
No pay – in fact, your clients, your children, will expect you to pay them.
Being a mum is a very expensive job.
There are no real prospects of promotion or advancement.
The aim is to make yourself redundant.

Roles may include:

Chef
Food Taster
Cleaner
Chauffer
Teacher
Nurse
Psycologist
Coach
Cheerleader
Personal Assistant
Operations Director
Story Teller
Entertainment Manager
Birthday Events Planner
Dental hygienist
Hair Stylist
Fashion Consultant
Personal Shopper
Seamstress
Laundry Co-Ordinator
Theologian
Chief Financial Officer
Police Officer
Judge
Fire Officer
Safety Consultant
Career Advisor

Lifeguarding and Search and Rescue Skills an advantage

And no doubt the list could go on

And mum may be combining all this with paid work too

Being a mum is a great blessing
It’s one of the best, most important jobs in the world
But it can be a very hard, demanding job

No mums are perfect
Mums are sinners just like the rest of us
But most of us have so much to thank our mums for

It’s good to say Thank you on mother’s day
And it’s important to remember to say Thank you often too

Some Bible verses for Mothering Sunday / Mothers' Day

There are others, of course, but some texts for today:



As Jesus speaking a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you."
Jesus replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."
(Luke 11vv27-28)

* * * 


“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the children she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you!” [says the LORD]
(Isaiah 49 v15)
 
* * * 
 
“As a mother comforts a child so will I comfort you, says the Lord”  
(Isaiah 66 v13)
 



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Youngest Master Lloyd



Marc and Yvonne Lloyd
are happy to announce
the birth of their son Thomas Nehemiah Towy
on Sunday 23rd March 2014
at12:36pm
weighing 8 lbs 12 ozs
a brother for Jonathan, Abigail and Matthew.

Mother and baby are home and doing well. 








All the little Lloyds have been enjoying giving the tiniest Lloyd a cuddle too: https://www.facebook.com/malloyd/posts/10151961103541573?stream_ref=10

On our choice of names:

Thomas - in my mind at least a nod to Thomas Cramner, Archbishop of Canterbury, Reformation Martyr who died in 1556 on 21st March - which at one stage looked like it might have been little Tommy's birthday. Cranmer was a Reforming Evangelical in the Church of England at a difficult time for church and nation. He is largely the author of The Book of Common Prayer. Although he wavered, he was given the strength to die for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Collect for Thomas Cranmer:

Father of all mercies,
who through the work of your servant Thomas Cranmer
      renewed the worship of your Church
and through his death revealed your strength in human weakness:
by your grace strengthen us to worship you
in spirit and in truth
and so to come to the joys of your everlasting kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Advocate.

Nehemiah - which means "Comforted of/is the LORD (Yahweh)". The Old Testament book of Nehemiah tells of Nehemiah's role as cupbearer (presumably a trusted aide and senior civil servant) to the pagan king Artaxerxes of Persia in 445/444 BC and his subsequent rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

We have a bit of an Old Testament thing going on with our sons' middle names. Jono is Jonathan Obadiah and Matt Matt is a Zechariah.

Towy - my paternal grandfather's name and a reminder of our welsh roots. The river Towy is one of the longest rivers that flows entirely through Wales from the Cambrian Mountains generally south-westwards through Carmarthenshire and eventually into Carmarthen Bay.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Deanery Website?

Does your rural / area deanery have a website? Is it useful? Could you share the link, please?

Examples include:

Colchester - http://www.colchesterdeanery.org.uk/

City of London - http://www.citydeanery.org.uk/

Monday, March 17, 2014

No ills to the believer!

On the previous Lord's Day, when I ought to have been changing nappies, I had the privillege of hearing a preacher who is, it would seem, nearer 30 than 80. There are some things that you can preach differently when you can look back on most of your life. It is wonderful to hear aged believers testify that God has been good to them for more than 3 score years and 10.

This preacher could quote The Rev'd Charles Haddon Spurgeon with conviction:

It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honour, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die.

http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps091.htm

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Anecdote to Evidence - Church Growth Research - 1 A4 page summary



From Anecdote To Evidence: Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-3
www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk – 32 page PDF free to download
1 Corinthians 3:6
My summary of some of the most interesting / relevant bits

C of E - Church Commissioners & Archbishop’s Council – towards evidence based decision making
Where is there numerical growth and why? But N.B. correlation not necessarily causation

“There is no single recipe for growth; there are no simple solutions to decline. The road to growth
depends on the context, and what works in one place may not work in another. What seems crucial is that congregations are constantly engaged in reflection; churches cannot soar on autopilot. Growth is a product of good leadership (lay and ordained) working with a willing set of churchgoers in a favourable environment.”

Overall statistics show a decline of 9% in all age average weekly attendance over the past decade. 18% of churches grew; 55% remained stable and 27% declined.

Factors associated with growth:
·         Good leadership especially motivating, envisioning and innovating but also engaging with outsiders, training in ministry and mission and some of the factors mentioned elsewhere
·         A clear mission and purpose
·         Willingness to self-reflect, to change and adapt according to context. Deliberate choices.
·         Involvement of lay members including younger and more recent members and some change in roles
·         Being intentional in prioritising growth, in chosen style of worship and in nurturing disciples

·         A church with no children or under 16s is very likely to be in decline. Churches which offer programmes for children and teenagers are more likely to grow. Churches with children and young people are twice as likely to grow. Worship services designed for children, youth programmes and church schools are associated with growth. ¾ of churches that offer retreats, conferences or camps for youth report growth, against half among those who do not. “There is an urgent need to focus on children, young people and their parents and a challenge to identify how the church can best invest in people, programmes and strategies which will encourage young people actively to continue exploring faith.” Employing a youth / children’s worker is associated with growth. Engaging young people around adolescence and early adulthood is crucial. Evidence shows that those who belong in their 20s will probably stay for the rest of their lives – but if they don’t, it will be hard to bring them in. Decline in church attendance is not mainly because adults stop going, they never start going in the first place. The challenge could be seem as to reach and especially retain children and young people.  
·         The strategy of grouping multiple churches together under one leader has in general had a detrimental effect on church growth. Multi-church amalgamations and teams are less likely to grow. Churches are more likely to grow when there is one leader for one community. More churches makes decline more likely. In larger amalgamations, clergy tend to focus on admin, buildings and sustaining Sunday worship, which can distract from factors associated with growth.
·         Consistency and clarity over the chosen style of worship and chosen theological tradition wholeheartedly adopted are associated with growth.
·         Attendance is often highest as a proportion of the population in rural areas where growth is hard to achieve.
·         There is a strong correlation between those clergy who prioritise numerical growth and those clergy whose churches grew in numbers.
·         Successful churches say “let’s have a go!”, try different initiatives as an experiment, invest in what works, drop what doesn’t.
·         Growing churches actively engage with those who don’t come to church and the wider community.
·         Churches that use Facebook and other social media are more likely to be growing!
·         Good welcome and follow up of visitors is important. The most direct route to growth comes from members inviting and welcoming family, friends and acquaintances.
·         Growing churches offer evangelistic, discipleship & ministry training courses.
·         Fresh Expressions such as Messy Church have been an important area of growth.
·         Churches with fewer than 30 members have the best rates of growth. Churches from 50-300 members tend to decline. Churches over 300 tend to grow.

Other factors that contribute to decline:
·         Burdensome buildings though improving the building can contribute to growth.
·         Stagnation, doing things by default rather than deliberate choice, which brings variety and vitality.
·         Clergy characteristics such as “empathising”, “persisting” and “managing” are less helpful for growth. Clergy must be flexible and sometimes push people to change.
·         Church members unwilling to change or get involved or leaving everything to the clergy.