The Bridge

When Christians in Hinckley decided they needed a viable alternative to traditional church, they decided to try something completely different. Now a school and a local pub are the places where people come to worship and to learn. Tim Lea explains more.

The sort of people who come to The Bridge and are attracted by what we do and the way we do The Bridge, are folks who perhaps don't have any contact with church at all. There's a growing percentage of the population which fit that category.

The Bridge - groupThe Bridge's worship time does take place on a Sunday, between the hours of 5 and 7. People will often come and they are surprised by how traditional it can be. We do make use of worship songs and we make use of what we call performance or presentation songs – it will involve the children right at the very beginning which often can be pretty wacky and pretty lively, they then leave for their own activities and we go into a time where we begin to look at a particular issue and focus on what the bible might be saying about something.

That is only the tip of the iceberg and what goes on underneath, the remaining 90% of the iceberg, is really important.

The Bridge started off by doing some research, some door to door work right at the very beginning, to actually find out what people thought, what they expected. So one of the reasons we meet on a Sunday, in a school, at 5pm, is that people in the local community thought that that would be a better time to meet.

The Bridge - speakingWe have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by the Hinckley Methodist Circuit and its commitment to The Bridge, not only in terms of finances but also in terms of staffing.

We've been involved in running an Alpha course at the local pub and I've always dreamed of standing at the start of an Alpha course with a pint in my hand and saying it's good to see you here, I hope that over the next few weeks we will begin to explore some of the things that we believe about Christianity and what it has to say about the world we live in. So for me it was perfectly natural!

It's not possible for everybody to get to know what they need to know in 40-50 minutes on a Sunday, I think that's just unrealistic and an unhelpful model of what church is. I think it's far more realistic to begin to form a small group and to begin to thrash out some of the ideas, some of the teachings which Christ gave to us.

The danger is that we live with a model of church that means it runs parallel to society and the way society runs, whereas actually I would rather encourage people to be involved in society and be part of society and to live out their Christian faith in society.

Bridge - pintPeople sometimes ask, where does your church meet? When people now ask me that question I will think about the social worker who perhaps will be dealing with a very difficult child on a Wednesday afternoon, the person who is a gardener… there is no divide between what we claim to practice on a Sunday and what we live out during the rest of the week.

For anyone who wanted to set up something like The Bridge in their town, I would say just keep it simple and laid back and eat together, talk together, pray together… I would encourage people to dream because I think that God is a God of adventure and he loves to see people who are Christians, who are followers of him, taking a risk and daring to do something different – because I'm sure that in many ways he's got a smile on his face when he sees us. OK we've made mistakes, we've got dirty, muddy, disillusioned and fed up, but I know that I'd rather stand before God when the final day comes and say 'I tried', than to have sat and been comfortable and to have never tried in the first place.


Emma Garrow reports exciting developments at re:generation youth church (2009).

I don't come from a Christian background, I never knew about God… Going to re:generation was a new experience for me. For the first time in a long time I felt accepted… I've recently joined the worship band which has helped me grow in my faith.

I immediately saw that re:generation was different to my previous church. The people here actually wanted to worship God and I was welcomed as if I was a long lost friend.

generation - groupThese are the voices of two teenagers, members of re:generation youth church in Romford, Essex, a church that provides a spiritual home to around 50 young people aged 13 to 21, both churched and unchurched, and with a wide range of cultural styles. At re:generation, young people from diverse backgrounds get along very well.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't happen, but because of their love for Christ these boundaries are crossed over,

says leader, Jamie Poch.

re:generation has grown since its beginnings in 2004 out of a core of 20 young people drawn from a Methodist Circuit of 13 churches. A programme of fun events led to a drama group, a confirmation course, residentials, Bible studies and youth services. Spontaneously, members began to invite their friends and now about a quarter of its members were previously unchurched.

They were excited, because it was meeting their need,

Jamie believes.

So now young people come along and become Christians who've never been to church before. It's quite exciting how it's growing in that way.

Another reason for this growth is the church's key value of friendliness and welcome, and a desire to encourage a sense of belonging to all comers, 'whether Christian or not'.

generation - bandA welcome team rota, 'Be a Blessing', involves all the members in this ministry. A shortage of adult helpers when Jamie and his wife, Ruth, were setting up the youth church bred a necessity which has proved a blessing in itself. The young people had to get involved in practical ways such as administration, setting up and clearing away, leading small groups.

It made sense,

says Jamie.

Because they're doing it, they're owning it, which is a wonderful thing. They're the ones on the door.

The church meets in a dedicated space in one of the Circuit churches and has several meetings through the week, including a main Sunday evening service. Members are in 'PODS', which encourage friendship and discipleship.

Within the last year, a few adults have started attending, including some parents, something which Jamie views as an opportunity.

It could be rather exciting to see how to deal with the interested parents,

he reflects.

We could have a youth congregation planting an adult congregation.

We're always looking to the future and saying, "Okay, God, now what?" It evolves and we don't necessarily know what it's going to be and that's an adventure.