This is a large village home to around 10,600 people (2011 census). It is a largely white, predominantly middle class community with a wide range of social, spiritual and recreational activities. The local area is generally considered to be one of the more sought after parts of the UK with good housing, excellent schools and very high levels of employment.
The church is in the evangelical tradition and has a commitment to be and to bring the Good News of Christ into the community. It has recently completed an ambitious project to convert under used buildings (located around 200 yards from the church) into a community hub. Two years into the project, the rebuilt premises are proving to be a popular meeting point with a café, meeting rooms and a range of activities designed to bridge church and community.
The significant Sunday attendance - 210 in October 2015 across 3 services - reflects an expression of church which appeals to the whole of its immediate community as illustrated in the demographic of attendance.
I reflected on the work of the church as a whole, the activities generated through the new project and the missional activities of particular groups.
Key learning points from this visit:
- trust God: He knows what He is doing and what we are capable of
- missional activity must be contextual – to be fruitful we should be linking into people’s lives as they are, not as we think they are or should be. Relevance goes hand in hand with truth
- it’s important to have lots of ways where people can encounter Christ: make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16a)
- be accessible – anyone should know who to contact and how to do it
- don’t assume that all expressions of church have to lead to Sunday morning attendance
- be inventive: take appropriate risks but be bold and expect great things of God
- have many open doors that lead to “church:” build community through friendship and listening
- it may take time to realise a vision – this project has been discussed for over 20 years – but it will come in God’s time!
- everything we do should be the best we can offer and be presented in a way that is attractive, accessible and winsome for all
- be prepared to share – with the “team” and as partners with others who share the vision and similar core values