The latest survey on attendance has, for the first time, researched Fresh Expressions and the news is both exciting and encouraging. This paragraph from the report quoted on the Fresh Expressions website show that the bold step a few years to try something different os starting to make a difference:
The first ever statistical analysis of fresh expressions of church has concluded that there are at least 1,000 CofE fresh expressions or new congregations across the country. Around 30,000 people attend fresh expressions each month who don’t attend traditional regular services, equating to an average of around 40 people per participating parish exploring new forms of church – the statistical equivalent of an additional diocese. Almost all dioceses have reported fresh expressions or new congregations with over half of these initiatives aimed at families with young children.
While that is exciting I read this with just a tad of frustration. I still come across senior church people that tell me ‘fresh expressions is not working‘ or that ‘fresh expressions will not exist in 3 years time‘ alongside Beth Keith’s research which quotes, ‘Many pioneers, while affirming the principle of the mixed economy, did not have positive experiences of working within it. Whilst they were aware of the pressures felt by the wider Church through declining attendance and resources, they were frustrated that the maintenance of existing churches reduced the opportunities and resources for mission and evangelism. For example: pioneers repeatedly reported issues with mixed posts where pioneering aspects were not clearly defined. Maintaining existing churches, fulfilling traditional curacy requirements, or working in church structures remained an ongoing pressure greatly reducing the opportunities for mission‘
I sense across the nation a certain ‘attitude’ within church (not everywhere but in lots of places) that was there towards people involved in full time Christian youth ministry. It was an attitude or belief that these youth ministers were just doing this work for a little while before moving in to real ministry. By real ministry was meant work in church with adults.
Sadly from discussions with others I think that attitude with pioneers up and down the country still exists …. the attitude that says ‘pioneers are doing this for a period and soon they will ‘grow up’ and want to do real ministry.‘ This time the real ministry refers to traditional church ministry.
Personally …. i don’t see my ministry that way … and my hope is that this piece of research will allow us all to acknowledge the real contribution that Fresh Expressions is making.