At the Diocese of Bristol we have identified our core priorities, as outlined in our 'Creating connections' : Vision and priorities document.
To support the diocese in meeting these, we are bringing together 101 ideas for each of our priorities. This resource has been gathered by our churches and our diocesan advisers. Many of these ideas have been developed, tried, and tested within our churches. By sharing them here we recognise that we are connected to each other and able to support, advise, bless and help one another as we seek to serve God’s purposes in each of our parishes.
Do you have a great idea to share? Submit your ideas for inclusion here.
Sunday services structured informally for family and message application at St James’ Lockleaze
On Sundays at St James’, Lockleaze they begin with refreshments followed by a time of sharing – both bad news and good news stories, things that God has done and points for prayer. The children then gather at the front as Prayer Maidens and Prayer Warriors and informal prayers are said. During a worship song all the children grab an instrument, get on the stage and sing, dance and make a noise before departing into their groups. The adults remain for a short talk and then grab another coffee. This is followed by discussion of 3 pre-prepared questions relating to the talk helping them to apply what was said to their lives. This structure has allowed for a really good sense of informality and family which people have connected well with.
Mossy Church at Wroughton Parish Church
At Wroughton Parish Church they run Mossy Church, a hybrid of Messy Church and Forest Church. Mossy Church is about encouraging children and families to connect with nature and encounter the Divine Creator in the natural world. The idea is to; Connect with nature by using our senses. Create things using natural materials gathered up from the garden, wood or beach. Get our hands dirty, sometimes get wet and always have fun. Learn about how to care for and love the earth respecting and honouring it because of its sacredness. Once
Evangelistic board games café at St Christopher’s Brislington
Once a month on a Sunday afternoon at St Christopher’s, Brislington vicar Andrew Schuman hosts an evangelistic board game café for enthusiastic board gamers. The café attracts people from across a wide area who bring exciting and complex board games to play together and build relationships with one another. Through this great venture the church is reaching out to a specific group of enthusiasts and building relationships with them.
Sunday school for all at Dorcan Church
With working patterns of long hours or shift working, and time squeezed parents with young children, evening home/cell groups where discussion and teaching takes place can be difficult to attend. Dorcan Church has therefore started “Sunday School for all” which replaces a Sunday morning service each quarter. They start off with breakfast, then move to worship together where the theme for the day is introduced, and then the adults go to their Sunday School for teaching and discussion, and the children and teenagers to theirs! Topics explored have included the origins of the creeds, “How was Jesus fully human and fully divine?”, and coming soon will be the various theories of salvation and “Does prayer work?”
Word and Spirit services in South Bristol deanery
In South Bristol churches come together on the first Sunday of every month to worship together in a ‘Word and Spirit’ service led by local ministers and hosted by a different church each time.
Word and Spirit is an informal service that includes time and space to listen to the move of the Holy Spirit, opportunities to receive prayer ministry and good refreshments and fellowship at the host church.
A welcome event for people new to the church at Malmesbury Abbey
Malmesbury Abbey hosts a welcome event for people new to the church, held after the 4pm contemporary service for all those who felt that they were new to the church. It brought in pizza and wine and ate in the church at long tables. During the evening members of the Abbey were able to speak with people about church activities and home groups and were able to get to know these new people better.
Sharing hot food with those in need at Holy Cross, Ashton Keynes
At Holy Cross, Ashton Keynes, North Wiltshire they run ‘Food For thought’ with the aim of creating opportunities for everyone to experience God’s love and serving the needs of others.
Volunteers from the church offer to hold an item of food in their freezer. (A cake, chicken casserole, shepherd’s pie, or similar). When the co-coordinator hears of a family or person for whom life is tough, she rings the next person on the volunteer list who takes their gift of food to that person to show that the church family cares.
Text-A-Prayer to St Augustine’s, Swindon
At St Augustine’s, Swindon, they have set up and advertised a mobile phone number to which parishioners can text in a prayer request. These prayers, once filtered, are then used and prayed for during Sunday worship.
Big questions café; discussion based outreach at St Peter’s, Chippenham
In January, St Peter’s, Chippenham launched “Big Questions Café” in the church hall; an evening of discussion, question asking, sharing (as well as drinking coffee/tea and eating biscuits). The café is a a monthly event with a different topic being discussed each time such as ‘How did the universe begin?’, ‘Did we evolve from apes?’, and ‘Who was Jesus of Nazereth?’. The desire is to stimulate conversation (sometimes provocatively), grant a safe space for questions to be aired and shared, and NOT to provide specific answers.
Marriage preparation courses in the Parish of Yate
In the parish of Yate, for the marriage preparation course, there is always a printed name card on each table (like a table reservation in a posh restaurant) which adds greatly to the sense of welcome. Members have also discovered that it is important to have background music playing during the discussion times so that each couples’ conversation can’t be overheard by others.
PCC reviewing the year in the parish of Yate
At the first PCC of the year in Yate, the PCC reviews the previous year and where it has got to in implementing the vision. When looking at numbers, such as attendance figures, it uses Excel to visually represent the figures. Because it is visualised, the PCC is far better able to engage with the issues and have a hugely productive discussion about future strategy as a result.
An 'opportunities to serve' roadshow at St Michael's Stoke Gifford
St Michael’s Stoke Gifford has taken a different approach to gathering volunteers. Instead of asking for volunteers, it provides clearer signposts for the opportunities to serve. As part of a ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline’ preaching series, it put together an ‘Opportunities to Serve’ Roadshow after each of our Sunday services for four weeks. Setting up like a mini Christian Resources Exhibition, space was given towards the end of each Sunday service, continuing into coffee time, for people to move around and chat to designated representatives from a range of ministries. People were able to talk about the various opportunities available to get involved in and serve within the life of the church and wider community
Leadership team meetings at Malmesbury Abbey
At Malmesbury Abbey the leadership team meets monthly for an evening of training. At the first meeting of the new year, the team share the things which had struck them from the visiting speakers they had at the previous three leadership evenings. They spend 90 minutes sharing insights, ending in worship. The PCC at All Saints Clifton held a PCC away day in Spring 2016 where they explored together the strengths of the church and the opportunities for mission that exist in their local community. They then developed an action plan to direct their mission and ministry over the coming years. At the end of the day they held a PCC meeting to formally adopt and commit to those plans.
Hi5's at St Andrew’s, North Swindon
The presiding clergy stand at the door of the church and welcome people to the service. They invite the children to give them a high-five on the way in bringing much joy to the children they welcome.
Youth club behaviour principles at St James, Lockleaze
On the wall at the youth club is a poster that highlights the 3 ‘behaviour principles’ for the club: Be the best you can be; Respect others; and Respect the equipment. However the poster then explains what these principles practically look like in a range of different settings within the club, i.e. when… "queuing for the tuck shop, playing football, playing computer games, cooking, playing in the garden". Explaining broad principles in practical tangible ways is a great approach to helping the young people to understand how to make the club safe and fun for all.
Messy Church prayer table at St Nicholas’ Church, Yate
At each Messy Church they have a prayer table during the craft time with some creative prayer activity and the chance to ask for prayer. This provides a valuable opportunity for the congregation to pray and request prayer in a Messy Church style.
The 'Find it book' at St Mary’s, Olverston
They have a ‘Find it book’ in the church. The book contains photos of things around the church and children are invited to take the book and explore the church looking for the things in the book. This could work great for after church services, for special events held at the church or for school groups visiting the church. It’s an invitation into a treasure hunt through which children can learn about the building, become comfortable within it and have fun at the same time.
Messy Church question cards at St Pauls Dorcan, Swindon
At Messy Church there are welcome cards available at the registration desk. These explain the timings of the event and the theme for the service. Question cards on tables during the food time at the end help the theme exploration to continue over the tea. These questions are then also given on a card for people to take away with them at the end of the service, often accompanied with a small theme related gift which enables the conversations to continue in homes during the week to come.
Treasure Hunting at St John the Baptist, Colrene
At St John the Baptist in Colerne, the special monthly activity for children is held on Friday afternoons. It has been named ‘Shine’ by the children themselves and they have designed their own logo for it. There are crafts, songs, a story, prayers, a snack and the session always finishes with a treasure hunt around the church. The treasure hunt reinforces the theme, with the children searching to find hidden pictures or parts of pictures which they need to reassemble. The hunt is really popular and a lively way to complete the session.
Halloween drop-in event at St Thomas a Becket, Box
The church in the village of Box have set up a ‘Halloween Drop In’ using the Methodist Church Building which is on the High Street. People drop in whilst they are trick or treating and are served bacon rolls, hot chocolate, sweets and drinks. Fun activities, like eat the mini doughnut off a string, and prayer stations, like lighting a candle or stone in a bucket, are also set up for people to take part in. In 2016 over 200 people dropped in.
Inviting the school to a special harvest event at St Bartholomew Church, Wick
In Wick, Doynton and Dyrham, a special harvest event was held in the church and every class from the local school came to see it. The displays included:
1. Guinea fowl chicks and an area to do with new life and eggs showing different types of eggs
2. Alpacas wool and a spinning wheel and with some knitted items
3. Fishing nets and fishing rods etc - the pre school made paper fishes which were displayed
4. Different types of grain which the children could grind into flour and some bread to eat
5. A local farmer talking to the children.
6. An empty bee hive and jars of honey - the Toddler group made bees from small pine cones, paper wings and yellow wool which added to the display.
7. A small display to do with milk
There was also a gazebo for the children to sit in and draw / write a prayer of thanks to God for the good things we enjoy.
Community Youth Cafe at Holy Cross, Ashton Keynes
Members of Holy Cross Ashton Keynes, North Wilts run a Youth Cafe which has been set up with three aims: to help the church engage with younger generations; to help the church to connect with the community; and to provide young people with a place where they can connect with each other. After leaving Ashton Keynes Primary School, children go to many different secondary schools and find it hard to maintain links with each other. There is no youth provision in the village.
From existing connections, the church set up a weekly youth café on Tuesdays from 4pm to 5.30pm. It is managed by the Holy Cross team along with a young volunteer who is present each week and organises the wii and music. There are parent and community volunteers helping to staff each session. The venue is the back room of The White Hart (the pub is closed at the time). The PCC agreed to underwrite costs of heating and small expenses. The cafe is promoted through school-church-community links to year 6 and year 7 and is very successful, with around 16 to 20 young people each week coming for time together to chat, play table tennis, games or use a wii or table tennis and similar.
It has been so successful that the church hopes to engage a regular paid leader and has recently been awarded a grant from the Malmesbury Area Local Board.
Collection cards for standing order giving at St Mary’s, Stoke Bishop
Members of the congregation give generously to the mission and ministry of the church through standing orders and as such have nothing to place on the collection plate when the offering is taken. Small cards have now been produced that can be picked up on the way into church. The cards are then physically placed onto the offering plate when it is passed as a symbol of the gift that is made directly into the church’s bank account.
Parish Giving Scheme at Dorcan Benefice
Churches in here are the first in the diocese to launch the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS), which rolls out across the rest of the Diocese from September. This is a nationwide scheme to support giving to churches. The churches in Dorcan have launched the scheme early, because they are running it alongside a series on stewardship and generosity for the first time in over 12 years. Evidence from other dioceses suggests that churches who prepare for PGS with a season on stewardship can see a significant increase in the levels of giving when people move across onto the scheme.
Giving in Grace at St Peter’s, Henleaze
The church us running Giving in Grace. This is a stewardship programme that roots generous giving in sound theology and preaching. They plan to preach about different aspects of generosity across four Sundays; they are inviting house groups to discuss giving; and they are personally inviting people to a wine and nibbles evening to present the church’s shared vision and discuss how to resource it. To support this, the team are producing brochures with a clear gift array to encourage all of the congregation to review their giving, before following up with those who might be slow to respond, and wrapping up with a thanksgiving service in May. To find out more about Giving in Grace materials and to think about how the programme might benefit your church, see www.givingingrace.org.
Heritage Lottery Funding St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoz and St Philip and St Jacob’s, Bristol
Both have been awarded substantial grants from the Heritage Lottery Foundation to repair and conserve their buildings. If you’re interested in seeking grant funding for your church, read our "How to... Fundraise for your Project" guide.
Text message giving at Messy Church
How do you encourage generosity in services where you don’t have a offertory segment? At Dorcan's Messy Church they promote text message giving at the registration table. This could also work well at other informal services. You can register for this FREE service at: www.JustTextGiving.com and find out more about online giving here: www.parishresources.org.uk/digital-giving.
Friends' Group of St Andrew's
The Friends' Group of St Andrew’s Chippenham was established in 2005, and since its formation has raised more than £60,000 for the church. This has been a significant contribution towards essential repairs to the roof and spire. It’s fundraising events, such as a recent Gilbert & Sullivan evening and an Antiques and Collectables Fair in church, are also a great way for local people to come into the church. If you’re interested in setting up a friends group for your church, check out this page: www.parishresources.org.uk/friends-schemes.
Giving to overseas projects
Church members at St John's Fishponds have formed a group that annually comes up with a visual way of raising funds for overseas projects. This year's project is to buy sheep. The first pillar you come to as you enter the church has been covered with fake grass and, when you buy a sheep, you can then hang a little fluffy sheep on the column. Last year they were buying mosquito nets and had a bed these could hang on.
The £10 Club
To encourage students to think about giving generously to support church, Emmanuel churches have set up a £10 club. Students get a little card with a piggy bank & their pledge on it - and the other side of the card is returned to the church to set up a standing order.