In a previous post I promised some thoughts on the way ahead so here goes:
Home Mission depends on voluntary contributions from churches. In the last couple of years the Union has changed its appeal to encourage each church to give 5% of income to Home Mission. I’m sure this is the right strategy; it has the benefit of simplicity, long term resilience and clarity. But targets are poor motivators, they send signals to churches but don’t inspire people to generous, sacrificial giving. A target is also a blunt instrument because churches react to them differently, in particular the larger the sums of money the more the effectiveness of giving is open to question. [For these and other reasons I think we should not presume that Home Mission income will rise significantly over the next five years].
Home Mission money is spent in two main areas. The first is providing resources and support to local churches through the Union’s offices based in Didcot and through the local Associations and Regional Ministers. It’s not easy to reduce expenditure here as lots of energy has been spent on trying already. I think we will need to reduce the number of regional staff to about 2.5 people per association (which will require realism and clarity about the roles and tasks performed) and limit the work done in Didcot; which will mean that good pieces of work are not done. The second area is in direct grants to churches so they can support ministers and here we need to be more robust. Giving grants to churches to support ministers and should remain the priority; but which churches and which ministers? We need to be more reluctant to give grants to long established churches and more keen to be entrepreneurial.
Or is there a more excellent way?
Rather than giving a number of smaller grants to churches what if we gave grants to larger churches! If our church had a grant we could then have a mission enabler on the ministerial staff. This would directly impact our own mission but also enable us to resource, develop and encourage other churches in the area. As a team we would have a range of people and giftings to share with other churches; evangelistic, pastoral, teaching as well as strategic leadership skills. It would not be popular with many but would create a network of flourishing churches; well resourced, focused on mission in their immediate local area; sharing gifts between large and small, financially rich and poor, urban, suburban and rural. It would encourage church planting, build committed relationships between churches and put resources into areas which are seeing growth.
The risk is that the alternative to change is to give grants to struggling, declining and dying churches; where a grant simply delays the inevitable demise. Or, more positively, to give grants to situations where there’s lots of potential but not the network of support which needed for them to flourish (or that the support required comes from the Association staff, thus requiring more staff and more grants……..)
So how about we think the unthinkable and do something radical?