Covenant Pastors

Following Synod's approval of 'Resourcing Sustainable Church - Time to Change - Together' on 8th May the way parishes make their contribution to their own and the wider ministry is changing.

We worship a generous God and want to way we encourage giving and sharing to reflect that same spirit of generosity, grace and gift. We believe that the concept of Covenant has much to offer and are developing a team of volunteer 'Covenant Pastors' to help us explore this across the diocese. 

Our new way of collaborative working puts understanding, valuing and resourcing the mission and ministry of local churches first, in many different ways, and prioritises growth.  In relation to ministry, lay and ordained, this way of working builds on and respects the Church of England’s calling to offer worship, pastoral support at different times of life (baptism, marriage, funeral etc.) and spiritual care to everyone who lives in the diocese, founded on the historic understanding of incumbency, and yet enabling and expecting greater levels of mutual support, collaboration and flexibility according to changing need.

In abolishing the old style ‘parish share’ we seek to break the standoff between ‘them and us’ and to replace it with an approach to generous giving that involves an element of risk and trust and that emphasises that we understand that we depend upon God in every way. This approach invites us to look deeply into our hearts and to ask ourselves: ‘what do I want to give’? And we may reply as does the poor widow (Mark 12.41-44) or the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37) or Zacchaeus (Luke 19.1-10) or as the rich man did to Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31). In any case, our generosity will find expression in ministry offered and received.

We are working to minimise central costs and developing a relationship that is based on mutual support, greater levels of understanding about the responsibilities and challenges that we each hold and a shared commitment to being humbler, simpler and more effective, together. We have been blessed with more assets than many other dioceses in the Church of England, the results of the generosity of people in our churches in the past and we will make good and responsible use of these for the good of all.

The single word that sums up so much of this is - ‘together.’ ‘Together’ is also a deeply Biblical concept, as well as one that has political and social resonance. A particular type of being together that is explored in Scripture is that of ‘covenant,’ a strong theme of both Old and New Testaments, with Jesus establishing a new Covenant.

 A possible graphical representation of how all the work we have done for ‘Resourcing Sustainable Church – A Time to Change: Together’ is that of interlocking circles - Growth, Collaboration and Generosity -  with ‘Covenant’ at its heart – our promises to each other founded in God’s promises to us. 

No fewer than six of the 15 Recommendations (and their associated Commitments) that were accepted by Diocesan Synod relate to this new way of collaborating over finance. They are summarised below and further detail is in the full report.

Recommendation 8: that all Christians, as part of their personal discipleship, are called to give generously to the mission of God, expressed in giving that enables the work of the local church, the diocesan family and the world-wide Body of Christ. We will establish a relationship of mutual responsibility between parish/benefice/Local Mission Partnership (LMP) and the wider diocesan family. The money raised through Parish Share will pay for the stipends, national insurance, pension and housing of the ministers of the diocese (essentially, the parish clergy).

Commitment 8: is that in establishing a transparent relationship between money committed by the church at its most local and beneficed stipends underwritten, the Lincoln Diocesan Board of Finance will seek to fund all its other activities through use of historic assets or other income sources. This commitment by Lincoln Diocesan Trustees and Board of Finance (LDTBF) enables the request to parishes and LMPs to be set at present at £55,000 per clergy person per year.

Recommendation 9: that a team of Covenant Pastors is trained and commissioned, to begin working with parishes, benefices and LMPs from April 2021, supported by LDTBF staff. The Pastors will be trained volunteers, lay and ordained. The main focus of their role will be to build a relationship of support with the parishes and to help them discern how they can continue and grow a discipleship of generosity within their own parish as well as supporting other parishes in need.

Commitment 9: The Covenant Pastors will help parishes own and express their future relationship with the rest of the Diocese within a faith-filled mutuality of flourishing and growth. They will help to build the new diocesan culture of mutual relationship, accountability and support. They will help every parish, benefice and LMP to reflect prayerfully on how its life is sustained and enriched through the ministry and support it receives, how it contributes to sustaining and enriching the life of other parishes, benefices and LMPs both in the DP and throughout the diocese, and about its current financial and missional situation.

Recommendation 10: that pledges made under the Covenant Scheme, while not ‘legally enforceable', must be entered into on the basis of genuine and challenging commitment to sacrificial giving in support of ministry, and be supported by action to ensure their viability.

Commitment 10: is to move away from an understanding of parish share almost as a kind of taxation, to an understanding of parish share as a stewardship response to God’s generosity to us all, and one that enables our life to be enriched through the work of stipendiary ministers, as they themselves seek to equip all of God’s people for the work of ministry.

Recommendation 11: that Lowest Income Community Funding (LInC), which is provided currently by the Church Commissioners, be allocated in the form of notional grants to LMPs to supplement their total giving under the Covenant Scheme towards the cost of the ministry they receive to support ministry to the most deprived sections of the community.

Commitment 11: is to direct resources to the communities that are most in need of support, thereby fulfilling the gospel imperative to care for our neighbour in need, while also encouraging the most challenged of communities to contribute with dignity to the shared life of the body as a whole.

Recommendation 12: that the long-term viability of each LMP, with respect to stipendiary ministry, will best be ensured by mutual care and financial support between parishes, congregations and benefices.

Commitment 12: is to support each other financially, as was the example of the New Testament church in the particular circumstances that they were facing at that time: ‘I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”’ (2 Cor.8.13-15)

Recommendation 13: that any shortfall in payment from an LMP of the total sum pledged by its parishes in one year will be rolled through for payment in the following year. If the shortfall continues to accumulate for three successive years, then the viability of the LMP and its constituent parishes will be subject to prayerful review.

Commitment 13: is not to allow parishes, benefices and LMPs to struggle without support. Covenant Scheme pledges must be realistic, circumstances do change, and ministerial provision can be amended also. Debt should not accrue without the possibility of its cancellation (in Scriptural terms ‘jubilee’), but every effort must be made by every part of the diocesan family to steward its financial resources well.

New resource - Bible studies on God's generosity and our response

These Bible studies are designed to help small groups to consider God’s generosity and how as God’s people we should respond to this generosity in the way we live our lives and make important choices.

Each session lasts for about an hour and a half and offers a range of different ways to engage with Scripture and to help participants to apply their learning to their lives.

We hope that parishes and small groups throughout the Diocese will use this comprehensive Bible study to clearly focus on God’s generosity and will find it especially beneficial in considering how best to use all that God has given us.

These well produced studies, based on stewardship teaching, are timely as we embrace the new Covenant Scheme and the principles on which it has been developed. We trust that God will richly bless you in all your thinking and praying together as you use these resources.

Leaders' Version Word/PDF

Participants Version Word/PDF

A new scheme to support parishes - the Parish Giving scheme (PGS)

This is a professional, effective donation management system to support parishes in funding their mission and ministry. It is used by over half of the Church of England dioceses,  administering over £2.8 million (including Gift Aid) annually from ore than 30,000 donors from over 1,700 parishes. Donations are collected via direct debit and there is no charge to the parish. 

The diocese has joined the PGS after having 'road-tested' it in 11 parishes over the past year. Feedback from those involved in the pilot study as well as those who have seen the presentations on what it can deliver have been very positive. You can read more about the scheme and see the presentations here.

If you want to know more please contact our Stewardship Officer Hugo Cobham on 07785 968608 or email: [email protected]

The most recent newsletter sent to parishes on the topic of giving, can be found here.

Coronavirus outbreak 2020/21 - a message from Ann Treacy, Director of Finance and Deputy Diocesan Secretary

Dear Parishes,
Please find attached a letter from PGS.  They have contingencies in place to ensure that they continue to operate during theses times.  Please be assured that they will be paying contributions into your bank accounts as usual and also collecting gift aid from HMRC.  The attached statement has also been sent to statement receivers.
Best wishes and my thoughts are with you all,

Parish Share

As part of the move to a Covenant approach we are moving away from the former Parish Share system. The following is included for historic and comparison purposes.

The Parish Share Calculation - the last calculation was 2019. This remains the suggested figure for the parishes until you enter into the Covenant Scheme.

This two page document details an example of how it is calculated.

The budget for 2021 

This document shows the income and expenditure planned for this year.