We continue to provide places for the community to come together and get to know one another better, through our mums group, Zumba classes, book club and friendly football. We hold events that allow people to begin to explore matters of life and faith in a very informal manner, through our Curry and Question’s group. And there are opportunities for those who are beginning to be committed and are exploring Christianity more seriously, at our monthly gatherings and mums bible discussion group.
I’m pleased with the sort of things we’ve started, especially with the continued absence of a community centre! As I’ve been thinking, I struck me that the pattern that is emerging is not that different from a that of a good missional established church. We have low key events for newcomers, opportunities to explore, and things for the committed core (albeit done in ways that are accessible for the unchurched and for families).
The question is, does this matter? Does it matter what the outcome of a pioneering exercise look like? Does it have to look fresh?
When I think of fresh expressions, a few notable examples come first to mind. There is the Tubestation in Polzeath, Cornwall. A dying Methodist church which looks over one of the most best surfing beached in the country was given to a few Christian surfers. They gutted and converted it into a lounge, hub, shop, surf school, and cafe for the surfing community. This has resulted in a new worshipping community on Sundays.
I also think of things like Goth Church, set up in Coventry to minister to the city’s Goth community, providing worship and fellowship in ways that are accessible to this sub-culture. There are numerous other examples.
The key to these is that they are rooted in the culture of the people they are trying to reach. The practitioners have listened to the culture and created something appropriate to it.
And that is the same for us. On our new-build, our culture is primarily middle-class, families, pretty well-educated, with parents working in professional jobs. Of course, there are some outside these definitions as we are working in a geographical area rather than primarily with a sub-culture like the examples above. It is not completely homogeneous. But, we work with we whom we have.
Fortunately, this also happens to be the life stage that most of our core team are in too, so we are working from a culture that we know. It is worth noting that two fresh expressions in exactly the same area can take very different shapes according to the interests, personality, and life-stage of the pioneer. This is okay too, as God has called us specifically, so we work out of who we are.
Everything we have started has come from listening to God and responding to a need which we have seen. This is the root of fresh expressions: It is not what the outcomes look like but the workings that go before – prayerfully mapping the area and discerning ways of engaging missionally. Fresh is the method, not the product.
Therefore It doesn’t matter what the ministry or church looks like in the end, so long as it is meeting the needs of potential participants and giving opportunities for them to engage with God.