On our own, we can’t, but together, we can

During the Growth Conference two case studies from within our diocese were explored by speaker Dr George Lings. This week we bring you our first report from Rev Andrew Stott on the 4Saints team ministry.

Rev Andrew Stott from the 4Saints team ministry gave us the following reflections on the history, life, joys and struggles of the four churches in L14 that now make up the 4Saints team ministry.

“The four churches of St Luke’s West Derby, St George’s Huyton, St Mary’s Knowsley Village and St Jude’s Stockbridge Village, had for many years been part of a Deanery Cluster. It was a cluster that worked well for the clergy, meeting weekly for prayer and mutual support, but also brought the four congregations together for seasonal services like Ash Wednesday, Ascension Day, Pentecost and All Saints Day. When the vicars of St Jude’s and St Mary’s moved on to pastures new, we knew that the Deanery needed to lose one stipendiary post. To cut a long story short, Clive Doran and I met one Monday morning, and we were discussing the way forward for our cluster. It was one of those throw away comments, when I said, “I wonder whether Team Ministry would work with our four churches”. It was a light bulb moment. After a few weeks’ of further discussion and prayer, we approached the Area Dean and the Archdeacon with the idea, who then gave us permission to begin exploring it with all four PCC’s.

The initial response was hesitant, but not totally unreasonable. We were told early on by the Diocese that there was not a model one size fits all Team Ministry, and that we would have to find a model that worked for us. So we began by inviting three Team Rectors Marion Simmons, Godfrey Butland and Janice Collier to come and speak on consecutive Saturday’s to all four PCC’s together, to tell us how they operate as a Team, the pro’s and con’s, the benefits and disadvantages – basically tell us as it is, warts and all. These Saturday mornings were inspirational, and really did get the PCC’s excited at the possibilities of working together. We spent many months talking about issues at PCC meetings, then bringing PCC’s together to discuss the finer detail.

When we began to discuss how we could work together, it became clear that all four churches had similar visions for Church growth, but all four were small congregations. We were making excuses for not doing things, because we didn’t have enough people. Ideas, yes, person power, no. I made an off the cuff statement at one of these meetings that became our sort of Mission Statement, and we still use it today. On our own, we can’t, but together, we can.  We jumped through the hoops of the legal process, ably guided by David Burrow and his team at St James’s House. We eventually came to the point where all four PCC’s needed to discuss and vote on the Mission and Pastoral Measure drawn up by the Church Commissioner’s. Rather than discussing this at each individual PCC, we brought all four PCC’s together, for one meeting. There was a real sense of unity at this meeting, and when it came to the vote, all four PCC’s voted unanimously that we form ourselves into the 4Saint Team Ministry (Huyton Deanery).”

Rev Andrew explains the key learning that went into the process of creating a team ministry

"I need to say at the outset that the formation of the 4Saints Team grew organically from within the cluster of churches. This was not a dictate from the Deanery or the Diocese or a knee jerk reaction to having to lose a post in the Deanery, but something that started in the life of the clergy and through the effective meeting of the four churches for the seasonal services mentioned.

From our experience, they keys to our discussions resulting in a positive vote to go as Team were:
• We took the four churches on a journey of exploration together. There was no pressure from the clergy, and no hidden agendas.
• We spent some Sunday’s preaching on Team work in the bible.
• We continued with all of our seasonal joint services, promoting them as opportunities to meet friends they didn’t know yet.
• We didn’t rush the process.
• We looked at different models of Team within the Diocese.
• We allowed plenty of PCC time to discuss it.
• We talked about it with our congregations, listening to their ideas and concerns.
• We prayed – lots.
• We looked carefully at the benefits and disadvantages.
• We listened- to the PCC, the congregations and of course God.
• We were transparent, open and honest about where we were up to in the process.
• We continually assured the church that would be losing its full time post that they would not be the poor person in the Team, but that we would fully commit to serving them equally across the Team. We provided re-assurance throughout the whole process.
• We were honest about the fact that we didn’t fully know what model of Team we would be creating.
• We began to look at ways where we could share people’s gift and talents across the four churches, and began to support each other in practical ways.

Finally, Rev Andrew explains how, at times, it was necessary to change and adapt along the way.

"All along the journey of exploration, right up to the formation of the Team legally there has been change. Change in staff, as Clive moved onto pastures new, leaving us to advertise for a Team Vicar. So we had to adapt to a new working pattern with two stipendiary clergy, two NSM’s and two readers. The interregnum clearly focussed our mind on what we were looking for in a new Team Vicar, but we were open to the fact that the new colleague may bring gifts and skills that we didn’t currently have, and that we may have to change our working practices. This didn’t scare us or daunt us, but excited us at what the new Team would look like and the potential for growth in the future.

The two readers changed and adapted, as they willingly bought into the Team concept. They went from serving in one church to serving across four.  They played an integral part with the clergy in helping the congregations grasp what Team ministry may look like in the future.

In order to support all four churches equally, we looked at service times and service patterns, and significant changes were made there with the total backing of all four churches. By making these changes, we were able cover most eventualities within the Churches calendar. All four churches embraced the changes to service times and service patterns, and I think because of the way we handled the whole cluster to team process, there was an element of trust that we were making the right changes for the right reasons.

I will close by saying that one church in particular, St Jude’s, was particularly concerned that they would be left out in the cold in the restructuring as they had the smallest congregation. We worked hard to alleviate this concern, and treated them equally with the other three churches. In many ways, St Jude’s has seen the most changes in the journey from cluster to Team, but they are the church that has bought into Team ministry the most, and they are a blessing to the other three churches in the Team.

We continue to change and adapt as our ministry evolves, but working together with committed colleagues, and enthusiastic congregations is exciting, and we look forward to what God is going to do."

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About the Growth Planning Framework

The Growth Planning Framework is a device for parishes to help them reflect, change and adapt the way they do church. Local and national research has shown that churches which engage posotovely with this procvess are the ones most likely to grow.

Find out more at www.liverpool.anglican.org/gpf

“growth is normal and ministry must be shared.”