Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why aren’t we growing?

Tim Sims is a successful businessman and corporate strategist. He has advised many of Australia’s leading companies, was chairman for Australasia/Africa of a major corporate strategy firm, and is the founder and managing director of a high-performing private equity firm. Over the past 30 years he has developed the distinctive ability to burrow down into the facts and details of a company, decipher the brute reality that the data represents, chart a path to improvement and growth, and work with the organization to implement change.

Tim is also an evangelical Christian, and a long-standing member of Christ Church St Ives in Sydney’s north. Over the past two years or so, he has been turning his analytical skills to a different sort of ‘business’—the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Tim has been driving a research project seeking to understand the current state of Anglican churches in Sydney. Why, he wanted to know, were Sydney Anglican churches (on average) growing no better than the population as a whole? And were there any particular variables or factors that might be the clue to improvement?

Tim’s work, which for convenience I will refer to as ‘the Research Project’, was based on a wide range of sources, including data from the National Church Life Survey and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He has also conducted extensive interviews and case studies with churches across the Sydney Diocese, and surveyed a large volume of reference literature. (Tim particularly credits the unique depth and longevity of the NCLS data and the support of experts in this field as being important in shaping the findings of the study.)

The Research Project findings have been presented to various groups and meetings around Sydney over the past several months. My aim in this article is to summarize the key points and recommendations, and then to interact with them briefly and foreshadow further thinking that needs to be done. It will by no means be a complete representation of all the research—there is simply not space for that here. And as I present and interact with the analysis, I will be doing so as a Sydney Anglican myself, and thus as anything but an impartial observer.

As I do so, my hope and prayer is that evangelical churches in other parts of Australia and the world will benefit, and derive whatever lessons might be most relevant to their particular situations. To read more. click here.

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