These are things that work. If you are serious about mission and are looking for inspiration, you have come to the right place. Here you will find the stories of churches that are stepping out in faith and making a difference. They do things that do not require great amounts of specialist expertise, knowledge, equipment, personnel or money, but they work. What you will find here are not models or templates that you can just copy in your place (though there are a few that can be). Most of the projects are specific to their own context. But they will give you ideas for things that you can do too, wherever you are.
How did they do that?
Many of the projects here appeal to people who do not easily connect with church. How did that happen? What did the people who started these projects do?
- They think from a mission perspective from the start. Their energy is focused on the people outside the church.
- They are aware of what is going on around them. They talk to people and are not afraid to ask questions, including: What has put you off church? That way they are able to start where people are.
- They love people and are sensitive to their needs.
- They build relationships and seek partnerships. Sometimes that means joining in existing conversations or looking out for opportunities to be part of someone else’s project. They find out where the energy is and ‘go with the flow’.
- They know what the gifts of the church are and draw on them. They play to their strengths and those of others.
- They draw in passionate people and create a good environment for volunteers. They enable them to contribute and to grow in leadership by training them. And they create a culture of permission so that people feel free to take the initiative.
- Whatever they do, they do it to the best of their ability. Quality is key! But, they don’t get hung up on perfection!
- They do a few things and they do them well. That may mean that they have a deliberate focus on one part of the community or a specific group.
- They learn….from experience, from other people and the way they have responded to similar challenges, from failure.
- They are not afraid….to fail, to give up ‘old’ things so new things can start, to change and be changed.
- And what that means is that they are not afraid to take risks and to step out in faith.
- Last and first, they know the importance of prayer and discernment, to see where the Spirit is leading them. They reflect theologically and biblically on what they do.
What can we learn from them?
- There is no set way of doing this and how projects start. They can grow from identified needs and from identified gifts within the church.
- Things don’t develop in a linear way, so being flexible is key. They will almost certainly not develop at the speed you expect them to. Sometimes it takes a long time, then all of a sudden….
- Projects don’t have to be enormous. It is all about what is right for you. And they don’t have to last forever. Small and short is fine!
- Knowing the gifts and skills you have in your midst and learning to spot them is key. As is creating a team and making sure people are trained for the task.
- Often the church is more welcomed that we think or feel. And engagement with the community and building trust earns us the right to speak. Having a reputation as a church that says yes can do wonders.
- Exploring how what we do connects with our faith is important and the congregation may need help with that. The relationship between presence and proclamation is not always easy or straightforward.
- There are lots of places to go for help (for funding, training, to help you identify needs) in your locality and in your wider community. Don’t forget your Synod can be a real resource.