Reflections from ChurchCAN: Our Time with the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone

  

In April, All We Can and partner, the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone, held a three-day learning workshop to reflect on the recently concluded ChurchCAN programme. ChurchCAN is a collaboration between All We Can and Methodist Church of Britain that aims to empower partner churches to ‘fulfil their mission to sustainably grow their Church’. Since 2017, the Methodist Church of Britain’s Global Relationships (GR) Office has collaborated with All We Can to deliver ChurchCAN through the Partner Church Capacity Development Programme. To date, GR has referred four churches to participate in the programme: the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, the Church of North India, the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, and the Methodist Church in Southern Africa.

MCSL is one of the first ChurchCAN partners to ‘graduate’ and is not only revitalizing its operations but also sowing the seeds for sustainable growth and impact.

The ChurchCAN programme takes an organisational development approach to strengthening the church which involves supporting churches to develop their strategic plans that guide their journey to becoming self-sustaining and undertaking organisational self-assessments that lead to organisation development plans. Churches review and develop policies, procedures and the tangible aspects that make up an organisation, and the process also facilitates church partners to look within, what are their values, identity, culture and mission. We believe change of this nature is transformational – but it also takes time. One of the most remarkable changes MCSL shared has been the shift in mindset towards financial sustainability. The church has embraced innovative fundraising methods, such as the GoFund initiative, which empowers members to contribute actively to the financial health of the Church. The church is now looking within itself to generate income to fuel its mission, rather than relying on grants and support from external sources. There are also a lot of lessons MCSL is taking forward to reinvigorate this.

Members of some Districts and Circuits shared that they have seen an increase in transparency and accountability with more detailed information about funding and budgets being shared more widely across the Connexion. This newfound transparency is helping to foster more trust and engagement among members, who now feel more connected and invested in the church’s mission.

Empowering the laity has been another cornerstone of the church’s resurgence. Through initiatives like the centralized training programs for preachers (with de-centralised elements such as the introduction of district level examination centres), the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone is equipping its members with the tools they need to serve effectively. This is in its design phase, and will be rolled out from September 2024 – with the effects being felt for years to come. This work is being led by Methodist Church in Britain Mission Partners, in response to the second pillar of MCSL’s strategy around equipping lay and ordained ministers for mission work.

But perhaps most inspiring is the church’s commitment to spiritual growth and community engagement. By establishing more preaching places and revitalizing Sunday schools, the Methodist Church is nurturing the spiritual development of its members and strengthening its ties to the community.

As the MCSL continues to cultivate change, the impact of these efforts are emerging. From a mindset that financial sustainability can come from within, to enhanced community engagement, the church is reaping the rewards of the seeds it has planted, as a result of the Church CAN initiative. There is still much work to be done, but the future looks bright.

This learning review was also an invaluable opportunity for All We Can to learn about what has worked well and not so well in the ChurchCAN programme – helping us learn and improve how we partner with other ChurchCAN partners.

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