There was some good news at Circuit Meeting last night. Firstly, the pressure to join the local megacircuit is off. It's got financial problems, another big circuit in Coventry had to appoint an assistant to the Superintendant as he couldn't keep up with the job, and the assistant, of course, wasn't getting the Super's allownace for the extra work. So it's now running as two separate circuits, and a halt has been called. Maybe a little sanity will now manifest itself, and we can look at the Super's role, and see what we can do to improve their lot.
Secondly, the Circuit is no longer losing members, at least for the moment. We keep having to dip into our financial reserves, and if that continues, we have two options. One is to cut back, but this isn't necessarily a good idea. All too often, as the history of British industry shows, it leads to further decline. We've done a great deal of cutting back already; over twenty years, we've gone from three circuits with around ten ministers, to one Circuit with three. That's an enormous change, and we can't go on at that rate. What we have is working at the moment, so we need a breathing space before we even think of cutting another minister. I'm not so sure about buildings. Several churches are in large, uneconomic old buildings, when they might be better off getting rid of them, and meeting in something smaller and more manageable.
The other option is to build up our churches, and make them flourish. If you have more people, you can do more, bring in yet more people, and your finances grow with the congregation. We need to go from managing decline to managing growth, and some people are going to find that very threatening. If a church is shrinking, there are few if any new people coming in, the same people stay in control, and the church becomes their little empire. Everything I've seen suggests that this is part of the problem; new people are left to drift away, or are pushed, as they're seen as a threat. Growth brings in new people, new ideas, and it only continues as long as they're given space to thrive.
Things are happening round the Circuit; we're starting a Sunday School; other churches are doing other things. Hopefully, one step may lead to another. If decline really has ceased, then we have to be doing something right, and we need to do more of it!