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New Congregation in Tickhill: ‘Church Done Differently’

Tickhill is a long-established small town of around 6,000 people

The church itself dates back to the 13th century and outwardly we’re extremely traditional. We had, as a lot of churches do, an aging congregation. One of the challenges was to make sure we were doing something that was in keeping with the traditions of the church in the village, but attracting a new congregation.

We wanted to try and produce a service that would be something that anybody and everybody could feel comfortable in. If you come with your screaming baby, it’s not a problem. It won’t disadvantage you, it won’t make you feel embarrassed. All are welcome!

Good Friday services helped to build momentum for this

We’ve been running a Good Friday service for over 20 years and the little room where the service was held was often packed out. There was obviously a hunger there out in the village and people wanted something, but the liturgical services aren’t what they wanted.

For people who haven’t been brought up in the church, services on Sunday mornings don’t suit a lot of families. People are often playing football, rugby, dancing, swimming…and so we had to plan a service for a different time of day.

Before Brenda went back to work, she also ran a Wednesday afternoon service once a month and all the childminders and mothers who were at home came along, and again there was a hunger there. We kind of took what we did on a Good Friday and used that as a model, visited another church in the area who were doing something similar and pushed on from there.

‘Church Done Differently’ is in a café church style format

The sessions are highly informal and very relaxed. Instead of using the church pews, we sit at tables ‘café-style’ at the back of church and begin with drinks, cake and biscuits. Each service features some lively songs with actions, a treasure hunt around the church building, a talk that is often led by puppets as well as craft activities to complete and take home.

Having refreshments on tap all the way through the service just helps people to relax.  People come without children; grandparents on their own; people with children and parents with tiny babies.

The reception has been very positive

We’ve had some great feedback across the board, with some lovely comments both from people we know and people we’ve just met. One lady told us “for those 45 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, I felt very special.” That’s an indication that this service really is reaching through to people.  We have had congregations of more than 50, including 20 children; 80 to 90% of those do not come to any other service that St Mary’s puts on. It is truly a new congregation meeting a need that is not met by existing services. There is a small percentage that do come to those other services as well, which is brilliant.

Don’t be discouraged from setting up your own new congregation

Just be very open to grace. Plan it carefully and know your audience and purpose. The bottom line is we’re all trying to tell people who God is and bring them to their own faith. It’s about knowing your audience and what they need – and having that team behind you. We’ve got an amazing team who work really hard to help make all of this happen.

We’ve done quite a bit of publicity for this service. We have gone as far as wide as we can reasonably do with the resources that we’ve got. We’re using both traditional methods such as posters on notice boards and notices in the weekly newsheet but also messages on the Tickhill Community Forum Facebook page, adverts on a monthly magazine that is delivered to every home in the village, and 3m long colourful banners displayed outside church in the run up to each service.

You can find out more about Church Done Differently here.

If you want to find out more about starting new things generally, or a New Congregation in particular, contact