Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Church Planting

The London Policy Papers belie the oddly misinformed critique that those of us who are behind the Reform & Renewal programme are only interested in perpetuating old church, done in a certain way. In point of fact, the London policy is about letting 1000 flowers bloom. We are committed to planting 100 new churches and ecclesial communities by 2020, and the church planting policy paper which is set out below provides the framework for this.

Church Planting


The Diocese of London is committed to the parish system of inherited Church and to the planting of new churches. Capital Vision 2020 further commits us to develop our Church Planting Strategy as part of our desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with 21st century London. Church planting is not new in the Church of England. Daughter Churches are a familiar sight, and there are also Chapels of Ease, Conventional Districts and Mission Churches, each with their legal status. Church planting is an effective expression of mission that seeks to reach as many people as possible with the gospel.

From a certain perspective every church is the result of a planting programme. At some point in history a conscious effort has been made to establish a congregation, to raise a building, to develop local ministry and mission and to encourage Christian life and discipleship to flourish.

The oversight of Mission and Ministry is entrusted to the Bishop as a sign of the Church’s catholicity.  This oversight is shared with the college of priests throughout the Diocese. A strategy for planting is part of an overall strategy for Mission and Ministry.  This document recognises that the Church of England is still organised into geographical parishes as our way of ministering to all people in the land and as an expression of its duty to present the claims of Christ to everyone. It further recognises that many parish Churches are flourishing and have the strength and resourcefulness to plant within their own buildings and boundaries. The Diocese is committed to Church Partnerships as a major expression of Church Planting.

We need, though, a broader understanding of the potential and opportunity for Church Planting than this. The ways in which people make, seek and join communities is now far more fluid than a century ago. There is a need to plant in the non-institutional, networked lives of today’s population through new and experimental ways of being Church and of incarnating the power of God’s love.


Planning and co-operation are very important at every stage, and this is reflected in the procedures below.  Whatever the procedure followed, the Mission & Pastoral Measure 2011

should be observed and used creatively.  The Measure seeks to provide a “light touch” enabling of mission initiatives and, in particular, introduces the concept of “Bishop’s Mission Orders” (BMOs).  The bishop has oversight of mission and ministry in the Church and the responsibility of encouraging trust and understanding.  The bishop is a focus of unity in the Church and will encourage the development of the right conditions for the planting to take place.  The Measure sees the bishop as ‘broker’, who will consult closely and widely, as the Measure requires, but is empowered to override local opposition if it is right to do so.  The BMO will particularly offer the opportunity to establish church or Christian communities as “Fresh Expressions” (not a terminology that is in currency in the Diocese of London, though we are glad to acknowledge the contribution that the Fresh Expressions movement has made to the Church of England over the past years). 


In developing Church Planting as a form of mission, we will

·         Encourage healthy churches to consider Church Planting as part of their mission strategy

·         Review struggling churches, especially at the key moment of a vacancy

·         Examine the need to plant into unchurched localities, including new housing areas

·         Take the opportunities afforded by the entrepreneurialism of planters


  • A healthy church is one which
    • Is growing spiritually, numerically and financially.
    • Owns a vision.
    • Encourages all its members to play their part and use their gifts.
    • Enjoys worship and prayerfully seeks God’s purpose and direction.
    • Is willing to take risks.
    • Has different opportunities to share faith and study together.
    • Has effective and respected leadership.
    • Is engaged with the society it serves.
    • Is involved in the life of the deanery and wider Church.


  • A struggling church is one which
    • Is static or declining in numbers.
    • Has no vision for its mission.
    • Has little lay ministry and does little to encourage it.
    • Is focused on maintaining the status quo.
    • Does little to encourage growth in Christian discipleship and understanding.
    • Has uninspiring and inefficient leadership.
    • Shows little interest in cooperation with the wider Church.
    • Shows little interest in serving the wider community


  • A struggling church which is not adjudged to be a “potentially going concern” will have some or all of these additional features:
    • A poorly placed or badly maintained church building
    • A long history of non-engagement with its local community
    • A very low level of numerical, spiritual or financial resources


Note: These definitions should be used alongside the material in the Healthy Churches Handbook

including the seven marks of a healthy church




For the purposes of developing church planting within the framework of Capital Vision 2020, we have identified ten basic models of planting. The classifications are about the models, not the style nor the locality.

1.       Parish intra-congregational plant: developing a new service for a new clientele within the existing parish church. This is, of course, nothing new. All parish priests will be looking to innovate in order to reach new groups of people. Examples might include After School Clubs, Saturday Night Mass, Messy Church, CafĂ© Church.


2.       Church plant by parish into their own parish This is the time-honoured approach of seeking to develop a new worship centre in unreached parts of the parish, in a church or community building (see Policy & Legal Framework [PLF] 1 below)


3.       Parish graft: a leader and a congregation "graft" into an existing congregation with a view to infusing the church with new DNA and fresh energy. This is more of a partnership between old and new, but with the understanding of change being welcomed. This can include a cross tradition plant where an existing tradition is supplemented with a different tradition, this offering two styles rather than one in a single location. (e.g. St John West Ealing plant into St Mellitus Hanwell – PLF 3 below)


4.       Parish plant: a leader and congregation are invited to "plant" into a church building that is either closed, faces closure or needs so much help to survive that a different approach is needed and agreed. This model "restarts" parish ministry. (e.g. St Paul’s Shadwell, planted from Holy Trinity Brompton – PLF 3 or 4 below)


5.       Network church: a leader and a congregation start a new church in a new space that draws in people through their network of relationships. This is not a parish church but exists autonomously within someone else's parish. This will use a Bishop's Mission Order. (e.g. King’s Cross Church, planted from St Mary’s Bryanston Square; Grace Church, Hackney, planted from St Helen’s Bishopsgate; Oak Tree Anglican Fellowship, planted from St Barnabas Kensington – PLF 2 below)


6.       Third space church: “Third space” is understood in the ways defined in community building theory – “first place” is our home; “second place” is our workplace; third place or third space is a place of community relationships, characterised by being

·         a neutral ground

·         a leveller – a place of commonality among its occupants

·         a place of conversation

·         a place of accessibility and accommodation

·         a place of playfulness

·         a home away from home

A leader and a congregation start a church in a non-sacred space with a view to inviting neighbours and contacts in. This kind of church might start as a missional community that intentionally grows itself beyond a small group. Third places include schools, cafes, or pubs. Third space church may include church planting with a partner: a leader with or without a congregation, partners with a specialist ministry, such as Eden Network or XLP, to reach a particular group or sub-culture in that place. (e.g. All Hallows’ Bow who partnered with Eden Network, who have settled on the Lincoln Estate that surrounds the church building). Such partnerships may well transcend denominational boundaries – and there may be an ecumenical or pan-denominational dimension that will need to be considered and factored into the legalities. Each space has different potential for reaching different social groups. (PLF 1, 2 & 5 below)


7.       Missional Communities: these are understood as communities constituted by a specific missional purpose in relation to a network or a place. They are not parish churches or places of conventional worship. Policy Paper 5 spells out in more detail what is entailed in committing the Church to the development of missional communities.


8.       Second Place Church: To take seriously our commitment to discipleship in the workplace is to entertain the possibility of church in that context. In our current culture, where religious observance is not actively encouraged in a workplace setting, this is not an easy option, but may be a possibility.


9.       International & Ethnic Congregations: Policy Paper 6 spells out in detail our understanding of our calling to develop communities of worship and mission in partnership with the great diversity of ethnic and national groups in the World City that is London. These will include opportunities to worship in the culture and mother tongues of groups for whom English is not their first language


10.    Churches in existing unreached communities and new developments: London’s rapid growth and expansion means that much new residential development is being planned without places of worship or community spaces. Our planting strategy necessitates engagement with developers and local authorities in order to explore the possibilities of ensuring a Christian presence in these localities. Our calling is also to engage with those communities that are being “left behind” and which have possibly been untouched by the existing parochial provision.


Policy & Legal Framework

These various models require a proper framework. Some of the considerations are listed below:


1.      Planting from the parish church within the existing parish’s boundaries

This requires:

·         Agreement of Incumbent, PCC, Bishop

·         Authorised leader (licence or commission)

·         CofE worship framework



2.      Planting a focussed congregation within another parish

This requires:

·       Agreement of Incumbents, PCCs, Bishop

·       If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order

·       Authorised leader (licence or commission)

·       CofE worship framework


3.      Developing a struggling church by transferring people from another church

This requires:

·         Discussion with struggling church and deanery

·         Invitation to transfer

·         Transfer with sensitivity to existing traditions


4.      Planting into an existing parish church

This requires:

·         Agreement of Bishop, Patron, PCC – can be facilitated by Bishop’s Mission Order.

·         If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order

·         Authorised leader (licence or commission)

·         CofE worship framework


5.      Planting into a new housing area or development

This requires:

·         Agreement of Incumbents, PCCs, Bishop

·         If there are objections, these can be overruled, using a Bishop’s Mission Order

·         Authorised leader (licence or commission)

·         CofE worship framework

Our policy is to keep all such opportunities under constant review within the context of our overall Mission & Ministry strategy, and proactively to seek opportunities for planting.

Oversight of the policy and strategy rests with the Bishops of the Diocese as leaders in mission, with the Area Councils, and with the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee.


Framework for Planning and Decision-Making


We therefore welcome proposals for planting, and, in order to facilitate the process, set out the following framework document to guide the conversation between Bishop/Archdeacon, Diocesan staff and prospective planters. We aim for clarity and a capacity to bring together

·         the intentions of church planters

·         the process by which churches become available for planting

·         co-ordination of planting efforts


  1. Questions for Church Planters


Questions to be asked if you are contemplating a plant:

  1. What is your strategy for church planting? Please produce a written statement – your Mission Action Plan or strategy document will inform the process.
  2. What is your desired area for planting? Locality, network, ethnicity/people group will all be considerations here.

3.       Has there been adequate investment in prayer in relation to the initiative?

  1. Where does your strategy fit within the Diocese of London Church Planting policy and Capital Vision 2020?
  2. What are the objectives of this particular planting proposal?
  3. Who will be involved in the plant? (Leadership, numbers of people committed to the project, etc.)
  4. When will you be ready to plant? Timescale, critical path analysis.
  5. How are you proposing to fund and resource the plant?
    • Capital costs of building (if any)
    • Running costs
    • Stipends/salaries and oncosts
    • Housing
    • Expenses
  6. How do you plan to develop leadership from within the community in which you wish to plant?
  7. What preliminary consultation is needed with existing Church of England parishes and structures?
    • Bishop
    • Archdeacon
    • Area Dean and Deanery
    • Neighbouring Parishes
    • Area Council
  8. What legalities will be required? [this will probably involve you in a detailed conversation with Bishop/Archdeacon)
    • Pastoral Scheme or Pastoral Order
    • Bishop’s Mission Order
    • Licences and Lay Commissions
    • Charitable status
    • Governance structure (including questions such as PCC and Churchwarden equivalents)
    • Synodical representation
  9. What do you consider to be the probability of your being ready to plant in the coming year?  In coming 5 years?  Is your likelihood of being able to plant as intended increasing or decreasing?
  10. What support do you need from the Diocese to help you achieve your objectives?  (These may not be deliverable, but we want expectations to be clear on both sides.)



  1. Processes for making churches available for planting


Church buildings will become available either because a particular congregation/parish has been identified by the Area Bishop or because a church previously surplus to requirements (usually, but not always, closed for regular Anglican public worship) becomes potentially available.


Heritage issues may well be involved in the process of making a building available, particularly if there are proposals to use procedures under the Mission & Pastoral Measure 2011. The Archdeacon will be able to advise on this. In the case of a planting opportunity with a “live” parish, the Bishop, Archdeacon and Area Council will work up a proposal to make the church available for a graft or transplant and approach potential planters.


In the case of a building not used for Anglican worship becoming available, the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee will consider whether the building should be released for planting. Factors to be considered will include suitability of location, existing use (especially where the building is being used by another Christian denomination), and proximity to other churches. If the building is released, consultation with the relevant Area Council may be needed. The Bishop may then make an approach to potential planters.


Some opportunities for planting will be subject to competitive bids from a number of prospective planters. In this context, you may need to discuss with the Bishop/Archdeacon and the Diocesan Strategic Policy Committee how the proposal you are making fits with

·         Local Context

·         Diocesan Context

·         Economic practicalities and opportunity costs


  1. Co-ordination of Planting Efforts


Church Planting across the Diocese will be regularly reviewed at DSPC, JOT and the College of Bishops. It also needs to be an item on the agendas of Area Councils and Deaneries.

Training and Development for Church Planting

The Bishop of London has appointed an Adviser for Church Planting, Ric Thorpe. He has a remit to encourage and support church planting across deaneries and diocese. The College of Bishops is also committed to work across the spectrum, in co-operation with St Mellitus College, to encourage and train catholic, middle of the road and evangelical parishes towards more outward focus and exploration of planting. 

 List of documents and resources

Breaking New Ground: Church Planting in the Church of England (Church House Publishing, 1994) Bishops’ Mission Orders: a beginner’s guide (Church House Publishing, 2008)

This paper is issued by the London College of Bishops as part of a series of Policy Papers on Mission and Ministry issues.