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Spiritual Support for Small Churches

There are dozens of smaller churches up and down the country that need help and support to reimagine their gospel vision or close a current chapter. Andrew Nicholson explains.

Spiritual Support for Small Churches primary image

Palliative care is a vital component of the work of our healthcare services in the UK.

It must be very challenging for our healthcare professionals, knowing that the outcome for many patients may well be death. I imagine it takes a particular kind of person to do work like that.

What about churches that need the spiritual equivalent of such care? Up and down the country there are dozens of Independent churches needing – effectively – palliative care. So how do we look after them?

We need a particular kind of person. If you could be that person – FIEC Limited would love to hear from you. FIEC Limited is a separate charity to FIEC and currently acts as a Holding Trustee for around 200 Independent churches across Great Britain.

What is a Holding Trustee?

In practice, a church set up by a trust deed, constitution or similar Governing Document is an unincorporated charity. The church is not a legal “person” in its own right and can’t hold property in its own name. Property must be held for the charity by trustees. Over the years, many churches have appointed a trust corporation (such as FIEC Limited) as Holding Trustee.

There are only a handful of similar trust corporations in the Independent evangelical church sector in the UK, such as Grace Baptist Trust Corporation, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches Trust Corporation and Church Growth Trust. FIEC Limited seeks to work with them wherever possible to support gospel work across the country.

So what’s happening now?

With the availability of a new governance structure called a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), the role for FIEC Limited as Holding Trustee is diminishing. CIOs can hold property and offer churches the same advantages as a Holding Trustee but with the added benefit of being controlled by the local church. FIEC Limited is not accepting any new clients and many existing clients have already converted to CIO status.

But, becoming a CIO will not always be the right route for a church and each congregation needs to carefully consider every option available to them. Overseen by a Board of Directors, FIEC Limited has access to expert legal advice, but that is only part of the story. The Board also has a concern for the wellbeing of these gospel churches that remain in its trusteeship, many of which are small; struggling with the burden of a highly regulatory legal environment. Often, they also have outdated or non-existent Governing Documents. In more and more cases we find churches not complying with their trusts and/or not fulfilling the requirements of charity law.

How can we help?

For some churches, FIEC Limited’s role is guiding them to help available for church revitalisation, alongside a review of their Governing Documents. But for others it’s about helping them to consider whether it’s right to celebrate all that God has done in the past and to bring this season of gospel work to a dignified close. The terms of the trusts may make that inevitable. Many need help in better understanding the responsibilities of charity trustees and, in particular whether their current governance structure is fit for purpose.

Of course, that all takes great sensitivity and requires a rare combination of skills.

What do we need?

We need someone with some awareness of charitable trusts, an understanding of, and empathy with, smaller churches, as well as an eye for detail and a pastoral heart.

FIEC Limited is looking to provide more support for a diminishing number of clients, some of which need the spiritual equivalent of palliative care. And that means finding the right person to join the team, to report to the FIEC Limited Board and work with our Trust Administrator.

If you’d like to talk to us about a part or full-time role for the next few years, we’d love to hear from you. We’d need to see plenty of you in the offices in Market Harborough and you’ll need a good eye for detail as well as being an excellent administrator.

It’s a role likely suited to someone who has already served as a church pastor, and you must be willing to be ‘on the road’ a lot. Face to face meetings with church leaders are an essential component of this work.

We know that this is a role for a particular kind of person. But if that’s you we’d love to talk to you.

Andrew Nicholson photo
Andrew Nicholson - FIEC Associate National Director

Andrew is one of our three Associate National Directors. He worked for FIEC from 2001 to 2008 as Office & Conference Manager, then re-joined the FIEC staff team in May 2014. He is married to Meryl, who works as a hospice nurse, and they have two sons.