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Less Centralised Leadership, more Missional Communities - tips on Church Growth 

The leader of the largest church in the UK outside London revealed to Baptist ministers why it has achieved enormous growth over the last few years

Moving from a centralised model of leadership to one of 'missional communities' with low control but high accountability has led to growth of 250-300 people a year said the Revd Canon Paul Maconochie (pictured).  Mr Maconochie is a Baptist minister who is senior leader of Network Church, a Baptist/Anglican and Independent Local Ecumenical Partnership in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

The overwhelming majority of the church's growth, which has gone from 1250 to 2,700 people in the last five years, has been new Christians, not transfers from other churches.

Less centralised leadership mo'Low control means that as leaders we do not have the mandate to tell you what God's will is for your life but to help you find it.  Once you have found it, our role is to support you in doing it - high accountability', Mr Maconochie told the Larger Churches Network Day at Baptist House last week (Thursday 7 June)

Leaders of missional communities, which consist of around 30 people, meet in groups called huddles at least monthly to assess how they are doing personally, spiritually and corporately (there is a large huddle of all leaders every six months).

They do this through asking a series of questions on a variety of different areas inspired by a similar exercise that Methodist founder Charles Wesley once did.  Questions include am I happy with my prayer life, am I engaging with God's word, am I sleeping well?, do I regularly see people come to faith? 

From these questions leaders then discern the key issues they are being convicted about and what needs to change.  Mr Maconochie explained that the leaders of the huddles act like counsellors, not telling people what to do, but rather encouraging people to find out 'What God is saying to them and what they are going to do about it?'

They then set measurable goals which are then reviewed at the next huddle to see how it has gone.  This ensures that people do not procrastinate or get distracted, a common problem in the Western church, Mr Maconochie said.

Mr Maconochie stressed the importance of a missional focus for the vision of each community within the church.  'We are looking for passionate spirituality, radical community and missional zeal. We are not looking for nominal community with occasional programmatic mission which often happens in churches,' he said.  The aim is not to build a big church as that will tend to 'plateau' but to go for 'missional growth' as that can be 'unlimited'.

The church sees itself as a 'R&D department' and is sharing its approach with other churches including partnerships with churches like Morningside Baptist in Edinburgh and Frontline Church in Liverpool.  Work with nine smaller Baptist churches in the Yorkshire Baptist Association over a 2.5 year period has led to seven of the churches experiencing growth.

Despite signs of decline in the church in the UK, Mr Maconochie is hopeful for the future.  'For me my vision and my hope is for another great awakening. Why not? If we get to heaven and there is not a revival but God says 'Never mind, you gave it a go', that will be alright for me. We need to give it a go.'

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