Path of Renewal Process

by David Clarkson

Path of Renewal Process

The Church of Scotland has, through the Panel on Review and Reform and Ministries Council, introduced this pilot scheme which involves 23 congregations from across Scotland.  Essentially, we know that the church is not particularly effective at its core function – making disciples.  For decades the main operating model has been attractional: we’re here, and you should come to see what we offer.  That model doesn’t really work today and so we need to find another model with which to engage the communities we serve.

Path of Renewal is a programme for churches to think, and work through, how they can be more relevant in society today.  It begins by recognising the missional challenge of a changing culture – understanding that the culture outside the church has changed and is very much more secular than Christian.  The church now finds itself on the fringe of society rather than at the centre, and that raises questions about what church should look like when it’s no longer at the heart of the community, or a place people would instinctively turn to for support.  We know that sitting back and expecting people to come is no longer a realistic option.  Instead, we need to go and move beyond our comfort zones and reshape what we do.  Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren in the book, ‘Introducing the missional church’, say that we face a radically new challenge that requires more than minor readjustments.  In fact, we need a new imagination for being the church.

Following a rigorous discernment process Monkton and Prestwick North has been chosen as one of the pilot congregations.  As part of this process there will be three teaching blocks each year for ministers (with two months in the summer and the month of December off).  In the first year there will be teaching on missional theology and leadership; principles for managing change – moving from maintenance to mission; and, training and mentoring missional leaders.  In the second year the teaching will be on community development – using a partnership approach; spiritual formation, creating a discipleship process; and, creating effective local structures.

Each three-month block will include two or three day teaching events for ministers who will return and share what they have learned locally.  Ministers are also required to take at least one day each week to begin the process of reading, thinking, praying and beginning to ‘work it out’ where they are.  Part of that process includes mentoring and coaching which will be available for the ministers as well as for the congregation or leadership.  In addition, each pilot congregation has a choice to make between allocating funds to pay for pastoral or admin support for the Minister, or, later in the process, to appoint someone from within the congregation to take some of this ‘new work’ forward.

It is very important to stress that this is not about changing everything at once.  There is an expectation that each congregation will create a small team to take new developments forward and in many cases this will involve a continuation of things that are already taking place within the life of the congregation.  This team is to be committed to developing a missional approach and one of their first tasks will be to begin to understand what that means in their specific context.  This team is to be supported, encouraged and resourced by the Kirk session, Presbytery and others in the congregation.

Participation in the process will cost each congregation £1000 per year but the hope has been expressed that Presbyteries will find a way to assist congregations with this cost.

We are delighted to have been chosen to be part of this process and are looking forward to working together to find new and innovative ways of sharing our faith in Jesus in our communities.

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