So this is the bit about releasing our inner activist? Well yes... and no.
Absolutely we need to encourage each other to experiment with new ideas. Trialling new ways of connecting with people needs to become normal. And wasting a bit of time on ideas which subsequently fail is all part of this.
As a District we have now held two online gatherings for those ministering with older people. At the first in November we shared some successful approaches to connecting with isolated housebound people during lockdown, and also some brave stories of bright ideas which fizzled out. It was wonderful to hear when we re-gathered last week of churches who had applied what they learned in November to their own ministry, and the multiplication of people being supported by a church over the winter.
We also have similar communities of practice for those engaged in rural ministry, digital worship, and for lay employees. More are on their way. If you need to mutually scratch heads and swap stories with people ploughing a similar furrow, do get in touch. Innovating is for life, not just for lockdown: our world is ever changing and our need for God eternal.
Where these experiments do start to bloom, we need to join in with moves of the spirit. Is the new welcoming group we have set up a first step into life-changing discipleship for its members? Does it have potential to touch the lives of many people in the local community, town or city? Do its leaders need to be released from other church roles to concentrate on this blossoming opportunity? Do we need to sit lightly to "the way we have always done things" to give new people space to grow? Do we need to learn something new or involve others in the next step? Are we giving birth to a new Christian community, that will develop its own identity distinct from its parent church? How do we encourage and equip innovators breaking new ground?
But back to the "... and no". Our route to fruitfulness does not lie in asking our busiest people to tread the Methodist hamster wheel ever faster. Fruitfulness comes from both pruning and watering.We need to ask searching questions of everything we do, and as a District we need to support each other in exploring what the answer to those might be. Some things we currently do possibly need to stop, because they have reached the end of their season, or because they are OK but we need to concentrate on something more important. This is rarely fun in the moment, but we can still do it well. Because our resurrection hope flows from believing in endings we can embrace change.
We may not all be strategy geeks (confession – I probably am) but we all can and all must set plans for mission. Transforming mission is about abandoning existing commitments in favour or shiny new ideas. Instead it will be about discerning and following where God is calling us to journey next. The path of permission-giving, mentoring, learning, reaching out and evaluating leads to a future of healthy new Christian communities alongside established churches which have rediscovered their unique purpose.
Please keep praying For Such A Time As this. If you can, register for our Zoom prayer gatherings at 1pm on Thursdays and 8pm on Mondays. A recording of last week's prayers is available on youtube.
Neil Harland, Mission Development Support
Registered Charity no. 1129363
0114 270 9990 / 0114 430 0255
Sheffield District Office
Room 47, Victoria Hall Methodist Church