Newcastle was the venue that launched a series of roadshows organised by the snappily-named Methodist & United Reformed Church Joint Property Strategy Group.
Over 30 Methodists and United Reformers gathered at Brunswick Methodist Church in the city centre for a day of inspiring presentations and practical advice for churches on developing their mission, serving their communities, and making their buildings springboards rather than millstones. Churches, we were told, should aim to serve, rather than just survive.
We were encouraged to take risks, listen to people outside the church, and make discipleship a priority. To engage in mission, churches need to find a vision for where God is leading them, focus on something unique that only they can do, and be persistent in the journey that unfolds. Three key roles in successful projects were those of leader, administrator and activist.
Looking at things differently, churches can use their heritage value to welcome visitors and tourists, and explain their faith identity and artefacts. Careful thought was needed to make buildings and people truly welcoming and accessible. This includes adequate signage, advertising opening times, and training stewards. Further resources are available from the Churches Visitor & Tourism Association.
Stories were shared of churches which had put their buildings to good use in the service of their mission to their community, including a skating rink, skateboarding, a surfers’ café, and helping homeless people get back on their feet. After a light lunch in the church’s café, we were given a guided tour of the redeveloped Brunswick premises, which are very well used by 3 congregations, the wider Methodist Church, and a large number of groups serving the community.
The JPSG was particularly generous with resources, having provided us with cloth bags to carry away all the practical advice booklets and sample surveys. These included: