The Visitors Scheme Giving Thanks

The Visitors’ Scheme: Giving Thanks

We give thanks to God for the FIEC Visitors’ Scheme, but here's why we’re bringing it to an end later in 2019.

There is a time to start initiatives and a time to bring them to an end, with gratitude to God for all that has been achieved.

FIEC established the ‘Group and Visitor Scheme’ as “a position of privilege and responsibility arising from the requests of FIEC churches to receive periodic visits from those who can provide information, fellowship and help.”

For a long time, FIEC Visitors sought to serve the churches in this way to the encouragement of many. In some areas the scheme has worked well, often because close relationships were formed between pastors and churches, leading to mutual and beneficial partnership in the gospel. In other areas it was not so successful for multiple of reasons.

The Visitors’ Scheme has been a significant way in which we have sought to make FIEC more relevant and effective locally.

However, after a review and a questionnaire completed by the current team of Visitors, we have decided to bring the scheme to a formal close on 31 December 2019. As we do so, we want to say a big “thank you” to all those who have laboured for the honour of the Name of our Lord Jesus in this role.

The decision has been made for the following reasons:

1. FIEC has changed the way it operates

When the Visitors’ Scheme was established there was a General Secretary and a couple of support staff. FIEC now have a larger Ministry Team, led by National Director John Stevens. This includes a Scotland Director (Andy Hunter); a London Director (Trevor Archer) and two Women’s Ministry Coordinators (Elisabeth Smyth and Elinor Magowan). There are also three Associate National Directors (Adrian Reynolds, Andrew Nicholson and Johnny Prime) to support pastors and churches.

2. We have changed the way we communicate

We live in a fast-moving digital age. Most communication is now done electronically. The constantly updated FIEC website has become a key means of communication. Pastors and churches regularly access it for information and help. Many churches are also represented at the Leaders’ Conference in Torquay, which has provided a growing sense of our common identity as a partnership of churches.

3. FIEC is increasingly connecting churches locally

This is being done primarily by increasing the number of Pastors’ Network Local Conferences. In 2018 there were 13. In 2019 there have been 27. In 2020 we hope to increase them to 32. Our desire is to make them gatherings of local pastors. We sense that as we seek to connect local pastors together, relationships are formed, not only between pastors, but also between churches. This fosters mutual support and local fellowship.

4. We have established a Pastoral Support Team

This team is made up of experienced pastors (both serving and retired) willing to give some time to the work of helping pastors and churches, especially when they encounter trouble of some kind. The Pastoral Support Team will have a constantly changing membership as it seeks to respond to situations as they arise. Sometimes the best people to help are others in the locality; sometimes help needs to come from further afield by someone more independent.

We recognise that some will feel that we are losing something by not continuing with the Visitors’ Scheme. That may well be the case. What we have discovered is that in different parts of the country there are those who are doing what we would expect a Visitor to do without being designated as one. They tend to do so because they wish to play their part in our common vision and mission to be “Independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ.”

May that be a passion in which we all share.

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