After the announcement of our success in receiving Church Commissioners funding for this ground breaking project, we look at the project in more detail setting out some of the background to Transforming Wigan.
We also launch the search for the clergy person who has the right qualities to direct this project and lead Wigan into the change which is needed.
What is Transforming Wigan?
It’s a 7 year, £1.2 million programme which aims to turn around the mission and financial strength in the strategically most vulnerable part of our diocese enabling it to become a missional powerhouse. We believe that the lessons we learn will benefit the rest of our diocese and the Church of England in general.
The project is not about something new that sits apart or acts in isolation from our existing structures but works to re-imagine and reinvent what we are doing in order to improve.
The project has clear links to our Growth Agenda. It reaffirms our commitment to the Archbishops’ quinquennial goals to:
(i) Take forward the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church of England – including the growth of its capacity to serve the whole community of the country;
(ii) Re-shape or re-imagine the Church's ministry for the century coming, so as to make sure that there is a growing and sustainable Christian witness in every local community;
(iii) Focus resources where there is both greatest need and greatest opportunity.
It reaffirms our priorities around spiritual and numerical growth, tackling the burning platform issues of ageing money, retiring clergy and broken buildings and supports our strategy to have one leader per missional unit.
The Transforming Wigan Challenge
The bid sets out the challenge in a paragraph
“It is clear to all involved in the shaping of the Transforming Wigan project that church as has been in Wigan will not be sustainable. The congregational demographic is skewed; buildings are a problem; growth is at best patchy. It is also clear that it won’t simply be a pattern of gentle decline; in 10 years’ time numbers and money will fall off a cliff.
That said there remains a richness and vibrancy about the local and church communities of Wigan. There is a pride and generosity of spirit among the congregations that continues to manifest itself in giving of time, talents and treasure – a testimony to the faithfulness of generations of Christians. The key will be to unlock this latent spirit where it isn’t sufficiently strong, give greater licence to those where there is vision and desire and to set a new tone and a new missional ambition.“
It is this which Transforming Wigan seeks to challenge, address and build on.
What the project will involve
Transforming Wigan will be led by a Director, a clergy person with the qualities and equivalent status of an Archdeacon, combining those strengths with an entrepreneurial mindset and the ability to deliver real change. This person will work in a variety of areas. They will need to look at some core aspects from the basic infrastructure of the area and looking at church planting, missional leadership and dealing with change.
The bid is clear that “if we are to re-imagine church in Wigan we will need to address fundamental infrastructure issues”. The project will be looking at how we rationalise church - there is a strong belief that the area is over churched. A full assessment of the area will determine the shape of this for the future with the hope that the responsibility for the church building ceases to be the sole responsibility of those who happen to attend church.
Other areas to look at are making sure that PCCs are getting the best from its financial investments; that the deanery is getting the best from the mission partnerships that they have formed; we will seek to make administration easier; and will encourage giving.
All this will impact on how the deanery structures – Synod, Maiision and Pastoral Committee – work in the future.
How we manage change is important. We have a number of tools - such as the Growth Planning Framework and Parish Dashboards – that can help us all engage with this area. But within the clear vision of the Growth Agenda we will continue to look at how we can embolden the Deanery in developing a new vision and purpose. This includes helping church engage confidently in social issues as spiritual and numerical growth must be linked to our capacity desire to serve the community. But change must be total across the whole deanery working together as the bid makes clear
“we need to avoid individual churches locking down their own futures independent of all other considerations. Transforming Wigan is an avowedly collaborative approach; the change management process must own and reflect that.”
How we manage that change will be vital to success
Church Planting and missional leaders
A core aim is to establish new church presences. We cannot rely simply on improving our existing church, new forms are vital. So we have a target of establishing one significant expression of church each year from year 3 onwards. These will contain at least 50 hitherto unchurched or dechurched people. Further to that we have set a target of having 5 more emerging expressions of church in place by the end of year 7.
We also want to move to a single leader for every worshipping community. This will involve identifying a training a number of missional leaders – capable of leading congregations. If we are to have new missional partnerships and plant new missional congregations we need new leaders. Wigan will offer a chance to work through this.
Transforming Wigan is all about reimagination. Past methods will not suffice, new ideas have to be found. That means relearning skills. We have strong structures for leadership training and coaching and will use these to make sure that we have the right capacity in our clergy and parishes to deliver the change we need.
So we will have three requirements
• Ensuring that incumbents and other people who have de facto supervisory responsibility are trained and confident in supervision and general coaching skills.
• Developing a bank of people able to go beyond conducting MDR reviews and who can also offer supervision to clergy and other senior missional leaders.
• Developing a bank of people able to offer specific coaching interventions as and when required.
A bold project to Transform Wigan
This is big project, a complex project, a bold project. Get it right and we will create a new model of church, a new way of being God’s presence in the communities. We will learn many lessons which will be valuable for the growth of the church in Wigan Deanery, across our diocese and for the Church of England as a whole.