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.

Growing the church in new housing estates

As part of a current project to shape the church in a new housing estate I was reflecting on the tasks facing the person who starts up the work in a new housing area. This is the ‘simple’ job description I came up with:

  1. Welcome and orientation of new residents in the area and networking across churches and community groups (pastoral)
  2. Lead/plan a coherent church response to changes in the area, working with parishes and deaneries (apostolic)
  3. Explain (and model) the distinctly Christian perspective on community – with stakeholders, with developers, with local authorities and local community leaders (teaching)
  4. Identify needs/promote action in the area, especially in the poorest and weakest parts of the local area (prophetic)
  5. Fan the flame of faith and mission inside and outside church (evangelistic)

Underpinning all these activities are the essential skills of administration and leadership, without which the work will lack coherence at best and descend into chaos at worst, with an associated waste of resources that most churches can’t afford.

And it’s worth noticing that this combination of roles are nothing new: it’s a job description that every priest in the Church of England (and any other denomination) should be able to fulfil.

Running on a Heartbeat … or a Programme?

Does anyone else worry in their organisation that the dominance of programmes may hide the absence of a heartbeat?\r\n\r\nProgrammes are imposed from the outside; heartbeats come from – the heart.\r\n\r\nProgrammes bring rotas; heartbeats bring rhythm.\r\n\r\nProgrammes can be avoided; if heartbeats are avoided …

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

…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 …

5 Questions to lead a bible study

Eddie Gibbs, guru to church thinkers worldwide, came across a small community in Australia that used a simple set of questions to guide their corporate study of the Bible. A particular passage would be printed on an A4 sheet of paper as most people didn’t have a Bible, and printing it out put everyone on a level playing field.\r\n\r\nI’ve used these five questions to great effect with Christian and un-Christian groups alike.\r\n\r\nThey are:\r\n\r\nWhat did you like about that passage?\r\n\r\nWhat didn’t you like about the passage?\r\n\r\nWhat didn’t you understand in that passage?\r\n\r\nWhat God say to you out of the passage?\r\n\r\nWhat are you going to do about it?

7 Top Tips for growing Messy Church

It’s a common story. Regular guests at Messy Church are making little or no progress towards becoming more involved in the life of the whole church, and if a growing church is the aim – then Messy Church isn’t working. Many church leaders are now stuck with bacon sandwiches and crafts once a month and are desperately asking: what’s next?\r\n\r\nThere is a key mistake in the way we think of Messy Church.\r\n\r\nTo put it simply, we need to stop seeing Messy Church as an introductory church programme designed to bring people to another, more important programme called ‘Main Church’. And it follows that we need to stop treating guests as attendees in an organization and start treating them as family members in a family.\r\n\r\nWith that in mind, here are my seven top tips for taking Messy Church to the next level.\r\n\r\n1   Appoint a pastor. The pastor will be the focal point for developing a strong community within Messy Church. It may be a member of the clergy or it could be an experienced lay person. It might be a great role for an experienced couple. Whoever it is, the pastor needs lots of time to be the pastor and take responsibility for the welfare and concern of their flock, a flock which may be made up mainly of people who don’t go to church. A word on gender: the pastor could be male or female, but consideration should be given to how to engage the fathers and grandfathers who come with mothers and children and just read the papers. My observation is that fathers are usually much less comfortable at Messy Church.\r\n\r\n2   Localise the goals. As long as the goal is to move ‘attendees’ from one programmed event to another event of some perceived greater importance, then leading Messy Church will tend to be impersonal and remote. Instead, set growth goals local to the group. Are friendships growing across the group, do people know each other better this year than last, do they care for each other?  What is the quality of community we are building? Have we pitched our worship at an appropriate level to move on their discipleship? Focus on growth that is possible within the group this year.\r\n\r\n3   Make it personal. Encourage community growth by creating opportunities for people to really get to know each other. Plan times where families can share BBQs, go for walks on Bank Holidays, babysit for each other, learn the names of each other’s children. We say it but don’t believe it: most people need to belong before they believe. In  patient parish ministry we weave a community together over a long time, and the richness of this work depends on our ability to step outside the church walls. In this work Messy Church is a gift. It gives us an natural, fresh opportunity to deepen the quality of our community, but it only happens when people are in close proximity for extended periods of time.\r\n\r\n4   Be personally vulnerable. If Top Tip 3 is Make it Personal, the next has to be make it personal – to you. This is possibly the hardest thing do. In general church leaders want Messy Church to grow through organization and they really, really don’t want to commit to a new set of deep relationships. There simply isn’t time. But the reality is that the true cost of effective leadership is not in organizing a well run event – that’s easy. The real cost  is in the time it takes to become friends. If you never allow people to cross your own personal thresholds then you can never grow a church of deep and high quality community. It’s tough. It’s not only time consuming, it places demands on the whole family, and it can be the source of personal pain and disappointment. But it is an important key to growing Messy Church. Pick leaders who will make leading Messy Church their sole ministry, and be clear about the sacrifice required – in personal time, friendships and church attendance.\r\n\r\n5   Be clear about identity. Rather than hoping to surreptitiously slide people from Messy Church to Main Church, be clear about the identity and limitations of Messy Church. Say up front that Messy Church is a great opportunity for whole families to take part in a simple act of worship, but that it’s only one small part of what mature Christ-followers do. Promote church events. Talk up teaching programmes being used across the church. Invite people to opportunities for deeper worship, for family ministry, for discipleship. Help people see that they belong (not just attend) to something with a clear identity, but which is part of something bigger and richer.\r\n\r\n6   Challenge personal growth. Also be clear about the call and expectations of every Messy Church member in the light of the gospel. Just as we would encourage every-member ministry in the Main Church, so we should create opportunities for personal growth at Messy Church. Ask people to read out loud, to invite their friends to special events, take part in service planning, even to pray in public. We have to create opportunities for the group to serve each other.\r\n\r\n7   Integrate with the whole church. A strong identity allows Messy Church to stand-alone so that people can belong, but we should then create clear opportunities to join and serve the larger church community. This may mean joining in significant acts of worship or other community events, or taking part in leading some aspect of whole-church life, perhaps helping organize a family day or the Christingle service or the summer fair. Plan integration carefully to make sure it happens.\r\n\r\nAll these tips come down to one main point about dedicated leadership in Messy Church:\r\n

Leading Messy Church should be the most important ministry for those that do it. It cannot be a clip-on ministry playing second fiddle to something more important.

\r\nWill it work? I have grown house groups, Alpha courses, nurture groups, pastorates and churches, and all of the above tips have played a key part in every group that’s grown.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nWritten over two weeks in various places, finished in Neros Clifton

Problems with Pioneers – Revex v Capex Funding

Where does the money for organisational growth come from?\r\n\r\nIn business, the first place to look for new project funding is usually from revenue; can growth be funded out of revenue expenditure – or revex?\r\n\r\nBut increasing revex without increasing income reduces profit, and depending on the speed of return from the new investment this lower bottom line can cause problems in cash flow, confidence and shareholder patience.\r\n\r\nSo can new project funding be justified out of capital expenditure – or capex?\r\n\r\nIt depends. While capex is limited usually to acquiring or improving physical assets, it may be sometimes possible to use capex to start a new business to grow the company.\r\n\r\nBut again the bottom line is – the bottom line: in broad terms any capex investment reduces reserves and unless it can be proven that the investment is either acquiring a genuine asset or creating an opportunity for a certain return, why risk it?\r\n\r\nSo if growth can’t be funded from revenues, asset management or cash reserves, that leaves outside investment from increasing shareholder cash, or increasing debt by borrowing. Again, the simple question has to be asked: why would anyone want to do it? Is it realistic? A good rule is: if it’s such a good idea – borrow from the bank. If that’s a problem, then there’s a bigger problem with the idea.\r\n\r\nNow think about a local church wanting to start a pioneer ministry. How can they pay for it?\r\n\r\nWhat about revex? The reality is that most churches are on the breadline, and don’t have surplus money from income to invest.\r\n\r\nWhat about capex? Again, not realistic as most local churches have no strong cash reserves, and even churches with assets find it difficult to reorganise long term assets to release extra funds in the amounts needed to support a pioneer ministry.\r\n\r\nWhat about Head Office investment – in the Church of England this would be the diocese. Would they invest? Well, how would they? Why would they? With voluntary income generally reducing, value of investments declining, and increases in costs only being mitigated by reducing clergy numbers, what compelling argument can be made to fund some new venture with (usually) untried pioneers?\r\n\r\nWhich leaves ‘shareholder’ investment – raising funds from organisations or individuals either inside or outside the church. And that raises rather complicated questions of ownership – who’s buying what and who eventually owns what?\r\n\r\nSo. Want to be a pioneer? Then more likely than not you’ll have to find your own support.\r\n\r\nThe Apostle Paul understood 2,000 years ago that it’s better this way.