In a strategic move at its November meeting, Thames North Synod has agreed a new plan for church growth. Launching the initiative, Synod Moderator, the Revd Dr Andrew Prasad urged local church representatives to make church growth a core priority for prayer, as well as in their decisions and actions.
At the same time, the proposal brought to the Synod by Dr Prasad committed the Synod’s staff and financial resources to support local churches to make this happen. He acknowledged that at times the church has been too focused on buildings, and reminded representatives that the true church is made up of people, gathering together to worship, with the common purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
The move is timely and comes against a backdrop of several restructuring exercises in recent years, which haven’t succeeded in reversing a historic trend of numerical decline. Commenting on this problem, Dr Prasad, who came to the UK 24 years ago from the Church of North India said ‘When I look at the Church worldwide, it is growing – even in some very unexpected places. We should face the challenge of decline in the West boldly. Too often, in the URC, we have shied away from talking about numerical growth but numbers matter. Without people we cannot fulfil the core functions of being church – to worship God, spread the good news of Jesus Christ and extend God’s kingdom.’
The initiative being taken by Thames North Synod is also echoed more widely across the URC nationally, which held its first ever church growth conference in Manchester in July of this year. Tim Reith, Mission Enabler for Thames North Synod, and one of the speakers at the conference said ‘across the URC there are many examples of churches that are growing, yet too often our energy is channelled into managing decline. Unfortunately, talk of decline can so easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news is that decline isn’t inevitable and it’s exciting to see a unity of purpose across Thames North Synod – combining prayer and action to see our churches revitalised.’
More information about the church growth plan agreed at the Synod meeting can be found at www.urcthamesnorth.org.uk/church-growth. The plan consists of three strands: Firstly, local churches and wider Synod committees/groups praying for growth and making it a core priority in their decisions and actions. Secondly, consolidation of Synod resources around church growth, in particular staff time, financial investment and in the priority placed upon it by the Synod’s committees and working groups. Thirdly, a newly created mission fund which was introduced earlier this year, with £300,000 to invest in mission projects of local churches with the focus for 2014 being on church growth.