"The Growth Planning Framework provided a stable foundation...it encouraged us to ask ‘hard’ questions"

St Michael and All Angels Burtonwood have used the Growth Planning Framework alongside 2011 census data to put in place plans that they hope will really meet the demands of their community.

As result of using both together, St Michael’s decided to carry out a worship audit, implement all-age worship, run a Christian basics course, bring the three retirement homes in their parish into mainstream church and identify people to take on leadership roles with a mission context.

Trainee Reader and PCC member Veronica Hancock said: “We have always had mission plans in place, but we felt that the Growth Planning Framework provided a stable foundation as it encouraged us to ask ‘hard’ questions about our parish whilst taking into account solid data from the 2011 Census.  The census data helped us appreciate just how much our community has changed in the last ten years and went hand in hand with the Growth Planning Framework questions as to how we are - and should be - responding to those changes. Using the two together means we were able to execute a well-informed and targeted plan for growth.”

St Michael’s has begun to build on good links with the community primary school, an oversubscribed ‘community’ mums and tots group which uses the church hall, and the different uniformed groups who join the church for services such as Remembrance Sunday etc. This will initially take the form of Messy Church – a fresh expression of church for families.

Veronica said: “Question 2 of the Growth Planning Framework, which asked us to think about how inclusive we were, was also particularly interesting to us. The 2011 census confirmed what the PCC knew - there are significantly more people in the parish aged 65 – 85 than 10 years ago. This is believed to be partly due to the numbers who are in residential care. This, combined with our answers to the growth planning framework questions, led us to look at ways to bring the three retirement homes in our parish into mainstream church, which included taking Holy Communion from the communion rail directly to residents in the retirement homes. We also realized that we had a chance to reach out to the families of the older people and to those employed there. ”   

The census and the growth planning framework also encouraged St Michael’s to look at ways to develop the spirituality of their congregation. “The statistics showed that religious affiliation here is almost 20% above the national average.  People engage well in terms of funerals, weddings and baptisms. Growing the congregation spiritually has for some time been the main missional thrust and the questions in the Growth Planning Framework helped us focus that even more, so we now run a Bible Study group and plan to run a Christian basics course to help people revisit their faith and take the next step. Under the leadership of our vicar, Canon June Steventon our PCC is encouraged to think differently about mission in that we do not have a mission; we are a mission – the mission of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit whose work is to love and redeem the whole of creation. We need to build on that and to teach, baptise and nurture new believers.”

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The Growth Planning Framework is acknowledged as a very useful tool to help parishes consider how they can grow in Christ.  More about GPF2.