Today we publish an independent evaluation by Integras Consulting into the effectiveness of the Joshua Centre established by the Diocese of Liverpool and Liverpool Cathedral in 2017 following a successful bid to the Church Commissioners Strategic Development Fund.
The £1m project aimed to
• Make 900 new disciples
• Establish 30 new lay-led congregations
• Train 30 lay leaders
• Identify 10 new ordinands from these new congregational leaders.
• Create a resource hub for ongoing leadership development and congregational multiplication.
• Embed within the Diocese a flourishing, robust, sustainable model of congregational multiplication.
Each congregation was to receive a start-up grant of up to £20k over five years and would be supported by a small team of experienced practitioners.
The report found that “at a time when the Church of England is experiencing a decline in numbers, the Joshua Centre has successfully demonstrated that it is possible to reverse this trend by establishing new congregations with trained lay leaders”.
The process enabled leaders to hone their vision and plan and the quarterly reviews kept leaders on track. Providing a grant enabled parishes to start these new congregations but now they need to make them sustainable for the future. The research found that clergy support was vital and congregations now need to embrace them and see them as part of their mission in the parish.
Overall, the project “has been well managed and implemented. It was able to negotiate the challenges of Covid-19 and succeeded in recruiting and training lay leaders to establish new congregations. The success of the project is due not just to the commitment of lay leaders and clergy, but also the structured support and encouragement provided by the team.”
The report made 7 recommendations, 5 we accepted and two we didn’t.
The two we didn’t were to
• Conduct a learning exercise review with key stakeholders, clergy, FFM, lay leaders and the leadership coach.
• Identify funding sources and grants, in addition to the parish share, to support establishing new congregations in areas of deprivation.
Which we don’t think will progress us further, particularly in light of Fit for Mission.
We did agree with the following five recommendations which we will be moving forward with
• Appoint a lead person to provide support, advice and monitoring in establishing new congregations, especially at scale.
• Implement an application process and quarterly reviews in FFM and projects to establish new congregations.
• Evaluate targeted training of lay leaders.
• Establish a forum to enable peer support and learning between lay leaders.
• Provide clarity and feedback to JC congregations on how they fit within FFM.
Archdeacon Pete Spiers, chair of the Joshua Centre board, welcomed the report saying “I welcome this report as a valuable insight into this important project. I would like to thank the staff who have worked for the Joshua Centre and made all this happen. As we strive for a bigger church to make a bigger difference we have sought to try different ways of mission. Equally, we wanted to learn from what we are doing so that we can build a sustainable future for the church. This learning will be useful for us, the Church Commissioners and the wider church and I commend this report to you"