In September 2014, Leadership Network will launch a High Capacity peer learning group in Europe. Anthony Delaney, Team Leader of Ivy Manchester (UK), tells his story of participating in Europe’s Rapid Growth Leadership Community.
Over the last five years, Ivy Manchester in England has grown from 350 to 950 weekly worshippers. When Anthony Delaney took over as leader, Ivy was known as “Ivy Cottage” and he reflects, “I saw great potential, but we needed to move out of the cottage and into the city.” With the help of Leadership Network, that’s where Anthony has been leading Ivy over the past five years. In this time they’ve planted three churches and started several missional projects.
For Anthony it began when his friend Andy Hawthorne (founder and director of The Message) invited him to join a Leadership Network Leadership Community. Within a few months Anthony was at his first meeting. It was at these meetings that he began to make great friendships and was introduced to entrepreneurial thinkers. Thinking back, Anthony explains, “Most church leaders will regularly have ten people around them saying it can’t be done, so to have ten people around you saying it can be done is great. It allowed me to come back to Ivy with some ideas and having thought through how to communicate them. Anthony tells me, “I still have the papers from that first meeting on the wall above my desk. As I look at it, so much of it we have done.”
Anthony describes how he didn’t want to just agree with good ideas, but to actually implement change! Standing in front of his church he announced, “In two weeks’ time we will be moving out of this building, we don’t know where, so please pray! That’s just what Ivy did and they’ve settled into meeting across four screens in a large cinema complex. Not only this, but Ivy have planted into a pub opposite the Manchester University student accommodation and a site next to Wythenshawe, the largest council estate in Europe. Ivy has left the cottage and is reaching the city.
I ask Anthony what impact all this is having on their community, the rest of Manchester and beyond. He tells me the rapid growth of Ivy in recent years isn’t due to transfer growth as people join from other churches, but instead, “we’re seeing new Christians – people are getting baptised.” At one site they’ve grown from 12 to 170 in a year. They’ve started two “Messy Churches”, which have grown to over 300 people and led many to come to church at the cinema. Over the last five years Ivy has gone from 350 to 950 and is still growing. As well as being a growing church, Ivy is generous too and is giving 25% of their income to mission further afield.
Before the end of our interview, I ask Anthony what advice he would give to another church leader considering joining a Leadership Community. He says, “You can’t afford not to do it. I would have paid four times as much and now we would be able to afford that because of the growth we’ve seen!” He reflects on the words of Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with the wise grows wise” and tells me how he’s formed strong friendships with other church leaders. For Anthony these friendships continue to bear fruit as he travels to Chicago next week to gather further ideas for growth from Dave Ferguson, leader of Community Christian Church. Anthony concludes, “What would have taken us 15 years has taken us just a few years because we formed a plan.”