Existing churches don't have to turn themselves inside out
Fresh expressions mean that to reach very different people, congregations do not have to transform what they do on a Sunday. They do not have to get rid of the robed choir, for instance, in the hope that a band will draw in new families.
Remaining prayerfully open to the Spirit, congregations can continue their existing form of worship, while starting something different with other people. The old can flourish alongside the new.
A local church can work more holistically with its fringe
A luncheon club, a women's meeting, an Alpha group or a drop-in centre can sometimes feel a bit stuck. Individuals enjoy the friendships, but they don't make the journey to Sunday church or to faith. Asking whether a luncheon club, for example, might itself become 'church' can open new possibilities. Instead of inviting people to come to church on Sunday as a separate activity, participants might be invited to be church as part of the meeting they already attend.
A Deanery youth worker found that nothing was available in his local churches for young people. He began two fortnightly groups with 12 church-connected teenagers.
These social events with a spiritual element have evolved into Eden, a fortnightly Eucharistic gathering of 100 young people meeting in a school. The youth worker was ordained priest within the Church of England during one of those meetings, a sign that they were evolving into a fully-fledged church.
- Story: Eden
Fresh expressions can bridge evangelism and community development
Traditionally, some churches have stressed preaching the gospel, while others have emphasised serving their communities. Many fresh expressions seek to do both – to lovingly serve others, to draw people into an experience of community in the process, and to invite individuals to explore the Christian faith in that context. More and more people recognise that evangelism and social action can be complementary. Fresh expressions are one way to bring the two together.
Local churches on a Sheffield estate asked residents what their most pressing needs were. 'Litter picking, a drop-in centre for older people and youth activities,' came the reply. The churches responded by opening the Terminus Café for older people (though all ages use it) and keeping it open on Tuesday evenings for young people only. They have created a place where the needs of the community are met in various ways, and where individuals can also attend gatherings for worship and Bible study.
- Story: Terminus Café
Fresh expressions can connect church more strongly with everyday life
This is because at their best, new forms of church try to fit the culture of the people they are called to serve. This may mean going to places where people physically gather, such as meeting in a leisure centre, a café or a workplace. It may mean developing culturally appropriate forms of spiritual life. It certainly means being church among people who don't attend church. Church becomes more relevant to wider society.
A youth congregation in Essex began to discuss the need for a drop-in centre for local young people. Legacy XS now holds its meetings in a purpose-built youth centre with a skate park. Young people are discovering that prayer and worship can be expressed in many ways, even through riding a skateboard.
- Story: Legacy XS