“Mission-shaped” series

Following the publication of the ‘Mission-shaped church’ report, the Church of England took an important step forward in its understanding of God’s mission. A series of books have been produced to resource thinking, reflection and action as this journey continues. These books include:

parish“Mission-shaped parish – traditional church in a changing context”, Paul Bayes and Tim Sledge et al, Church House Publishing, 2006, ISBN 9780715140833  

This book looks at a typical parish church’s worship, pastoral contacts, civic and public responsibilities, its faith nurturing opportunities, administration and government and points to how all of this can be seen from the point of view of God’s mission.  This book looks at the five values that Mission-shaped Church sees as vital (focussed on God the Trinity, incarnational, transformational, makes disciples, is relational) and how the daily life of the parish can have these values.  It highlights that there are no quick answers and that there is a need for churches to ask the right questions in their own contexts before working out how God’s mission needs to shape their church.

spirituality“Mission-shaped spirituality – the transforming power of mission”, Susan Hope, Church House Publishing, 2006, ISBN 9780715140802

This book is helpful for those who want to reflect on what goes on inside us when we go in mission, of who we become when we embark on mission and how we are changed and how the Church might be changed.  Its focus is on the internal dynamics of our church life and our individual life.  It is a book of questions rather than answers, but it is full of contemporary stories of mission to trigger responses.

Fresh Expressions

Following the publication of the report ‘Mission-shaped church’, in which the term ‘Fresh Expressions was coined, the Church of England and the Methodist Church have used is as a  way of describing the planting of new congregations or churches which are different in ethos and style from the church which planted them; because they are designed to reach a different group of people than those already attending the original church. There is no single model to copy but a wide variety of approaches for a wide variety of contexts and constituencies. The emphasis is on planting something which is appropriate to its context, rather than cloning something which works elsewhere.

There are lots of books about Fresh Expressions as well as those critiquing and evaluating Fresh Expressions, but to develop an understanding of Fresh Expressions  in terms of theology and missiology as well as in practical outworking, the Fresh Expressions site is a good place to start.

Church Army Resources:

Encounters on the Edge was a series of quarterly booklets from Church Army’s Research Unit, exploring the wide range of church plants and fresh expressions to come out of the Anglican Church in recent years. It ran from 1999 to 2012, reaching a total of 56 issues.  These cover a wide range of topics from looking at what church for those struggling with addiction might look like to church for those with learning difficulties as well as theological reflections on mission.  The full list can be found here. 

Its online downloadable successor is Snapshots – Stories From the Edge. You can read more about Snapshots here.

Pioneering leadership

starting“Starting, assessing and sustaining pioneering mission”, Steve Hollinghurst, Grove Books, 2013, ISBN 9781851748570

“Pioneer approaches to mission are by nature risky and unpredictable, but can yield unique ways of reaching new contexts and non-churched people, if given the time and space to explore the ground and to develop to suit the needs of those they seek to serve.”

This booklet offers insights and advice to those involved in this ministry – pioneers, permission-givers and local churches – to give pioneering mission projects a better chance to succeed.  It looks at the process required in setting up a mission project – is one needed, relationships between managers and pioneers who often do not get along, missiology and legal issues.

Five phases of pioneering mission are identified:

  1. Exploration (6 months – 1 year): Being present, listening and discovering; finding where people are; resisting the pressure for results and developing naturally
  2. Building relationships (6 months to 1 year): ‘learning the language’ and understanding the culture of people; discovering where God is at work; creating partnerships; starting slowly
  3. Spiritual companionship (2 – 3 years): establishing groups for worship and discipleship; sharing a spiritual cause and space together
  4. Building Christian community (4-5 years): leading to a community that is self-financing, self-governing, self-reproducing, self-theologising.
  5. Reproducing Christian community (5 years +): helping new Christians to be missionaries, identifying leaders, handing over.

A set of self-assessment questions are provided at the end of each session.

This book is very helpful both for anyone setting up a pioneering mission project or already involved in one, particularly with its reminder that these projects take time to develop!

Pioneering Leadership“Pioneering Leadership – disturbing the status quo?”, Dave Male, Grove Books Ltd, 2013, ISBN 9781851746668

This book suggests that part of the answer to addressing the decline that is predicted in the Anglican church is pioneering leadership.  This form of leadership is seen as following the lead of Jesus to break new ground, communicating the gospel to new communities in new ways.  The aim of the book is to help leaders identify whether pioneering is or could be part of their ministry, and suggests a spectrum of pioneering leadership styles that might be appropriate to them.

Ten common traits of pioneering leaders are identified, although not all leaders will necessarily have all of these: they are people who are first and they love firsts; they are on the edge; they enjoy taking risks; they like people; they are robust characters; they know when to stay or go; they know when to bring order or chaos; they are often thinking about moving on; they are dissenters challenging the status quo; they are able to reflect, connect and not know.

The book looks at pioneers as apostles (an early church model) and entrepreneurs (a business model).  The key issues that pioneering leaders face are addressed: managing expectations, measuring success, watching out for the default position; knowing who to pass the baton on tow and when; the danger of isolation; taking tough decisions.  The support that pioneering leaders need is also considered.

The final conclusion is an encouraging story of a deanery gathering of leaders who were pioneering new things – there were 12 people present including two vicars, two curates and a churchwarden.  They spoke of nine different congregations or fresh expressions that they had started in the past four years.  These were creative, faith-filled, God- inspired pioneering leaders at work who were developing new communities in a variety of different contexts.  They were not all ‘professional’ pioneers, simply leaders who were responding to mission by being creative and responding to each context as appropriate.

Social action, creation and mission

Three of five marks of mission refer to loving service, transforming unjust structures and safeguarding the integrity of creation.  Many young adults are passionate about these areas and this may be a fruitful area for mission.

Some random resources!

just church“A Just Church – 21st century Liberation Theology in Action”, Chris Howson, Continuum, 2011, ISBN 9781441199928

This book poses the question ‘what does liberation theology actually look like in 21st century Britain?  How can the Church respond faithfully to issues like war, climate change and vast global inequalities?  It tells the story of a ‘fresh expressions’ church in Bradford that has explored these questions through radical forms of worship, non-violent direct action and new ways of building community that help to advance the reign of God.

See also ajustchurch.blogspot.co.uk

cart_d8d98382-4f95-4ea5-8533-17118f4e4c57_1024x1024“I heard it through the grapevine – developing a social mission project within the local church”, Stephen Kuhrt, Grove Books, ISBN 9781851748938

How can churches engage meaningfully with the needs of their local context, beyond the confines of their existing congregation?

Rooted in a robust biblical theology for the gospel priority of social mission, Grapevine is an example of a community project that set out to combat poverty and injustice by offering love “with no strings attached.” The story of its conception, establishment and evolution—as well as lessons learnt, not least the journey taken by the church congregation—can offer instructive encouragement for those grappling with this very question.

pi_17504_449e3a81-72e9-47f2-8797-ec28f05049cb_grande“Good News Story Workshops: Based on the Five Marks of Mission”, Janet Hodgson, Grove Books

This booklet describes Good News Story workshops which are a quick way of checking the extent to which any church or fresh expressions group is involved in mission and evangelism.  Based on the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion, these workshops provide a tool to assess how these five marks are being met in any particular mission activity.


Free school meals make a huge difference to almost 2 million children in the UK but when schools are closed so are the kitchens… MakeLunch is a network of churches working to fill the holiday hunger gap.  This could be a practical form of mission to young adults with children living in poverty.  Details are on the Makelunch website.

imagesForest Church

Many people can describe transcendent moments in nature where they feel deeply connected to something bigger than themselves and Forest Church is a way to explore that connection within community. Forest Church is a fresh expression of church drawing on much older traditions when sacred places and practices were outside – but it is also drawing on contemporary research that highlights the benefits of spending time with nature in wild places. Forest Church isn’t just normal church happening outside, instead it attempts to participate with creation. And it isn’t just a fellowship group doing an outside activity, we aim to learn, worship, meditate, pray and practice with the trees, at the spring, along the shore….  There is more information at the Forest Church website and a book by Bruce Stanley, available from the Forest Church website.