Growth in a multi-parish rural Benefice: Chedworth and District Churches, Gloucester Diocese
“I believe in clearly communicating the gospel at every opportunity and, in a country setting, you have to be everything to all people,” says Revd Stephen Goundrey Smith, Priest-in-Charge of Chedworth and District Churches.
Supported by a strong lay team, Stephen has prioritised numerical growth alongside nurturing faith among existing church members and average attendance has increased steadily since he arrived in 2010.
Stephen considers the key growth factors to be: ensuring a range of different service types; building relationships across the whole community; and making the most of specific opportunities for Gospel proclamation.
The Sunday service pattern has been adapted across the benefice and an informal all age “Tea Time” service, added at 4pm, has attracted families and others who prefer something less traditional.
Taking every opportunity to engage with local people in ways which are unique to village life, the church organises the “Chedworth Games” and produces the community magazine.
The children’s summer holiday club attracts 30 – 35 children, while a Messy Advent service drew around 60 people last year. Other initiatives have included Christianity Explored in the village hall and “Drink Deep”, a discussion group in a local pub about what it means to be spiritual.
Stephen says: “What we do, we try to do well and to make it friendly and reflective - but in the end the rubber hits the road when people’s lives are transformed; that’s what the Gospel is all about.”