city:base – along with St Thomas' Philadelphia and King's Centre – form Network Church Sheffield. Matt Broughton tells how city:base became a Bishop's Mission Order.

Network Church Sheffield is one church in three different local bases across the city; reflecting its diverse Anglican, Baptist and House Church heritage. It was just over three years ago that city:base got off the ground when Toby Bassford of St Thomas' Philadelphia was given the go-ahead to experiment with new ways of doing mission.

He called a team together and put in place some vision and values for a community passionate about prayer and passionate about mission. In following those two callings, the community was to see where God was on the move, always with a view to be pioneering as possible in our mission – particularly to the urban poor, students and young adults.

For the next 18 months, when there were then about 20 members, city:base met in people's homes. As numbers grew, we then started renting function rooms. Without a permanent home, it was a real defining season for us – a sort of a nomadic time – which served to make clear what we were about. It made us realise that we had to go through the hard times to seek what God was really equipping and calling us for. We experienced quite a lot of growth, not in terms of people being saved, but through a lot of people growing together. We had reached about 60 by then.

Steven Croft signs the BMOIn January 2012 we finally moved into our own building – a house in one of the streets immediately behind the cathedral. It is thought of as a mission base; a place for training, discipleship, prayer and mission. We also bring the whole community together once a month in a celebration gathering. These gatherings are important but we see the primary place of church in cluster, household-sized Simple Churches of 10 to 20 people.

For the gatherings we use the Tulip Lounge, a venue just two doors down from us where we have a really good relationship with the staff. It was there that we had a small celebration in June when Bishop Steven Croft signed the Bishop's Mission Order for city:base.

We had a real sense of unity because our gathering place is a stone's throw from Sheffield Cathedral, less than 100m away. We're not just in their parish; we're right on their patch! That's why it was so special to have members of the cathedral team there, just to affirm it. It felt really significant for us as a team to put a marker in the sand and get the institutional backing of a BMO.

We have quite a large team, mainly lay. The two church leaders are Toby who is doing his ordination training at the moment, and Diane who has just been priested. We also have a paid manager who makes sure everything runs smoothly in gatherings though the role has more to do with the life of the mission base rather than a purely administrative function.

There's another 10 to 12 people who devote varying amounts of time to different tasks. I lead our internship scheme and I devote a day a week to it. Others do coaching and mentoring, pastoral care, student work or helping to build a house of prayer.

city:base has a foundation of a volunteer culture, one in which quite a large team of people each has its own area of responsibility or oversight. In essence we want to be involved in one another's lives and the way the base functions is just part of this. We try to act more like an extended family than an institution with staff and volunteers.

base prayer teamWe have about 100 people connected with city:base, my guess is that all of them are either young adults or young families between the ages of 18 and 40. We ask everyone to look at what they are doing to encourage the life of City Base and their own Simple Church.

We are aware that we don't want to do something that's insular and exclusive; instead we want to create something that's really reflective of our experience of Jesus and the authenticity of that experience.

I suppose we are quite hard to get to know and connect with because we are only meeting once a month. What is slightly different from the classic fresh expressions approach – namely that fresh expressions are for people who don't normally come to church – is that our gatherings are very churchy in style but we see the primary place of 'belonging' as Simple Church.

In terms of accountability, we are still very much part of our sending church and Paul Maconochie – as a leader of Network Church Sheffield – is still our overall leader here. Also, a good percentage of our leadership team is part of The Order of Mission (a global, dispersed community of pioneering leaders called to lead and influence within whatever context and culture they live and work) so that's another level of accountability.

baseI think this balance we are trying to strike between the 'centre' and the 'edge' is an interesting one; we have our gathering once a month and Simple Church throughout the week to encourage the life of these simple missional churches to grow the life of our prayer and mission base at the centre.

I'm keen that we don't just become another 'big church with flashing lights', it's the relationship between these two sides of the continuum that move us forward.


Christian SelvaratnamChristian Selvaratnam, ordained pioneer minister at St Michael le Belfrey, York, oversees G2. He traces its development since it was first featured on expressions: the dvd – 2.

This has been a six year story so we’ve been around a while, we're well known, well recognised and we've grown – we regularly get over 100 at our Sunday meetings and not everyone comes every week so the number of people generally involved is probably something more like 200.

We've got more structure to our gatherings so we meet on Sundays but we also gather in the week in a variety of small groups, cell groups, clusters, student groups and mums and tots.

G2 - floorA major change was moving the venue of our meetings. We're no longer in our original venue at the gym because we outgrew that and had to find somewhere bigger so we now meet in a community centre. Moving from the gym was a big formative thing for us. There was a great positive association and we made a lot of it – fitness for the soul and that kind of thing – and connecting with people at leisure. A few years on though, we’ve got our maturity, we've got our base and so I think we accommodated that move fairly well. In that first year it might have been really hard to move because G2 was all about being in the gym; now we're a community with a name and an activity so the place where we meet perhaps is not so critical.

We've moved our meeting time too. We used to get together in the morning which seemed the natural time when we started but we now meet in the afternoon because we find that it's a better time for the people who come and it's a better mission opportunity for us to be available then.

G2 - plasticineIn terms of people coming to faith and their discipleship, our thinking has developed over the years. What we know we have done really well is to connect with people on the fringe, people who have got a bit of church in their background – perhaps they went as a child or years ago – and a lot of those people find the church building an off-putting threshold to cross. As a result we have got a lot of stories of people who have really seen their faith come alive, some have come back to faith and they've connected with us while others have returned to faith and then connected back to their local church.

We have seen amazing things happen with students, many of whom have seen their faith refreshed through G2. We have also had some connection with people of no church background but we recognise that is an increasingly large group and, for them, we think that the point of contact will not be on a Sunday. They can come to the meeting of course but to a degree there are the elements of church taking place – there is a talk, there is worship, people might pray, it might feel like church to them even in a very nice cafĂ© style package. So midweek clusters have become our main investment in connecting with the very large group of people who don't have an interest in church but probably have an interest in issues of faith.

G2 - screenOn Sundays, in many ways, we're trying to balance both those that are coming in with the core of people for whom this is their sustaining faith experience week by week so we need to be faithful to that. We also need to be thinking about what are we teaching from the Scripture. We have Communion once a month now and that's really important to us, and to many people who come. We need to have worship that’s not only accessible to somebody who walks in off the street but is actually meaningful to somebody who already is a committed follower of Jesus.

Behind the scenes there's lots of discipleship. We've used very simple one-to-one models – that may mean an hour a week in a coffee shop with somebody, maybe using a Christian book, working through a chapter a week as the basis of your discussion. That works very well; we've found a lot of people are happy to make time to do that and it pays great dividends. We try and apprentice people in leadership, public ministry and ministry roles and we just use a simple apprenticeship model where somebody watches somebody else do it, they talk about it, then they have a go with somebody there supporting and then maybe it gets handed on to them in time. It's not so much based on training courses and that kind of thing – valuable though those are – we try to focus instead on the very simple person to person approach.

G2 - prayerWe originally had one team whose work consisted of all the practicalities and all the blue sky thinking too. We now have two – the core team have got the overview of everything while there's also a larger group called the leadership team and everyone on that team has one, and only one, responsibility. They have quite a focused role. So far we've got about 14 people in that team and probably another seven to eight posts to fill as we find the right people.

We've tried to take a very high affirmation and accountability but low control and high support kind of approach to release them in their work – not so much a 'this is what we want you to do for us' but rather, 'here's the area, what would you like to do and how can we help you do it?' Already we've found that's enormously helpful in that it has really helped us grow and get that balance between getting things done really well and actually having an eye on the future as well because it's very fluid. We don’t want to stall or stagnate.

The big thing looking forward is that G2 itself needs to multiply because we recognise that we weren't just planted to stop, we were planted in order to plant out and that entrepreneurial, missional impetus that God has started, and is in us now, I think needs to spread further. Now that's a bit scary because you've got the dream team, it's just grown, you've got the buzz and you don't want to break it up but I think the right thing is that we've got our eye on this multiplying so that's what we're praying about at the moment.

G2 - balloonAt the moment it's early days for cluster groups, we've got two of them operating with a third just developing. The cluster is the outside profile and then they also meet as cells so there’s a community and discipleship focus behind that. One of the clusters is specifically for students; that's going really well and focuses very naturally on York University campus which is very near to where we meet.

We've got an emerging cluster that will probably focus on families with younger children and will connect with people at that age and stage. We've also got another cluster that's looking at other opportunities; for example we've had cell groups that have been formed through football. Guys that meet together, play football once a week, have a great time, then they meet in the pub and discuss something and maybe pray. We've seen quite a few people come into the community through that, it's very low key, it's a very patient form of mission but I can think of a number of people who actually now are card-carrying Christians as a result of it.