Whats in the Box?

Thursday, 9 March, 2017

There’s nothing like seeing a plan come together, so for the folk at Leicester Diocese who’ve been developing the Flexible Mission Shaped Ministry (MSM) training across the region it’ll be a sweet moment when three lay pioneers are licensed this year at the Cathedral. Theresa Morgan, Wendy Hardy and Ruth Leonards – part of a team who lead eleven30, a Fresh Expression which is just about to celebrate its 10th birthday -  have journeyed together through the training programme which aims to provide contextual and practical training to pioneers who are already involved in leadership. The model is based on the principles of coaching, and starts with the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach which can meet the needs of pioneers and the ministries they lead. “Eleven30’s services start with a ‘What’s in the Box’ game to introduce a topic for the children,” says Theresa Morgan, “It’s a tool to move them from where they are beginning into deeper engagement.” Ooh, we feel an analogy coming on…

Eleven30 is a Fresh Expression based in Syston, Leicester, and is primarily aimed at young children and their families (photo above). Set-up in response to a local need for a model of church which met the needs and lifestyles of young families, the bi-monthly meetings are now led by a lay team who plan and deliver the worship, creative activities and social times. The team were already skilled in organising and leading the sessions, but flexible MSM provided an opportunity for them to receive training and support in the missional and spiritual aspects of leading the Fresh Expression.

“What is distinctive about flexible MSM training,” explains Matt Pitt, Pioneer Development Worker, “is that the model allows us to respond to the needs of the pioneers where they are at that moment. We’re not training them in a standard programme which may or may not be relevant in five years time, but working alongside them to understand their current situation and helping them to ask the questions that will help them get to where they need to be.” This approach, rooted in coaching practice, is one strategic method that Leicester Diocese are adopting as they work towards their vision to see as many Fresh Expressions as inherited churches thriving in the region by 2030. “It’s a model for multiplication”, says Pete Atkins, Team Coordinator at Fresh Expressions HQ, “Coaching is a valuable tool to develop Pioneers, and the Leicester example shows how it can be used to develop sustainable ministries.”

Ah yes – sustainability, that hallowed end-goal for Fresh Expression ministries. Flexible MSM training has the long-view built firmly into its methodology, and eleven30 provides a great little snapshot of how they do that. Matt spent a year spent alongside eleven30’s leadership team, providing monthly coaching sessions covering topics such as Spiritual Discernment and Listening for Mission. He was supported in this work by pioneers from another area, alongside encouraging the team to begin to identify the next generation of leaders from within their own community. This flow between learning from experienced practitioners whilst identifying potential in new pioneers is key, as is the continued commitment to training the soon-to-be licensed lay leaders in order that they can deliver the flexible MSM programme to others. In these ways sustainability is kept central – leaders are identified, trained, and then trained to identify and train others.

“The training deepened my knowledge and understanding”, says Theresa. “It gave us space as a team to look with outsider’s eyes, and think ‘outside the box’ about where we’re heading”. And as eleven30 prepare to celebrate a decade of local pioneering ministry, we look forward with them to seeing what else emerges as they

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