About Growing Good

The Growing Good Toolkit has been developed by Church Urban Fund to help churches reflect on and implement the insights of the GRA:CE project.

The GRA:CE Project

Growing Good: Growth, Social Action and Discipleship in the Church of England is the final report of the GRA:CE project, a three year research project from Theos and CUF that explores the relationship between social action, growth and discipleship in the Church of England. The research included interviews with over 350 people in nearly 70 churches in a range of contexts and identified some common themes shared by churches that are growing in faithfulness and fruitfulness. The Growing Good Toolkit is designed to help churches reflect on and implement the key insights of the research.

The researchers found that, although there is no single, infallible way to grow a church, there was a set of characteristics (or themes) shared amongst churches that are growing numerically, flourishing through their engagement in social action, and helping people grow in their faith. Crucially, social action leads to church growth when it enables congregations to develop meaningful relationships with those they would not otherwise have done, or who might not otherwise have come into sustained contact with the church. These relationships are a key mechanism through which the church grows and also through which individuals grow in their own personal faith, but are not always linear or straightforward.

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The Growing Good Themes

Presence: Being actively and visibly present in communities.

Churches grow in number and depth when they are present in and connected to their local area, which may be manifested through its social action. Churches which are visible, or are recognised as being active in giving to their community, are more likely to grow. The congregational culture as well as the physical presence of the church can both help and hinder growth in this way.

Perseverance: Investing in our communities over the long term, even when it’s hard and slow.

The Church of England’s longevity and perseverance in presence can make it well placed for this. Congregation growth often occurs after years of focused activity or engagement in meeting the needs of a community.

Hospitality: Building a culture of giving and receiving, openness and welcome that goes beyond offering food. 

Hospitality and generosity are significant for church growth. Social action which is perceived as ‘instrumental’ or paternalistic often fails to engage people in the wider community. Hospitality and generosity communicate genuine willingness to engage with and invest in the community as it is.

Adaptability: Being open to challenge and change.

Congregations that grow through their social action are also likely to be adaptable and embracing of life’s complexities. Church leaders and congregations demonstrating adaptability in discipleship and worship is therefore critical to cultivating these meaningful relationships.

Participation: Inviting everyone to be part of what’s going on.

Participation in social action can also offer a practical route into faith for people who weren’t previously part of the church community and might not have considered exploring faith before. Volunteering in church-based projects or activities enables people to reappraise churches and their beliefs, and often leads to people re engaging with Christian faith.


About Church Urban Fund

CUF was established by the Church of England as a practical response to unmet need and has been active in local communities for over 30 years.

We work through three core organisational streams, to deliver our vision of people and communities all over England flourishing and enjoying life in all its fullness. These are: Together Network, Near Neighbours, and Just Finance Foundation.

CUF

Acknowledgements

The Growing Good Toolkit has been developed by CUF with the support of the Growing Good reference group* and led by Dr Jessamin Birdsall, Head of Research and Evaluation and Polly Taylor, Special Projects Manager.

The team are grateful to the congregations, church leaders and individuals who shared their stories with us.

  • Presence: St John's, Hoxton
  • Perseverance: Excel Church, Bilston
  • Hospitality: BRIDGES, Kent
  • Adaptability: St John's, Southall
  • Participation: St John the Baptist, Crewe

The Growing Good Toolkit films were made by Adrian Serecut, producer/director and presented by Reverend Lynne Cullens and Lauren Simpson.

*Growing Good Reference Group:

  • Alastair McKay - Executive Director, Reconciling Initiatives
  • Steve Jones - Senior Pastor, Oxford Community Church
  • Heather Black - Programme Leader, Mustard Seed
  • Dave Champness - NECN Evangelism Consultant, Diocese of Blackburn Vision Consultant
  • Hannah Buck - Lead Development Worker, Transforming Notts Together
  • Cassius Francis - Just Finance Development Worker
  • Adrian Newman - Bishop-in-Residence, Church Urban Fund



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Funders

The GRA:CE research project and Growing Good Toolkit have been generously supported by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust.

SIR HALLEY STEWART HI RES