During the Bishop’s Growth Conference two case studies from within our diocese were explored by speaker Dr George Lings. Last week we spoke to Rev Andrew Stott from the 4Saints team ministry. This week we hear from Rev Janet Roberts from St Nicholas, Blundellsands.
St Nicholas is a parish in Blundellsands near to Crosby, North Liverpool. Over the last 2 years it has seen phenomenal growth with it’s typical monthly Toddler Church congregation raising from approx 20 – 100/150. Alongside Toddler church there is a cafe style Fresh Expressions worship called Heart & soul as well as traditional Sunday worship at 8:30 and 10.30am.
What is the variety of Fresh Expressions of Church and what have you learnt about church and mission through that process?
Toddler Church has boomed over the last couple of years and we now have about 85 families. In reflecting how this has happened by talking to the families, firstly people are looking for a place to belong, a sense of community and because a lot of the families have moved into the area, they want to connect with like-minded people. Toddler Church allows them to meet other families at the same life stage as them. Their typical age is parents who are in their 30’s – 40s. In their words, they are looking for a set of values for their children. They look to the church as a hub for the community. There seems to be a free flow between the things happening in the church hall (toddler groups and special interest groups) and the church. We have introduced a café style worship to move people on from Toddler Church which we call Heart and Soul.
You have to adapt – when Toddler Church first started, it was quite small and intimate. It is now so big that we use the whole building. If you can imagine a grade 2 listed building with children at the front listening to a story, craft activities at the back and children run around at the end. It can be chaos but its brilliant! Again, for the café style church, we have a big building with lots of spaces so we make sure we utilise all of the space, the chapels, everywhere. We are adapting and changing all the time. With the café church we have decided we can’t use music as they are mainly un-churched people who aren’t uses to singing along to hymns so we have dropped the singing. We are just learning as we go.
What have you learnt about shared ministry – you have so much going on there it would be impossible for you to do it all surely?
Shared ministry is something I’m very committed to. The teams have grown and people have been very surprised to be asked to be part of a team, and at first have not felt that they could do it but have done it. When we started the café style church I supported others to take the lead on it and deliberately held back from taking the lead myself. It has only been running 6 months or so but already their confidence is growing as they see what they are trying to do is working. In the words of one of the parishioners “It is great to be part of something that is growing and going somewhere”.
There is a sense of life and excitement about the place as some of the young families that started off going to the toddler church are now attending the regular Sunday 10:30 service. The congregation are seeing that and are welcoming both the new people and noisy children!
How do you think St Nicholas’ Parish is moving towards not just seeing itself as one church but as a family of different expressions & congregations?
The thing that unites everyone is that we are all part of St Nicholas church. We have adopted the parish school’s strapline of ‘Belonging Believing Becoming’ and that helps to centre people thoughts.
People are getting to know each other across the congregations through various social events, last year’s Christmas fair an example and we are having a Summer BBQ. It is great to see people mixing at these events.
When I first arrived two years ago there was willingness from the church to move forward and develop. They were united and ready to grow following a period of sadness after their previous Vicar Collette’s illness and death. There was a desire to realise her vision of fresh expressions of church and all I have done is work with what the congregation said they wanted.
Young people bring new ideas which create a buzz. I have found that if we say yes to ideas then more ideas come forward.
About the Growth Planning Framework
The Growth Planning Framework is a device for parishes to help them reflect, change and adapt the way they do church. Local and national research has shown that churches which engage posotovely with this procvess are the ones most likely to grow.
Find out more at www.liverpool.anglican.org/gpf
“growth is normal and ministry must be shared.”