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Growth Conversations: Holy Trinity Hounslow

Being intentional about growth, discipleship and developing a culture where everyone is involved is bearing fruit at Holy Trinity Hounslow, a diverse Christian community worshipping God in West London.

Sally Baily and her team at Holy Trinity Hounslow are passionate about their vision to be “…a home for all nations where God’s love changes everything!” This, they believe, reflects perfectly what their diverse Christian community worshipping God in the heart of Hounslow is about and expresses their strong desire and purpose to help people from all nationalities find and follow Jesus. 

Since Sally arrived as vicar in autumn 2021, the team has been exploring ways in which their community might grow in depth as well as numbers, being open to what God is saying and guided by the values they have identified as key to their own context – those of Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Prayer and Cross Cultural Celebration. 

Within this exploration, an area that was pinpointed as being a priority for the church is the development of their small groups – resulting in a change of format to encourage more of their church community to join in.

‘We’ve realised that meeting in small groups is so significant for our discipleship and we’d been trying to work out a way of running them better so more people can be involved,’ says Sally. ‘We recently did the Grow Course and one of the other churches in our cohort shared that they’d started to run their own small groups in a hub at church – with everyone invited to come together for worship at the beginning and then breaking into small groups. It’s in those smaller gatherings where relationships are formed and faith deepened as we journey together.

‘We decided to try this as it fits well with our context, where coming together is such a positive thing and it’s not always easy to find homes for people to meet. As a church we’re geographically in a great position and people feel at home in church. It fits well within our vision to gather to learn and to show hospitality and love one another. 

Group of church leaders at Holy Trinity Hounslow in front of Christmas Tree

‘We’ve just launched our own small groups starting with a Pancake Party for Shrove Tuesday and offering the Prayer Course (from 24-7 Prayer) for Lent. The party was a great success. We now have five new small groups, 14 new leaders and an average of 40 extra people meeting and praying in small groups! This doubled our small group participation overnight. Moving forward, we’re also planning to offer Alpha and other courses too, for example Talking Jesus and The Bible Course.

‘We’re hoping this will be a real tangible change which will help us all on our journey of faith and fellowship. Part of the new initiative will also be to try to encourage established group members to step up and become leaders of new groups.’

Sally speaks with enthusiasm about how doing the Grow Course has supported them in other ways in the season they are in. Alongside prayer and discernment, she feels they are drawing on and benefiting from the course’s resources and training as they look to the future shape of reaching their community with the Good News of Jesus.

‘I’ve done the Grow Course three times now,’ explains Sally, ‘and I’ve seen how change has been implemented in three different contexts. Each time was an amazing experience. I’ve experienced it twice in person at previous churches and now with our team at Hounslow, we’ve completed the new online version.

‘Although we were a little nervous about the new format, and about using a new sort of material, we’ve found it’s really good and have appreciated the way the content is offered in “nuggets” of input. For us the material and the process has been excellent.

‘In previous formats the course was much longer – over two years – but this new format is much quicker and having that momentum has been positive. The course has been particularly helpful in helping us work out our vision and has focussed our sights on all that there is still to do over the next few months and years. There’s a lot of information in the course to take in over a shorter time but now we’ve completed this first stage, we’re keen to spend time bedding things in and forming new habits. It doesn’t all have to be done by the next session!’

Sally and her team have been keen to ensure the widest possible engagement with the course, specifically with three groups of leaders: the core team who attend the learning community; the wider staff team, including volunteers who are able to link into the course’s videos at team meetings; and the PCC, who have used some of the videos in away days and are fully engaged with the process and action plans as they develop. The Grow Course actions are now a standing item on each PCC agenda. 

Dave Roberts, curate at Holy Trinity, feels that the Grow Course has been just right for the church at this time, helping in two specific ways. 

‘The Grow Course has given us confidence as we’ve entered a new season, initially post-covid and then with Sally arriving as a new incumbent,’ says Dave. ‘It’s given us focus and a way to listen to God, to each other, and to our community. 

‘The result has been growth in our health as a church which is now being reflected in our infrastructure. I would say we’ve moved from a staff-led to a lay-led culture. It means we’re engaging with and offering a platform for everyone and that allows us to all to grow in depth and breadth. The course helps us do it together – it’s not all coming from the vicar, but it’s democratised and that’s more healthy. Our PCC especially has grown through the process. We worked together on the vision and on the values of the church – it really gelled us as a team.’

Sally agrees: ‘The material from the course is well put together which means it is accessible to those across the church – everyone can understand it and gain confidence. One team member here commented that what she loved about it was that it was “so simple”, using lay language and jargon free – that is a real strength.

‘Another thing that I’ve most appreciated is that the sessions have highlighted and reminded me that management and leadership skills can be taken or transferred from anywhere – I believe that the whole world is the Lord’s but what I learn in my day job I can apply in church – that’s a good thing for everyone to know in church life.’ 

As for supporting growth, the team plans to continue some of the disciplines they employed on the course; they now hold two PCC away days each year and at their half termly meetings they always review the action plans.

‘The action plans are important,’ says Pastor Immanual, associate vicar. ‘We’ve found they have helped to highlight not only our strengths but our weaknesses too – that means we can focus on how we can strengthen them as we plan and move forward.’

As the vicar and leader of the team, Sally has found the coaching which the Grow Course offers to be very valuable. ‘My coach comes to the course learning communities with us and sometimes joins us at church either in person or online. It’s such an encouragement when she says “wasn’t the worship amazing!” And it’s great that in our coaching sessions she can genuinely share the joys and woes I’m experiencing, while helping me to remember my own well being, to look after myself as well as implementing the action plan.’

As for how the course might benefit others, Dave Roberts is honest in his summary: ‘The course isn’t the perfect tool for everyone, but I would say that for most churches looking to grow or at a crossroads, it is almost perfect. You’re offered excellent material and a framework for applying it. The course recognises the challenges of leading and growing a church and helps you focus on why you’re there. It’s really helped us come together to use a common language and to express our vision in a way that the whole church can hear and understand.

‘I think it’s important to keep asking why are you doing what you’re doing and recognise if you’re stuck or if something is unsustainable. The course gives you the tools to take that step and support you as you go – helping you on the journey as all the heavy lifting has already been done.’

If you’d like to know more about the Grow Course why not come to one of our introductory sessions running monthly. You can meet the team and see if it’s for you. Find out when the next Grow Course Introduction is taking place.
Or if you’d like to talk to someone, Katie Lysak our Grow Course Relationship Manager would be happy to tell you more – contact Katie at: