The director of mission support at the Church of England in Birmingham gives his run down on his week.
I have to confess to feeling something of a fraud writing this for YCW. I’ve spent over two decades as a youth worker, many of them leading an incredible charity called Urban Devotion Birmingham (UDB) where I began as a volunteer in October 2004 until I moved on at the beginning of February this year. So why a fraud? Well, I’m technically not a youth worker any more. I am now director of mission support at the Church of England in Birmingham.
This basically means that I oversee all things mission for the Diocese, reporting directly to our acting bishop and leading a team of talented people who help to encourage, resource, equip and inspire mission across Birmingham and the surrounding areas. My role helps makes things happen in the here and now as well as taking responsibility for a strategic approach to church planting and supporting parishes to grow by reaching their communities.
Do you have a ‘normal’ day? I don’t. First up today is a meeting geared towards the revitalisation of a parish church as a partnership between the existing congregation and a great team from Gas Street Church. These meetings are vital in ensuring that we move forward together. Topics covered include styles of worship, phases of building construction and how we communicate the changes to the local community.
It also provides a brilliant trivia question: how much pigeon poo do you think was excavated from the tower when the roof was fixed? Give yourself an imaginary prize if you guessed 1.5 tonnes! I follow up with a planning meeting for our Children and Families Mission Enabling project where we have just recruited our fifth and final mission enabler. I finish the day at the other end of the age spectrum with a conversation about planting congregations into care homes.
We are learning how to collaborate effectively and strategically across the Diocese. Once a term we have a whole-day meeting as three separate ‘change’ boards. We look at all the activity that is driving change. We assess how different projects are going, where they need more support and what possibilities we should be pursuing. One of our big learning points is in how we really make space to listen to God.
I firmly believe that however good our ideas and activities are it is only God’s love and power that brings about lasting change. I’m learning how to help shape our culture as a wider diocesan team. One of the definite bonuses of all-day meetings is that we provide lunch to keep us all attentive. The chicken skewers and chocolate brownies are the stand-outs for me.
Five meetings today. First up a one-to-one with the brilliant Rev Ali Herbert. Ali is associate vicar of Gas Street half the week and works as part of my team for the rest. She supports church planters and plays a key role in developing our church planting strategy. Next up a meeting with my team – we’re a new team so I focus on building clarity, trust and relationships through I tool called the power of ten.
Then onto a Zoom call with my friend Ali Campbell who is building a supportive, nurturing network for youth workers called Paraklesis. Check it out if you’re not part of it. I don’t get any commission. I squeeze in a short, late lunch with my friend Sam. A takeaway chicken salad, washed down with a long black from an independent coffee shop. My final meeting of the day is with Jonny from Prayer Storm. I’m helping them shape a new app to bring people together to play. This could be a great resource for youth workers – watch this space.
Thursday was a good day. I welcomed my friends Chris and Alice from the wonderful Youthscape as we plan to initiate their new Launch Pad programme in the autumn. This is all about enabling churches that don’t do youth work to begin youth work. Bishop Anne breaks off from a meeting with other bishops to join us via Zoom for 20 minutes. Like many clergy she has a background in youth work and I’ve loved her receptivity and support in developing this day. Chris and Alice share lots of wisdom with a few of our team and I shout them to lunch at an Indian street food restaurant.
I have an evening meeting today with the Greater Chapter of one of our deaneries. I’m learning all about Anglican terminology and this is a gathering of various people – lay and ordained – who help lead churches. My task is to introduce myself as I am new in role and to share our developing vision in a way that reinforces the centrality of parishes in how we are mission minded.
I start the day as I start most days with some reflective prayer exercises and a pretentiously brewed home coffee. I’m working my way through John’s Gospel and some Timor L’Este beans from a local roaster. Thankfully today is a day without meetings beyond a quick strategy catch up with my colleague Steve. I work from home today, spending several hours working on recruitment, shaping the roles I need to run our projects effectively. Recruitment is tough and advertising is expensive so – hijacking this guest feature – do give me a shout if you want to come and work with me!
I round out the day with an early birthday meal with my wife and three daughters at our favourite street food establishment. I had wings. They were really good. Hit me up for Birmingham food recommendations.
Once a month I pray with a group of friends from different churches in my part of the city. It’s an early start so I’m home in time to make Huevos Rancheros as a hearty family breakfast. My 15-year-old daughter Eden then heads off with a friend for the Big Church Festival followed by Wildfires and the rest of us go paddleboarding before finishing up the day with a barbecue.
I had planned to visit Wildfires festival for a day to catch up with some of our Birmingham church planters, meet with a couple of people around some training ideas and attend a seminar or two. Eliza, our twelve-year-old, managed to persuade me to take her for the whole thing so we drive down on the Sunday via lunch with my brother’s family ready for it all to kick off on Monday morning. Ten-year-old Zoe is excited to have time just my wife Emma. It’s been a busy week but a good week.