We had a very good meeting of the Deanery Strategy Group last Thursday. We'll be producing a letter to go to parishes in the next couple of weeks, but here are a few notes for those who are interested...
Deanery Strategy Group
Looking Back: Review of the Previous Deanery Plan
In May 2005 the Deanery of Milton Keynes began a process of consultation and reflection which led to the production of a new Deanery Plan. The process included detailed research, visits to PCCs and an away day. A fairly substantial discussion document was produced which was slowly refined into a twelve page booklet entitled: A Framework for the Future. This was approved by Deanery Synod in June 2006.
The Framework had four key strands which were intended to direct the work of the deanery over the coming years. These were set out as a set of “rules” which would help guide decision-making. There was a general recognition that we were entering a period of transition and change.
The key strands of the Framework were:
1. Sustainability: We decided that every church should pay between 80% and 120% of its ministry costs and that the ability to pay would be used to determine the number of stipendiary clergy in each parish.
2. Ongoing Deanery Development: We decided that it was too early to discuss the possibility of splitting the deanery but that it would be worth looking at “anomalous adjoining areas”. We also recommended that final decisions relating to Anglican funded posts should rest with the Deanery Pastoral Committee.
3. Non-Parochial and New Posts: We set out a policy which would define how decisions about non-parochial and new posts should be made and how they should be funded. We were keen that costs should be shared ecumenically and that new posts would only be considered if we managed to reduce our total level of deployment below the maximum set by the Archdeaconry – 18.
4. Encouraging Local Development: We came up with three key ideas which we hoped would help local churches:
a. Supporting Church Development: We offered £500 to each church from our reserves to help pay for external resources, e.g. Natural Church Development or Building Healthy Churches.
b. New Forms of Church and Ministry: We suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at how we support the development of local church ministry.
c. Changing the way buildings are used: We also suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at ways of assessing, developing, mothballing or redeveloping church buildings.
The process of producing the Framework was extremely valuable since it brought people together and helped develop more healthy links and relationships. This seemed to re-energise the deanery and resulted in an increase in creativity and vision.
The impact of the Framework can only be judged by reviewing events over the following three years:
Groupings: The initial discussion document explored a range of potential groupings which were fairly radical and linked churches on the basis of style rather than geography. Although this idea was dropped in the Framework we have seen a growth in creative partnerships over the following few years as Anglican and LEP churches have begun to work more closely with new partners – particularly amongst the independent churches.
Church Development: The offer of £500 per church was not taken up. This may be because those churches that were already pursuing a “healthy churches” agenda didn’t need the money. We didn’t have the capacity to make this offer in a more proactive way.
Use of Buildings: No ecumenical project group was set up to look at buildings or the way they are used. Since there was no-one available to drive this issue it was forgotten.
Financial Sustainability: Although we set ourselves a clear target in 2006 it was not obvious how this would be achieved. The existence of an LEP Funding Schemes seemed to make it difficult for us to set the direction of future share payments. A great deal of work was done by the Deanery Finance Committee in 2007 to understand, model and predict share payments. We then produced a ten year transition plan with the intention that every church would pay 80% of its cost of ministry by 2013 and that we would collectively pay 100% of our cost of ministry by 2018. A new share policy was agreed in November 2007.
Deployment: We recognised that sustainability would only be achieved if we were willing to face a reduction in our deployment of stipendiary clergy. We followed our own “rules” and applied them to a number of parishes including Bletchley, Woughton, Water Eaton and Watling Valley. In 2005 we had 21.2 stipendiary posts. By 2008 that figure had fallen to 16.2.
Parish Boundaries: Although we were not able to address the issues relating to our boundaries with other deaneries, we did tidy up one of our internal boundaries – between Watling Valley and Calverton. This change was made to give clarity to our work in the new area, usually known as Area 10 and 11.
Lay Ministry: The need for greater empowerment, support and training for lay ministry was recognised as a key issue in the discussions of 2005/6. There has been an explosion of lay ministry over the following three years, particularly in parishes where the number of stipendiary ministers has been reduced. Peter Ballantine has started to change the way training is provided, so that he can respond to local needs. Before 2008 there were no authorised preachers in Milton Keynes Deanery. By the end of 2008 there were over a dozen!
Local Shared Ministry: An ecumenical project group was set up in January 2007 to look at the model of ministry known as Local Shared Ministry, Mutual Ministry or Total Ministry. This group reported at the end of 2007 with the conclusion that the “New Zealand Model” was not appropriate for our context but that a more bottom-up approach could be developed. During 2008 the group refined its ideas and began to expand the conversation in early 2009.
In the meantime the congregation of St Frideswide in Water Eaton have become our first LSM pilot and seem to be growing in depth and numbers. This project was reviewed in October 2008 and there will be “a celebration of a new ministry” at some point in 2009.
Fresh Expressions: A fresh expressions project group was set up in June 2008 to look at the development, support and training of those involved in fresh expressions and pioneer ministry. An away day was held in October 2008 and courses were planned for 2009. Although this was not a direct proposal from the deanery plan this development does reflect the Framework’s emphasis on the training and support of lay ministry and the need to engage with the wider community.
Deanery Posts: We started to review our deanery level posts in November 2007. A small group produced the proposal that we should aim for three half-time posts linked to strategy/coordination, mission/enabling and training/nurture. We met with the Bishop, Archdeacon and Parish Development Officer and discovered that we lacked clarity about the vision and values of the deanery. We did, however, decide to use one of our mothballed posts to kick-start further development by setting aside the area dean for ¾ time. This was debated throughout 2008 and finally agreed in January 2009.
These few brief paragraphs are only a summary of the work that has been done by the deanery during the past three years and they represent an incredible amount of work by a number of people. We recognise that similar journeys and processes have taken place in local parishes and we would hope to take note of some of these in our final report.
We are also interested in the way that this process began with issues about deployment and money – and ended with questions about vision and values. This almost seems the wrong way around, although we do note that authors often write the introduction after they have written their book. The next deanery plan must, however, work from vision and values to strategies and tasks – rather than the other way around.
Key Issues and Criteria for Assessment
Looking back at the previous deanery plan, and observing the work that has taken place since then, we could say that the next deanery plan must address the following eight issues:
Engagement with the World:
• We must be able to respond to real needs with loving action.
• We must be able to meet people where they are.
• Each church should be growing in health and depth of discipleship.
• The boundaries between parishes should be appropriate for our mission.
• Responsibilities should be shared between lay and ordained people.
• Each church must have a sufficient number of local members who are trained and supported in ministry.
• We need a sufficient number of professional ministers to support our people and communities.
• Our ministers must have the skills and abilities needed for enabling and supporting lay people.
Effective Use of Buildings:
• Our buildings must be accessible to non-church members.
• We must be able to engage with those who use our buildings.
• There should be high quality relationships between Anglicans in Milton Keynes.
• There should be warm and productive relationships with other churches.
• Anglican structures and decisions should be clear, transparent and accountable.
• Ecumenical relationships should have positive benefits for Christian witness, discipleship and mission.
• Each Church should be paying between 80% and 100% of its cost of ministry.
• Local giving across the deanery must be sufficient to pay our costs.
Potential Questions for Local Churches
Using these issues abstracted from the notes, we could ask the following questions:
1. How have you been responding to real needs in your local area?
2. How have you been meeting people where they are?
3. How has your church been growing in health and depth of discipleship?
4. Are the boundaries between your parish and those around you appropriate for your mission? If not, what are the issues?
5. How are responsibilities shared between lay and ordained people in your church?
6. What forms of lay ministry do you find helpful in your church?
7. What training and support do the members of your church need for Christian service?
8. What skills and abilities do you think an ordained minister needs to have if a church is to grow?
9. How is your building accessible to non-church members?
10. How do you engage with those who use your building?
11. How do you relate to other Anglicans in Milton Keynes?
12. How do you work with other churches?
13. How have Anglican decisions affected your church?
14. What effect do the ecumenical structures have on your ministry and mission?
15. Do you know how much of your ministry costs are paid through your share contributions? If so, how much?
16. What challenges are you facing in the payment of your parish share?