How would you describe Lincolnshire? Most people would instinctively say ‘rural’ but actually half the population lives in just 11 cities or towns, from the larger ones like Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Lincoln, through middle sized towns like Grantham, Boston and Spalding to smaller ones such as Louth or Sleaford. There are a number smaller market towns such as Caistor, Horncastle, Alford or Long Sutton, there are our huge variety of villages. Then there are large coastal settlements like Skegness and Mablethorpe and smaller ones such as Sutton-le-Marsh or Wrangle.

As we look to grow our people and churches in communities across Greater Lincolnshire we know that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. There is no single model, and many of the existing ones have been developed in southern urban or suburban contexts. We want to do something that works for us, and where the people in the various communities have the major voice. That is the philosophy behind our Learning Communities.

We think we have at least six major ‘types’ of settlement:

  • Rural – sparsely populated and generally more traditional in character
  • Coastal – seasonal ministry with a transient and sometimes challenging population
  • Urban – the industrial towns, mostly in the north of the diocese
  • Market towns – centres of population across the diocese, often with significant church buildings
  • Suburban villages – relatively more prosperous, probably with a commuting population
  • Housing developments – from post-war housing developments to newer ones, with the particular challenges of future population growth in some areas of the diocese.

By bringing together people from the same character areas, the Learning Communities can engage in relevant, tailor-made learning about how they can get better at being church and building the Kingdom in their contexts.

These communities are all about listening to each other, not simply sharing stories, valuable as that is. As one member has put it – “are we sharing ideas, or sharing learning?” It is the latter that we are aiming for, and there is a structure of questions, a way of listening, that helps to make these group more than just words, far more.

There are currently (February 2019) three active communities (Market Towns, Housing Developments and Rural). All are a mix of lay people and clergy, usually from different parts of the Diocese. All of them have opted for a Saturday morning meeting, three times a year. That is not the only pattern, but some pattern of regular meetings, with more time to learn and build relationships than the normal hour and a half, is important. “To do it properly takes time,” says one participant, "but that is okay, we believe it will pay dividends in the long term.”

"Overall, what we’ve done has been very positive," they continued, “and we realise that we need to know more about each other and our communities, and the perceptions they have of us. In order to grow we need to look at some barriers that prevent this, even if we don’t see them."

Is your parish interested in joining? Several more communities are in the process of formation (Urban, another Rural and Suburban Village).  These they are looking for more members in order that we can form manageable groupings in terms of numbers, geographical distance and other factors.

We are also forming a Learning Community with a particular focus on preparing their churches for the influx of new housing proposed in many areas of the Diocese. As well as learning together, this group will contribute to forming the Diocese’s strategy for new housing.

If you are interested in being part of any of these Learning Communities, beginning another, or simply wanting to find out more, please contact Richard Steel, Mission Team Leader ([email protected] or 01522 504030)

The development of our Learning Communities