‘Do you have a growth plan or an end of life plan?’ This was the question posed to each and every church following last year’s Methodist Conference. It arises out of a desire to see the church fulfil its mission and to be faithful stewards of the resources that God has given us. In our Circuit we mirror much of what the wider connexion is facing, with some churches declining in membership and attendance year on year, some maintaining what they have and some seeing areas of growth and potential. Like the wider connexion we have taken some risks and have begun to experiment in new ways of being church that may connect the gospel with those who would never consider engaging with the traditional church. Therefore, as we face the same challenges and opportunities of the wider church so the task of reflection and planning for our future is one which is relevant to all our churches.
I would therefore like to encourage the church councils this spring to begin to consider our mission together in the South West Tyneside Circuit, to ask some of those difficult questions and not to shy away from where the Spirit of God is leading. The Holy Spirit always points us in the direction of Jesus, and our church should therefore be above all else Christ-centred. For some that may mean the main focus is on his incarnation and the challenge to be in the community engaging in risk taking service; for others it may be that we are having to share in his death and be willing to let go of things we have done for many years or even our buildings; for others it may mean welcoming some new practices -sharing in Christ’s resurrection. The thought of an end of life plan or even a growth plan may be unsettling but hopefully as we ask those questions prayerfully, and together, we may be reminded of who we are and importantly whose we are.
In order to kick start the conversation you will find on the link below some questions to explore that I hope will enable you to discuss honestly the life of the church in relation to our calling. I would encourage you to reflect not only on the life of your church, but the mission of God in your area. This may raise questions like - what are the local needs, where is God at work, who should we be working with?
It remains up to the church whether these conversations are best done through your church council, leadership team or in a wider forum, but I hope we can have a conversation and some initial responses from each of the churches at our open Circuit meeting on the 19th June 2018.
With every blessing,
Rev. Alan Bradley