A Fresh Expression of Church is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
Over 3,000 of these new forms of church now exist in almost every denomination and tradition in the UK.
Fresh Expressions of Church are reaching both adults and children in a great variety of ways and therefore all hold these four characteristics in common:
- Serve those outside Church
- Listen to people and enter their culture
- Make discipleship a priority
- Form Church
Fresh Expressions research from the Church Army
In 2014 George Lings from the Church Army conducted research into our Fresh Expressions of Church. He discovered that:
Fresh Expressions of Church make up 14% of worshipping communities in this diocese (national average is 9.5%) - which has offset the decline of church attendance in Ely (2006-2012)
The most popular forms of Fresh Expressions of Church are Cafe Church (35%) and Messy Church (27%)
Fresh Expressions of Church exist in a variety of contexts and serve both adults and children.
Most of our Fresh Expressions of Church are in villages and rural settings (71%) and represent a variety of church traditions.
The numbers of people engaged in discipleship across the diocese has increased due to Fresh Expressions of Church with 87 % of our Fresh Expressions of Church actively engaged in discipleship, mainly through 1-1 encounters.
Therefore, to be effective, Fresh Expressions of Church need to be missional and intentional to promote growth and are 'church ' in themselves rather than a stepping stone into mainstream church.
Fresh Expressions of Church are growing
Fresh Expressions of Church are playing a significant part in the growth of this Diocese and we anticipate they will continue to do so. This is partly because we find that they work as well in a rural area as in an urban one, and across different theological traditions.
Whilst we are excited by many forms of Fresh Expressions of Church and creative new 'waves ' of Church that we see being explored and modelled within the Diocese, we continue to value and support a rejuvenated inherited or traditional model of church. Our aim is to develop a healthy mixed economy of church where all Christian communities are fully alive and flourishing.
Working from where we are with our existing groupings (e.g. Mothers' Union, Toddler groups, community groups) we want to help churches to be reinvigorated and so become mission focused and outward looking. This will happen by creating pathways so that groups can move on to form community, and then in turn to form church.
We believe and see evidence that if a Fresh Expression of Church can be initiated, then it is the most effective mission tool. By inviting people to be part of a new community it engages, invites commitment and imagination whilst offering a flexible model of Christian community.