Category Archives: Sandy’s Blog

How risk averse are you?

One of my observations over the past months is that how we respond to the rules and regulations regarding Covid 19 indicates a lot about how much of a risk taker people are, or perhaps how risk averse they are. There is a sliding scale of compliance with the regulations from those who pushing, if not breaking, the boundaries to those who go way beyond them, often for health reasons.

How do we as Christians respond to these rules and regulations? Is it OK to bend or break the rules or should we be careful to obey them?

As a Christian leader I believe that we have a biblical mandate to obey the laws of our land as long as how laws do not contravene core principles of our faith. In the case of Covid 19 I believe the Christians should adhere to the rules and be seen to do so.

It is with deep concern that I have seen Christian leaders and churches openly and brazenly break the rules. Some met during lockdown when all church buildings were legally closed whilst Others have had congregational singing. Whilst I long to be able to sing in our services I won’t do so for two reasons. Firstly it is against the regulations and secondly it puts our congregations at a high risk of passing on the virus.

But what about us individually. We are in Tier 2 and the regulations state:
You must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’.

How are you at keeping these regulations? Has anyone who is not part of your household been inside your home in the past weeks?

By it’s very nature a church services is a social setting. We are the community of followers of Jesus. And yet we are not to socialise when we gather. I know it’s hard, and I know it goes against our instincts. But socialising brings with it a greater risk of passing on the virus and we wouldn’t want to be the one to do that, would we? So don’t sit with someone who isn’t in your household or support bubble. And when you leave, and I know this is really hard, but keep distanced and follow the rue of six.

Oh – and a thought about support bubbles. These aren’t open and flexible for us to be in more than one and move from one to the next as we want to. They are fixed, and for good reason.

And then we come to Christmas. The regulations will be changing to allow us to meet in groups, or Christmas bubbles, of up to three households. But that bubble is also fixed and you can’t meet one set of family on Christmas Day and a different set of family on Boxing Day etc. It does however mean if you have formed a ‘Christmas bubble’ when you join us in our building on Christmas Day you can sit with that bubble.

Because you can doesn’t mean you have to. So the permission is there for wider gatherings, but please think very carefully before you do. Personally we could have had both our children and their families round for lunch on Christmas Day, but we won’t. Instead we will meet outside in some way. It will be difficult and it will hurt, but as an asthmatic I’m aware how careful I need to be, and the end is in sight now.

Please, please, please do your utmost to obey the regulations. I am incredibly fortunate that I haven’t yet been asked to take the funeral of someone I know who had died of Covid and I really don’t want that day to come. I may be verging on the very risk averse side but I’d rather be there and safe.

The Church Is Now Irrelevant To Many In Our Society

At a recent meeting of clergy we were asked to think about how we might restructure our group of churches (the Anglican Church calls them a deanery) if we were starting from scratch. That’s a great question, the difficulty is that we aren’t starting from scratch. We have history in our buildings and our church structures that goes back for hundreds of years. We also have traditions in our church communities today that go back 50 or more years. So we can’t start from scratch. But we can’t continue as we have been.

I find this image challenging every time I see it.

It is the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras and was built so that it could withstand the worst of hurricanes. When Hurricane Mitch came in 1998 the bridge survived but the roads disappeared and the river moved. In many ways that is a deeply challenging picture of the state of much of the church in the UK. The storms of cultural change over the past 50 years or more have moved the river of culture and society but the church remains largely where it was. That has to change and maybe with the financial impact of the Coronavirus now is the time for radical, and painful, change to happen.

It is now inevitable that we will have to significantly reduce the number of paid clergy posts in churches. I’ve heard estimates from 15% upwards and in some dioceses I suspect it will be significantly more. What we must avoid al all costs is the solution that the Church of England has run with for the past decades and that is to spread the jam ever more thinly. I am incredibly fortunate in that I am the vicar of a single parish. Many of my colleagues have 5, 10 or even more parishes that they are responsible for leading. The result is that they cannot truly give the time energy and vision to any of the churches to lead to growth. The side effect is stress and burnout of clergy up and down this nation. And the Coronavirus has only exacerbated the situation.

What will change look like?

That’s a tough question but it if is to be effective it must involve pretty significant change for every church, not just a few.

We have a historic structure with historic legal frameworks. Every church has their own organising committee of trustees (which we call the Parochial Church Council or PCC). Each has their own church wardens, treasurer, secretary, Safeguarding officer, gift aid person etc. etc. One of the necessary changes will be to reduce this administrative and legal framework significantly. It must also free the clergy of some of the responsibilities that have today.

But let me be honest here, many of us are control freaks! We insist on having oversight and control in most, if not all areas of church life. That must change, and that won’t be easy! Why should the vicar be the editor of the church magazine, dare we ask whether we now need a church magazine at all in these days of social media? Many of the things that clergy cherish as their responsibility will have to be passed on to others, and if no one is there to take them up – then they have to stop altogether!

Many of the regular members of our congregations have been with us for years, if not decades. The clergy have fed, watered and counselled them. In doing so we have created dependance. That also has to change. Most have been with us long enough to feed themselves and not rely on the food from the vicar in her/his weekly sermon. Indeed I would ask if the sermon as we know it is in any way an appropriate way of teaching today, when was the last time you saw a lesson school led like a lecture?

As clergy we have a problem of age. I was looking round the clergy in our deanery during a recent Zoom meeting and the higher proportion were getting on a bit! And I include myself in that description. I have led one church community for 17 years. In that time I believe we have had a significant impact on our local community. We are known, respected and and welcomed by many locally. At Christmas we have over 1500 people (except this year!) through our church building, and yet our main Sunday congregation has on average 50 adults. When I look round those Christmas services I know the majority of the people.

But I am now out of touch and of an entirely different generation from the people we are seeking to reach. What our church needs is me in the middle of my 40s not me as I now am over 60! I was also trained at a time when pioneer ministry had hardly been heard of let alone taught. Sadly, as I look back, I was being trained in a style of ministry that was already leading to the death of the church!

The church today desperately needs fresh vision, energy, enthusiasm and a style of leadership that relates to the missing generations from our churches. The Gospel will never change, but the way it is expressed and communicated has to change with successive generations. We live at a time when the pace of change in out society has been faster than ever before. Sadly to me, as hard as I have tried, I have found it incredibly difficult to understand that change and express the Gospel in a way that is accessible for younger generations.

Maybe now may well be the time for some of us lovingly and graciously to had on the baton of church leadership. That will be hard for many church communities, but every harder for the clergy and their families.

I’m an Anglican Vicar and I feel like giving up!

One of the things that I have learnt through having depression is that so often it is a silent disease. But it’s only when we start talking about it that we discover that we’re not alone and lots of others are going through the same struggles. We are created by God to be unique, but, at the same time, others experience life in a similar way to the way we do. This reflection is very personal, it is about me, my personality, my situation and my struggles. However I strongly suspect there are lots more who experience life in similar ways.

As a church minister we don’t often talk about things that are difficult. Within the Church of England, and probably other denominations, there is a sense of deference to senior diocesan clergy and a fear of saying it as it is. The fear is that we won’t be taken seriously, that we could jeopardise future help and support from within our diocese and that our future prospects will be marred with a black mark against our name. And then there’s the totally wrong perception of competition with other local churches. I daren’t admit that I’m failing or struggling. So often we only hear the good stories and not the difficult ones.

Well I’m 62 in January, about four years off retirement. I’m not likely to move to another clergy post so I’m no longer worried about saying it as it is. Maybe my depression has changed me!

This is personal so a bit of background. In May 2019 I was told by my doctor that I was suffering from work related stress, depression and anxiety and he signed me off work. That came as a real surprise and a shock to me. After about 2 months I slowly began to feel better and started thinking about returning to ministry. However I was then diagnosed with possible cancer and was off until November with two operations under general anaesthetic, but in November was finally told the lump was benign. I returned to ministry in November and worked through Christmas and the start of 2020. By the end of February I was going downhill again and then – yes – the pandemic struck. And yes my depression deepened. I’ve struggled through but as I write this I’m just over a week on from a change in medication and my low moods aren’t as deep or as long which is great.

So yes, this comes from about 18 months of suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

So why do I feel like giving up?

Firstly you need to understand what virtually no one who hasn’t been a full time church leader understands. That what we do is lonely and isolating. It is tough and difficult even when things are going well. You are aware that whatever you do you will always upset some. You also need to know that being a full time church leader takes a real toll on our spouses and families.

I am an introvert, and so I make few friends and the friendships I make tend to be longer lasting. At least that’s the theory. We moved church communities 3 times in 6 years, moving house twice in that time. Sadly the distance in time has meant those older friendships are hardly there at all for me. I’ve been in my present post for 17 years and, as most people in church leadership know, it’s next to impossible to have true friends within the church where you minister. There are challenges, difficulties and confidences that you simply cannot share with even the closest friends within your church community.

And then Covid struck. Almost overnight it deleted almost every setting of community for most of us. We weren’t allowed to meet, even our church buildings were closed. What had always been difficult but manageable became really, really tough as the feeling of loneliness and isolation deepened. I saw others leaning into their friendships and relationships both within and outside of the church. But for me those simply weren’t there.

Through this it would be amazing if I could say we were loved, cared for and supported. But, if I’m honest, we have only felt that rarely. You might think that we would be well supported and cared for by the senior clergy in the diocese, our Archdeacon and Bishop. You might think that but the reality is sadly different, although my archdeacon may disagree with me! One phone call in March and agreement to pay for more counselling, but nothing more despite them knowing I was depressed and having counselling. That is on top of receiving virtually no pastoral care when I was off sick for six months in 2019 and not even having the most basic of HR support when I returned to parish life. Not even a phone call after returning to parish ministry to ask how I was doing!

I was recently asked what would good pastoral care for church leaders from their institutions look like at the moment in Covid? It’s actually not a straightforward question to answer. I would say regular contact, at least monthly, by phone, card or email always making the open invitation for a conversation. True pastoral concern for who we are rather than what we do. And this needs to come from the senior church leaders. In the Anglican Church Ares Deans can and do offer support which is gratefully received. However it is entirely different to receive support from those in authority. I’m aware that our Archdeacons and Bishops have been impacted by Covid just as much as parish clergy have been. They too are stressed and stretched. However if they don’t have the time, or consider it isn’t in their job description to offer pastoral care and support to parish clergy then something has gone very badly wrong.

My support network has been with local colleagues with whom I’ve been able to share fairly openly as we’ve met, mainly virtually, every fortnight or so. And also a mentor who I’ve met with regularly.

I followed a recent thread in a closed group for vicars recently regarding APCMs. The questions was how often have you been thanked for what you do as the vicar? The overwhelming response has been only rarely, if at all. The impression of most is that while we lead the thanks for others in our church communities it’s rare for anyone to publicly thank the vicar.

Think about yourself, if you are not a church leader. When was the last time you sent a card saying I’m thinking of you, or dropped round a small gift, or phoned them up simply to ask how are you?

So I feel like giving up.

You know it’s incredibly tough to see 17 years of hard graft and toil decimated by the pandemic and my depression. What has kept me going for so long has been the opportunity to minister amongst families and children. Weekly Open The Book assemblies, school Christmas, Easter and Leavers services, our Tea Service for families which was growing a new congregation of the generation that are missing from so many churches. Through Covid and my depression all of that has gone for over six months, and most of this looks nearly impossible for at least the next six months as well.

So I feel like giving up.

For the past 17 years I have sought to preach, teach and lead in such a way that Sunday wasn’t seen as the centre and heart of church life. Yes, I probably didn’t do that as well as I could. But what is happening now is that church life revolves, once again, around Sunday. In fact the majority of time, effort and energy in almost every church I know of has gone into making Sunday the heart of church life again. Whilst this meets the desires and wants of most of those who have attended our churches in the past it will never reach the 95 percent who see church as irrelevant.

So I feel like giving up.

On top of all that the financial realities that have impacted so many others are just about to hit the Church of England. Our diocese will have to make massive financial savings and the only real way of doing that is to reduce the number of paid clergy. We are just starting conversations in our deanery (group of churches) that might lead to me being made redundant, or as the Church of England calls it, being pastorally reorganised so there is no longer a post for me. I enter into that process with no trust in the abilities of our senior church structures of being able to run a good process. I shared with our congregation that there may not be a post for me in 12-18 months time and went into more details with our PCC. Did anyone ask how I was, or how my wife was? Did anyone say ‘Are you OK.’ No not a single person.

So I feel like giving up.

But I won’t give up! Why?

Well firstly and formostely because I am absolutely clear that God called me to become the vicar of this church. He has yet to tell me that He has rescinded that calling. That may be me rather than God as my spiritual experience has been that God has been on mute for the past many months. But even If I’m deaf God is big enough to tell me clearly and I haven’t heard that yet!

Secondly because I can’t afford to. I won’t get my state pension until I’m 66 and that is still four and a bit years off. Until then I can’t afford to retire and finding another post for four years that is local to our children would be next to impossible.

Finally, and most importantly, because of the 95 percent. We used to have a notice up in the entrance porch of our church that said; “St Pauls’ is a Church for the Unchurched and a Church for Children.” One day a member of our church community asked me – so where am I in that statement? Good question. I wanted to say, you’ve been part of this church for many years, you’ve received teaching, support and nurture. You should by now be able to care for yourself as a Christian and start teaching, supporting and nurturing others who are not yet part of our church community. Yes it is important to care for those who are already part of our church communities, but what about the 95 percent who think God, Jesus and church are irrelevant to them. Early on in my time at St Paul’s I used to say my vision is to get to heaven and to take as many other people with me as possible, deep down that vision is still the one that drives me.

I still feel like giving up but I won’t because of the 95 percent.

Is this a cry for help – possibly. But it is far more a call for church institutions of all denominations to take seriously the pastoral care of church leaders who have been stressed, and stretched beyond imagination by the pandemic. It is a cry for ordinary Christians also to care for and support their church leaders who have been doing a nearly impossible job over the past six months, and the next six months aren’t looking much easier.

Our Changing World

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

This week I’ve been reading Graeme Codrington’s latest book and include some quotes below.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!


The presentation that Ben Mizen shared with us on Generations took much of the inspiration from the work of Graeme Codrington. This week I’ve been reading Graeme’s latest book entitled ‘Leading in a Changing World.’ So far I’m about half way through the book and it makes interesting, and challenging, reading.

Here are some quotes from what I have read so far:

Jack Welch is credited with saying that ‘when the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.’

‘The thinking that created the problems we are facing will not generate the solutions we need.’ Albert Einstein

Graeme identifies three fundamental forces that he says are causing deep, structural change in the world today: Technology, Institutions and Societal Values.

Technology has transformed the way in which we do business. Never before has so much information been available to so many, so quickly. In the past, information was powerful in so far as it was guarded.
Today, exactly the opposite is true: information is valuable only as far as it is shared.

When it comes to the institutions in which we work it is apparent that the nature of the beast is changing. Central organizational models, supported by impressive hierarchical structures, chain of command and clearly defined functions are giving way to decentralised models … The values and mechanisms used to keep this status quo well-oiled and functioning are a thing of the past.

We need to consider shifting social values … Generation X and Y’s behaviour, driven by their underpinning values, stands in stark contrast to that of those with whom they share their workspace … A simple example of this difference is the contrasting way in how the different generations approach authority and respect. For Generation X respect has to be earned and has nothing to do with title or position. Of course this isn’t the case with older generations for whom title and position garners immediate respect … The new generations need change, flexibility, informality and information. They are individualistic and are asking different questions of their employees.

Deep structural, disruptive change is the norm in the world at the moment. We are living through more than an era of change – we have reached an inflection point in history, and are now living in an era where processes, systems, structures, products, services and careers no longer change — they transform. The bad news is that this era is not going to go away. We firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of change we’re going to experience in our lifetimes is still ahead of us.

Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation… Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived.’ Peter Drucker

If we’re living in a new world, then new approaches to leadership are required. But are we really living in such a new world? Isn’t this just a blip in history that will soon be over? Isn’t history always changing anyway? It’s easy to think that maybe all we need to do to survive this crazy world we live in right now is just grit our teeth a little bit longer and wait for sanity to return, and then our existing models will still be valid. Hopefully soon, we think, the current madness will subside and then we can get back to ‘business as usual’.

But this is not going to happen. The signs are everywhere and they’re all pointing in one direction: we are living through one of those moments in history when all the rules for success and failure get rewritten. We’re living through a period of structural change and realignment. Every so often, history stops its relentless forward march, takes an abrupt turn and heads off in a new direction. This is often linked to a new technological development, which changes how people live, interact and work. We name these moments in history to mark their importance: The Industrial Revolution, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Renaissance.

A dependance on what worked in the past, coupled with the assumption that ‘we have been here before’ – will prove fatal.

We unwittingly employ old practices in the face of new problems – with disastrous results. Invariably all that is accomplished is that we end up digging the hole we are in, faster!

If it is true that we are living in a world, society and community that is changing rapidly, and some would say out of all recognition – then what does this mean for the church? How, if at all, does the church need to change? What is there that we should stop doing? What new things should we start doing? Are we willing to experiment and take risks, knowing that many will result in failure? What are the essentials that must be retained and how can we do that at the same time as trying new things?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Graeme’s book you can download it here: Leading in a Changing World – Chapter 1

More information about Graeme and his organisation can be found here:

I look forward to seeing many of you on Monday evening as we explore these areas together.



Growing The Vision – Indicators Of Growing Churches

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

Below I highlight some recent research that the Church of England has done. Please do complete the survey you will find at the end of this post. The more responses we get the more helpful it will be!

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!

From Evidence To Action

Between 2011 and 2013 the Church of England conducted a research project on factors that influence church growth. The focus was to look at areas of ministry that were growing numerically and find our why. It may, or may not, surprise you that this is the first study of this sort that the Church of England has done!

In the introduction to the findings Archbishop Justin Welby says:

“As Christians we believe that the best decision anyone can make is to decide to follow Jesus Christ. It must then be of primary importance to us that so many people live their lives unaware of Jesus’ invitation to follow him. How we as a Church help people hear, experience and respond to the call of Jesus is the most urgent of our priorities.”

So what did the study reveal? It identifies eight areas, some of which growing churches were likely to have in common.

  • A church that has a clear mission and purpose and whose clergy and congregations are intentional about growth
  • A church that understands its context, actively engages with it and with those who might not currently go to church
  • A church that is willing to change and adapt
  • A church which is welcoming and builds on-going relationships with people
  • A church that has clergy and lay leaders who innovate, envision and motivate people
  • A church where lay people as well as ordained clergy are active in leadership and other roles
  • A church that actively engages children and young people
  • A church that nurtures disciples

We will look at some of these together when Charlie Peer leads our evening together later this month. In the meantime it would be really interesting and helpful to know from as many people as possible how you think we are doing against the descriptions above.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE SURVEY YOU WILL FIND HERE it will help us greatly as we prepare for our evening on the 22nd of June.

You can read more about this research here: From Evidence To Action


Things I’ve read this week:




Why does the Church exist?

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings was last Monday when Ben Mizen led a great workshop on Generations and Church. Today I’m starting to point our thoughts towards our next evening on Growing The Vision.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!

William Temple

Archbishop William Temple said: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” One question that is helpful to ask, and difficult to answer, is how do those outside the church view what we do and how/when we do it?

It’s a questions that the church has struggled with since the earliest times. The early church was accused of cannibalism due to the way they celebrated communion with the body and blood of Christ. The question of how others view what we do came home to me in a previous parish. In the normal order of Anglican communion the Peace is in the middle of the service. That Sunday we had a couple who were visiting as they were due to be married in the church in a few months time. When it came to the Peace they started to walk out of the door! Why? They assumed the service was over – quite a natural conclusion as everyone had got up, people were milling around and chatting to each other.

As we think about the life of our church we need sometimes to look at ourselves through the eyes of the outsider. Are there things we should stop doing altogether? Are there things we should continue to do, but in a different way? Are there new things we should start doing?

Perhaps our answers are different depending on our perspective as to the purpose of the church. Does the church exist primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet it’s members? Or perhaps, if we are really honest, do we think it exists primarily for those of us who are already part of the church?

Based on this let me ask a few questions:

  • On what day and at what time should the church community gather for worship?
  • Should communion be the main focus of our worship gatherings?
  • Does The Peace make any sense to those who are outside the church?
  • If someone is part of a small group but doesn’t come to our Sunday gatherings does that make them any less part of our church?
  • If our whole education system has moved away from lecture style teaching to participative learning what future is there for the sermon?
  • How often does someone need to come to our worship gatherings to be part of our church – weekly, twice a month, once a month, whenever they can?
  • Are we prepared to give financially to support parts of our church life that we may never see and never benefit from?


Things I’ve read this week:

Generations – Communion and Preaching

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the final post on generations and reflects on research date from Australia.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 1st 7.30pm – Church and Different Generations
June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!


Whilst I was preparing to write this last post on generations I came across a report from a church research group in Australia. The research was in 2008 which may be somewhat out of date now, however there was one part that sparked my interest.

Styles of worship have, in my experience, always been one of the most potentially contentions areas of church life for almost all the churches I have been involved with. Should we use the organ or a music group? Was the worship band too loud? Should we use hymns or short choruses? Should the words of the songs/hymns we use speak to God or about God? Should music convey doctrinal truth or should it be an expression of our relationship with God?

Until the past few years I have always thought about this as an area of simple personal preference, however I am now aware how generational our responses can be. This came out in part of the research I referred to above. When asked which aspects of church that were valued most this was the response:

Generations and Church Table

The first two were no surprise to me now. Older generations prefer a more traditional worship style with hymns and organ. Younger generations prefer a more contemporary style – although this isn’t necessarily the loud band led worship that Baby Boomers may prefer!

It was the responses to the importance of Communion and Preaching that surprised me.

I have often thought that in a mission shaped church in today’s society we should be less focussed on communion services. However it is very difficult to make this change when the majority of congregations are aged 50+ and prefer communion as the main focus of their Sunday worship.

It may surprise you to know that this focus on communion as the main Sunday service is actually relatively recent! Up to the 1960s the main service for Anglican churches was Mattins, or Morning Prayer. It was only after the Parish Communion Movement took hold in the 1960s that the change took place and Mattins was replaced by Holy Communion as the main focus for Sunday worship. T Book of Common Prayer states that it is only “binding on everybody to communicate three times a year”, it was not the norm prior to this movement for the average church member to receive holy communion every week.

What surprised me even more from these statistics was the preference for preaching that is expressed by the younger generations. I know this data is seven years old, but much has been made of the changes in education that have moved away from didactic, lecture style, teaching to more interactive and participative learning. For the past few summers, and on other occasions, we have taken this on board with a more interactive conversation rather than up-front teaching.

There is much here to help and inform how we do church as we go forward. I hope many of you will come along on Monday evening for the workshop that Ben Mizen will kindly lead for us.


Things I’ve read this week:



Implications of Multiple Generations @ Church

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the final post on generations and is quoted directly from Graeme Codrington who did the presentation to the Portsmouth Diocesan Conference back in 2012.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 1st 7.30pm – Church and Different Generations
June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!

Generations 4

If the generational theory is correct, it will be helpful in thinking about all aspects of church. Of course, it is a generalisation, and should not be applied without thinking and careful analysis of your local situation. Nor does it replace prayer and godly insight. But, it can nevertheless be helpful in showing us some starting points in our journey of ensuring that church remains relevant to all generations.

What follows is neither a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be step by step instructions. But the following areas of church life and ministry are in desperate need of regeneration.

The issue of worship is one of the most divisive in most churches. The older generations want well known hymns, solemnly sung to organ accompaniment. The younger generations want medleys of repetitive, new choruses led by electric guitars, keyboards and drums. The younger generations prefer a more intimate worship style, with songs that speak to God. The Boomers enjoy lively, loud worship that celebrates God. The older generations prefer to sing formally, about God. Multi-generational churches need to work hard to have something for everyone. The focus needs to be on quality and sensitivity, ensuring a mix of styles, with a blend of old and new. There also needs to be teaching on tolerance and diversity.

In Mark 4:33-34, we read an interesting statement about how Jesus preached to the crowds who came to listen to him. Yet, the older generations still prefer the preacher to preach in a traditional style, using three point sermons based on systematic theology and hours of research in the Bible. Younger generations would prefer more practical sermons, peppered with stories. Both of these approaches are Biblical, and each has strengths and weaknesses. Again, the best solution probably involves finding a balance between the different styles (and many other styles in between as well). This can best be done by developing more preachers from with the congregation ‘ both young and old ‘ who can bring different styles to the pulpit. This would also fulfil the requirement of 2 Timothy 2:2 to allow more people into the pulpit and develop their gifts.

It is only relatively recently in history that anyone was asked, ‘Are you born again?’ or was instructed to ‘walk down the aisle’ and ‘say the sinner’s prayer’. The Silent generation believe that you can convince someone to become a Christian by logically and rationally taking them through a process of thinking. This is exemplified in the approach of Evangelism Explosion, and, to a lesser extent, Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws. Boomers have codified approaches like this and created systems out of them, taking them around the world, with slick training courses and manuals. Similarly, Billy Graham type ‘crusades’ dominated the Boomer’s early memories of evangelism, and the rock n roll style, stadium events are still favourites for them.

Today’s younger generations much prefer a more relational approach, that treats other people’s beliefs and other faiths with respect and love. That doesn’t mean ‘selling out’, it just means a different starting point, and a different approach. Today’s evangelism techniques need to focus more on helping people to experience a community of believers, and to connect with the ‘kingdom of God’ in tangible ways that go beyond explanations and arguments. The world needs to see more Christ-followers, not hear more rhetoric.

Sunday School
Sunday Schools were initially founded in the Victorian era to help children get out of the virtual slavery of child labour in Dickensian factories. They were given basic literacy skills to help them improve their lives. Today, most children view Sunday School as anything but freeing. Even the name is off putting!

We need to urgently look at the curriculum, the teaching techniques (and the training and support we give the teachers), and the goals of Sunday School. I am personally very disturbed that my two daughters tend to lurch from stories about Easter to stories about Christmas, with very little else except a few parables in between in a year. And if I see one more felt-board, I think I might cry.

Something for Everyone
The church has some tough decisions to make. There is a massive generation gap in the church and the world, and many of the strategies and ministries the older generations would prefer to maintain are no longer effective for younger generations. But we cannot simply abandon the older generations. The church must ensure that all generations are both ministered to and have opportunities to minister. This is a difficult task, but not impossible.

A pastor friend once told me that he did not just want to be an echo of his own generation, building a church that only catered for the needs of one particular group of God’s people. Like him, I believe its possible to build multi-generational churches, where each generation learns from all the others, as we reflect the diversity and unity of being the children of God.

Quoted from Graeme Codrington, read the full article here


For those who are interested I thought I’d also start posting links to other things that I’ve been reading so here are some from the past week: