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Strategic Planning

Empty Church

Bear with me. Be playful and imaginative.

This is a bit of a follow up on the statistics presented in my post, “What Prevents New Zealanders Being Christians?” with how we, as the church, might use statistics in our planning.

Let’s stay within my own church, Anglicanism – others can do the same exercise for their own church. That way we don’t look like we’re telling others what to do…

From those statistics, it seems that about 1% of the NZ population goes to the Anglican Church in NZ Sunday by Sunday [Remember, Anglicans here (purposely?) keep no national statistics & our local Anglican statistics are pretty ineffective and unreliable]. I think that 100 people on Sunday is a good size. So – 100 people is what you get (without TOO much effort) in a catchment area of 10,000 people. But wait… there’s more! From the latest stats, you can expect another 77% of that figure, over and above it, who attend church at least monthly. As you know, I have a maths degree and I’m not afraid to use it: sum total – in a catchment area of 10,000 people you should have (without significant effort) at least 119 people in the Anglican Church on Sunday.

Now, I’m going to stick my neck out here: I think that’s enough people to support/finance a priest etc… I’m going to maintain that based on looking around lots of parishes where they would LOVE to have 119 people in church on Sunday… And if you don’t agree 119 is enough to support a priest then just use multipliers…

So – I’m suggesting that when we do strategic planning, we try and find natural geographic collections of about 10,000 people and make sure that there’s an Anglican Church in that area. There are already some built – that’s great; tick. Where we have a building and resources but, say, 4,000 people in the geographic area… well good luck if it works… otherwise – rethink… There’s some areas that seem, to me, using this model at least, as being FAR too overchurched…

And then there are areas that seem FAR too underchurched. We, in Christchurch, have had some significant population shifts (since the earthquakes). The population of ‘Town A’, as just one example, is now 14,650 – that means the Sunday congregation there in the Anglican Church would be expected to be at least 174 people (14,650 x 1.19%). If Town A keeps growing, Anglicans could/might/should be looking to have two parishes there… Town B has 33,700 – that could be (should be?) three parishes… City C 43,929 – four parishes…

Then we can be working in partnership with the government setting up integrated, Anglican-based pre-schools and primary schools – we have the experience… And the parish (and schools, etc) are there to serve the community – the Gospel is primarily outreach, not simply in-drag. And a population of about 10,000 people is quite a good limitation for a church to be of service to. I know churches which run a cafe, a second hand book shop, a cheap furniture and second-hand clothes shop,…

Maybe you’ve noticed the outreach, missional approach that I’m suggesting in this planning. I am not starting from a size of a current congregation and planning from inside-out. I am suggesting that we divide regions into natural geographic areas with a population of about 10,000 people as a good size in which we can expect a parish can serve.

What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Strategic Planning”

  1. Donald Heacock

    The Episcopal Church has lost nearly %50 of its members since 1963. At the same time USA has added more than 100,000,000 people to its population

    1. Thanks, Jon. I appreciated reading that. One of the differences might be – increasing urbanisation here. Blessings.

  2. It occurs to me that under this model an “extra” church in a 10,000-person catchment area, especially if it had historical or architectural significance (or was built in a significant or beautiful but otherwise inconvenient location), might still survive as the focus of a small praying community (e.g. Little Gidding in the care of the Ferrar family in the seventeenth century). An attached guesthouse / retreat centre might help to pay the bills for the physical plant. No clergy salaries necessary!

    1. Thanks, Jesse. It seems to me that (certainly in NZ) there is a thirst for spirituality – especially, I am going to posit, the younger one is. This is not the language used by the church; not is it the way (older) church-members express what being a Christian is. What you are suggesting, I think is about having an oasis for such spiritual journeying. I know of few Anglican or Protestant church buildings that are used in the (to-me-positive) manner you describe. I feel a post growing in me about that… Blessings.

  3. Thank you! Always encouraging to learn and benefit from the insights of our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Communion around the world!
    An interesting read, also, might be “Leading By Story: Rethinking church leadership.” Vaughan S. Roberts & David Sims, SCM Press, reviewed by the Bishop ofNorwich in yesterday’s Church Times.
    Best wishes from sunny Hollywood!

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