Welcome to the February edition of e-xpressions. New stories on our website this month include:
- Building a fresh expression on the Bloomfield Estate;
- Food for Thought;
- Exeter Network Church;
- Messy Church, Cowplain.
February's podcast includes more from the Bloomfield Estate, news of exciting things happening on the South West peninsula and we catch up with Tomatoes in Leicester.
But how can we afford it?
Funding is always a pressure. In church life, as in home life and business, there always seems to be more demand, or desire, than there are resources. So when new initiatives are proposed there is pressure about funding them. That is particularly the case at the moment, when the global Credit Crunch has hit the church's resources just as hard as any other part of society. So how do we fund fresh expressions of church?
To begin with, don't make your fresh expression too ambitious – as I wrote last month, don't overstretch yourself. Better to start small and grow a new congregation gradually. It may well prove more stable in the long run. Fresh expressions do not necessarily need large budgets. The resources they need most are people and time. This may also be a resource in short supply, but the key to planting could well be the release of a small dedicated team, who are freed from other responsibilities to major on the task.
Church councils and similar groups also need to look at how they budget. The danger is that resources may be allocated to maintenance without proper consideration of mission. If the church sets aside, say, 10% of its income for overseas mission partners and Christian development agencies, should it not also set aside a percentage of income for its local outreach, and then use the remainder to live within its means for maintenance. As churches we need to learn to budget for the future. More than a third of adults in Britain have never had a meaningful contact with a church. The average Church of England worshipper is fourteen years older than the national average age. Just to invest in maintenance, and more of the same, is to make decline far more likely.
If resources are tight, when we budget at home, we say that we can only add something if something else is removed. If there is to be planting there may need to be pruning. Regular prayerful review needs to check whether existing projects and financial commitments are still fulfilling the purpose for which they were established.
The positive side of all this is that imaginative mission often releases new giving. People, who are reluctant to give more for maintenance, may pray and give sacrificially for projects which are for others rather than ourselves, and which see a local church willing to risk and step outside its comfort zone. The call of the Holy Spirit releases money as well as workers.
One way of affording to start a fresh expression would be to set a team set aside to plant it, and to set aside their existing giving for the new project. In some church plants team members with full time employment contribute together to support a colleague to work full or part time on the project. All fresh expressions of church, irrespective of the source of their start up funding, should build the call to discipleship and stewardship into their life from the beginning, and work towards being both self-supporting and sacrificially generous. This takes time, but if it is not in the initial DNA it is very difficult to add later.
If the fresh expression is being planted in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit we may be sure of the resources needed. If new ones are needed God does provide. But often we find he has already provided: but we need to reorganize our budgets, lifestyles or giving.
The Fresh Expressions Initiative itself was funded though the release of new giving, through the Lambeth Partnership. The first phase was a gift to the churches, rather than an extra demand on their resources. The second phase is largely funded from charitable sources with only a limited part coming from the partner denominations.
Are fresh expressions of church a recent phenomenon or have they happened throughout church history? Brand new pages have been added to the Guide part of the Share website, with inspiring stories from the 1st to 20th centuries. Can we learn from the examples of history?
The Guide also has a section on fresh expressions of church in different contexts, What are some examples of fresh expressions? Alongside existing pages on subjects such as children, café church, rural and urban fresh expressions, three brand new pages have just been uploaded:
- Online fresh expressions – is it possible for an online community to be called church?
- Fresh expressions among other faiths – practical advice on working with people of other faiths.
- New monastic fresh expressions – what is the appeal of new monasticism in the 21st century?
Church of England General Synod
The Church of England has just debated Mission-Shaped Church five years on and Fresh Expressions Team Leader, Graham Cray reported on the story so far. The General Synod then voted to continue to encourage fresh expressions of church, alongside more traditional forms of church as the most promising mission strategy in a fast changing culture.
Synod also pressed for a more imaginative policy of recruitment, training and deployment of ordained and lay pioneer ministers. The motion before synod also encouraged the increasing use of Bishops' Mission Orders so that fresh expressions of church can play a full part in the life of each diocese. There were also warm commendations of the Fresh Expressions initiative from both Baptist and Methodist representatives at synod.
There will be a full report on General Synod in our March podcast, available from the first of the month as usual.
Training, jobs and events
Our next vision days are in Southampton (27th February) and Bury St Edmunds (6th March). If you'd like to see a vision day closer to you, why not consider helping to organise one - email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're interested in exploring paid work and ministry in fresh expressions of church, check out our jobs page - and if you've got a job to advertise related to fresh expressions or pioneer ministry, email us at email@example.com.
If you're near Aberdeen on 27th February you can hear Graham Cray at 21st Century Disciples, an event being put on by Mission Scotland and LICC.
Finally, if you're interested in café church then the cafechurch network are offering How to run a cafechurch on 27th February in St Neots and 20th March in Tunbridge Wells.
Places are filling up to hear Rowan Williams and Martyn Atkins exploring the long-term development of fresh expressions of church from theological, spirituality, strategic, accountability, support, financial and other perspectives.
You'll also be able to find out more about local shared ecumenical support and ownership and how this is developed through FEASTs (Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Teams) as well as other resources. The conference will be of particular value to both fresh expressions practitioners and strategists/senior staff.
5th March 2010
11am-4pm (refreshments and registration from 10.30am)
The Epic Centre, Lincolnshire Showground, Lincoln, LN2 2NA
£25 per person
Book your place now or find out more information.
Feel like you want more? See how you can get involved.
See you next month,
The Fresh Expressions team.