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Acceler8 combats CofE ageing crisis
13/07/16
Six of the nine Development Leaders in the ruins of the Cathedral.

The release of the Church of England ministry statistics last month showed an ageing crisis amongst CofE clergy, with a quarter of ministers being over 60 and only 13% under 40. For many these statistics are a cause for concern and pose the question; how do we encourage more young people to be involved in ministry? The Diocese of Coventry has been focusing on significantly increasing the number of disciples under 40 for some time and in June 2015 the diocese was awarded £638,000 by the Church Commissioners to set up the Acceler8 project.

Acceler8 was established with the aim to encourage churches across the diocese to deliver the Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Growing Churches which would then attract and inspire younger congregation members. Over the past year Acceler8 has employed nine 20s-30s Development Leaders who are based in parishes across the diocese. The parishes cover a range of churches and traditions but all have high concentrations of residents in their 20s and 30s.The Development Leaders work alongside vicars and congregations to help them in their discipleship of the younger generation.

Since November when the first Development Leaders began their roles, the project has undertaken various exciting advancements. Many of the leaders have witnessed young people come to faith through Alpha courses they have run in their churches and several have established mentoring schemes to empower young leaders. Highlights from individual churches include, the development of a discipleship gap year called ‘Form’ at Westwood Church, Coventry; a bi-monthly contemporary worship service called ‘Crossover’ at St Anne’s and All Saints, Coventry; a successful 20s -30s Forum and a growing Community Café at St Mary’s, Leamington, and a party on a canal boat for the young adults of St James, Styvechale!

From September 2016, Acceler8 will be supporting a unique new initiative called ‘The Field Community.’ The Field Community will be a new monastic Christian community of 20s-30s led by new deacon, Rachel Saum, and taking up residence in the village of Charlecote. The community is being formed to encourage the rural church to grow younger and deeper. Members of the Field Community will lead and participate in community prayer, worship and Bible study and will offer at least five hours a week to mission and ministry in the local rural churches, primary schools and/or colleges. The diocese is eager to learn more about young adult rural ministry through this exciting experimental community.

Commenting on the success of Acceler8 so far, Kim Morgan-Jones, 20s-30s Strategy Team Leader at Coventry Diocese, says:

“It's a privilege to lead this team in such an exciting time where we're already seeing people in their 20s and 30s come to faith, grow as followers of Jesus and develop as leaders within their churches and in the wider work of the Diocese. We've noticed a genuine enthusiasm among many churches and a desire to learn how best they can reach, serve and empower this age group.”

Each of the Development Leaders sums up what the Acceler8 project means to them and their churches:

 

  • Ali (St Margaret’s, Coventry): "The Acceler8 project is creating a noticeable buzz at St. Margaret's and beyond. As we head into a new season spiritually, our congregation seems to be galvanised and increasingly discipleship focused."
  • Rachel (Mid-Fosse parishes and Barford benefice): "What's most refreshing about Acceler8 is the freedom to try new things and reimagine conventional expressions of Church. I'm looking forward to being creative in a rural context."
  • Jenny (St Chad’s, Coventry): "We're learning so much about 20s and 30s mission and discipleship and it's a joy to have the wider Diocese join us on this journey."
  • Vikki (St James’, Southam):  "I find the diversity of contexts we are working within fascinating. Regardless of the churchmanship, Acceler8 offers a lot to connect and engage with. I'm especially passionate about reaching 20s and 30s families."
  • Gareth (Westwood, Coventry): "Not only are we helping young adults encounter Jesus, we are imparting a culture change across our churches to promote mission and ministry towards the younger generation."
  • Beks (Urban Hope, Coventry): "Acceler8 doesn't take a 'one size fits all' approach to working with 20s and 30s. God made us unique and that's what we wish to explore and celebrate our faith authentically."
  • Jonny (St James, Styvechale): "As part of Acceler8, it's a pleasure to help 20s and 30s in their God-given callings and assist our churches in their ability to do this."
  • Ian (St Anne and All Saints, Coventry): "The Gospel is as relevant today as it has ever been. It's important we engage with young adults and help them to discover the life changing love of Christ."
  • Mark (St Mary’s, Leamington): "We might take innovative approaches but we're already seeing timeless results - young people experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus offers."