We've answered the most common questions about Shaping for Mission here
But if your question isn't answered here, please email Lindsey Hall and the team will try to provide an answer - and add it here!
Q: What is Shaping for Mission?
A: Shaping for Mission is the work in Lichfield Diocese to strengthen our life of discipleship, vocation and evangelism while facing a significant reduction in financial income. It commenced in autumn 2020 with the formation of Shaping for Mission teams in each deanery. These teams will work with their deanery and the diocesan team to develop a vision for sustainable mission in the deanery.
Q: Why is it focussed on deaneries?
A: The work is a partnership between the deaneries, diocesan senior staff and diocesan officers. Deaneries are part of the existing structure and give a manageable size unit to work with. They are also big enough to offer a wide range of mission and ministry between them.
Schools, chaplaincies and fresh expressions are (at least geographically) within deaneries but are not always connected to them; as part of the mixed economy of mission, they are an important part of the reshaping and will hopefully be more connected into deaneries through this process.
Q: What learning from elsewhere lies behind Shaping for Mission?
A: The Mission Projects. Launched in 2017 these four projects in the diocese sought to establish new expressions of mission. You can read more about them here. Part of the work was a continual process of reflection and evaluation on the projects which led to some helpful learning about, amongst other things: the time it takes to establish new patterns, grounding any new venture in prayer, and working on relationships between existing and new communities.
A: Plain Speaking. In 2011 we carried out an exercise with deaneries called Plain Speaking which mapped the financial and missional health of parishes. As a result of that work there was a reduction in clergy posts and we were able to balance the budget until this year. What Plain Speaking didn’t attempt, was to change the way in which we do and resource mission and ministry; that is the focus of Shaping for Mission.
Q: What about church buildings?
A: While acknowledging and taking into account the importance that church buildings have in many local communities, shaping a future of sustainable mission in those communities will inevitably lead to changes in the use of some buildings. This can be a complicated process but we have a team working on the use of buildings, who are in touch with the work that is being done by the Church of England nationally in this area. If your vision for the deanery involves maintaining fewer buildings, or using some of them differently, we will work with you to see what is possible.
Q: Shouldn’t these decisions be made by the Bishops?
A: The Bishops agree that the vision for each deanery should be discerned locally. However Bishop’s Staff take full responsibility for making the staffing and resource allocation decisions that will be the second phase of this work. They are not asking Rural Deans or Shaping for Mission Teams to make decisions about reducing or changing posts.
Q: Is Shaping for Mission just another name for cutting resources and costs?
A: No. There is an economic factor and that is particularly reflected in the timing of the work but at the end of this process we want to have a clear vision for sustainable mission across the diocese and to know how we are going to resource it. If it was just about cost-cutting we could attempt to simply cut resources without seeking to align this with a vision for mission.
Q: Why is this being driven locally and not centrally? Is there a risk that with 28 deaneries we will finish up with 28 different ideas about how church should look?
A: The process that will be used to enable deaneries to discern ways forward, which are appropriate to their context locally, is being shaped centrally. However, Lichfield Diocese is so diverse that our shared vision for being God’s people in this place works out differently in different parts of it. We may end up with 28 different ideas about how the church should look but if they are 28 faithful responses to God’s call, developed into ways of sustaining our mission and ministry, then that is a more important outcome than uniformity.
Q: How do we ensure smaller churches, or those with less resources, have an equal say in Shaping for Mission in their deanery?
A: Sustainable mission isn’t about just ‘going where the money is’ and part of the challenge for each deanery is to work out who to listen to, how to include a wide range of people in the process and how to take seriously every missional context in the deanery.
Q: What about churches who don’t easily fit into their local deanery or don’t identify with it?
A: Collaborating in the process doesn’t necessarily mean that churches will end up doing everything together, and the diversity of churches in a deanery may well be one of the things that people value as offering a range of approaches to mission and ministry. This is an opportunity to engage with the other churches, as well as schools, fresh expressions and chaplaincies in your deanery and to look at how, between you, you offer a sustainable mission.
Q: How is this different from Plain Speaking?
A: Plain Speaking did some evaluation of mission but did not seek to change the ways in which we do and resource mission and ministry. It was successful at reducing posts and balancing the budget, but it didn’t establish lasting change in terms of the shape of mission and ministry.
Q: Will Shaping for Mission inevitably result in churches relying more on volunteers and less on paid clergy?
A: Deployment may well look different as a result of Shaping for Mission and the process will challenge us to think about how we use resources. It may not be a question of whether we rely on unpaid people more, but what we think needs resourcing as paid roles and what we think should be resourced by the community of disciples who aren’t paid for their work. There is some debate about whether the language of ‘volunteers’ is appropriate to a church context, when we are talking about the living out of vocations regardless of whether or not people are being paid to directly enable that work.
Q: How will Shaping for Mission factor in the work we’re doing with non-Anglican churches and community partners in our area?
A: It is important to factor in all of the partnerships and work that already exists and use local knowledge to build on these.
Q: How do we give children and young people a voice in Shaping for Mission?
A: This is a great opportunity to ask the children and young people in your churches and communities what they think are the priorities for the future of the church. If you would like some ideas about how to do this, do talk to your deanery facilitator. You may also want to think about the age range represented on your Deanery Shaping for Mission Team.
Q: Has Shaping for Mission replaced the priorities of Discipleship, Vocation and Evangelism?
A: No. Shaping for Mission is our outworking of these priorities as we respond to the way the world has changed, the missional opportunities of the church today and tomorrow, and seek to establish a sustainable way of being church together for the future.
Q: The review document refers to the ‘5 Marks of Mission’ what are they?
A: The Five Marks of Mission is a statement from the Anglican Communion about what mission is. It is an important definition for the Church of England as we think about what it means to be a missional church now and in the future.
Q: What are the Bishops and Archdeacons going to do with the work the deaneries have done and how will they make decisions based on them?
A: The Bishops and Archdeacons are working on the process for Phase Three of Shaping for Mission and hope to be able to share the details of this in the spring.
Q: I haven’t heard what’s happening in my deanery, how might I find out about Shaping for Mission in this deanery?
A: Hopefully you will hear from the Shaping for Mission team in a number of ways. This might be through Deanery Synod, through being invited to contribute to the review or via updates through the parish and other networks. If you haven’t heard anything do contact your Rural Dean or the Diocesan Facilitator.