Introduction for newcomers

Vision4 Life - What's all the noise about?
‘How can we become a vibrant and sustainable Christian community within the next ten years?’ That’s the question Catch the Vision posed for us all back in 2003, and this year we can all start answering it. We’ve moved on from simplifying our church structures to something nearer the heart of things for many of us – how to breathe new life into local congregations.
So what is the introductory year, until December 2008, about?
Four colourful booklets of taster material were published in February and sent out widely through the denomination. These are designed to help local churches find ways of talking together about some of the things we know should be central to our church life, but which we don’t always do as well or as often as we should. One booklet looks at the Bible, one at prayer and another at evangelism – or the way we tell our faith stories. The fourth booklet includes ideas for how to get your congregation to the point of deciding to ‘sign up’ for Vision4Life, as well as some ideas for a service once you have done so.
From responses received it seems many churches have been waiting for something like this to help them in addressing what their congregation is doing now and where God wants it to be in the future. Not only that, when we Christians do similar things at the same time as one another there is an opportunity for God to bless our shared experiences in a way that cannot happen when we do our thinking individually and at different times.
The next stage of Vision4Life starts with Advent 2008 with a year focusing on the Bible. A menu of materials will be sent to every congregation this autumn and fuller versions of what is on offer will be available in print and on the website as the year unfolds. Some congregations will probably want to get more involved than others and as with the introductory material the resources will be designed in ways that make them adaptable to local needs. It is up to each congregation to think through how to feed some of these ideas into the various networks and age groups they have among them.
From Advent 2009 there will be a year focused on prayer, and in Advent 2010 a year centred around evangelism begins. The hope is that by December 2010, building on what we have already done, we should feel more confident to address the sharing of our faith stories which is one of the activities we seem to find most difficulty with.
If this is something your church is already doing and you feel you don't need Vision4Life, then the encouragement is to still GET INVOLVED AND SIGN UP! It may be you already have your own materials you are using and that is just fine. This is not a programme but a process designed to help the church focus on these three crucial areas of our faith. So study what the bible means to you sometime during 2008/9, use you own materials, interact with other churches on the website and get stuck in. Encourage others who will find the V4L materials important to helping them move forward. But do join in.
THE TIMETABLE…
  • Advent 2008 – Year One, focussed on the Bible, begins…
  • Year Two materials with support events for planners available from September '09
  • Advent 2009 – Year Two, with an added focus on Prayer, begins
  • Year Three materials with support events for planners available from September '10
  • Advent 2010 – Year Three, adding a focus on telling faith stories for evangelism, begins
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The Four Friends

This all age study explores the theme of friendship and inlcudes work-sheets for colouring in.

Download The Four Friends pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Who do you think you are - all age

This is an all age version of one of the main courses which you can download, see the Who do you think you are - all age pdfSelect from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Getting Creative with Creation

Getting Creative with Creation

This all age session makes use of multi-sensory techniques to discover new things about creation and is an alternative way into the main course "In the Beginning".

Download the Getting Creative with Creation pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Bible smells

Bible smells

In this all age study we explore the variety of smells we encounter in the Bible and in our lives as a focus for sharing in faith and prayer.

This bible study is in three possible parts. You might want to do all three parts or just one or two parts. This might depend on the ages and abilities of the group members taking part. It would all fit into about 2 hours, with breaks for refreshments.

Download the Bible Smells pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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4 Gospels

4 Gospels

In the New Testament we have four written down version of Jesus' life we call the Four Gospels. We usually identify these by the name of the writer to which they are attributed. Each gospel has its own character and content, and whilst there is obviously some overlap of the key aspects of the story like Jesus' death and resurrection, some parts of the story are specific to one gospel only. In this starter we get an opportunity to explore what we think about these similarities and differences.

Download the Gospels pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Great Escape

Great Escape

To explore our response to the theme of Climate Change by reflecting on the story of the Exodus

Download Great Escape pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Called to be peacemakers

Called to be peace makers

The call for Christians to be peacemakers is one that is emphasised by the United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship. In this material they invite us all to consider our calling as peacemakers from a biblical perspective and see how we might be more faithful to this aspect of our discipleship.

Download Peace starter pdf

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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A Personal journey to V4L

A personal journey to V4L

Paul Snell
At the end of November 2005, I was invited to be a part of a small group of people from the URC representing a wide range of theological positions. We met at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire for a 2 day consultation on the theme of "Evangelism and Spirituality in the URC".

Facilitated by the Life and Witness Committee of the URC and GEAR (Group for Evangelism And Renewal), the meeting was an initial part of the next stage of Catch The Vision (CTV). Much of the structural change part of CTV was already in process and the church generally was itching to get to the heart of what CTV was originally about-a transformation of the heart of the church to make it equipped and relevant in a society that had lost confidence in the church in the West, and yet was interested in pursuing spirituality in a variety of ways.

That meeting began a process which enabled us to open up to each other in different ways as we learnt to appreciate different theological stances and to be willing to listen to how God was speaking to us and using us in different contexts and diverse ways of worshipping and working together in our church communities. We were always open and straightforward, even in tackling thorny issues such as human sexuality, yet keen to hear the Spirit in each other and desiring to operate in grace rather than retreat into theological ghettos.

At our second meeting together we drew together the strands of previous discussions and eventually came to a dream! I can't remember exactly how we got there-which probably says something about the unity of vision we shared-but we dreamt of a 3 year period in the life of our church that would transform its heart through an emphasis in worship, preaching and teaching, home groups, and many other ways on the three themes of

Engaging again with the Bible

Rediscovering the power and value of Prayer

Finding confidence in Evangelism

The underlying theme was one of storytelling and the need for us to learn to share our stories with each other and the world. We went away from the meeting inspired and challenged-excited about the possibility that this just might be a way forward for the whole church. Could it be that we had hit on a way through the  issues which face the URC? Would the sense of "it seemed right to the Holy Spirit and us" catch on throughout our denomination?

One of our group is Revd. Dr. John Campbell, principal of Northern College in Manchester, and as we drew that meeting to a close he mentioned that he had some months of sabbatical set aside in 2007 and would be willing to give considerable time to researching and formulating the beginnings of material and resources for such a plan. And so the beginnings of what was to become known as Vision4 Life were set in place.

The result so far is that we agreed a name and logo, and have devised a programme which begins with an introductory period on into the summer of 2008. Churches will then be asked to "sign up" through use of 4 sets of material for use in worship, church and elders meetings or house groups next summer. The main programme will begin with a focus on the bible from Advent 2008. The following year we will focus on prayer, and in 2010 we will look at material on evangelism.

That seems a long way away, but there is a real feeling that this is not just some flash in the pan programme. Indeed we are seeing this more as a 'process' than a programme. The V4L team's vision is to see a radical transformation of the church-hence the strap-line in the logo. If we are to become relevant to the society in which we are set, it will take more than a programme. Hearts need to be changed-lives transformed-habits altered-vision encouraged. The plan is not to offer proscriptive materials, but a set of resources that local churches can use and adapt to suit their own context. For some they will want to simply use the materials which the team and others will produce. But for many they will already be focusing on these themes as part and parcel of who they are. We want to learn from each other and share ideas. In short, we want to see the URC excited again by the God who loves us and confident about the faith we share.

So do you have a Vision for life? 2008 will be the chance to embark on this radical step forward in company with tens of thousands of others around the country. I hope you are going to join in!

Paul Snell                    [803 words]

Note to Magazine editors and publicity people in churches -
Please feel free to 'clip' the Vision4Life LOGO from the top of the Vision4Life fact sheet 1 to use in your magazine or wherever else you are presenting Vision4Life in your local setting.
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Encounters in Mark

encounters in Mark's gospel a BRAND NEW resource by John Campbell

encounters in Mark's Gospel' brings you suggestions for a series of up to fifteen small-group conversations based on particular stories in Mark's Gospel. These conversations all share the same basic shape. They aim to help you, and everyone else in your group, to:

  • build up your confidence in actively exploring bits of the Bible
  • make connections between the biblical story and your own life story
  • find fresh vision for the business of being human today

all from watching and talking freely with each other about encounters between Jesus and those he meets - as we find them recorded in Mark's Gospel.

The first 13 studies and an introduction to the whole series are avalable below

Acknowledgements:

The core ideas of contextual Bible study as used in these materials come from Gerald West, notably in his book The Academy of the Poor, published by Sheffield Academic Press in 1999 and later republished by Cluster Press of Pietermaritzburg – see especially chapter 6.

A worked example of the contextual approach, using the story of the widow’s mite in Mark 12.40-45, can be found in a web article, ‘Structural Sin: a South African Perspective’ by Gerald West at:

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Self Denial

Self-denial has been one of the features of the Christian life throughout church history, most obviously in the recorded lives of saints and religious communities. But it seems increasingly difficult to talk about self-denial these days. Perhaps this is because our society values individual freedom and material wealth, or because people can be so sensitive to the implication that they are not living up to expectations. But what are God’s expectations of us?

This starter prepared by Peter Henderson is suitable for Lent and is based on Mark 8:31-9:1

Download the Self Denial pdf
Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card
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Loaves and Fishes sketch

This is a sketch that can be used as a starter in the context of worship or another activity, group or session. It makes use of Terry Pratchett's idea of "the trouser legs of time" to show two possible outcomes to the familiar story!

Download Loaves and Fishes sketch

Select from the menu on the right or view the Bible Year Menu Card

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Home

Vision4Life is a process which the United Reformed Church followed for 3 years from Advent 2008 through to Advent 2011. It is three years of focus on re-engaging with the Bible, Prayer and Evangelism with the purpose of bringing transformation to the URC and its partner churches. The resources for the process are now archived here for churches and individuals to freely use. A fourth introductory year was also followed by many churches and that year's materials are also here with introductions to each year's theme along with a booklet to challenge churches to take a further step forward into the whole process.

NEW - POST V4L MATERIALS - Acting out Acts

We have produced a brand new set of materials for churches wanting to follow up on Vision4Life. Based on the book of Acts, "Acting out Acts" uses study notes and Bibliodrama to look at themes which include some review of the V4L process. There are 5 studies and an introduction to the themes and Bibliodrama.
Take a look here to download the documents.

Take a look through the contents of the site using the menu at the top or select items from the menu to the right. You can also access each year through the panels below. This site is now static and there will be no further additional materials. We have also closed the signup process. Enjoy the site!

INTRODUCTORY YEAR

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Worship ideas for taking the next step

Taking the next step

Prayers

God, we have talked and prayed together,
Questioned and reflected together,
Hoped and dreamed together.

Give us vision and confidence now
To find our way forward
As your people
Following your vision and walking in your way.
Amen

We are your people:
Living by your word,
Struggling to understand,
Listening to your voice,
And delighting in your way.
Transforming God,
Fill us with life and hope.

We are your people:
Meeting you in prayer,
Reaching out in praise to grasp your mystery,
Bringing our pain for a vulnerable world,
Confessing and knowing ourselves forgiven.
Transforming God,
Fill us with life and hope.

We are your people:
Travelling with you,
Sharing our journeys,
Telling our stories of love and longing,
Reaching out in loving welcome.
Transforming God,
Fill us with life and hope.

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Worship ideas for the prayer year

Transformed through prayer

Prayers

Listening God,
sometimes we pray confidently,
trusting in your love.
Sometimes we approach you fearfully,
conscious of our own failure.
Sometimes we are reluctant to pray,
evading your call to us.
Sometimes our prayer is a snatched moment
in the hassle of activity.
But always
You hear us.
Amen.

When prayer is as easy as talking,
Sharing news and secrets with a friend
A quiet trust threading through the everyday:
O Lord hear my prayer…

When prayer feels blocked and impossible,
Words hitting the ceiling and bouncing back,
Or an empty silence devoid of meaning
O Lord hear my prayer…

When prayer is a cry of pain
For a hurting, vulnerable world,
All we can offer in our helplessness
O Lord hear my prayer…

When prayer is an adventure
Delighting in creativity and colour,
Exploring faith with sounds and senses,
O Lord hear my prayer…

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Worship ideas for the Evangelism year

Transformed for evangelism

Prayers

God, who has created us in delight,
Help us to share your joy with others.
God, who travels with us,
Help us to share our journeys of faith.
God, who calls us by name,
Help us to acknowledge your presence in our lives.
God, who welcomes us,
Help us to invite others into your love.  Amen.

Living God,
We praise you
because you have made such a difference to our lives.
We praise you for the joy of knowing we are your people.
We thank you for the love which supports and guides us.
We trust your promise for strength in the challenges which confront us.
Living God,
May we who have known you in our lives
share our stories with others,
so that they may know
your joy, love and hope in their own journeys.
Amen.

Hymn

(Tune: R&S  474)

God, who shares my journey with me,
Draws me pictures in the sand,
Tells me stories, sets me dancing,
Take my spirit in your hand.

Shake me out of dull religion,
Leaving forms and fears behind.
Give me trust to travel freely,
Spirit-searching, unconfined.

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Worship ideas for the bible year

This page is available as a PDF, download the Worship ideas for the bible year prayers pdf

Transformed by the Bible

Prayers

God of the living word,
speak to us through our Bibles.
Excite us with the liveliness of character and story,
comfort us in loss and grief,
laugh with us as we play with ideas,
and challenge us as we struggle with the hard bits!
God of the living word,
speak to us,
and bring us to life by your word.
Amen.

God who journeys with us
Look over our shoulders now
As we study your word.
May the experience of reliving
The history of your people
Travel daily in our hearts.
Journeying God
May we keep in step with you
All of our lives.

God of Spirit and life
Spark in us a thirst for your truth.
As we look to your Son’s new testament of love,
May his life and work and cry for justice
Inspire us to find the wonderful in your world.
Spirit of God
May we look to you for guidance
All of our lives.

God of all that is
Create in us a desire for knowledge,
A determination to unload the baggage
That may cause our steps to falter,
And help us accept the compassion and care
That you freely give to all.
Creator God
May we reach to you for tenderness
All of our lives.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

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Worship material

The worship material included here is a guide to possible resources you could use during Vision4Life. There are a variety of styles and suggestions - adapt them to your own local style or worship

Click below or use the menu above

Worship ideas for the bible year

Worship ideas for the prayer year

Worship ideas for the evangelism year

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Sign Up

As Vision4Life has ended as a URC process, you can no longer sign up.

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Powerpoint

Powerpoint Files

The files below are available for anyone to use in Synod, Elders, Church and other meetings.

  • To save a file in Internet Explorer - right click the link and select 'Save As' - and then save it to your desired location on your hard disk
  • To save it in Firefox - left click the link above and select the Save to Disc option and press OK. The file will save to your default location - usually the Desktop.
  • To save it in Safari simply left click and it will download.

An Update Powerpoint and a sample starter put together by the SW Synod is available here
This Powerpoint has an update of the state of play for the Bible Year for V4L as at 11th October 2008, along with slides to go with a sample Starter study on Paying Taxes. The accompanying handout and leaders notes in pdf format are available under the Bible Year menu Starters section entitled 'Paying Taxes'.

Download the Vision4Life Update Powerpoint from SW Synod (1MB size)
The Introduction to Vision4Life Powerpoint is now available here.
The file is suitable to introduce synods and churches to the thinking behind and plans for Vision4Life.

Download the Introduction to Vision4Life Powerpoint file (4Mb size)

The file is a Normal Powerpoint file (ppt) and can be shown in its entirety to explain the V4L process. The author is John Campbell. It has added notes and annotations by John explaining why the slides say the things they do. This is not intended to act as a script for use during a presentation, simply to let you know why this version of the Show says the things it does and to encourage you to edit it and adapt it to suit your way of presenting it. ADAPT AND ENJOY!
A Powerpoint show of the Vision4Life Website is available here
This powerpoint contains screen captures of many of the pages of this website, and is useful to encourage churches and individuals to engage with Vision4Life through the website. It is not a functioning website.

Download the Vision4Life Website Powerpoint (6MB size)
The file size is 6Mb. It works best in Powerpoint 2003 or later. Earlier versions will display it but the movement function on the second slide will not work correctly.
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