"Horses were born to run – churches to grow" - Bishop Paul Bayes

Bishop Paul encourages every parish to use Growth Planning Framework 3 to help them reflect, change and adapt as 400 attend the growth conference in Aintree

The site of the world’s greatest steeplechase provided inspiration as the Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes welcomed over 400 delegates to his growth conference last week. Stating that “horses are born to run” and the job of the trainer is harness their energy and point them in the right direction he drew an analogy with church. “churches” he stated “are made to grow” we simply to harness its energy and make it happen.

Bishop Paul also used the conference to launch Growth Planning Framework 3, a tool which helps parishes to examine their own churches and see how they can encourage growth. The Bishop emphasised how this can help churches grow saying that he “hopes people will use it  because we can learn from each other so the church can be a growing organisation”. Bishop Paul restated his desire to see a bigger church making a bigger difference echoing the vision of Pope Francis who has a “vision of a church that will make a big difference because it reaches out”.

Bishop Paul was clear that the “wisdom of God’s people will lead us to be creative together” and he was definite in encouraging delegates to encourage one another in growth. But, borrowing and emphasising a phrase from one of the speakers on the day stated “growth is normal and ministry must be shared.”
George Lings encourages us to reflect ,learn change and adapt
Dr George Lings from the Church Army was our keynote speaker as he presented findings from extensive research he has conducted on churches across our diocese and the national church. 

He spent the time unpacking the process where churches can reflect, learn, change and adapt. He reflected on local and national statistics about church attendance and what the figures tell us about how we connect with the wider world around us. He then sought to learn from the way church is today as well as the way society has changed to a more networked model of living rather than the traditional neighbourhood mode. George also looked at Jesus' model of discipleship for lessons on how to do church.

George examined a number of changes noted about the research into fresh expressions of church. These included big ideas such as what we think of as church, who is church reaching out to and who leads church. This raised the concept of 'lay-lay' leaders  -  a label applied to those who are not clergy, readers or Church Army Evangelists but people without formal training or authorisation but are offering leadership. A concept we embraced with our Local Misisonal Leadership model. George explored statistics around the impact of this model of church. 

The final segment of George's talk was around how we adapt the way we church. Flexibility was key - flexibility over where, when and how we meet so we have an ability to look at modelling a pattern of church that connects with today's society.

Summing up George left us with the challenge to "continue to reflect, to learn, change and adapt as you build on from what you already have".
Two stories of growth
In the course of his talk George spoke to Revd Janet Roberts (pictured here) and Revd Andrew Stott (above) about their stories of growth.

Andrew talked about his experiences with 4 Saints Team in L14 while Janet explained what was happening at St Nicholas, BlundellSands

You can read their stories over the next couple of weeks.

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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.”