Growing Leaders on Urban Estates

Research by Church Army


How can the Church of England identify, resource, and enable people who live on urban estates to be relationally effective in leadership, mission, and evangelism?

Various urban leadership formation and development schemes have been piloted in four Church of England dioceses since 2017. This report draws together the key learning from Church Army’s Research Unit’s evaluation of these schemes alongside insights from Church Army’s own approach to resourcing and enabling evangelism on urban estates.

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by Church Army

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA

Lessons for the Wider Church

There’s No ‘One Size Fits All’ Model

The experience of these five schemes appears to confirm the more widely recognised principle that ‘off the shelf’ models rarely work in urban estate ministry. As each scheme has been tailored to specific organisational and local contexts, they cannot (or at least should not!) be replicated elsewhere uncritically. Nevertheless, the case studies in the report provide anyone interested in doing something similar with a range of examples and potential models to consider.

It’s Costly, But It’s Worth it

A lot of time and energy goes into developing and running schemes like these. And this in turn requires money. Appendix 1 outlines the main costs associated with each scheme and how these have been funded to date. These schemes are not low cost to deliver because they place a strong emphasis on recognising and developing the unique gifts and strengths of each learner. Growing confidence in people and creating safe and supportive learning communities is a significant investment. However, the case studies that follow suggest it is worth it.

The Case Studies in the report

The five schemes featured in this report differ in many respects, so making quantifiable comparisons between them is very hard. As Appendix 2 indicates, each has had different monitoring and evaluation approaches, reflecting different aims and funder requirements. In view of these differences, much of CARU’s work has been primarily qualitative in scope. Though the case studies that follow detail the numbers of people who have completed these schemes, it has not been possible to:

• Report on the socio-economic backgrounds of participants (for example with relation to previous educational experience or government deprivation indices) because data was not captured
• Compare the longer-term impact of the five schemes on participants through a consistent methodology

Whilst affirming the value of the rich qualitative feedback gathered, it is acknowledged that the longer term ‘mainstreaming’ of initiatives like these into the wider life of the Church may also require further work on contextually appropriate measurement systems.


The stories gathered here by Church Army’s Research Unit are very powerful; they deserve to be seen and heard, and I am delighted that this report facilitates that. But they only begin to hint at what is possible. When the Church is willing to take off the structural blinkers and to invest resources into our estates, we begin to see more clearly what the Lord is already doing in the renewal of lay and ordained leadership within those communities (c.f. Isaiah 43:18-19). And when we see it, we can help to build the confidence, skills, and sustainable spiritual habits necessary to enable those ministries to flourish. For those of us who come from urban estates, the process towards recognised public ministry can feel very alien; it has often required leaving some key identity markers behind – frequently related to class, ethnicity, and culture – to take up cultural habits and behaviours that are more typically (middle class) ‘church leader shaped.’ What this report shows is that there is no ‘typical shape’ for Christian leadership other than that of Christ himself, and he is at work in a whole host of places amongst a wide variety of people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. The descriptions of the schemes to identify, recognise, resource, and enable leaders from, and for, urban estates show us that things needn’t stay as they have been; we can learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit – to change – and we give thanks for those who are already leading us there as we learn how to go with them.

Opening our eyes to the folk whom the Spirit is nudging and enabling pathways to leadership that are accessible, relevant, rich in Bible and theology, confident, and joyful is essential to building up the whole Church into maturity in Christ; may there be many more stories to tell in the future like the ones recorded here!

The Revd Canon Dr Michael Leyden,

Dean of Emmanuel Theological College

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates Foreword by Michael Leyden

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA


For the past 25 years, Church’s Army’s Research Unit have been working with the Church to discern how God is active in mission, and to understand how churches’ participation in that mission can falter or flourish.

We explore these questions through innovative, excellent research and consultancy that equips and informs the Church, our funding partners, and our colleagues at Church Army. Our bespoke, wide-ranging work includes customised survey design, focus group facilitation, quantitative data analysis, project evaluations, strategic reviews, and participatory action research.

We warmly welcome opportunities to carry out new research that serves the people of God. Find out more here or by contacting Andy Wier (Research Team Leader)

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA

AcknowledgEments & Thanks

We are very grateful to the National Estate Churches Network (NECN) and everyone involved in the following initiatives for the opportunity to partner with them on this important research:

• The Birmingham Local Ministry Pathway (Diocese of Birmingham)
Become (previously known as the London Estates Course)
M:Power (Diocese of Blackburn)
Stepping Up (Mustard Seed, Diocese of York)
Church Army Initial Training

We would particularly like to thank all the course participants, estate leaders and others who shared their experiences with us.

We also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Benefact Trust (previously the Allchurches Trust) and Church of England Strategic Development Funding which has enabled some of these pilots to take place.

Andy Wier and John Tomlinson
Church Army’s Research Unit

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA

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Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA

In partnership with the diocese of Birmingham, Blackburn, London and York

Growing Leaders on Urban Estates by CA

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