Going for Growth in Eaton
Last year, 2018, was a very special year for St Andrew’s Eaton: the 25th Anniversary of the consecration of our new church building, and also the 700th Anniversary of the arrival of the first known vicar.
We marked the year our ‘Year of Celebration’ – a planned programme of special services, exhibitions, concerts; events for young and old alike. It came together really well – especially the midweek community café in St Andrew’s Church Hall. But as the year progressed, in various quarters the question began to be raised, ‘What next?’
An email arrived from Keith James, the Diocesan Continuing Ministerial Development Officer, inviting church leaders, both lay and ordained, to a residential training course: Leading Your Church into Growth. It sounded just right for us, so I took a small team, and for three days we were challenged, motivated and equipped to become more intentional about growth – to prioritise it, to plan for it, and to get people involved.
The course was practical and inspiring. It also included further ‘local’ sessions to be run back in the home setting with the PCC – and with the whole church membership. We ran these during Lent – and as a result more people got the bug and started coming up with further ideas for facilitating the growth of St Andrew’s. We’re looking forward to a further follow-up day for the whole Diocese taking place in September.
There’s still a lot to be done to work through all the suggestions which have been made; but whereas before it seemed like an uphill struggle, it all now feels somehow more ‘natural’. The community café continues reaching out to many on the fringes of church life. We’re looking forward to running a further Christian basics course in the autumn, and to repeating last year’s Christmas innovation – a special carol service aimed at the local business community.
I realise that we’ll never ‘arrive’ – we’ll never be experts in how to do church growth. But it’s not really about that so much, as about taking a few risks for the gospel and being ready to try out new ideas. That way, I’m convinced we’ll remain fresh in the way we are church – and it’ll be worthwhile! And at the end of the day, church growth is God’s responsibility (1 Corinthians 3:6), not our burden.
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