Strengthening our life of discipleship, vocation and evangelism
Shaping for Mission is the process across Lichfield Diocese to strengthen our life of discipleship, vocation and evangelism while facing a significant reduction in financial income. We are working together as people of hope to make our mission sustainable in helping fulfil our diocesan vision. Shaping for Mission commenced in autumn 2020 when deaneries formed Shaping for Mission teams and began the work of reviewing their deanery, before discerning a vision for the deanery going forwards.
Bishop Michael gives an outline of Shaping for Mission and an update on progress so far as of St Chad's Day, 2 March 2021 in this video:
Find out more about Shaping for Mission and the dioceses commitment to aligning our resources with our priorities for mission in the links below.
A big shift
Shaping for Mission is a big shift for deaneries. Traditionally, deaneries have had two roles: to provide governance for the diocese; and to provide a support network for those in ministry. SfM added a third task: to discern the mission of the church in their area. Smaller deaneries were invited to work in partnership with a neighbouring deanery as together we looked for the gifts, strengths, opportunities and challenges that God has gifted the church with and sought to discern a faithful vision in response to these.
Each of our 28 deaneries is very different, and the vision for sustainable mission will belong to that deanery and will reflect God’s call for developing discipleship, encouraging vocation and inspiring evangelism in that context. Not every parish, chaplaincy, fresh expression or school is called to, or able to, offer all aspects of mission, but across a deanery a range of mission can be offered in creative and sustainable ways.
You can read more about some signs of healthy discipleship, vocation and evangelism here.
As part of the resources for Shaping for Mission, we have a series of videos called Perspectives on the Church, where we ask a range of Christian thinkers what they think the biggest challenge is the church faces, what opportunities we have, what our most significant resources are and what gives them hope for the church. You can use these videos as a resource individually, in small groups, as part of PCC meetings or even in worship as together we reflect on what it means to be the church in our current context with all the challenges and opportunities that entails.
No time like the present
The first phase of Shaping for took place between Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021, with teams carrying out reviews of their Deanery. The aim of this phase was to help us understand where we are now, what we are building on, where our energy and resources go, what is fruitful, and where the gaps are. You can see the template we used for this phase at: reviewing your deanery.
The second phase ran from Easter 2021 through to the autumn, during which deanery teams moved into vision-setting. During this phase the teams worked with the wider deanery to ask questions about who and what God calls us to be and what our priorities for mission are. You can see the template for the vision setting phase here.
The third phase began in the summer 2021 as deanery teams met with their Area Bishop and Archdeacon to share the vision for their deanery and together to consider the next steps in turning that vision into a reality. This third phase is continuing in 2022. Bishops’ Senior Staff and then, where appropriate, AMPCs (Area Mission and Pastoral Committees) will work with deaneries to translate the vision into action and to align resources accordingly. Alongside this, every deanery will be offered a link officer from the diocesan Mission Team to support their next steps in mission.
You can see an outline of the timeline here.
And associate archdeacon of Stoke, Revd Preb Terry Bloor, gives some ideas and guidance in implementing deanery plans in this video which was first shared with rural deans and deanery lay chairs in February 2022:
What about our central teams?
Alongside the work in deaneries, a parallel process has taken place across the diocese’s central sector teams, with three small Shaping for Mission teams reviewing our Central Administrative Support Teams (CAST), DVE teams and Education. These teams, which include external representatives from across the diocese, have focussed on making sure that our work priorities are aligned with our shared mission to effectively serve schools, parishes, chaplaincies and fresh expressions, and that our central resources are financially sustainable. As part of the work of these teams and of reviewing the work of the central sector, the Diocese has offered a voluntary redundancy scheme. A reduction in officers and administrators in the centre, the same as reduced resources in some parishes, and elsewhere, demands an overhaul of work so rather than trying to do more with less, we are doing different work according to the priorities and mission of each team.
How is the process going?
The 28 deaneries have had different experiences of Shaping for Mission. For some, it aligned with other review work they were already doing or had recently done. For some deaneries it came at a time when they were struggling with the number of clergy vacancies in the deaneries, financial challenges or other issues which both connected with the heart and purpose of SfM but also made it difficult to commit to the process. Probably for all deaneries, it came at a time when people were tired, anxious and busy working out how to emerge from lockdowns and deal with the ongoing changes, challenges and new missional opportunities of the covid-era.
Reflecting on the first two phases, a lay member of the Cheadle Deanery team, Beth Flashman said: “It has been a privilege to be part of the Cheadle Deanery Shaping for Mission Team. It has been an interesting process that has taken time and a variety of skills from an eclectic range of team members. There were times of frustration, but overall, I feel that we have entered the vision setting stage of the process with a clear idea of where we would like to see the Deanery in the future. We hope to look at Church without walls, at spreading the good news of Christ across the whole kingdom locally, and ministering to our people wherever they are, whenever they need us.”
The diocesan facilitators, working with each deanery likewise had very different experiences. There has been a lot of discussion about deaneries and what sort of units they are. The Revd Philip Swan reflected: “Before we began I had wondered whether the Deanery unit could be revitalised sufficiently to take SfM forwards. I was encouraged therefore to observe within the deaneries mutual learning, growing trust and a renewed commitment to be part of God’s wider mission.” Several other facilitators noted that the process of SfM itself had begun to establish some of the collaboration, information sharing and shared mission across deaneries that the process is seeking to build.
Details, questions, answers...
Sign up for The Bulletin which continues to include valuable info including news, resources and network-building for everyone with an interest in the diocese and Shaping for Mission. Tick boxes for The Bulletin and 'click here to update your profile/preferences' if prompted. Or email the Comms team. The journey is also being shared in some episodes of The Ministry Shift.
You have provided for your people in every generation.
We receive your gifts, believe your promises and trust you for the future.
The Shaping for Mission process is being overseen by the Bishop's Staff team and delivered by a team of senior officers from various departments of the diocesan staff.