There’s been a bit of a hoohah about Ofsted checking Sunday Schools as part of the Government’s Prevent strategy.

I’m not going to comment on the Big Brother civil liberty elements of this, or the popularity of the inspectors, but it got me thinking: why shouldn’t there be an Ofsted for churches – a Chofsted if you like. What would they find if they investigated your church? Would you be outstanding, or in special measures?

There will be some who say that you can’t compare churches but they haven’t read the book of Revelation. There will be others who say that it doesn’t matter what a church does as long as it is faithful, but the man who was punished for burying his one talent in the parable thought that he was being faithful and doing what the master wanted, when he clearly wasn’t.

So what criteria should be used? You could choose Biblical adherence, friendliness of the people or even the quality of the sermon as assessed by the mystery worshipper. However, these tend to be inward looking benchmarks, reviewing a church for its own members’ needs.

Perhaps Ofsted’s own criteria are helpful. Swap “churches” for “teachers” and “atheists” for “pupils” and you’ve got a pretty good checklist for how to run things.

Doing this substitution, for an “outstanding” grade we would start with “Churches demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach. They use questioning highly effectively and demonstrate understanding of the ways atheists think about subject content. They identify atheists’ common misconceptions and act to ensure they are corrected.”

Sounds good to me.

What do you think?

Radical Surgery or Slow Death?


I’m a radical surgery man myself, but the Church of England Newspaper poses the question for the church: “Radical Surgery or Slow Death?” in an article about attendance trends in Anglicanism.

The article asks why people are being selected to work in new contexts, and then trained to keep the old way of doing things on the road.

Its author, Captain Philip Johanson, wonders whether the Establishment is ready to change?

What do you think?

Anon and on


Photo by NS Newsflash

I’ve just started being the minister of Slaley Methodist Church. As my largest church has grown, some of my smaller chapels have been reassigned, but I have gained Slaley.

This Sunday I had a voucher for a free newspaper, so before my service, I popped into the tiny village shop in Slaley 

The church is 100 yards further on, and I went in to meet the folk, to be followed five minutes later by one of the congregation who said “They told me in the Village Shop that the new minister had just been in”.

There were three people in the shop when I bought my newspaper, I didn’t recognise any of them, I didn’t mention my name, nor was I wearing a dog collar, or indeed anything that would identify me as a minister. They still knew who I was.

I guess you can’t be anonymous in Slaley(!)

Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of publicity about vile Internet trolls using Twitter to threaten public figures with rape.

These horrible attacks show a desire to avoid all accountability, and have used anonymity to bully. Why do people do this? Because they can.

The technology may be new, but the issue isn’t.

Of all people, Jesus said “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, Who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands.”

When Jesus talked about how the church should be run, He said “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”

It seems to me as though there should be no place for unaccountable anonymity in the church – we’re to do things out in the open and face to face. That’s the better way, and the Biblical way.

What do you think?