The five churches of the Harborough Anglican Team have been jointly designated as one of six Resourcing Churches/Resourcing Church Teams across Leicestershire. What does that mean?
A Resourcing Church Team is given more resources than would otherwise be the case (or ring fencing existing resources that might otherwise have come under pressure for cuts) so as to help grow a bigger church to make a bigger difference. Around 5-7% of the population of this part of Leicestershire is part of any Christian church. That percentage decreases if we look at those under 30 years old. Resourcing Church Teams are rigorously focused not just on what is but on what could be but on better serving the whole community. At times this will involve hard decisions and prioritisation and cultural change but the possibilities, in God’s grace and power, are extraordinary. Over the next decade we expect to see the number of worshippers across the Team at least double in number. This is not numbers for numbers sake and certainly not about church survival, but focused on more people who both know God’s love and identity in Jesus Christ, and also His calling to love and serve those most in need in our community, and to help foster and build the wonderful community of Harborough. As the African saying goes – ‘as you pray move your feet’ – more people praying and more people moving their feet in community focused service.
We are blessed with many healthy existing congregations but around twelve of the sixteen regular congregations across the Team are fairly similar in style so, as we look to better serve the community, we also recognise that, alongside the ongoing renewal of existing congregations, we also need more new communities that bring a greater diversity. The expectation is that we will see one new worshipping community (congregation) each of the next seven years. These new communities may meet on Sunday, but also at other times, mostly in existing church buildings. They will help us better serve the whole community, recognising particular needs around children and families, more isolated seniors, teenagers and the substantial areas of new housing (especially the Harborough Airfield Development). One example of the first of these new congregations is the new 9:15am all age led community at St Di’s. A plan has been developed to build and develop a further six new communities, supported by additional resources from the wider church, over the next six years.
A one page guide to Resourcing Churches has been produced by the Diocese and can be seen below this article.
The leaders of two Resourcing Churches/Teams, including Team Rector here Barry Hill, share more of the vision, calling and sacrifice in these two short videos.
An introduction to Resourcing Churches in Leicester Diocese
Resourcing Churches form part of the mix of how, as a Diocese, we aim to better serve and reach the 93% of people who are not currently part of any Christian community. Whilst they are not the whole answer, they form part of our response to God’s call as they are given additional, focused resources with the express aim that their resources are multiplied and shared with others. It is expected that, in every sense, Resourcing Churches will ‘give away’ far more than they ‘receive’ for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Resourcing Churches will embody the values of generosity, partnership, audacity and humility.
Those who are designated as Resourcing Churches will join a six year diocesan learning community to learn from each other and share such learning with the wider Diocese. They will receive a range of additional resources such as an associate vicar, second curate and mission apprentices, but the focus is not on what they get but their vision to give. We hope and pray that God will grow Resourcing Churches to double in size over the next twelve years, with many new people coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
It is anticipated that such growth will come from the revitalisation of existing congregations, the emergence of new fresh expressions of church, church planting and transplanting (or grafting) into existing congregations. The exact response will vary from place to place, but, on average, it is anticipated that a new congregation or larger fresh expression of Church would start every eighteen to twenty-four months and that planting or transplanting into a nearby existing parish every four years (normally led by a Curate/Associate Vicar who has served for the past years in the host Resource Church). As other Resourcing Churches can testify, such ‘giving away’ is often painful and hard and is always sacrificial, as key leaders, their gifts and giving, all leave for another church.
The phrase ‘Resource Church’ is used in many different ways across the country at the moment. A core part of the strategy in Leicester Diocese is thinking what does this look like for the contexts of Leicestershire (hence we are increasingly using the name ‘Resourcing Churches’ rather than ‘Resource Churches’). It is envisaged that Resourcing Churches will not largely be new churches, but the next stage of development for existing churches. A small number (perhaps two) of the initial group of six will be in or around the city of Leicester. Most will be in towns or rural locations across the Diocese. Resourcing Churches are not primarily about taking services for other churches, nor about changing the tradition of existing churches but often plunging more deeply into the existing church spiritualties and traditions. All traditions are needed because it will take all traditions to reach all cultures. The focus must remain on the 93%. An example of this is the first designated Resource Church (the Market Harborough Resource Church Team), comprising five churches in largely central Anglican traditions, which has already seen some growth, as it seeks to go deeper into the existing spiritual traditions rather than radically change to be a different church tradition.
How is this good news for the whole Diocese and not good news for some, but bad for others?
Ø A larger pie is good for all - real growth in the Kingdom of God is never a zero-sum game, where if one wins another loses. It is expected that stories of God grace and a renewed confidence in witnessing to our faith will overflow into the areas around, and to the Diocese as a whole.
Ø Future leaders - we are already seeing Resource Churches cultivating more vocations to ordination. Such ordinands will not stay in Resource Churches but will lead all kinds of churches in years to come;
Ø Finances - in one Diocese, in recent years six new Resource Churches now give £300,000 additionally to the Diocese, money that can be used to support mission elsewhere;
Ø Resources are not taken from elsewhere – we are in an application process with the Church Commissioners which, if successful, would see them contributing around £5 million towards this vision over the next seven years. This is new money to the Diocese. Similarly, additional clergy will be on top of existing numbers. There are of course, longer term sustainability questions which may mean hard decisions. But before taking those decisions in five years’ time, we will rigorously assess how this is working.
As we respond to God’s call, there will be challenges, but we believe the possibilities are exciting.