'How can we get support?' is about checking out your ideas and plans on the people whose backing the venture needs. You will be more likely to get their support if you take their feedback seriously. This 'thread' will continue throughout a fresh expression's life and extends the process of listening described in What form should our fresh expression take?
Persuasion through testing
Securing support and resources will be important for any fresh expression of church, large or small. At the very least, it will include the support of those you feel called to serve. But it may also entail getting permission, mobilising volunteers, raising money and much more. Enlisting support can be a major task for the mission team. There are at least two ways of going about it.
The salesman model
This involves making a pitch for support to whoever matters. It assumes that the pioneer or missional community knows what should happen. Members have done their discovering, the vision is clear (see What form should our fresh expression take?) and now all that's required is to drum up support.
The model can work well if the leader has a charismatic personality, which typically includes the following characteristics:
- social perception - an ability to read other people;
- positive impression management - others see the person in a positive way;
- social adaptability - the person can relate well to people in a variety of social contexts;
- expressiveness - the person expresses their emotions clearly to evoke enthusiasm in others.
Leaders with these attributes can win support and develop amazing ventures using the salesman's model. But the model has limitations:
Not everyone has these attributes in such abundance
Less charismatic leaders may need a different approach. Indeed, if the salesman's pitch appears to be the only model, potential but less charismatic church founders may be put off. 'I can't do that sort of thing, so I could never start a church.'
The model can be stressful
It sets the leader up for disappointment if the vision does not get the support it needs. 'If we don't get permission, we can't do it. The vision fails.' 'The vision fails' can easily slide into 'I've failed', which creates unhealthy anxiety.
The model increases risk
Tthat other people get swept along by the pioneer's enthusiasm and warning voices are drowned out. However well the missional community has listened to the context, its vision may contain a flaw. Someone outside the community may be aware of a change in circumstances or have an idea that could improve the proposal, such as a better location for meetings. But the person is not heard because the pioneer is in selling rather than listening mode.
A testing model
This involves constantly trying out the missional community's vision and the ideas for realising it on potential 'stakeholders' outside the team. 'This is where our thinking has got to; how do you react?' The community gathers support not by selling a concept, but by engaging other people as partners. Persuasion occurs through the 'co-production' of the venture - the team produces the fresh expression with other people and in so doing gains their support.
The personal qualities of a charismatic leader will still come into play, but there is room also for midwives of church who are less charismatic. They win support not because they are good at selling, but because they have patiently developed ideas jointly with people outside the team who have something to contribute. The process can be slower than 'selling' because the missional community more frequently goes back to potential stakeholders as it forms its ideas. But the advantages are considerable:
The community forms stronger relationships with other people
This increases trust, respect and friendliness, all of which make support for the venture more probable. If stakeholders have been involved in developing proposals, they will have a sense of ownership.
The community keeps open to new ideas and alternative solutions
The more people who are involved in developing the proposals, the wider the pool of wisdom, knowledge and personal contacts to draw on.
Resistance can be viewed in a constructive light
Rather than opposition being viewed negatively, resistance can be seen as an opportunity for learning. 'Does this opposition reflect something in the culture that we haven't fully taken on board?' The search for solutions can produce unexpected combinations. Imagine, for example, a head teacher refuses permission for a church-run after school club because of the possible reaction of other faiths. Might the answer be to run it jointly with a Muslim teacher at the school, with separate Islam and Christian zones for spiritual input? Unimagined links with the local Muslim community might develop as a result. The outcome may be better than the original idea.
Prayer partners are easily forgotten, but are vital. Of course, Christians at the core of the fresh expression will be praying for it, but their prayers can be helpfully supported by other people.
Involving a wider circle of prayer:
- will strengthen the spiritual heart of the venture. Prayer played a key role in Jesus' ministry and in the growth of the early church (see for example Acts 1.14, 2.42, 4.24ff, 8.15, 10.9, 12.5, 13.3, 14.23, 16.25, 20.36, 21.5, 28.8).
- will open more channels for God's guidance. There will be more people to pass on an insight or some wisdom gained through prayer.
- will expand the potential for practical support. The more people praying for specific help, the more people there may be who know someone who can provide that help.
- will assist the missional community to remain connected to the wider church, as a source of sustenance and an expression of their common identity in Christ.
These may be drawn from
- a circle of Christian friends;
- the church that is sponsoring the initiative;
- individuals with a special call to pray;
- a religious order nearby.
Keeping in touch with prayer partners - through email and occasional meetings, for instance - may need some thought. How will you ensure that communication flows both ways, for example?
The people you are called to serve
Their support is crucial, of course! Hopefully you will have got to to know some of them well through the 'Discovering → shared vision' process described in What form should our fresh expression take? But it may be that you need more time, especially if you are in a cross-cultural situation. 'Testing' may involve cementing existing relationships - perhaps just by hanging out with people. As trust grows, you can encourage people to shape the vision further and how it is to be achieved.
Encouraging volunteers from the mission context
This will increase commitment to the venture, and volunteers will be likely to invite their friends. In some circumstances, might volunteers contribute to the spiritual dimension of the venture as well as to practical aspects? A community of artists, for example, could have a spiritual zone where they meet. Why shouldn't someone with no obvious faith be asked to populate the zone with books showing religious art?
The convener of a spirituality group in a leisure centre might, in the first couple of sessions, lead members through an Ignatian exercise, using a book bought for the purpose. Someone with no obvious faith, if they were up for it, might be asked to lead the third session, using the same book. Sharing leadership will help individuals grow in confidence, be a first step towards making the emerging church self-sustaining and will be an expression of faith that the Spirit has been preparing the heart of the person involved. (See How can we grow something sustainable?)
This will of course help you to connect with those you want to reach. A clear identity, based on a name, logo and strapline that can be used on all your publicity, will help people to recognise you.
The Discovery Days Community Project near Oxford used the strapline: 'Discover your neighbour, discover your community and discover God.'
Gently making clear that yours is a Christian venture will allow you to develop the spiritual aspect of your work without anyone saying, 'But you never said...'. Attendance can be taken as implied permission for you to grow your Christian ethos. Even so, you will want to check out each major step towards Jesus with those who come. If it is to be their fresh expression, they must own each stage of the journey.
What sort of relationship will be assumed in your publicity? For example, will information about one of your activities be the first time that people hear about you? Or will your first bit of publicity advertise an open meeting, when you will consult people on the possibilities you have in mind?
The best publicity will be word of mouth. Your efforts will be far more likely to bear fruit if they have the support of one or two people with lots of friends and contacts they can invite. These networkers are the modern equivalents of the 'person of peace' Jesus referred to in Luke 10.6. If you haven't got a networker involved, get one quickly! Networkers will bring the people you are seeking to reach.
These play a key role in opening doors and allowing the venture to flourish. They may be outside the church or within.
Permission-givers outside the church
These include anyone whose permission you need to start and develop your fresh expression, such as the management of the community centre you plan to use. Winning their trust will be helped by relating your ideas to their objectives and priorities. Permission-givers will be on your side if they feel that you are on theirs.
So if you plan a school-based fresh expression, for instance, you may want to frame your ideas in terms of the school's desire to serve the local community. 'Testing' would involve conversations about whether your ideas fit this remit and how they could be shaped to make a greater contribution to it. If the school is crucial to your emerging vision, it will make sense to get to know as much about it as possible. What are the school's values? What is in its strategic plan? What problems does it face? How might your vision address any of these?
Permission-givers within the church
These will be important, especially if your fresh expression is church based. They will be concerned about a number of issues.
'Low control, high accountability' is healthy and should reflect the following principles:
- Trust - the Father trusted his Son to advance the kingdom (1 Corinthians 15.24), the Son trusted his disciples to take forward his work after the ascension, the apostles trusted St Paul with his mission to the Gentiles, and St Paul trusted the leaders he appointed to look after his new churches in the power of the Spirit. He did not retain tight control (nor did he abandon his oversight).
- Accountability - it is hard to trust people if they don't have a sense of being accountable. Jesus made himself accountable to his Father, the apostles were accountable to God, St Paul felt accountable to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and he held the leaders of his new churches to account. Instigators of fresh expressions should make themselves accountable to the wider church just as Paul did. Trust and accountability are two sides of the same coin.
- Mutuality - accountability should be two way. Pioneers should hold their local church, circuit or denomination to account for providing appropriate training and other resources. Pioneers in turn should be held to account for their actions and spiritual growth. Accountability should be within a framework of mutual support.
- Shared risks - there is no such thing as a risk-free mission. Lots of things went wrong in Paul's churches, but this did not prevent him starting more churches and continuing to hand their leadership over to new converts. Perhaps the significant issue is who is exposed to risks. It should not be those the fresh expression serves. It should not only be the pioneers. Supporters and permission-givers should embrace the risks too.
Within this broad framework, you may need to think through the practical arrangements. Who will leader(s) of the fresh expression be accountable to? How will this accountability be expressed? Who else needs to know how the fresh expression is getting on?
The relationship with the parent church
The relationship between the fresh expressions and its parent church (or group of churches) should be made clear from an early stage. The ideal is a culture of provisional recognition that allows the fresh expression to be progressively recognised in a light-touch way. The following may need discussion:
- How will the initiative be governed? Will it be closely integrated into the leadership structures of the parent church, for example, with representation on the leadership team or the church council? Or will it have its own governance and its own links to denominational structures?
- How will leaders be appointed and for how long? Who will make the initial appointment (if the leader is not in place)? Will the appointment be for a fixed period or will there be an option to extend? If the latter, how will the decision be made? Who will be involved in appointing the next person?
- What will be the financial expectations? If the venture is being funded by the parent church or denomination, for how long will that support last? Will continued funding depend on the project meeting certain criteria? If so, what will they be? Who will decide whether they have been met?
- How will the venture be safeguarded if leaders change elsewhere? For example, if there is a change of leadership in the parent church, what steps will be taken to ensure that the interests of the fresh expression are represented in the process of appointing a successor?
- How will communion be celebrated? This will be a particular issue in denominations where only ordained ministers are allowed to preside. You may want to read The UP dimension of church.
- How will progress be reviewed? By whom? How often? Using what criteria? (See 'How will fruitfulness be measured?' below?)
These questions may not be easy to answer in advance. But it will be important to raise them and ask when it would be sensible to return to them - after a specified period of time, for instance, or when the initiative has reached a certain stage? Who will initiate the discussions and who else will be involved?
Tas Valley Cell Church provides an example of how seven recently-formed cells in a rural area managed their relationship with the wider church.
If your mission field crosses boundaries or you plan to be non-geographic, in the Church of England there is a new Code of Practice for the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure, which came into effect in 2008. The Measure and Code make it easier to establish a fresh expression in a parish, even if this is not welcomed by the incumbent and PCC. Between them, the Measure and Code:
- accept the need to recognise new Christian communities alongside and in partnership with parishes;
- create a new device, the Bishop's Mission Order (BMO) - the bishop can use a BMO to establish a new mission initiative that fosters or develops a form of Christian community;
- allow any person or group to request the bishop to establish a mission initiative, or the bishop himself may decide to promote one;
- set out a procedure for approving a BMO or turning the request down;
- set out best practice for governance, ministry, worship and oversight in fresh expressions of church.
Holders of purse strings
Finance is an enabler of mission when handled well. So particular care should be taken over the financial arrangements for a church start, especially when a full-time post is being created.
Financial responsibilities must be taken seriously
Not least because:
- people involved in the fresh expression could be bruised and become disillusioned if poor financial planning seriously disrupts it;
- if a paid employee is appointed, the person and their family may have had to uproot and move to a new part of the country. After that personal disruption, it would be totally unfair if the job was made redundant because of poor financial management;
- considerable sums of money may be involved, when the church generally is strapped for cash.
Someone with basic book-keeping skills is a must, as is the advice of a professional accountant who understands how finances work and the legal requirements. This is an area where good relationships with denominational officers can be especially helpful.
Just a small practical comment here. From the days of the young church and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5.1-11) things often go wrong around 'money'. So think early on about who's going to handle money and how. Build in some safeguards, like always having two people count it and record it.
Sue Hope, Priest in charge St Paul's Shipley and Adviser in Evangelism for the Bradford Diocese
Developing sustainable income streams
Start by understanding the distinction between 'capital' or 'start-up' income and ongoing income or 'revenue'. The first type of income covers start-up costs, which are one-off costs such as the purchase of equipment, while the second meets ongoing costs, which are regular expenses such as rent, putting money aside to replace worn-out equipment and salaries. You need to estimate these costs at the outset. Of course, these estimates will change as plans get modified and the venture develops. Revising these estimates and asking how they will be financed will be important topics for your milestone reviews (see How can we navigate uncharted waters?).
Depending on the venture, it can take several years to develop new income streams to cover ongoing costs. Meanwhile, grant-makers and others who contribute to start-up funding will want to restrict the time frame of their investment.
So you need to be thinking well in advance how your initiative will become financially self-supporting:
- Will the core team and some of their friends be the mainstay of financial support?
- Will funding from your parent church (where relevant) be available on an ongoing basis?
- Can you develop a network of financial supporters, perhaps starting with your prayer partners?
- Can you ask for donations from the people you serve, or introduce a fixed charge?
- As people come into faith, what place will Christian giving play in their discipleship?
- What combination of these streams might be possible?
It may be wise to project your expected annual costs and income (both start-up and ongoing) over the medium to long term - perhaps three to five years if you are a large-ish venture. Again depending on size, the same should be done on a month-by-month basis over the next year or two. For both sets of figures, are there any times when your costs will exceed your income? How will you make sure there will be enough cash in the bank to pay the bills?
A simple business plan
This will be necessary if you are approaching people for money. Charitable foundations and trusts will normally have their own requirements for how the information they need is presented. But if you are approaching individuals or churches, here are some items you may want to include in your plan (adapted from William H Sahlman, 'How to Write a Great Business Plan' in Harvard Business Review on Entrepreneurship, Harvard Business Review, 1999, p32):
- The aim - can you say in a few words what you are seeking to achieve?
- The opportunity - who will the venture serve? In what ways? What is the potential for sustainability and growth? How will you evaluate whether your aim has been achieved?
- The context - what makes you think the opportunity exists to serve these people in this way? Who have you consulted? Is anyone else doing something similar - will you be treading on any toes?
- The people - who is leading the venture? Who else is involved? What specialist expertise can it draw on, such as financial and legal advice (especially if you plan to be a charity)?
- The costs - what will be your start-up and ongoing costs? How will they be met?
- Potential risks - what could go wrong? What steps will you take to minimise these risks and prevent people being hurt? How often will your milestone reviews include a risk assessment?
You will need to describe your venture in a way that excites potential donors. This will involve seeing it from their perspective - what are they interested in, and how does your project fit with this? Realism is vital in deciding the size of the financial commitments you take on.
Addressing the following questions may encourage you to opt for a more gradual or simple approach:
Do we expect the venture to become self-financing?
If so, can we envisage the people the project is likely to serve coming up with the necessary funds?
How long will it take for the venture to become self-financing?
A pioneer who is new to the area and does not have a team in support will take longer to get established than someone who inherits a team with strong networks.
Although various factors will influence how long it takes (if ever) for a fresh expression to become self-financing, many fresh expressions will require funding for much longer than many funders expect. Withdrawing or reducing funding prematurely may jeopardise or destroy a fragile initiative that could thrive within another three or four years if the funders hold their nerve.
Stuart Murray Williams, Urban Expression
Will funders hold their nerve?
Although various factors will influence how long a fresh expression takes (if ever) to become self-financing, many fresh expressions will require funding for much longer than funders tend to expect. Withdrawing or reducing funding prematurely may jeopardise or destroy a fragile initiative that could thrive within another three or four years if the funders adopted a longer time scale. What are funders' likely time frame in your case?
Are we confident about alternative sources of finance?
This is an important question if initial funding is for a limited time and the venture is unlikely to be financially independent by the end.
For more information, see How can we grow something sustainable? or How can we finance a fresh expression? (Share booklet 08).
'How will fruitfulness be measured?'
This will almost certainly be asked once you start approaching donors for support. This hits the problem of how to measure the work of the Holy Spirit. A 'theology of evaluation' can be developed round the concept of discernment. Evaluating the results of a fresh expression can be a means of discerning whether and how the Spirit has been at work. Learning from this discernment can guide the venture's development, and if the learning is shared add to the wisdom of the wider church.
Evaluation-as-discernment-and-learning requires those overseeing and running a venture:
- to think through its aims as they set off on their journey, even if the final direction is still unknown.
- to identify indicators that will aid their discernment. Depending on the initiative's size, these may include 'hard outcomes', such as the numbers being served by the venture and the number coming into faith, and 'softer outcomes', like the impact on participants' lives and on the community outside. Indicators may also include 'process measurements', such as evidence that the mission team is learning from experience.
- to identify ways of measuring these indicators. For instance, feedback from those concerned, through a simple questionnaire or a focus group or the enquiries of a 'mystery visitor', might be a way of assessing impact. Charities often use quite sophisticated tools to evaluate softer outcomes - see, for example, Homeless Outcomes - and these might be adapted in some cases. Both qualitative and quantitative tools may have a place. The tools need to be appropriate and as simple as possible.
Aims and objectives can be set within a theological framework, such as:
- the four marks of church (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic)
- the Anglican Communion's and the URC's Five Marks of Mission
- the Methodist Church's Marks of Mission.
What will you have to do to enjoy 'the goodwill of all the people' (Acts 2.47)? A good reputation is a priceless asset. It witnesses to the kingdom, opens doors and makes it easier to win backing for the venture. If your fresh expression is to be 'a good citizen', you will need to think about:
Such as child protection, health and safety, employment law, third party insurance and charitable status (which allows you to claim back the tax on donations). Do you know what legal requirements apply to your situation and what arrangements you must make to comply?
Other agencies and churches
Ranging from the police, to the school, to voluntary organisations working locally, to churches in the neighbourhood. Who will need to be kept informed, and who will you need to consult as the venture develops?
For example, are you in touch with the local residents association (if appropriate)? In a workplace context, would it be courteous to keep in touch with a union or employee representative, as well as with the appropriate manager?
This may apply especially to fresh expressions in the workplace. A health visitor planning an initiative among her clients, for example, would need to think carefully about what she can say and do as a health visitor and as a private citizen. What distinctions should be kept between the two?
Though last on the list, they are far from being the least important. Partnering with a secular organisation or local churches will certainly be time-consuming, but may enable a mission team to extend its networks, leverage extra resources and increase its impact. Networking across organisational boundaries to create value is a strong feature of contemporary life, so it will be no surprise if this becomes part of many fresh expressions.
Wisdom will be needed to partner with organisations that don't become a distraction (leading to a loss of focus), but really do further the venture's objectives. In particular, partnerships involving money can be a mixed blessing. The voluntary sector is full of organisations that have received government money, only to find that they are constrained in pursuing their charitable objectives.
This can be especially true for faith-based organisations. For example, some local councils, out of commitment to the diversity agenda, may in return for funding impose conditions that effectively limit the faith dimension of a fresh expression. 'Sup with a long spoon' could be good advice.
Throughout your fresh expression's life, getting feedback from prayer supporters, the people you are serving, permission-givers, holders of purse strings, the public and organisations you are partnering with will increase trust in what you are doing, enable you to draw on a wide pool of wisdom, and generate goodwill that will help the initiative to develop further.
The venture will be shared by individuals and groups outside the missional community, and this will enable it to get the support it needs.
Testing → shared venture
This 'thread' parallels the 'Envisaging → shared pathway' described in How can we navigate uncharted waters? 'Testing → shared venture' focuses on people outside the missional community, whereas 'Envisaging → shared pathway' is a process internal to the community.