Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fresh Expressions - encouraging research on CofE church planting

Claire Dalpra, researcher at the Sheffield Centre, talking about research on Fresh Expressions recently done in 3 Anglican dioceses. Some of the key findings she mentions:

 - Out of every 5 members of a 'fresh expression', 1 was already a Christian, 2 are 'de-churched' (people who have been part of a church, dropped out, and now rejoined through the FX) and 2 had no church background at all. So they are clearly working in reaching folk not reached by traditional churches.

 - Fresh Expressions are being established in all sorts of different places, from rural to inner city urban, and over 1/3 are from 'central' or 'Anglo-Catholic' parent churches, which shows that anyone can do this, it's not an evangelical preserve.

 - In the 3 Dioceses surveyed, Fresh Expressions make up 20% of their worshipping congregations, and 10% of regular attenders. So a significant part of the CofE is worshipping in newly planted churches.

 - Over 80% have some form of discipleship development, e.g. small groups, mentoring etc.

 - Rates of church planting aren't slacking off - the fact that most were planted in recent years may reflect an attrition rate, that some of the earlier fresh expressions haven't survived.

It would be interesting to compare the closure rate we're prepared to contemplate for new churches compared with ones which have existed for centuries. I know of church plants with 20-30 members which were closed down because they were beyond the resources of the sending parish. But if you applied that logic to 'inherited' churches then over half the churches in my Deanery would be facing the axe.

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