Making sense of change

Posted by Tim Ling on 18th March 2017

phone box and mobile phone

In February I attended the Diocesan Church Growth conference where I got to hear exciting stories about church growth. One common theme, amongst others, was change:

  • How it was painful
  • How it may be managed
  • How some got left behind...still using phone boxes

Later in the month I was at General Synod where the House of Clergy discussed clergy wellbeing and there were a whole range of fringe meetings or stands supporting the theme:

The two themes, change and wellbeing, are not unrelated. Culture change whether that promoted by a diocese’s church growth strategy or the Synod’s ‘Setting God’s People Free’ involves personal transformation. Transformation that doesn't come without cost, especially when navigated at the same time as significant life transitions. The national CMD Panel has advocated since at least 1980 in its report The Continuing Education of the Church’s Ministers GS Misc 122 that dioceses should in part for this reason particularly attend to clergy’s continuing development at transitions throughout ministry. Change can be particularly costly for those who have been in ministry for significant years and are being explicitly asked to ‘reimagine’ that ministry by the Archbishops’ Council. Dioceses have a responsibility to help their clergy to make sense of change.

One response from dioceses has been to offer a number of programmes under a range of titles:

Living Well, Fulfilling God’s Call, Celebrating Wisdom, Renaissance Ministry, Renewing Vision Renewing Ministry, For Everything There is a Season, Ministry Re-Called and Celebrating Ministry.

The CMD Panel last reviewed provision in this area in 2010 and you can find our report on the Ministry Transitions page. We are currently revisiting this work and will be publishing an update to this report after Easter. The great news is that there is plenty of creative provision available to learn from. There are also particular challenges. These include:

  • Patterns of service and demographics
  • Availability of resources
  • Cohort sizes
  • Capacity of dioceses to collaborate
  • And, why just for the clergy?

I reflected on these challenges earlier this month when I met with diocesan officers from the Northern Province. It was great to explore how we can enhance provision in this broad area. It's a work in progress. Whilst you're waiting for our update I can heartily recommend three resources to stimulate your thinking, and, if you're currently navigating change perhaps to help make sense of what may be going on (links take you to reviews):

Alongside the challenges I’ve heard some really powerful stories about the impact of these diocesan programmes,for example Phil Stone's experience:

Having been in Parish Ministry for 20 years, I was pleased, if not a little intrigued, to be invited onto the 'Renewing Vision, Renewing Ministry' course. The course was a mixture of retreat, coaching, as well as noticing and reflecting on the God-given narrative that flows deep within me. This was an affirmation that gave me the courage to begin an adventure to establish the new Scargill Community to be a resource for renewal for individuals and churches particularly in the North. The course was timely as it endorsed what I was being drawn towards, and encouraged me to make a significant change in my ministry.

It is great to hear such stories about the impact of CMD provision. If you have a story that you’d be prepared to share I’d be really pleased to hear from you. I'm meeting with the Northern Province Directors of Ministry on the 23rd March to continue our conversations, if you have any thoughts either as a participant, or as a practitioner providing support in this general area, do get in touch or comment below.



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