Revd Barry Hill was licensed by Bishop Martyn as Strategy Development Enabler on Tuesday 25 September at a service at the Stablehouse, North Kilworth.
In this new role, fully funded by a grant from the national church, Barry will be further developing the diocese’s existing strategy to support and better resource the future mission and ministry of parish churches, fresh expressions and schools.
We asked Barry a few questions to understand more his role and what it means for the diocese.
What exactly does ‘Strategy Development Enabler’ mean?
It’s a short-term role to help us further articulate our medium-term and develop our long-term strategy which supports local churches and is theologically robust.
I think the title captures my job isn’t to create a new strategy or to impose one in a top-down way. Our strategy remains the Kingdom of God, and how we seek to realise it is through our five strategic priorities and three key questions. These emerged from several diocesan-wide listening and consultation exercises which gathered hundreds of contributions, and were agreed by our Synod. These priorities reflect what churches, chaplaincies and schools across Leicestershire have said is important to them if we are to serve and reach our 1.1m parishioners with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. To help us do this we’ve agreed a new framework for relationships and support between groups of churches and their leaders, Minister Communities, to support and better resource this. Priorities resourced, relationships supported. Two key marks of good strategy.
This is crucial because any strategy we articulate will only work if congregations and leaders are able to see themselves, their needs and contexts, values and priorities in what is proposed.
This next phase of developing and resourcing our long-term strategy isn’t about replacing any of this, but building on these foci: growing as disciples, seeing more people know the life Jesus offers, serving our communities in the love of God, ensuring churches are supported and resourced in seeing more young people know the hope and life Jesus offers, churches better reflecting the diversity of the communities in which we are set, seeing more new worshipping communities help us connect with neglected parts of our communities or serving new developments, helping us respond to God’s call to be better stewards of the glorious creation and reflecting the reconciling heart of God in a world of brokenness and fracture. In short, in a world that looks different from how it was, seeing more of God’s Kingdom come in Leicestershire, as in heaven.
What is theological about strategy? It sounds a bit corporate…
For me, strategy is all about theology. As Christians, strategy can never be just about secular management tools; it must be centred on God, and fulfilling what God calls us to. We are gardeners in God’s garden, not the other way around, and that should make a visible difference in all we are and do. So, prayer and discernment have to be at the heart of how we develop, communicate and deliver our plans. Jesus showed us that plans are important and that people matter more than plans in the Kingdom of God, so my job is to ensure our strategy remains deeply relational and rooted in our wonderfully diverse local communities. Having spent most of the last two decades in or supporting parish ministry in this diocese, none of this can be effectively done to or for, only with and by local churches.
Will this strategy create more work for parishes?
Not more, but maybe a little different. Strategy should be everything we do, not another thing to do. So many of us as church leaders and churches are exhausted after the challenges of recent years so a good strategy should help us make sense of that, help us focus on and resource the most important things of mission and ministry – why we got into this - and be deeply grounded in the practical opportunities and challenges we each face, from buildings to finances, getting a template policy on this or that, IT or admin – all the bits of church life that can often derail the core of our calling. Our strategy won’t resolve all our troubles, but if it doesn’t help address these day-to-day issues and obstacles, then it isn’t right.
Practically what will this look like?
Practically, there are four phases to this. The first phase is what we have been doing over recent years - listening, discerning, and deciding the bigger parts of the foundations. Then there is a scoping phase, during October, of assessing how we have already started to implement the strategic priorities and looking at anything else which emerged from the consultations around what churches need which hasn’t yet been addressed.
Phase three is about drawing all this together into a top-level plan, answering the big questions: what is it that churches will need over the next decade to help them flourish and grow in our shared priorities, and are any changes needed in how we are as a diocese to support this? Given we have seen almost £10 million of diocesan deficits over the past five years, this needs to be realistic and affordable.
This outline will be discussed at a day at the end of January with Diocesan Synod, Area Deans, Diocesan Trustees, Bishop’s Council, Bishop’s Leadership Team and representatives from the Bishop’s Children & Youth Council. After any revisions, that will then be developed into a more detailed strategy for agreement before the summer, and it will then be submitted to the national church as a long-term partnership proposal to support parishes - and how they support one another in Minister Communities - schools, chaplaincies and diocesan staff.
How can we pray for you?
I’d very much value prayers not just for me but for colleagues also involved in developing and then delivering this work. It will no doubt be challenging, and there will be inevitably be far more we’d like to do than is possible, so please pray we might have wisdom as options are offered and priorities are discerned; imagination to see what is possible and needed; simplicity that plans do not become too lofty or complex; and most of all, reliance on the Spirit of God that makes all possible