‘Fresh Expressions’ is the term used for new forms of church for our changing culture. You can find out more about what a Fresh Expression is at the national website, www.freshexpressions.org.uk
A Fresh Expression is distinguished by the following features:
a) It is missional – the people who started it want it to reach out to those who in the community who don’t normally come to church
b) It is contextual – they are trying to build something that is true to the local culture and is in the language of the local people. It deliberately avoids being too ‘churchy’
c) It is formational – there is a clear intention of seeing people grow as disciples of Jesus through their contact with the Fresh Expression
d) It is ecclesial - it is expected that the mission initiative may well become a congregation in its own right, and it is not expected that it is simply a route through which people make their way to the regular Sunday services and other church activities.
e) It is regular – it meets at least monthly
Revd Canon Michael Mitton is the half-time Diocesan Officer for Fresh Expressions and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last few years there have been two major developments in our Diocese:
1) A fast growth of local Fresh Expressions across our Diocese
In the autumn of 2012, the Church Army Research Unit based in Sheffield under the leadership of Canon Dr George Lings, surveyed our diocese. We are one of 20 dioceses that have so far been researched. His team identified 39 Fresh Expressions of Church in our diocese. Research has revealed that in these 20 dioceses, there are now something like 80,000 people attending Anglican Fresh Expressions of Church.
Each year Michael researches development in Derby Diocese and he has now found that there are at least 65 Fresh Expressions of Church in our Diocese. Over 2000 Anglicans (approximately 12%) in our Diocese are worshipping in a Fresh Expression of Church and in nearly all of them, over half these worshippers are new to church. By far the majority of our Fresh Expressions are Messy Churches [www.messychurch.org.uk], be we also have many café-style Fresh Expressions, and a number that are geared to specific groups, such as teens, young adults and the elderly.
2014 Report on Church Growth
In January 2014, a major report was published that revealed the results of research carried out the previous year. The section on Fresh Expressions identified some interesting features of Fresh Expressions (following research into 10 dioceses):
• On average, every one person who sets out to start a Fresh Expression, two and a half people join. Nothing else in the Church of England currently has this level of missional impact.
• In ‘inherited’ models of church, of every 10 people in church, 2 are under the age of 16; in Fresh Expressions of church, of every 10 people, 4 are under the age of 16
• the great majority of Fresh Expressions are small – less than 40 but it is reckoned that this enhances a sense of community and belonging
• When it comes to leadership of Fresh Expressions, 52% were found to be led by lay people, and around a half are led by volunteers (ie, not those in some form of paid ministry). Men and women are equally involved in the leadership of Fresh Expressions.
• 66% of Fresh Expressions carry on growing, or maintain growth
• 78% of Fresh Expressions of church have taken active steps to encourage discipleship.
• Four times as many per year are started now, compared with 2003
We are therefore witnessing a mushrooming of small Christian missional initiatives that are becoming congregations in their own right, yet still enjoying a close friendship with more traditional kinds of church. Many of these Fresh Expressions are vulnerable and quite a number may be short lived. But if the trend of the last 10 years continues, then we will see many more of these springing up from our churches, and we can celebrate that many new people are finding their way to faith as a result of their witness.
2) Pioneer Ministers
In addition to the Fresh Expressions, the Diocese has also deployed 4 full time Pioneer Ministers who are licensed to Bishops Mission Orders. These Pioneers are exploring new ways of building churches and developing Christian community and mission. They are:
The Order of the Black Sheep, a new missional community based in Chesterfield, led by Revd Mark Broomhead (see the OBS website).
The Bridge, Matlock (see The Bridge website) led by Revd Dave Battison. This is growing a Christian community in the Morledge area of new housing in Matlock
Hope Bank, South Chesterfield - Captain Tim Rourke CA is working with group of people to grow a pioneering community for local people in the estates in the southern part of the town.
Derwent Oak, on the Derwent Ward, Derby - Revd Beth Honey is building a contextual Christian community on this large estate in Derby City.
We also have 7 Pioneer Curates (stipendiary and non-stipendiary) working in a variety of situations, a Pioneer Associate Minister working in Tideswell and surrounding villages, and a lay Pioneer at St.Alkmunds Derby.
The Company of Pioneers continues to grow! They are all willing to come and speak to local churches about pioneering and fresh expressions of church.
If you would like to know more about how to start a Fresh Expressions in your parish, then please email Michael Mitton.