Released for Mission - Growing the Rural Church

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Executive Summary of the Report
 
This research was developed to explore whether mission and growth were possible within rural multi-church groups. The report describes thereality of rural multi-church ministry as experiencedby lay and ordained alike, in both quantitative andqualitative terms, and makes recommendations toaddress blockages to mission and growth. Mission and growth are possible in rural multi-church groups where time and space is created for it to take place and where the ministry of lay people is enabled and equipped.
 
Rural parishes make up two-thirds of the Church of England (there are 10,199 rural church buildings), almost all of which are within multi-church groups of varying sizes and structures. 42% of clergyserve rural parishes. Using the measure of average weekly attendance, 40% attend parishes in rural communities. When measured over a ten year period, similar proportions of rural and urban churches experience growth or decline: 18% of rural parishes were found to be growing (18% of urban parishes) with 25% of rural parishes declining (29% of urban parishes). A similar proportion of rural parishes in single parish benefices and multi-parish beneficesexperienced either growth (18%) or decline (26%).As the numbers of parishes experiencing numerical growth are small in total, urgent attention needs to be given to releasing the expertise, time and energy of lay and ordained alike, for mission in rural communities.
 
The rural multi-church groups within this study used a wide range of contextually relevant approaches to outreach and mission. The mixed economy was very important and sustaining regular worship was a key part of this. Fresh expressions were enthusiastically being developed and prioritywas often given to establishing relationships with
children and young people through schools and Messy Church.
 
The larger scale multi-church group has the potential to support mission and ministry in eachparish through facilitating the sharing of ideas and expertise and the creation of a critical mass to support events and activities. However, tensions can arise for both ordained and lay in balancing relationships with the individual parishes and the multi-church group as a whole. Many rural multi-church groups would benefit from a process to find a collective identity, learn how to operate collegiallyand share resources.
 
Mission and ministry in rural multi-church groups works best when mission springs from an incarnational approach to the relationship between church and the community at large, and a leadership style that adopts a broadly episcopal model. Clergy are not currently trained for the realityand complexity of leading multiple churches and so would benefit from specific training to work in (rural) multi-church groups and to develop an enabling and equipping style of leadership that seeks togrow and facilitate the discipleship and ministry of lay people.
 
The burden of administration, financial management and legal requirements is generallytoo heavy for clergy and lay people alike, taking up a considerable amount of time and energy. Multi-church groups would benefit from the creation of staff posts which address administration, financial accounting, building and churchyard managementon behalf of the whole group. This should be seen as an enabling resource which releases time and energy amongst clergy and lay people and should therefore be a legitimate call on mission funding. A thorough review of legal governance structures and the requirement for many office holders within a multi-church group needs to be carried out urgently. This should aim to simplify structures andprocesses, make recommendations on efficient governance mechanisms and reduce the number of office holders and formal meetings required.
 
Church buildings can be both a blessing and a burden which falls primarily on the congregationand clergy. Urgent attention needs to be given toa strategy for their future management, as well ascontinuing the work to sustain buildings through extended community use.

 

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Released for Mission - Growing the Rural Church


Rural Ministry and Mission
Webpage icon Fruitfulness on the Front Line
Webpage icon DCRF 2018 Conference Re-imagining Rural Ministry: Moving towards new structures
Webpage icon Travelling Congregations or Fixed Provision? Assessing Models of Rural Ministry
Webpage icon The Potting Shed Church in Nottinghamshire
Webpage icon Rural Resource Churches
Webpage icon Re-imagining Rural Ministry Forum discussion
Webpage icon Strategy for Rural Mission in Cumbria
Webpage icon Umoja - Swahili for Unity or Togetherness
Webpage icon Setting God's People Free
Webpage icon Walking the Way - a URC resource
Webpage icon Mutual Ministry in Northern Michigan, USA
Webpage icon Asset Based Community Development - A Theological Reflection
Webpage icon Local Shared Ministry in New Zealand
Webpage icon The Sheldon Hub
Webpage icon The Bright Field Community
Webpage icon Teaching and Resourcing from Exeter Diocese Mission Enabler
Webpage icon Mission Sheds
Webpage icon Shaping Strategies for Mission and Growth in Rural Multi-Church Groups