The Diocese of Ripon and Leeds has taken a good look at the degree to which we are 'fit for growth' and the things we need to do to sustain parishes and other places where mission and ministry are happening. You can read all about this on the Diocesan website and also download a pdf document 'Preparing the Way With Prayer' that has some really good suggestions for how your parish or group can pray about mission and how your meetings can become more focused on mission, growth and realisitc sustainability.
During the Ambition for Mission process, three working parties came up with the following recommendations which I quote from the Diocesan website.
The consequences of the economic downturn are being felt in communities across the diocese. The impact of job losses, service cuts, VAT increases and other economic factors mean that finances will remain tight over the coming few years. We need to look together within the church, and other sectors, to sustainable solutions. Four objectives were identified:
A diagnostic tool- a viability toolkit - will be developed to better understand the viability and long term sustainability of individual parishes.
To consider alternative or complementary models for share management.
To examine the best fundraisers and identify best practice in stewardship and fundraising, seeing how this can be effectively communicated across the Diocese.
To review our strategic approach to housing management.
Mission innovation and development
The second set of proposals aim at reversing downward trends which suggest that by the middle of this century worshipping Christian communities in large areas will have disappeared altogether. The report proposes prayer, strategic planning and a creative focusing of resources to stop that happening.
The following objectives were identified:
- A programme of prayer for the overall goals across the Diocese, led by the Bishops.
- A strategic, mission-focused assessment model for mission.
- Encouragement of Mission Action Planning across the Diocese. MAP skills should be developed in each deanery.
- The diocese should recognize, affirm and resource the significant gifts of lay people in the Diocese.
- Further resource and accelerate the Leading Your Church into Growth programme across the Diocese with the opportunity to share in the Growing Healthy Churches process.
- There should be joined-up, well planned strategic thinking about church planting, Fresh Expressions and ‘missional ‘communities in the Diocese.
- Resource and accelerate the Interns Programme across the Diocese.
- Encourage each local church to have an annual nurture course.
- A Mission Innovation Fund should be piloted for two years in areas of social justice, eco and social action projects in parishes to grow new and refresh existing discipleship.
- Train, resource and exploit new technology and new innovation in communication.
The third area looked at as that of decisions about deployment and appointments of clergy, idenitfying and supporting leaders and fostering a vision among church leaders for spiritual and numerical growth. Again, four main objecties were identified:
To review current appointment practices in order to prioritise spiritual and numerical growth.
To look at the strategic deployment of laity and clergy for spiritual and numerical growth.
To look at how we can identify and train leaders who can support spiritual and numerical growth.
To investigate how the Diocese might increasingly foster a vision for spiritual and numerical growth, developing deanery plans that have mission as their main driver.'