Research & Resources

Research

  • The Church Army in Sheffield have had a Research Centre team for more than twenty years. Their focus has been on Church Planting and resulting Fresh Expressions of Church.This work has been very extensive and has covered qualitative research – leading to the publication of over 50 editions of “Encounters on the Edge”. It has also explored extensive quantitative research and a range of in depth publications have been produced, including “From Anecdote to Evidence” and “Encountering The Day of Small Things”. We strongly recommend those resources for any serious learning about planting Fresh Expressions.

    Here is a link to the Church Army Research Centre.

    Also, here are some quotes from leaders in this field which emphasise the importance of these research findings.

    The study results were presented by George Lings, the previous Director of the Church Army Research Centre at the Faith in Research Growth Conference in London. These are the headlines George Lings highlighted:-
    •           An estimated 24.5% of those attending fresh expressions of church are already members of a church, 35.2% are people who used to belong to church but who left for one reason or another while 40.3% are those with no previous church background at all.
    •           The fresh expressions of church, on average, were found to make up 15% of the dioceses’ churches and 10% of the attendance.
    •           52% of the fresh expressions are led by people who are not ordained, 40% are led by people who are not formally authorised. Two out of three lay leaders are women, two out of three ordained leaders are men; but the men are more likely to be paid and the women working voluntarily.
    •           There are at least 20 different recognizable types of fresh expressions and the average size is 44.
    •           They can be found in all traditions in the Church of England. The fresh expressions meet in all kinds of venues at various times, days of the week and geographical settings. The world of fresh expressions of church is described as one of ‘varied and smaller communities’
    •           78% intentionally encourage discipleship, not just attract attenders. Over a third have communion services and a third have had baptisms. Half are taking some steps toward responsibility for their finances and two thirds for how they are led, very few have formal legal status within the Church of England
    •           78% intentionally encourage discipleship, not just attract attenders. Over a third have communion services and a third have had baptisms. Half are taking some steps toward responsibility for their finances and two thirds for how they are led, very few have formal legal status within the Church of England.
    •           The majority, 66%, either continue to grow numerically or maintain the growth gained. Of those surveyed, 25% did grow but are now shrinking while 9.7% have come to an end. Growth patterns vary according to a wide combination of factors, including the kind of fresh expression, social area served and frequency of meeting.

    Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops’ Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team, said, ‘This thorough research shows the numerical scale, the demographic spread and the sheer variety of fresh expressions of church in the Church of England. Particularly significant is the proportion of people involved who have never been part of any church in their lifetime, and the number of new lay leaders who have never previously been involved. These findings offer hope. and show that the Church of England does know how to draw unchurched people into Christian discipleship and fellowship, and that decline is not inevitable.’

    Dr Rachel Jordan, National Mission and Evangelism Adviser for the Church of England, added, ‘This research has shown the true impact of fresh expressions of church in the Church of England. There are far more fresh expressions than we had ever imagined, creatively reaching all types of people with the love and message of Jesus Christ – people who were previously entirely missing from our churches. It demonstrates that the Church of England can adapt and flourish in the present and promises that we have a real future.’

    Canon Phil Potter, Director of Pioneer Ministry, Diocese of Liverpool, and team leader elect of Fresh Expressions, commented, ‘This is the most in-depth research we’ve had to date and it offers an encouraging and exciting snapshot of how the Church is finding fresh confidence in evangelism through fresh expressions. There is much here to both inspire and challenge, and this research will help to release many more creative and strategic conversations as we work together for a new future.’

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