Fresh Expressions Book Club – A Guide to Mission Accompaniment

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Our friend Dave Ducker from St Philips in Sheffield reviews “A Guide to Mission Accompaniment” by Kerry Thorpe.  Here’s what he thought.

Kerry Thorpe’s helpful guide is born out of his life-story and ministry. He shares generously from a variety of church contexts as both curate and incumbent and in roles at diocesan and national level within the C of E.

The book’s genesis was the crisis of needing to raise up leaders, having been thrust into leadership in a large church context whilst working with young people. The solution being to assign emerging young leaders with more mature couples to guide and encourage.

It emphasises the need for a relational understanding of discipleship and mission and to communicate this uses the term relational mission accompaniment. He goes on to define accompaniment more fully as ‘consistent engagement with individuals or teams for the greater flourishing of their lives and work,’ acknowledging that it contains elements of friendship, coaching and mentoring.

Kerry draws from both theology and psychology in order to flesh out his understanding of the relational component of accompaniment. The guide briefly surveys the Bible text affirming that God is at His very heart relational and that this is also seen in the life of Jesus and the church as it emerges.  This relational dynamic is foundational in the books thinking. From a psychological perspective he draws on transactional analysis as a model affirming that adult-to-adult friendships are ultimately the goal for mature adult development.

The Harvest story is central to the book as the context where the ideas were developed and practiced. Harvest is essentially a church plant and a predecessor of what we now call Fresh Expressions of Church. By focussing less on Sunday gatherings, making small group sized communities the focus and with a strong encouragement and culture of growing people and relationships (facilitated by accompaniment) they saw genuine growth particularly amongst dechurched and unchurched people.

In Chapter 6  the concept of coaching helpfully distinguishing differences between apprenticeship, mentoring, coaching and friendship. Whilst only a guide the definitions seem a little lightweight. He then goes on to offer the GROW model as developed by John Whitmore as a model of coaching. In this section we are introduced to material on Neuro linguistic Programming and this (even by the author’s own admission) is not essential but has been part of his own personal experience and has provided helpful tools in accompanying others.

Having laid a foundation for an understanding of relational accompaniment – (the book could easily have been called this) the book finally addresses the issue of mission and mission accompaniment using the work developed in the Canterbury Diocese as an example. This is followed by a chapter on the practical outworking of missional accompaniment. Kerry Thorpe’s own model has five elements represented in a star with five points.

In conclusion the author returns to the very heart of the books message by revisiting relationships and rightly putting them at the centre of our mission strategies, friendships and lives.

I personally found the book a helpful guide and it is just that. A full-length book might have created scope to go into greater detail around the influencing disciplines of coaching, mentoring etc.  I was a little surprised that the area of spiritual direction had been omitted. In many cases it has been superseded by the term spiritual accompaniment. Though I appreciate the author may have wanted to create some separation from this discipline in a bid to highlight ‘mission accompaniment’ as something distinctive.

A guide to mission accompaniment offers individuals and those in church leadership a different perspective on leadership, one that is much more ‘with’ and ‘alongside’ whilst at the  same time highlighting the importance of getting alongside those developing pioneering mission. This guide serves as a call to the church to be a people that walks with, listens and loves.

Have you read A Guide to Missional Accompaniment?  Let us know what you thought through a comment on this article.

A Guide to Mission Accompaniment by Kerry Thorpe is published by BibleReading Fellowship 2018 and is available as Paperback and Kindle.  

ISBN 978-0857465955