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Church Planting

The Diocese of London is committed to the parish system of inherited Church and to the planting of new churches. The London Challenge 2012 further commits us to develop our Church Planting Strategy as part of our desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with 21st century London. Church planting is not new in the Church of England. Daughter Churches are a familiar sight, and there are also Chapels of Ease, Conventional Districts and Mission Churches, each with their legal status. Church planting is an effective expression of mission that seeks to reach as many people as possible with the gospel.

From a certain perspective every Church is the result of a planting programme. At some point in history a conscious effort has been made to establish a congregation, to raise a building, to develop local ministry and mission and to encourage Christian life and discipleship to flourish.

The oversight of Mission and Ministry is entrusted to the Bishop as a sign of the Church’s catholicity. This oversight is shared with the college of priests throughout the Diocese. A strategy for planting is part of an overall strategy for Mission and Ministry. This document recognises that the Church of England is still organised into geographical parishes as our way of ministering to all people in the land and as an expression of its duty to present the claims of Christ to everyone. It further recognises that many parish Churches are flourishing and have the strength and resourcefulness to plant within their own buildings and boundaries.

We need, though, a broader understanding of the potential and opportunity for Church Planting than this. The ways in which people make, seek and join communities is now far more fluid than a century ago. There is a need to plant in the non-institutional, networked lives of today’s population through new and experimental ways of being Church and of incarnating the power of God’s love.

1. Groundwork

Planning and co-operation are very important at every stage, and this is reflected in the procedures below. Whatever the procedure followed, the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 should be observed and used creatively. The Measure seeks to provide a “light touch” enabling of mission initiatives and, in particular, introduces the concept of “Bishop’s Mission Orders” (BMOs). The bishop has oversight of mission and ministry in the Church and the responsibility of encouraging trust and understanding. The bishop is a focus of unity in the Church and will encourage the development of the right conditions for the planting to take place. The Measure sees the bishop as ‘broker’. He will consult closely and widely, as the Measure requires, but is empowered to override local opposition if he feels it is right to do so. The BMO will particularly offer the opportunity to establish church or Christian communities as “Fresh Expressions”.

2. Procedures

In developing Church Planting as a form of mission, we will:

  • Encourage healthy churches to consider Church Planting as part of their mission strategy
  • Review struggling churches, especially at the key moment of a vacancy
  • Examine the need to plant into unchurched localities, including new housing areas.

3. Definitions

3.1 A healthy church

A healthy church is one which:

  • Is growing spiritually, numerically and financially.
  • Owns a vision.
  • Encourages all its members to play their part and use their gifts.
  • Enjoys worship and prayerfully seeks God’s purpose and direction.
  • Is willing to take risks.
  • Has different opportunities to share faith and study together.
  • Has effective and respected leadership.
  • Is engaged with the society it serves.
  • Is involved in the life of the deanery and wider Church.

3.2 A struggling church

A struggling church is one which:

  • Is static or declining in numbers.
  • Has no vision for its mission.
  • Has little lay ministry and does little to encourage it.
  • Is focused on maintaining the status quo.
  • Does little to encourage growth in Christian discipleship and understanding.
  • Has uninspiring and inefficient leadership.
  • Shows little interest in cooperation with the wider Church.
  • Shows little interest in serving the wider community.

3.3 A struggling church not adjudged to be a “potentially going concern”

A struggling church which is not adjudged to be a “potentially going concern” will have some or all of these additional features:

  • A poorly placed or badly maintained church building
  • A long history of non-engagement with its local community
  • A very low level of numerical, spiritual or financial resources.

Note: These definitions should be used alongside the material in the Healthy Churches Handbook and the viability criteria printed as section 4 of the document Diocese of London: Resourcing Mission and Ministry.

4 Policy

Models of planting which emanate from this procedural framework include:

4.1 Planting from the parish church within the existing parish’s boundaries

This requires:

  • Agreement of Incumbent, PCC, Bishop
  • Authorised leader (licence or commission)
  • CofE worship framework

4.2 Planting a focussed congregation within another parish

This requires:

  • Agreement of Incumbents, PCCs, Bishop
  • If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order
  • Authorised leader (licence or commission)
  • CofE worship framework

4.3 Developing a struggling church by transferring people from another church

This requires:

  • Discussion with struggling church and deanery
  • Invitation to transfer
  • Transfer with sensitivity to existing traditions

4.4 Planting into an existing parish church

This requires:

  • Agreement of Bishop, Patron, PCC
  • If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order
  • Authorised leader (licence or commission)
  • CofE worship framework

4.5 Planting into a new housing area or development

This requires:

  • Agreement of Incumbents, PCCs, Bishop
  • If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order
  • Authorised leader (licence or commission)
  • CofE worship framework

Our policy is to keep all such opportunities under constant review within the context of our overall Mission & Ministry strategy, and proactively to seek opportunities for planting.

Oversight of the policy and strategy rests with the Bishops of the Diocese as leaders in mission, with the Area Councils, and with the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee.

5 Framework

We therefore welcome proposals for planting, and, in order to facilitate the process, set out the following framework document to guide the conversation between Bishop/Archdeacon, Diocesan staff and prospective planters. We aim for clarity and a capacity to bring together:

  • the intentions of church planters
  • the process by which churches become available for planting
  • co-ordination of planting efforts

5.1 Questions for Church Planters

Questions to be asked if you are contemplating a plant:

  1. What is your strategy for church planting? Please produce a written statement – your Mission Action Plan or strategy document will inform the process.
  2. What is your desired area for planting? Locality, network, ethnicity/people group will all be considerations here.
  3. Has there been adequate investment in prayer in relation to the initiative?
  4. Where does your strategy fit within the Diocese of London Church Planting policy and the London Challenge?
  5. What are the objectives of this particular planting proposal?
  6. Who will be involved in the plant? (Leadership, numbers of people committed to the project, etc.)
  7. When will you be ready to plant? Timescale, critical path analysis.
  8. How are you proposing to fund and resource the plant?
    • Capital costs of building (if any)
    • Running costs
    • Stipends/salaries and oncosts
    • Housing
    • Expenses
  9. How do you plan to develop leadership from within the community in which you wish to plant?
  10. What preliminary consultation is needed with existing Church of England parishes and structures?
    • Bishop
    • Archdeacon
    • Area Dean and Deanery
    • Neighbouring Parishes
    • Area Council
  11. What legalities will be required? [this will probably involve you in a detailed conversation with Bishop/Archdeacon)
    • Pastoral Scheme or Pastoral Order
    • Bishop’s Mission Order
    • Licences and Lay Commissions
    • Charitable status
    • Governance structure (including questions such as PCC and Churchwarden equivalents)
    • Synodical representation
  12. What do you consider to be the probability of your being ready to plant in the coming year? In coming 5 years? Is your likelihood of being able to plant as intended increasing or decreasing?
  13. What support do you need from the Diocese to help you achieve your objectives? (These may not be deliverable, but we want expectations to be clear on both sides.)

5.2 Processes for making churches available for planting

Church buildings will become available either because a particular congregation/parish has been identified by the Area Bishop or because a church previously surplus to requirements (usually, but not always, closed for regular Anglican public worship) becomes potentially available.

Heritage issues may well be involved in the process of making a building available, particularly if there are proposals to use procedures under the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007. The Archdeacon will be able to advise on this.

In the case of a planting opportunity with a “live” parish, the Bishop, Archdeacon and Area Council will work up a proposal to make the church available for a graft or transplant and approach potential planters.

In the case of a building not used for Anglican worship becoming available, the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee will consider whether the building should be released for planting. Factors to be considered will include suitability of location, existing use (especially where the building is being used by another Christian denomination), and proximity to other churches. If the building is released, consultation with the relevant Area Council may be needed. The Bishop may then make an approach to potential planters.

Some opportunities for planting will be subject to competitive bids from a number of prospective planters. In this context, you may need to discuss with the Bishop/Archdeacon and the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee how the proposal you are making fits with:

  • Local Context
  • Diocesan Context
  • Economic practicalities and opportunity costs

5.3 Co-ordination of Planting Efforts

Church Planting across the Diocese will be regularly reviewed at DSPC, JOT and the College of Bishops. It also needs to be an item on the agendas of Area Councils and Deaneries.

6 Training and Development for Church Planting

The Bishop of London has appointed an Adviser for Church Planting, Ric Thorpe. His is a three year appointment with a remit to encourage and support church planting across deaneries and diocese. The College of Bishops is also committed to work across the spectrum, in co-operation with St Mellitus College, to encourage and train catholic, middle of the road and evangelical parishes towards more outward focus and exploration of planting.

7 List of documents and resources

  • Breaking New Ground: Church Planting in the Church of England (Church House Publishing, 1994)
  • Bishops’ Mission Orders: a beginner’s guide (Church House Publishing, 2008)

This paper is issued by the London College of Bishops as part of a series of Policy Papers on Mission and Ministry issues.


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