Equipping for Rural Mission
A team led by Stella Collishaw from Derby Diocese, Arthur Rank Centre, revised July 2015.

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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

Equipping for Rural Mission: understanding your local congregation and community

‘Equipping for Rural Mission’ is designed for any rural church, however small or remote, helping congregations to better understand the needs of their local community and work in partnership with others to effect change. It is designed to run over a period of 6 weeks or more, resulting in specific priorities for community action. It has the potential to involve the whole congregation but can be initiated by a smaller group.

What do you get? All the documents you need to run the course are available as free A4 sheets’ downloads:

  • How the toolkit works
  • A participant pack
  • A leaders pack for facilitators
  • A reading list
  • A guide to surveying and researching your community.

Course to be spread over six weeks, with some flexibility – half days, or full days, space for research. Planning sheet checklist provided. Four sessions:

  1. Appreciate your church
  2. Investigate your community context
  3. Deliberate over what you hear
  4. Make a plan

Who is it for?

Rural communities, adults, Growing. Small group, whole church, or group of churches working together. Seems best for the whole church to be involved in one way or another.

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    A significant course that would reward significant input to make it happen. Targeted to rural churches, with opportunities to look at how things are now, how they could be better, and the beginnings of how to get there.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Presented as a ‘toolkit' for action – Listening, Reviewing, Planning and Acting; or See, Reflect, Act.

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    Planning sheet checklist provided to think out how and when to run the course. Lots of further resources suggested. Sessions are a mix of exercises and discussion. No timings. There are no input notes, but extensive guidance on how to lead each section. Material needs some reading and digesting before delivering. The writers have set out to cover many bases, both in leading groups, and in all possible reactions to the material. While many of the tips are very helpful, there is a lot of text – judicious use of a highlight pen for material relevant to your own context would be good. Major part of the course is a community survey, hence the need for a decent gap of time between the first two sessions and the last two.

    Who could lead it?

    A confident facilitator or facilitators; not necessarily the minister. As the planned outcome is action, and possible changes (!), this is a course which needs full leadership endorsement however.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Participant's download is clearer to read than the Leader's, with all the major exercises nicely included. Feedback form for returning to Germinate. Further resources for all are suggested.

    How good is any digital material?

    N/A

    How much prep will I have to do?

    This is a significant undertaking if it is done as suggested. It may involve just one church, or several. So plenty of forethought needed, plus getting the leadership on board – otherwise the ‘Make a plan' session will be hampered. Also, each session will need planning and timing out.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Lots to explore on www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Emphasis is on church life as a community, so this course is essentially about ‘group'. Lots of group exercises and discussions as well.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Some good active and visual material included, especially in first two sessions. A variety of interactive visuals are well used to illustrate the different concepts.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    Targeted for rural communities. Suitable for adults and older youth – and certainly people who know what the younger generation think as well.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    Survey to do in the community, with tons of suggestions about how to do this. One should suit! The idea is to drive towards a workable, doable plan by the end, so this will involve everyone.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    A few scattered, appropriate, verses. Opening exercise is loosely based on Revelation 2 and 3; a reflection is based on Moses and God asking him ‘What is in your hand?'

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Opening exercise explores the ‘Angel of their own church', as in Revelation, and how it might represent the current situation there – and then what their hopes and dreams might be for change.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Assumption that spiritual growth and realistic witness to the surrounding community are both vital.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Assumption that ‘the church exists because of God's mission in the world'; and that mission should be a priority. References to MAP (Mission Action Planning) and quotes from diocesan sources root this in the Anglican world, but the principles are universal. Main focus is expressing these in a rural context.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    This course is a practical and thorough exploration of the current state of one's church, which is bound to throw up both encouragements and challenges. Complacency is not an option. While there may be a sense of crisis as the background to some rural situations, this course aims to make moving forward in mission possible.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    Listening to the surrounding community through the survey and other means will challenge assumptions and any lack of engagement of church members.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    Looking in depth at the state of the church, what the community is like around it, and how to relate the one to the other will stretch faith and vision. The course ends with a plan – one that is designed to be ongoing.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    The course is realistic about the sometimes uphill nature of rural church existence. It also acknowledges how tricky we can all be at times and has suggestions for good leadership in the face of negative reactions. It aims to enable doable changes rather than unrealistic ones – to use what is already there in new ways.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Implicit in trying to engage all church members with the surrounding communities.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    This is encouraged throughout the rationale of the course, and the plans which it encourages.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Not a focus.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a focus, though implicit in encouraging local mission.

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