From the Church Mission Society
Reports of the Church of England’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, according to a report released yesterday by the Church Growth Research Programme at the Faith in Research conference held on 16 January in London.
"A headline for me was seeing how fresh expressions of church are making an impact," said Jonny Baker, CMS’s pioneer mission leadership training course leader and newly appointed director of mission education.
He added: "There are many doubters and sceptics of fresh expressions. But this report is a wake up call. It’s good news for the church and we need more of it."
The report, which was commissioned by Church Commissioners and surveyed 10 dioceses, seems to indicate that the number of people attending a fresh expression of church is equivalent to a whole new diocese, with much of the growth in the form of previously un-churched people.
The research also states that fresh expressions are making inroads with young people and families – demographics the wider Church is keen to keep. It was also found that churches with a commitment to youth ministry are more likely to grow.
For CMS, which has seen around 80 people participate in their pioneer mission training programme since it was it was launched four years ago, the report is encouraging – but no real surprise.
CMS executive leader Philip Mounstephen commented: "CMS has been at the forefront of pioneering mission for over 200 years. We know how costly it can be – and yet what fruit it can bear. The danger the church always faces is to settle for the comfortable and safe, but this report reminds that it’s when we step out to the margins that exciting things happen.
"We’re delighted to be training so many outstanding leaders for new ways of doing church on our pioneer course and rejoice in the vindication of their work this report offers," he added.
"We saw in stark figures that training pioneers is going to be key for the future," said Jonny. "There was a summary of key factors associated with church growth and it sounds like the CMS pioneer training curriculum is exactly what is required if you want leaders who are going to be reflective, mission-focused, innovative, risk taking and hospitable."
Current CMS pioneer programme participants—both lay people and ordinands—are currently engaging with people on the edges of church in a variety of ways, which can be seen at pioneer.cms-uk.org The next course Open Day is Tuesday 11 February in Oxford.
A summary of the Church Growth Research report can be found at http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/report
CMS is a national partner in Fresh Expressions.