Informed by the course’s input, the Monday group worked on defining the church’s vision, values and strategy, which they honed to three invitations: to connect – with Jesus and others; to grow in faith; and get involved in the work of Jesus. Says Simon: ‘This was all stuff that already existed in the church, which was really important because we wanted our vision and values to be, as someone said, lived not laminated!’ The difference was having a clear definition which, as assistant pastor Dan comments, is very helpful in planning strategy: ‘It’s given us clarity of thought, so if something doesn’t fit into our vision and values, we don’t do it. I don’t know if we’d have thought through issues in the same way we’ve been able to, because of the Grow Course. Plus we get access to external expertise, whether it’s communication experts or business leaders, which, as a small church, we’d struggle to get hold of ordinarily.’
This process has contributed to the leadership team gaining a clearer perspective on church life, Dan feels. ‘I think it’s vital that we take time to step back from the day to day running of the church to get the big picture stuff.’ Simon agrees: ‘It’s important for the leadership team to work on the life of the church rather than always in the life of the church. It’s so easy to be driven by whatever needs to be done. Doing this with a wider group of people has been brilliant and it’s gently developing leaders.’
A key component of the Grow Course is enabling churches to identify barriers to growth; for Neighbourhood Church, those barriers were their organisational structure and limited space. The leaders are tackling these with leadership development and by actively seeking a new, larger premises. ‘We’re trusting God, moving forward, for the right space for us,’ says Simon. ‘He’s always provided before, at the right time, usually without us asking!’
Whilst numeric growth is encouraging, and Dan has seen the youth group double to 21 in 15 months, growing in breadth and depth is also part of the Grow Course’s DNA. ‘Spiritual depth is about making disciples,’ says Simon. ‘It’s a lifetime process; we want people to have deep roots. Now we have our three focal points – our three invitations – and they are a measure of spiritual growth to help us see how people are growing over time.’
Simon has found another tool very helpful in developing vision and growing leaders: the leadership map. This evolves from his one-to-one sessions with a Grow Course coach, where they discuss an issue Simon has brought, updating the map at each session as a visual depiction of the journey the church is on. He says: ‘The map has provided a clarity of thought, helps me see our goals, and is a great way to capture the momentum of the journey we are on.’ He enthuses, ‘The quality of the resources is first-class and the content has been brilliant. We’ve found the course really helpful. I’d encourage other churches to embrace the content and be prepared to be challenged. We’ve certainly found that it’s sharpened our thinking.’
Want to explore how the Grow Course could help your church? We’d love to hear from you, with no obligation to sign up. We work with churches from many Christian denominations.
Interview by Gill Troup