Red Church

Ben Dyer tells of the development of a missional community of young adults in Ormskirk.

It is almost two-and-a-half years since my wife, Bethany, and I made the move from York to Ormskirk. I had been part of the leadership team of a church plant from St Michael le Belfrey called Conversations; this was aimed at 18-30s and we met in a bar each week. When that came to an end after five years, I told God, 'I'm never doing church leadership again. It is far too hard work and stressful'. That was in February 2012 but by April/May I felt that God wanted me to be in church leadership again!

After various conversations, we came to Ormskirk Deanery where they wanted 'something for young adults'. I subsequently had a formal interview with the Deanery and they offered me the job with a five-year contract.

Why Red Church? In some Bibles, the words of Jesus are written in red, which stands for what Jesus said. Red is symbolic of the blood of Jesus, which stands for what Jesus did. Lastly, red is short for redemption, which stands for what it means to us. People often ask why we are called 'Red Church' and in our answer we can often tell people the good news of Jesus through just explaining our name. I joke with people that it's also because we are all supporters of Manchester United! However, this is a dangerous thing to say in an area where most football fans would say they follow Liverpool or Everton.

Red Church - Ben DyerI started here in January 2013 and, for the first three months; I basically tried to evaluate the situation. As part of that, I met every single vicar in the Deanery and lots of people in the diocese, including young adults in churches – and not in churches – to see what was going on. Then I presented a vision and a strategy to the Deanery with what I felt God was saying about how we connect with young adults in the area, help them come to know Jesus, and love the church.

There are 18 churches in the Deanery and it is predominantly rural but then we also have a few densely populated urban areas. In York there had been many young adults who were very gifted, very mature in their faith and keen to get involved in things. I came with the same expectations to Ormskirk but soon realised that this was a very different place.

I have found a lot of people who go through youth groups at church but seem to fall off the radar somewhere between 16 and 18. Even if they are living in their home town and have grown up in the church – and actually quite like God, and call themselves a Christian – they haven't managed to engage with church.

The original plan was that we would get together 15-20 young adults in some sort of gathering and attract other people to that. The only problem was that in six months we only managed to find two other people willing to be part of Red Church. So, we then formed a group of the four of us and we'd meet once a week in our house to read the Bible and pray a bit. There were hardly any young adults in local churches. In terms of disillusioned 18-30s, in all 18 churches, I'd say there was under 20 young adults committed to church.

Red Church - groupAfter losing hope, more people started coming along to our house! In June 2013, we had four and by August we had twelve. Sometimes it would be people I came across who were disillusioned with church. One young woman invited a friend who had never been to church at all; she in turn brought along someone else who had no church background either! Some of the people had been in church all their lives but still didn't find themselves loving church.

It was very relaxed, we often watched a Nooma DVD, we'd chat what it was about, find out what was happening in people's lives and pray for each other. It wasn't intense 'Jesus-ness', it was just getting to know each other.

I decided it would be good to do an Alpha course and, because we had outgrown our living room, we decided to move it to a public venue. In September 2013 we set it up in a local bar and ran an Alpha. In my opinion it didn't go very well. We ran the course until Christmas but had a drop-off in terms of attendance every week.

At the same time, we launched a football team which trains at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. Our football team plays in the South Manchester and Cheshire Christian Football League and 90% of those involved have no experience of church. Most of the guys who come along have been invited by their friends.

Red Church - candlesThe fact is that, for most people, coming to know Jesus is a long-term thing. The message we want to give is, 'We're not asking you to say "yes" or "no" to the Christian faith within a certain timeframe; you can just belong with us in some sort of community'.

We believe church is fundamentally about relationships. Relationships with others and a relationship with God. How we 'do church'/our strategy is based on the idea that people generally move forward in their journey with God within community rather than outside it. Our church strategy has five levels with each level looking to attract different people and have a different intensity of 'Jesus-ness'. Our five levels are:

  1. Our lowest level of 'Jesus-ness' is activity-based small groups. We think people generally form friendships and community more naturally and quickly while they are doing something together. We don't shove Jesus down people's throats, we just hang out and become friends. Whether that is through our football team, film club or girls/guys nights – they all bring people together and start friendships.
  2. Red Group is where we introduce Jesus more intentionally. It's still very social but it all relates to Jesus. Red Group takes place every Tuesday evening at a coffee shop in Ormskirk. We generally play a silly game, show a Nooma DVD, or someone may tell their testimony for 5 or 10 minutes. People can ask questions, we have a chat and leave. We don't tell people you have to believe anything, but we introduce people to the idea of faith gently.
  3. An Alpha course. That's where we can explore who Jesus is, why he died and what it means for me. We haven't run an Alpha course since 2013 but we plan to run another one soon. My motto is 'Make It Easy for Yourself' (I have to fight against perfectionism) so we are going to use the Alpha Express shortened videos. I feel Alpha is more about the relationships we have with the people and how the discussion groups are led, rather than giving live talks.
  4. Red Church - gatheringA service where we can encourage and challenge each other, while giving people an opportunity to connect with God. Red Church runs its service every Sunday at 4pm in Ormskirk School, it is not wacky or weird, it has all the main elements of a standard service but in a very contemporary and relaxed way. From 4-4.15 we have drink and doughnuts. At 4.15 we have a game, notices, worship slot, talk and reflection, which is maybe a video or a poem to give people space and time to reflect on the talk or their week.
  5. Our deepest level of 'Jesus-ness' used to be a mentoring network, but this just changed to small groups because creating a mentoring networks turned out to be a logistical nightmare! We share a meal together, open the Bible, talk about the stuff going on in our life, and pray.

People can plug in to whatever 'level' they want, if people want to come to football for the rest of their life they are very welcome to be part of us at that level. However, the hope is that as people build relationships and hopefully become interested in God they will begin to move through the different levels.

Red Church - bonfire night

On top of this, we also have a prayer meeting in a coffee shop at the University on a Thursday evening and we are trying to grow leaders from within our ranks through running the Growing Leaders' course. We currently have 8 leaders, all of whom are at different stages on their journey with God, but we are trying to grow and develop.

We have had a lot of encouragement from the Diocese and most people in the Deanery have been happy with how Red Church is developing, I think one of the reasons for that is for the most part we are not 'competing' with any other church. When I moved here I was shocked to find out most of the students from Edge Hill Uni were going to churches in Liverpool because they didn't find a church in Ormskirk where they felt at home – so it has been good to be able to offer them a spiritual 'home' on their doorstep.

I would say one of the challenges, as a lay pioneer minister, is administration of the Sacraments. That is still being worked out but I pray it will be considered by the Church as a whole because if we are a growing, functioning, worshipping, Christian community we must navigate any obstacles in the way of people's walk with God. It is a major issue.

Giving has been part and parcel of what we do right from the start but it is much easier to deal with the finances now because the Deanery has now set up its own charity for Red Church.

I'm fortunate in that I don't feel isolated in my ministry, which pioneers can often feel (although vicars serving in traditional churches can often feel the same). I think Liverpool Diocese has done a great job in terms of general support and creating accountability – and I am now an Associate in The Joshua Centre. They do recognise that pioneers need a lot of support, but I'm of the opinion that if you want/need support, it is also your responsibility to create your own.  

Red Church - weekend away meal

I see massive opportunity in working with young adults. They are very open to the idea of spirituality, God and real community – not what they see as 'fake' community – but they are sometimes closed to the idea of traditional church. I meet a lot of young adults who are lonely and are earnestly searching for meaning in their life and I feel the church can offer them both real community and answers to some of their deep questions.

I'm an incredibly excited about continuing to see God work in Ormskirk and the surrounding area and I hope that Red Church will still be helping people discover Jesus and church in 50 years' time.


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.


Methodist VentureFX Pioneer Minister Simon Oliver, whose ministry comes under the banner of 'RevCoffee', explains how new things are happening in Cottenham through community, creativity, Christianity and cappuccinos.

I am employed by the Cambridge Methodist Circuit to work alongside the Cottenham Community Centre (CCC) and Coffee Shop.

The Centre and Coffee Shop came into existence when, after many years of faithful worship and service, Cottenham Methodist Church closed down in November 2007. The day after its final service a public meeting was held to explore the possibilities of how the building might be used as a community resource.

The CCC was formed, much hard work and fund raising was carried out, and in February 2011 the beautiful Coffee Shop was opened. It is no longer a church, but I am privileged to be a part of the Community Centre team. I was appointed as part of the VentureFX scheme to work alongside the CCC with young adults and families in Cottenham, a vibrant village of about 7,000 people just outside Cambridge.

RevCoffee - counterAt the heart of my role lies a conviction that being a welcome, accepting, incarnational Christian presence in the community is key to contemporary ministry. So I spend a great deal of time simply hanging out in the coffee shop, sometimes working behind the counter, sometimes tapping away on my laptop, and often just meeting friends old and new.

Out of these relationships, and my connections with other community groups and churches in the village, I try to find fresh ways of exploring issues of life, meaning and faith. People are interested in looking at such issues but often feel alienated, disconnected or simply uninterested in traditional Church, or are just too busy with the chaos and demands of life to find the time and space in their schedules.

We now have quite a few initiatives and projects going on in and around the Community Centre and Coffee Shop; my wife and toddler are very involved in many of these groups. My approach is to be as collaborative as possible, so everything has been set up as a result of prayerfully listening to what people might be interested in, and in partnership with others (sometimes Christians, sometimes those who don't usually have anything to do with traditional church). These initiatives include:

  • Arts Night: A small group of young-ish poets, musicians, storytellers, comedians, singers, photographers and artists get together on the second Sunday of the month. It is a mostly musical group and we have also had some great poetry from Larkin, Yeats and our own members, short stories and photography. Each month has a theme (eg war and peace, parenthood, love, death, resurrection) and we share original and borrowed material and attempt collaborate in creating new works, as well as putting on quality performances. And we always have some really interesting conversations exploring issues of life and faith from a variety of perspectives.
  • Film Club: A fun, new group where people of all beliefs and none come together to watch a movie, eat popcorn and then explore the existential and spiritual issues that come out of it.
  • Dad's Play: We have a large (70-plus on the books) group of dads and male carers/guardians of under-5s who meet informally in the back hall of the Cottenham Community Centre Coffee Shop. The kids get the chance to play together while the men get a chance to eat bacon sandwiches and drink good coffee. We also have regular curry nights – although the children aren't invited to this!
  • RevCoffee - logoMarriage and Parenting Courses. We have run a number of these courses in the Coffee Shop.
  • Daily Prayer: This takes place from 8:30 – 8:45 am, Sunday to Friday at the Coffee Shop. It is often just a couple of adults and my two-year-old, but others often pop in, have a natter and occasionally join us or ask for prayer.
  • Football Plus+: A group young and not-so-young men play football on the first and third Sundays of the month, and a small group of us are exploring the possibility of using of the fourth Sunday to talk football, life and faith over a couple of beers (or lemonades).
  • the Roost: this is new all-age event which we have been experimenting with over the last few months on Sunday afternoons and which officially 'launches' in September. It is a relaxed group which includes arts, craft, conversation, messy play, videos, the Sunday papers, music, poetry, coffee, flapjack and more to give people the opportunity to have fun together, create community and to explore different issues from a Christian perspective.

All of our activities aim to be open and accessible to all, and to give people the opportunity to develop meaningful community and consider the possibility of faith. All beliefs and viewpoints are valued, and seen as equal conversation partners as we try to make sense of life together. Everything is done in very low key and simple ways and – as I have already said – relationships take precedence over activities.

My ultimate hope is that through one or more of our initiatives people are given the opportunity to have a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ and to explore what that might mean for them.

I take the Methodist and Fresh Expressions commitment to ecumenism very seriously, and have found it very encouraging to work alongside the Baptist Church, The Salvation Army, All Saints Parish Church and Christians Together in Cottenham as we seek to develop our ministries in collaboration.

It is not always easy, but it is a wonderful role and a rewarding project, and I feel very grateful to God and to the Methodist Church for allowing me to be a part of it!

authentic (?)

Alex SmeedA docklands regeneration project in Glasgow is now home to hundreds of people – and The Glasgow Harbour initiative known as authentic (?). Church of Scotland minister Alex Smeed, one of the authentic (?) leaders, explains how churches in the area set it up in response to a call for new ways of 'doing' church.

We started by asking ourselves the question, 'What does living out God's kingdom look like for the people here?' The 'how' of listening led us to observe and investigate our surroundings through an 18-month mission audit – not only to understand the culture of individuals moving in but also what their homes, cars, and the type of local shops being built said about them.

authentic (?) - flatsThe audit firstly focused on qualitative data which included us intentionally spending time in the area itself to try and ascertain who the residents were, what kind of culture they came from, what hours they kept and where they worked.

The second, quantitative, aspect was a much more book-based analysis. We looked at old Ordnance Survey Maps of the area, researched history books as to previous land ownership to glean how it had changed over many years and to see where we could go in the future – to find what were the 'keys to the gospel.'

One of our key questions was, 'How do we take the mission audit's conclusions and turn them into a positive reality?' A hankering for community was identified as important but the design of the buildings, with many security features for residents, actually inhibited community – particularly as there were no communal meeting places in the development.

authentic (?) - walkingSome of our team moved into a flat in the harbour to have a place on site where people could be invited for a meal and generally practice hospitality. We continue to explore ways in which they can gather people together, including the launch of our authentic (?) curry house as a 'pop-up restaurant' and the development of a greater internet presence in order to promote online community.

The authentic (?) curry house runs one Saturday night in every month from 8pm to 10pm, usually at The Annexe in Partick, where there's room for 30 people to have a four-course vegetarian meal and drinks. We charge £10 for the food and drinks, including our home made mango lassi and chai! I am the chef and my wife Sally does everything else.

authentic (?) - lightsAs authentic (?) we're also looking at things like having a regular running community. We would also love to offer free, organic, fairly traded beautiful coffees to people as they leave for work in the morning. All these sorts of ideas are things that we are pursuing, we believe in a God who blesses and so we want to pursue that, we want to embody that in everything we do.

Eventually we hope to grow the team to round about eight. Those who do join spend quite a long time with us as sort of a journeying process, making sure that we share values and vision and that our basis of faith is common before we start working together. We like to be very close within the team, that we spend a lot of time in one another's company and nurture and care for each other but we also want to maintain our outward focus and keep that missional outlook in everything that we do.

authentic (?) - plateWe are doing all of this hand in hand with other Christians in this area so that we can be as effective as possible, living out the unity of that body. Part of our vision is to see people reconnected with God, seeing that relationship restored and so we're going to be intentional about the way that we invite people to experience God, to live a life that is transformed by a relationship with him. It's about having the integrity to talk about that, to invite people into a place where they can explore in a contextually relevant way what it means to follow Jesus in this area.

If you feel you might be being prompted into a new missional context and would like to find out more about joining the authentic (?) team, contact us on


Cre8 is a fresh expression for children, young people and their families, at Carlton Colville Methodist Church, Lowestoft. Deacon Ian Cartwright explains how the range of activities include a gardening club, health and fitness programme and special events.

Our purpose is to build lives and build community and to serve beyond our gatherings. Cre8 has been going for about three years around a flexible mix of activities in our church building based on a very large, private housing estate. Among the most popular is a cinema and film club where the children choose the movie to be screened and dish out the popcorn and everything else!

Before launching Cre8, we wanted to try and find out what the community wanted rather than what we thought they wanted. Our first piece of research, done in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, started with focus groups from which we developed questionnaires. We asked things like, 'Would you like to meet?', 'If so, what time would you like to meet?', 'What activities would you like to see in this area?' The questionnaires went out to 6,000 homes and nearly 1,000 of them were completed and returned.

The overwhelming response was for health and fitness opportunities and things for young people to do. The next step was to ask the children and young people themselves whether they wanted to have such activities. Questionnaires went out to the six schools which serve this area: two Lower, two Middle and two Upper. Thanks to the schools' support, we were able to classify the children and young people into postcode areas.

Cre8 - drinkThe research was carried out by groups from within the schools themselves while Christian Research did all the analysis. It mirrored our first research results and also told us that what they meant by 'activities' was really a good place just to chill out and relax, somewhere they could go to play with their PlayStations and Wii. As health and fitness was such a big theme, we got in touch with The Leisure Database Company which provides data, analysis and advice for the sports and leisure industries.

They draw up what's called a Mosaic map, a sort of jigsaw puzzle, of the people in your area. They can analyse the socio-demographic breakdown of a place and tell you things like how many 0-15s there are, the type of families they come from based on income, and eventually build a profile of the area and classification of those who live there. From that they can delve deeper to tell you how many people are members of gyms, what the competition is for health and fitness provision, and so on. They told us there was a latent demand of about 1,000 people in the area we serve.

A sport and leisure trust called Active Luton acted as our consultants in this and they said 1,000 was a good number to make things add up commercially. Cre8 came about as a result of that research and we built up a small team to get things off the ground, including someone who worked with the Schools Partnership Agency.

We started off with the kids taking part in shows. Adults would come along with them on Saturday mornings for rehearsals and have a bite of breakfast with us. At that time the Christian input was very small because we were at the stage of simply wanting to build up relationships with the children and their parents.

It was at that exploring sort of stage that we began to see the development of a holistic ministry, where people's Christian spirituality is very much seen as part of their physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

Cre8 - climbingThe spiritual dimension is there in all we do because of our desire for God to be at the heart of it all, involved in every aspect of it – and for the glory to go to Him. It is also there because of who we are and the values we apply. They shape and form us into the community we are and what we hope to be. We see these as being Worship, Pray, Create, Learn, Enjoy Abundant Life, Transform, Influence, Give, Celebrate, and Be inclusive.

A family service once a month is done in a very informal way. This month it will be aimed at blokes as part of the Father's Day theme – there'll be bacon sandwiches to eat, a Yorkie bar challenge; a clip from a Rob Bell DVD, and a lot of bunting and a banner made by the kids!

In the past we've also had very low-key Communion with them. At one such Communion, we looked at the meaning of symbols; starting off by looking at McDonald's, Nike and KFC – what did their 'symbols', their logos, say about them? We then moved on to the symbolic meaning of the bread and wine. It was all consecrated properly but we served the wine in paper cups and gave half slices of sliced bread like the people would eat at home. It was all familiar to them.

Fridays@7 is another development – a café church environment in our building where men chill out to eat, drink coffee, watch films, enjoy music and explore what faith in Jesus is all about.

It's amazing what has happened there. One guy loves Shakespeare and he went out to buy himself a King James Bible because he sees parallels between the two; there were a lot of the programmes on radio and TV at the time about the King James' 400th anniversary and he was fascinated by it.

I went to register at the local gym and met a guy who couldn't get along with traditional church services at all but now he's working at a rehabilitation and recovery centre and brings some of his clients along to us on a Friday night.

Cre8 group

Established for nearly four years, we are members of the Willow Creek Association and use materials from a variety if sources including Christian Vision for Men and Rob Bell. We are currently making whole life discipleship our priority. There is also crossover with CRE8 with two of the Fridays@7 guys running our gardening club.

The group wants to stay small, about 10 to 12 at the moment, and develop a new offshoot on Thursdays called Thursdays @ 7. From time to time we meet at a local pub. We call this evening 'Who Let the Dads Out?'. We also go karting, walking, and other fun things that men enjoy and encourage our non-church friends to join us on these occasions. 

In all of this, there have – of course – been struggles along the way and it hasn't come together easily but the church and community wrestled with issues together to find a way forward and develop things. This has certainly been a painful process at times.

Now I think the mixed economy works very well here because we have mechanisms in place for communication between the inherited church and the fresh expressions. We meet once a quarter when representatives from the different areas of church life come together to plan and discuss. The fresh expressions group is very firm in saying that it is as much 'their' church as inherited church but they also know that it is all about working together for the good of the Kingdom. Sometimes there are difficult conversations because these are part and parcel of what it means to be church – we know that's what it means to work out the mixed economy in reality. Not always an easy journey.

St George’s, Deal

St George's - Shiela PorterSt George's, Deal, faced a major challenge in 2002. Shiela Porter – who shares oversight and leadership of the church with Chris Spencer – looks back at how they dealt with that challenge and looks forward to new opportunities through the development of missional communities.

We were looking at how to shape a church that could keep on growing – not dependent on the size of the building or how many professional leaders we had. St George's was full but we wanted to engage with those who would not step over the threshold of a church building at all.

So much has changed in recent years and now we have missional communities comprising mission-focused networks of anything from 15 to 60 people.

St George's - Reduce ReuseIt is about mobilising everyone to be missionary disciples and we've got a whole variety of diverse networks that are being reached through these communities. People who previously were sitting in the pews – along the lines of a 'provider client' type of model – are now doing all kinds of things that they never dreamed they would be doing. As they've gone out and taken on these new roles with new responsibilities, they’ve discovered the need to depend upon God. As a result they've grown spiritually and in their discipleship as well. This has brought about a release of 40 new missional leaders – a real treasure trove of talent.

One of our missional communities has already multiplied and we have gained a lot of insight from doing it. It came about when they were growing to such an extent that they thought, 'we are going to lose our sense of community if we continue in this way. What do we do about it?' This was the first community that got going and had a vision for reaching young families but, as time went on, the children of those families obviously got older so the community wasn't quite fulfilling their original vision.

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They took the decision to become two communities, and one of those communities comprised those who held the original vision. They decided to develop their vision in a way that would connect into families with older children using a 'sporting' emphasis for active families. They have been involved in doing fun runs and half marathons together, serving as stewards as well as running, and are now looking into starting a family exercise afternoon to reach new families. New leaders stepped up for the second community which held on to the original vision but in a more incarnational way.

These two slightly different visions meant that they did 'lose' some people along the way but those people have been able to come back into the centre – the main church base – enabling them to become part of other missional communities when they are ready.

St George's - boatAnother important new community to evolve has been at the Church Centre. As the centre continues to be an 'attractional model' with newcomers regularly arriving, this central community called 'Shoreline' is able to invite new people into it and give new people time to experience and understand the concept of missional communities before stepping into one that is meeting outside. Shoreline is also there to support the work of the other missional communities, being on the 'shoreline' to support them in their mission events and as they come back into the centre.

In the past, St George's has engaged in church planting with the Carpenters Arms, which became an extra-parochial place in Deal and which then transplanted into a Sandwich school. This was positively entrepreneurial for those who had the vision to plant. However, there are lessons to be learnt as we look back 15 years on. The current situation is that Carpenters Arms Deal are now an independent church and Carpenters Arms Sandwich are the size of one of our missional communities but are saddled with churchwardens, deanery reps and parish share – a burden that has taken its toll. Their future is now being reviewed.

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As we engage in conversation with those involved, including Diocesan personnel, we are hoping our experience will be of value as plans are put into place for them. We note that this is a danger that what is a fresh expression, can be seen as a 'church plant' by the Diocese with the requirement for church structures that can take their eye off mission and cause them to falter. It is therefore vital to have those with experience around them who can stand in the gap and 'translate' what it means to be a fresh expression – not always an easy task.

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'Church' for one congregation in Leicester does not finish with a cup of tea and then home for lunch.

Hope Hamilton Church sets out on Sunday afternoons to a piece of recreation ground nearby. There they set up a BBQ, untangle the kite strings and another time of worship begins. Gradually, others arrive, play on the basketball court, have their nails painted, fly kites or simply chat. A story from the Bible might be included, and the time finishes with a prayer.

It’s a great time for getting to know the neighbours and for the church to be visible in the community.

Phil White the minister says:

For too long now the Church has had only one way of doing or being Church – the gathered model of coming together in a dedicated building on a Sunday morning. We believe that there are other more creative models. Adrenalin is a new model of Church.

We hope to be church centred around a mutual interest of active and adventurous sports including canoeing, power kiting and climbing. In this context we will explore our faith in God.

We consider that the essence of Church is incorporated in three relationships, 'Up' with God, 'In' with each other and 'Out' with the wider community.

We use the swimming pool at Leicester Leys Leisure Centre and the River Soar for the canoeing. We have a selection of kites and buggies and we fly locally on the public field on Sandhills Avenue, Hamilton.

Our aim is to provide an opportunity for people to have fun together as church, where life, fun, outdoor pursuits and faith interact.

Adrenalin is for anyone – people with a faith or with none. All you need is an interest in the activities – no expertise necessary.