Key Questions

What is Fit for Mission?

Fit for Mission is a practical and creative missional response to the challenges we’ve been experiencing within the Church for some time. This includes a 65% decline in church attendance in the past 30 years, plus a 38% reduction in clergy while maintaining 94% of the buildings we had thirty years ago, making it hard to focus on mission and ministry.

On a practical level, this means legally becoming a larger parish so that it’s easier to work more closely together, benefitting from streamlined governance, increased administration capabilities, a clergy team approach that increases collegiality, accountability, and general well-being, and increased skill-sharing, providing more time and resources for mission and ministry.

At the heart of the programme is local decision making, supported and resourced by the Fit for Mission team, helping to empower local people to make decisions that best support their local context. There’s no agenda for everywhere to be the same, but instead, we hope and pray that we can embrace our diversity and difference, and the richness it brings, so we can work better together for a bigger church to make a bigger difference.

Where and when will Fit for Mission happen?

The whole of the Diocese of Liverpool has begun exploring how they can become more Fit for Mission. The timing of your decision will depend on your deanery.

This process began in 2022 with ‘cohort 1’ – The deaneries of St Helens and West Derby. The larger parish of Church St Helens is now a new legal parish, and ‘Christ Our Hope Liverpool’, the name of the new larger parish in West Derby, is also on its journey to becoming one.

‘Cohort 2’ includes the deaneries of Ormskirk, Warrington, Liverpool South and Toxteth and Wavertree, who are currently working together on what their shared life might look like in the future – we call this the ‘acting as if’ phase.

The remaining deaneries are part of ‘Cohort 3’; during 2024 & 2025, they will explore what Fit for Mission means for them. These are the deaneries of Huyton, Liverpool North and Walton, North Meols, Sefton North, Sefton South, Widnes and Winwick.

Why is Fit for Mission important?

Becoming more Fit for Mission is important because we’re asking God for a bigger church to make a bigger difference, while also facing challenges within our local church communities. This is also evident nationally, where the Church of England has experienced decline for some time. Within our diocese, over the past 30 years we have experienced a 55% decline in attendance. This rose to a 65% decline after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know how diligently you are working within your churches to juggle everything, but this is unsustainable long term – trying to do more with less is an uphill battle, and our clergy and leaders are overstretched, caught up in admin, governance and managing buildings.

We want to do things differently so we can free people up to focus on mission and ministry. To sustain and grow our churches for the future, we need to lay the groundwork today.

Even in churches experiencing stability or growth, we’re still not introducing as many people to Jesus as we’d like, so to turn around this massive trend in decline, we need to do things differently.

What are the key benefits of Fit for Mission?

Being part of a Fit for Mission parish can bring many benefits - each enabling us to grow and sustain our churches.

Skill Sharing and Community Connection

Fit for Mission makes it easier to share our skills and experiences, enhancing our connections across our local area. Working together also means we can benefit more effectively from the diverse talent and knowledge of people within our deaneries, fostering stronger leadership and effectively addressing key issues that challenge our church communities.

Efficiency and optimisation

Our current resource constraints, both in terms of people and money, can be alleviated by streamlining processes. Developing strong administration capabilities and streamlining governance frees up valuable time and financial resources, as with fewer administrative and practical burdens, individuals can focus more on outreach activities. Additionally, by sharing some practical elements of church, such as insurance policies, we can achieve significant cost savings, making our financial resources stretch further.

Leadership Support

Clergy and lay leaders are often stretched beyond their capacity, leading to isolation and burnout. Fit for Mission will help church leaders benefit from mutual accountability, collegiality and support, as they begin to develop relationships and work more closely together. This support system combined with the efficiency of new processes, will help our church leaders to thrive, creating more opportunities for new missional activities and ensuring they have the time and energy to focus on their primary roles.

Building Management

One of the significant challenges we face is maintaining the nearly all of the buildings we had thirty years ago, despite a significant drop in attendance. Some buildings may be unsustainable due to poor condition, location, or accessibility issues. The programme encourages a proactive approach to evaluating and repurposing or releasing these buildings, ensuring that our facilities are suitable and welcoming to diverse congregations.

Collaborative Efforts

Great work is being done across our diocese, but often in isolation. Adopting a collaborative approach means we can support each other and share best practices, for instance, a larger parish approach to youth work can be more effective in reaching new people. If we collaborate we can innovate, share the workload, and support each other on the journey, making our efforts more impactful.

Bigger Church, Bigger Difference

The ultimate goal of the Fit for Mission programme is to set up our churches for growth and greater impact. By increasing support and efficiency, we aim to build a bigger church that can make a bigger difference. By focusing on our four missional priorities we can ensure that our churches not only grow in numbers but also in their ability to create change in their communities.

How will we become more Fit for Mission?

We know that every church, worshipping community, and local context is unique, which is why ‘Fit for Mission’ is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead, a locally-led mission initiative which enables local people to make decisions about what is the best approach for their larger parish. On a practical level, the Fit for Mission team will support this across three stages in the journey. You can read more about the programme journey and timeline, here

Do you have more questions?

You can find many more answers in our FAQ document, here

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