Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Growing Disciples - moving on

This is just a final post, explaining that the work-in-progress of this current blog is ending, because the production of Growing Disciples programme has reached its climax - you can now purchase the resource from the Congregational Federation offices and it will be sent out from late July / early August.

So if your church hopes to use Growing Disciples, go to - see the overview of the programme, see the order form which helps explain how your church could decide whether it is the resource for you, see the various options, and start using it - and remember to give us some feedback about what you do and what happens as a result of using it.

Thank you for your encouragement and support.
In hope and peace!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Getting Growing ...

We had the official 'launch' of Growing Disciples on Saturday 8th May, at the Congregational federation Assembly, and it was great to see a good number of people and churches showing an active interest.

So what should you do if you're interested?

1) A Sample booklet is now available, and will be sent to every CF church shortly, together with an Order Form
2) There is also a Question and Answer sheet, which answers several 'frequently asked questions' - a copy of this is available on the resource website - linked from this site -
3) There is also a flyer/covering letter, explaining what to do - but basically it's a matter of discussing it at Church Meeting, deciding if it's a resource which could help you (ask me any extra questions you have, by emailing, and then ordering an appropriate number of packs (£5 per person) from the Congregational Federation offices (take the link to the CF website from this site)
4) Although you can order packs from now, they won't be sent until July, as some of the materials and booklets are still in production, but we suggest your church could plan to use the programme from the autumn ...
5) Perhaps just start with Phase 1: Introduction (2 sessions) + Phase 2: Growing as a Learning Community (3 sessions), during the autumn season, and come back to the next phases in the new year? We are hoping to get 'advocates' for the programme in each CF Area, to help support churches and encourage them in the process - but it's important that each church works out the best way to use the materials in your situation.
6) So, see what you think ... ask for encouragement or support ... or just go for it!

Thanks for your interest and encouragement!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ready ... steady ... grow!

Well, we're nearly ready for the official launch of "Growing Disciples".

Since I last wrote on this blog, we've had feedback from 9 church groups who piloted a sample of the materials, with some really positive responses, plus some very useful constructive criticism which we've been able to act on. The common themes, in positive terms, were these:
  • it helped people to talk together, drawing a range of people into the conversation
  • it felt timely, in the sense that churches were ready for something like this, to help them reflect on where they are at and to look to new possibilities
  • it felt flexible, with people enjoying the creative resources as well as the discussions
  • it seemed to draw people together, to build a sense of cohesion between one another
  • it prompted churches to consider things they might otherwise have taken for granted, and to be more purposeful in their discussions and vision
In the light of all that we have learned through the pilots, we have made some changes, and improved the way in which we describe what the resource is for -
  • it's focused on growing in relationship and purpose and confidence, rather than being for individuals and their knowledge
  • it's focused on open questions, which stop people thinking they're supposed to be led to secret answers and enables a wider range of people to contribute to the conversation
  • it's focused on being a resource to help different people develop the skills in leading discussions and creative activities
  • it's focused on being ambitious (after all, the challenges we face cannot be addressed in '3 simple steps') so we are unapologetic about the comprehensiveness of the resource with its 15 sessions covering a wide range of issues in the life of our churches)
  • it's focused on being flexible enough for churches to shape it to suit their situation, challenges and people - and we urge churches to make it their own!
We've produced a sample booklet (which includes one session), to be given out at the May Assembly. Also, the Phase 1: Introduction booklet will be available for people to have a look at - and Phase 2 will be shown on a laptop, so people can see how things are shaping up ...

Phases 3, 4 and 5 will be produced in the next couple of months - so churches can start ordering the packs, ready for sending out over the summer and using in the autumn!

So - ready, steady ... grow as disciples together!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Growing... growing ...

Again, it's been a while since an update. But things have progressed. We are part-way through the 'piloting phase', with 11 churches participating, each running two sessions - so we look forward to the feedback...

Also, in November, the Gofrit Leaders piloted three sessions at their leaders' weekend, and gave some very helpful and positive feedback - here is just a taste of some of the things they said:
  • "I think it will help greatly. It's got the potential to be a really helpful resource ..."
  • "Gets you to think about things you wouldn't otherwise consider."
  • "Easy to use / understand."
  • "Seeing change as a positive thing."
  • "A useful tool - if everyone is prepared to participate."
  • "Helps to see things differently, more positively, and with a goal."
  • "It made us look at bible passages we hadn't looked at before."

And also, we now have the web-link for the site where the online resources will be located - see the Going Deeper link in the menu on the left. Gradually the resources there will appear, ready for the launch in May this year.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Growing Closer

Sorry it's been a while since I last gave an update on Growing Disciples progress. Anyway, here's where we are up to:
1. we have a graphic designer on board, helping to develop the booklets

2. there will be 5 booklets, an introductory one, outlining the ethos of the programme and some tips and including a couple of starter sessions, followed by 4 main 'phase' booklets, exploring each of the 4 main areas - growing as a learning community, a worshipping community, a listening community, and a missionary community

3. we have a team of contributors helping to devise the various sessions, or 'steps' - so a mix of people with different skills are contributing to the overall programme, which is great

4. we are moving towards piloting, with about 10 churches happy to help test out some of the materials in January and Feburary, and to offer feedback

5. I have been to a conference with people from other member denominations of the Council for World Mission (which gave the funding for this project), sharing updates on our various programmes and receiving useful feedback from a range of perspectives

So things are moving on. The challenge is to develop more of a team of 'advocates' - people who can explain the ethos and purpose of the programme in their own localities or Areas. If you're interested in this, please let me know. And keep praying for this initiative ... thank you.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Growing Pains?

How hard will the Growing Disciples programme be? Who will it be aimed at? Will it be covering really hard issues? These and similar questions are sometimes spoken, or hinted at - so here's an attempt to explain the thinking:

1. It's really important that people know Growing Disciples does not need 'experts', as in people with a lot of specific knowledge - because it does not involve teaching in the formal sense of someone sharing their knowledge. Instead, it is all about resourcing the whole church to explore its sense of purpose together. In other words, you are all the experts, because you are all disciples of Jesus, of all ages, all kinds of backgrounds, with a wide range of experiences - and this resource aims to help you draw on your own experience, to make connections between what you think and feel, and how your church can live with purpose in its community.

2. So the main focus is discipleship: Growing Disciples aims to help churches be communities of disciples today. So in one sense, it will not be easy, because churches know very well that we face real challenges - it is not proving straightforward to make connections between our discipleship and the world around us. So there is a need to ask important questions. This doesn't mean "questions which we cannot understand", but it does mean "questions which ask us to think carefully about what we are about, what our Good News is & what kinds of community we are trying to be". So in another sense, they are 'basic' questions, as they are about getting us back in touch with some of the simple principles about being churches:

3. So, Growing Disciples is about helping churches to develop the skills of discipleship - which involves learning together, as mutual disciples, to identify and celebrate what our Good News is, and how to demonstrate it in our daily lives. To do this, we look to our key resources - the Bible, our times of worship, the diverse gifts of the Body of Christ - in order to become better able to make connections between our faith and our life and others' lives.

4. The simple truth is: to be a disciple of Jesus is demanding. There is a cost to discipleship. So it is not like paying your money and getting a quick return. Instead, it involves being 'disciplined', developing the skills of the early disciples - the skills to interpret the parables of Jesus, about God's kingdom being 'close at hand'; the skills to make connections between what they were witnessing and how they should live their lives; the skills about building a distinctive kind of community, where every member is valued in the Body; the skills about joining in with Jesus' mission, confronting injustice and exclusion with the Good News of God's mercy and love.

5. So, on the one hand, Growing Disciples is straightforward! It's simply about developing the skills of a community which nurtures disciples - learning together, worshipping together, listening together, and practising God's Good News together in the world. But on the other hand, Growing Disciples is demanding! After all, churches face big challenges - and to be a sign of God's kingdom is a difficult way of life - so we need to give our time to it, our thought, our care, our hopes and concerns, our desire to listen to each other, our desire to grow and be changed.

So - easy and hard, at the same time! Not intellectually hard, but to be disciples demands a lot from us - and this programme aims to help people give of themselves, purposefully, humbly and boldly!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Growing Consensus

Of course, there's still a long way to go before this new programme is up and running, but recent conversations, including with the Congregational Federation Training Board, have given a positive sense of a growing consensus about the purpose and nature of 'Growing Disciples'. Namely:
1. This resource is not about the development of individual vocations, but helping churches to be churches - how can churches grow together, in confidence, with a shared sense of purpose?
2. While it is being designed as a coherent programme, which will make connections between the various parts of a church's life and experience, it will allow for churches using it in different ways - with a range of formats - and each church will be encouraged to decide from the start: What do we intend to get out of this process? So it will help churches evaluate what they get up to.
3. Because it serves a different purpose from other bits of CF training, it will not be designed to set people off on particular training tracks - it serves its own purpose, to build up churches' confidence and sense of purpose as communities of disciples, which is valid and essential in its own right.
4. We want churches to feel this is for them, whatever their circumstances, so it will be emphasised that it can be used in different ways - with support from the CF Areas, and resources and a forum on the website.
5. Its corporate learning will be underpinned by a constant Congregational ethos, inviting churches to reflect on what it means to be Congregational today - how does our form of church shape the way in which we communicate and demonstrate the Gospel?
6. The programme materials will be attractive and varied. If you want your church to help pilot them, get in contact. Piloting will begin towards the end of 2009, and the launch will be next May.
So - watch this space, follow the story, start spreading the word - a programme to help Congregational churches reflect on what they're doing and grow in confidence is coming soon ...