JPSG Roadshow

In 2011 The Joint Property Strategy group (JPSG) was set up as a partnership between the Methodist and United Reformed Churches as a result of the Church Buildings Think Tank report of the two denominations, Building Opportunities.

Too often buildings are seen as burdensome in the hands of the Church. We need to change that thinking and the structures that can sometimes encourage it. The JPSG was created to explore how God's people and church premises can best be equipped and released for mission.

To achieve the aims of the group the JPSG identified the following four areas of work:

Possibilities: Creating communities of inspiration and learning, sharing good practices and providing 'good endings' for closing churches

People: Empowering people and providing training for church leaders, encouraging property stewardship and developing strategies for mission development

Partnership: Reviewing the Reciprocal Sharing Agreement between the two Churches and presenting best practices for partnerships with church and non-church organisations

Procedures: Providing clarity on standing orders and legal requirements related to church property (this work is being carried out by each church independently) 

This was represented in six roadshows - People, Places and Possibilities - aimed at local churches with an interest in Community and Mission and held over the summer of 2015 in Newcastle, Birmingham, Cambridge, Hale, Plymouth and Woking.  Each of the chosen churches was an exemplar of what can be done when the building is used as a base for mission as opposed to drain on resources.  On arrival each delegate was able to collect a very handy jute bag and fill it with the 50+ different written handout and resources for later reading and digestion to assist in dealing with buildings.

Drawing on inspirational stories from around the UK, over 250 participants were given inspirational examples of how individual churches have addressed their own mission priorities, how the priorities have changed in the light of local developments and how the building has changed in response.

We started each day with the tale of the talents as a firm base on which to secure the day's event.  We used it looking to God's Spirit to enlighten our hearts and minds, and to empower our service, to the glory of God and our eternal good.

There were case studies of possibilities in such places as Hale Methodist Church, where we studied new ways of being church, of missional priorities - serving people outside the Church; contextual concerns - listening to people and valuing their culture; educational needs - making discipleship a priority and ecclesial necessities - forming Church.  We also looked at Woking United Reformed Church, and their desire and work to make a vision into a reality and their innovative outreach work which included turning the church into a skating rink to benefit the local hospice.  Although they failed to attract Torville ... or the Dean!

In Places we examined three principles… three specifics… three examples.  We explored Vision, the key spiritual gift, through the work of Tubestation in Cornwall; uniqueness, the key spiritual asset seen through the International Christian Centre in Rotherham and Persistence, the key spiritual discipline shown by the work of the Balsover Methodists in Derbyshire. 

We moved on to People, in many ways the most important of topics. We made a careful study of the Lighthouse Centre in Rotherham. We looked at its structure and the way it has transformed the lives of all of those with whom it has worked.  We watched intently the Channel 4 film made about Richard, an ex-offender and drug addict and his conversion once he had asked God for help with his life.  We tried to decide if this was a church, a project or a ministry.

We also had significant input on the day from the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association, Jo Hibbard of the Methodist Church and Valerie Jenkins from the URC who gave practical advice and guidance on how to make churches open, encouraging and welcoming and showed the value of our church buildings, and other heritage such as archives and historic objects, as they play their part in God's mission. The advice even extended to how you should think carefully about the people who are in the church, the story the church tells and how to join it all together to make it relevant for a wide variety of audiences.

After the provided lunch, and a conducted tour of the host church, Living Stones, the Church + Community Trust, helped us by looking at the question 'What is God calling you to do in your church?'  The conclusion was that our church buildings are a space for God, a place for people and a base for mission.  However, we felt that we must never let either the demands or the limitations of our buildings determine our response to what God is calling us to do.

If you were unable to join us for a roadshow, much of the material is available from the Facilities and Property Coordinator, including resources, information, checklists and many helpful links to assist you if you are looking at how the building you have inherited (or built) can help and not hinder your mission.

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