Parish secretaries across our diocese will be receiving copies of a new document next week.
The Growth Planning Framework, a new tool to help parishes reflect on key aspects of parish life, has been designed to help support the Bishop’s Growth Agenda.
We spoke to Archdeacon Ricky Panter and Head of Growth Linda Jones about why it’s important for parishes to engage with this tool.
Firstly, what exactly is the Growth Planning Framework and how does it work?
Linda Jones: It’s an easy to follow booklet that covers eight areas of parish life looking at themes such as welcome, belonging, prayer, worship and nurture. Each area starts with a statement for you to agree or disagree with giving you a sense of how strong you are in this area. You then have a few questions to help you reflect on what you do well or need help with. We believe this will then inspire you to take action to develop and grow.
We suggest that a small group spends an evening prayerfully working through the document to gain an honest assessment of your church and its ministry. Our prayer is that the reflections will stimulate positive discussions about the health of your church and invigorate you with a renewed sense of purpose about your future.
We notice it’s replaced the Articles of Inquiry in the Visitation Papers; does this not make it another piece of tick box bureaucracy?
Ricky Panter: Not at all. There is a summary sheet which we Archdeacons want returned to enable us to see where we can help parishes. We will be reflecting on these themes at the Visitations, which is why we want to see the summaries by March 31st, but this is about support and encouragement not inspection and control.
This is not intended to be another burden to your busy lives but an opportunity to take stock and realistically explore before God the life of your church.
But how will completing this help us grow?
RP: There is no magic formula. Growth comes from sustained prayer and work but we are often overwhelmed by a feeling that we have to do so much and there are so many areas where we are weak. I am sure that if parishes do this honestly you will see areas of strength and Peter and I will certainly be looking for those aspects of parish life we can celebrate and affirm at the Visitation services.
LJ: I agree wholeheartedly with Ricky but the other benefit of this reflective process is that any areas you identify weaknesses in are areas you can get support for. There is plenty of experience in our diocese and the growth team is more than happy to provide the necessary support. Each section enables you to look at the actions you need to take and the summary form encourages you to think about areas for wider review. But we urge you to be realistic. You don’t have to think of an action for every area – in some you’ll be doing just fine. Concentrate on what really needs doing. We recommend you only have eight actions to look at and certainly no more than two areas for wider review.
So where can we get help from?
LJ: We have put an email address to contact at the end of each section. This will help you find extra support. And there is plenty of information on our website at www.liverpool.anglican.org/growthagenda
Finally, is this a fad or will it be repeated?
LJ: The Bishop’s Growth Agenda has rightly dominated our thinking in recent years as we all work to respond to his three challenging questions. The recent national statistics on growth have been really encouraging for our diocese showing how concentrated efforts can reap success. We think this framework offers parishes a really useful tool for reflection so I hope it will be seen as an ongoing process for parishes and not simply a list to tick.
RP: Peter Bradley and I are delighted to see this framework introduced and think it will have a transforming effect for parishes. We will be supporting this, not just for this year but as a tool to help churches and parishes continue to grow in the years to come.