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.

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.

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

A New Parish Church?

We hear a lot about new models of church planting, and the benefits of ‘network’ churches formed around networks of people. Establishing a new parish church along traditional lines is generally out of favour, because of the initial set up cost – the Church of England no longer has the resources available to it in the 19th century – and the running costs to future generations.\r\n\r\nBut if I could get hold of sponsors/investors or some discounted D1 community space I would go for it, a new parish ministry built around a sustainable multi-use facility. Why? Because for all it’s faults a good parish church works beyond networks and responds to the the particular grain of its surroundings. This offers great opportunities for effective service.\r\n\r\nAnd who else would do it?\r\n\r\nSomething like this. (For zoomable image click here …)\r\n\r\nBANE - PROPOSAL FOR A NEW CHRISTIAN

Emerging Communities Group

The Emerging Communities Group has come out of my work to build community and support mission in Battersea and Nine Elms, the largest redevelopment site in London. With over 30,000 new residents and 25,000 new workers moving to the area in less than ten years, how can these new communities flourish? And what about existing inner city communities, and churches? We’re looking for members, sponsors and collaborators … (zoomable version here …)\r\n\r\nEMERGIN COMMUNITIES

Mapping Mission Opportunities in Bradley Stoke

A number of conversations took place in 2011/2012 about how the Anglican churches of Bradley Stoke could reorganise to improve their mission and work in the area, including changing the parish boundaries.\r\n\r\nAfter a significant period of research and reflection I was able to start mapping (literally) mission opportunities in the area and a strategy started to emerge.\r\n\r\nFive opportunities for effective work emerged, including creating an education hub to serve the 12 schools in the parish, and developing a strong ministry to families, who make up nearly all of the 27,000 people in parish.\r\n\r\nThis document is a brief working example of how large and complicated parishes might start to consider mission through attention to detail in the urban fabric.\r\n\r\nIt is still only a first draft and it has not been refined by local collaboration, which is essential in mobilising the whole church in effective service.\r\n\r\n

How many theologians does it take to turn the light on? Part 2 – William Temple

The blog How many theologians does it take to turn the light on?  Part 1”  implies that when we argue about faith we are for the main part misguided.\r\n\r\nWe argue with the wrong people (imaginary ones who mainly exist in our heads) and on the wrong subjects (questions not being asked by most people) and in the wrong way (without connecting our heads and our hearts).\r\n\r\nThe approach a person takes towards faith is rarely through argument alone. Otherwise how would the church grow in places where intellectual argument is not the currency of daily life. And yet surprisingly the church does grow in less educated communities around the world. (As an aside, it begs the question: why are the largest Churches in the Church of England almost exclusively middle class? I think it’s mainly due to a misunderstanding about the central work of the Holy Spirit in the miracle of faith).\r\n\r\nAnyway, on the question of argument, William Temple put it best and put it this way:\r\n

“I do not suppose that any man has ever lived who began actually to practice any religion on intellectual grounds alone. And for ninety-nine people out of a one hundred the importance of the intellectual statement is rather that it removes barriers to their spiritual activity than it ever launches them upon it.


But there are some problems (although I believe in fact there is only one) which fall within the field of philosophy and genuinely hinder from worship those who would desire to offer it. That one is the problem of evil. The others I believe to be conundrums asked in a spirit partly of levity and partly of the search for an excuse that the claim made by the Gospel upon our allegiance may be avoided.


If any of you are supposing that you are definitely hindered from trusting God by purely intellectual doubts, I want to ask you how much you want to trust him. Because if you do not want to trust him or find a god to trust, then no amount of argument will lead you to it. And the desire must be kindled some other way than by argument.


But if you do desire it, even if you desire it only because you have seen what it means in the lives of some other people, then you will be right to sift and test as rigorously as you can by the activity of your mind the case that is put forward for belief in God. And at least you will become aware whether your faith is something that you can present rationally or is something to which you are still holding (as, when all is said and done, some of the greatest saints have held to it) even though you can find no clear balance of reason in favour of it.”

\r\n(from Basic Convictions; Harper and Brothers, 1936)

…on Augustine working with the English

By the time Augustine was consecrated in Gaul as the ‘Archbishop of the English’ in 597 he had already made a good start as a missionary. Within a few months of arriving in England he had baptised Ethelbert, King of Kent.\r\n\r\nAugustine was sent as Apostle to the English by Pope Gregory the Great, who showed the quality of his strategic mission leadership by sending a team to these distant islands.\r\n\r\nAlongside his strategic foresight Pope Gregory also offered a shrewd spiritual insight, perhaps to help Augustine keep his task in perspective over the long haul. He passed on this message to the Archbishop:\r\n\r\n“Tell [Augustine] what I have, upon mature deliberation on the affairs of the English, determined upon, viz: that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed but let the idols that are in them be destroyed. There is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds: because he who endeavors to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps.”\r\n\r\nIt’s good advice for today’s mission focused communities. Here are some lessons:\r\n


  1. discerning strategic leadership was at the heart of successful mission then … and so it is it is now.
  2. \r\n

  3. this strategic leadership should be carried out by Archbishops at a national level and Bishops at a regional level, but also by vicars and their leadership teams at a local level.
  4. \r\n

  5. successful mission is not only the product of strategic planning, and it necessarily requires a ‘mature deliberation’ of the people and culture in which it is carried out.
  6. \r\n

  7. the key issue in mission is rightly identified by Pope Gregory the Great as idolatry. Mission is primarily a matter of worship not apologetics.
  8. \r\n

  9. … and we should generally expect to move forward by degrees or steps and not [usually] by leaps and bounds.
  10. \r\n

\r\nAnd of course, in the end there is always someone who has to risk something …