Idea40 AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT – CAFÉ CHURCH, MESSY CHURCH AND OTHER FRESH EXPRESSIONS OF CHURCH

For more than 20 years Christians of all backgrounds have been attempting adventurous outreach in forms which have come to be known as Fresh Expressions or Emerging Church. A Church Army study in 2013 identified 21 different varieties in Anglican churches, 12 of which are discussed in full in the earlier book Mission Shaped Church Of these the most common are various forms of Messy Church and Café Church but other activities have also been found to work and they might be right for your context.

The Church Army report describes Café Church like this.

“Café church is a catch all term for a range of levels of engagement. At its trivial end, the introduction of serving coffee has been known to be cited. More seriously, it picks up the proliferation of cafés in society as safe gathering places. Characteristic are locations set out with tables, drinks and sometimes food. Conversation predominates over presentation; being or becoming community over providing worship. Discussion is more apt than lecture. People are freer to come and go. Sometimes an optional further venue is used at which another style may occur such as alternative worship.”

They describe Messy Church like this.

“Messy Church. The prototype began in 2004 and within ten years has seen 2000 more registered worldwide. Its values are Christ-centred church for all ages, drawing on human instincts for hospitality, creativity and celebration. Its popularity has led to unwise unthinking copying, and splendid creative adaptation. BRF, its sponsors, have taken a light touch to this but wish it were well understood.”

Other forms of Fresh Expression which might be helpful for you to consider include

  • Alternative worship, often spelt alt.worship.
  • Cell Church
  • Child focused church (primary ages) or Church based on Under 5’s or School Based Church
  • Community Development Plants
  • Midweek church of which some are New Traditional Services or Older People’s Church.
  • Multiple Sunday Congregations
  • Network Church “people and contacts not defined by a geographic or parochial area but by coherent patterns within a shared life, whether derived from work, school, a common interest, or a stage of life”
  • New Monastic Communities
  • Older people’s church. These are more than providing communion services in old people’s homes.
  • School Based Church.
  • Special Interest Groups based around a specific group or subculture.
  • Traditional Church Plants
  • Youth Church.

 

One additional model of Fresh Expression not covered in the report could be described as “Table Fellowships” where the central gathering of a (typically all-age) group is always around a meal which may include an act of communion during the meal. At least two churches in EBA are built on this model.

The warmly recommended full 2013 report by the Church Army on Fresh Expressions of Church is here:

http://www.churcharmy.org.uk/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=138463  and pages 108-111 are summarised above.

Many of the ideas were discussed previously in Mission-shaped Church (Church House Publishing 2004)