The Joint Property Strategy Group
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
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
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 on our dedicated website www.jpsg.org. This holds
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.