There’s been a change in how people relate to church in North America. The fact is that people are less and less likely to walk into our church buildings on a Sunday morning. When we realized that about three years ago at First Church, Williamsport, we started pursuing fresh expressions of church.
Our conviction intensified. We couldn’t wait for our congregation to dwindle. So, over time we prioritized fresh expressions. Eventually, this led us to create a position focused on the creation and maturation of fresh expressions and leaders.
The attention and focus that comes from providing staff has allowed our church to continue to lift up and encourage the inherited church as well as pioneer into new areas of our community. Over the past three years we have seen tremendous spiritual growth and beautiful expressions of faith created, but it hasn’t been without challenges.
What Happens When You Have a “Second Child”
One of the priorities Fresh Expressions US seeks to live into is a “mixed economy” of church. A mixed economy of church is where multiple expressions of faith and worship (Sunday morning worship, dinner church, house worship, missional communities, etc…) are all celebrated and valued, not just the traditional Sunday morning worship experience. For a church like ours, Sunday morning worship had become a main focus.
When this idea of pioneering was introduced, it raised a lot of questions and concerns.
So communicating this vision and inviting the congregation into it was crucial. Living into this new reality of being a mixed economy church meant we had to:
- Help congregants know how they could be supportive even if they didn’t lead a fresh expression of church
- Inform leaders inside the church on how to give permission to live into fresh expressions
- Empower pioneers to explore possibilities outside the walls of the church were all needed for us to start living into a mixed-economy of church.
I relate living into the fresh expressions journey as an inherited church as having a second child. Up to the birth of the second child, the first child has received every bit of time and attention from the parents. But when the second child is born, it’s not uncommon for the first child to feel pushed aside due to all the time and attention the newborn is getting. Fears of being unwanted and perhaps fears of being unloved are natural.
Over time however, it becomes more and more clear that both children are loved equally and both are part of a beautiful family. It’s been my experience that the same can be true for churches that start living into fresh expressions. It is critical for churches to embrace a mixed-economy of church; an economy of church where gathering as the people of God in the ways we’re most accustomed and pioneering into places previously unthought of are both celebrated and cherished.When your church starts a fresh expression, it's like having a second child. Click To Tweet
Local Church Workshop
We created the Local Church Workshop in order to address these kinds of questions and concerns with the congregation from the very beginning. Through the workshop, we have the ability to tailor the experience to your context and help invite the congregation to consider what it might look like to explore the fresh expressions journey together.
Starting fresh expressions in the local context is a beautiful way to pioneer into uncharted areas of your community, build meaningful relationships with those far from Christ, and discover what it means to be a sent people of God. Communities are built, faith is deepened, and worship is created in places perhaps previously unimagined. Sometimes this journey is revolutionary, but most often it’s evolutionary. It takes time for these ideas to develop and grow.
Challenges of transitioning to a Mixed-Economy Church
The idea of starting fresh expressions of church in coordination with your church is exciting but can also present challenges. The challenges of introducing fresh expressions to the local church can sometimes be daunting and the initial excitement can wane over time.
Some of the common challenges are
- Communicating what fresh expressions are to the entire congregation
- Gaining congregational and leadership buy-in
- Identifying pioneers, supporters, and permission-givers in your context
- Gaining a shared vision of what it means to live into a mixed economy of church
What You’ll Get With a Local Church Workshop
A Local Church Workshop is a half-day event which allows us to tailor the experience to address your church’s specific challenges and needs. By being on your turf, gathered with both your congregation and leadership, we are able to dive into the heart of fresh expressions together to create a shared vision individualized to your own church and the community just outside its walls.
The benefits of having a Local Church Workshop are:
- Tailoring the experience to you and your local context.
- Allowing congregants and leadership to learn, discover and explore fresh expressions simultaneously.
- Creating common language about fresh expressions
- Allowing the Fresh Expressions trainer to directly address questions from the congregation
- Beginning to overcome inertia by engaging in activities and creative thinking exercises that start movement towards the creation of fresh expressions.
- Helping the congregation dream of different visions for church.
Practical Training, not an Emotional Mountain Top
“To lead people is to invite them on a journey” Charles S. Lauer
I’ve been to many conferences and experiences which felt like I was on the mountain top. I was energized, excited for the future, and eager to share with all who would listen. Coming back from these experiences I’ve often found it difficult and near impossible to share my new-found passion with others. However, when we all are able to share this experience, the community starts the journey together.
Local Church Workshops benefits the local church by creating an opportunity to come together, learn together and dream together. Through this experience your congregation will be better positioned to pioneer new fresh expressions for the sake of sharing the love of Jesus Christ wherever He calls us.