Neither Young Nor Old

Matthew Edwards and Julie Ferguson lead Neither Young Nor Old (NYNO) in a sheltered housing complex in Aberdeen.

NYNO aims to create fresh expressions of all-age church amongst older people, particularly, but not exclusively, those who live in sheltered housing accommodation. The title was inspired by Galatians 3.28, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus'. In Christ Jesus there is also Neither Young Nor Old.

Stockethill Church of Scotland had been conducting monthly worship services in a couple of sheltered housing complexes for some time. Matthew Edwards, a lay member of the church had been involved in one of these, Stocket Grange, a complex where about 60 residents live in bungalows and flats.

Matthew Edwards begins the story:

NYNO - teamWe had been there for some time but I began to wonder if there was more that could be done. We made several attempts to form something new, including a small group that met for midweek Bible study. That was very important to those involved in it over the years – but we were still asking the question, 'How can we take it further?'

Challenged by the minister to put down on paper what an experimental project might do to answer this question, I put together a funding proposal for the Church of Scotland Council Emerging Ministries Fund (now part of Go for It!), which gives grants to projects for church planting. Within the month, our newly titled project, Neither Young Nor Old (NYNO), had received significant funding.

The challenge was then to actually get the project off the ground, something which took another 18 months because we had to get a management team together, look for further funding and then advertise for two project workers. The project began in earnest last July.

One common traditional approach of the church in its engagement with older people, particularly those in sheltered or supported accommodation, has been to care for them through visiting and, if possible, a short, monthly service. We felt there were real limitations to this:

  • it perpetuates the form of church that, in many cases, has already been rejected over the course of a lifetime by many people outside church circles. As a result it has limited missional impact.
  • older people are 'cared for' in this approach, they are not included in the full life of the church or treated as having a valuable contribution to make or part to play.

NYNO - handsIn NYNO we aim to see new all-age church communities come into being that are accessible to older people and that develop their own identity, teaching, spirituality, leadership, mission and care. The families of older Christians in particular may also find the NYNO congregations to be places of welcome, care and support for their relatives and for themselves.

I think there should be a lot of hope in older people in the Church. If anything new is going to happen, it is generally assumed that it's going to come through engagement with younger people. A consequence of this can be that the significance of older people is minimised inside and outside of the Church. If people do look to the young – and youth culture – all the time as the answer to church decline, older people are left out in the cold which is something which potentially leads to the church being divided against itself. At NYNO, we are determined to work against that.

Julie Ferguson adds:

In one way or another, I have always been involved in care of older people, particularly those living with dementia. I didn't see myself as a church planter when I first saw the job advert for NYNO, although it seemed like a great idea in bringing together community and older people. I wrestled with whether to apply or not for some time, but in the end felt God calling me.

NYNO - entranceIn the complex where we work, we have to build community with people from a wide range of backgrounds and churchmanship. Instead of 'parachuting in' to lead a service, we talk a lot about making this community into a spiritual 'home'. We are all about participation and emphasising the role that everybody can play with the focus on encouraging the laity as much as we can.

In addition to our monthly Sunday gatherings, we meet most weeks on a Thursday for Bible study and a chat. About 25-28 people come on Sundays and there's usually about eight on a Thursday night.

Every now and then we'll also put something on to reach those with no church background at all. This Christmas Eve we hosted a gathering open to everyone, particularly to make sure no one had to be on their own over the Christmas period. We put leaflets in all of the bungalows and flats to advertise our 'soiree' and we had egg nog, mince pies and cakes! It was great to see people who don’t come along on a Sunday – residents, family members and staff.

Matthew and Julie continue:

NYNO - communion

Something that has proved a challenge is the fact that we are lay, not ordained, leaders. Having got into the theology of the body of Christ, we wanted to make Communion central to the worshipping community but, for obvious reasons, there are limitations to the way we can do this and we find ourselves bumping against the divide between laity and clergy.

We are very fortunate that Ian (Aitken) the parish minister comes in every second month to celebrate Communion. On the positive side, as Stockethill Church oversees us, there is a sense – when Ian comes to Stocket Grange – that we are all joining in with something much larger as we gather together for Communion.

There are lot of preconceived ideas about churches with older people in them. We sometimes get responses like, 'So, you sing a lot of hymns then?' In fact, people are up for singing songs they've never sung before; they don't mind having a go at something new. For some people, it's all new because they didn't attend church as a child and are not familiar with what others might assume they knew. But more importantly, we're trying to foster the growth of churches where styles of worship are really seen as peripheral. The most important thing is the diverse body of Christ, old and young, worshipping together in community.

We are looking forward to being able to tell more of what's happening in the lives of the community in which we're involved but this is a journey that can't be rushed. In moving from a 'service' model of church to more of an emphasis on community and participation, we're involving people in change. We can only do this one step at a time, at each stage trying to involve people so that we go on this journey together.

NYNO - local areaIf we find that a community grows that is sustainable and reproducible, we hope we'll be able to share more about what we've done and help others to do the same. As things stand we're always interested in talking to others with similar ideas.

The Church of Scotland has been very supportive in giving us partial funding for two years with potential for another, but we have found it very difficult to access money from elsewhere for church planting. In the end, the project started by reducing the planned number of paid hours.

We're supervised by a management team of five people from different churches across Aberdeen: a missions worker, a lady in her 80s, a retired teacher and a youth worker. We appreciate the diversity of experience represented here. It's important to have that given the type of church we want to see grow. We all meet every few months or so and this team really helps us not to lose sight of why we set up the project in the first place.


feed. is a fresh expression of church run by skiers and snowboarders – for skiers and snowboarders – in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. Mike Keith describes the café church with a difference.

Mt Hutt ski area is known to have one of the best mixes of mountain terrain in New Zealand; it's just over an hour's drive from Christchurch and about 35 minutes from the town of Methven.

Feed. is an initiative of All Saints Anglican Church, Methven and it has traditionally taken place on Sunday evenings for nearly 20 weeks from June to October – our winter season. The original vision came from the previous minister, Dave Clancey, and it has now been running for five years; I've only been the minister at All Saints for about nine months so I 'inherited' it as a going concern.

feed. - skiIt started because people come to Methven from all around the world to work in the ski/snowboard industry. Some might be Mt Hutt staff, like instructors, or they may work in the hospitality and catering industry. They need to hear about Jesus! The church very much saw a need in its surrounding area and began a fresh expression to engage with that need.

We are now planning to extend feed. over our summer months. Whilst the focus in Methven shifts away from people directly involved in winter snow sports, there remain international workers  – as well as locals – who come to see feed. as their spiritual home so this is very encouraging.

In our planning for this season, we broadened our aim to reach not only those associated with the ski industry but also locals and farmers in the surrounding areas. Methven has a core population of about 1,400, which increases significantly in the winter, but we are in a fast-growing area with rich farmland. Many of the farms nearby are converting from sheep to dairy and this is bringing more employment. We have found that some of these people, many of whom are from overseas – particularly the Philippines – are starting to attend feed. One of the reasons they come is simply because it takes place the evening; the morning isn't suitable at all for dairy workers!

feed. - roomThe format each week is:

  • open with a welcome at 6pm;
  • give thanks and eat;
  • ask question to fit in with the theme or talk;
  • play an audio visual (see our facebook group page for some of the audio visuals – and additional comments about what happens from week to week);
  • interview someone – might be a newer person to get to know them or a Christian to give their testimony about what Jesus has done for them;
  • the interviewee plays a snowboard race game as a bit of fun
  • Bible reading;
  • 15-20min Bible talk;
  • prayer;
  • additional audio visual;
  • table discussion;
  • coffee and dessert.

We uncompromisingly teach the truth about Jesus from the Bible, his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin and the joy of eternal life. We do so in love – in an appropriate and respectful way – giving the opportunity for people to discuss and debate, agree or disagree. Bible reading and teaching is an essential and non-negotiable part of our time together; the format must include this.

feed. - mapThere was a break of nearly a year between ministers and, during that time, feed. was lay-run – with visiting speakers each week. The church 'really 'took ownership' of feed. and there is still a lot of lay involvement, particularly in getting everything ready, technical stuff (audio visual), cooking, washing up and packing everything away. It's pretty labour intensive, particularly the cooking, as we average about 30-40 people each week but we have had over 60 people at times.

I am very grateful for the team of helpers we have and for the generosity of our parishioners who donate food, money, and many other things. Without such dedicated lay people, it simply wouldn't happen. It is very much a ministry of our church that gives the opportunity for everyone to be involved.

Each week, there are at least one or two newcomers and, for many, it is their first church experience. Every new person gets a welcome pack containing a gospel and some carefully chosen tracts – as well as a chocolate bar or two! Over time, we welcome in people of all ages, from the early teens right through to the more 'mature aged'.

Another very positive outcome is that the format has proved attractive to a core group of younger people. We currently do not have any ministries at church to cater for them but, as a result of feed's success we have just decided to launch a weekly 'Junior Youth Club' where they can come together in a weekly, afterschool, fellowship group.

feed.backI am also a chaplain for Mt Hutt and this is a ministry which very much complements 'feed.' in that I am part of the employment support for employees and guests. This means I actively build relationships with the staff, some of whom also come along to 'feed'. Many of them are also 'locals' so the chaplaincy is a community role which allows me to build connections with people in the immediate area.

I don't really know what people mean when they talk about going 'to the edge' in ministry. For me, it is simply a matter of doing what the church should always be doing, namely 'teaching the truth in love'. If anything is 'on the edge', it is that we look to remove any 'unhelpful', church barriers so that unchurched people – who might feel uncomfortable with the traditions and liturgy of a more 'traditional' church service setting – can feel comfortable when they come. 

There are no set prayers or liturgy, no singing and I don't wear my collar – I wear a t-shirt, hoodie and jeans – because it's much more casual and relaxed. We sit around tables, eat, talk, laugh, have fun and are also serious together.

We still have collection but we don't have collection plates – we have a ski boot mounted on a mini ski. If people see feed as their 'spiritual home', they have the chance to financially partner with what we are doing.  When I think about it, I suppose many traditional churchgoers would probably see what we do as going 'to the edge.' Some may even think we've fallen off the edge! I'd like to assure them that where the gospel message about Jesus is preached faithfully, God is at work in people's lives. That's what our task as a church is all about isn't it?

feed. - logoWe want to reach those not normally reached by traditional churches because 'traditional church' is unattractive to this segment of the community – hence the subtitle under 'feed' is 'Church done differently'.

There certainly is potential for 'feed.' to be 'duplicated' in other places around the world. We'd be very happy to see a multiplication of gospel-centred ministries that follow the same format as feed. In fact, I understand that when the feed logo was developed as feed. (with a full stop), it was done so deliberately so that feed. in other places around the world could be easily identified. We describe ourselves as 'feed.methven' but potentially you could have 'feed.aspen' etc, etc.

The idea was that feed. fresh expressions of church could be planted all around the world. At the moment, as I'm just coming to the end of my first winter season here, I'm just trying to keep things going locally before taking any action in promoting the idea globally – except through the people who come.

feed. - tableFeed. really is a church in its own right. We also run a more traditional morning church in Methven, but it doesn't mean that the people who come in the evening are any different from those who come in the morning; they both get the same spiritual food (my sermons are the same, although adapted to suit the audience). We don't expect people to 'graduate' to traditional church, they are already are 'in church'.

However I must admit that, in many ways, feed. is a 'church growing in maturity' and perhaps – as we mature – we may see it introduce some things you may also expect in a more traditional church setting, like singing for example. Nonetheless, seeing feed. – which attracts the unchurched –  also challenges us to think about how we do 'traditional' church so that our morning services are more open and welcoming to newcomers!

It helps us to think through why we do the things we do in relation to the task of reaching the unreached. It seems that the 'traditional' style of church unhelpfully hinders the unchurched, so we need to think differently – without compromising what we are all about, namely the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

The Valley Network

Levi SantanaLevi Santana is a pioneer ordinand at St Mellitus College. He also leads a small missional community in High Wycombe called The Valley Network.

I have been in the area for seven years as youth worker at St Birinus and St John's Church, High Wycombe. When I started thinking about getting involved in a fresh expression, the Diocese of Oxford was very keen to see how a local person could start a local ministry via the mixed mode training and stay locally for curacy.

As a result, since starting The Valley, we have had a lot of support from the Deanery which has made our work possible. They give us lots of freedom and even help pay my salary, showing their commitment to pioneer ministry. When I am ordained in 2013, I will also be able to do my curacy here which secures the next four years in the life of the Network.

When I sensed a feeling that God was calling me into pioneer ministry I had to ask myself,

What is God saying? What is the need? What does High Wycombe need as a fresh expression of church?

We decided to focus on people who live in and around the town centre in what is an Urban Priority Area and also students.

We have almost doubled our numbers since Christmas and at the moment we have around 40 people involved in our network which meets in local coffee shops for discussion groups and Bible study, and in a local Anglican church that lets us use their building for worship events. We also meet in homes, and much of our work is based at the local YMCA and University where I am a chaplain.

There is a mix of people, some were already Christians when they joined us and some are completely unchurched (although a number are dechurched).

They come from all backgrounds and nationalities – including white British, Brazilians, and West Indians. I come from a Brazilian background and one thing that's very much on my heart is the international community, I would love to see more racial interaction. I think people from an ethnic background might have felt more comfortable about coming in to the group because I look 'different' and don't fit the traditional image of a church minister. The average age of those coming along is about 25 but we have some older and younger people in the mix – we also have a few people with small children.

It all started because St Birinus and St John's had been involved in the work of the YMCA locally for a number of years. Suddenly the person that led that work left and I found myself in charge. So we went into the YMCA and offered to continue to run the games evening.

We then decided to do something on a Sunday evening and we invited the guys from the YMCA and young adults within the network of the church. It was a hit so we started welcoming people into the church building. By January 2011, we had 25-30 people coming twice a month.

The Valley Network - planning

It was trial and error, we didn't know what to do next but then we started to throw some worship into the mix. In the end, we did it for six months and reflected that we were trying to do too much, we couldn't do worship with non- Christians and couldn't disciple Christians by just doing social activities.

We took time to take stock and to pray and decided that we should concentrate on the unchurched and dechurched rather than Christians wanting to do something a little differently.

We started meeting in a local coffee shop, firstly inviting people from the games night. We don't use any set material but I always make it clear that I'm a Christian though people have to be free to share their opinion – whatever it is. We always start with people talking about the lowlight and the highlight of the past week. One of the girls who comes to the group is going through a sex change process so she came in and said,

The highlight of my week is that I'm going to be a boy.

She had a letter for an appointment in London to see a specialist and what struck me was that she felt confident she could share that letter first with us.

I realised then that this community was effective. We had all sorts of plans for events to reach out to students but what God was calling us to do was simply to respect them and value them and give time. As a result we have seen that group develop into a little family.

Alongside our discussion group we also identified a need for us to gather Christians together in a similar sort of setting in order to go deeper into the Bible and mission. We launched a Bible study that starts 90 minutes before the discussion group. The study is basically for Christian students and some of them stay on for the group, some of them don't.

We had also seen the development of a mums and tots cell group. From October this year we are going to open it up to the public and we hope to run it in one of the churches.

Recently we have decided to link up with Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing who are planting the Latimer Minster church in Beaconsfield; this helps to put our network within a wider group of missional communities. When I knew they were moving into the area, we met up to talk about it all because there's no point in us doing something similar or being five miles apart with no relationship. By linking up with Latimer Minster, The Valley Network will use their charity number and bank accounts and public liability insurance – all of which means that we are very independent but also accountable.

It became quite a big thing to explain over and over again what The Valley Network was all about whereas, at Latimer Minster, the church's DNA is missional and it's easier for us to be understood. They will also release things quickly into the mission aspect of the work and I think it will be a good relationship based on friendship, not structure.

We are also still linked with St Birinus and St John's as they have been very supportive of our work over the years and because we are expected to meet traditional criteria and to obey deanery and parish boundaries though, in practice, we don't function in them.

The Valley has no income from any other source other than its members, but we need more resources to fulfil the vision God has given us. For this reason we are trying to find 100 people who will pledge to raise or donate £100 over a year. This will give us £10,000 that we will use to fund our ministry, run our conferences and events, and pay for our running and administration cost.

We have a high number of musicians and artists in the community so we are exploring different styles of worship and recording some of the songs we are writing. Our first CD/EP will be ready soon and our intention is to sell our music to fund some of the work.

The Valley Network - logoFrom October our hope is to have two Sundays a month where we meet for fellowship for a meal and Communion because I think that's where we truly become a fresh expression of church. At the moment we are clusters of mission but we haven't shared Communion together many times.

There is a lot going on but everything is done very relationally and we have seen a few young people being released into leadership which has been particularly exciting – two of them will give about 20 hours from September!

This autumn will see us host our first Missional Church Conference when we hope to engage local church leaders in conversation about reaching young adults. Debbie Orriss, Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing and Steven Cockram will talk at the October event about how churches can explore different ways of doing things within their contexts. We want to demystify missional communities and fresh expressions to church leaders and to encourage churches not to feel threatened by us because we are not sheep stealing.

It's all very exciting but there are many questions too. How can we honour the opportunities that the Holy Spirit is giving us without spreading ourselves too thinly? What are the real areas of priority and how can we make the most of them?

The Plant Church

The Plant Church, Park Langley, is a mission initiative of the Diocese of Rochester and was granted a Bishop's Mission Order in 2009. After the original minister moved on, David Rue was appointed its new pastor-teacher in September 2011.

The Plant Church started five years ago as a church plant from Christ Church, Bromley. We meet on Sunday mornings in the function room of the Park Langley Tennis Club and currently have about 30 regulars. Our aim as a church is to make Jesus known in Park Langley. This is a huge challenge and keeps us depending upon God's Word and on prayer to build up the body so that we can win the lost to Christ.

Plant Church - groupOur most active channel of outreach over the last five years has been our Wednesday morning mums and toddlers group, known as Sparklers. Through this group we've seen one person become a Christian, and many have heard the gospel and now have weekly contact with Christians.

In an attempt to make Sundays more accessible for families from the local community, we have held a number of all age services and have been encouraged to see new people popping in each week. We have just finished a Christianity Explored course, and are now seeking to faithfully follow up the three people who attended.

Plant Church - barSunday mornings, midweek bible study groups and prayer meetings continue to be encouraging times. In particular, there has been a growing number coming to our prayer meeting and an encouraging spirit of prayer. A recent move to smaller bible study groups has helped the congregation to deepen bonds of fellowship and has increased opportunities to serve one another through prayer, bible study and hospitality. We have also been spurred on in our evangelism by Simon Manchester's resource, Six Steps to Talking About Jesus.

Our challenge in Park Langley is to keep the great commission of Matthew 28 at the heart of everything we do. This reminds us that we are to be disciples making disciples. To this end our message has been to preach Christ, our prayer: that the Father will raise up harvesters and our confidence: that Jesus will build his church.

Sunningdale sheltered housing

Sunningdale is a community of 108 self-contained, warden-assisted flats all occupied by elderly people. Lesley Bailey, a lay-reader at Christchurch, with four others began church services here eighteen months ago.

Lesley says she is well known now among the residents. Some will join in for the end of worship cup of tea even though they don’t attend the rest of the worship. Others will ask for prayer.

There is much to give thanks for at this stage:

  • over ten percent of the community are already in the congregation;
  • members are fully involved in the worship;
  • the entire community being personally invited to each service.

Some members of the congregation are able to lead prayers and others feel comfortable reading the Bible. They may not have done this in a larger church.

Several have rediscovered their faith since services began at Sunningdale. One struggled for several months to overcome her agoraphobia so she could attend the services that are held in the residents' lounge. Now she reads the lesson with enthusiasm and commitment.

Lesley is very excited about how the church is developing. She hopes the next step will be a more in-depth study of the Bible for those who are interested.

Come and Go

Robert Harrison, vicar of St John's Hillingdon, and teams of people from the church have spent over a year planning for an innovative way of doing Sunday mornings. Here he answers questions local people might ask about how it works.

Come and Go - logoWhat is 'Come & Go' worship?

It is exactly what it says: come when you can and go when you like. Our worship starts at 8am and continues all the way through to lunch at 12.30pm. You can arrive at any time in between, and leave whenever you wish.

Will I interrupt people if I arrive at the wrong time?

No. If you arrive in a quiet bit, it would help if you come in quietly, of course. But we are quite used to people arriving and leaving all through the morning.

Will people think I'm rude if I go half way through something?

Again, if you leave at a quiet moment, no-one will mind if you leave quietly. There is a planned opportunity to leave every half hour (at the end of each section), but you are welcome to leave at any stage.

Is there a minimum amount of time I will be expected to stay?

It is quite common for people to worship for one half hour section and then leave. But if you can only stay for five minutes, we will be pleased that you joined our worship, and believe God will too.

Occasionally, people stay for the full five hours. Those who have, have enjoyed the experience.

If I stay for a long time, will the worship start repeating itself?

Every half hour has a different style and approach. Each Sunday, a single theme runs through the morning's worship, but each section explores that theme in a different way.

You will get to look at the same aspect of Christian life and faith from many different perspectives.

I am used to worshipping in other Church of England churches. Will I get the kind of 'service' I am used to?

If you come from 8.00am to 9.00am, you will worship in a traditional, 'Book of Common Prayer – 1662' format.

If you come from 10.00am to 11.00am, you will find the worship similar to other services based on 'Common Worship – 2000'.

The worship from 11.30am to 12.30pm is contemporary, relaxed and interactive, while keeping within the guidelines of the Church of England.

Will I get a whole service every half hour?

That depends on what you mean by a 'whole service'. You will get a complete act of worship, but you will not get all of the ingredients that are commonly found in a Church of England service. The Come & Go program is designed so that you will get a fairly well-balanced spiritual diet if you stay for about one and half hours.

What style of worship will I find at St John's?

We do not believe that there is a 'right' way of worshipping God. (Jacob heaped up a pile of stones and poured oil on them; Moses roasted a sheep and ate it with his family and neighbours. King David wrote spiritual songs, and sacrificed bulls on a neighbour's farm; King Solomon did the same in a magnificent Temple. Jesus read the scriptures and discussed their meaning in a purpose-built synagogue; St Peter gathered Christians for regular communal meals in people's homes, and St Paul encouraged them to sing together and tell one another about God).

We purposefully offer a wide variety of worship styles so you can worship God in a way that suits your needs.

As a general rule, our Sundays begin with formal and traditional worship. As the morning progresses the style and content gradually become more informal and contemporary.

Are breakfast, coffee and lunch part of the worship, or gaps in the worship?

They are very much part of the worship. The very first worship gatherings of the Christian church took place over communal meals (not least of these were Jesus' Last Supper and his first meetings with his disciples after the Resurrection).

At St John's we have a strong emphasis on being a community of Christians. There are few things better for a community than eating together.

Do I have to pay?

In every half hour section there is an opportunity to make a financial offering. Making a significant offering from our income has been a vital part of Christian and Jewish worship all the way back to Abraham.

In the meal-centred sections, you will be invited to make a contribution towards your food. Any surplus money, after the costs have been met, will go into the general offering.

As St John's is a charity, we can claim tax back from the government if tax payers fill in a very simple form to register their gift.

Come and go - bannerWhere did the Come & Go idea come from?

We live in an age of extended shop opening, flexible working hours and 24/7 entertainment. There are only a few things in our lives that require us to arrive at a particular time and stay until it is finished, unless we have booked in advance.

We want to make it possible for as many people as possible who want to worship God, to do so.

Does Come & Go worship make a lot of extra work for the church leaders?

No. Because each half hour section is self-contained, it has been possible to include a wider spectrum of church members in leading our worship. As a result, the clergy are now doing slightly less on a Sunday morning than they used to. They are also regularly able to take part in leading the children's worship.

Even the vicar is free to come & go when he is not directly involved in leading the worship.

How much planning goes into each Sunday morning?

All the people who leading the half-hour sections on any given Sunday meet together about ten days beforehand.

They discuss the Bible readings for that Sunday and decide on a relevant theme arising from those readings.

They then talk through how each of them will explore that Bible passage & theme in the section(s) they are leading.

Finally they agree on a 'conversation topic' which is used three or four times during the morning when worshippers have an opportunity to talk among themselves.

They then go home and continue their own prayer and preparation.

What happens in each of the half hour sections?

8.00am Morning Prayer: the traditional 'Prayer Book' service of 'Matins', slightly shortened, with prayers, Bible readings and ancient Psalms & Canticles (there is no singing at this time in the morning).

8.30am Traditional Communion: the Communion part of the Holy Communion service in the 'Book of Common Prayer – 1662', along with a short sermon.

9.00am Breakfast & Conversation: a continental breakfast, preceded by a traditional prayer of thanksgiving. Sometimes we chat about the theme for the day, sometimes we just chat.

9.30am Songs of Praise: a selection of well loved hymns & songs, interspersed with a short Bible reading, a 'thought for the day', and time for prayer.

10.00am Understanding our Faith: a reading from the Bible, followed by a 'sermon' applying the theme of the reading to life and faith in the 21st century. Then a song and some prayers to give you time to respond to God.

10.30am Family Communion: a contemporary Anglican celebration of Holy Communion that links Jesus' Last Supper & his first meetings with his disciples after the Resurrection to the challenges and opportunities of our lives today.

11.00am Refreshments & Activities: after the communal announcements and a prayer of commitment to God, we disperse to a wide variety of activities, from coffee and chat, to presentations about different aspects of church and local community life. There is also an opportunity to talk and pray, in private, about particular concerns.

11.30am Praise & Worship: contemporary worship songs (with the occasional golden oldie) mixed with time to pray and a short reading from the Bible.

12noon Exploring Faith Together: a Bible story retold rather than read, a discussion instead of a sermon, and the bread & wine of communion shared together as an informal meal rather than a formal liturgical act.

12.30pm Food & Friendship: a simple ploughman's-style lunch with plenty of time to chat and relax together, beginning with some revitalised mealtime prayers.

Come and Go - communion

How do children fit in?

It is particularly useful for families to be free to come and go according to their needs. There are a number of different ways that children can take part in our worship.

There is a special area for toddlers and the adults they bring with them, which is equipped with soft and quiet toys. Those with toddlers do not have to sit in this area, but may if they wish.

Between 9.30am and 11.00am there is a parallel program of worship for children in school 'key stages' 1, 2 & 3. This happens in the Church Hall.

The children leave the church building together at about 9.40am and return to join in the Family Communion at about 10.45am. If you are arriving or leaving between these times, you will need to bring your children to, or collect them from, the church hall.

If you would like your children to stay with you in church, we have activity packs suitable for children in different age groups (any of our 'Welcomers' will happily give you one).

On the first Sunday of every month the 10.00 to 11.00 sections are particularly designed for all the family. There is no parallel 'Junior Church' on these Sundays.

Between 11.30am and 12.30pm there are activities and involvement for children within the worship in the Church.

What were the influences for the Come & Go idea?

The activity that most typifies our current British culture is shopping. Shops work on the simple principle of having an opening time and a closing time. Shoppers are free to come and go at any time in between.

Almost everyone in this country has a television. We are all familiar with the idea of looking through a varied programme schedule and choosing what interests us.

The Orthodox Christians of eastern Europe have been coming and going in their worship for hundreds of years.

How have the worshipping patterns of people changed?

Overall, attendance has grown. Occasional worshippers are coming more often. New worshippers can now fit Sunday worship into their busy lives. Regular worshippers with another commitment can fit worship around other obligations.

Beyond that, the 'Come when you can & Go when you like' message has made St John's appear much more welcoming.

Before, people had to come to church on our terms. Now, they can come on their own terms. We hope that, in time, we will all become more familiar with God's terms.

How did the existing congregation cope with the change?

Understandably, people were anxious at first.

This is one step in a long journey of growth and development. Come & Go is part of an ongoing process of mission planning.

We consulted very widely over a period of six months. We gradually unveiled the new pattern, giving people opportunities to ask questions. We deliberately shaped the new pattern so that if people came at much the same time as before, they would get much the same experience.

Now that people have had time to settle into the new pattern, they enjoy the freedom and the focus that it offers.

We were, in effect, already open from 8.00am to 1.00pm, but the only options were to arrive at 8.00, 9.45 or 11.30. In reality, a considerable number of people regularly arrived late for services; those people now feel much more comfortable about their part in the church community.

It took us about a year to take the whole thing through from initial idea to introduction. Looking back, the amount of work that went into developing and refining our plans was well worthwhile.


Lyn EdwardsLyn Edwards, project leader of the Shackles Off youth project in Cumbria, explains the development of its fresh expression of church, X-treme.

Shackles Off provides support, training, a safe space, advocacy and mentoring for 11 to 25-year-olds, as well as youth clubs and activities. We have always had a prayer box on our counter in the former shop we use as a base but we wanted to provide something much more intentional. Some of us decided to sit and pray in the premises on a Sunday morning – whether anyone else came or not. X-treme, as our fresh expression, came out of that.

The project as a whole had started as a result of three vivid dreams that God had given me during a holiday in the Lake District. I returned to my home in Pembroke and announced the move to Seascale. We did that in 2006 and then I became involved in the HOPE 08 initiative. Some friends and I drove a 'HOPE Mobile' – a Citroen Picasso with a HOPE sticker in the window – around the area but it enabled us to get to know the young people. With support from the village's three churches, we gave out snacks and built relationships.

X-treme - Shackles Off shopI had walked past the shop I had seen in one of my dreams every day and noticed that the landlord was doing it up. One morning, I plucked up the courage to share my story. He didn't believe in God, but said if someone had moved house because of his premises, he would take my interest seriously. When I said we would fund rent through 100 people giving £1 a week, he laughed, but he trusted me.

After getting permission from the local council to secure the building, Shackles Off was launched. In 2007, we started X-treme as a place where we would talk explicitly about God. It runs from 9.45am to 11am on Sundays though when it first got off the ground, it was more like a discussion time for our young people. They would come with their mobile phones in hand and then we'd sit around. We had much of our music on a CD and they would laugh at us trying our best to sing. Not one of us who started the group could hold a note and the young people would be in hysterics listening to us. I also always did a very short bible study but our young people had no idea who the biblical characters were.

Right from the start we were up front about what we believed in, asking the young people if they wanted us to pray for anything. One of our first requests came from a boy who said his family always had mashed potato on a Sunday, could we pray that it wouldn't be made lumpy again?! But gradually those prayers got a lot more serious with requests like, 'Lord I want to stop drinking, please can you help me?' or 'Nan has cancer and I don't know what to do. Please help me.'

X-treme - group with cross

This pattern of meeting went on for at least two years, we'd have 10 or 12 regulars but nobody made a commitment. People used the prayer box; we talked about issues in their lives and made sure that anything we studied in the bible related back to their situations. We learnt bible verses off by heart – in fact they first learnt them by rapping them. Having been a teacher for over 30 years, I thought we had to find a way that they could remember so I ended up going on Google to find out how to rap! We started with John 3:16 and then we started to rap our own rap songs, we formed a group called The X-treme Rappers and the Strangled Duck and we would learn verses or hymns and stories like the Prodigal Son.

So we just kept on going, doing the traditional in a very untraditional way. They would ask me all about the things we can take for granted in church, things like, 'Why do you put your hand in the air when you pray?' 'Can I lie on the floor?' In the end they just did their own thing and nobody had any inhibitions in God's presence.

When we started, the youngest was 12 and the oldest would have been about 18. Most of them were about 14 or 15. On a Sunday there could be two or three coming along or we could have 12 to 15. They were the core who would say to their friends, 'Come and see what we do.' On a Friday night at Shackles Off youth club we would have 45-50. That was all great but I knew that the thing to make it complete would be to know just one person come to know Jesus.

In summer last year, the prayers were answered when we took 11 of them to Soul Survivor and nine became Christians. That totally changed everything. I can see that commitment in their lives and in their worship; it's now personal. It has changed them but, of course, it's a mixed picture. Some are intermittent and are struggling while others would go to a big event without any problem at all. This year we are taking 20 (13 young people and the volunteers).

X-treme - Soul Survivor

God saves, not us, and he knows when people are ready. For too long I think the church has tried to force people into the Kingdom or seduce them into the Kingdom but it's got to be fruit that will last. All I'm doing is telling them about God and teaching them all the things they need to know. We go to a church with them if we are invited to take a service – there are usually three or four of those invitations a year.

For ongoing discipleship I tell them there are three things they need to do every day; namely talk to God, worship God and read his Word. To me it's that simple. If they do that, they will grow as Christians.

We have things that are causing big hurdles for us because we are a Christian-based project – not just a social project. We come under the Methodist umbrella but we also work with other denominations. At the Christian end of things we can be seen as being 'too social' while, in the light of our social commitments, we can be viewed as being 'too Christian'. It's an interesting balancing act!

Our next challenge is looking at the question of, 'How do we have communion in our drop-in centre?' We are talking that over with Methodist Circuit Superintendent Philip Peacock but the fact is that we are pushing boundaries and making the traditional churches think about how things have been done in the past and how they may need to change now.

Full immersion baptism is another issue. Some of the young people said, even though they had been baptised as babies, they wanted to publicly declare their faith and be baptised in the sea. We are hoping for baptisms and declarations of faith to take place in the sea at Seascale.

We have broken a lot of rules here but I don't mind because Jesus broke the rules, not the laws. The last thing we would want to do is to upset the churches around us so we get involved and help in any way we can. We come under pressure sometimes because people will ask us to come and plant a Shackles Off youth project in their area. I tell them to get together and seek God's face to find out what he wants in the place where they are – not to take on what someone else has done because it may not necessarily be right for them.

East Worthing Café Church

John BealesIn 2009 a group of Christians hired East Worthing Community Centre for 'a couple of weeks' to trial a café church. Now, over two years on, and an average of 50 people attend East Worthing Café Church every week. Leader John Beales explains more.

It all started when I was on the leadership team at a Christian Fellowship in nearby Sompting. Driving past East Worthing Community Centre one day, I felt that God gave me a 'nudge' about using the venue. The hall at the Centre had previously been used by another church in the town but they had moved to different premises and the space had not been used by a church for some while.

East Worthing Café Church - signI had been Elim trained and was previously an elder at Elim Christian Fellowship in Worthing for three years so I knew the area and people. My wife and I had no plans to start up a church at all but every time I went by the Centre it was as if God was saying, 'go on'. Right from the start, when we were beginning to pray about it, I spoke to all the church leaders in that part of Worthing and involved them in our thinking and plans. They were very supportive of us starting something there.

As we are not a denominational church we are very much entrenched in the fraternal team for the south of the town. It's not like I'm a lone ranger in this because some of these people have known me for a very long time! We may join up with something in Assemblies of God but we are open to what God wants us to do and there is no intention of treading on other people's toes.

The result of our prayers was that I got together a few friends I knew and we hired the hall for a couple of weeks to see how things went. Today East Worthing Café Church is running every Sunday – apart from five Sundays in the year when the karate club gets the first shout on the hall!

East Worthing Café Church - cake

People come in for their coffee and cake and then we do what many would see as our 'religious thing' at the start of the service by lighting a candle. It's a bit of a statement from us and the statement involves us loving Jesus and loving them; we certainly won't make people feel condemned at all. We don't read out long passages of the Bible to them but they are really interested in it. The proof of that is them asking us all sorts of questions! All of us will go through the Book of Mark in different ways, according to age.

The café church runs from 2pm to 4pm and we have a break in the middle for about 25 minutes. They can stay or go, come in for five minutes or stay for a long time. People don't like long blocks of worship – instead we use DVDs that get their attention as part of our aim to give God the chance to get their attention too! I'm an illusionist so I may also do a trick. It's trying to use Scripture in a way that appeals to people today. A lot of people don't know these stories and they don't know who the Saviour is.

East Worthing Café Church - childrenChildren are welcome but they have to come with either a parent or an adult and they are then responsible for them. We get about 50 people on average and roughly a dozen kids between the ages of three and 17. It's well mixed and about quarter of the people are unchurched. We also do fun activities in the half term, As an illusionist it's great to be able to use those skills in God's service by highlighting biblical truths in a way that people can understand. Our intention is not to force 'church' down their throats. That's why I also hope to develop my IllusionandTruth ministry and use it as a tool to reach out to people with the Gospel through mime, drama, illusions and escapology in a fresh, fun and creative way.

I heard Bishop Graham Cray speaking at Christian Resources Exhibition about fresh expressions of church and that particularly made me think about the way we do discipleship. We now have a Bible study night on Tuesdays but we believe that discipleship is not about signing on a dotted line and 'joining' something. Discipleship, to us, is not about coming along on a particular course – it's more relational than that. 'Less of religious, more relational' is one of our straplines.

East Worthing Café Church - bongos

For some of the mature Christians it has taken a little while before they understand what we are doing but we stand together as a group of ordinary people who have been transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we believe the purpose in life is to make Jesus Christ known to all who want to meet him.

We are not religious, and for us church is not boring but a place to meet like-minded people on the same journey. East Worthing Café Church is very much a real church because the church is us and the people who come together. Of course, there is always a question of what to do next. My prayer is that we won't slip back into being church as people may have experienced in the past – and been hurt by in the past.

Gainsborough Café Church

The vision for Gainsborough Café Church came about four years ago, initially because of a need for something fresh and new for young people to come to. Circuit Mission Enabler, and Café Church minister, Liz Childs tells how that vision has developed along the way.

Some of the teens we were trying to reach already came along to the Gainsborough Methodist Church youth group but they had no other Christian contact. We talked to them about what sort of things they'd like to do and see if they were to get more involved and the result was the Café Church.

The idea was to see a congregation formed in which these young people, mainly 15 to 18-year-olds, could find faith, explore Christian discipleship and worship God and serve the local community. A small group of adults from the main church, who came and supported us, got a lot of out of it as well – and they still do.

Those in the youth group began to build up relationships with other local teenagers, some of them came along and this started to give rise to questions of God and faith. Café Church is informal, interactive and based around food, particularly pizza! At GCC we look at topics that are related to the life experiences of those we are trying to reach, namely young people who are totally unchurched.

We have a regular group of about 20 meeting together every fortnight. It's interesting that three of the young people have been baptised, made members of the church and now occasionally attend the traditional morning worship at Gainsborough Methodist Church. There are others who would never dream of setting foot inside a church for a service; instead they would see Café Church as their spiritual home.

The good thing we've found is that Café Church is much more than a one hour get-together on a Sunday night because the youth group continues in its own right, we have a Bible study every Monday evening and there are various activities at other times. We also operate a drop-in and that generates a lot of crossover in our ministry – some may come in via activities and then come along to Café Church, others are at Café Church and end up getting involved in the wider activities. Christian faith and discipleship is high on the agenda whatever we do; it is not an add-on but at the heart of Café Church and everything else.

Café Church aims to reflect God's love for all unconditionally, meaning everyone is welcome. It is a time for worship and exploration and is taken seriously by all involved – it is not another youth group!

Gainsborough is a market town in a rural setting but that description can conjure up a false image because this is quite a deprived area where there are not so many 'nice, middle class, churched people'. Instead it is a place where traditional industries, and employers, fell away – though the area is now designated as a growth town and is set to double in size. At the moment it's like being a tiny inner-city area in the middle of the countryside.

Café Church is supported by Gainsborough Methodist which provides the facilities. I oversee it for the majority of the time but a youth leader and a couple of local preachers led it while I was away for a three-month sabbatical. I didn't want to simply take the reins back when I returned because it's good for others to be part of that leadership if something is to be truly sustainable.

At the start it really was quite hard to do lead because some of the young people only came for the food we had on offer so they were rather disruptive. It can still be a challenge but the encouragement is that the young people we have now are really looking for something in more depth; they want to engage with it all. Another encouragement is that there always seems to be new people coming along.

Over the past 12 months, we have been looking at the Bible and working our way through from Genesis, using 'What's in the Bible' DVDs and YouTube clips to do so. At the request of the young people themselves, we have increased the worship aspect of the Café and now have live music. We have seen young people come to faith and even though they are in the early stages of their own Christian journeys, they are talking to others about what they've found and where they've found it. There seems to be a real thirst for understanding of what God is all about.

Thirst Cafe Church

Thirst Café Church 'officially' started in November 2007 in the community lounge of St Philip's CofE Primary School, Romsey Town, Cambridge, but Sue Butler tells how its beginnings go back a lot further than that.

Thirst has grown out of 11 years of relationship and prayer. As parents of primary school children, we used to meet outside the classroom at 'pick up' time. There were about 10 regulars every day morning and afternoon and we began to chat about our faith with each other – including some who did not profess a faith. We joked that we should have a coffee maker there because we were often hanging around outside school for up to an hour, just chatting and sharing prayer requests with each other.

Thirst - chairsOne friend, Rachel, and I met whilst we were at the checkout in the local supermarket one day. She wanted to pray about something and, out of that meeting, came an idea for a monthly breakfast at which people from all denominations would come to pray if they wanted. That group formed the basis 11 years later for Thirst. As we began to pray for the school, other people started coming to faith and getting healed and seeing answers to prayer in their families. We realised this was bigger than us and much bigger than anything we had anticipated up to that point.

At the same time, things began to move in a different direction in my own life. My children were getting ready to leave the primary school for secondary school, so my personal involvement there might naturally have ended. In 2005 my husband started ordination training at Ridley. I began to increasingly feel that God was saying, that my time and connection with the school was not over but that there was more that God wanted me to do there.

Thirst - doorsMy husband's Ridley friends kept asking me why I was not at Ridley training for ministry as well! I'd reply that there was no chance that I had been called to be a vicar. They used to encourage me to think about it, so much so, that I wondered if there was something that I should not be ignoring about ordination! There certainly was. I have just completed training as a mixed mode pioneer at Ridley, and I'm just about to be ordained with 50% of my time as OPM of Café Church from the Diocese of Ely and 50% spent at the local parish of St Philip's. Somehow God has combined my relationships, family life and calling to a place where he has already been at work. Like Moses, I felt that God asked me to take what was in my hand and use it in a wider setting.

During the same time In our ongoing relationships at school, those Christians amongst us at Thirst became known as people who would pray for people if they wanted it. We would often pray with parents in the playground, many of whom had no idea what they were asking for. We would find that people would simply stand where they were, bow their head and expect us to pray on the spot. When I look back on that period now, I suppose it was a case of God gathering people because they began to get healed, come to faith, and wanted to know more about Christ and how he could transform lives. It was about discipling them through relationship because many of them did not have any links with traditional church at all and some had never entered the doors of a church. They then began to attend Thirst and are an integral part of us now.

Thirst - mother and childI went through a phase of being concerned about the views that some people inside the traditional church have of people outside of the church family. The question was asked of us, 'Why don't some of these (unchurched) people come to church?' My response was to wonder why on earth they would! The church is an alien environment for many nowadays. We ask, even expect people to come and sit on a pew and sing songs, followed by a talk or lecture (as they view it). Both of these activities are unusual for many who have never been to church before. I wonder, what on earth possesses us in church to think that others outside of the church might want to do that? It is the Church that is alien in our culture, we are the unusual one, the minority.

I was talking to God about it and told him, 'It's no wonder people don't go to church.' I 'heard' the question, 'What would they come to then?' I thought of what we did as friends together: breakfast, drink coffee, pray together, laugh together, have relationship and support each other. I said to my friends, 'Let's keep on drinking coffee but, if it's going to be church, it has to have more to it than a coffee morning. It's about transforming the community that we live in through our relationships, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thirst - DVDWe didn't begin straight away because I was too apprehensive of starting something that did not last once it became official. So, we prayed about it for about a year before we started meeting in the school lounge in November 2006. We served good coffee, food, fruit and juice. Everybody invited friends and we had about 30 people there at our first gathering.

From the first Thirst Cafe, we started off by showing Rob Bell Nooma DVDs; I didn't want to get people to come to do things they didn't want to do or feel comfortable with and felt that a DVD was something that people could relate to. They did not have to make any kind of outward or verbal response to it if they did not want to. I was also determined that I wasn't going to start a discussion around the DVD subject. God surprised us again because we showed the DVD, and afterwards somebody visiting asked questions and began a discussion centred around faith. The conversation started and has been going ever since! We very, rarely direct these conversations. They just happen naturally and we discuss all manner of spiritual issues which often carry on long after Thirst is over and have helped to develop and nurture people in the faith.

Thirst - groupWe do now also have prayer time for those who are interested to pray. After a few months we started to offer one session a week where we have a meditation or devotion of some kind, during this time there is also a five minute talk and discussion on a biblical theme, followed by a spiritual exercise or activity of some type. Because of our relationship and growth together this is natural to people now.

It's interesting to see how things develop in a way you never expect or plan. From the beginning we called ourselves the Thirst Café Community because we wanted to keep the word church right out of it. Within two to three weeks, people started asking, 'Are you going to café church?' They weren't asked to use that description; it's how they saw it. We are still known as Thirst Café Church to many people!

About two years ago we started to think about what it means to be a worshipping community and how we encourage spiritual growth amongst new believers. We introduced a Bible study one afternoon in the week but the big question, of course, has been what to do about Eucharist. It was really difficult to explore ways through this but, in the end, we just thought, that if this is God's feast and his journey with us, then he will show us what to do. We decided to do a simple Eucharist with a short liturgy.

Thirst - foodWe wanted people to feel comfortable around Eucharist so I told people, not to worry about it, but that if they wanted to participate they should do whatever seemed comfortable for them. I invited a visiting chaplain to lead and she explained the meaning of each part and action of the service and this helped people to understand the Eucharist. It is always a great time and we and we look forward to it and it's part of our regular worshipping life at Thirst.

There are a couple of people now talking about baptism, which will be interesting. The discipleship of new believers is our next and most pressing concern and we are hoping to continue with exploration and reflection on the best ways to do this.

St Philip's School is in the parish of St Philip's Church. Their vicar is supportive of what we do, we are very loosely associated with them but don't see ourselves as 'belonging' to St Philip's. In saying that, we have done things together and the vicar regularly visits us. We supported St Philip's in their after-school Christingle and Easter service, but – as mothers – we are limited with time constraints. We have a very good relationship with St Philip's and they support us in many ways and we are thankful for the relationship with them.

Thirst - foodWe don't know how Thirst will develop; we don't know what's around the corner. We are wondering about our next step but we know that we need to be obedient to God and follow his leading. Two of the leaders lead an art group and some come to this group who do not feel comfortable in our Friday morning get-togethers. My vision from the start has been for a larger number of small groups, rather than one large group, although of course we are all connected through our relationship networks.

We still don't sing or 'preach' but we do proclaim in many other ways the love and grace and mercy of God. We always pray and we have recently begun Bible reading and daily devotion programmes with new believers asking for Bibles and study guides! We always pray for healing, wholeness and expect God to be present with us and to hear us and answer us, in a variety of ways. People pray for each other because they see us as leaders doing so.

I think people just think, 'this is the way it is done.' They assume this is church because they have no other point of reference. We model our faith and they come with us. They say it's about community, these are my friends, this is relationship, this is church! We expect much of God and he does not fail us!