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'Don't overlook our mid-sized churches!'

by Michael Ford last modified 23 Jul, 2019 04:07 PM

Mid-sized churches - defined as worshipping communities of between 20 and 60 - have been overlooked by the National Church Institutions, the Secretary-General of General Synod, William Nye, said this month.

Speaking before a panel convened earlier this month to discuss the beauty and the challenges associated with the "middle third", Mr Nye described how, "without meaning to, a lot of the time, we, the national church institutions, just default to thinking about bigger churches, because a lot of people’s picture of the norm of the church is a vicar and about 100 people on a Sunday morning.

"We have overlooked this middle third. Lots of staff at Church House, lots of bishops, come up through bigger churches, worship in bigger churches; bishops have led bigger churches."

There was a need to think more about how national programmes might work in churches of this size, he said, such as planting and the creation of resource churches. Some churches did not connect "terribly well". Others, such as those using digital campaigns, did. "We are trying to get away from the idea that we are interested only in planting and replicating churches of 300 people."

There was nothing about being a mid-sized church that was "inherently bad or inherently good," he said. It depended on context. Some were "fantastic"; some "could do a whole lot better."

Asked whether resource churches were a threat to mid-sized churches, he acknowledged that some people were "ambivalent about the success of resource churches... I can understand why that is. I hope people can get over it, and just be joyful that something new is happening... The thing is to try to have a good conversation.

"And I hope that the churches that are feeling ‘We haven’t got a lot of money from a big grant’ will, none the less, see that the national Church is trying to do things to help, too."

Arithmetic done by staff at Church House suggests that, if each of the 5000 mid-sized churches gained an extra 5 people, the Church of England’s decline would be reversed.

About 200,000 people worship in these churches, which serve a population of 16 million.

This month’s panel, convened at a fringe event at the General Synod in York, included incumbents and worshippers at mid-sized churches.

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