Our Gospel DNA A vision document for St John’s Hensingham 2019-2025

We want St John’s to have a gospel DNA

Imagine lots of little bands of Christians springing up around West Cumbria: fired with a message about Jesus, spiritually mature from the Bible, fed and able to be effective in their jobs and places where they live; everyone seeing themselves as a worker for the Lord, and making his work the main thing in their lives. Sound exciting? It should do, because the model of church that we find in the Bible is one where everyone sees themselves as a player on the team, rather than sitting in the stands. We call this message about Jesus, ‘the gospel’; and the vision of Scripture is that it should become the very DNA of every church family. So we are going to explore how that might happen in our little corner of the world - West Cumbria - with St John’s playing its part. The way we will do this is to look at our three strategic aims as a church, which we call:

Reach Out

Build up

Bear fruit

This document is just that- a document. There are no promises from God that anything in here will happen, but it just reflects our desire as a church to serve him. It is part of our concern to pray to God for the flourishing of the gospel and the growth of his church. It is about direction, because it is helpful to know where we are going (and by implication where we aren’t) as we lead the church. And it is big in desire, because the gospel is the most important thing in the world.

Fergus Pearson (Vicar) and Si Walker (Associate Vicar)

On behalf of the Parochial Church Council.

February 2019

What is the gospel?

To miss it is to miss the heart of what God is doing in the world

In reflecting on our church’s direction we went through the New Testament and wrote down all of the references to the gospel.

It was an energising experience. We discovered that the term gospel grows in prominence as the work of establishing churches in the New Testament grows. It becomes the increasing concern of the Apostles Paul and Peter, as well as Luke in his writing of the book of Acts, which details the events of the early church.

To miss it is to miss the heart of what God is doing in the world. We may as well become a charity or club like any other. We certainly will not be God-shaped and will not be what God envisions for the body of Christ in the world.

In all, we wrote down more than 40 occasions of the word gospel being used in the New Testament, ignoring basic repetitions in consecutive sentences. We saw that Jesus envisaged this thing called the gospel being preached to the whole world.1 We saw that it was defined as the good news about the Son of God, as Mark sets out at the start of his gospel.2 From Paul, that it was for Jew and non-Jew,3 that it was the power of God for salvation4 and that he longed to preach it where it was not yet known.5 ‘Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel!’ he says.6 We saw that the gospel was set out in advance by the Old Testament prophets,7 that it must be defended by those teaching it,8 that it must be entrusted to others,9 and that all who are believers strive to live lives worthy of it.10 In addition the gospel was always spreading as the first disciples concluded that God was directing them to preach the message in new places.11 If we are looking for a succinct summary, it is the news:

‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...’.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Because we are serious about this being the DNA of our church, you will find these glorious themes shaping and defining what comes next. Some of it we are already doing, because of the work over many years in our parish that has been faithful to the gospel call. But as the Reformers of the Sixteenth Century understood, we must always be reforming ourselves and our churches by the truth of God’s Word, and so we can always grow in maturity as a church family.

The ministry of the WHOLE church

A few months ago, we were thumbing through the Bible in one of our staff meetings, trying to define what ministry was in a nut shell. We found a succinct summary in Ephesians 4:11- 16:

‘And he [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’

We notice here that Paul sees the shepherds and teachers as primarily equipping God’s people by Bible teaching ministry*. To use a sports analogy, it creates a dynamic where ministers are like the captains, but everyone should be on the team playing the ‘gospel’ game. We are to grow in maturity together, rather than being static in our Christian lives, or infatuated with new doctrines or false teaching. He sees that this happens as we are all ‘speaking the truth in love’. By ‘the truth’ we take it that he means the truth of God’s word, rather than our own ‘home truths’ or thoughts on things. We are all to be gospel-sharers, able to chatter about it with one another in the various seasons, struggles and opportunities of life. And notice he uses the phrase, ‘in love’. The church is to be into gospel body-building! That is, we strive to be equipped and help each other grow up as the body of Christ.

*We cannot get into a full discussion here of why Paul makes clear that Apostles and Prophets no longer exist. In brief, he makes the argument that the Apostles and Prophets laid a foundation (Ephesians 2:19-22 and Ephesians 3:4-5). Once the foundation was laid, the ‘household’ of the church was built upon it and this is the present day work. Luke 16:16 is also helpful in showing the passing of the old era of apostles and prophets.

Our values

Under God we strive to be....




.....Disciples, making other disciples.

What areas have changed since 2013?

In 2013 when we drew up our vision as a church, we had these strategic objectives.

Bring in. To bring people to hear about Jesus

Build up. To build people up in Jesus

Bear fruit. To bear fruit for Jesus

The significant change relates to item number one, as you will see in what follows. This reflects more of an outward focus in a desire to engage West Cumbria with the gospel. We have also been more specific in how to achieve our objectives than at previous times.

We believe that there have been things achieved in the past 6 years, but that the strategy needs to be more outward focussed, particularly with a desire to explore long term church planting and more focussed on training to multiply ministry potential.

In 2013 ‘bring in’, expressed a desire for people to be evangelistic and bring people to hear about Christ. However, on reflection, it places too much emphasis on the church building and growing the congregation. Growing a congregation in number is not a bad thing! But we want to express a greater desire to be missional and ‘reach out’ reflects our increased desire to be a body of people going with the gospel to our networks. It also reflects our growing awareness of the need to explore church planting in order to generate more gospel growth, reach new communities, empower more people to use their gifts and extend the work of the kingdom.

Most strategies do not fall short because of the vision, but because of the implementation. We recognise the implementation could have been done better since 2013, and so we therefore plan to make this strategy shape the way we do our work as a PCC. Whereas before we had an eye to the strategy, it will now structure our meetings and the things we consider.

More will be said on each of these aims, in what follows.

Reach out

The Lord Jesus was very clear that the gospel must be preached to all nations.

He told the disciples, in what has become known as the Great Commission, to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’

Matthew 28:19-20

His emphasis on disciple-making and teaching, bear out what we were saying earlier about being Bible-centred, Gospel-centred, Jesus-centred; disciples who make other disciples.

We are to be a transformed community, which lovingly speaks the gospel to everyone (including one another)12 and demonstrates love in many practical ways.13 But, as a church, we are not called to be a social club. We must have a gospel DNA. Nor are we called to have what is sometimes termed a ‘social gospel’ where we simply try and make people’s lives more comfortable and do good works

As Jon Berry our CAP centre manager said at a recent client event: ‘We want to share with you our faith in Jesus and what he has done in our lives.’

There is also a difference between what individual Christians are called to do, and what the body is called to do. For a fuller fleshing-out on this, and to see why we are involved in Christians Against Poverty, see Fergus’ new paper on Social Action which clarifies our position.

Jacqui (centre left): ‘The way I see it Jesus blossomed in me and my smashed up heart started going back together.’

Since 2013 we have seen some people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. But, by the standards of Christian history and what is happening in other places around the world, we may still call this ‘the day of small things’. The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) puts church growth through conversion at about 1% in 2018.14 This means that a small fellowship of about 50 members might expect to see a person come to faith every two years. That is not where the FIEC wants to be; it is just a reflection of what it sees happening in its constituency. Particular areas of success among them in the UK, the FIEC reports, are with those under twenty-five, children of Christian parents, university students and internationals. The success has come amongst the very poor and the very rich, with less success in between.

Greatest areas of fruit have been amongst those reached through our Chinese Fellowship, and young people approaching student age.

In challenging contexts, new churches may need to be grown from seed.

What’s new?

Exploring planting: through new home groups (from seed).

This is a new initiative, following on from a couple of years of thinking and praying about how we could plant as a church. We are beginning a new home group in Cleator Moor with the express aim of being evangelistic in the area. As an intentionally-missional home group, the members will pray for the area, aim to do life there and connect with others to share the gospel.

There are many different models for planting. In areas that have a Christian presence, with Christians commuting to larger churches, it is more straight forward to take a core team to a new venue in that area and expand the work (although it is still very challenging). Gardeners will be familiar with the idea that you can plant saplings, and in some cases transplant more mature trees, but you also can take a step back and grow from seed.

In hard-to-reach communities, with little Christian presence, significant deprivation and social distance from the sending church, we believe that we need to grow from seed.

We have a couple, Joe and Chelsea Pearson, who have moved to be nearer Cleator Moor with an aim of serving the area. Joe has trained with Si as an Apprentice and Si is working with him on this venture, having spoken together for several years on the idea. We believe that God has created the circumstances and given him gifts to prayerfully lead this work. Joe is recruiting members for this home group, the requirement being that they live in Cleator Moor, could go to live there, or live in one of the surrounding villages such as Moor Row or Frizington. All of them will continue for the time being to attend Sunday meetings at St John’s. If God blesses the work numerically with new growth by conversion, we will explore whether this can become a new church in its own right, possibly functioning within the Mission Community. Please pray for Joe and Chelsea, as well as for this venture. We are utterly powerless to do these things in our own strength and only God can bless this work.

How we reach out


The centre manager and befrienders are believers who want to help and share their faith. Client events create the opportunity both to share the gospel and to encourage one-to-one conversation.

Enquirers Course

Currently the Essentials course; a four week course based around the themes of reveal, reject, rescue, relationship and response. These are gospel themes. Space is also given to any ‘big questions’ participants bring with them.

Evangelism of our networks

Each of us is to be speaking the gospel and giving a reason for our hope. Most of the testimonies given in the past few years, detail individuals in church reaching friends in their various networks and doing personal evangelism. So from 2019, we want to have more emphasis on people not programs, to reach out. In other words, less new events and more going to our contacts by each one of us.

Explorers and Pathfinders

The groups have grown in number since 2013. They are attended by a significant number who do not attend on Sunday. We aim for clear gospel explanation.

Home Missions

We hosted two missions in 2018. For an evaluation of how these went, see the Bishop of Durham’s video in the blog archive of our website for 2018.

Our aim in 2019 is to take a mission team somewhere, rather than receive one. This is likely to involve the Mission Community.


The Walker family serving in Argentina are among our mission partners

Supporting the work of others in their global gospel ministries, both prayerfully and financially.

Occasional offices

The Church of England name for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Since 2013, one of the Ministers has met at least twice (and often more) with each family that wants a child baptised, usually to read through Mark’s gospel. We aim to prepare them so they understand the basic gospel message. We see weddings and funerals, also, as gospel opportunities with families.

School Assemblies

In 2018 we have begun work in Jericho school, alongside the work that has happened for many years in Hensingham Primary. We have opportunities every month to lead assemblies and they feel fruitful. Fergus is a governor at Mayfield School, and several of our congregation are governors in various schools.

Seasonal outreach

Easter Football School/ Holiday Clubs for children. Running each year since 2014 and presenting a tremendous opportunity. A Christmas Extravaganza has happened three years in a row, where we have tried to bring an emphasis on building relationships and a gospel message. These are highly dependent on the skills/gifts within the congregation at the time.

In 2015 and 2016 we ran Seasons of Invitation using the scheme developed by Michael Harvey. These aim to build momentum from September to December with the events in the church calendar such as Harvest, Remembrance and Advent. We may return to this, depending on having the right person to co-ordinate this.

Sunday services

We see these as primarily aiming to feed believers, but we recognise also that we have many people joining us who are not believers each Sunday. We seek to make sure they hear the gospel. Each Sunday, approximately 180 adults attend services, and 30-40 under 16s.

Tiny Tots

Reaching parents and carers through provision of a quality group, friendship, evangelism, children’s talks, singing and prayer.

Measureable aim:

‘2 for 2022’

Under God, we aim to have two further groups that, by 2022, will be intentionally evangelistic and aiming towards becoming church plants in their own right. These may be home groups or simply a group that is meeting regularly to pray for an area of need.

Build up

The gospel is not only the way INTO the Christian life, it is the way ON in the Christian life, and provides the DNA for our discipleship. This comes through in Paul’s desire to see hope and love spring from the gospel in the Colossian church.15 He implores the Galatians not to desert the gospel they once received in order to go after other things, which he calls no gospel at all. A works- based salvation was the error of the day there- returning to the ceremonial law for salvation.16 With the Philippians Paul sees himself as building on the gospel and so confirming what they have received.17 With the Thessalonians he calls them to live in a manner worthy of it and to embody it by sharing their very lives together (what a great mission statement for a home group!)18 Having come to Christ for salvation, we need to be those that grow to maturity and put down ever deeper roots into Christ and his word.19

We will want to open our Bibles together during all kinds of fellowship because it is by studying the word of truth that this happens and we become able to speak the gospel to one another. The Bible is called the sword of the Spirit;20 and so for the Spirit to glorify Jesus among us, we know what we need to do! We are Bible- centred.

How we build up

Baptism, Dedication and Confirmation preparation

We provide preparation for those wanting to have a child baptised, be baptised as adults, or be confirmed in a service with one of our Bishops. This takes the form of a short course of study.

Central Prayer Meeting

On the first Thursday of every month we meet for prayer, along with Bible study and fellowship. We bring the needs of the church, region, country and world to the Lord. We believe that this is the engine room of the church and want to encourage all those who see St John’s as their church family to attend.

Children’s Groups

Mid-week and Sunday groups take place at St John’s where we teach according to age group. A fuller explanation is given below in ‘where do the children’s groups fit?’

Chinese Fellowship

A monthly meeting for Chinese brothers and sisters in our congregation.

Discipleship Course

Beginning as a year-long program run by Fergus and co-leaders, it evolved to become occasional Saturday mornings looking at topics. It may be the right time to relaunch this in something like its original format for those who have joined St John’s or become Christians over the last six or seven years.

Handicraft meeting

A time of fellowship, for those with an interest in handicraft.

Home Groups

We meet in mid-week home groups, with mixed groups taking place on different weekday evenings. There are also groups aimed at 20s and 30s (Living Room) and men’s and women’s Bible study. These groups are focused on studying the Word together.

Men’s and women’s convention/ local days

For some years groups of us have gone to conventions in our region. We have also run days for women to meet for fellowship, prayer and study, which we hope to continue.

Music ministry (Sundays)

Debbie Swinburn co-ordinates our musicians. They help us lift our eyes to Jesus and sing God’s praises with Scripture- soaked songs in our services. We see our songs as preaching the gospel to us. Si is the Minister responsible for music.

Other one-to-one/ small groups

Currently the ministers meet with people one-to-one, either to respond to a pastoral need, or in order to spend some time looking at the Bible together and praying. As well as happening spontaneously, it is available on request and may be conducted in a small group if appropriate. Some of our youth leaders also lead small group Bible studies, as well as a men and women’s midweek study. This has proved to be a catalyst for some members of the congregation to begin gathering with a few friends to open the Bible together, pray and give support. May many more follow their example! We can all speak the truth in love.

Sunday Services

We aim to be expository, that is, exposing what the Bible says for the hearer. Usually we preach through books of the Bible to allow God to set the agenda. However, we also take themes from time to time. We give a good portion of our Sunday Service to preaching and we now have a team of preachers. We aim to sing ‘Scripture- soaked’ songs and hymns, to pray together and have fellowship. Time to meet together is provided after the service and with occasional bring and share lunches.

Visiting team

We have a team of visitors who visit to offer Christian encouragement and fellowship. The visitors often visit those who are unable to get to church services. This includes hospital visiting and Holy Communion in residential homes led by a minister. We also seek to respond to pastoral needs and crises and often this involves one of the Vicars, although not always.


Bite Size Bible

One of the great joys in the past year has been in redeveloping what was our Evening Service. Instead of a service of worship following usual formats, it frequently explores doctrinal issues and hard questions, as well as preaching Bible books. In a smaller setting, gathering in soft chairs in church, it encourages questions and dialogue in response to the sermon. The downside is that the service is built more on people being willing to share, but we believe it complements the morning services. Doctrine- the big ideas of the Bible- is crucial for helping Christians live in the world by giving tools for thinking through issues and for reading the Bible for themselves.

Where do youth and children’s groups fit?

Youth weekend away

Fergus oversees the Sunday groups and Si the midweek groups. This we believe has helped us give a lead with the groups and help them develop and face challenges. For example, it is clear to the leaders who to speak to and the minister in question is more accountable to working with the team. All good news!

The argument could be there that we should always do both evangelism and discipleship in every group. Of course, to a certain extent we do both, but in our experience one usually has to take priority over the other if you are going to do either of them well. In addition, it matches what tends to happen in the age groups. Young children are far more likely to invite their non-Christian friends, whereas older children tend to be less likely to do so. What becomes more effective as they reach teenage years is to disciple them well so that they can reach their own friends with the gospel in their networks. In that way they become far more effective evangelists. As they move towards CYFA the priority is to equip them for what it means to be a believer as an independent adult, and, often, what it means at university to take charge of your own growth as a disciple. The good news on the issue of how to balance evangelism and discipleship is that both have gospel DNA and so it is the gospel which is running through both.

Measurable aim:

‘3 for 23’.

We will aim to start three new home groups by 2023. Fergus is in discussion with Home Group Leaders at the moment, along with Heather Naylor who co-ordinates home groups.

Bear fruit

Andreas, Ministry Apprentice 2016-17

God’s vision for bearing fruit has gospel DNA running through it.* Paul tells the Philippians to ‘strive together as one for the gospel’. Each of us who is a believer has the opportunity to be fruitful for the Lord! Whether we serve in word ministry or supporting ministry (more on this in a subsequent section) one part of the body is not more important than the other. As we have been saying, the role of the pastors is to equip the saints for works of service, so that the people of God can be built up. The principle of working ‘together’ means that we all share the work of ministry.

*Paul says ‘the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the words’- ever since they heard it and understood God’s grace. Colossians 1:6: He encourages the Colossians to ‘bear fruit in every good work.’ Colossians 1:10: Paul is probably picking up on Jesus’ command to his disciples to ‘go and bear fruit- fruit that will last.’ Jesus tells them that this is why he chose them. John 15:16

Word (Bible) Ministry

The three C’s of gospel training.

Increasingly, the way that we do training focusses on three elements:

Character- is the person growing in godliness?

Conviction- does the person have the right convictions for the role?

Competence- is the person growing in the skills to serve in the role?

Our Apprentices all receive feedback, for example, in accordance with these three areas and are trained to develop these 3 C’s.

Adapted from 'The Trellis and the Vine' by Marshall and Payne

An example of this in action is Philomena Sisson. In 2010 Fergus met Phil when he led an enquirers course on her street. Phil came to clear faith in Christ and she started to be built up in the knowledge of the Bible. In time Phil learnt how to help others explore Christianity and helped Si lead a course, for people exploring Christianity. Phil and Si saw some people place their faith in Christ during that course and one is now in Si’s home group! In that way Phil went from being a newcomer, to being reached out to, built up, trained and becoming a co- worker.

How we train up


We run a one year apprenticeship, with a possibility of a second year, for those exploring full-time Bible ministry as church leaders, youth workers, women’s workers or missionaries. This is also suitable for those who simply want to be more equipped to teach the Bible in their local church, but continue in the workplace. We have had four Apprentices since 2013. All have continued to serve their local church in encouraging ways, with one in the process of exploring Anglican Ministry in another diocese, and one exploring church planting with us.

Bishop’s Teaching Days

Bishop James, Bishop of Carlisle, has hosted days which we have advertised, such as his recent ‘what is human’ training day. Bishop Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone, has also hosted training on ministry which quite a few in the Mission Community came to at Keswick Ministries on ministry.

Keswick Ministries

For several years we have sought to partner with Keswick Ministries by suggesting training for local churches and sending people from our churches. Recently 12 people from St John’s attended a Day for Disciple Makers. Keswick also offers training on such areas as leadership, cultural engagement and even the Biblical languages! You will find a flier at the back of church.

Ministry Training Course (Leyland)

Since 2013 St John’s has had four people attend this (one-day-a-week) course, in Leyland, focusing on how to teach the Bible to others. It forms a key component of our Apprenticeship. One of our Apprentices also completed the second year of training.

Musicians’ Evenings

We spend time having teaching on a theological aspect of musical worship and the task of serving in this ministry. We also learn new songs and try to hone the gifts God has given us, as well as praying for the work.

Occasional training

We have run training for parents to bring up their children in the Lord, for Home Group Leaders, personal evangelism and various other forms of ministry.

Re-new training

For two years we have taken a couple of our church officers to the Re-new conference in Leeds, which is the UK expression of the Anglican renewal movement GAFCON. It helps outline a three-part agenda of pioneering, establishing and securing healthy Anglican evangelical churches. As well as training for ministers, there has been training for wardens. This has included advice on important issues like setting up Trusts for evangelical ministry of the kind we are using to fund the Church Leader at St Andrew’s. Si and Fergus also attend a quarterly ministers’ fraternal in Carlisle where they can learn from other ministers and help take forward the Re-new agenda.

Safeguarding Training

We require our volunteers working with children and vulnerable adults to undertake Safeguarding Training. Many have completed the C1, C2 and C3 training available through the diocese. We have hosted diocesan training and our Safeguarding Co-ordinators are very proactive in highlighting training needs and opportunities.

Training for missions

For example, we had a training session before our Come to Christ 2018 mission, with a visiting speaker on sharing the gospel. We also helped people look at how to share their testimony and congregations were encouraged to read ‘Intentional Evangelism that Takes People to Jesus’ by Paul Williams. We sold/gave away around 100 copies in our Mission Community churches.

Youth and children’s leader training

A number of us have attended the annual North West Partnership training day in Carlisle. Si Walker served as the local planner for that event for a few years. He still intends to help our church take advantage by taking our leaders along.

In 'The Trellis and the Vine' by Marshall and Payne

We ought to reach out, build up and then ‘entrust’ the ministry to others. This happens in a variety of ways. We believe that we have an opportunity to challenge some people with the right character, conviction and competency, to church leadership, to serve in West Cumbria and beyond.

Previously inaccessible study

In the past, those seeking theological training would either have to raise support, or be paid for by the Church of England. The full cost of sending someone to college is easily £15,000- £20,000 per year over a period of two or three years.* While for some this may be possible, it is likely that many will find this financially inaccessible. In addition, when a church sends their ‘ones to watch’ to college, it is likely that they will not return to our region and so we lose them from the pool of those equipped to serve in the region. When the diocese sends a person for Church of England training there is no guarantee that the course of study will be evangelical in nature and therefore satisfactory, although we would seek to work with the diocese to achieve this for any future ordination candidates.

*Based on tuition fees and living costs for Oak Hill College, London.


Dan Hames, Lecturer at Union helping at our Open Day

Union School of Theology

This really is a game changer. What Union does is provide theologically rigorous study in a way that is geographically and financially accessible to more people, through Learning Communities based in local churches. The theological study element of our plan could be delivered in this way.

The President of Union, Mike Reeves, says: ‘At Union, we are all about the raising up of leaders who are ready to dedicate themselves to serving the church of Christ- for the blessing of the world.’

It embeds students within a local church context and offers an ‘exciting and valid alternative for those to whom three years of full-time campus study is simply not an option’. In Hensingham, students can study for the Graduate Diploma, a two year course of study (part time) for a fraction of the cost of residential study.21 It also has the major strength of making sure that formation happens in the context of real ministry, so that the student is better equipped to keep serving in their local church and go on serving in the future in church planting situations.

Future challenges

For those who desire to seek ordination, there is still the option of going down the route of entering the discernment process with the Church of England. However, the recent appointment at St Andrew’s demonstrates that a person does not necessarily need to be ordained to lead an Anglican church. The Diocese of Carlisle is leading the way as an ‘ecumenical diocese’ which is open to working with others of different training backgrounds. In addition, new pathways to ordination are emerging all the time and it is likely that we will see new ones enabling people to train with other institutions before being ordained.

Measurable aim:

Planning for the future of gospel ministry in West Cumbria

‘5 for 25’

Between now and 2025, to have had five people exploring full-time ministry, or becoming equipped for it by, for example: doing the Ministry Apprenticeship, attending North West Partnership in Leyland, entering ordination discernment with the Church of England, or doing the Union course.

Supporting Ministries: the trellis for the vine

Using the analogy of a trellis and a vine, Marshall and Payne show how it is essential to grow the gospel vine for the glory of God. However, in order to achieve this, we need to have a good trellis. The trellis is made up of things that are not of themselves gospel ministry, but essential to its life.

If you put all your time into building a great trellis rather than cultivating the vine, you will end up without a living plant. This would be reflected in an excessive focus on the building fabric of our church, for example, while neglecting word ministry. But likewise, if you ignore the essential work on the trellis, you will pretty soon have no vine! That would be seen in ignoring the finances of the church or letting the building go to rack and ruin, all in the name of preaching the gospel. Clearly, at St John’s, this is not how we want to go about our work.

We praise God for those involved in trellis work. If that is you, know that you are vital to the work of the gospel as each part of the body plays its role, with no part being more important than the other.22

Our supporting ministries:

There are many ways to serve


Our Church Secretary and the others who help with doing admin for our groups.

Bell ringers

Ringing to call people to worship services.


Church hall is cleaned by volunteers on a rota, with the church being cleaned by a paid person.

Deanery Synod and Diocesan Synod

These bodies form part of the decision making of the Church of England and feed into General Synod, which is chaired by the Archbishops. See Parochial Church Council also.

Finance management

Our Treasurer who prepares accounts, administers the finances on a weekly basis, reports to PCC and helps set the vision for the finances. Money is counted each week too by others.

Giving financially

People serve the Lord’s work through giving of their finances.

Grounds work

The small team that keeps our grounds looking great each week and does jobs on the building fabric.


A wonderful team provides tea and coffee at the end of services, and on a number of occasions we have people help serve drinks and/or food for events. We rely on a bring- and-share method, with a volunteer keeping our kitchen in good running order.

Parochial Church Council (PCC)

The PCC is appointed at our Annual General Meeting for assisting the Ministers in the leadership of the church. The PCC is the decision making body of the church. It consists of Church Wardens, Treasurer, Licensed Clergy and Reader, Secretary and other members who help in different ways.

Safeguarding Co-ordinators

Ian Ulyett and Kay Cartmell co-ordinate our safeguarding and help us shape and deliver upon our safeguarding policy. They also help respond to concerns anyone may have regarding a child or vulnerable adult.

Team Leaders, Verger and Welcome team

9am and 6.30pm services have Team Leaders to help where Church Wardens cannot always be present. We have Sidespersons who give out notice sheets and hymn books, a Verger for weddings and funerals and several other roles like this.


Run the audio-visual systems at our services and others maintain our website and Facebook page.

Flower arrangers

Arrange flowers for every Sunday of the year.

Creche (Sunday)

Childcare for parents of children 0-3 years old during the 11am service.

How can I play my part in St John's vision?


Without this all will come to nothing. We particularly ask you to join our Central Prayer Meeting on the first Thursday of each month.


If you are not currently serving in church and would like to, speak to:

Si Walker- if it is about serving in ‘reach out’ ministries.

Fergus Pearson- if it is about serving in ‘build up’ ministries.

Si Walker- if it is about serving in ‘bear fruit’ ministries or being equipped through these activities.

Marian Brooks- if it is about helping with a Supporting Ministry office@stjohnshensingham.org.uk

Of course all of us can share the gospel in our networks and you don’t need to speak to any of these people to do that!

Give financially

We ask that everyone who considers St John’s their church family, to consider giving sacrificially to the gospel by supporting this work. We believe that a biblical guide may be to consider giving 10% of your household income to gospel ministry. Some will need to give less and others will be able to give much more. Information regarding giving is at the back of church on the noticeboard, or you can speak to Tim Naylor our Treasurer: timnaylor35@gmail.com.


Read your Bible each day, and pray, consider joining a home group, develop a servant heart, and ask the Lord what you can do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are your doctrinal beliefs?

We are an Anglican church within the conservative evangelical tradition and subscribe to Canon A5. ‘The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.’ The Thirty-Nine Articles may be found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, or online at the Church of England website.

Where do you stand on human sexuality?

We hold to the Biblical teachings on the issue and as such take the view that the only right context for sexual relationships is between one man and one woman in marriage. We uphold Lambeth resolution 1.10 in stating this which was the resolution of the Church of England in 1998 and continues to be the Church of England’s official teaching. We seek sensitively to teach on the issue from Scripture and to love our neighbour as ourselves in how we deal with people on all issues.

What is your stance on the role of women in church leadership?

See Fergus’s letter to the church in 2012 and the text of the Church of England’s Resolution on Women Bishop’s, which was passed by a PCC majority. We believe that men and women are equal before God, with some different roles in the life of the church. We want men and women to flourish together in the gospel as God has intended. Because of our theological position, the church of England has provided us with an additional Bishop, Rod Thomas, who shares our convictions.

How do you relate to the Church of England?

We seek to play our part in the Church of England. Si and Fergus are ordained Anglican clergy and we participate warmly in the life of Carlisle Diocese, having served on a number of committees and synods. However, we recognise that some in Church of England hold opinions with which we as a church would disagree and so we welcome also the development of GAFCON, The Anglican Mission in England and Re-New. These are all movements encouraging orthodox Anglicans and calling the Anglican Communion back to the Bible where necessary. We are also work within the North West Partnership as a partner church which involves Anglican and non-Anglican evangelical churches. See the above section on Rod Thomas also, who is one of our Bishops.

How did you develop this vision?

In 2013 we saw the need for a church strategy and the PCC asked Fergus and Si to meet with a member of our church, who was a consultant with experience from industry, in developing our strategy. Si and Fergus met with him and prayerfully considered fundamental questions about who we were as a church, what we were doing, and why. The church helped shape the vision with an open evening at our Annual General Meeting to reflect back how people saw things going and contribute ideas using many post-it notes! Each area of church life was analysed. Si and Fergus then developed a vision document and gave the PCC the opportunity to give input and shape things. A strategy was then approved and published. We acknowledge that while several good things were achieved, we could have been better as a church at implementation, particularly with respect to shaping how we did PCC meetings. The new strategy is the fruit of much prayer and has received input from PCC.

How can I have an input on the future vision or direction of the church?

PCC members are able to shape the church’s vision and represent the church family, so speak with PCC members and get to know them. They can let the PCC know what people think about things. Also, you can speak with Fergus or Si. Or you may choose to consider standing for PCC.

I have an idea of something new we could do as a church. What should I do?

There will be many things we can do in support of the vision that we are not currently doing. These can best be considered by speaking with the Minister responsible for the area of the strategy (see How can I play my part in the St John’s vision?). The purpose of the vision is to help us establish priorities from now until 2025 and ensure the whole of church life reflects our aims and values. Occasionally this may mean we have to choose not to do certain things as a matter of priorities and resources.

The gospel is new to me, or I’m not sure what you mean by church life centring around the gospel. How can I learn more?

To think more about the gospel of Jesus you could consider doing an Essentials course (see our website page ‘Believe?’) Alternatively you could speak to a trusted Christian friend to find out more, or ask a Minister, or get more involved in learning from the Bible with us.

If you already have faith in Jesus and understand the gospel, a deeper understanding of how we work the gospel mandate out in church life can be gained by reading The Trellis and The Vine by Marshall and Payne or Gospel DNA by Richard Coekin. This is really only recommended for the super keen! Failing that, speak to a Minister.

Mission Community is something I hear a lot about. Where does that fit?

We have deliberately not mentioned Mission Community much in this document. Mission Community is a diocesan strategy to get churches working together for mission. We are delighted to be in a Mission Community with St Andrew’s Mirehouse and St Bridget’s Moresby and are fully committed to working together with these like-minded churches.

Ministers and Church Warden’s from each of the churches form a Mission Community Leaders Group and make sure we work well together at the strategic level by meeting regularly. We already do some outreach together. Since 2016, our ministers have a combined weekly staff meeting and we have appointed a minister together at St Andrew’s. At the time of writing, each church is re-visiting its strategy and will have a chance to see what the other churches are doing. Some work on joint vision will be done, now that a minister is appointed to St Andrew’s, that will complement the vision in this document.


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