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.

The Way

Matthew Firth and Andy Dykes tell how a dual ministry in Cumbria is affecting the lives of growing numbers of young adults.

Matthew Firth: I am chaplain to the University of Cumbria and minister of The Way church for young adults aged 18 to 30. I work full-time in this dual role, half with the university and half with the Diocese of Carlisle. They had worked together to form the job description identifying these two distinct parts of my ministry and – as a far as I'm aware – it is a unique appointment in the way it is framed.

My role with the University involves the pastoral care of students and staff; I also oversee chapel worship and provide opportunities for people to explore the Christian faith. The diocesan job focuses on the planting and growing of this new church in Carlisle with the aim of reaching out to people in what’s known as the missing generation, the 18-30s.

I'm now coming up to two years in the role. The first year was a learning curve of finding out how the University works, getting to know what had previously taken place through the chaplaincy and looking at how things might develop – and also appointing an intern. Andy took on that internship in September 2013 and a lot of the work has taken off since then, including that of our fresh expression, called The Way. That had started to take shape about a year ago and we are still in the very early stages but there are now signs of things moving forward.

The Way on WednesdayWithin the field of university chaplaincy, I find that some chaplains want to reach out evangelistically but a lot don't – some because they feel a bit hampered, maybe because of a strong secular atmosphere in their universities, but others because they feel that chaplaincy is, first and foremost, about pastoral care.

It's up to individual chaplains to say that, for them, it's also about personal evangelism. For me, it was a different situation because my role was set up with a clear evangelistic aspect – it's something that I not only believe in but it was also written into my contract of employment within the dual role.

There are two very distinct roles but one person was appointed for both and it was made clear right from the start that I would be looking at ways in which we can do chaplaincy in a pioneering way.

Looking ahead, we're very much hoping that Andy's role will be able to transition into a role for a Young Adults Missioner when the internship comes to an end.

We're so grateful for all that we've seen God doing here so far, especially with the Student Dinners project. Originally started by a local YWAM team, I got involved when they decided to pass on that mission work to us as a chaplaincy team. The dinners, where food is available for £1, attract about 50-60 students each week.

Very early on out of that we did a Student Alpha Course that attracted a little group of students who said, 'What are we doing next?' They started to meet at my house and now we have The Way on Wednesday, after the dinners, so that people can get together and have the chance to learn and discuss together.

There's now a whole network of friendship and relationship where we can share life with young adults and have lots of one-to-one meet ups. I can't report major conversions but we have seen signs of God moving in people’s lives and what we have experienced is a sense in which there is a lot of digging of the ground and getting people on the journey and on the road to discipleship.

From September, we're also planning to get together on Sunday evenings to learn and worship as a church.

The Way - Andy DykesAndy Dykes: I was previously working for a church in Montreal but I had been thinking that church planting was what I was called to. The opportunity in Carlisle to do work with something in its infancy was appealing. I really liked the thought of being involved right at the start of its formation. There are lots of opportunities to get stuck in and see how things progress and lots of opportunities too to be creative.

We have got some kind of solid base of students but now we're looking at the whole issue of sustainability and how this work expands to include non-students. So far our involvement with non-students has been almost coincidental. I have been trying to get to know these young adults and develop something but of course I’m employed by the University so there's a balance to be had there.

I'm trying to raise funding at the moment so that I can stay on in a new role where I can be be more intentional with non-students. I guess the plan would be to piggy back more and more on a base of student work because I feel like there is a bit of community there.

As we've been thinking about how to reach out more widely, we also have to not lose sight of our student base. It's a bit of a balancing act. A significant thing is to continue to build contact with first year students coming in because otherwise, if we neglect that, we would be on the back foot and trying to play catch-up all the time. It's vital to establish relationships with new people but keep on looking to develop and deepen those already there.

We've been looking at the possibility of getting some kind of city centre venue, maybe a café, to give us a bit of stability outside the university. Financially, and in terms of turnover of people, it may offer wider scope as we develop the work.

The Way - Matthew FirthMatthew Firth: One of the real challengesis to know how to take these 18-30s from not having any relationship with Jesus or the church to being convinced by the gospel and saying, 'Yes, I'm a Christian'. The Student Dinners have worked really well, and they're still at the core of what we do, but we now need to see the next stage with increasing numbers of people translating their experience into an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There's a real mixture of people in our community. Some come from church families and know the 'language' to it all; others have very little understanding and background, with only a basic knowledge about some of the stories in the Bible.

A big challenge is to walk the tightrope that this dual role creates in that we are doing this in collaboration with the chaplaincy of the University of Cumbria. It's a Church of England foundation university but, like most public institutions, a secular approach has to be wisely worked with and navigated. We also have to be aware that a specifically evangelistic element is a new thing within the chaplaincy, so questions about that have to be creatively navigated too.

Another challenge is how this sort of ministry is perceived by the wider church. As with all fresh expressions work, you tend to get a dynamic where other local churches and ministers may not recognise what you are doing as church. I think it's important to keep remembering that the church is not the kingdom; it's the vehicle of the kingdom.

What I also have to keep in mind is that half of my role is paid for by Carlisle Deanery through the giving of local church members. I make sure that I offer plenty of opportunity for others to explore, and see what I'm doing in trying to pastor and reach out and share the gospel with 18-30s.

The Lab

The Lab is a missional community of young adults in Newport, South Wales. Team leader James Henley explains more about its ministry and the development of its work as a fresh expression on the Alway estate.

We want people to feel that they can be part of The Lab no matter where they're from or what they believe. We try to be as welcoming and open as possible for people who are exploring their faith or who aren't used to church at all.

The Lab is made up mainly of people between the ages of 18 and 30, many of whom are students. We would describe ourselves as an experimental form of church but basically we're still a group of people trying to follow Jesus together.

The Lab - Rainbow bridgeThe Lab was initiated by the Bishop of Monmouth five years ago in order to develop a church community of students and young adults in Newport who would otherwise not have contact with a traditional parish church. It involved trying to be church in a different way. At first we used to meet in a pub but now our gathering takes place on Sunday evenings in the hall of St Paul's City Centre Church in Newport City Centre. We also have a weekly community meal in which people take it in turns to cook and serve each other.

Things developed four years ago when The Lab began work in the Alway estate on the edge of Newport, identified as one of the most deprived areas in Wales. According to the 2001 census, nearly 50% of the population of Alway and the surrounding area is under the age of 25. Our aim was to form a residential community of young adults who would invest their time in the local community and build relationships with its young people.

The Diocese of Monmouth offered us a vicarage there and in September 2008, a group of four of us moved in and started to develop links with the community. At first there was suspicion because the local people found it very odd that we should want to make our home in Alway. Slowly but surely they grew accustomed to us but it has been hard at times. Unlike the approach of traditional evangelistic thinking we have not put on big events and asked people to come along to them. Instead our mission strategy has always been to be as pragmatic as possible and simply join in wherever we see God at work.

The Lab - basketballFor instance, the parents of younger children in the area asked us if we could run some sort of summer holiday club. We did, and lots of families came along to join in. As a result we've had a lot more contact with the mums and dads.

What we do in Alway is constantly changing and expanding as new initiatives are developed and old ones are expanded. At the moment we are involved in youth work and a chaplaincy project at the local high school; primary and secondary school assemblies and RE lessons; youth and children's work in partnership with Bishpool Methodist Church and detached Youth Work. St Teilo's Church (Church in Wales) and Bishpool Methodist Church have been tremendous in working with us and building up contacts on the estate.

As a result of the partnership between these two different denominations we are accountable to both of them through different structures which have been created to support us. We also love to work closely with and support other local churches as well. The Lab is supported financially by the Church in Wales and the Methodist Church, though we also receive grants and funds from various organisations with further donations coming from Lab members and supporters. I am paid by the Diocese to work full-time as project leader.

The team has grown since we first got off the ground. Four people are now based in the old vicarage; me and my wife now live just down the road in another 'Lab' house. From September we will be taking on another youth work student who will be with us for three years and we also have funding for two gap year students to work full-time with the Lab.

The Lab - teamOne of the challenges we have encountered is people being interested in spirituality and faith – but as individuals not as part of a group. We think that perhaps this is the direction youth culture is going, as we seem to be meeting lots of young people whose reliance is not on a particular friendship group.

The other challenge is to marry up the gifts of the young adults who join us at Alway with the needs of the estate. Different people bring different skills so it's important to monitor who's doing what and where because things change. Our missional intention has always been to form relationship; if something looks like it's stagnating we are not afraid to put a stop to it and try something else.

In the next year or so I'd really like to see us developing some kind of church or forms of church with the groups of young people in this area. I'd also like us to build on the work we have just started with families. The long-term vision that we are exploring is what it would look like to plant a second Lab community in another area of Newport.

Part of the Welsh religious heritage is that the country was originally evangelised by small missional communities of monks. It seems fitting now that we are attempting to be part of a new wave in mission by essentially doing the same. That's inspiring and challenging!

Barney and Judes

Tim Sanderson leads a café church for 18-30s at St Barnabas and St Jude's, Sandyford, Newcastle. Organisers feel they have been 'running to keep up with God' since Barney and Judes got off the ground in 2010.

One year ago, we were exploring closing our building in this community as the Sunday service had seven regular attenders and building costs were mounting.

Barney and Jude's - MosaicSandyford used to be a family-based community but in recent years has become a place known for cheap student houses, a place where 83% of the local community is aged between 18 and 30. Working with the existing church membership and in partnership with Holy Trinity Church, Jesmond, we converted the building into a cafe space to reach that 83%.

Our aim was to establish a fresh expression of church for those unchurched 18-30s in Sandyford by creating a welcoming and vibrant living space; planting and growing a worshipping community and serving that community.

Renovating the existing facilities has resulted in the cafe-style venue, comprising a warm, relaxing 'lounge' for those in multiple occupancy dwellings. The flexible area, where coffees and cakes are served, is furnished with sofas and offers free Wi-Fi. Students and other young adults are invited to drop in and use the space for chat, performance, art and so on whilst building relationships with the team.

Our café style fresh expression of church runs on Wednesday nights and we have a parallel new work amongst seniors called 'vintage' on Thursdays. The café space itself opens from 4pm to 11pm every weekday evening. We also have teams going door-to-door in the community offering to clear up front gardens and remove graffiti. These teams are drawn from Holy Trinity and Agape student ministries – and a few local residents.

Barney and Jude's - foodWe feel we are running to keep up with God and are delighted at how well the work has started. In a community dominated by multi-occupancy dwellings where no-one has a lounge any more, we are providing one! As part of a community in which seniors and students clash over noise issues and untidy gardens, we are working with both groups and pray that Barney and Judes will become a venue for communication and reconciliation. It's early days, but the first signs are promising.

The Wednesday night fresh expression is intentionally missional and is becoming a new congregation for unchurched and some dechurched. At this stage it's just a small number but they are attracted to the café space and the team who run the fresh expression. We offer many alternative worship opportunities at Holy Trinity in the next parish and have been encouraging any Christians who turn up at Barney and Judes to go there rather than stay with us.

Barney and Jude's - crossNewcastle has a number of large student/young adult churches which do great work but we are interested in the students and young professionals who are put off by large church initiatives, or who would never think to go near them, even when invited by their friends. These are people who struggle with hierarchies and up-front driven programmes. Taking a café style approach seems to be working; it means we not only come together as a fledgling community but also keep in our small groups around tables. This distinctive and focussed missional approach means that regular use of the venue by other church-based student/young adult groups is not encouraged.

We really want to engage with what is called the 'Urban Intelligent'. That title comes from a socio-economic analysis system known as MOSAIC which classifies UK households by ward or postcode. The April 2010 MOSAIC profile of South Jesmond ward, indicates that 83% of the population are ‘Urban Intelligent’: these are students or young professionals living in multi-occupancy dwellings (42% short term student renters; 29% economically successful singles; 15% well educated singles and childless couples). They are the dominant constituent of the local population and therefore the primary focus of mission.

Some 15% of the population here are active older people. The current inherited churches between them cover an extensive local network of seniors. This is a secondary focus of mission.

Barney and Jude's - posterThe church centre is still faithfully used on a Sunday morning at 9.30am by a small group of older ladies – three of whom have just celebrated their 90th birthdays. That operates as a completely separate congregation. What is fun is overseeing a mixed economy in the same building. I'm also interested in how the two congregations might talk together in future about some of the inevitable tensions between students and seniors in this area.

We want to continue planting and growing a worshipping community within the context of a weekly meal, grouped around small group discussion, creative worship opportunities, and some input from the front. Collaborative working is at the heart of this venture. The congregation of St Barnabas and St Jude's have offered significant finances to help with buildings improvement and the part-employment of a parish assistant, but personnel for this venture has been more widely drawn from two main sources: Holy Trinity Church, and Agape Student Ministries.

I lead the small steering team representing all three partners which reports back to each meeting of the PCC of St Barnabas and St Jude. The wider diocese has offered a level of financial support and is kept informed as the initiative develops. The steering team is committed to work flexibly, holding structures lightly and engage in regular review/assessment of the work. In that way we want to model flexibility and openness – in all that we do.

Barney and Jude's - Band


Church of England minister Nick Crawley knew that he wanted his next post to be about mission not maintenance. So he wrote to the Bishop of Bristol to suggest launching a network church. After a series of meetings he began work on his new 'parish' of Bristol-based young adults in 2004.

We have no church building, no parish, no PCC, no inherited congregation,

Nick says.

I had no weddings or funerals to do so I was free to start from scratch.

An original team of three families drawn to the network church idea began meeting in Nick's family home in central Bristol. As the new church grew, it began to rent space in Starbucks. It now meets in a larger coffee house on Tuesday evenings attended by an average of 30 people who eat, worship, discuss and pray together. Roughly half of these were not previously attending or committed to a church.

One-to-ones and training teams continue the work of discipleship.

Nick attributes the growth of this network church, Crossnet, among students and young professionals to 'word of mouth'. The church has seen four conversions and others growing in their faith.

The two emphases are mission and discipleship,

says Nick.

There is no doubt that the commitment people have to loving one another is growing.

Crossnet aims to be self-funding by the end of 2009.


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 café 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.


When Chris and Tina Adams received a word of prophecy about their garden shed, thE DEN was born and the Holy Spirit has continued to be at work ever since.

ThE DEN - insideAfter singing in worship one young person was in tears as she understood for the first time all that Jesus had done for her on the cross. She wrote in thE DEN journal: "Dear God and Jesus, I never really thought about your death in this much detail and now that I have… I am eternally grateful for what you have done and sacrificed for us!!…Thank you for bringing kindness and happiness to me. Thank you for truly bringing the Holy Spirit, you and Jesus to me!!" Another was healed of a persistent eye infection after prayer.

A group of sixth formers now come and join us to worship and support the younger ones. Many have difficulties at home and most have very little or no experience of church. They have begun to grow as a group and are becoming good friends. Their new faith has resulted in a noticeable change in behaviour both at home and school.

Living Room

Zoe Hart, student worker, reports the work of the living room.

At Highfield Church, Southampton, we have a history of welcoming students to worship with us. But over the last few years God has been stirring us up to much more as we have increasingly felt the reality of the mission field.

Across the campuses of the two Universities in Southampton are over 40,000 students – away from home, looking for life and most of them about as far away from church as you can get.

No longer are we in an age where students are coming away to study with a basic knowledge of Christianity and some past involvement in church. Most don't even really know who Jesus is and many have never been inside a church building. The reality is that the culture among students today is pagan and with less than two percent of them going to church – the mission field is huge.

The exciting thing is that the Gospel is totally dynamic and powerful in this context. Students today are looking for something tangible and authentic – something that will show them Jesus.

Our vision at the living room is to create a place into which students without a church background can come to know the transforming power of Jesus. the living room is church for people who never normally go to church.

Our values are 'loving God, loving each other and loving the lost', quite simple really: The Greatest Commandments and The Great Commission. These values shape everything we do.

What we do on a Sunday evening isn't rocket science either. We meet at 8pm in the building next door to the main church which we set-up to be as relaxed and welcoming an environment as possible.

We have a café with steaming hot chocolate and great food every week – essential in building community. It is open all evening for people to sit and chat or opt out of the worship.

After the main food is served, we aim provide an environment – through worship, teaching and ministry – into which the Holy Spirit can work. This is integral to our original vision to be an authentic community of worshippers. Although we use language that people will understand, we believe that true worship and loving community speak volumes into the post-modern culture of self.

These are exciting times. the living room has grown dramatically over the last two years from around 40 students about 140. The original vision seems to actually be happening. I say 'actually' because we can often put a lot of effort into ministries, having limited faith in the fact that God is powerfully at work and is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

It is an incredible privilege to be part of something where God is bringing along people who don’t yet believe. And these students, through chatting with team members on a Sunday, as well as fortnightly socials and weekly cell groups, are really becoming part of the living room community.

We regularly have a number of students on the fringes of faith as well as a handful of determined atheists who have had their worlds shaken.

One previously cynical student emailed me recently saying this about his experience of the living room, 'I must say, I found it really emotional, but I'm not quite sure why. I was really choked up. I'm hopeless at describing emotions; but it just felt like there was something else there, something more than a collection of people. And I felt a connection.'

Our prayer continues to be that what we do will be much more than just a gathering of people in a cosy environment. We long to see people making commitments and beginning a path of discipleship.

We want to be a place where, as it says in Isaiah 41, the thirsty who search for water will find it.

We have always been conscious that what is happening is part of a much bigger journey. It was an incredible encouragement to have that confirmed by a previous vicar of Highfield who, 28 years ago, had a vision of a large number of students meeting in the hall next door to our church at 9 o'clock on a Sunday evening. When he came to visit and saw that original vision happening he was thrilled!

Of course as with everything we do – the living room is just a part of God's much bigger story – not a new story but an ancient unchanging one – and it is our role to express that story, as Jesus did, in a way that is fresh and dynamic to the culture we find ourselves in.

Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries

Faith and fries - Richard MoyRichard Moy, ordained pioneer minister explains how church is forming amongst those who have never been involved before, through Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries.

When the Methodist and Anglican churches in Wolverhampton realised there were 23,000 people involved in the 'night-time' economy of the city, most of whom had no Christian commitment, they decided to do something about it. Richard Moy was appointed to start to form church with those who often only came into the city to bars and clubs after 10pm. The first thing he did was go to a monastery – to pray hard! Then he visited St Thomas' Crookes Church in Sheffield to find out about their 'Life Shapes' program and that visit was followed by 40 days of prayer and fasting.

Faith and fries - foodA small team of three gathered to pray every week in a local church and then gradually others joined in. After a year they began to gather in a café location in the centre of town and now a pool of about 50 people meets regularly for Sunday evening worship. On any one occasion 30 or so will gather together. Church 18-30 has been born.

Richard is particularly pleased at the mixed nature of this new missional community. The age range is about 16-32 but members come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are graduates, others come from 'very difficult backgrounds in terms of education'. Some are unemployed and others are destitute.

Faith and fries - flierEarly on Richard decided that one size would not fit all. Based on differing learning styles, this fresh expression of church offers deliberately varied learning and worship opportunities. There's a gathering for 'reflectors' which has a real sense of the 'spiritual'. Another event is aimed at 'theorists' and encourages those who attend to think why they believe what they believe. A third gathering has a contemporary worship style and a fourth is based on food and sharing communion together.

But Richard's eyes light up when he mentions 'Man Night'. Every Monday a group of men meet to share a simple form of communion, watch a DVD or get to work on a Playstation! This is church literally out of the box! 10-15 attend regularly and Richard is seeing real discipleship growth amongst the group.

Richard believes the venue is vital. There's a weekly midday meeting in McDonalds – an opportunity to share Bible, burgers and fries! Yates' Wine Lodge provides another meeting place, along with a city centre church café. Recently Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries has acquired a flat and that is slowly becoming a centre of ministry for the church.

Faith and fries - mealAnd Richard believes what he is doing really is church. They operate as church – with regular worship, gathering around word and sacrament. People have been baptised as a result of joining Church 18-30 and mission is very much at the heart of things. If you see a couple of people sitting on a sofa in the middle of Wolverhampton, it is likely to be members of the church sharing their faith or offering to pray for passers by. And in a network church, 'some bits of the church will only last for a season and some bits will last forever', says Richard and that's OK.

Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries grew out of local Christians' concern for those who had no connection with church. It's still growing and Richard Moy is very open to what surprising things God might have in store for the future.

I love going to Church 18-30's Vitalise service because it does what it says on the tin. It really revitalised my relationship with God through John's Gospel and smoothies.

Katie, 18

I went to Church 18-30 because my faith was at a really low point and needed strengthening. Church 18-30 helped me to rediscover my faith and strengthen my relationship with God having fun along the way with the most amazing people!!!

Helen, 22


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.