In this section:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for every person, in every time, in every place. Church as we know it, however, is unlikely to reach every person with the Gospel. Fresh Expressions are new ways of doing and being church, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ who may never hear of his gospel otherwise. These new churches function in four key ways that should sound very familiar, wherever you go to church:
Up they are connected to Father, Son & Spirit a Holy church
In they focus on fellowship and community a Christian community
Out they are missional, reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus who have never heard it before an apostolic church
Of they are part of the body of Christ, around the world and in history a catholic church
A fresh expression of church aimed at 11-18s may be particularly suitable where current models of church will not work for young people because:
- Meet at the wrong day of the week or at the wrong time.
- May not meet the needs of those outside the current congregation.
- Struggle to make the changes necessary for young people to be welcomed in to a regular congregation.
http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/guide/about/proper, accessed June 2017.
At its core, a Fresh Expression is about calling to faith in Jesus Christ children, young people and adults who may never discover him otherwise.
As young people in our Fresh Expressions come to be part of its worshipping community, we can offer them opportunities to explore who God is calling them to be and what God is be calling them to do. This is likely to mean offering opportunities to lead, to discuss with more mature believers about their vocation both in and out of the church, and to encourage those whom God might be calling to ordained or licenced ministry in the Church of England.
Any Fresh Expression should call 11-18s into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Central to this is discovering the teachings of Jesus, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live them out in everyday life.
When developing your own Fresh Expression for 11-18s, its important to consider the following things:
Fresh Expressions are Church in and of themselves Fresh Expressions are not bridges to the main service on a Sunday, but exist as an ecclesial community it their own right. This is true even for things like Messy Churches that often meet in the same building as the parish church.
Listen to the needs and interests of the community
The 11-18s in our communities exist not in a void or vacuum, but a real-world context, connected to people and institutions, with their own experiences and perspectives. Their opinions will be rich and varied, and they will bring these into your youth provision at church. Rather than empty vessels to be filled, it is important that we work with them to hear about these challenges or problems and to overcome them together through a cyclical process of action and reflection. This concept by Latin-American educationalist Paolo Friere is called problem-posing education, a form of teaching where
The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teachers, but one who is himself [or herself] taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on authority are no longer valid; in order to function, authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other…
Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p61.
This may all sound very conceptual and complex, but the reality is simple:
1.We start from where our young people are in terms of their understanding and interests
2.We work with them to help them articulate what problems they want to solve
3.We commit to working with them to solve them, becoming learners as well
4.Together we commit to taking part in action that informs reflection in a cyclical manner
In practical terms, this might mean different things for your provision:
- The 15-18s coming to your Fresh Expression want to learn about prayer, so you explore Lk 11:1-13 (the Lords Prayer and 2 short related parables) with them. After exploring what it might mean to pray the Lords Prayer, and how it relates to vv5-13 (reflection). You might discuss ways to learn to trust Gods goodness more, and encourage them into action throughout the week to experiment with what happens in when they pray. You return next week to reflect some more, and work out the next thing to do during the week. A group of 11-13s from the local community discuss (reflect) on the state of the multi-use games area (MUGA) at the local park it needs paint and minor repairs. Acting together, you encourage the council to do this, including writing letters asking councillors to visit and raising some money to make it happen. Throughout you are able to talk about the Kingdom of God with your young people, that Christians are meant to love both God and neighbour, and that we should pray about these things to God and work to make these things better. When its complete, you could have a community party to celebrate the hard work that went into getting the work completed, and think about what next to do.
Building Community Belonging, Believing, Behaving
Life is messy for all of us in some way or another. The 11-18s that we encounter when beginning a fresh expression may not behave in the same way as you, or believe the same things as you, or have had similar life experiences as you. Their behaviour may not change much even when they discover Jesus Christ for themselves, but as they begin to belong to the church-community, their beliefs about you, God and themselves may change, leading to a difference in their behaviour.
Church is a community of people gathered around Jesus Christ, and part of this is to discover how to follow Jesus as a disciple. There are many resources out there to help a Fresh Expression to explore discipleship with young people. For example, you could visit the Fresh Expressions website for more information at http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/guide/discipleship/resources. Additionally, the RNG website contains links to resources for discipleship. Visit lichfield.anglican.org/rng and click on the resources link.
Often in Fresh Expressions, the work of developing church amongst new people involves participation from others at an early stage, meaning that people are often asked to lead a particular aspect of church without being a proper Christian. This means that people get a taste for leadership early, helping them to explore what God might be calling them to in the future. It also might mean that we talk about vocation as part of the regular pattern of life: Have you ever thought that God might be calling you to be an evangelist, priest or reader? (cf. http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/stories/emmanuel/mar15). For more information and ideas, visit our Vocation for 11-18s page.
Recent research from the Church Army Research Unit highlights that around 3100 people attend a Fresh Expression in the Diocese of Lichfield. The majority of these are deliberately all-age with just under 50% of attendees never having been to church before. Our Fresh Expressions also represent the spectrum of Anglicanism, with groups identifying as Catholic, Central, Charismatic, Evangelical and Liberal are working in cities, towns, villages and rural areas. Just under 23% meet in a secular building, with the rest meeting either in a consecrated church building (55%) or in a church hall (22%). Our Fresh Expressions seem to have around 3 people coming along for every 1 person sent out from an existing church. When focussed specifically on children the rate of growth is higher, with around 8 children coming to a Fresh Expression for every 1 person sent out.
Our Fresh Expressions identify as follows:
- 55% are Messy Church
- 12% are all-age worship
- 12% are special interest groups
- 10% are caf church
- 5% are traditional church plants
- 13% are focussed solely on adults or young adults
- 2% focus on children alone
In terms of specifically youth and children's focussed Fresh Expressions, Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries (WPM) is well-established, Oswestry Rural Youth Church (ORYC) is in it's infancy, and there are, of course, many Messy Churches across the Diocese.
The Fresh Expressions website contains many resources and ideas to get you started. Additionally, both Revd David Cundill, Deputy Director of Mission and the RNG Team would love to hear from you to encourage, equip and support you and your team.