Jesus Shaped People Vision and Methodology

This page is by far the most text intensive on the site! If you're here you are most likely a church leader looking to research some of the background and theory of JSP. Great! You've come to the right place. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, find a comfy place to sit and carefully read through the detailed information here on this page…

The Background

Jesus Shaped People is a ‘whole church discipleship adventure’ for churches that want to make Jesus’ ministry the key model for their mission vision and development. It offers both a vision and a method to churches that enables them to do this. ​ JSP was born in the Parish of Tong and Holme Wood in Bradford in 2006, and developed there in subsequent years. In 2011 the Vicar retired, and in 2012 he became House-for-Duty Mission Priest in the Diocese of Bradford, tasked with exploring whether JSP could benefit other churches with social housing estate communities, and more widely. The Archbishops’ Commission ‘Developing Church Growth in Deprived Areas’ and the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales are currently funding Jesus Shaped People. Five churches in areas of heavy social disadvantage in Bradford initially adopted JSP from September 2012. Since then many other churches in different social areas, different denominations, and in a variety of Anglican dioceses have begun using JSP as a model for their mission vision and work.

The Vision

Jesus identified himself as ‘The Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14.6). This key strategic statement forms the background vision for JSP. The Way: Jesus had a clear vision for the establishing of the Kingdom of God. It was this vision that determined his priorities, which he transmitted to his disciples, and which became the foundation of their future work. The early church became the people of ‘The Way’ (Acts 9.2). Faithful discipleship requires that churches identify and own the vision and ministry priorities of Jesus and make these the foundation principles for their work. Jesus Shaped People is particularly concerned with ‘The Way’. The Truth: Jesus reveals the truth to us about God and human beings. His unique work on the cross brings this strongly into focus, and reveals the need of the rescue and peace he offers every person. It will be a vital priority for churches that they ensure that they communicate this well. Nurture programmes like Start and Alpha will often be of benefit in providing this. The Life: Jesus made clear lifestyle choices, and urged his followers to do the same. Recognition of lifestyle changes and challenges that stepping into the Christian life involves is vital. The Sermon on the Mount is a good starting point - here we see how Jesus expected his disciples to adopt the new lifestyle that his mission demanded. Jesus is the Way: JSP is concerned to help churches focus of the first of these statements. In doing so it enables churches and church members model their discipleship on Jesus' key priorities and infuse them at every level into their church programmes. ​ Jesus Shaped People summarises these ‘priorities’ as five key themes:

  • People-focused with special priority for those ‘on the edge’.
  • Teaching that is story based, principled and visionary.
  • Team building that enables his followers to be equipped, challenged, and united
  • Prayer that focuses on his mission, seeks his Father’s will, and celebrates Kingdom progress
  • Prophecy that challenges hypocrisy, evil, false values, and injustice.

The Method

1. Exploring JSP

The initial stage of exploring whether a local church should adopt JSP is a crucial one and should not be rushed or minimized. The local church must offer a high level of commitment. Where there is uncertainty or lack of commitment, further time will need to be taken to work through this.

  • Clergy and the church leadership team will need to fully comprehend JSP. This will start with a presentation from the JSP team that will fully explain the process and deal with any questions.
  • Church members need to ‘buy in’ to ‘JSP’. This will normally include a presentation by one of the JSP Team in Sunday worship.
  • The Church Council will approve the adoption of JSP. This happens following the presentation of JSP, a report from the church leadership team, and an analysis of the responses of the congregation.

The church will need a JSP Steering Group to plan and monitor JSP, and ensure that it impacts at every level of church life. The development of small groups, children and young peoples’ resources, and JSP focus in Sunday worship will be crucial. Local options will often be considered e.g. ecumenical partnerships, Mothers Union ‘Messy Church’, midweek communion(s), etc. A promotional strategy to ensure full participation will be vital. The importance of JSP will need to be regularly reinforced, encouraging the congregation to look forward to a period that will be rewarding, inspiring, challenging and transformational. A full range of resources that service every aspect of JSP is available directly from the JSP website, including materials for publicity and marketing. Members of he JSP team are available to assist at every step of the way. A member of the team will normally accompany each church that adopts JSP to support, encourage and provide advice.

2. The 15-Week Programme

Planning and delivery of the JSP Programme is a key and central part of the process. The five ministry priorities of Jesus are explored in five three-week modules. The following method will normally be adopted: Sunday Worship will launch the programme each week. The normal lectionary is set aside and the JSP programme will replace it. JSP collects, readings & summary notes for notice sheet publications are provided together with sermon guidelines and hymn suggestions. Children’s material will follow the same theme – and include link-up between children and adults. ​ Small groups will be available during the week following. The resources provided are carefully planned to include people who are unfamiliar with such experiences. Important ideas and conclusions that emerge from group discussions will be recorded and fed back to the leadership. Creativity is warmly encouraged – especially ways in which JSP can be made an attractive, important and interesting experience. Children and Young People should be a part of this and could include the creating of JSP T-Shirts, badges, songs, banners, displays and so on?

3. Future Development

The church council will receive regular reports from the leadership team during the JSP programme, and will already be planning for how future development can take place. After the 15 week programme the church will need to consider whether to sustain Jesus Shaped People as an integral tool in the church’s long-term mission strategy. This could include the formation of a ‘strapline’ or mission statement. There may be need to plan how JSP can be refreshed from time to time, to ensure that new church members are able to ‘catch’ and own the JSP vision’. The use of JSP Lite can be helpful in this. There will be need to identify and plan for changes in worship and church programmes that are the result of having engaged with JSP. These will be motivated by a desire motivated by the following JSP principles:

  • Inclusion of ‘people on the edge’
  • More effective story-based teaching
  • Deeper and more mission-focused prayer
  • Common vision for the church owned by all members
  • Speaking truth to power that challenges political and social injustice.

To plan for the future, consider the following options:

  • The Church Council (possibly an Away Day) will consider the effect and responses from the JSP programme. Vital issues will be considered, and options for development will be drafted.
  • A Congregational Meeting (again, possibly an Away Day) might look at the proposals of the Church Council, exploring these and other ideas that emerge, and advise the Church Council as to what should be adopted.
  • The Church Council might adopt a method of maintaining the church’s focus on JSP priorities, perhaps including one of these in each meeting of the PCC.

These priorities will be carefully explored and adopted at every level of church life, and with all who belong to their church, including children and young people. Such adoption will lead to Jesus’ values and ministry style becoming part of the ‘DNA’ of the local church, affecting long-term decision-making and change. This JSP process will lead to:

  • Affirmation and strengthening of appropriate existing work
  • Re-shaping and development of work that requires modification
  • Elimination of work that cannot be justified in the light of Jesus’ priorities
  • Identification of new mission tasks that need to be tackled

Further JSP resources are available for churches that want to embed JSP more deeply into their life. These include ‘Spirit Filled Church’ – a ten week programme that explore how the mission priorities of Jesus can be seen in the life of the early church, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles.