New forms of church attracting thousands each month

The Methodist Church is encouraged by the growth of new forms ofchurch, especially those under the banners of Venture FX and FreshExpressions. Recent statistics show that over 40,000 people attendsome form of fresh expression church at least monthly. FreshExpressions, a joint venture with the Church of England, also worksalongside a large number of Christian organisations, denominationsand streams - both in the UK and overseas.

The Venture FX project of the Methodist Church has helped create13 projects around the country since its launch in 2009, with sixmore launching in the last year. Ian Bell, Venture FX Coordinator,says, "From Bermondsey to Colwyn Bay, from Plymouth to Edinburgh,pioneers both lay and ordained are grasping the opportunity toshare the gospel where people are."

The Fresh Expressions statistics show steady growth in all formsof fresh expressions, including cafe church and messy church. Recentfigures from the Church of England show about 30,000 peopleattending fresh expressions of church who are not otherwise countedin church attendance figures. For most Methodist forms of freshexpressions, a clear majority of those taking part do not otherwiseattend church. 

Says Ian Bell, "Both our figures and those for the Church ofEngland clearly show the success of reaching out to people in newforms of church, alongside the traditional forms that still attracthundreds of thousands of participants each week. The next step, inthe words of Martyn Atkins, is to make the exotic and exceptionalbecome normal and natural. The future of the Church does not lie inany one expression of it, but in living and sharing God's love inall parts of our lives. As Venture FX and Fresh Expressions growand develop further, what we learn from them is a gift to the wholechurch."

Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops' Missioner and leader of theFresh Expressions team, adds, "It's inspiring to think that we haveseen the development of some 2,000 fresh expressions of church inthe Church of England and Methodist Church since the publication ofthe 2004 Mission-shaped Church report.

"The Holy Spirit has been at work in reaching thousands ofpeople through these fresh expressions and we are all running tokeep up. This is hugely encouraging but it is just a beginning andthere is much more to do. Fresh expressions of church are one vitalfactor but there is a long haul ahead of us."