What’s so important about having a diocesan strategy?
The open meetings held in 2016 about our way forward as a Diocese confirmed our deep desire to make and nurture disciples – to grow our churches and God’s kingdom.
Finding the resources to reach others for Christ always feels like a challenge. There is always more that we would love to do than our resources allow. This remains true even though our Synod has agreed that we will invest some of our reserves, and we have access to Church Commissioners’ money, to fund missional activity and growth.
So the purpose of our diocesan strategy is to focus our use of available resources – time, people and money – on the handful of things that we discern as God’s priorities for us at this time. A determined focus will enable us to do a few things well – and ensure that we follow through consistently to fruitful outcomes for individuals, parishes and God’s kingdom.
What is the 'big thought' that provides the anchor point for our strategy?
In one word – Growth. Of course, that doesn’t do it justice. Our vision captures other key points: ‘Generous Churches making and nurturing Disciples…to build up the Body of Christ to grow in Christ-likeness, Commitment, Partnership, Influence and Numbers’.
This aim of Growth – in numbers of disciples and depth of discipleship – has been at the heart of the Archbishop’s Mission Weekends in every Deanery. It’s why participation in ‘Leading your Church into Growth’ is encouraged. We are determined not to stay still, still less shrink. We will step out ambitiously, in faith, finding ways to reach people and grow God’s Kingdom.
As Bishop Paul has said, this is “a movement of the whole diocese together in joy and hope, investing time, money and work now to build up God’s church for the future”. Ultimately our strategy is part of our response to Christ’s commission to us, to ‘go and make disciples’.
What and when is the Diocese of York’s first bid to the Church Commissioners for project funding?
We have committed to reaching those who are under-represented in church life across our diocese, including people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Our approach will include new ministry posts deployed by the diocese, funding for new part time posts for which any parish can apply, and resources for all. A team headed by Archdeacon of the East Riding Andy Broom will make a first application for national funding in April. If successful, a second stage submission based on more detailed planning will follow by November.
We plan to place up to 14 full-time Ministers in carefully chosen locations across the diocese and ensure that resources for reaching 20s – 40s and nurturing them as disciples are offered to every parish and deanery. Funding will also be available for 25 part time posts.
We pray that existing congregations will be enriched, and new ones – some in different styles - will form.
What impact can we expect our diocesan strategy to have in a typical parish?
We’re trusting that every part of the diocese will take part in achieving our goals of reaching, growing, sustaining — and that everywhere people will pray and ask ‘How can we achieve them here?’
Resources will support each parish and deanery in reaching new people, aiming for growth, and strengthening local finances. In some parishes there will be new posts, for example pioneer ministers focusing on our 20s-40s work — plus a start-up fund for equivalent initiatives elsewhere.
We can’t do everything at once or in every place, but we’re confident that activity will spread out from our first initiatives. We will find ways to support people wherever there is energy for mission.
These are exciting times. Whether or not there will be a new pioneer minister near you, please pray for God’s Spirit to give power to us all so that we can reach our goals and build his kingdom.
How are Deaneries involved in developing our strategy?
‘Developing Our Deaneries’ – part of our strategic thinking – identified three new purposes for deaneries: Enabling Mission, Resourcing Ministry, and Supporting Relationships.
- Enabling Mission: Deaneries will be critical to the fruitfulness of the strategy: local knowledge will help us ascertain how best to apply the strategy in their area. They can identify wider opportunities to ‘Reach those we currently don’t’ and ‘Move to Growth’. Conversations have already occurred in some deaneries about the initial focus for activity to Reach 20s-40s.
- Resourcing Ministry: The strategy requires delivery of local, contextual training and resourcing events. New 20s-40s and Stewardship support roles will want to gather people to envision and equip them. Deaneries are ideally placed to provide a focus for this.
- Supporting Relationships: Increasingly deaneries are where we share learning and what’s going well, and gather people with similar roles for mutual support. In changing times Deaneries will be more important than ever.
Where is the money coming from to pay for all the new roles that are emerging from our strategy?
We have access to our own funds, the Church Commissioners’ Strategic Development Fund (SDF), and their Restructuring Fund. SDF supports projects which make a significant difference to mission capability. Our initiatives to Reach 20s-40s and People in Poverty will use this source of funding.
The Commissioners can only offer this fund because they are withdrawing an annual ‘subsidy’ to dioceses. Where this change reduces a diocese’s income (in our case by about £1million) ‘restructuring funding’ is available to support the diocese in making changes to help balance the books. We are accessing this to fund our new Generous Giving and Stewardship team roles.
We will also make our own contribution to our major projects – broadly using SDF to fund front-line ministry and drawing on our reserves to fund central roles such as the new Director of Making and Nurturing Disciples and the two 20s-40s team roles, and other supporting infrastructure.
What is the church commissioners ‘Strategic Development Fund’ (SDF) that we hope to access?
SDF money supports major change projects which lead to a significant difference in dioceses’ mission and financial strength.
The Commissioners have already allocated nearly £60m to around 40 projects across half the Church of England – to be released over the multi-year life of projects. There are no firm rules about match-funding, but most dioceses make a significant investment in projects.
Our proposal to Reach 20s-40s involves a bid for SDF funding of nearly £3m. The ideas we submitted in April were positively received so we are invited to proceed to a ‘stage 2 application’, with detailed implementation plans. Assuming these are approved we can begin to receive funds in 2019. Naturally, we are expected to report back on our use of the funding and the results we achieve.
We expect to make a second bid in support of our goal to Reach People in Poverty early in 2019.
There will soon be new '20s to 40s' ministers around the Diocese, but not here - so what's in it for us?
Our strategy is a movement of the whole Diocese seeking to ‘reach those we currently don’t’ in this age group. Inevitably some actions will focus on selected places, but we pray for a ripple effect across the whole Diocese.
During 2019 a host of new resources will become available for all churches, including a ‘Toolbox’ of practical ‘how to’ ideas; events across the diocese will envision and equip those looking to reach 20s – 40s; and a separate Fund will be available to parishes, benefices or deaneries looking to enable part-time employment of 20s-40s focused lay ministers. For parishes that would value face-to-face support, each 20s-40s Minister will ‘tithe’ their time to offer insights and advice.
Any parish, benefice or deanery looking to reach 20s–40s will find they have the resources and support to do so, and we will see God inspire the ‘ripple effect’ across the whole diocese.
What progress on our Strategy can we look forward to in 2019?
Some threads of our strategy work already have a timetable, while others continue to develop their plans, but we can already look forward to several developments that will be evident in 2019.
20s-40s Ministers will begin to take up posts in selected locations between the spring and autumn. The Growth Fund to support part-time 20s-40s lay ministry roles will become available around the middle of the year – with lots of publicity at the time. On Reaching People in poverty, we aim to submit an initial bid for Church Commissioners’ Funding by April. All being well this will progress to a full application by November.
In respect of improving support for parishes, the new Generous Giving and Stewardship team are developing plans for approval in January. We are also developing plans for a series of local events between spring and autumn where Diocesan Office specialists will be available to answer questions and listen to concerns.