New tool-kit to help the Church become more Christ-like

The Diocese of Oxford has developed a brand-new tool kit to support churches to become more Christ-like.

The Parish Planning tool is based on the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) which enables churches to assess their strengths. AI is a method that has been tried and tested in voluntary organisations, both here and abroad. The Revd Pete Wheeler first experienced an AI approach while in Rwanda with Tearfund. “Looking at the results that I saw in lots of the villages I visited I wondered whether this could happen in the UK.”

Pete used AI at St Peter’s, Aylesbury and two years later the church has grown from a small congregation to attracting around 70 people on Sunday mornings. It has also launched a community garden in the grounds of the 1960s building. “It’s been a real success. We’ve partnered with Aylesbury Garden Town and we want to put some meeting sheds up so people can have a cup of tea together. We want the sheds to be a way of helping alleviate isolation and loneliness,” said Pete.

The Parish Planning Tool comes in the form of attractive, tactile colour-coded cards and an information leaflet, explaining how to make it work. The tool seeks to take the best elements of Partnership for Missional Church (PMC). PMC is a fresh engagement with a God ‘who is active and present and working for good in the world’. This includes ancient spiritual practices, bringing a new attentiveness to God in scripture, as well as practical exercises and engagement with communities. It is a three-year process that is both incredibly powerful and incredibly involved for the parishes who participate.

The tool incorporates Dwelling in the Word – a Lectio Divina approach to studying the Bible together. There is more information on Dwelling in the Word here: oxford.anglican.org/pathways/dwelling-in-the-word/
Church leadership teams and congregations are then gently guided through ‘the five Ds’. They are Define, Discover, Delivery, Dream and Design. At the end of the process, churches will be beginning to shape the actions and initiatives that will help them become more Christ-like.

The tool has been developed by the Diocese’s communications team, in collaboration with the Department of Mission. Andrew Anderson-Gear, our Director of Mission, says: “The Parish Planning Tool has been designed to explore a very specific question that is applicable to this Diocese but could also be used by other churches across the UK.”

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For more information call Jo Duckles on 07880 716761 or Steven Buckley on 07824 906839.

Notes to editors:
1. A single pack of the Parish Planning Tool is available to each parish or benefice and each deanery in the Oxford Diocese free of charge. The packs are then available to everyone to order from store.oxford.anglican.org and cost £10 each.
2. We are keen to support the wider Church and interested to hear from other Dioceses and church organisations who would like to create a version of the tool for their own use. If this is you, please email communications@oxford.anglican.org
3. As a Diocese we believe that:
• Every church, group or community has something positive at its heart.|
• Churches, groups and communities have more confidence and are better equipped for the journey if they carry with them something from their shared past…
• … but the past should have life. It should not be dry bones.

• Carefully framed questions can shift our thinking and release change.
• The language we use, and the things we focus on, can free or restrict our thoughts.
• Everyone experiences things in different ways. Differences need to be heard and valued.