Recently two of us from The Philip Center spent four days with 20schemes in Scotland’s inner cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. 20schemes plants churches among the council estates, or schemes, where drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty and despair are the norm. And where churches are rarer than a sunny day.
In our four days we took in their conference on Abuse, The Gospel and The Local Church. We attended Niddrie Community Church, the hub of the 20schemes ministry. We met with church planters, drove to other scheme churches, discussed ministry philosophy, met with local church members and got a tour of Edinburgh. While there are contextual differences between 20schemes and inner cities in the US, there are many similarities. Communities marked by generational poverty are remarkably similar worldwide. Therefore we have a lot to learn from 20schemes.
Here are five takeaways and affirmations from our trip:
- churches can be planted among the urban poor. Some Christians doubt it, but 20schemes has planted eight churches in seven years. The reasons for this begin with the truth that Christ promises to build his church — and they believe it.
- urban poor church planting requires acting like a missionary, not just a church planter. Their pastors raise support like a missionary. And all of their pastors and workers live in the scheme they serve.
- in communities like these, women gospel workers are essential. Scheme families are often led by the matriarch, men being absent or disengaged. So women are critical to these ministry teams.
- children’s ministry is an important starting point. As with Summer OFF for us, kids clubs and youth groups are a key element to connecting with scheme life.
- theological and biblical education are critical to fruitful ministry and life transformation. When asked what the first step in scheme ministry is, Mez McConnell, the director, will sometimes say, “teach the book of Romans.” Mercy ministry extends from gospel transformation.
If you or someone you know has been touched by abuse, or if you are a church leader looking for rich biblical teaching on this topic, then I encourage you to listen to the talks on Abuse, The Gospel and The Local Church.
We also encourage you to get Mez McConnell’s latest book, The Creaking on the Stairs. It’s hard but important reading.