Church planting is the process of beginning a new vibrant Christian community in an area that currently lacks one. Renewal projects are about bringing new life to existing congregations.
Sometimes this is in an area of extensive new housing developments and sometimes it will bring fresh life to an existing church that is struggling. It is often a slow and difficult process that succeeds with a great deal of prayer, faith and patience.
In March 2023, the Strategic Mission and Ministry Investment Board (SMMIB) of the Church of England agreed in principle to an estimated investment of £6.8 million – with funds released as detailed plans are developed, which will support the renewal of seven churches in Dudley and Redditch. This will form phase 1 of our plan to ensure that each major area of population has at least one larger healthy and sustainable church by 2030 - one with at least 150 people attending in an average week.
In Greater Dudley Deanery there will be investments made in Halesowen, Brierley Hill, Stourbridge, Netherton and Old Hill, Sedgley and Kingswinford. Funding will enable different interventions into each church depending on what is needed, but will be mission focussed and typically enable staff appointments to facilitate growth, along with support to improve the building and enable community transformation.
The funding from the Church Commissioners will enable resources to be brought in which will help churches to grow and new disciples to be made, and as those churches grow, they will be able to support other churches in the borough. Although just six churches will receive this external investment, there is funding support for other churches that wish to grow from our diocesan Healthy Churches Fund.
St Stephen’s Church in Redditch will also benefit from the Church Commissioners’ investment. Located in Redditch town centre, it is seen by many as the main church in the town. The funding will enable St Stephen’s to develop a different style of worship which we hope will attract a younger congregation, as well as enable the church to become a hub which can resource other local churches.
Because almost all of England is already allocated to a parish in the Church of England, each new plant needs to be carefully considered in relation to its existing parish and other local structures. It needs extensive consultation with the bishops, local parishes and other officers that support congregations.
Planting new churches and revitalising existing worshipping communities is a key role for our two resourcing churches, but as we grow as Kingdom People together, other churches may wish look at starting a church plant as a way to transform their community, share hope and make disciples.