Crossnet – update Feb11

Crossnet - Nick CrawleyCrossnet, launched as an Anglican network church in 2004, has seen many changes since then. Its leader, Nick Crawley, gives an update.

Our vision is to be a community of people who love God and each other, learning to follow Jesus in every aspect of life and seeking to make him known outside the church. In what was a major development in September last year, I became the vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Hotwells – a parish church in the centre of Bristol – as well as leader of Crossnet.

I now split my time 50:50 between the two churches, a move that was totally in line with a suggestion made to Diocesan Authorities in the 2010 Crossnet Report. This structure brings greater stability to the pioneer work and will help to bring together the pioneer and inherited ministry patterns.

It is a significant boost to this pioneer ministry, as it is essentially a strong encouragement from the authorities to press on with the work. We still call ourselves a network church though 'network' can mean almost anything you want it to. Our experience, over six-and-a-half years here, is that our ministry goes in phases. We are now in our third phase and what we find is that people tend to come in batches and then disappear off to other places – almost always because we have a ministry with younger people, most of whom have been 30 or under. This means that we see quite a lot of people for a while and they then buzz off to go to London or abroad.

Crossnet - CaféIt hasn't been entirely what we expected. At the start we thought we would be planting something like a House Church or Vineyard Church within the Anglican system but, for various reasons, it's not looking like that at all. Yet we have learned not to be worried by that and instead we just work with what we've got.

We have occasional meetings in cafes and other public places but we mainly meet in our home for discipling and Bible study. The figures vary a great deal. Sometimes we have been up to about 50 and we are now fewer than 20 but in rather a strange sort of way we find that it carries on. There has been ample opportunity for this whole thing to die but instead it continues! At the moment those who come along are mostly from a church background, in the past it has often been non-churched.

I found the instability of it really quite difficult – it was a bit too vulnerable, too chaotic and I couldn't really cope with that – but becoming vicar of Holy Trinity as well has had a great stabilising effect. In terms of my own funding, I will no longer be paid by the Diocese on behalf of Crossnet from this summer though at this moment it looks like I will carry on.

Crossnet - groupI find that people here are very comfortable with the idea of 'mixed economy' working. Very, very occasionally I may get a comment along the lines of, 'All your young people can come and join us' but that really is extremely rare.

It has gone through many stages but my wife Lucy has played, and continues to play, an enormous part in it all. One of Crossnet's key aims – apart from a base ministry of meeting on Tuesdays for a worship service at our home – is to focus on teaching the Bible. I'm pioneering new forms of teaching that and Lucy, as a systematic theologian, is a teacher as well.

We also disciple people with specific, focused, intentional mentoring. We tend to find that men rather than women come to that because there's something about biblical discipleship that really appeals to men. Working out what faith means in your life and putting it into practice with the help of someone challenging you and helping you to do that is very rewarding.


Church of England minister Nick Crawley knew that he wanted his next post to be about mission not maintenance. So he wrote to the Bishop of Bristol to suggest launching a network church. After a series of meetings he began work on his new 'parish' of Bristol-based young adults in 2004.

We have no church building, no parish, no PCC, no inherited congregation,

Nick says.

I had no weddings or funerals to do so I was free to start from scratch.

An original team of three families drawn to the network church idea began meeting in Nick's family home in central Bristol. As the new church grew, it began to rent space in Starbucks. It now meets in a larger coffee house on Tuesday evenings attended by an average of 30 people who eat, worship, discuss and pray together. Roughly half of these were not previously attending or committed to a church.

One-to-ones and training teams continue the work of discipleship.

Nick attributes the growth of this network church, Crossnet, among students and young professionals to 'word of mouth'. The church has seen four conversions and others growing in their faith.

The two emphases are mission and discipleship,

says Nick.

There is no doubt that the commitment people have to loving one another is growing.

Crossnet aims to be self-funding by the end of 2009.