Behold The Opportunity!

This post follows on from last week’s blog: “Resisting Constraints.”

The next step for me in my former parish was to ask: “What is the size of the opportunity?”

By visiting the different schools and offering some creative ideas for assemblies, I soon found that all of them were open to more regular contact. I could also see possible links with the R. E. departments, and also some opportunities for bringing in some Christian bands/drama artists to do some special mission (or “enrichment”?) weeks in these schools.

The great challenge was, of course, resources. We had a box of old hand puppets, left by the previous youth worker, which we immediately put into action (a bit like the “Five loaves and two fishes” in the story of feeding of the 5,000; Mark 6:30–44!). But what was really needed was an Assembly Team, who could build stronger links with the different schools at different levels.

So, I went to the PCC and asked for some money to employ a Children’s and Families Worker. The “Box of Constraints” response was duly brought out, and the standard reply was issued:

“There is no money.”

However, for people of faith and vision, such facts are not the end of the story. I would suggest that we get into the habit, whenever we hear that familiar statement (which we no doubt will!) of adding to it the following small, but simple word:

“… yet”.

So, the question which followed this became…

“What next, Lord?”

We eventually set up a Parish Development Fund, which allowed people to direct some of their giving specifically to mission activity amongst young people. Then, whenever I was asked me how the church was going, I would say that it was going well, but how sad it was that we had all these schools and all these young people but no ability to connect with them!

The follow-on question then was usually “What do you need?” to which I answered “£20,000”. I wanted this to recruit someone to work alongside me, to help develop the opportunities.

So, following lots of prayer, and repeating this story of unfulfilled hopes, two people offered the money that was needed. I was then able to encourage the PCC to have faith that more would follow, and that we should go ahead. Over the years significant giving was made into this Parish Development Fund, as people wanted to give into a vision that they could relate to.

Eventually we were able to employ an amazing person who had great gifts in engaging with children and youth, and also with the skills and abilities to develop and build a team of volunteers.

Over the next five years we ended up with over forty volunteers working with children and youth. The Diocesan Safeguarding Team almost couldn’t believe the number of people we needed to get DBS checked! We even managed to employ another half-time children/families minister and fund a curate.

All of this capacity growth started by simply asking what might be possible, and by questioning the assumption that these possibilities could never be resourced or realised.

So, for all involved in missional leadership, I would encourage you to ask these questions:

  • “What are the constraints that you feel that you are ‘under’?”
  • “Where do these come from, and how do you know they are genuine?”

Image what might happen if these constraints were lifted! Imagine the potential that would be unlocked! Then, imagine what resources might be needed to bring a vision into reality.

The size of the opportunity determines the resources needed – not the other way around!

By Roger Preece