mission shaped church
why did they start?
In urban areas the proportions of the non churched are highest. Those
called to mission in such contexts know that invitations to worship or
attendance at church have little impact. Surrounded by situations and
people experiencing significant need, the mission response has been to
engage with the local community, and allow local people to set the agenda
for what can best help rebuild or regenerate that community.
Communities may often identify the problem of disaffected youth and/or
of crime as their most obvious problems. In many cases, work with youth
has therefore featured in these fresh expressions of church. This may
involve schools work, work with excluded teenagers, weekly clubs, play
schemes and holiday clubs. Through these and other forms of partnership,
levels of trust are built, as well as growing curiosity in the long term
commitment, style and motivation of the church and its people.
Robert Warren offers a picture of church acting in worship, mission and
Here Christians in mission to the non churched have
prioritized the building of community as the entry point. `Community' is
understood both as partnership in building local community and modelling
community through their own lives.
A story: Hirst Wood, West Yorkshire
Hirst Wood is a small council estate tucked out of sight within
the prosperous parish of St Peter, Shipley in West Yorkshire.
Its young people are all the non churched. Even among the
older adults, the local team guesses only one third would
be the de churched. The non churched predominate.
This estimate is borne out by a recent survey in nearby
Huddersfield, sampling adults of all ages. It noted that 58 per
cent of those interviewed classified themselves as never
having had contact with church. With such a challenge a very
different approach was going to be needed.
In 1992 a new Vicar, Chris Edmondson, was appointed. Even
before interview he only saw the edge of Hirst Wood but
thought inside himself `there's got to be something for here'.
1995 saw the birth of a parish vision and mission statement.
One element was a church plant for Hirst Wood as a way
forward. It was linked to the desire to appoint a community
youth worker for the area.
1996 brought a MSE minister,
Pat Gratton, onto the estate.