Café Sundae

Café Sundae - logoCafé Sundae, based at Timperley Methodist Church, opened in May 2006. Will Sudworth gives an update on the place that describes itself as 'church like you’ve never seen it before'

We're a bit like the Muppets…

Café Sundae wasn't planned at all. We hadn't heard of Fresh Expressions, but we simply felt we weren’t engaging with our teenagers. Yet now we have been running for over three-and-a-half years, have at least six churches in the UK using our material, and been responsible for leading alternative worship at a national youth event.

We started off with what was basically a youth group meeting every Sunday night but the members would never come to family services or any other service, it just didn't work.

Café Sundae - mobilesWe listened to the teenagers and they were pretty frank about it all, 'Sunday morning is a bad time, we're doing sports and anyway, church is dull.' So we transformed all-age worship into café multimedia worship on Sunday evenings. We thought we'd nailed it. In truth we had a half-hearted shot at changing it as a compromise but it didn’t come anywhere near hitting the spot.

It was time to do something radical so we brought together a team with multimedia and many other skills, and decided to do it properly on the second Sunday of the month from 6.30pm for about an hour-and-a-half. We cleared the church and all the chairs, put up a lighting rig, introduced café style tables, and got the young people involved. The teenagers came up with the name Café Sundae, and we were on our way.

Our vision included some key components. They were:

  • Asking people what topics are relevant to their lives and then exploring what God has got to say about that topic;
  • No communal singing;
  • Café Sundae - Vlie reportGoing out on the streets to interview and film people about the topic. We then edit the voxpops together and show the results on screen. As well as speaking to members of the public, we have also created our own presenters, like Jeremy 'Vile' and Miss Polly Titian, to help explore a particular subject;
  • Introducing role-play and tabletop games to help us really consider an issue;
  • Involving teenagers in setting up the event and helping us to run it;
  • Giving opportunities to respond to the message of that week;
  • Carrying on the conversation afterwards in a blog.

We immediately welcomed people our church had not reached before. Numbers started at around 90, dropped to about 30 and ended 2009 at about the 70-80 mark, which is roughly the same size of our traditional church congregation. Today about half of the Café Sundae regulars are teenagers, with a good mix of male and female; and about 50% are adults aged 18-40. We make it clear that some of the issues covered are not suitable for younger children so our members need to be of secondary school age and older.

During the first summer we hosted a service for Churches Together. The feedback included the comment 'sacrilege' and the phrase 'I didn't feel as if I'd been to church'. We took the phrase as a compliment, even though it wasn't intended that way. When you're trying to make church for people who don't like church, could you get a better recommendation?

As to sustainability, we've seen our original minister move on, our team change, and new minister Revd Andrew Bradley getting to grips with it. Andrew runs a youth club on a Sunday afternoon and he brings them straight on to Café Sundae. Other youth clubs from churches of various denominations around and about have done the same.

MAYC asked us to lead Café Sundae at its Breakout event for young people. It may just have been the offer of free chocolate but we were packed to overflowing. We'll be back there this year with a full weekend of activities.

Café Sundae - crayonsWe also believe in sharing what we've done and learned so we package up our material and give it away for free on our resources website. We don't have a magic formula, and our ideas may not work everywhere. All we've really done is shape church around what our teenagers respond to. Why does it appeal to adults as well as younger people? We think it's because it's a bit like the Muppets in that it works on two levels so that everyone can enjoy it.

Even though we're still meeting in a church building it doesn't feel like church and it certainly doesn't look like what you'd find in your average service. We use multi-media green screen technology, which means that we have a video camera and a blue screen behind our teenage actors – they act out a scene and we can put any image behind them. It's much easier than getting a whole youth club to practice for weeks and hope they get it right when performing the thing!

Discipleship is an area we're looking at very closely as time goes on. Our plan is to follow the model of the cell churches – namely to have a big event once a month before members go their separate ways with the adults going to house groups and youngsters in youth groups.

Our first group of teenagers has now gone off to university; our big challenge over the next five years is to draw them back in after their studies to become part of the Café Sundae leadership. To be fair, some of the young people are already doing that; one is on the computer, another runs the lighting desk, and several of them go out on the streets to do interviewing, acting, and videoing.

Café Sundae - heartSome people ask, 'Is it a fresh expression of church if it's still in the church building and doesn't meet all the fresh expressions criteria?', 'Should it be heavier on the Bible content?'

At the moment, we plan to stay in the church. We transform the interior, and our teenagers – and adults – are very happy to come into that building. As a result they change the atmosphere and it is very much a fresh expression of church, but we keep on grappling with all these things, and all we can hope is that we will continue to listen and explore these questions and others for many years to come.


Beer and a singalong helped to launch Leicester-based Presence as a Bishop's Mission Order. City Centre Pioneer Minister and Presence leader, Revd David Cundill, looks back at a whirlwind year and outlines his hopes and plans for the future.

Presence - Beer and CarolsIt all happened very quickly. I started in post at the end of May 2009, discussions took place over the summer to sort out the BMO, and it was signed in December at a Beer&Carols event. We certainly reaped the benefits of the hard work that other BMOs had done before us in Exeter and Thanet.

Bishop Tim Stevens started the ball rolling when he gave me a brief to 'just go and plant a new church in the city centre. I give you permission to fail; you have got to take risks.'

That church was to be in an area of new apartments, waterside redevelopment, and the DeMontfort University campus. The result is Presence… a fresh approach to church. We describe it as a church for people who don't do church or go there, never did, don't anymore, don't think they fit in, doubters, sceptics, seekers and the spiritually curious.

Presence - Men's weekendIn the middle of the BMO area is The Quay, a canal side pub which was itself part of a regeneration project a few years ago. It is now the base for Presence's midweek meetings, and some of those at Presence have become regulars at the pub’s open mic session on Thursday nights.

My first task is to develop a 24-strong planting team to reach out to the area's diverse communities; including those based around a series of tower blocks in gated developments at Freemens Meadow, Westbridge Wharf and Leicester Square.

These new blocks are in stark contrast to the area's traditional terraced streets. Each tower block looks in on a quadrangle, and you have to get through two gates to get into the heart of it all. There are no community facilities. When you look at the ads for these apartments you'd think that we had so many stockbrokers just about to nip on their bikes to Canary Wharf – and yet the development stands at the edge of the country's biggest Hindu population, but you’d never know that from the marketing image portrayed.

Presence - mealThe regeneration of great swathes of the city means that new communities have become cut off from parish churches because the landscape has shifted, but by starting a fresh expression alongside those churches, we can redefine a pastoral boundary. It has just worked brilliantly in that it's possible to run a straight mixed economy which lets the existing parishes do what they do while we look at how we use these places in new and creative ways.

In other areas people may say, 'we are all in this together', but underneath the surface they are worried. In Leicester I believe it has worked – and, with God’s help will continue to work because of the unique circumstances surrounding redevelopment of this city.

Presence - candlesThis is a minimum 10 year project, and part of the challenge is that the landscape will continue to change dramatically during that time. Large brownfield sites in our area are set aside for new developments but are yet to be built on, so we need to be flexible in our approach and planning.

But some of our plans are very firmly in the pipeline, including the launch of a film club in the Highcross area; the setting up of a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre and money management course; and a term time Street Pastors scheme around DeMontfort University.

Presence - logoWe also very much hope to be involved at The Quay on St Patrick's Day. There are lots of possibilities but we might look at having a religious 'bit' followed by Open Communion using Naan bread – reflecting the type of area we're in. We want to reclaim these celebrations for God, and show that we're a church of festival and fun.

Emmanuel Café Church

Emmanuel - Matt WardA fresh expression of church that is 'fuelled by coffee'… Matt Ward, a chaplain at the University of Leeds, takes us behind the scenes at Emmanuel Café Church.

In the days before Café Church, students would meet for a fairly traditional Sunday afternoon service. By the time I arrived at the university, I felt it wasn't engaging them and it certainly wasn't engaging anyone else.

I inherited a number of struggling worship events and was told, 'You sort it out!' but I knew the first thing to do was not to jump to do anything at all. Instead we wanted to listen to God. For the first term-and-a-half we just met together and prayed together, asking what we thought Church was, and where God's work could be found on the campus.

It didn't take us long to realise that sharing faith tended to happen around coffee and cake! Emmanuel Café Church grew from that, and we're now in our fourth year.

It's easy to fall into the numbers' game. How many people are attending, how regular is their attendance, and can we chart growth in what we have been doing? The fact is that we have got quite a large number of people who would say they are members of Café Church. They may not come week in, week out, they may only have been once but they feel a connection, and see themselves as a part of what we do.

We work in a number of ways to keep those connections. These include:

  • having a regular place to meet;
  • a Facebook page;
  • sending a weekly electronic list saying what we did last week and what is coming up next week;
  • texting people to say, 'How are you? What's happening for you?'.

The networking continues with students who have left the university. It's one of our key issues at the moment. How do they move on from our fresh expression of church into new places? They may grow in faith and confidence as students here, so how do we help and encourage them in that transition stage?

Some ex-students keep connected for a considerable period of time, particularly if they have ended up working in quite isolated or dangerous areas of the world. They want to share what is happening with what they see as 'their' community.

Emmanuel Café Church - chatCafé Church operates in 10-week bursts during term-time. Obviously, as we operate in a university environment, we always miss the major festivals. That's a bit of a challenge for a church community… but there are still ways to celebrate 'together', even when we're not in the same place at the same time.

In previous years, I have sent a sermon by text on Christmas morning. You have just 168 characters in a text. What can you say about the Incarnation within those sort of limits?! I don't know about doing that via Twitter with 140 characters. That really would be a challenge.

We've had some very successful one-off events, but we usually meet from 5 on a Sunday evening, and it's very deliberate timing. It's the end of a weekend so if students have been working they can come out afterwards, and if they have had friends to stay or been away themselves, they will generally be back by then. It's extremely informal and very much a 'drift in and out' idea. People may get involved with the discussion starters we leave about the place, take a look at the stations that could be around the room, or perhaps simply catch up with others and have a chat about how the week has gone.

Towards the end of our time together they usually have another drink because the whole thing is fuelled by coffee. They leave at about 6.30 to 7pm.

The idea that people who go to church at a certain time on a certain day does not connect with these students at all. Instead it's a continuous process. I see people on campus through the week, maybe in a queue for yet more caffeine, with others meeting to have meals or drinks together. In Acts 2, the sharing of lives and the sharing of things in common with each other is seen as important and I think that pastoral thing, that growing thing, that making of disciples, is key to Café Church, as it should be for every type of church.

Emmanuel - logoEvery year has seen quite a sense of growth in the life of the church, and in the lives of those who have come and found faith or confidence in their faith. My hope for the future is that Café Church continues to be shaped in a way that serves the needs of the students who come in and reaches out to students who don't. If it looks the same in 12 months as it does now, it won't be doing that.

The Terminus Initiative

Methodist pioneering minister Joy Adams explains how her fresh expression of church began life in a butchers shop in the local bus terminus. The result was the Terminus Initiative – an ecumenical Christian community.

The Terminus Initiative started out as a community café in an ex-butcher’s shop at a bus terminus. From the beginning we sought to be a loving response to the needs of the local 'Lowedges' Estate community in Sheffield.

Terminus - AGMIt was initially conceived out of unmet needs of a 'mission audit' completed by a local Methodist Church. To complete this, we went out into the estate to ask questions about what people thought the needs were. The most significant finding of the survey, was that local people thought the church was irrelevant and had nothing to contribute. One of the greatest needs that people did identify was the need for a drop-in for older people to be able to come to meet people and socialise in safety, and also a place for younger people. At that time the estate was known for being a rough place with problems with drugs and anti-social behaviour. This coincided with an offer from the owner of the butcher's shop to the Methodist church, to use it for something to help the community. I was asked if I would assist in the exploration of potential solutions to the meeting of these needs and sought other agencies to see if there were any opportunities for partnerships to be able to take on the shop for mission and ministry. So the vision for a community café gradually emerged.

Terminus - Joy AdamsI was one of the founding members of the initiative, as I was involved with it in the early days of my training for Methodist ministry. I quickly discerned that God was asking me to stay with the Terminus Initiative, which at the time was completely against the usual expectation of Methodist itinerant ministry. So I kept this discernment to myself (not even telling my husband) waiting for it to be confirmed by someone else to test it. Within a few weeks, our Superintendent Minister at the time, Ian Bell, asked me if I would consider staying on and co-ordinating the Initiative, but that there would be no money for a stipend. As I had retired early on a pension from the National Health Service, I decided I could cope, and committed to it.

Terminus - prayer dayThe Terminus Initiative is now in its eighth year. The café is open three days a week, targeting different groups in need, and the premises are used by other community groups when the café is closed. The Terminus Initiative, with its other projects, has supported asylum seekers, refugees, drug users, people with alcohol addictions, people with mental health needs, young people, and older people. In fact there are many social activities going on all the time including discussions/Bible studies, and prayer underpins it all.

Terminus - Women's conversation clubIn the many partnerships we have, we focus on the spiritual needs of those who come into the Terminus building. We hope that the work of the Initiative has challenged people's perception of the church as 'irrelevant', replacing negative stereotypes with a greater respect for Christianity and the Church. We have seen many people seeking to explore the Christian faith coming out of the community and loving service they have experienced at the Terminus. Many of these people have gone on to discipleship groups of the partner churches, as we seek to be a committed local 'mixed economy' of church finding unity of purpose in mission.

The Terminus Initiative is a good example of what can be done regarding fresh expressions of church, when local churches work together and get their hands dirty.

Terminus - TedTed's story

Having been brought up in the Methodist Church, at the age of 15 I decided there was no such thing as a 'God'. My life from then was based on the scientific method. Proof and disproof were at the roots of my beliefs and actions. There was no room for things that could not be recognised by any of the physical senses. There was no room for faith in how I made my life decisions. For 50 years I conducted my life according to those principles, even though I rarely made a sound decision in all that time.

In 2006 I moved to a new home. Two weeks after moving in I went into hospital for a hip replacement. When I came out I was alone and unable to move very well. I did my weekly shopping on the internet. I saw no one, I felt down and lonely. So much so that one day I decided to hobble up to the local shops where I found the Terminus Café. Over the following weeks and months I made lots of new friends. I was still an atheist at this time even though most of the people with whom I had become friendly were Christians.

Towards Christmas 2007 I was asked if I would like to go to the Terminus Café Christmas Party to be held at a local church. I enjoyed the party, even if I felt a little uncomfortable during prayers. After the meal, I met someone who told me that on Tuesday afternoons a Fellowship meeting was held in the church. It was a friendly event lasting about an hour.

I began attending the Fellowship meetings early in 2008, at first with some apprehension but after a month or so I began to relax and I noticed I was starting to enjoy the songs we sung. The prayers began to be less of a problem for me and I began taking notice of the message the speakers were offering. A lady in the Fellowship group told me she was to be baptised and asked me to support her by coming to the service. I hadn't been to a church service in 50 years but said I would attend, which I did.

During the service a thought struck me – I remember it clearly. 'My way of thinking should apply to how I explain God's universe'. It then dawned on me that I had become a Christian. God's universe is his creation and he has given me the privilege of being able to understand little bits of it! The little bits of the universe that I understand have helped me to make my living and now I can use that understanding to give praise to God for the magnificence of his creation.

It has taken many years of study to reach a mature view of those parts of the universe that I know a little bit about. Whereas, I have accepted Jesus as my Saviour, as a child would accept by faith all that a parent has told them. Faith is hope in the future. Hope by faith is how I have gained an inner joy and contentment believing that my life has been saved by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I have turned from my sins to my Lord God, having been proud and following my own path. Now I ask him to guide me, to show me the way I must go to walk in Jesus' footsteps.

Cafechurch Network

Ian Mobsby talks to Cid Latty, Network Leader for Cafechurch Network.

What is cafechurch?

That is a very good question. I think we sometimes forget how far away many people are from ever coming to church. Cafechurch is all about creating a context for people who do not go to 'church', but are interested in God. It is about providing a comfortable setting for people to consider issues from a faith perspective. It is also a way to develop a community that people are happy to be a part of. All this is based on good incarnational theology.

How did it begin for you?

Three years ago I was Senior Minister of a Baptist Church in Welwyn Garden City that asked the question 'how can we engage with our community more effectively?' We could see that there were many people who might never enter a traditional church building. So we looked at our community and could see how a thriving café culture was rapidly developing. Coffee shops were opening up everywhere and this was happening right across the UK too. In fact a staggering 50% of the UK adult population visits a coffee shop. We found that many members of the church already used a coffee shop as a 'third place' between home and work. So we asked our local Costa Coffee if we could meet there and were amazed when they said yes.

How did you run your café church?

What we designed was a themed event with quizzes, a short talk, discussion and live music – all with the added benefit of being served by friendly staff. Our purpose was to help people engage with issues like debt, parenting or the environment from a faith perspective. We called it 'coffee with a conscience'. People would not only be invited to enjoy a lively evening of chat, hope and humour but we would offer them resources and prayer support that would help them engage with the issue after the event.

So how did the national organization begin?

What we ran on that first night proved to be so popular that I began discussions with Costa Coffee senior management and a few cafechurches were piloted in other stores. Due to the success of these, Cafechurch Network was formed. This charity was later given the 'OK' to put a cafechurch in every suitable Costa Coffee store in the UK. Additionally Costa asked that all churches wanting to use their stores should come through the Cafechurch Network. Today other coffee shop chains have opened their doors to the Network too.

How does this benefit Costa and the church?

Stores benefit as cafechurch helps them to be part of the local community. There are great benefits for the church too, as people who would not go to a more traditional church setting interact with people who do. This may be one of the first steps for some towards 'going to church'. For others they may feel that cafechurch in a high street location is the kind of church they want to belong to. This challenges us then to re-imagine how we can help people develop their relationship with God in a café context.

If there was something you would say to the church what would it be?

This is a great opportunity for an adventure of faith. I currently have more store managers asking for a cafechurch than I have churches ready. So I would invite churches to attend a cafechurch training day and then join the Network after that. When they do, we will link them to their local store and provide resources to help them run a cafechurch.

cafechurch network banner

Twilight @ Costa

Methodist minister Jeff Reynolds reflects on starting Twilight, a fresh expression of church in Costa Coffee in Stafford.

This is a salutary story that if, as a minister/leader of church communities, you give people the chance to use their initiative – don't be surprised if they do.

In Stafford, we have been looking for opportunities to express church 'outside' of our church buildings. One of my members approached me and said 'what about doing Church in Costa Coffee in the centre of Stafford?' I was immediately intrigued and excited about what that might mean. What I didn't realise was that my words of challenge to my churches in previous months had been heeded and this member had done an enormous amount of groundwork to help establish a 'new' church in the centre of Stafford.

The vision came out of the challenge and in January 09, 'Twilight@Costa' was born. It is a monthly gathering on the last Thursday of the month at Costa Coffee in the centre of Stafford. It is a relaxed evening with no discernible elements of more traditional church services but an opportunity for people to come and share together in an excellent atmosphere that has a Christian ethos at its very core.

The more we have sought to establish Fresh Expressions of Church in the Stafford area, the more we have realised that you can have the best church services that are relevant, humourous and non-threatening and where the welcome is the best it can be, but there are still many who find physically entering a church building an impossibility. So our vision has been to create a church where people are, rather than where they are never going to be.

We have been running for six months and it is going really well. Each evening is about 90 minutes long and involves coffee (obviously) and a myriad of other excellent drinks and food, music, chat, quizzes and fun. The evenings are theme-based and so far we have tackled fair trade issues, people-trafficking, debt problems and also held a jazz evening. As always with any fresh expression of church we realise that it is an organic animal and that we will change things and tinker with our ways of operating to make it the best that it can be.

We hope and pray that we will continue to develop and establish this expression of church and that people for whom more traditional forms of church are a turn-off, will continue to feel that Twilight is 'their' church. Please feel free to join us on the last Thursday of each month at Costa in the centre of Stafford.