A vision for the Church of England in the 2020s is to be 'a Church that is younger and more diverse,' seeking to double the numbers of young disciples by 2030.
Growing Faith is the movement that exists to change the culture of the Church of England, so that everyone instinctively puts children, young people and families at the heart of all the ministry and mission of the Church.
Growing Faith involves churches, schools and households working together to help children, young people and families have life in all its fullness.
As a diocese we are adopting Growing Faith as the basis for our strategic plans to grow younger.
Why is Growing Faith needed?
Jesus (Matt.19:14) and the early church (1. Tim 4:12) placed immense value on the place and role of children and young people in the kingdom of God.
Children, young people and families are vitally important to the church, not merely for our survival into future generations, but because a church that cares about children and young people is indicative of a healthy church.
In this report from the House of Bishops in 2019, there is recognition that ‘it is not always clear that the church is sufficiently focused on the engagement in ministry with children and young people.’
This is despite it being well acknowledged that the vast majority of Christians today have come to faith before the age of 18.
As a church and as a diocese, we have to confess that historically and at present children and young people have not always been intrinsically part of our ministry and mission.
There needs to be a cultural shift.
Growing Faith envisions children, young people and households coming to faith, growing in discipleship and contributing confidently to the Kingdom of God through the community of faith.
It is about how, as members of the whole people of God, children and young people are encouraged and how the whole Church is equipped to think intergenerationally. (A useful summary can be found here )
The Growing Faith Principles
Growing Faith provides a helpful lens for assessing our current practices and potential opportunities.
As we, as churches and as a diocese, seek to give children, young people and families a chance to explore and deepen their faith, it is helpful to look for the meeting places between churches, schools and households.
Alongside our diocesan vision, "The Kingdom of God – good news for all" we are inviting church communities to ask themselves what it would look like to be good news for young people in churches, schools and households.
Three principles are shaping our approach to Growing Faith:
Connected Communities - looking for the meaningful connected community of faith in the intersection between church, school and households.
Spiritual Encounters - engaging in conversations about and expressing faith as people encounter God as individuals and together.
Imaginative Practices - searching for 'a new way of being church' and creating new thinking and new doing in relation to children, young people and households.
What is the current picture? +Numbers are not always the best way to measure how fruitful a church/ministry is, but they can be a useful tool.
An estimated 95,800 under 16s attended Sunday church before the pandemic, with 1100 in the Diocese of Derby.
Most recent provisional national statistics for mission imply this has dropped by as much as 40% between 2019 and 2021.
Many of our churches are rebuilding their ministries and there is lots of potential across the diocese, but sadly children’s, youth and families ministries were most impacted by the pandemic.
However, the reality is that there are many opportunities to be good news to children, young people and families, especially since the needs for many have increased.
We are supporting and encouraging innovative children’s and youth ministries across the diocese.
What about small congregations with fewer children? +Growing Faith is a vision for all churches, large or small.
Every congregation can pray for their community and school(s).
Children, young people and their families need a friendly welcome and the chance to be involved, even if they are just visiting.
How should we identify opportunities for Growing Faith? +A key recommendation from the national growing faith movement, is that churches are encouraged to do ministry with and not just for children, young people, and families.
Listening to the voices of children and young people is key if a church is to serve them, but moreover young people are the church of now and we encourage all churches to experience the rich blessing that comes from involving young people as much as possible in all aspects of church life, including decision making structures.
What is the Church of England doing nationally to develop Growing Faith? +Details of the Growing Faith Foundation can be found online.
Lucy Moore (formerly of Messy Church) now heads up the team. The work in progress includes:
• Encouraging networking and shared story-telling across dioceses through growing faith champions.
• Learning hubs – investing in 12 learning hubs across the country to foster growing faith in different contexts. As a diocese, we have successfully applied for one of these learning hubs commencing in May 2023.
• Training programmes – developing the pathways for youth, children’s and family workers so that more can explore it as a vocation and progress in it for longer.
• Research - 13 Growing Faith research projects are underway to further our understanding of growing faith in the intersections between households, schools and churches.
How will the church(es) I’m linked with be part of Growing Faith? +It’s likely that there will already be areas of GF that are part of your church life.
Perhaps someone visits and helps in the local school, maybe you are engaging with young people in your community through various ministries, or have ways of involving children and young people in your Sunday worship, or perhaps there is a Toddler group or other activity to support carers and parents.
Growing Faith is about prayerfully seeking ways to further develop ministry in schools, homes and churches, so that as many children, young people and families have the opportunity to explore and grow their faith.
How can we pray? +Prayer underpins all our local, diocesan and national efforts to reach the younger generations with the good news of the Kingdom of God.
In line with the national bold outcome to double the number of young disciples in the church by 2030, there is a weekly national prayer meeting on zoom every Tuesday 1-1.20pm.
The aim is for 1000 people to pray weekly.
To get the login information email email@example.com
Revd Aidan Watson (Strategic Youth Adviser) and Sarah Brown (Children’s Adviser) will be working to develop Growing Faith across the diocese. If you are looking to develop your growing faith ministry, or if you have stories of innovative ministry with children, young people and families to share with others, please contact us.
Revd Aidan Watson Aidan.firstname.lastname@example.org | 01332 278144
Sarah Brown Sarah.email@example.com | 01332 388663