Write a circuit mission plan

There are many helpful ways in which you might go about producing a circuit mission plan. This simple four-step process has been specifically devised to help Methodist circuits that are making discernments about possible church mergers, but could be used by any circuit. It includes a consideration of New Places for New People (NPNP). The Methodist Church's Strategy for Evangelism and Growth, received by Conference in 2020, commits significant resources to beginning new Christian communities for unaffiliated people. Every Methodist circuit is encouraged to imagine, begin and sustain a New Place for New People - and circuit mission planning is a great way to begin. 

A circuit mission planning process will be led by a group of people that will include the Superintendent. This could be the Circuit Leadership Team, if this group has the capacity. Alternatively, a group of lay and ordained people who are not necessarily all on the Circuit Leadership Team could be commissioned to undertake this substantial but time-limited project. There may be church members with experience of leading change processes in their working lives; Supernumerary ministers with considerable experience and leadership skills; perhaps a District Mission Enabler who is able to give some time to help facilitate this work. There will be Learning Network staff who could be approached to offer support in this process. A list of the support available can be found here.

community-audit-2A: Community audit 

Circuits are encouraged to begin mission planning by considering their local community. By starting with the community, we make a conscious decision to focus on the world that desperately needs the good news, rather than focusing on the needs of the church. Depending on the size and geographical spread of the circuit, there could be many overlapping, diverse communities through which the churches are located. For this reason, ideally each church would do their own community audit, drawing on the guidance in the mission planning toolkit

If your churches need support in producing community audits, suggest that they follow the simple process on the 'Community audit in a nutshell' page

Once you have a community audit from each church, combine this information and prayerfully ask yourselves: where are the most significant mission opportunities? You may wish to use the five NPNP priorities to help you in this discernment:

  1. New housing
  2. Families with kids
  3. Students and young adults
  4. Church at the Margins 
  5. Replanting (i.e. beginning a new Christian community using an existing church building)

See below for a more detailed consideration of NPNP.

B: Review of churches for mission potential

Once you have a sense of the profile and needs of the communities which make up your circuit, and the mission opportunities, consider the mission potential of your churches.

For each church, ask:

  • Are there people with a passion for God’s mission, even if they haven’t been able to translate this passion into action? Consider committed volunteers, lay workers and ministerial staff. People are the most important factor here. Even a tiny group of people on fire for God can make a difference. And these people do not need to be part of the Methodist worshipping community: consider partnerships with other churches, charities, community groups and passionate individuals that share the church's love for its community.
  • Is there a fruitful church activity that involves sharing the love of God in Christ with unaffiliated people – or a vision for one?
  • Finally, what resources (buildings and finances) are there for God’s mission? You can reallocate resources; passionate people and inspiring vision are harder to come by.

 C: Look for matches between mission potential and community audit (including NPNP discernment)

You now have a picture of the communities within your circuit, and the potential of your churches to reach those communities. Now consider how the needs of the communities and the potential of your churches match up.

  • Where there are passionate people, inspiring vision and sufficient resources, what could you do as a circuit to translate all this into action, or to support the action that is already taking place?
  • Do you have passionate people in different parts of the circuit whom you could bring together in some way? 
  • Is there a fruitful activity - or an inspiring vision for one - which lacks people to make it happen? How might you bring together people and vision?
  • Are there fruitful activities or inspiring vision that could flourish with greater resources, e.g. financial resources, building space, staff time?

As well as looking for ways to support existing activities and existing vision, consider where God might be giving you a fresh vision for a New Place for New People. A NPNP could start alongside existing, more traditional churches, perhaps meeting in a community hall in the same area, but reaching a group of people not currently being reached by existing churches. Alternatively, a NPNP could begin in a geographical area not covered by your existing churches. There may already be a flourishing ministry which could become an NPNP with support. You may have buildings strategically placed for a NPNP, even if the congregation is currently not in a position to realise this potential.

Keep in mind the five priority NPNP categories, asking yourselves the following questions:

1. New housing

  • Are there areas of new housing in your circuit?
  • Are there areas where new housing is planned?
  • What Methodist presence/other church presence is there in these areas?

All local authorities have a ‘Local Plan’ detailing the areas where new housing needs to be developed. Ensure you are aware of any new housing being planned, if your churches' community audits have not already identified it. You may have church buildings which are ideally situated to begin engaging with people moving into the circuit. 

2. Students/young adults

  • Are there any universities or Further Education colleges in your circuit?
  • What Methodist presence/other church presence is there nearby?
  • Are there any Methodist chaplains?

 3. Families with kids

  • What’s the age profile of different parts of your circuit?
  • What does parenthood look like in your circuit? What proportion of families are headed up by a lone parent? What percentage of children receive free school meals?

4. Church at the Margins

  • Where are you experiencing or noticing the impact of economic poverty in your circuit?
  • How might you become a circuit that receives and values the gifts of people experiencing poverty?
  • How might you create spaces where people truly encounter one another?  
  • Could nurturing a new community at the economic margins be part of God’s invitation to you?

You will find a definition of Church at the Margins here.

5. Replanting

Are there chapels in your circuit which are strategically placed for mission, but where the existing congregation is not in a position to grasp these opportunities? These may be near an area where new housing is planned, for example, or in an area where many people experience poverty, but where there is no other Christian presence. As part of your mission planning process, consider whether God is calling a church to offer its building so that a NPNP could begin. 

6. Do you have a sense that the Spirit is calling you?

Maybe you sense a call to a group of people or a type of mission that doesn't fit any of the above categories. That's fine - listen to the call prayerfully together.  

D: Allocate resources 

Now that you have a sense of the mission potential in your circuit - the missional possibilities and the passionate people who could make them a reality - consider how best to allocate resources. 

  • Are there passionate people with an inspiring vision who could be given more ministerial or lay worker time, in order to move from vision to action?
  • Are there buildings in strategically significant locations, where the congregation could be supported with extra ministerial or lay worker time, in order to fulfil the mission potential? 
  • Are there buildings which are not strategically significant, or not fit for purpose, which could be sold to release funds for mission elsewhere?
  • Are there fruitful mission activities that could be supported to become even more fruitful with extra funding?

See the 'Buildings' page for a more detailed consideration of buildings.