The perfect meeting

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


Recently the Harvard Business Review published a list of seven ways to have a ‘perfect meeting’:

  1. Keep it small. No more than seven people should attend. In a large group it is impossible to pick up body language and subtle cues.
  2. Ban devices. They are unavoidably distracting for everyone.
  3. Keep it short. They should last no longer than an hour. The shorter the meeting, the more focused people will stay.
  4. Stand up. Research has shown that stand-up meetings achieve the same solutions as sitting-down meetings but in less than two thirds of the time.
  5. ‘Cold-call’ non participants. People like their opinions to be heard but some won’t speak unless they’re asked to.
  6. Never just update. The ultimate time-waster. Why take up valuable time saying something you could just email.
  7. Set an agenda. Be clear about the meeting’s purpose, lacking a clear plan of action is why decision-making gets derailed.

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What makes churches grow?

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog

Church Growth is back on the agenda – but not the 1970s variety from the USA, but rather the new style espoused by the Church of England. Last week I had the joy of reading What makes churches grow? Vision and practice in effective mission (Church House Publishing, London 2015. ISBN 978-0-7151-4474-9) by Bob Jackson, Director of the Church Growth Centre attached to St John’s College, Nottingham. It is a stimulating and challenging analysis of Anglican church growth from which every pastor of whatever denomination could learn.

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Inviting to grow

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


Churches need to cultivate an invitational culture among their members. True, a report on Churchgoing in the UK (Tear Fund 2007) revealed that 60% of all adults say that they will not consider going to church – but that still leaves 40% who might be open to an invitation! Indeed, many people on the fringe of our churches are just waiting for an invitation from a friend.

In the light of this my custom was to encourage my people to invite five friends to one of the many carol services, in the expectation that three would accept the invitation. My experience is that many will respond to an invitation. On one occasion I said from the pulpit that I would give £5 to anybody who found that not one of their five friends would accept an invitation – but nobody came up to me later to claim a fiver!

Why are Christians so reluctant to invite friends to church? In Unlocking the Growth (Monarch 2012) Michael Harvey lists the following reasons:

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Change is vital but often time-consuming

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


“Change” said John F. Kennedy, “is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. What is true of life in general, is true too of churches. As has often been said, the seven last words of a dying church are: “We have never done it this way”.

Bob Jackson in his recent book What makes churches grow? (Church House Publishing 2015) declares: “Churches making changes grow and those that don’t shrink”. He draws attention to a 2013 survey of Anglican churches in south-west Wales: of the 92 churches who had made no change, attendance was down by 9%; of the 67 churches had had made at least one change, attendance was up 16%. Even more significant was the impact of change upon children: where there was no change, there was a 20% loss of children; where change took place, there was a 60% increase in children. In such circumstances how dare a church resist change? My mind goes to the words of Jesus: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18.6).

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Making the most of “Ministry Sunday”

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


Traditionally the third Sunday in Advent has been associated with the ministry of the church. On this day the lectionary readings focus on John the Baptist, the Forerunner.  So in the Church of England next Sunday the Gospel reading for the ‘principal service’ is taken from Luke 3.7-18 which describes John calling the crowds to “bear fruits worthy of repentance”.

Whether or not the solo ministry of John the Baptist provides a good model for today’s ordained ministry is no doubt debatable. The day does, however, provide an ‘excuse’ – or should I say ‘reminder’ – for churches to pray for the ministry of the church. So for instance in the Book of Common Worship the collect for the Third Sunday of Advent is as follows:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


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Creating an agenda for a meeting

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


Meetings are often the bane of a church’s life. They can be such a waste of time. Indeed, I rather like the suggestion that every committee should discuss its own dissolution once a year, and put up a case if it should continue for another twelve months! Nonetheless, some meetings are inevitable. The fact is that iron sharpens iron. The cut and thrust of debate in decision-making is vital if good decisions are to be made.

So the question arises: how can we improve our meetings? It seems to me that the key to meetings is how we structure the agendas.

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Breaking of bread, communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s supper, the mass – what do we call it?

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


The meal that is supposed to unite Christians has all too often divided Christians.  Here I have in mind not just divisions between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also divisions created by Exclusive Brethren and Strict Baptists. Two occasions come immediately to mind. The first took place just a few years ago at a mass for two devout Catholic friends celebrating their ruby wedding, where the priest said that only Catholics could take bread and wine – the rest of us were only allowed a blessing!  The second took place long ago when as a family we were taken by some Swiss friends to their Brethren Assembly and my parents were refused bread and wine. Thank God there is a growing recognition that the Table belongs to the Lord, and not to any particular church, with the result that in most churches there is a welcome to members from all Christian churches to come to the Table.

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Let’s make the most of the Easter Season

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


Without exception every church does a great job when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Many churches make a good deal of the season of Lent. But most churches do a miserable job in celebrating Easter – in the sense that they limit Easter celebrations to Easter Day. Indeed, if the truth be told, for most Christians Easter if a half-day hurrah filled with food, family and festivity. And even the festivity tends to be short on Christian content: because after the morning service the focus switches to the egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. What a travesty – not least when you consider that the resurrection is the first article of the Christian faith and the demonstration of all the rest.

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Bring back the Bible in our services

An article from Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray, Chair of CBM, from his blog


The other day I re-read Understanding Anglican Worship (Grove, Nottingham 1999) in which the author, David Kennedy, wrote “Anglican worship gives a central place to Scripture”! In support of this contention he went on to quote John Wesley: “I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of solid, Scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England”. As a staunch Nonconformist of many years standing my immediate reaction was quite negative – ‘How dare this man suggest that the Anglicans take Scripture more seriously than other Christians!’

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Guidelines for Pastoral Care – An Example of an Approach

Every church needs an approach to Pastoral Care. In a small church the pastoral care is frequently handled mostly by the minister, although it is surely preferable if the members share in the work of caring for one another, sharing their lives and bearing one another’s burdens. However, the larger a church becomes, the more important it is that pastoral care is shared more widely, not least to ensure that the minister is freed to build discipleship and to support and train others for their ministries. To make sure that needs are not missed and that nobody slips through the cracks, it is important to identify who cares for who. We might distinguish between Day to Day Care, Crisis Care and ongoing Special Care. We would also want to identify “problem areas” which would always be referred to the minister (and then if appropriate to outside agencies) and we would need clear instructions on matters such as confidentiality.


In case they are of interest to anybody, I am sharing below the Guidelines for Pastoral Care which I developed for my previous church. By way of context, the church had 130+ members and roughly as many other adult contacts regularly attending services or different activities. As well as the minister, the church was led by 2-4 Elders with pastoral responsibility (and Secretary, Treasurer and 6-8 Deacons without pastoral responsibility). There were around 8 Home Groups and the Leaders of these had responsibility for members/attendees of the groups and their families, and a few individuals were identified as Pastoral Carers supporting people who were not part of Home Groups.


Do feel free to use or adapt these guidelines in any ways you choose.


Rev Peter Thomas   North Springfield Baptist Church 2017




Guidelines for Pastoral Care in Somewhere Baptist Church


Every member of the church has a general responsibility for the physical and spiritual well-being of the other members. Within the church some are gifted and set apart by the church with particular responsibility for the pastoral care of others.


“Pastoral care” can mean many things and operate on many levels.

  • Friendship – mutual support and encouragement;
  • Practical help – for example with household tasks, transport, etc;
  • Discipling – guidance and support in the Christian life;
  • Counselling – a listening ear and wise advice;
  • Short-term Crisis Care and Long-term Special Care in particular circumstances.


In general the Minister’s pastoral role is to give type (E) Crisis Care and Special Care as described below, to offer pastoral care type (D) counselling, and to train, equip and support others in the church in their ministries.


The Elders, Home Group Leaders and Pastoral Carers share responsibility for pastoral care type (B) practical help and type (C) discipling, drawing in other members of the church where appropriate.


The whole church shares in the responsibility for pastoral care type (A) friendship, caring, sharing and bearing one other’s burdens informally.

Who does the Caring?


The Minister has responsibility for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Elders and their families;
  • Short-term Crisis Care of any individuals and families e.g. in the Problem Areas listed below;
  • Long-term Special Care of any individuals and families.
  • Any individuals in special circumstances of e.g. Marriage Preparation, Baptism Preparation, Bereavement, Hospital visits;
  • Any individuals who request the assistance of the Minister.


The Minister and the Elders are jointly responsible for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Church Officers and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of the Home Group Leaders and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of the Pastoral Carers and their families.


The Elders have responsibility for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Minister and his family;
  • Supporting the minister in offering Short-term Crisis Care and Long-term Special Care.
  • Any individuals who request the assistance of the Elder.


The Home Group Leaders have responsibility for


  • The Day-to-day Care of members and regular attenders of their groups and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of other members of church and congregation on their list which the group has agreed to care for.


The Pastoral Carers have responsiblity for the Day-to-day care of

  • The Day-to-day Care of members of the church and congregation on their list, who would not usually be covered in other ways.


Levels of Care


Day-to-Day Care involves support and encouragement by fellowship, prayer and practical help. For a housebound or sick person, it requires periodic contact by visit and telephone. Note that Home Group members will normally share in the tasks of caring for each other and for others on their Home Group’s list – the Home Group Leader coordinates the caring but does not do everything!

A vital part of Day-to-Day Care is to refer situations to the Minister and Elders whenever greater experience and knowledge is required for effective pastoral care. A Home Group Leader or a Pastoral Carer has the responsibility of quickly informing the Minister and Elders when Crisis Care or Special Care become necessary for someone on their list.


Crisis Care is the short-term close involvement by Minister (or Elders) in situations of particular difficulty and delicacy such as the Problem Areas listed below.


Special Care implies regular long-term specialist support and counselling in Problem Areas and will be offered by Minister, (Elders), other appropriately qualified members, and outside specialists.


Problem Areas


Among the circumstances where the help of Minister or Elders must be obtained are any problems connected with

  • serious illness or accident, and Laying on of Hands for healing;
  • bereavement;
  • family breakdown;
  • matters related to sex* including child abuse* ;
  • alcohol or drugs;
  • crime;
  • debt;
  • psychiatric problems* ;
  • any aspect of the occult* ;
  • spiritual problems of various kinds;
  • any other serious problems affecting attendance or participation in church life.


A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer must ALWAYS inform the Minister and Elders before offering care and ministry himself/herself to anyone on his/her list in any of the Problem Areas listed above.

A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer should not normally offer any ministry in areas marked with a * above, nor to folk not on his/her own list.

A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer might visit but would not undertake any ministry while alone with a member of the opposite sex.

These common-sense principles are very important to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort, to prevent the damage which may easily be done by inexperienced or ill-informed counselling and to avoid any risk of embarrassment or scandal. If in doubt, seek the guidance of Minister or Elders.




Any matters discussed with the Minister remain confidential to him, although he reserves the right to seek the advice of specialists completely outside the church if necessary.

Any confidential matters discussed with an Elder will normally be shared with Minister and may be with other Elders or with outside specialists, but not otherwise within the church.

Any confidential matters shared with a Home Group Leader or a Pastoral Carer will normally be shared with Minister and Elders but not with other Home Group Leaders or Pastoral Carer or in any other way within or outside the church. The ability to abide by such confidentiality is an essential requirement for any Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer.

A person who requests help on the basis that ‘‘The Minister and the Elders are not allowed to know’’ should NOT be helped but referred immediately to Minister and Elders. This principle is entirely for the protection of Home Group Leaders and Pastoral Carers, who might otherwise find themselves needing to refer a person elsewhere but being prevented from doing so on grounds of confidentiality – a dangerous and intolerable situation.




Pastoral Care and Gossip are mutually exclusive. If remarks or accusations are made about another person’s problems or conduct, the speaker must be invited to repeat them in that person’s presence as soon as practical and such matters should be referred to Minister and Elders.