Project Proformas for Charity Projects

“How can charities and churches develop Good Ideas for Local Projects?” was the question some of us asked last year as we thought about how a group of local churches could have an impact on Nine Elms on the South Bank.

To facilitate this further I developed a proforma to guide the thoughts of creatives and leaders through an analytical process to determine the focus, cost and time required for a typical project.

Two examples are shown here, one for a Centre for Spiritual and Personal Development, and one for a Family Hub to serve some local estates. Forfor a working copy to use email me at and I’ll send you a copy.

church growth in small communities

 … on small churches that don’t know what they’re doing …

“Let’s see now,

Electoral Role: 45
Average Attendance: 33
Three services (variety increases opportunity to ‘pick-n-choose’)

so …
9.30am (communion): 10 people
11.00am (all age): 20 people
6.00pm (communion): 3 people.
Looks OK.
Young people: none, but there’s nothing we can do about that.
Offerings: always taken (declining income but well managed cash flow)

Building: tick.
History: lots of it, tick.
PCC: 5 times a year.
AGM: tick.

Anything missing? Nope. So that’s one big TICK.

Boy, we’re a good church!”


The 4 principles of church planning in major redevelopments

For decades Battersea Power Station has been a derelict icon but now it is at the heart of the largest redevelopment area in central London. Covering nearly 500 acres, the redevelopment of the Nine Elms Vauxhall will include the new American embassy and more than a dozen new sky scrapers. Over 35,000 new residents will to come to live in the area and 25,000 new jobs will be created.

All this will take place in two parishes served by two small inner city churches in the poorest communities in Wandsworth and Lambeth. These parishes will double in size in the next ten years to over 60,000 residents and they will then include some of the wealthiest people in London.

How can two small churches survive when the ministry demands are so great? Here is an initial stab at an answer – four principles of mission planning in major redevelopment areas:\r\n

Principle 1:
It’s Who not What

Planning for growth starts with focusing not on physical changes taking place in an area but on the clergy, area deans and leadership teams who already serve in local parishes and deaneries. The task is to facilitate a collaborate approach to mission and ministry so that churches can become the hub of community building as the area changes. Some key activities to help this process are:\r\n

  1. Create structured opportunities for local parish priests, area deans and their respective teams to step outside their busy schedule and reflect on opportunities and new ideas
  2. Put new ideas into a wider local context of change in the area to help parishes broaden their Mission Action Planning process
  3. Maintain project momentum. The timescale for most large redevelopment projects is rarely less than ten years, so find ways to keep church teams engaged with the project.
  4. Develop a strong network of local influencers and power brokers, both inside and outside the church, so as to remain broadly informed and aware of new possibilities and developments

Principle 2:
It’s Leadership First not Strategy First

Finding the right people to lead strategic mission development is more important than trying to design a strategy first and hoping someone will deliver it. The problem is how to facilitate growth at times of rapid urban change and local clergy do not always have the skills to respond to major urban projects. So the two key question to ask before establishing a strategic project are ‘who will drive the project, and what authority will they need to make the project happen?’

Principle 3:
It’s Large and Small not Large or Small

We can no longer expect the local parish church to resource and deliver the levels of engagement demanded by many modern major developments. Planning has to be for 30-40 years, not the 7-14 years most parish priests typically stay in post. Major projects have to be delivered by a partnership between diocese, parish and deaneries. In other words, an integrated strategy must develop from the ground up and top down at the same time.

Principle 4:
It’s Project Time not Church Time

Most of church life is designed around seasonal, weekly and daily rhythms. Major urban redevelopment is not. Redevelopment projects have their own pace, which can at times mean nothing happens for years, and at other times the change is too fast to keep up with. In this context mission practitioners need to tune in to the pace and speed of the project. There will be key moments, perhaps a community consultation or a key high level political meeting, and the successful practitioner has to identify these moments and be ready to make the most of the opportunity.

These four principles have been developed from observations of the real work undertaken in Nine Elms on the South Bank. If there’s a fifth principle, it is that learning must be transferred.

Managing Ministry Areas in large churches

A recent move forward in our church building programme forced us to backtrack for a moment (ironically) and ask the question:

How should we consult nearly 700 people on the church data base and an additional 100 or so regular attendees about what they think of the existing buildings?

The complexity became obvious very quickly:

30 or so ministries are split into teams around four main Sunday services and a couple of dozen midweek activities using any one of over 30 rooms. Some groups support main activities and some deliver main content. We have (it turns out) a tea towel rota, which I suppose is obvious (it can’t be fairies or angels) and a grass cutting rota, as well as rotas for preaching, music, food, hosting, and on and on …

This sprawling mass of people loosely formed around ad hoc lists of dates, times and telephone numbers didn’t help us shape an effective consultation, so first we had to design a simple structure to contain the information. To be more accurate, we added design to what was already practically happening, grouping ministries under appropriate headings. The diagram below is my simple solution – 6 ministry areas based on FOCUS.

This sort of thinking is not only useful for large churches I’m sure – many small organisations and churches need to manage complexity – and I’d be interested to know how others manage ministry areas … something for future research.


Parables of Leadership: Late Bob

Bob was a leader. He had strong values which had been developed over a few years of leadership. He shared his views about many subjects often and easily with people around him  (reflecting his values of openness and authenticity) but he  mostly shared his views about other members of the organisation (a high value on honest confrontation) and how they always resisted change and so would never grow personally or corporately (optimism wasn’t a key value for Bob).

Bob was in a team and Bob was always late. He never arrived on time for anything the team organised, and sometimes he didn’t arrive at all.

The team wanted to share Bob’s values but they also wanted him to appreciate theirs. They valued courtesy, restraint, consideration and kindness. But especially they valued their own time, and respecting other through promptness was one of their key values.

Bob’s carelessness over respecting their values made them sometimes wonder about Bob’s ….

No Action – No Change

I was recently discussing with a friend the tendency in organisations to TALK about ISSUES rather than ACT to solve PROBLEMS.

Teams tie themselves in knots wrestling with high level issues (which can never be fully resolved) and either no longer see local problems or won’t act on smaller problems in the fear of contradicting some higher level values. In either case, they have forgotten how to act to act quickly to solve presenting problems.

This friend had spent much of his working life in the military and told me about the OODA Loop, also known as the Boyd Diagram after Colonel John Boyd, a fighter pilot and military strategist. Boyd deconstructed the process of combat and realised that if he could cycle and recycle through four  activities quicker than the enemy he would win the fight.

The activities are:

  • Observe
  • Orientate
  • Decide
  • Act.

The essence is ACTION: nothing changes until the action is executed. Until then either nothing changes or the enemy strikes first.

My experience of most organisations is that they are more comfortable in Observe and Orientate and have a reticence Decide and Act to solve the problems waiting to be done.Here’s the OODA Loop:

The Boyd Diagram

12 Churches – 5 Points to Making Sunday Special

I recently had the opportunity to visit a wide range of different churches for their Sunday morning services. 12 of them. From Anglo Catholic to Brethren to New Wine to New Frontiers. The project (it became a project after about four churches) started with a simple invitation from two friends to visit the churches they lead. We enjoyed this variety so we went for a third church, and then a fourth, and then it became a project.

By the fourth church we had a routine, which was: agree a church, go to the church, go to the closest cafe to the church after the service, and discuss what we had just experienced. I made notes, but was after the sixth visit that I started to tabulate our observations. The more we saw and thought, the more we started to find it difficult to record the complexity of a ‘simple act of worship’ on a Sunday morning.

For example, we noticed how often it was difficult to find a parking space, or the front door, or a welcome. It became clear quite quickly that a morning service was not necessarily more liberated or creative where there was no written liturgy. In fact, almost all the churches not using a formal liturgy had a similar ‘deep structure’, that is, a similar pattern of music (same songs, same style) and speech.

Sometimes we were deeply uncomfortable, and although these times were few it was disturbing none the less to find ourselves ‘out of sorts’ with some churches. Other times we just felt as though we were there to ‘have church done to us’ by leaders who wanted us to be just … different people. The exercise required endless curiosity; without that it would have been a lesson in sameness.

Tabulating the different aspects of our experiences eventually became unwieldy, so to finish ‘The Project’ I wrote an Executive Summary with two basic rules:

  1. it had to fit on one side of A4 paper
  2. it had to result in Action Points; it must not be simply observational.

The result was a simple list of five of the most important points selected from many. Each point has one introductory sentence; one thought to expand it, and one action point dealing with each area.

The five points covered these areas, and expanded in five short blogs to follow:

  1. Values
  2. Creativity
  3. Accessibility
  4. Complexity
  5. Preaching

Christian Workplace Communities

This week’s highlight had to be the opportunity to speak at a lunchtime event at Battersea Power Station. The main topic was Christian community, especially as it applied to Christians on the redevelopment workforce as they start to meet together to pray and reflect on their work. If you’re interested click on the text below …