What is a fresh expression?

What are fresh expressions of church?A fresh expression of church is a new gathering or network that engages mainly with people who have never been to church. There is no single model, but the emphasis is on starting something which is appropriate to its context, rather than cloning something that works elsewhere.

Over 3,000 of these new forms of church now exist in almost every denomination and tradition in the UK.

Fresh expressions of church:

  • serve those outside church;
  • listen to people and enter their context;
  • make discipleship a priority: journeying with people to Jesus;
  • form church.


Our more formal working definition is that:

A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

  • It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples;
  • It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.

Is it a fresh expression of church?

A phrase like 'fresh expression of church' can be vague and unclear. Sometimes the label is used to cover almost anything – even a new church noticeboard! But the important thing is intention: When a new mission project or group begins, what is the intention?

A fresh expression of church is not:

  • an old outreach with a new name (‘rebranded’ or ‘freshened up’);
  • a bridge project, to which people belong for a while before going to ‘proper’ church – some people do end up moving into a more traditional church, others see the fresh expression as their church, while others again have a foot in both.

If the intention is to work towards establishing a new community or congregation especially for those who have never been involved in church (un-churched) or once were, but left for whatever reason (de-churched), then it is a fresh expression of church in the making. A fresh expression of church like this may look very different to traditional church.

If, though, the intention is to do mission better or more imaginatively in order to attract people to an existing church, it isn't a fresh expression (although doing that is always an excellent idea). The aim of a fresh expression is not to provide a stepping stone into existing church, but to form a new church in its own right. So it is important to decide the direction you are heading in, before you begin the journey.

For more details, see What is a fresh expression of church? in the Guide.

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