A cha(lle)nging perspective on Church

Author: Mrs Anna Main

Published on: 17 August 2021

The recent “Faith in the Nexus” report is a piece of research by NICER examining the intersection of children’s exploration of faith in the home in relation to church and school.

It brought forth an interesting insight that for some people there was “a sense of belonging to a wider church community through a variety of activities that took place in school and in the church building.”

Termed “occasional belongers” they defined themselves as Christians and felt a sense of belonging but did not attend traditional Sunday church; too often, we view a sense of belonging solely through this lens of church attendance.

The research also reported that “Many parents and pupils interpreted going to Messy Church or going to activities run by parachurch organisations as ‘going to church’.” A local example being of a lad from a mid-week youth group who asked the leader when church would next be. The leader, assuming he meant the church where the youth group rented a room, began to describe when she thought the services took place, only to be corrected that he meant “church” as the youth group itself.

Fresh Expressions such as Messy Church and Café Church are already quite well established with Outdoor or ECO (Exploring Creation Outside) Church, another form growing in strength. ECO Church has been running at St Mary’s, Newton Flotman, since August 2020. Lesley Cox, Licensed Lay Minister in the Tas Valley Team Ministry says, “I had been running Café Church on a monthly basis in the school hall for about two and a half years. The vision was that it would be a seeker service and draw in families from the school community, which it did as many visited on an occasional basis. This was no longer possible when lockdown happened, I therefore decided to ‘move it outside’, though with a different format and an environmental emphasis.” Lesley continues, “ECO Church runs from 4-5pm on the first Sunday of the month and is on the monthly rota of services. We get between 16 and 24 people, including children – approximately one third are part of our other congregations, a few are more loosely connected with church (so that this might be the only service they come to) and perhaps one or two families have been from the wider community of the village. I have seen members of the church congregation who were not previously involved in Café Church get behind this vision. I think it is special to engage with God in and through the realm of his creation and its relevance in terms of environmental concerns in society in general, and the desire to appreciate nature more.”

Susie Bratby is a Sports Minister and has been working with schools within the Thetford Team Ministry. Does she feel those participating in her outreach activities see themselves as belonging to church?

“Yes I think so,” says Susie, “At our Holiday club ‘Legacy’ we have had really good engagement with young people aged 5-11 years. It includes nearly all the ‘traditional’ elements for church and it opens up a whole new opportunity amongst those who wouldn’t choose or be able to attend a Sunday service. I think children and young people are starting to see that church isn’t just the building and it doesn’t need to be on a Sunday and it’s beginning to impact the parents too.” Current research such as “Faith in the Nexus” presents an even greater rationale for engagement with families through the nexus of home, school and church as is also encouraged through the national Church of England “Growing Faith” Adventure. It also deeply challenges us as churches to consider how we become radically inclusive to prevent ourselves from disconnecting from people who may consider themselves to be part of the Christian family, and build on this wider sense of church community and belonging which forms a foundation for faith development.

For further information:

https://nicer.org.uk/faith-in-the-nexus

Wild Church Hub (East Anglia) www.facebook.com/groups/4844215565618442

www.churchofengland.org/about/renewalreform/growing-faith


The author...

Mrs Anna Main

Children, Youth & Families Project Adviser

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Free online funding for you

The Diocese of Norwich is excited to announce that we have subscribed to an online database of hundreds of funding sources specifically for churches and other Christian causes provided by Church Grants.

More

Culture recovery fund saves Tunstall

I am pleased to say that our church, St Peter and St Paul, Tunstall, Norfolk, has received a financial boost from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to fund roof repairs during the coronavirus pandemic

More

Covering all bases

Many parishes now have their unique giving QR codes and URLs as well as the physical resources such as business cards and posters to promote the diocesan online facility.

More

Barn in village saves fair

The Friends of All Saints Bawdeswell was established some 18 years ago to raise funds for the general upkeep and enhancement of All Saints.

More

Tree festival – our way

Some churches have a large Christmas tree that dominates the nave, others have tree festivals with magnificent displays filling large spaces and competitions for the best.

More

Five top tips for contactless giving

Five top tips for contactless giving

More

Learn to listen

It has been said that the Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members, and not a mutual benefit society organised by its own members for their own collective advantage*.

More

Anna Chaplaincy emerging across the Diocese of Norwich

Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury) is quoted as saying – “mission is seeing what God is doing and joining in”.

More

Planting

A well-considered scheme is needed for any new tree planting. In choosing species, consideration should be given to their mature height, span and root growth.

More

Plant a tree for the Jubilee!

Faith Leaders from across the UK, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, are urging faith communities to plant trees in honour of Her Majesty’s lifetime of service to the nation, through The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.

More

Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter