Fresh Expressions of Church in the Diocese of Sheffield

10th May 2016

A recent report published by Canon Dr George Lings and the Church Army’s Research Unit has given an insight into Fresh Expressions (FE) within the Diocese of Sheffield.  The report covers the period 1992 – 2014. The research project has been carried out as part of a wider initiative across the Church of England examining fresh expressions of Church and their impact and growth.  The full report can be accessed here.

Here are some of the highlights of the findings of the report:

  • 56 examples put forward qualified as true FE of church, of these 47 are still in existence today.
  • 2,449 people attend the FE’s which is an additional 13.2% to the average weekly attendance of 18,900 people in our parish churches.
  • Fresh Expressions are a growing trend in the Diocese:
    • 6 from 1992-1998.
    • 10 from 1999-2005.
    • 26 from 2006-2012.
    • 14 already from 2013-2014.
  • There are a wide variety of approaches to FE’s:
    • 27% are Messy Church.
    • 23% are All Age Worship.
    • 20% are community development.
    • 77% are deliberately for all ages and families.
  • Fresh Expressions are happening in all the geographical contexts: urban, mixed local and private estates, expanded villages, rural, urban priority areas.
  • FE’s are happening across all Anglican traditions;  Evangelical, Central, Catholic, Liberal, Charismatic.
  • FE’s use the gifts of ordained and Lay Leaders: 48% led by ordained leader, 52% led by lay leader.
  • FE’s come in all shapes and sizes:
    • 18 have between 30-49 people.
    • 5 have between 50-69 people.
    • 5 have between 70-99 people.
    • 4 have over 100 people.
    • 11 are between 20-29.
    • 8 have less than 20.
  • Our FE’s are good at attracting non -churched and de churched people:
    • 34.8% of attenders are existing Christians
    • 26.6%of attenders are de churched
    • 38.6% of attenders are non-churched
  • In addition to the 56 fully fledged Fresh Expressions many parishes have started new projects and initiatives outside their regular Sunday services.

What does this mean?

  • FE’s are now a very significant part of our mission to the people in Sheffield Diocese.
  • FE’s are now a growing part of the mixed economy of church in the Diocese.
  • Sheffield has twice as many community development FE’s than any of the Dioceses surveyed reaching into some of the most deprived areas in the Diocese.
  • FE’s help us find ways of making church contextually relevant to the people in differing geographical areas.
  • FE’s are not an Evangelical Church phenomenon – they happen across the traditions.
  • FE’s are often led by local lay people who don’t have licensed office- often called the “Lay Lay”.
  • Churches of almost any size can start a FE.
  • Parish Churches and FE’s work well together in mission
  • Sheffield Diocese is committed to growing a mixed economy of church with the parish model and FE’s working together in mission.

Making disciples is at the heart of our Fresh Expressions. Working 1-1 and in small groups are the favoured model and all our Fresh help people to engage with scripture. Many of our FE regularly have communion services and have held baptisms and confirmations. Our FE’s are drawing together a significant number of new children (606) into the church.

Some examples of these Fresh Expressions:

Fresh at 4

A monthly tea time service at St Thomas Kilnhurst. Lively worship, fun and games and exploring the Bible together – followed by a time of fellowship over a meal together.

Thursdays at St Andrew’s

A completely new way of doing church in Brinsworth Rotherham. Three spaces run into each other with people choosing to attend one, two or all three depending on their level of connection. Coffee Pot is a drop in coffee morning. Lunch Stop is a lunch club and Soul Space is a creative worship service. This midweek gathering has completely replaced the Sunday morning worship at St Andrew’s and forms part of a mixed economy of church offered by the River’s Team. 

Tuesday Church for Children

This initiative, at St Wilfred’s Cantley, is a midweek congregation for children and their parents which is reaching the non-churched and de-churched people of the parish who would not attend church on a Sunday. The children are taught the love of God through singing, stories, drama and craft a

Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones at St Michael’s Rossington is a Saturday afternoon café style church aimed at families who don’t usually go to church. Food, fun, crafts and relationship building are the key components of this Fresh Expression of Church. Led by Sarah Maughn, this is a good example of a Fresh Expression led by a “Lay Lay” Leader. 

Christ Church Endcliffe

A church plant that came out of Christ Church Fulwood. 50 people led by Rev Ed Pennington started this new church sharing the building with St Augustine’s Endcliffe. A Sunday service at 4pm is followed by a meal together and then a gathering for students for discipleship teaching. The church has grown to 100 members.


Context of Fresh Expressions

The term 'fresh expressions of church' was coined by the Church of England report Mission-shaped Church in 2004. The ecumenical Fresh Expressions initiative was started in the same year by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with the Methodist Council.

The national Fresh Expressions team, led by Canon Phil Potter, exists to encourage and support the movement which has seen hundreds of new congregations being formed alongside more traditional churches across the UK and internationally.

What is an Anglican fresh expression of Church?

The Church of England’s research and statistics department use the following definition. A fresh expression is any venture that works mainly with non-churchgoers and aims to become church. A fresh expression is …

  1. Missional – it intends to work with non-churchgoers
  2. Contextual – it seeks to fit the context
  3. Formational – it aims to form disciples
  4. Ecclesial – it intends to become church

Fresh expressions of church are not meant to replace existing forms of church and they are not in competition with them. Instead they are to complement the work of inherited or traditional church in what is known as a ‘mixed economy’ approach to ministry.

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