The Plan in detail

Abbeydore Deanery

Mission Action Plan


This MAP is focused on growing disciples within the Deanery across all age groups – maintaining the status quo will lead to continuing decline in church regular attendance, reduced incomes and an inability to maintain stewardship of the 35 church buildings.

Key to the supporting mission activities needed to grow disciples will be the dynamic leadership and spiritual guidance provided by both clergy and laity utilizing the many skills that exist within our communities.  

However, three factors have been at the forefront of our minds while formulating this plan. These are:

1. The increasing reluctance of clergy to serve in rural parishes

2. The imminent reduction of the number of clergy working in the Church of England

3. The fact that the Parish Offer amount raised from the deanery in 2017 is sufficient for just over four clergy rather than five.

Taking all those factors into consideration, it would seem reckless to formulate any mission plan for the next five years without assuming at least the possibility that stipendiary clergy numbers are likely to be reduced.

In preparing for this plan, we undertook two surveys – one of laity and one of clergy.

The laity survey, carried out during the Harvest Festival season last year, was designed to look at the expectations that people had about what clergy should do, what laity can do, and what clergy and laity could do together. 

The clergy survey, carried out a little later, examined what sort of activities occupied clergy during their working hours.

The headline news was that the laity, with some variations among the parishes, were happy to share more in mission and ministry, while the clergy were spending 40% of their time doing administration.

There would need to be focused training and development for members of the laity to take an increasing role in ministry.  Furthermore, there was near unanimity across the laity for them to assume the leadership for church building stewardship thereby releasing the clergy from this administrative activity.

Developing the plan

Taking these factors into consideration, it was concluded that the simple solution of coping with any reduction in clergy by dividing the deanery into four benefices rather than five would be unsustainable, not least because it would result in a further increase in administrative work for incumbents, and so mean that they would have more people to care for and less time to give to them.

We have therefore, in formulating this plan, been looking at how we can develop a pattern of team ministry within the deanery with clergy using their particular strengths and talents not just in their own benefices and with laity playing an increasing role in ministry. This would mean that, should the clergy numbers be reduced, we could then move more easily to a pattern of team ministry across the deanery without the change seeming quite so revolutionary. The plan has been developed by a team of clergy and laity. Deanery Synod has been regularly apprised of its development and Deanery Chapter has also contributed its wisdom and insight.

In formulating the plan, we looked at five groups of people and how we should minister to their needs. These groups are, self-evidently, not mutually exclusive.

The five incumbents each examined one group and, in some cases, developed fairly detailed plans for the next five years. It is, however, daily clear that, in embarking on a totally different way of doing ministry, it would be wise to have a plan with fairly bare basics at this point and be ready to listen to the advice of those who have trodden this path already and also be ready to adjust our plan as we monitor its progress.

The five groups of people

The groups whose needs we feel we ought individually to meet are:

ï Children and Young People

ï The Missing Generations (18-50)

ï Incomers

ï Long-term Locals

ï Those who attend ‘life’ services

The plan for those groups would be:

Children and Young People

Stage 1 

Develop deanery plan for schools and for other youth groups Engage with head teachers, scout leaders etc. to gain their support and identify possibilities

Hold focus groups within secondary schools to listen to the needs of the pupils

Identify and train teams of individuals to support primary schools and commence roll- out in secondary schools

Bring together messy churches to learn from their experiences and identify areas for development

Implement a small number of services across the deanery focused specifically for the younger generation (14-30).

Stage 2

Roll-out to focus activity on primary schools. 

Develop support to secondary schools and to other youth organisations

Stage 3 

Review and develop.

The Missing Generations (18-50)

Stage 1

Hold focus groups to ascertain how best to help the missing generation to develop their faith. 

Find out what stops Messy Church families coming to church. Find out what has worked in other rural communities.

Develop clergy teaching skills

Develop less formal patterns of worship

Stage 2

Develop café church where people can come and discuss issues of importance to them.

Stage 3

Review and develop


Stage 1

Redesign and implement meeting and greeting practices

Have a welcome letter ready for all new people in our parishes to let them know what is going on

Stage 2

Organise deanery level events at hubs in the deanery to meet people and find out about events (not just church ones) throughout the area

Grow a spiritual gifting of hospitality

Hold breakfast events pre-11

o’clock services

Develop Alpha courses and mindfulness meetings

Stage 3

Review and develop

Long-term Locals

Stage 1

Develop focus groups to listen to what long-term locals need and want and to keep them informed about events and use of deanery/benefice funds

Recognise at all times that this cohort provides the mainstay for our congregations.

Stage 2

Develop patterns of worship suggested by the cohort - including the possibility of mid- week services - arising from what the focus groups say.

Stage 3

Review and develop

Those who attend ‘life’ services

Stage 1

Hold pilot Grave Talk session to assess its use before rolling out to whole deanery.

Get a supply of fridge magnets for god parents

Send out cards on wedding anniversaries

Focus on how to be more “welcoming” to those who have chosen to come to church for their Life Event

Stage 2

Hold a service a year in each benefice to celebrate those who have been married and those who have been baptised in the parishes.

Develop All Souls services inviting those close to people have died.

Stage 3

Review and develop

Foundation Plan

1. Work with the parishes to encourage each one to redefine the work of the parish church councils and to encourage these groups to take responsibility for the buildings. Some progress has already been made but more work is required.

2. Develop a benefice mission committee chaired by the incumbent. In benefices with Local Ministry Groups this has already started but more needs to be done across the deanery.

3. We know how important it is for the deanery to agree these changes. Deanery Synod has been involved with our thinking to date and most comments have been constructive. We will present the options for ministry to the Deanery. A meeting has been arranged for July 1st for Deanery Synod and PCC Members to hear about and discuss the options. After this event there will be meetings in each benefice led by the RD and the LCCs for more discussion. A second deanery meeting on September 19th will make the final decision.

4. We already have lay people taking services: we need more and we need to train them so we will take advantage of the School for Ministry and arrange training in the deanery.

5. We are about to have two clergy vacancies. We need to be clear about the future of clergy deployment and develop new job descriptions before these posts can be advertised.

6. Develop a methodology to measure the success of new ways of working.

7. Develop the action plans for each group identified in the plan so that work can be effectively coordinated across the deanery. 

8. Develop a deanery buildings project to ensure that church buildings can be maintained and utilised.  

Developing Lay Ministry

A key component of this plan is the development of lay ministry across the deanery to support the clergy.  In Year 1 we will identify volunteers for this important role and generate a local development and training plan to allow them to take an increasing role within the deanery ministry.

Building Stewardship

We are at the forefront of a diocesan trial in Year 1 to identify how our church buildings can play a greater role within our communities.  In addition, we will look to the laity both within and outside our regular communicants to take an increasing role in the stewardship of our church buildings; Year 1 will focus on gaining an understanding of how this could be done with any changes being implemented from Year 2 onwards.

Church buildings

Abbeydore Deanery has been selected as a pilot project for a review of all its church buildings.  One of the aims is to help the parishes work out the long term future for their buildings. We will also aim to bring in more volunteers who want the church buildings to be maintained (even if they don’t come to services).  This is emphatically not aimed at closing churches. Specific buildings will be designated “Church Centres” to act as hubs and provide the infrastructure for the MAP.

Building Stewardship

We are at the forefront of a diocesan trial in Year 1 to identify how our church buildings can play a greater role within our communities and help parishes identify the long-term future for their buildings.  In addition, we will look to the laity both within and outside our regular communicants, to whom it is important that churches are maintained, to take an increasing role in the stewardship of our church buildings. Year 1 will focus on gaining an understanding of how this could be done with any changes being implemented from Year 2 onwards. This is emphatically not aimed at closing churches. Specific buildings will be designated “Church Centres” to act as hubs and provide the infrastructure for the MAP.


In order to allow clergy to focus on mission and ministry and to enable and encourage laity who want to share fully in that work, there will be a need to re-organise how church councils operate. It would seem sensible to revise the current structure of benefices so as to optimise the focus of incumbents’ energies on evangelism and pastoral matters through a Mission & Ministry Council, either for a group of parishes or at deanery level. PCCs could then assume autonomous control of building and churchyard maintenance, including but not limited to insurance, electricity, fund-raising etc., which can be executed without the direct support of incumbents. This would probably need the updating of job descriptions.


Looking to the possibly not too long distant future, if we reach the point where we have four clergy working as a team across the whole deanery rather than just in individual benefices, there will probably be good symbolic as well as practical reasons why they do not live in current vicarages/rectories. It will be important for all people to recognise that things have changed, and that the matters for which they might have gone to the vicarage in the past are now being managed centrally by whatever pattern of ministry the deanery develops.


The parish offer in 2017 did not raise sufficient funds to be able to maintain 5 stipendiary clergy.  This was probably due to the manner in which the change from parish share to an offer was implemented.  It is important to continue to raise awareness of the need to fund ministry effectively and to achieve an amount that exceeds the cost of 5 clergy.  Should numbers then reduce to 4, the additional offer funds could be used to provide both administrative support and the travel costs, training etc. of laity engaged in ministry.


We need as part of our Year 1 plan to develop a strategy for communications so that everyone will be given the same message about changes and developments within the deanery and also so that they might hear about events, courses and services across the deanery.