Carlisle churchgoers are now one quarter ‘fresh expressions’

06 September 2019

Network Youth Churches focusing on discipleship

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St Peter’s, Askham, in Penrith, Cumbria

St Peter’s, Askham, in Penrith, Cumbria

ONE in four people attending church in Carlisle diocese does so through a fresh expression of Church, a new study shows.

The study, Fresh Expressions in the Diocese of Carlisle, by the Church Army, found that 3100 people attended church through a fresh-expressions scheme.

The report says: “While previously fxC (Fresh Expressions) sought growing into ‘three-self’ responsibility, self-reproduction, self-financing and self-governing, a healthy interdependence is now encouraged, with traditional parish churches and fresh expressions of church learning from and supporting each other.”

Furthermore, the study says that “All but one of the groups have people attending who do not attend another church; indeed, four groups are entirely made up of such people.”

Twenty-six per cent of people attend only a fresh expression, it says: “For every four people attending church in the diocese of Carlisle, one of them attends only a fresh expression of church.”

The researchers spoke to many of the fresh-expressions and Network Youth Church (NYC) organisations in the diocese. They sampled ten per cent of the initiatives held by the diocese, and carried out phone interviews with the leaders of these groups.

The report says: “In our telephone calls, it was apparent that Network Youth Church respondents were better able to articulate discipleship activities.”

It quotes one fresh-expressions response: “Never been to church before; 90 per cent non-church kids; we are first contact starting that basic discipleship process with them. Degree of discipleship depends on the group. . . We deliberately don’t double count numbers, look at kids who are regulars and have our fringe. We’re thorough, we can name names on lists. . . We have a lunch school club that is definitely doing discipleship, and it’s built community.”

It continues: “In contrast to NYC, non-networked fxC respondents would be more likely to struggle to describe engagement with discipleship, or not discuss it t all. This may be indicative of the coaching power of questions in the more comprehensive approach to accompanying Network Youth Churches in the diocese.”

The study concludes: “Attendance numbers were compared with those collected by the diocese, and show an appropriate level of comparison. When the figures are compared with those of the diocese as a whole, we estimate that one person in four attending worship in the diocese does so only at a fresh expression of Church.”

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