Following promotion through Ascend back in June, eleven ‘What Next?’ Conversations were hosted.

We were anticipating what is yet to come in our new, more complex world, where previous notions of best practice can no longer be assumed, and were beginning to think about how to move from here to there. Participants signed up for a two-part conversation – the first about the whole of church life and the second in a more focused area. Around 70% of those who participated were ministers.

It was important that this was a helpful experience for all involved, and not simply a fact-finding exercise for the Church. This makes it slightly harder to collate results and extrapolate hard evidence – we did not conduct a survey. While the experience with participants was not evaluated, responses and feedback at the time, and a professed eagerness to be included in future conversations indicate that providing an opportunity for conversation was in itself helpful to those involved.

We have attempted to summarise and align similar responses. This paper contains only responses which came from three Conversations or more. When something is mentioned in three, four or five of the conversations we consider it to show a pattern. When something appears in six or more of the conversations, we consider it to reflect a majority. It is worth noting that there will have been some things which were so obvious and agreed among everyone, that the facilitator did not feel the need to submit it – for example our need of technology during lockdown.

Having looked at the comments, these questions may be worth considering…

  • What has confirmed what I already thought?
  • What has surprised me?
  • Who has come to mind while I am reading this?
  • What further information do I need to find out about different situations?
  • What or who do I want to commit to praying for?

We wish to consider next steps in these areas…

  • What training is required?
  • What expectations do people have?
  • What support do people require?
  • How can we encourage presbyteries to respond?
  • Where can the Forums engage more?

We would LOVE to know what you think? How can Ascend serve you well in the months ahead?

Please let us know

Both the Good Questions to Ask and Guidance for Conversations resources are available for congregations, presbyteries and other organisations.


How are you feeling? 
Tired, weary, emotional 7
Overwhelmed with new demands 4
Struggling with the challenges of technology 4


We still need an online presence, and phone contact with the vulnerable 6
We need the balance and value of both online and offline connections 5
We are able to have effective online meetings 4

Financial concerns

How to effectively supplement declining income beyond congregational giving, and find new ways to generate income 4
Nervous about income 3

Church and Faith

There is potential for online discipling, in and beyond congregation 11
There is a move to be more interactive and innovative, to welcome change and explore new opportunities 5
We now have a wider view of church beyond Sunday mornings 4


We have a more casual/creative approach to worship 7
Live and digital worship working in tandem 5
New people are interacting with online content 5
Online worship training and best practices 4
Maintaining online services long-term 4
A sense we will revert to the “old normal” when buildings reopen 4

Our Buildings 

Buildings – we have too many needing too much money 4
Knowing when it is right for each building to open 3
We need to reimagine the use of our space 3


We need clear and bold permissions, guidance, advice, and purposes 3
There is a restrictiveness from rules and regulations 3


Move away from centralised functions and more towards Presbytery 6
We’d like more local, rather than central, support 3

Local and Community

Opportunities through birth and growth of local community relationships 7
We are partnering with more community groups and initiatives, rather than neighbouring congregations 5
There is an increased sense of community all around 4


Acknowledge and provide practical support and encouragement for ministers – ministers are appreciative of thanks 3

Leadership and Learning

We are recognising skills, and equipping people within congregations to lead 6
We need to be enabling 4
We need to learn teamwork, for those used to lone working 4
Training in adaptive leadership/change management through times of change, uncertainty 4
New need more collaboration to make use of talents, knowledge and resources 3
We need a greater sharing of responsibility going forward 3

Pastoral Care

There is an increased support for those over 70, vulnerable, not online, shielding, bereaved, isolated, on the edge of being eligible for financial support 5
We need permission to rest; to value the importance of rest and retreat 4


Key points made in the more focused, second conversations:

  • We are bringing the emerging church into being
  • There needs to be a move to be more interactive
  • Place for Hope can help with potential conflict in making changes
  • There is a need for mutual support
  • We need to find new ways to tap into existing knowledge and capabilities
  • We need more flexibility and creativity in providing worship, decision making and leadership
  • We need to come back to the core of our faith – sharing the Gospel
  • Building relationships is key