Connecting, Caring, Celebrating
Harnessing gifts, passions, and opportunities to grow God’s Kingdom across the Stroudwater Team
This Five-Year Strategic Plan has been the combination of discussions and consultations from across the Stroudwater Team. A Five-Year Plan was initially published in December 2020 and circulated to all PCCs for discussion and comment, with broad agreement to the proposals in principle.
PCCs would have ideally met collectively over the last 6 months, but COVID-19 restrictions have caused difficulties to meet as small and large gatherings, whilst also appreciating not everyone is comfortable with using Zoom as an alternative.
Since February 2021, Ecclesia has been developing the proposals to formulate a specific and cohesive plan. Following weekly meetings for the last four months via Zoom, this Five-Year Strategic Plan is the result of their detailed discussions and is now being formally presented to PCCs for approval.
I hope and pray that as you digest the information contained within the Five-Year Strategic Plan, you will embrace the exciting opportunities which are being proposed, thereby growing God’s Kingdom across the Stroudwater Team.
Why the need for change now?
It is no secret our Church is under immense pressure. The landscape has changed radically over the last few decades. At times it has felt like we have lost a familiar and comforting friend, with this pressure being presented in several ways.
Sunday Church attendance is no longer the community activity it once was, with a reduction of 21% over the last 5 years.
We are also under pressure to find people to serve as Churchwardens and PCC members, which is not surprising given the number of people on our Electoral Rolls has dropped by 38% over the last 8 years.
Finances are also stretched with very few PCCs in the Stroudwater Team being able to fulfil their Parish Share obligations. In 2018, there was a shortfall of £45,000. This shortfall is due to increase even further to over £70,000 in 2021.
Why not wait until normality after COVID-19?
We tend to have a traditional view of the Church, rather than agreeing to a strategic approach on how we can best use our resources to reach our communities post COVID-19.
Most of our life tends to revolve around worship and administrative demands, with little energy left over to invest in the things which build God’s kingdom such as evangelism, mission, and discipleship, resulting in fewer families and young people in our Churches.
Coupled with the enormous challenge of our old and ancient buildings which need maintenance, most if not all require a vision for how we can use them more effectively than simply housing Church services.
This is not news to anyone. The challenge is to see this opportunity as our friend and to see how the Stroudwater Team can enable the Kingdom of God to break out. We have an amazing prospect right now to change our course, but only if we have imagination and courage. It requires us to change our view of Church by working together under a central vision to best serve our communities.
Why do we need a Five-Year Strategic Plan?
We belong to a Kingdom and Kingdoms need to be strategic, to adapt to circumstances, society and financial realities. The Deanery of Stroud is in a process of reordering, due to the financial situation in the Diocese of Gloucester, with the Stroudwater Team heavily contributing to that problem.
This gives us a chance to decide what is important? what is effective? where can we improve? How can we make the most of our resources for the work of the Kingdom?
In addition, the Church of England’s Vision is calling upon the Church to be simpler and bolder, not only in governance and structure, but also in being energised by the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ and sharing that with everyone.
Connecting, Caring, Celebrating
It is proposed to embrace the Vision of “Connecting, Caring, Celebrating”. It is looking to create a ministry which is sustainable, by utilising the best use of our resources to reach out into our communities, whilst developing exciting opportunities as we grow. By sharing our gifts and passions, whilst also collaborating with others, it would enable more people to be affected with the wonderful news of Jesus Christ.
What does it mean for us?
- Connecting with each other and our communities in our faith and ministry to facilitate our growth as disciples of Jesus Christ.
- Caring for each other and our communities by engaging in opportunities to share and show the love of Jesus Christ through mission and outreach.
- Celebrating the love of God and our love for each other and our communities in our worship, fellowship, and ministry.
This Vision will look different in each community. It is not a one size fits all but is a set of values and principles that is intended to be held by everyone across the Stroudwater Team.
The following proposed structure is not intended to be a hierarchy but to provide a vehicle for collaboration
It would involve the Clergy of the Stroudwater Team ministering to the entire Team, as well as focusing themselves to specific aspects of ministry, rather than being solely restricted to a particular group of Churches.
It is important to note this proposal is not a move to amalgamate or centralise the decisions across the Stroudwater Team. This is about being able to manage ourselves more effectively and to create a structure which has the potential for growth.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that whilst worship and services have their place, it is what the Church physically does that matters, and should be geared up for this all the time.
The proposal is to produce a network of mixed Worshipping Communities through the creation of four Clusters, supported by Mission Groups which are coordinated by the Vision Centre.
How does this vision benefit our Church?
This vision is a positive and progressive step in the life and ministry of our Worshipping Communities. It would enable us to attract new followers to the Christian faith and to invest in the things which builds the Church, such as evangelism, mission, and discipleship.
How will this structure grow the Church?
The new Clusters would continue to be governed by their existing PCCs but would meet collectively as a Cluster to strategically grow the Kingdom of God in their geographical area. There would also be various Mission Groups collaborating with the Clusters and their Worshipping Communities to ensure evangelism, pastoral care, discipleship, and worship are happening in a coordinated and strategic way, with everyone being actively encouraged to pursue their passion and gifts.
The Vision Centre
What is the Vision Centre?
The Vision Centre would sit at the heart of the Stroudwater Team and would be a dynamic and vibrant visionary centre for the Stroudwater Team. It would be a place to discuss and propose objectives for our Worshipping Communities, PCCs, Clusters, and the Stroudwater Team. The people who form the Vision Centre would also regularly pray, review, and assess sustainability and viability of various aspects of Church life.
Feedback and recommendations would be frequently relayed to and from the Vision Centre with the various organisations across the Stroudwater Team, which in turn will spark a conversation about developing initiatives and Projects in the Mission Groups, Clusters and Worshipping Communities by utilising the gifts and talents of people from across our communities.
Who is in the Vision Centre?
The Vision Centre would be formed of our clergy. They would call upon other prophetic or gifted people from across our Worshipping Communities to assist with prayer and discussion. The Vision Centre may also invite external advisors for specific topics.
It is also proposed to utilise existing APCMs to undertake an effective Annual Review to reflect and assess everyone’s progress against the agreed objectives, together with discussions on future Projects.
Initially, the Vision Centre would use the Diocese of Gloucester’s LIFE vision as its focus, which connects directly into physical and financial resources.
By using “LIFE” together with our vision of Connecting, Caring, Celebrating, we can use our gifts to reach out to our communities.
Several Mission Groups, including Outreach and Evangelism, Worship and Church Services, Children and Young People would collaborate with the Vision Centre and Clusters. They would work on helping clusters to meet their objectives by coordinating their work in certain areas in service to individual PCCs.
By way of example:
- The Outreach and Evangelism Group may look to engage with those who have recently moved to Great Oldbury.
- The Worship and Church Services Group may explore how to approach Lent, Easter, Harvest and Christmas.
- The Children and Young People Group may look at initiatives with local schools.
In addition to these three Mission Groups, there would also be the exciting opportunity to have additional Mission Groups to lead specific Projects, for example the creation of a Stroudwater Team Music Group and/or Fundraising Group.
These Mission Groups would cover the Stroudwater Team, supporting each Cluster, and in some cases, providing specific support or developing initiatives which are unique to a particular Cluster. This is especially the case when ministry and worship will differ from Cluster to Cluster.
Who has the final say and authority?
The Mission Groups will not have authority over PCCs. Moving forward, it is hoped the PCCs would collaborate with the Mission Groups in their decision making.
How can I get involved?
As we develop the vision, we will be encouraging all believers from across the Stroudwater Team to use their gifts to contribute into the Mission Groups.
The main benefit would be the opportunity to harness and bring together the existing gifts from across the Stroudwater Team.
Each of the four proposed Clusters would consist of several PCCs and Worshipping Communities. The Clusters would have an existing geographic and community alignment, which in turn gives the Cluster a strategic outlook to bring everyone together.
What do clusters do?
Clusters would combine the gifts and talents from their Worshipping Communities to release people to pursue their passions in e.g. admin, finance, outreach, and evangelism.
Each Cluster will not be the same and will develop their own way forward in collaboration with the Vision Centre and Mission Groups, thereby ensuring each Cluster develops in a way that is effective for their area. A member of clergy would be assigned as a Lead Minister for each Cluster who ensures there is a direct and strong link to the Vision Centre. Leaders of ministries for the various aspects of the life and work of each Cluster would be selected according to their gifts.
The existing PCCs within each Cluster would remain as PCCs but would work together across the Cluster to deliver their objectives. This in turn will spark a conversation about how best to use the resources within each Cluster, including people and buildings. To deliver this exciting opportunity, it is proposed the existing PCCs would no longer meet individually, but to meet regularly as a Cluster.
How would a Cluster meeting operate?
A Cluster meeting would involve all PCC members from the Cluster, meeting together to collectively review, discuss, and take appropriate action in response to the ideas which flow to and from the Vision Centre and the various Mission Groups, which in turn will initiate steps being taken within the Cluster as a whole, potentially as a Project specific to that Cluster or to a particular Worshipping Community.
During a Cluster meeting, there would be opportunities for the PCCs to break out into smaller groups to explore specific areas e.g. buildings, fundraising, administration and outreach.
Most of the existing business discussed in PCC meetings can be considered collectively as a Cluster. If there are matters which need to be discussed by an individual PCC regarding their Church e.g. fabric and finance, it is proposed that they would separate off at the end of the Cluster meeting.
It is proposed to have the following four Clusters:
- Frampton-on-Severn, Fretherne and Arlingham
- Stonehouse, Eastington, Haresfield and Standish
- Framilode, Moreton Valence, Whitminster and Saul
- Leonard Stanley, Kings Stanley, Frocester and Selsley
The existing Worshipping Communities would collaborate across the Cluster, collectively with the support from the Mission Groups and Vision Centre, thereby enabling a strategic ministry.
These Clusters would offer the best possible opportunity to have effective ministry over a geographical area and to live out our vision. It would also enable a more productive flavour in our four quite different Clusters, which in turn would embed the aspiration for growth in our Churches.
Will Clusters be able to have their own identity?
Yes, because this proposal of having Cluster meetings creates huge advantages in terms of tailoring the mission, growth and development of each Cluster. Furthermore, it helps us move away from advocating for our own Worshipping Communities, but to instead collaborate across each Cluster, building new links with our neighbours and creating trust and cooperation with others.
Why have these four Clusters been put together?
These four Clusters offer the best opportunities for the long-term sustainable future of the Stroudwater Team. The Clusters all have a common interest across a local geographical area, a strong missional ethos, and effective leadership and support.
Each Cluster is a manageable size and brings together people from a diverse range of backgrounds, so that collaboratively the Cluster can celebrate all aspects of church life.
Great Oldbury is the biggest opportunity for the Stroudwater Team, which together with the redevelopment of Standish Hospital and existing working relationships in place, means Eastington, Stonehouse, Standish and Haresfield have huge potential. These areas already have a strong missional ethos, which together with leadership and support from their worshipping communities would help to sustain one another, share the good news across the Cluster, as well as potentially exploring a new missional Church for Great Oldbury.
The Stanleys is increasingly becoming a single community, especially with housing developments such as Saxon Gate, which in turn create exciting opportunities for the area. The shops, pubs, and local community groups in the Stanleys, Selsley and Frocester draw in people from across the villages. The Cluster already has a rich and diverse range of worshipping communities, as well as a creative mixed group of individuals, which can be developed further to help drive forward the mission and evangelism of the area.
Whitminster is one of the largest villages in the Stroudwater Team with huge potential. Its proximity with Moreton Valence, Saul and Framilode would create an exciting opportunity to celebrate the diverse mix of worshiping styles. There is the possibility to harness opportunities from the local canal network, as well as considering the prospect of planting a new missional church in the centre of Whitminster for young families, especially with potential housing developments in the pipeline, thereby complementing the existing styles of worship within the Cluster.
Frampton-on-Severn, Fretherne and Arlingham have a strong rural community ethos embedded in their villages. There are already several gifted and talented individuals within these communities, who if brought together, could assist each other in order to make the most efficient use of their resources, as well as a sustainable future.
How will this affect existing church groups?
There are several positive and rewarding groups which meet across the Stroudwater Team, for example Fundraising Committees, Local Ministry Teams and Worship Groups. All of these groups will remain a vital part of the Stroudwater Team, and crucially the local area they serve. However, to assist with this Five-Year Strategic Plan, it would be useful for each Cluster to identify all such groups within its own Cluster and consider how best those groups should operate in order to have an effective and sustainable ministry for the Cluster.
Each of the 15 existing PCCs, together with their Churches and Worshipping Communities would be preserved, with no material or immediate change. This is important to ensure continuity and engagement with the existing congregations. As such, regardless of the size of each Worshipping Community, they would all remain as a vital community of Jesus’ disciples.
Each Church would continue to be cared for by their volunteers, Churchwardens and PCC members, thereby ensuring the continued day-to-day running of our Churches.
PCCs would remain as the legal body responsible for their Church, including buildings, fabric, and finance. Together with the wider support of PCCs within each Cluster and collaborating with the Vision Centre and Mission Groups, it ensures PCCs can effectively pursue all aspects of their work.
The new structure also provides an essential support network for those who are struggling. It would ensure everyone is operating effectively and encourages everyone to reach out for support across the Cluster and Stroudwater Team.
The Stroudwater Team is currently a network of 15 Churches. As we aspire to move forward with our vision of growth and outreach through collaboration, we would like to use the term Worshipping Community rather than refer to a specific Church building or geographical parish. There is the opportunity to expand the number of Worshipping Communities to beyond our congregations at Church Services, such as a youth group, a toddler club, a fresh expression of church and so on. By looking at the Stroudwater Team as a network, it allows for fluidity and expansion.
How will this affect services at my Church?
To provide a long-term sustainable future for the Stroudwater Team, it is proposed each Cluster would contain a mixed group of Worshipping Communities, in which there is least one Worshipping Community which is intentionally missional, committed to creating connections with people who want to belong, so that they may come to faith and become committed disciples of Jesus Christ. This would mean the designated Worshipping Community rethinking its music and liturgy to connect with people, re-looking at its buildings and audio-visual offering, as well as preaching around the issues which people are experiencing, ensuring what is offered is of high quality.
How will the Missional Churches be identified?
Each of the four Clusters would identify an appropriate Missional Church. It is important to emphasise the Missional Church may look quite different in each Cluster, as the Cluster will be ensuring its Missional Church is appropriate for its intended demographic.
Once the Missional Church has been identified, this would allow the other Worshipping Communities in each Cluster to find their niche, capturing their specific flavour of worship.
A mixed Cluster of Worshipping Communities enables everyone to specialise in the form of worship that is most suited for that Church building. It also avoids duplication of Church service offerings within each Cluster, maximises the use and energy from different forms of spirituality in the community and enables people to work together for the kingdom in their community.
The possibilities of working collectively as a group of mixed Worshipping Communities in a Cluster is exciting. The biggest hurdle to cross will probably be the move from a ‘my’ mentality to an ‘our’ one. This is possible, especially as we move from a narrow focus on Church to a broad picture of the Kingdom.
Much of the experience our communities have of our Churches at Festivals and Occasional Services will remain unchanged. In some cases what a Worshipping Community itself experiences will remain similar; in other cases the Worshipping Community may become more focused and intentional. In addition, each Cluster may identify additional places to create and plant new Worshipping Communities in the next 5-10 years e.g. Great Oldbury.
God blesses the Church with the Holy Spirit to release gifts for building up the people of God. Along with gifts of prophecy, healing and teaching are gifts of administration. At present we see the gifts of administration and some are faithfully serving in those roles because there is not anyone else to take on the role, and so other gifts which build the body of Christ are lost.
We presently only have a few Churches which are actively and strategically shaping themselves to connect with unchurched people. The reasons for this are varied and understandable, but if we want to turn the trend, we need to do Church in a way which will draw people in. This may well lead us to re-imagining the reason our Worshipping Communities exist and in turn find themselves with a whole new purpose.
What is the benefit of a streamlined structure?
The biggest benefit from this vision is a streamlined structure. Instead of our clergy having to consult 15 PCCs individually, the number of PCCs meetings is reduced and managed more effectively, with the time saved being reinvested into other discussions and meetings which will build the Church.
How would this structure operate in practice?
The Vision Centre would propose several Objectives and Projects during the year, some of them smaller and short-term, others much more long-term. By way of example, one of the Objectives proposed by the Vision Centre could be:
“To reach every household in the Stroudwater Team with the meaning of Christmas”
This Objective would be brought to a Cluster meeting for their consideration, which if agreed, would be delegated to the Mission Groups for further detailed discussions. To assist the various Mission Groups, the Cluster would consider the things which have and have not worked well in the past, together with any other aspirations and initiatives. In doing so, the four Clusters become much more intentional in their mission and outreach, rather than the existing 15 PCCs each trying to do their own thing individually without an effective vision.
Drawing upon their experience and specialisms, the Mission Groups could operate in the following ways:
- The Worship and Church Services Group could liaise with members of clergy and key stakeholders across the Clusters to create an effective pattern of worship for Christmas for the entire Stroudwater Team.
- The Children and Young People Group could look at initiatives with local schools, such as Experience Christmas, Christingles and School Nativity Plays.
- The Outreach and Evangelism Mission Group could look at how to engage with those who have recently moved into the Team, e.g. Saxon Gate and Great Oldbury, produce Christmas cards and social media campaigns.
Cluster meetings would consider the plans and ideas from the Mission Groups, who in turn would hopefully take on some Projects within their own Cluster. These Projects would be shaped according to each community. For example, Carol Singing in Great Oldbury and Saxon Gate, Carols in the Barn at Moreton Valence and Knitted Angels/Advent Windows in Frampton-on-Severn.
If this Objective is fulfilled, namely getting the message of Christmas into every household, it could act as a springboard for the year ahead. To achieve this exciting opportunity, it requires everyone to become much more focused on Jesus Christ, rather than being solely focused on Church.
What are the Objectives?
In terms of the initial Objectives for the Stroudwater Team, its Clusters, PCCs and Worshipping Communities, it is to be more Connecting, Caring and Celebrating in the next five years.
In the short term, the following immediate Objectives are proposed to be explored in further detail by the various Mission Groups and Clusters.
- Identifying a Missional Worshipping Community within each Cluster
- Forming mixed Worshipping Communities within each Cluster
- Establishing effective Mission Groups
- Delivering an exciting and engaging Christmas 2021
- Developing an Online Worshipping Community
In the medium term, the Vision Centre and Mission Groups would consider the Diocesan “LIFE” vision to formulate further ideas and Projects in collaboration with the Cluster.
Longer term, it is proposed several other Objectives would be explored in further detail, which would offer great possibilities for the Stroudwater Team.
- Creating a Team Centre, acting as the Hub for the Stroudwater Team and its administration, as well as a place for training, courses, conferences, events and get togethers.
- A religious community of young people who are interns, seeking vision for their lives, pursuing ordination, or dedicating a year to work for the Church. This would be a residential community where in return for accommodation they would commit time to developing the ministry of the Stroudwater Team. They could work in sports ministry, develop youth groups, plant a new church, or offer a new style of worship and ministry in some of our Churches.
It is suggested that as these proposals are discussed in further detail, the Clusters together with the Vision Centre would explore and formulate further specific ideas on how to become a more Connecting, Caring and Celebrating Christian community across the entire Stroudwater Team, as well as within their existing and future Worshipping Communities.
It is proposed all PCCs have a meeting following their APCMs in July 2021, in which PCC members will have the opportunity to discuss and hopefully accept this Five-Year Strategic Plan, following which steps will be taken to implement the various structures.
Consequently, at future Cluster meetings, plans can be produced on how each Cluster intends to deliver its Objectives by starting the process of collaborating with the Vision Centre and Mission Groups.
How can I get involved?
It is intended to establish the Outreach and Evangelism, Worship and Church Services and Children and Young People Mission Groups as soon as possible following the APCMs in July 2021. To assist in this exciting opportunity, if you are being called to a particular Mission Group, or if you have certain gifts and talents which you would like to offer, please contact a member of clergy in the Stroudwater Team to get involved.
Similarly if there are any Projects and Mission Groups which you feel should be formed and would like to get actively involved, please get in touch with a member of clergy.