Bishop Paul: “Here in Liverpool we are fond of the phrase, ‘a long obedience in the same direction’. In his book of the same title, Eugene Peterson rightly underlines the need for a consistent, disciplined journey of faith, resisting the quick fix and looking instead to the long view. Over several decades, and certainly, in the episcopate of my predecessors David Sheppard and James Jones, the long obedience has been sustained, and the strategic direction of the Diocese of Liverpool has been consistent. Now the time has come for a further step along that same road.”
Where has Fit for Mission come from?
Fit for Mission is born from The Diocese of Liverpool’s faithful and prayerful call to fulfil God’s work as we ask God for “a bigger church to make a bigger difference, with more people knowing Jesus; more justice in the world.” Recognising that 70% of our churches are already in sustained decline, and facing the reality of current issues like a lack of diversity in our congregations, a considerable admin burden, and some unsuitable and unsustainable church buildings, we know we need to act now. We will do this through an agreed change process, with specialist support and resources, focused upon our 4 mission priorities, and our 5 programme actions.
What is the theology behind the project?
It is rich and deep-rooted in a biblical understanding of the primacy of making disciples of all nations (Matt 28) and that this requires the people of God to step more fully into the harvest field (Luke 10), through to a deep understanding of the mutuality of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) and the generosity of the people of God (2 Cor 8). There has also been a strong sense that like the people of Israel, we have not been this way before (Josh 3).
Building on previous success:
The Fit for Mission programme will harness some of the key lessons and resources of previous Diocese of Liverpool initiatives, including:
- Incorporating best practices from all churches in across our diocese
- Helping to revitalise existing churches through Leading your Church into Growth (LyCiG)
- Enabling Resource Churches, where they exist in a deanery, to lead on larger planting by sending teams out to plant and revitalise.
- Bringing learning from the Joshua Centre and Wigan, where we have seen growth through smaller, largely lay-led worshipping communities. Since 2015 these have planted around 70 new worshipping communities.
Over the last two years, Fit for Mission has involved hundreds of people across our diocese in working groups, consultations, and discernment. During this time significant formal funding from The Church Commissioners was agreed, to help move the programme forward, enabling each deanery to get the support they need, including specific resources for the two-year change period. In May 2022, the deaneries of St Helens and West Derby started their Fit for Mission journey with each PCC deciding on whether to become a part of the first cohort. Twenty-three churches across St Helens and West Derby made a commitment to the process, and they are now approaching the official formalise stage, where they will form larger parishes.
To find out more about when your church may begin the Fit for Mission process, speak to your local vicar, or contact the Fit for Mission Team, here: email@example.com
While waiting for your church and deanery to begin engaging with the Fit for Mission Process, we’d love for you to pray for this programme and the work being done to sustain and grow the church for the future, as we remember God is always with us, and faithful until the end of the age. You may find reading through the following documents helpful:
- Two-page summary
Fit for Mission at a glance - a two-page summary with the key points
- Getting Fit for Mission ready
Some ideas and suggestions for deaneries and churches who a looking for ways to prepare for Fit for Mission
- Scoping document
A 64-page working document that describes the journey of a deanery towards being Fit for Mission
- Frequently asked questions
A collection of questions asked by church members in cohorts 1 and 2 that have engaged with Fit for Mission