Dioceses across the country are mailxperimenting with ways of supporting congregational life and leadership. Here are some examples of models that some dioceses have developed to nurture the missional spirit in their particular locations. These are offered as samples of best practices that may be used by other parts of the church.
1. Messy Church is a fun way for families to get together and learn more about Christ through crafts, stories, and food. Programs are often run in the early evening or on weekends outside the normal Sunday morning church schedule. Messy Church focuses on welcoming the whole family. Groups may meet once a month, but some meet as often as once a week.
This example illustrates how a carefully organized diocesan strategic plan may create not only a vision but the tools and resources appropriate to the context to transform congregations into mission-centred communities.
1. Ministry Action Plan: The Ministry Action Plan (MAP) expresses the diocese’s call to be a ministry faithful to God’s action in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit: true to the Gospel; spiritually alive in prayer, worship and service and engaged attractively and meaningfully with our neighbours. This plan follows up on the diocese’s previous strategic plan, Choosing Our Future…A Vision for 2010. MAP builds upon the achievements of the past and upon the lessons learned through this work.
1. Serving God’s World: Focusing Ministry Outward
In 2011, the Diocese of Ottawa published this parish workbook. It is a resource designed to help congregations reflect on how they relate to their neighbourhood as a mission field and how they may go about discovering their ministry in that context. With the permission of the Diocese of Ottawa and Andrew Stephens-Rennie, the author, General Synod commends this resource to any communities that are seeking to reach their neighbourhood more effectively.
1. Formation for Mission
a) Mission Possible is a five-week Bible study designed to spark conversation about what it means to be shaped for mission within your parish. Mission Possible can be used at any time of year, but can be especially effective in Advent and Lent. The Diocese of Toronto has provided a leaders’ guide as well as PowerPoint slides that you can use and adapt. You may want to use Mission Possible to start the conversation in your parish or with your leadership about who God is and the mission that God calls us to live out in the world.
b) Re-Imagining Church: Shaped for Mission is a five-week introductory course that inspires missional thinking. It is designed to help parishes discuss the transition in ministry from a Christendom era to a post-Christendom era. The course aims to inspire imaginative results more than practical—although there may be practical results as well. The purpose of the course is to re-orient thinking, sow new ideas, and offer examples of what can be done. For more information, email Elizabeth McCaffrey at the Diocese of Toronto or call her at 1-800-668-8932.
2. Are you a church planter? The diocese uses the planter assessment system to discern how prepared leaders are for church planting. If you sense God may be calling you to plant a church or Fresh Expression, start by taking this survey. For more information, email Ms. Janet Marshall, Director of Congregational Development. She can also be reached at 1-800-668-8932.
Key resources used in different dioceses:
1. Natural Church Development (NCD) is a paradigm to think differently about church growth. NCD suggests that quality (health) should precede quantity in church growth thinking. NCD uses a long-term strategic process for improving the health of churches. It centres on a sophisticated diagnostic tool that assesses a church’s health in eight areas.
For more information, contact Bill Bickle, national partner for NCD Canada.
2. Fresh Expressions Canada is an initiative of the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism with the Anglican bishop of Montreal. Building on similar work in England, Fresh Expressions Canada “seeks to encourage the development of fresh expressions of church alongside more traditional expressions, with the aim of seeing a more mission-shaped church take shape throughout the country.”
For more information, contact Nick Brotherwood, team leader for Fresh Expressions Canada.
3. Fresh Start is a diocese-led program that seeks to foster healthy relationships among clergy, their congregations, and their dioceses during critical periods of transition. Fresh Start encourages open and honest discussion of transitional issues that affect both clergy and congregations. The overall goal is to build a culture in which the mutual ministry of the clergy and congregation can begin afresh.
4. Vital Church Planting Conferences are annual events in the dioceses of Toronto and Edmonton, organized in collaboration with Wycliffe College. These conferences bring together specialists and practitioners in church planting and congregational development to share ideas, encourage one another, and develop new models and tools for church planting.