On the 16th February, General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, will hear a report from the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group (ETG).

You can see the report here [Report from ETG].

I put a tweet out this morning saying this should be widely read and acted upon.  It is very refreshing and, for something being presented to synod, one of the most exciting things I have read in the last decade!

Why is it good?

Not the usual suspects.

The report contains passion, vision and drive in clear and unambiguous language from practitioners.  Some of those who are part of the ETG are not at the centre of synodical governance, nor amongst those who might usually present papers and reports – and it shows – in a good way 🙂

It clearly defines evangelism as distinct from mission.

We have long been encouraged, since the excellent work by Graham Cray to be “mission shaped” . . . but, this has meant – in practice – almost every aspect of life and faith is included.  Everything is mission in some way.  What this paper does is mark out, clearly, the requirement on us as God’s people to bring the good news to our nation.  It also highlights the need to begin, where every great revival has begun, in prayer.

It highlights the need to reach young people.

Persuasively, and passionately, Mark Russell and Andy Croft focus on our need to reach this generation of young people.  One of the aims of the Task Force is as follows :Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 07.15.20

This is for everyone.

Everyone in the Church is invited to be part of this.  As laid out in the report, EVERY clergy person in the Church of England is being written to encouraging them to consider some questions with their churches as to how they will engage in evangelism.  The report includes 10 questions for PCCs to ask ::

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Synod is being invited to consider these questions, to enrich and improve them.

The Recommendations Move things Forward.

I have long been shouting from the sidelines (and at times, from the centre) about the need to value the calling on Children’s, Youth and Families Workers – it was just one of the reasons I wrote this blog post last year, “11 Stats Highlighting the Importance of Children’s, Youth and Family Ministry” . . . so it is with joy I read this in the report :

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I could just shout this one phrase from the spires of churches up and down the land, “These posts should not be seen as stepping stones to other forms of ministry but recognised as a specialist ministry!”

And, I look forward to seeing what Ministry Division does “to explore creative ways to license these workers.”

This is magic!  It’s in a report.  To Synod.  From a hefty Task Force. With the backing and support of both Archbishops.  Love it 🙂

Then there is this, which takes things from the national church talking about stuff to some practical, and local, action ::

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I look forward to seeing what develops and, from a personal level, I’m very keen to support and advise any deanery considering this.  It would necessarily look different in almost every deanery, but could be so enriching and affirming for “extra timers” and salaried workers . . .

Finally, on the recommendations :

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This is positive, BUT, please – when this is considered, if you are on Synod and have a chance to reflect and comment on the recommendations could you ask that any pilot to develop outreach initiatives is with at least TWO, not one diocese?

I say this from living and working across a rural Diocese for the last decade.  It would be fantastic if Liverpool, Manchester, Southwark or some other urban Diocese was asked to pilot some work . . . but, for each of those there needs to be a Lincoln, a Hereford or a Truro Diocese.  The needs, the dynamics of ministry life, the challenges in terms of buildings and resources are often very different between rural and urban.  Please, lets have both.

IF, if it was to be one . . . then I make a plea for somewhere like Oxford.  Huge, diverse . . . with a good mix of both towns, urban / suburban and villages and rural communities.  Please, not London (at least, not if it is to be just one diocese).

A Question!

Finally, having read almost all of the report this morning (I admit, I skimmed a few pages), I do have a nagging question.  It’s this :

How will the church directly involve children and young people themselves in taking this forward?

There are some excellent resources on the “Going for Growth” website around participation – helping adults in church involve and empower young people to join in with decision making and discussions about activity that impacts them – check out the website and click on the tab, “Participation” for tools and ideas.

That one question leads me to ask these things ::

  • Reading through the questions for PCC’s to consider – HOW will these questions be adapted and then asked of children themselves?  Children are part of the Church, they are a vital part NOW of the Body of Christ that should be fully engaged in evangelism together . . . together does not simply mean the different streams within the church.  Together also means “inter-generationally”.  My concern with the questions – is that PCCs will ask themselves what the “adult” church needs to do.  Could Synod be explicit and, indeed, when every church is written to encouraging them to be involved . . . could it again, be made explicit to include the thoughts and reflections of children on the best ways to engage with their friends and peers?
  • What will prayer events look like?  It is fantastic that there is an encouragement for this evangelism initiative to begin with prayer . . . can it be recommended, made explicit that times and places need to consider children?  Some of the most powerful and committed prayer warriors I know are children.  It won’t be very inclusive of the whole church, nor particularly radical to have those events aimed at young people to mean (11+ young people at events from 7.30pm in the evening . . . ).
  • What, in general, does the participation of our children and young people look like?  A default for engaging young people – the kind of youth events mentioned in the report – assumes a need to compartmentalise the church, to separate the body in to pieces . . . we might argue, “to better enable young people to reach their peers.” Maybe.  But what do we communicate about our model for church?  Do we, when we do that, pay as much attention to hosting events for children?  It is GREAT to suggest – as the report does – that the likes of Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Martin Smith might be involved in leading worship over the planned for Pentecost events . . . obviously, with a focus on young people.  Where is the equivalent attention being paid to family events?  Children’s events?

I don’t want any of my questions here to take away from the excellent work the ETG has done.  I just note, looking at those involved – not one children’s and families specialist.  If the first recommendation as noted above is to be taken seriously by the wider church . . . could the ETG begin with inviting someone like Jo Squires, Yvonne Morris, Rachel Turner, Lucy Moore or Mark Griffiths to explore how children and families might have the same profile as young people?