Creating Connections is the name for our vision and priorities for 2016-2020.
Jesus came with a message and a vision for the world.
The message, the Good News, is that we can all be reconnected with God. The vision is of the Kingdom of God, a world where peace and justice reign and the whole of creation is redeemed and restored. This is God's big idea.
As Christians we not only believe in this big idea; we play a part in making it a reality.
In our churches, when we connect with God, we may then connect others with Him: we share Jesus story; we show what it means to follow Him; we become signs of God's Kingdom in the world.
When we join together to do this across our diocese, we become a life-changing movement that can connect every person and every community with God.
This is our vision for the Diocese of Bristol. It is an audacious vision energised by an all-powerful God.
The 'Creating connections' mission planning toolkit enables parishes to consider their plans for mission in light of the 'Creating connections' vison and priorities and to discover the part they will play within this.
The Making disciples in your parish' resource introduces six ways your church can create connections and make disciples.
The Making disciples survey resource has been designed to assist parishes with determining the most appropriate ways to support their congregations to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Diocese of Bristol Creating connections Discipleship Course is a five-week discipleship course themed around our diocesan vision, Creating connections.
The sessions, written by our 2017 Bishop's Staff team lead participants to consider what it means to be a disciple connected to God, each other and our communities.
Click here to view and download the course materials.
To support the Diocese in meeting the priorities of our 2016-2020 vision, we are bringing together 101 ideas, from our parishes, for each of our priorities.
As part of the 2016-2020 vision and priorities, four key priorities were highlighted, which you can read about here. This resource has been gathered by our churches and our diocesan advisers, to support the meeting of these priorities. Though the 2016-2020 vision and priorities is now coming to an end, you can still access these ideas.
Many of these ideas have been developed, tried, and tested within our churches. By sharing them here we recognise that we are connected to each other and able to support, advise, bless and help one another as we seek to serve God's purposes in each of our parishes.
Do you have a great idea to share? Submit your ideas for inclusion here.
The Bible Course
St John's Haydon Wick have run The Bible Course from Bible Society. This excellent course was well attended and much praised by those who attended.
St Matthews, Bristol recently ran the Talking Jesus course within the church. This was followed by a preaching series about invitation, relationship, going deeper in prayer and the importance of small group discipleship.
Lawrence Weston and Avonmouth ran a Tearfund Big Quiz night with lots of guests from outside church and a 'Landfill Banquet' with food saved from being thrown away by supermarkets.
Missionaries where you are
Emmanuel, Bristol connect with community with a philosophy of trying to help the church family see how important it is to relate the gospel to those they interact with in all kinds of ways. The church wants to support people to be missionaries where they are each day.
Family fun day
St Stephens Soundwell hosted a Family Fun Day on the Field opposite the Church in the Summer holidays. Lots of people came out to support the event, meet other local residents and enjoy the activities.
St Andrew's North Swindon engaged with the National Prayer weekend. They put up banners in the community to let people know that they the church was praying for them.
Senior citizens Christmas lunch
St John's Haydon Wick held a senior's Christmas lunch for the elderly alongside their monthly communion services in two different care homes. This is a growing and important ministry for the church.
Open Door Policy
At St Mary's Shirehampton an open door policy exists. This means anyone can come in daily between 10am-12 and speak with someone. This link with the community provides countless oppprtunities for connections to be made and people to be supported.
Frenchay and Stapleton have worked with the other churches in the area to outreach to people who have moved recently into the new housing estate at Frenchay Park/Frenchay Gardens.
Sharing stories of everyday faith
St Stephen's Soundwell, have encouraged church members to share stories of everyday faith during services. This has had a really positive impact and been hugely encouraging to everyone.
Eucharist and community connections
St Agnes Bristol have worked to ensure that the centrality of the Eucharist in our worship, alongside their informal high church style, attracts people. The considerable work involved in their baptism and funeral ministry in the local African-Caribbean community makes the church an enduring focal point for thousands.
Social Justice Missional Community
As part of the Avonside Mission Area, Lawrence Weston and Avonmouth benefice have developed a missional community based around social justice, this involves both study/worship/prayer & action in the community.
Mental Health Awareness Group
As part of the Avonside Mission Area, St Mary's Shirehampton have established a Mental Health Awareness Group which has also provided opportunities for people to explore the Christian faith for the first time in detail.
Early morning evangelism and prayer
Sea Mills and Coombe Dingle have set up an early morning evangelism prayer group and are encouraging people to go 'door to door' in the parish inviting people to special guest services.
Music and food
In the Marshfield Benefice they have held regular special services with music or food as a real draw for the community at the key points of the church year, including Plough Sunday for the rural community.
Fuelling the fires of faith
St Peter's Henleaze have continued to develop their 'Fuelling the Fires of Faith' Action/Prayer/Community/Culture/Understanding programme. As part of this they held a 'Treasure Sunday' and encouraged everyone to review their stewardship of time, talents and treasure.
Cotham Parish Church have embedded thinking and praying about Climate Emergency into the life of their church. This has had a significant impact on their understanding of discipleship as they now talk about eco-discipleship as a church.
St Mary Redcliffe have developed a clear process to ensure newcomers to the church are welcomed and introduced to regular members of the congregation.
18-35's Home group
St Anne's Oldland and United Church Longwell Green ran Alpha in 2019, this led to the creation of a specific home group for 18-35's.
Local Business Network
All Saints Clifton connect with their local community through a Local Business Network. This sees the church actively enabling independent local businesses to find a place to meet informally and discover opportunities, connections and shared interests. Through regular events such as art exhibitions and an annual Summer Drinks’ Party, church and gardens are open for local business owners to explore and learn more about the part All Saints plays in the community such as music, art, talks, support (dementia and homelessness), and so much more. The Local Business Network database consists of over 300 local businesses, and feedback from those attending this year’s Summer Drinks Party in early July was extremely positive and supportive of the work the church does in the local community.
A monthly Pilgrim course in Greater Corsham and Lacock sees small groups reviewing together the teaching provided in church on the first Sunday of the month. This has been a good way of involving Sunday congregations in following a discipleship course and has also resulted in the setting up of a completely new day time small group attended by people from across the Team.
Greater Corsham and Lacock have run two breakfast services outside the church building. These were a great opportunity to invite baptism families to a more informal service in Corsham Town Hall and provide a more interactive talk/sermon slot with people of all ages sharing ideas around the breakfast tables.
"Come and see" Sunday
St Andrews Chippenham ran a "Come and See" Sunday. Prior to the Sunday they leafleted invitations to 2000 homes and were delighted when people responded. Seven new regular worshippers have joined the church as a result of the mission.
Hungry for God
At St Anne's Oldland a monthly Worship and Prayer Evening called 'Hungry for God' has had a significant impact in deepening the discipleship of the congregation.
Congregational life of prayer
St Saviours Coalpit Heath have used Common Worship daily prayer as an effective way to make disciples. This has encouraged liturgical formation and the life of prayer among the congregation, whether in church or by using the app at home.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
St Peters Bishopsworth used the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality material as a sermon series and in home groups and found it was very well received.
At St Martin's Knowle, 'CaAt St Martin's Knowle, 'Cafe Connect' runs every Friday in the church and provides a fantastic space for members of the community to come in, enjoy a wide selection of meals, wonderful home made cakes, and meet members of the church. The cafe runs with a spirit of generosity - we ask people to make a donation for the food they have received, and invite people to donate extra if they wish to enable food for others who may not be able to otherwise afford a meal. fe Connect' runs every Friday in the church and provides a fantastic space for members of the community to come in, enjoy refreshments and meet members of the church.
Young Alter servers
All Hallows Easton are committed to mission and evangelism spreading the word of God to all people. The church has encouraged young people to join the Altar Servers and found that those that have, have really been blessed by serving in this way.
The Holy Trinity, Westbury on Trym Community Fair hosts some 40 different organisations who put up their stalls in and around the church every spring. A few thousand people come through the doors and it serves as an excellent outreach to the local community.
In North Sevenside an ongoing series of concerts have enabled the chruches to connect with their communities and invite people to come and enjoy music in the churches.
When St Peters Chippenham studied ++Welby’s Book on Mammon they were led to establish a food surplus project giving new families confidence to trust church and even attend Messy Church.
Marshfield benefice have found that church events and special services that build on relationships and tell the Good News such as the 'Plough Service and Lunch', 'Candlemass baptism celebration', 'Breakfast Service', 'Harvest community supper' and events linked with the local school, have helped them to build peoples faith and understanding which can lead to people joining Alpha courses and post-Alpha groups.
Congregational feedback on the website
The St Andrews Church webpage where details are provided about their upcoming family services includes the following quote from a member of the community who began attending the monthly service. What a great way to encourage people to come.
Donna and her sons (in school years 3 and 7) started coming along last term and Donna wrote this review to help other people know what to expect:
"The first time we attended, we were so warmly welcomed. The boys liked the relaxed atmosphere and had lots of fun doing some very creative craft activities.
The service was very enjoyable too (we all got to do a little bit of light-hearted acting) which added depth to the Bible story that we were learning about.
Inviting the bereaved to services
"In the parish of Yate, members have taken to intentionally inviting the recently bereaved to a succession of services starting at All Souls. The season of invitation ends with an evening Candlemas Service. During the season, they discovered that a number of the widows who had been invited lacked the confidence to come straight to a church service on their own as they didn't like the idea of entering the church alone. They therefore invited them to a tea at a local pub first where they met other people in a similar position to them and then walked across to the church together. A number of them commented on how helpful that had been."
Questions to ask when meeting people
"When meeting people, Revd Simon Dunn from St Pauls Chippenham, holds the following questions in his mind that he seeks to pose each time he meets with someone.
• How have you sensed God’s Presence this last week?
• Where is God working in your life right now?
He finds these questions instigate healthy conversations for those with/without a personal faith and they assist him in being Missio Dei focused rather than function or church orientated.."
Including time for sharing and testimony in services
At St Paul's, Chippenham, it has found that people's stories are SO amazing and encouraging, even when the “sharer” does not think so themselves, that it has intentionally include time for testimony/sharing in as many ways and services as possible. It finds that these invoke conversation and sharing amongst the congregation at a much deeper, real, and indeed wider level, after each occasion (e.g. over coffee at the end of the service).
An 'of course we can pray' attitude
"At Malmesbury Abbey, they has adopted an 'of course we can pray' attitude. This followed some prayer ministry training it hosted and means that it intentionally looks for opportunities to offer prayer to people through the ministry of the Abbey."
Find out more about building a foundation of prayer here.
An invitational memorial Service
At St Mary's Shirehampton once a year, the families of all those who they have held funerals for during the year are invited to a memorial service. The names are read out, along with those of any others that have been submitted on little cards. At Christmas these name cards are put on the Christmas tree when the lights are switched on as a symbol that these people are remembered and their families prayed for.
Find out more about building a culture of invitation here.
Conversation and Chocolate with toddler group mums
At St Johns, Haydon Wick Swindon, it hosted a very well received “Conversation and Chocolate” evening for mums from the church run toddler group. This was an evening away from their toddlers where they could discuss any questions they might have about God, faith and the church. Calorie-laden evangelism!
Community prayer request card boxes
An idea seen on the internet involved an Anglican parish church which had had little boxes professionally printed up that held a stock of prayer request postcards and a box compartment for completed cards to go in. These were placed in local shops and the church offered to pray for those requests submitted into the boxes.
Find out more about building a foundation of prayer here.
Becoming an invitational church
At the Season of Invitation training session we were challenged to be invitational as well as welcoming. One suggestion was that during a service the leader encourages people to ask God who he would like them to invite to a particular service. They are then asked to name that person with those sat near them and to pray together for that name. Next everybody writes the initials of that person on a Post-it note and places it on the cross at the front. People then make the invite during the week. If the answer is 'no' then that’s ok, you have at least been privileged to hear where that person is at in their journey with God.
Find out more about a culture of invitation here.
Engagement with the Sunday teaching
Christ Church Clifton record all the teaching from their Sunday gatherings and make them available for anyone to stream or download on their website. In addition the preachers prepare a set of sermon notes and small group discussion questions which are also available online. These are used by the weekly small groups to enable discussion and further exploration of the sermon themes and so embed the teaching into everyday life.
Making resources for discipleship available
The Community of Saint Stephen's & Holy Trinity in the centre of Bristol have begun providing resources which are available within both churches to help people engage with prayer, scriptures and important issues of faith. They are currently in the process of producing a 'Growing in Faith' booklet with information and links to online resources for discipleship. 'Discipleship' has been added as a permanent PCC agenda item and they have tried to create different spaces and multiple themes/discussions for people to grow in their faith.
Find more resources for discipleship at www.disciplekit.org
Alpha at the Carol Service
At St John's, Haydon Wick Swindon, it has shown clips from the Alpha course during a Christmas carol service. It also gave out an Alpha invitation card as people arrived, inviting people to respond if they would like further information about the upcoming course.
In Minety, North Wilts a small group meeting weekly in the local CE primary school has been undertaking a Christian Mindfulness course under license from Richard H H Johnston ( christianmindfulness.org.uk). Christian Mindfulness draws on Christian traditions of meditation and contemplation, integrating these with the latest scientific research and insights to help people to learn more about being with God, being aware of our whole selves, our thoughts and feelings. With more than 20 people attending from many church backgrounds and several with no formal church connections, the church have found people growing closer to God and being helped with some difficult issues they were facing in their lives.
Explore Together at Friday Night Live
Friday Night Live at St Stephen's Soundwell began as a way to re-engage with Church families with older children who have drifted away in recent years and to reach people with the love and teachings of Jesus for whom 'traditional’ church might not be the natural option. The time begins with a period of sung worship interspersed with prayer, followed by using the “ Explore Together” resources from Scripture Union, allowing all ages present to engage with the Bible in ways that suit their learning styles or comfort zones. Everyone is then invited to share their ‘exploring’ in small groups and as a whole and if they choose to do so and to stay afterwards to share time, stories and life experiences with one another over food.
Organising and contributing to village community events
Being part of a village with an active community calendar, Wroughton Parish Church have been aiming to build up their presence at local events such as the village carnival, duck race, summer picnic etc. as well as offering new activities for families. Their Community Engagement Group works to a rolling calendar and they are regularly either organising their own community events such as Gardening Day, annual Pumpkin Party or Pancake races or being a part of the local planning groups who put together village events. The church is involved in something in the community approx. every 6-8 weeks, and has really benefitted from connecting with the same people at the different events, growing relationships with local families, welcoming them to the church family service and being seen as playing a positive part in what helps the village to thrive.
Using Season of Invitation, Alpha and Fruitfulness on the Frontline materials
The benefice of Warmley Syston and Bitton have used the season of invitation materials throughout the autumn and have followed this by running an Alpha course in January. A natural progression on from Alpha is to explore together how people live out their faith in our everyday lives. The churches have used the LICC Fruitfulness on the Frontline course to help them with this which has offered useful and relevant teaching for growing disciples. This has now become part of our annual church life cycle. Both new church members and those who have been part of the church for a while have valued the opportunity to engage with the fundamentals of faith and to encourage each other to grow in discipleship.
Remembrance Day Service
The parish of Warmley has seen a rise in attendance at their Remembrance day service which is held each year at the war memorial on Warmley High Street. Last year there were over 500 people in attendance with veterans, uniformed organisations, emergency services, local councillors and MP’s represented. After the service people are invited to meet with one another in Warmley Community Centre and to share tea and cake. The church has been working with their local councillor to enhance this event and it has both made connections with different groups in the community and brought them closer together. The value of this for the church is that is has provided them with an opportunity for conversations with the wider community and a chance to invite them to other events at St. Barnabas.
Find the HOPE resources for remembrance here.
Puzzling Questions course
St John's, Haydon Wick Swindon, like many of our churches, has run a Puzzling Questions six-week course which covers questions like: “How Can I be Happy?”, “What is God like?” and “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”. Produced by The Ugly Duckling Company, it is aimed at people who have little real spiritual awareness in their lives. The course can be developed as you feel right for your group.
Local conflict transformation course
In the Gauzebrook Group, North Wilts, churchwardens and other key local leaders have attended sessions on transforming conflict in church settings. This has improved relationships within the church and with groups within the community, who are often expressing views on churchyards and similar things.
Providing a place of prayer and reflection in the midst of a community tragedy
Last December the community of Rodbourne in Swindon was rocked by the news of the murder of a young mother of two. In response to these tragic events, St Augustine's Church opened it's doors for the evening so that people had somewhere to go and share with one another. The church provided an opportunity for people to light candles, sign condolence books, add stars to our Christmas memory tree or simply talk to someone who would listen. The church harnessed the power of social media to let people know that it was open, with it's initial Facebook post being read by 15,000 people. There was no agenda, and prayers were held every half an hour with tea and coffee served throughout the evening. Over 300 people came through the doors that evening, and it demonstrated to the community why the church is so important, being there at the heart of the community at a time of grief. Sometimes tragic things happen and our ability to respond quickly can allow us to be there for our communities in a time of need.
Find out more about building a foundation of prayer here.
Churchyard work days
At All Saints in the village of Sutton Benger a group has been formed to care for our beautiful churchyard. The church advertised for helpers in the parish magazine and on the church gate. The group meets once a month and bacon butties, homemade cake and hot coffee is provided to all of the helpers. Regular members of the congregation, along with local residents and others from further afield enjoy the outdoors, the exercise, the fellowship and the fun of working together to care for the village churchyard. A great sense of community has evolved from this initiative.
Coffee and cake drop-in
On the last Tuesday of month St Nicholas' Whitchurch opens up their Church Hall for people to drop in and share tea/coffee and cake. Around 15-20 people come with at least 5-6 who do not attend Sunday worship at the church. It’s has now become a regular place of fellowship for some and people have also asked for prayer and to visit church on occasions.
Ale and Arty Charity Festival
St Peter's Ale and Arty Charity Festival in Henleaze enabled people to experience 'church' in new and different ways. For both regular church attenders and attenders of the Festival from the local area, it was the first time they had found: craft ale served in the church aisle, Scalextric cars to race round tracks where the nave altar and choir were normally situated, a bouncy castle on the church lawn and the church resounding to bands playing music of many different genres on a Saturday evening! As well as bringing people together in new ways, the Festival also raised money for two local charities.
Making the invitation personal
As a church, Bishopston and St Andrews have, as one of our objectives, 'creating a culture in which everyone is empowered to lead people to the Lord Jesus'. As part of their journey towards inhabiting this culture they are working on growing a culture of invitation in the church. For Christmas 2016 they did not produce any promotional flyers etc for the Christmas Services before Christmas Weekend. Instead they encouraged our small group communities to host events around our services and invite their friends to their events and to the services. All sorts of events we organised and every one of our services had a high numbers of guests and importantly guests who had been personally invited and already had friends who are members of the church. It was a bold and scary step, but one that worked!
Using LICC Whole Life Discipleship materials
As a small church with a small number of members, St Anne's Eastville find it especially important to equip their congregation members so they can be disciples in their everyday lives. A few people who have a great vision can change great things everywhere they go! It is a change in mindset that takes a long time to settle. On their journey to create whole-life disciples St Anne's have found the resources from LICC extremely helpful. They used the two courses “Life on the frontline” and “Fruitfulness on the frontline” as lent courses and attended an LICC IMAGINE church learning hub with encouraging effect.
Weekly breakfast club
St Peter's Penhill, Swindon run a Breakfast Club (completely open membership) on Monday mornings from 9.30 - 11.30am. A 'pick and mix breakfast' is served with all items costing 40p. People can just drop-in for a cuppa (no charge for refills!) or anything up to a 'full English' at £3.60. The church doesn't aim to make a profit and ensures that everyone who wishes to eat is well fed regardless. The drop-in is proving very popular with the community and on average 28-30 people are served at every session, of whom only 4 or 5 have any other connection with the church. There is a good atmosphere and lots of fellowship at the sessions - more and more people are attending 'just for the company'.
Encouraging people to use their God given gifts
At The United Benefice of All Saints & St Barnabas in Swindon they are constantly seeking where, and how every persons gifts can best be used. The church believes that as everyone is called to service in God’s Kingdom and use the charisms that God has bestowed upon them, our response to God’s call and the use of those gifts forms part of stewardship. Vocation and service is a continuous theme thread throughout the churches worship, preaching and prayer.
Where's your front line?' display board
At Christ Church Downend, following on from participation in a LICC Learning Hub the church has shared ideas about how every service, small group and activity can equip people to live for Christ in every circumstance and place they are in. Arising from this time was the idea for 'Frontline Focus'. This involves the creation of a display “Where’s your Frontline?” in the welcome space at the church where people can add a sticker to show where their main frontline is. The board is used as a prompt for prayer and everyone displayed is prayed for at least once a year that they might be fruitful where they are placed in life and work. Photos, prayers, interviews and videos are used to highlight the Whole Life Discipleship programme and its link to every aspect of church life.
Chat café for young parents
St Cuthbert's Church, Brislington, had become aware of the number of young parents in the area and that there was nowhere they could drop in to chat to friends or make new friends in a safe environment with plenty of room for prams, pushchairs and buggies. With this in mind the church started the Chat Cafe. It meets once a month and is for all those who care for young children, parents, grandparents and carers. It is hoped, that by our example, those who use the Cafe may show an interest in the Church and why it exists.
Using the Pilgrim course
St Saviours, Coalpit Heath have used the Pilgrim Course with helpful effect within the parish. Each session has the same format, so people become comfortable with that. The bit of liturgy at the beginning and end of each session provides a prayerful setting, and there is a video clip for each session, which helps the group members relate to the thinking of Bishops, theologians, and the 'man in the street' etc. The Lectio Divina approach to scripture is engaging and open-ended, which people also appreciate.
Visiting every household in the parish
At St Luke’s Brislington, the church has connected with its community by visiting every household in the parish (nearly 3000) to say that as a church we will be praying for them in the following week, and asking if there is anything they would like the church to pray for. The volunteers have had some lovely encounters, with many people who professed no faith being pleased to see church members and to make the connection.
If you would like to think more about this, you can find out more in the diocesan ‘How to’ guide written by the church here: www.bristol.anglican.org/howto
Cream Tea event
"Holy Cross Ashton Keynes, North Wilts has created connections with each other through fellowship, as well as with members of the local community by holding a Cream Tea event in the church every couple of months. The event is held in the church (in the welcome space we have created by removing some pews) on alternate months. More recently the events have included a Bible reading and prayer and or something connected with our faith. "
St Mary's Shirehampton ran the 6 session Happiness Lab programme produced by Ugly Ducking Company in 2017. The zone between un-churched and occasional-attenders is something the church was wrestling with and The Happiness Laboratory was an excellent programme to bridge this gap in a non-churchy way. It pre-supposes nothing about the delegate’s worldview, understanding or beliefs and really does start wherever they are. It aims to help delegates appreciate that they are “spiritual beings in a material universe”. There was lots of good feedback from course participants and the church is now considering the next step.
B&A Church have used MOVE training to help them to make disciples. This training shows people how to be disciples who make disciples, encouraging to pray regularly for their friends who are not Christians, equipping them to share their story and to share the gospel with others.
Community fun afternoon
St Anne's Eastville wanted to show their neighbourhood that they are their church, and that they are fun! For that purpose they organised a family fun afternoon in one of the estates of their parish. They provided free food and drinks, arranged free face-painting and hired some outdoor games for children to play. The event was a lot of organisation, but with the help of many of church members it was achievable, and it was well worth it! People came along were impressed that we would provide all of this for free.
Walk through Advent
Christ Church Hengrove ran a "walk through Advent" event at which the community were invited to spend time considering the 4 great themes of Advent. The church was rearranged to make 4 prayer stations, with various visual aides and some practical things to do at each station, reflecting a them of advent. The idea was the inspiration of a church warden, following the “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer initiative earlier in the year. The church was open for 3 hours, people could come and go as they wished. We held it following our Mid week lunch and several people who would not ordinarily attend church came and spent time reflecting on Advent. Each person was given a leaflet to guide their way through the Advent themes.
This time tomorrow (TTT)
Stratton Benefice have a spot at our monthly Benefice Service when people are invited to talk about their work which is made easier for them by providing some questions like ‘What will you be doing tomorrow at 11am?’ ‘What does it take to do your job well?’ and What are the frustrations in your work? We finish by praying for them. This has really encouraged the congregation to realise that what they do at times other than a Sunday morning is important to God, it has been run alongside a programme including the ‘Fruitfulness on the frontline’ course and as part of our Year of Blessing in 2017 and ‘Channels of Blessing’ Theme for 2018. We then regularly include them in our prayer diary.
Using the Pilgrim Course
St Saviour's, Coalpit Heath, ran the Pilgrim course in 2017. They found this easy to run, very well-presented, including a short video each week, enlivening, and deepening of faith.
Sunday services structured informally for family and message application at St James’ Lockleaze
On Sundays at St James’, Lockleaze they begin with refreshments followed by a time of sharing – both bad news and good news stories, things that God has done and points for prayer. The children then gather at the front as Prayer Maidens and Prayer Warriors and informal prayers are said. During a worship song all the children grab an instrument, get on the stage and sing, dance and make a noise before departing into their groups. The adults remain for a short talk and then grab another coffee. This is followed by discussion of 3 pre-prepared questions relating to the talk helping them to apply what was said to their lives. This structure has allowed for a really good sense of informality and family which people have connected well with.
Mossy Church at Wroughton Parish Church
At Wroughton Parish Church they run Mossy Church, a hybrid of Messy Church and Forest Church. Mossy Church is about encouraging children and families to connect with nature and encounter the Divine Creator in the natural world. The idea is to; Connect with nature by using our senses. Create things using natural materials gathered up from the garden, wood or beach. Get our hands dirty, sometimes get wet and always have fun. Learn about how to care for and love the earth respecting and honouring it because of its sacredness. Once
Evangelistic board games café at St Christopher’s Brislington
Once a month on a Sunday afternoon at St Christopher’s, Brislington vicar Andrew Schuman hosts an evangelistic board game café for enthusiastic board gamers. The café attracts people from across a wide area who bring exciting and complex board games to play together and build relationships with one another. Through this great venture the church is reaching out to a specific group of enthusiasts and building relationships with them.
'Sunday School For All' at Dorcan Church
With working patterns of long hours or shift working, and time squeezed parents with young children, evening home/cell groups where discussion and teaching takes place can be difficult to attend. Dorcan Church has therefore started “Sunday School for all” which replaces a Sunday morning service each quarter. They start off with breakfast, then move to worship together where the theme for the day is introduced, and then the adults go to their Sunday School for teaching and discussion, and the children and teenagers to theirs! Topics explored have included the origins of the creeds, “How was Jesus fully human and fully divine?”, and coming soon will be the various theories of salvation and “Does prayer work?”
Word and Spirit services in South Bristol deanery
In South Bristol churches come together on the first Sunday of every month to worship together in a ‘Word and Spirit’ service led by local ministers and hosted by a different church each time.
Word and Spirit is an informal service that includes time and space to listen to the move of the Holy Spirit, opportunities to receive prayer ministry and good refreshments and fellowship at the host church.
A welcome event for people new to the church
Malmesbury Abbey hosts a welcome event for people new to the church, held after the 4pm contemporary service for all those who felt that they were new to the church. It brought in pizza and wine and ate in the church at long tables. During the evening members of the Abbey were able to speak with people about church activities and home groups and were able to get to know these new people better.
Sharing hot food with those in need
At Holy Cross, Ashton Keynes, North Wiltshire they run ‘Food For thought’ with the aim of creating opportunities for everyone to experience God’s love and serving the needs of others.
Volunteers from the church offer to hold an item of food in their freezer. (A cake, chicken casserole, shepherd’s pie, or similar). When the co-coordinator hears of a family or person for whom life is tough, she rings the next person on the volunteer list who takes their gift of food to that person to show that the church family cares.
At St Augustine’s, Swindon, they have set up and advertised a mobile phone number to which parishioners can text in a prayer request. These prayers, once filtered, are then used and prayed for during Sunday worship.
Find out more about building a foundation of prayer here.
Big questions café; discussion based outreach
In January, St Peter’s, Chippenham launched “Big Questions Café” in the church hall; an evening of discussion, question asking, sharing (as well as drinking coffee/tea and eating biscuits). The café is a a monthly event with a different topic being discussed each time such as ‘How did the universe begin?’, ‘Did we evolve from apes?’, and ‘Who was Jesus of Nazereth?’. The desire is to stimulate conversation (sometimes provocatively), grant a safe space for questions to be aired and shared, and NOT to provide specific answers.
Running marriage preparation courses
In the parish of Yate, for the marriage preparation course, there is always a printed name card on each table (like a table reservation in a posh restaurant) which adds greatly to the sense of welcome. Members have also discovered that it is important to have background music playing during the discussion times so that each couples’ conversation can’t be overheard by others.
Door knocking in the parish
St Anne's Eastville realised that many who lived quite close to their church still didn't even know that the church existed. To address this the church gathered a group of interested individuals together and walked around the parish. When they reached each street they stopped and prayed for all those living there. They then knocked on doors on the street to introduce themselves (“from the local church”). It often didn’t require any more rehearsed lines because discussion evolved out of the group just being there. If it was deemed appropriate those knocking on the door also asked if the household had any prayer requests and these were then integrated into weekly prayers at the church.
Dealing with issues face to face
"Email is great for communication, as is the telephone. But for Revd Simon Dunn at St Pauls Chippenham, nothing beats face-to-face when responding to issues of difficulty or hurt or misunderstanding. Simon also has a simple card, to leave them with (his most often used card is a “thank you” card, in which he says thank you to them for being who they are). It has meant changing his priorities and sometimes sending apologies for meetings but he has found this approach much more important and beneficial for all as it builds relationship, trust, honesty, openness and humility."
Messy young leaders
Christ Church Downend have participated in the pilot scheme run by Messy Church to grow young leaders. This has involved intentionally investing in and providing leadership opportunities to young people serving on the Messy Chruch team to great effect for both the young people and the Messy Church.
Holy Trinity Horfield launched a "Year of harvesting our gifts" in 2019 after a "Year of Listening". One fruit from this was the transition from rotas into teams for service within the church.
Lay leadership involvement
Westbury On Trym have involved more of the leading lay members of the church in their Leadership Team and involved them in planning and strategic direction processes.
During a time of sabbatical at Frenchay and Stapleton a number of young parents were invited to lead, give talks, or lead prayers at monthly All Age Services. This involvement has continued beyond the sabbatical.
Messy junior leadership
Messy Church in Ashton Keynes is led by 2 year 6s as a joint school- church partnership.
Mutual learning preaching team
St Andrews North Swindon have set up Preaching team with a mutual learning session taking place every two months.
Leadership development programme
Holy Trinity and Saint Stephen's have ensured continued investment in PCC's to develop them as leaders through a Leadership Development Programme. Providing opportunities and a budget to support people in growing as leaders has also been important.
Faith in peoples gifts
St Stephen's Southmead have given opportunities to people for service leading; upfront responsibilities gave a sense of faith in peoples gifts and abilities where lots of people felt more comfortable doing 'behind the scenes' roles.
Encouraging gifts two-by-two
At St Luke the Evangelist in Bridlington the vicar meets with people in two's to encourage their discipleship and gifts. They have also produced a course which is simply a springboard for conversation about prayer, reading the bible and using our gifts.
At Warmley, Bitton and Syston encouraging and mentoring individuals into leadership roles has been significant as they invest in growing leaders.
Hopes and Dreams
In the Braydon Brook Benefice, as part of the 'Hopes & Dreams' initiative, members were asked to consider their gifts, both active and dormant and a result, folk have come forward offering these gifts in the service of God's Kingdom.
Permission to stand down
In the Bybrook benefice people were invited into roles where they displayed a passion - they now have new intercessors and sacristans as a result of this. They also, importantly, allowed people who sought to stand down to do so, without always knowing who would replace them - allowing a new leader to emerge from the shadows!
Count yourself in
St Michael's Stoke Gifford have run regular training sessions specific to areas of Ministry and run a Growing leaders course focused towards young adults. Importantly they have sought to create a 'count yourself in' culture where responsibility is actively given away to others.
Have a go
St James Mangotsfield they have enabled potential leaders to “have a go", whilst also supporting a Licensed Lay Minister in their training.
At St Agnes, Bristol new churchwardens have taken part in training offered by the diocese which was specific to their role. The training and the opportunity to meet with others serving in a similar role has been found to be very helpful.
The By Brook group in North Wilts have spent time reviewing existing role descriptions and creating them for roles for which they didn’t exist. This process has enabled volunteers to have a better understanding of how they can serve effectively and how the benefice of churches values what they do, whilst at the same time helping the benefice office and communications.
Good leadership - Healthy communities
Christ Church Clifton believe that good leadership is key to healthy communities, in the church and beyond. They have invested time and resources in their small community leaders with the aim to nurture and develop leaders of leaders who have the confidence to connect, grow and influence wherever they live, work and serve.
Fuelling the fires of faith
Inspired by an LICC Whole Life Discipleship session which recommended taking people's different personalities and learning styles into consideration when seeking to nurture discipleship, St Peters Henleaze has developed a 'Fuelling the fires of faith' programme. Groups and activities are offered within five streams - Faith in Action (e.g. social justice activity), Faith in Prayer (e.g. Quiet Days, Weekend Retreats, Prayer Groups), Faith in Culture (e.g. Art and Theology sessions, Book Groups), Faith in Community (e.g. 'Running Church' - jogging and reflecting/praying - or mixed social/fund-raising events) and Faith Seeking Understanding ( e.g. The Creed in 6 Sessions and 'Come as you are' Inclusive Church group materials). Further, as an example of a 'one degree shift' which LICC advocates, St Peter's PCC now reviews its business through the lens of this 'Fuelling the Fires of Faith' framework.
Dip your toe in... leadership
In the Stratton Team Ministry, people are encouraged to 'dip their toe in' and try something without obligation to continue if they feel it isn't for them. This has given people the confidence to step forward without fear that they will end up serving for a long time in an area that doesn't fit them.
Planning early for Christmas
"At Malmesbury Abbey, the major choral Christmas services are planned in July. Beginning with the liturgy and readings as the framework, the carols are then chosen to fit the narrative. Forward planning takes some of the pressure off in the lead up to Christmas."
Structuring a PCC with a focus on mission
"At St Andrew's, North Swindon, the PCC meetings are structured around mission with the following formatting: 7.30pm to 7.45pm PRAYER and reflection. Members take time to focus, maybe listen to a piece of music, a Biblical reading, something on a Saint, a reflection, group sharing. More than just a quick led prayer. 7.45pm to 8.30pm MISSION FOCUS (main item for discussion) The PCC has looked at: policies eg Baptism - more than just what is done, but why it is done as it is.; Youth Survey results; parish census data; inviting speaker eg local Fire Officer to talk about safety, Headteacher/chair of Governors; thinking in detail about how members engage with the new developments; designing new website pages etc. 8.30pm to 9.30pm MAINTENANCE/BUSINESS FOCUS which includes minutes, matters arising, correspondence, finance, safeguarding etc.
The PCC has found that it sorts the business more quickly thorugh following this format and the PCC does not have the admin as its focus."
PCC Away Day
The PCC at All Saints Clifton held a PCC away day in spring 2016 where they explored together the strengths of the church and the opportunities for mission that exist in their local community. They then developed an action plan to direct their mission and ministry over the coming years. At the end of the day they held a PCC meeting to formally adopt and commit to those plans.
The PCC Prayer
Every PCC meeting at St Mary's Shirehampton begins with the PCC prayer; an expression of members commitment to one another and the business of the meeting.
It reads: 'Dear Lord, Bless this meeting tonight and all those to come. We pray that we might meet in friendship. Debate with sincerity, Argue honestly, Disagree with civility, Part without enmity and at all times we pray that our thinking may have precedence over our words so that we may listen more than we speak. Should today bring what we neither anticipate nor desire, increase our faith and decrease our pride until we know that, when we face the unexpected, we do not stand alone, for we stand with one another and with you. We pray this prayer in the power of the Holy Spirity and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Parish Leadership Programme
"The Community of Saint Stephen's & Holy Trinity in the centre of Bristol have developed a Parish Leadership Programme for both PCC's, Emerging Leaders & Context Students. This included attending the Global Leadership Summit together, running sessions on Colour Personality Profiling and Spiritual Gifts and hosting Leadership Breakfasts. The programme has helped to increase lay involvement in the worshipping and missional life of the churches. 'Servant Leadership' has been added as a permanent PCC agenda item so that the PCC's continue to reflect on this area of ministry. "
PCC Sub Teams
"St John’s Haydon Wick, Swindon were finding that their monthly PCC meetings were becoming less and less productive and less and less useful to the participants. A great deal of time was being taken up over issues of governance. Whilst finance, fabric and safeguarding are essential subjects to talk about they felt they wanted to be more active in the areas of mission, growth and discipleship. The PCC decided to develop a series of sub-teams comprising both PCC and non PCC members. These sub-teams meet on alternate months and the PCC would meet in the intervening period. Five sub-teams were formed covering the following areas; Finance, fabric and Governance, Prayer and worship, Mission and outreach, Communication and Discipleship Each committee has a chair who is a member of the PCC and all five chairs come together for a meeting of the Ministry Leadership Team (MLT) once every few months. That MLT meeting is preceded by a meal, which is important in helping to develop personal relationships
The church feels that the church leadership is no longer one single pipe pouring water, but a series of five pipes with a lot more water flowing as a result."
Find out more about the CPAS: PCC Tonight training resource here.
Individual approach to growing leaders
In Wroughton and Wichlestowe they found that talking to people individually makes a big difference when seeking to grow leaders. Often when they ask generally for people to step up in certain areas of church life the response is limited because people don't have the confidence to put themselves forward, but when we have personally approached someone to ask them to prayerfully consider a role, they are excited to be involved. Through this they have new children's leaders taking responsibility for the children's ministry at Church at 4 and holiday club and they have new people in leadership on the PCC and on other church committees too.
Building teams to support church life
St Stephens Soundwell began various teams to lead aspects of Church life in 2017. These included: a team of Assistant Church Wardens; teams of people to prepare and lead All Age Worship services; teams of Admin Assistants; a team of Bereavement Visitors; a team of Holy Communion sharers; a team of new Youth Church leaders; a team to lead Baptism Preparation and some 'dreaming dreams' teams who are looking at different parts of church life to see how the church can follow God's lead into the future. This has helped the church to invest in growing leaders and supporting people to use their gifts and skills.
At Christ Church Downend, the leadership team studied Greg Ogden's "Leadership Essentials" each month during 2017 using this to learn from Christ's example of how to lead in a Christ like way. PCC oversight of church life Easton Christian Family Centre has a half-time vicar and partly for that reason we are seeking to actively share leadership responsibility around the PCC. As well as carrying their responsibilities as 'trustees' we encourage PCC members to see themselves as part of the active oversight of church life. Areas of responsibility and tasks to be done are shared.
PCC review of the year
At the first PCC of the year in Yate, the PCC reviews the previous year and where it has got to in implementing the vision. When looking at numbers, such as attendance figures, it uses Excel to visually represent the figures. Because it is visualised, the PCC is far better able to engage with the issues and have a hugely productive discussion about future strategy as a result.
An 'opportunities to serve' roadshow
St Michael’s Stoke Gifford has taken a different approach to gathering volunteers. Instead of asking for volunteers, it provides clearer signposts for the opportunities to serve. As part of a ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline’ preaching series, it put together an ‘Opportunities to Serve’ Roadshow after each of our Sunday services for four weeks. Setting up like a mini Christian Resources Exhibition, space was given towards the end of each Sunday service, continuing into coffee time, for people to move around and chat to designated representatives from a range of ministries. People were able to talk about the various opportunities available to get involved in and serve within the life of the church and wider community.
Find out more about our support for developing the gifts of God's people here.
Leadership team meetings
At Malmesbury Abbey the leadership team meets monthly for an evening of training. At the first meeting of the new year, the team share the things which had struck them from the visiting speakers they had at the previous three leadership evenings. They spend 90 minutes sharing insights, ending in worship. The PCC at All Saints Clifton held a PCC away day in Spring 2016 where they explored together the strengths of the church and the opportunities for mission that exist in their local community. They then developed an action plan to direct their mission and ministry over the coming years. At the end of the day they held a PCC meeting to formally adopt and commit to those plans.
In the Yate and Fromeside Mission Area the churches organised a Youth pilgrimage. The video about this journey can be seen here.
Leading 'Spirit space'
Christ Church Downend have given young people responsibility for planning and leading 'Spirit Space' (alongside an adult team) which draws together younger people once a month from the local area to meet together and worship in creative and interactive ways.
Holy Trinity Horfield have incorporate children into the main Sunday service and introduced a monthly Family Mass.
St Matthews Bristol have given lots of time and resource to their teenagers group ensuring ownership and involvement in the while of church.
Pop-up prayer space
The Fromeside Benefice have produced a 'Pop up' prayer space in their local schools for all the students to enjoy and experience.
Grill the vicar
St Andrew's Chippenham have run "Grill the Vicar" questioning sessions in church for secondary school RE groups, these were really engaging for all involved.
Llamas at Epiphany
All Saints with St John have enhanced and developed the relationship with their local linked school and the school received an 'excellent' SIAMs outcome. The church also held an Epiphany service with live Llamas!
Listening to the voice
Holy Trinity and Saint Stephen's carried out a piece of research listening to the voices of our young people in the churches which was shared with both PCC's. There is a diocesan How to… guide available to support you in doing this.
Church outreach coordinator
St Peters Bishopsworth have continued to reach out to the community through their soft play centre (SPARC), and their carers and toddlers group, Coffee Pot. To support this they have appointed a part time Church Outreach Co-ordinator.
Investment in confirmation prep in the Bybrook benefice enabled the young candidates to really engage with deep questions and be listened to. The candidates were so inspiring to adults the church consequently has adults now considering confirmation.
School based mentoring
St Michael's Stoke Gifford run open youth clubs for young people and provide mentoring for local schools alongside assemblies, RE lessons and a CU.
Corsham have run breakfast services for those who cannot attend the morning service and also hosted a sports afternoon at a local school.
Summer holiday club
St James Mangotsfield ran a summer holiday club for children, as do many other parishes. A large number of children attended and a group of teenagers were involved as young helpers.
Joint Creative Youth Event
Yate & Fromeside Mission Area ran a joint youth event focused on Creation Care called Acts for Eden. The purpose was to create a sense among our young people that they were part of something much larger and to give an inspiring event to which they could invite their friends. By working together we were able to attract a much larger group of young people who made waste bins out of recycling plastic bottles, designed a new altar frontal with hand-prints forming a sun, picked up litter around the town and made a giant collage out of waste materials. One of the main attractions was the making of brief on-line animations to get across their message about the importance of caring for the environment - it released a torrent of creativity from the young people. Working together as a Mission Area team enabled us to put together a much more creative and stimulating event than would have been the case otherwise.
Churches in the Gauzebrook have found Adventure Church a fantastic way to engage with Families, especially those children who want to be more active and explore the glories of God's creation.
At St Martin's Knowle a "poppy project" created over 120 clay poppies with all the young people connected to the church. This involved children from pre-school age, up to older teenagers in our uniformed organisations. As the poppies were being made, we talked about the importance of remembering, and the young people shared memories of people they loved who had died. We also talked about our feelings about war, and peace. The poppies were displayed in the church as part of the centenary events remembering 100 years since the end of the first world war.
At St Mary Redcliffe, Sunday School is a place of warmth, enthusiasm, energy and creativity. This setting has enabled significant growth in discipleship for children and their parents/carers.
Feed the children
St Mary Magdalene, Lockleaze run a 'Feed Lockleaze' programme during the church during holidays. Through this they feed children and give them a time of creative activity which has been an excellent outreach to the community.
Back to church
At St Edyths Sea Mills 14-18 year olds are encouraged back into church on a Sunday morning (they were previously out in their youth group) and as a result they participate in and take opportunities for ministry in services.
Wroughton and Wichlestowe have started a families newsletter which goes out termly to all their baptism contacts and is available for Church at 4 families to give to their friends. It details all that they are planning for that term in a friendly and eye-catching way.
Read our range of How to... guides for effective communications here.
Christening/Baptism service, parental involvement
At St Andrew's, North Swindon, parents are invited to write a prayer for the Baptismal service which is then read by the clergy during the service. They often come up with some wonderfully prayerful additions for the service.
Using glow sticks for christingles
At St John's, Parks and Walcot Swindon, instead of using candles (which have previously been a fire hazard) for the centre of the Christingle orange during services and with school workshops, the church has inserted glow sticks. They are very easy to operate as you just 'break' the stick which sets them glowing for about 24 hours.
Baptisms towards the end of the service rather than at the beginning
"St Paul's Chippenham has begun conducting baptisms towards the end of its morning worship service (once the younger members have returned from their groups), as opposed to the beginning or middle of the act of worship. The baptism now takes place after the Word of God, working on the principle that people are giving their full attention as the Gospel is spoken out. It also means that there is a sense of “building up” to the baptism itself, and this is followed by a final hymn of praise and blessing. The church also offers an advertised number of Baptismal Service opportunities during the year, often enjoying a service of baptism where two or three are baptised at the same time, rather than as a continuous stream of individual celebrations. The church has found this has brought a whole different feel to the journey and sense of joining the community of God."
Find out more about CofE Baptism resources here.
Baptism preparation sessions In the parish of Yate, tea and coffee are offered at the end of Baptism Preparation sessions
Members find this adds to the sense of hospitality and welcome and encourages people to linger and stay. They have found that the best conversations often happen informally with people during this time. Pew based welcome cards for families An interesting idea seen on the internet: Welcome cards were provided in the pews that read: "Welcome to parents of young children. Relax! God put the wiggle in children; don't feel you have to supress those wiggles in God's house. Consider sitting toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to engage. Quietly explain the parts of the service and the actions of the pastors, musicians and leaders. Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses. Children lead behaviour by mimicking you. If you have to leave the Sanctuary with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back. As Jesus said, 'let the children come to me.' A little bit of humour and a positive, fun approach can really help to set people at ease.
See our guide, 'How to... Welcome new families to church'.
Involving Young People at Abbey Skate
"Abbey Skate at Malmesbury Abbey has now been running for eight years. Many of the young people who arrived in the first year as young teenagers, are now helping out as part of the volunteer team. Investing in them and involving them as young voluneers as they have grown has been a key part of the Abbey's work with them through the skate project and they are now role models to the younger teenagers.
See our guide, 'How to... Listen to and involve young people'.
Prayer walking activitiy ideas during Thy Kingdom Come
The North Wilts Mission Area DYNAMO team came up with this Thy Kingdom Come walk and pray activity guide for families. Each day features a different thing to look for and pray about whilst going for a walk.
Making communion accessible to children
To enable children to feel included and involved in the communion service, this church in the Diocese offers them a grape when they come up to the rail, not just a blessing. This makes it a more tangible experience for the children.
Toddler Group launch
"At Malmesbury Abbey, a new baby and toddler group has been launched. Prior to launch, members of the church met with Helen Lock the 'Playtime Co-ordinator' from Care for the Family as well as contacting the local Children's Centre, to gain advice and support before it started. They wanted to make sure that they were not only starting with lots of enthusiasm but also with wisdom. Members also met with the other two church based toddler groups in Malmesbury, to get advice and make sure they weren't going to be running their session at the same time as the others. They spent time designing the logo and making flyers and posters which were then distributed across the community in schools, shops and other toddler groups. Members also used Facebook to advertise both on the church page and a popular local Facebook page.
Further advice can be found in our guide 'How to... Start a toddler group'.
Messy Church Service Pattern
At St James' Church, Mangotsfield, their monthly Messy Church service forms a key part of their monthly pattern of worship rather than operating as an additional or special service. On the Sunday in the month when Messy Church is run in the afternoon, there is no morning worship service as it is replaced by the Messy Church service. This approach highlights to the parish that Messy Church is a valid form of worship for the community at St James' and that all are welcome to participate in this form of worship.
Crib Services with a live donkey!
St Peter's Henleaze has been holding Crib Services on Christmas Eve for 15 years. When the congregation reached 600 (in a 350 capacity church!) they decided to hold two services back to back. In 2016 over 500 attended the first service and around 350 the second. Their distinctive features - all the children are encouraged to dress and be involved as nativity characters, all the songs are either familiar carols (e.g. Little Donkey, Away in a Manger and O Come all ye faithful) or songs set to nursery rhyme tunes. They are also very fortunate in having a live donkey attend the services!
Planning creative family services
When the parish of Yate came to consider their children's ministry they realised that the pattern of church attendance meant that most families attended on average only once a month and if they only held a monthly service, there was a high probability that people would miss the only service on consecutive occasions and begin to feel disconnected. So they made a commitment to run a weekly service but then faced the problem as to how to make it innovative and creative in a sustainable way. It was clear that the Ministry Team didn't have the resource to take this on. The answer came in asking parents to be part of planning teams. Each parent is on a team a maximum of once a month and that team is involved in generating the ideas around a standard format and then delivering the service. The result has been a release of creativity and a lot of energy around the service which has now been running every week (including through school holidays) for more than 3 years. They have also seen some of the parents grow in their faith and commitment as a result with several being baptised, others attending Alpha and one completing the CPAS Growing Leaders course.
Read our How to... guide for all-age worship here.
Young people planning and leading services
Each quarter the Dorcan Sunday club in Swindon (4-9’s) and Ignite group (9-15) alternate leading the monthly all age worship. They are responsible for setting the theme, resourcing material, delivery, liaising with musicians and readers, operating and preparing AV etc. -everything! The groups are fantastic and their perspectives on faith often encourages the church to think in a different way. This gives the youngsters an opportunity to try their hand at leadership, learn from what goes well and not so well, and to find their place as active members of the church. The services are fun and relaxed, and they also connect with our Messy Church outreach as many of the older youngsters are junior leaders at Messy Church and the Messy families who also come to the monthly all age then see these young people living out their faith and teaching the rest of the church. Listening to the voice of young people When the parish of Dorcan in Swindon reviews their activities they intentionally consider the contribution from their youngsters and consider their thoughts on church life. For example: the youngsters run stalls and games at the various fayres; they provided and served lunch to guests at the recent 50th celebrations; they are taking the lead on missional giving by engaging with the congregation to research, present and come to a common mind as to which charities should be supported by the church. The church leadership are trying hard to learn how to think and do things differently with the encouragement, support and gifts of the youngsters.
See more in our How to... guide for helping young people be rooted in the church.
Connecting with local uniformed organisations
St Stephen's Soundwell have been growing connections with the local Uniformed Organisations by building relationships with them in an intentional way. The church visits their groups, investing time in getting to know one another, invites them to be part of “special” services and listens to what they might want from Church rather than focussing on what they think the organisations would want. The church have shared in the organisations leaflet dropping and Church Christmas card delivering, changed the shape of occasional services to be relevant to and engage with those groups who want to come along, and are building friendships with the various group leaders with a view to supporting them in ways they are yet to discover.
Inviting children and families from the School with a personally addressed letter to a Cafe Church Service
The main Sunday morning service on the first Sunday of the month at St Peter's Bishopsworth, is a Cafe Church Service. At this service the Church is rearranged around coffee tables. People collect a coffee as they come in and there is food available on the tables for people to eat during the service. Everything is `bite` size - not just the food but the service itself with different people speaking briefly on the theme and use of videos and songs etc. The service has always been `seeker friendly` but recently a particular focus on inviting the families and children from our church school has been introduced. Each month every child in a year group receives a personally addressed letter inviting their family to the next service so that over the course of a school year the whole school is invited. The theme of the service is the school`s value for the term and we re-present values awards that a child in each class has received.
Saturday morning church drop-in connecting with baptism families
At St Michael's Highworth a saturday morning drop in operates aimed at young families. On offer are crafts, breakfast, newspapers and chat with other families from Church and the community. One of the blessings the church has found is that it has provided them with the opportunity to meet potential baptism families in a non threatening environment, but in the context of the church building and with lots going on around them.
Find out more about resources for CofE baptisms here.
Harvest experience event with the local school
Holy Cross Ashton Keynes, North Wilts ran a Harvest Experience event with Ashton Keynes school. This was based on similar Experience Easter events. For an hour and half children in small groups visited each station and learnt about an aspect of harvest (eg harvest of the sea, harvest of the cupboard, harvest of the land) from a Christian perspective and then were engaged in an activity as part of reflection and applying it in their lives. Each station was linked with a Christian value, for example generosity, God’s faithfulness, thankfulness, patience, joy, one of them the focus of each station. The event ran immediately around the church harvest festival so that the church was still decorated and this was part of our village harvest event. The churh felt that the event helped the children to connect with God, and for the church to connect with its community.
St Edyth’s Sea Mills have started to develop their once a month all-age service to make it more accessible to those in their community who don't regularly attend church. They are actively inviting the mid-week toddler and after schools club along to that service with a view to creating as many stepping stones as possible to make it easier for the community to see what church is all about.
Read our How to... guide for all-age worship here.
"Draycot Benefice have used their choir club to help them to engage with younger generations. This club meets every week during term time at Sutton Benger Church. Children of Primary School age come along to sing together, while parents have the opportunity to chat with one another over a cup of tea and toddlers have space to play. The children enjoy meeting at the church to learn songs, win badges and join in singing games. They also love performing at our local primary school, at community events and on Sunday mornings at the church services in our benefice. This year we have also entered a choir competition and particularly enjoyed singing at the local Scarecrow Festival.
Cakes are provided for everyone and these have become quite a feature of choir club – designs range from spider cakes to unicorns, pandas and dinosaurs!
Recently we asked the parents if they would like us to run choir club with more church helpers, so that they could have an hour of free time; but they said that they would much rather come along to the church and chat with friends over a cup of tea. We are delighted that alongside offering fun and enjoyment for the children, we can also provide a welcome space in our church for their parents and younger siblings. "
The presiding clergy stand at the door of the church and welcome people to the service. They invite the children to give them a high-five on the way in bringing much joy to the children they welcome.
Youth club behaviour principles
On the wall at the youth club is a poster that highlights the 3 ‘behaviour principles’ for the club: Be the best you can be; Respect others; and Respect the equipment. However the poster then explains what these principles practically look like in a range of different settings within the club, i.e. when… "queuing for the tuck shop, playing football, playing computer games, cooking, playing in the garden". Explaining broad principles in practical tangible ways is a great approach to helping the young people to understand how to make the club safe and fun for all.
Messy Church prayer table
At each Messy Church they have a prayer table during the craft time with some creative prayer activity and the chance to ask for prayer. This provides a valuable opportunity for the congregation to pray and request prayer in a Messy Church style.
The 'Find it book'
They have a ‘Find it book’ in the church. The book contains photos of things around the church and children are invited to take the book and explore the church looking for the things in the book. This could work great for after church services, for special events held at the church or for school groups visiting the church. It’s an invitation into a treasure hunt through which children can learn about the building, become comfortable within it and have fun at the same time.
Messy Church question cards
At Messy Church there are welcome cards available at the registration desk. These explain the timings of the event and the theme for the service. Question cards on tables during the food time at the end help the theme exploration to continue over the tea. These questions are then also given on a card for people to take away with them at the end of the service, often accompanied with a small theme related gift which enables the conversations to continue in homes during the week to come.
At St John the Baptist in Colerne, the special monthly activity for children is held on Friday afternoons. It has been named ‘Shine’ by the children themselves and they have designed their own logo for it. There are crafts, songs, a story, prayers, a snack and the session always finishes with a treasure hunt around the church. The treasure hunt reinforces the theme, with the children searching to find hidden pictures or parts of pictures which they need to reassemble. The hunt is really popular and a lively way to complete the session.
Halloween drop-in event
The church in the village of Box have set up a ‘Halloween Drop In’ using the Methodist Church Building which is on the High Street. People drop in whilst they are trick or treating and are served bacon rolls, hot chocolate, sweets and drinks. Fun activities, like eat the mini doughnut off a string, and prayer stations, like lighting a candle or stone in a bucket, are also set up for people to take part in. In 2016 over 200 people dropped in.
Inviting the school to a special harvest event
In Wick, Doynton and Dyrham, a special harvest event was held in the church and every class from the local school came to see it. The displays included:
1. Guinea fowl chicks and an area to do with new life and eggs showing different types of eggs
2. Alpacas wool and a spinning wheel and with some knitted items
3. Fishing nets and fishing rods etc - the pre school made paper fishes which were displayed
4. Different types of grain which the children could grind into flour and some bread to eat
5. A local farmer talking to the children.
6. An empty bee hive and jars of honey - the Toddler group made bees from small pine cones, paper wings and yellow wool which added to the display.
7. A small display to do with milk
There was also a gazebo for the children to sit in and draw / write a prayer of thanks to God for the good things we enjoy.
Community Youth Cafe
Members of Holy Cross Ashton Keynes, North Wilts run a Youth Cafe which has been set up with three aims: to help the church engage with younger generations; to help the church to connect with the community; and to provide young people with a place where they can connect with each other. After leaving Ashton Keynes Primary School, children go to many different secondary schools and find it hard to maintain links with each other. There is no youth provision in the village.
From existing connections, the church set up a weekly youth café on Tuesdays from 4pm to 5.30pm. It is managed by the Holy Cross team along with a young volunteer who is present each week and organises the wii and music. There are parent and community volunteers helping to staff each session. The venue is the back room of The White Hart (the pub is closed at the time). The PCC agreed to underwrite costs of heating and small expenses. The cafe is promoted through school-church-community links to year 6 and year 7 and is very successful, with around 16 to 20 young people each week coming for time together to chat, play table tennis, games or use a wii or table tennis and similar.
It has been so successful that the church hopes to engage a regular paid leader and has recently been awarded a grant from the Malmesbury Area Local Board.
Renewal of giving weekly breakdown
St John's, Haydon Wick Swindon has found getting a global weekly target as part of a Renewal of Giving has proved very effective. The treasurer breaks down the amount required in offerings into a specific weekly figure; this both informs and motivates people into giving generously. The treasurer can then announce in a service whether the church has achieved or even exceeded that figure. For example: “We set ourselves the target of £675 per week and we can tell you that your pledges this year amount to £683.”
Find out more about our stewardship resources here.
Collection cards for standing order giving
Members of the congregation give generously to the mission and ministry of the church through standing orders and as such have nothing to place on the collection plate when the offering is taken. Small cards have now been produced that can be picked up on the way into church. The cards are then physically placed onto the offering plate when it is passed as a symbol of the gift that is made directly into the church’s bank account.
The Parish Giving Scheme
Churches in here are the first in the diocese to launch the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS), which rolls out across the rest of the Diocese from September. This is a nationwide scheme to support giving to churches. The churches in Dorcan have launched the scheme early, because they are running it alongside a series on stewardship and generosity for the first time in over 12 years. Evidence from other dioceses suggests that churches who prepare for PGS with a season on stewardship can see a significant increase in the levels of giving when people move across onto the scheme.
Find out more about the Parish Giving Scheme here.
Giving in Grace
The church us running Giving in Grace. This is a stewardship programme that roots generous giving in sound theology and preaching. They plan to preach about different aspects of generosity across four Sundays; they are inviting house groups to discuss giving; and they are personally inviting people to a wine and nibbles evening to present the church’s shared vision and discuss how to resource it. To support this, the team are producing brochures with a clear gift array to encourage all of the congregation to review their giving, before following up with those who might be slow to respond, and wrapping up with a thanksgiving service in May. To find out more about Giving in Grace materials and to think about how the programme might benefit your church, see www.givingingrace.org.
Find out more about our stewardship resources here.
Heritage Lottery Funding
Both have been awarded substantial grants from the Heritage Lottery Foundation to repair and conserve their buildings. If you’re interested in seeking grant funding for your church, read our " How to... Fundraise for your Project" guide.
Text message giving at Messy Church
How do you encourage generosity in services where you don’t have a offertory segment? At Dorcan's Messy Church they promote text message giving at the registration table. This could also work well at other informal services. Find out more about online giving here: www.parishresources.org.uk/digital-giving.
Friends of the church group
The Friends' Group of St Andrew’s Chippenham was established in 2005, and since its formation has raised more than £60,000 for the church. This has been a significant contribution towards essential repairs to the roof and spire. It’s fundraising events, such as a recent Gilbert & Sullivan evening and an Antiques and Collectables Fair in church, are also a great way for local people to come into the church. If you’re interested in setting up a friends group for your church, check out this page: www.parishresources.org.uk/friends-schemes.
Giving to overseas projects
Church members at St John's Fishponds have formed a group that annually comes up with a visual way of raising funds for overseas projects. This year's project is to buy sheep. The first pillar you come to as you enter the church has been covered with fake grass and, when you buy a sheep, you can then hang a little fluffy sheep on the column. Last year they were buying mosquito nets and had a bed these could hang on.
The £10 Club
To encourage students to think about giving generously to support church, Emmanuel churches have set up a £10 club. Students get a little card with a piggy bank & their pledge on it - and the other side of the card is returned to the church to set up a standing order.