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Fresh Expressions ‘on their turf’

Fresh Expressions Dinner Church

It started in England and now is at work in the U.S. Fresh Expressions “takes the church Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.”


Director for Congregational Vibrancy, Michigan Conference

Do you want to reach unchurched and de-churched people? Consider Fresh Expressions!

The New Start Team of The Michigan Conference will support you in doing that. We have matching grants of up to $1,000 for churches that want to start a Fresh Expression. 

What is a Fresh Expression? 

“A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people not yet part of any church.”

Why are Fresh Expressions needed?  

Most unchurched (or de-churched) people do not find much to interest them in our current worship styles. Just as John Wesley went out to the mines and workplaces to preach to the people, we need to find new ways to reach the current culture. A Fresh Expression bridges the gap between church and community.


Contact Dirk Elliott, Director of Congregational Vibrancy, to talk about a matching grant for your church.


What is the difference between a small group and a Fresh Expression? 

A small group is focused primarily on helping us grow as disciples. It is usually geared to Christians and, most often, people from the church we attend. A Fresh Expression is designed for unchurched people. It is not intended to introduce them to your church and eventually get them attending or joining your church. It is an opportunity to create church on their turf.

Some of the elements present in a Fresh Expression are: relationships; community; prayer; a message; serving; and giving.               

Not all Fresh Expression Communities will start with all of these elements. In fact, they usually begin at an introductory level and, over time, grow deeper in the relationships, eventually creating worship that fits the context of those gathered. However, it will not look like typical Sunday morning worship. 

Chris Backert, National Director for Fresh Expressions US, defines fresh expressions of church as “taking the church Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.” (Fresh Expressions of Church.  Travis Collins. Seedbed Publishing, 2015. p 40)

 Affinity Outreach is key.

Many Fresh Expressions are organized around affinity groups. They might be running groups, skateboarders, fly-fishers, or just about anything that people are passionate about, and that brings them together.

However, they are more than simply a time for people who like the same thing to get together. According to Fresh Expressions US, Fresh Expression churches are:

  • missional – serving people outside church;
  • contextual – listening to people and entering their culture;
  • educational – making discipleship a priority;
  • ecclesial – forming church.

Dinner Church fosters relationships.

One form of Fresh Expression is a Dinner Church. These also take a variety of forms: meeting at a pizza restaurant, a diner, a burrito bar, or almost any restaurant that will open its doors to allow a church to meet. 

The Dinner Church Collective is detailed in a book: Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, by Verlon Fosner.  Dinner Church reminds us that Jesus often met at table, sometimes with “sinners and tax collectors” and shared a meal that often changed lives. Fosner encourages churches to get out of their buildings and offer meals to those who are not likely to attend our existing churches. 

Suggested Fresh Expressions Resources:

Fresh Expressions of Church, Travis Collins

Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, Verlon Fosner

Fresh Expressions: A New Kind of Methodist Church for People Not in Church, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. and Audrey Warren

From the Steeple to the Street: Innovating Mission and Ministry through Fresh Expressions of Church, by Travis Collins

Last Updated on January 10, 2023

The Michigan Conference