New report shows ‘deep’ approach to mission helps churches connect with local communities
Report into PMC highlights public Christian witness and empowered lay people as key benefits
Churches engaging publicly with their local communities.
Lay people empowered and stepping into positions of leadership both within the church and beyond.
These are two of the successful outcomes of participating in Partnership for Missional Church (PMC), according to a new independent report commissioned by Church Mission Society.
The report demonstrated that such outcomes were being seen across the breadth of church traditions: from affluent to deprived communities, from churches with homogenous congregations to the ethnically diverse, and in both urban and rural contexts.
One church, St Paul's Wokingham, inspired by PMC implemented ‘cake bombing’ to connect with local residents.
PMC is a three year process for churches, designed to help participants connect with the activity of God, each other and their local area, which Church Mission Society is delivering across the UK. The report evaluates the impact of PMC since its introduction to the UK in 2011 and is based on research undertaken by Liz Clutterbuck and Andy Schofield of the Transformational Index [TI] Group, drawing on the experience of 82 churches from four dioceses: Southwell & Nottingham, Leicester, Oxford and Durham.
As part of the research, members of participating churches were invited to complete a survey. Seventy-two per cent of respondents said that PMC had made a positive impact on their ability to establish partnerships outside the church, and seven out of 10 said PMC had also made a positive impact on their individual Christian lives, deepening both their personal faith and their corporate spiritual experience.
The majority of respondents said that their involvement in PMC had led to them being more confident in their Christian witness and evangelism.
The research showed that churches obtained a clearer sense of vision and purpose, in and for their neighbourhood: 36 per cent of respondents said they were now confident about sharing their vision while others [41 per cent] reported that their plans for the local community had grown significantly.
Lay people empowered
The research also highlighted the empowerment and mobilisation of lay people: 76 per cent of survey respondents said they had taken on new roles since beginning PMC. Some positions were linked directly to the PMC process and church administration, while others got more involved in the local community, including becoming a school governor or working with a homeless project.
Canon Dr Nigel Rooms, leader for PMC in the UK, said, “The future of the church is the laity. The PMC process invests heavily into lay people and so it’s great to see how so many have been empowered and mobilised through it.”
Dr Rooms went on to explain that the key aim of the PMC process is a deep and long-term cultural change in congregational life, away from doing mission “for” the community towards mission “with” the community. Congregations are encouraged to work with local community partners to dream dreams and turn them into a reality.
Notice 'what God is up to'
Dr Rooms said: “PMC helps Christian communities to notice ‘what God is up to’ among themselves and in their context. We support churches as they discover God as their primary partner in mission. Once they understand this, real change happens.”
Local clusters of churches participating in the PMC process commit to meeting together three times a year for intensive consultation and training.
They also learn to embrace a series of spiritual practices and seek out opportunities to identify and partner with people with whom God is already at work.
Many churches reported feeling freer and more relaxed in mission, and one described this change as “an open, organic and relational approach to mission”.
Deep culture change
They said, “We have redefined what church is and might be; yet because we have been upfront about who we are and whose we are, the relationships have just grown and conversations about faith followed naturally”.
The report concludes, “PMC is best understood as a deep change process that is as much cultural as theological. It contributes to a broadening and deepening of relationships within churches and communities and brings faith into the public sphere in ways that churches would otherwise have struggled to achieve. There is welcome evidence that local church, rather than being a subset for a thin slice of the community, is becoming integral in holding bonds across boundaries.”
Dr Rooms added, “Partnership for Missional Church is not about saving the church, but this report has demonstrated that because PMC sets people free to be distinctly Christian and good news in the local community, it has the potential to transform churches for the next generation.”
Philip Mounstephen, executive leader at Church Mission Society, said, “I believe that PMC has so much to offer the church and it seems to be ‘for such a time as this’. We offer it to the wider church not as a quick-fix cure-all – but as a way of reconnecting with our God, and with the world to which he sends us.”