By Jessica Brodie
GASTON—South Carolina church leaders eager to dig deeper into what church truly is and discover new ways to bring others into the flock will gather again this month, Nov. 16, to take their ideas to the next level.
The church leaders gathered at Beulah United Methodist Church Oct. 5 for Fresh Expressions, a one-day event designed to help people reimagine how they reach others in Christ, hearing from the Florida Conference’s Michael Beck and Garrett Rocha.
Beck and Rocha, along with other presenters, helped them understand the Fresh Expressions movement. Started in England, Fresh Expressions tries to reach the unchurched by going to places people already congregate—bars, coffee shops, restaurants, golf courses, etc.—and helps them become more like a congregation, eventually steering them into the more formal institution that is church.
Now, these church leaders will gather again Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. at Beulah for what organizers are calling Ministry Lab, where they will have the opportunity to talk about how the first stages of introducing Fresh Expressions are going.
“Our goal is to assist with brainstorming new ideas and troubleshooting ongoing ones,” said the Rev. Jon Hoin, who organized the Orangeburg District-sponsored event along with the Rev. Jim Arant.
Hoin said anyone is welcome to attend, even if they did not attend the Oct. 5 event, and he is happy to work with newcomers to cover what was discussed at the initial event.
The initial event, which drew roughly 45 people, began with a discussion on Fresh Expressions. In the afternoon, active sessions covered the basics of design thinking. They also got to witness demonstrations, including a dinner church experience led by Rocha, exercise ministries led by Hoin, pop-up churches led by South Carolina’s the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, social justice ministry and gun buyback with South Carolina’s the Rev. Hillary Taylor and a general question and answer session with Beck.
“Overall, we have heard nothing but positive feedback, and everyone has seemed very excited by the event,” Hoin said. “We are hoping to capture that energy and multiply it to help the Orangeburg District and our South Carolina churches share some love with their neighbors.”
Hoin said the Fresh Expressions model seeks to reconnect churches to their contexts by giving ordinary people permission to experiment and try new things, by giving them permission to build teams that include persons of peace (these are people on the edge of church who can help build bridges) and others outside the church, and by encouraging them to see church as something more than 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Common Questions about Fresh Expressions
What is a Fresh Expression? A church established for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. It is born through listening, service, contextual mission and making disciples.
What is new church development vs. Fresh Expressions? Fresh Expressions focuses on people. New Church Development includes a larger broader investment potentially into property or space. One typically melds with the other and they feed off each other.
What is a “marketplace ministry”? Ministry outside the conventional church sphere.
What is the Fresh Expressions model? Empathize (listen, love, serve); define (how do we create community for…); ideate (brainstorming the what-if); prototype (encountering and prayer walking); and test (try it and see).