The Michigan Conference is hosting two events—one on the east side of the state and one on the west side—on November 12 to help lay and clergy learn more about Fresh Expressions as an entrepreneurial way to start new kinds of Christian community.
Director of Congregational Vibrancy and Leadership Development, Michigan Conference
In this post-COVID time, many people are still reluctant to come back into our church buildings. Whether it is because of forming new habits of not attending worship in person or continuing reluctance to gather in larger groups, United Methodist in-person church attendance is down overall. As a result, churches are learning new ways of reaching people. Some are starting a Fresh Expression as a way to reach out to people with the love of God.
The Michigan Conference has offered workshops about Fresh Expressions. If you have missed these opportunities, don’t worry. More opportunities are coming soon. A Fresh Expression is an entrepreneurial way of starting new kinds of Christian communities for people who don’t currently attend church. They are often formed around various niche groups, attracting people with similar interests, building community, and living out faith in new ways.
One of the strengths of Fresh Expressions is that it is laity based. Pastors are behind the scenes providing encouragement and support, while the laity are the people actually starting new groups.
One example of a Fresh Expression is a “dinner church” for people living in a neighborhood. A person or couple might start a group for their neighbors, people who live close by but don’t usually interact with them. They meet weekly or monthly, share a meal, build relationships, and discuss neighborhood issues, as well as faith topics and experiences.
Other Fresh Expression groups are formed around hobbies. Rev. Jackie Raineri, one of the Associate Pastors at Plymouth: First UMC, is overseeing the start of several groups from the church. One man is starting a walking group. He is currently in physical therapy, recovering from an injury. During his therapy he has built relationships with several people and has created a walking group. They walk daily, share life stories as well as faith stories. Another Fresh Expression from Plymouth: First is centered around a book group. Several women gather weekly and discuss ideas from the book they are reading as well as faith issues that relate to their lives.
Fresh Expressions can be focused on any activity, hobby, or interest area. People today are hungry for relationships, and Fresh Expressions are a way to bring people together.
The Michigan Conference is hosting two events—one on the east side of the state and one on the west side—to help people, both lay and clergy, learn more about Fresh Expressions. Both events are on November 12. The content is very similar at both events.
In addition to these two introductory events on Fresh Expressions, the conference will host a Fresh Expressions cohort group beginning in January 2023. This group will meet monthly for coaching, support, and encouragement as churches start new Fresh Expressions.
For additional information on Fresh Expressions, read Dwayne Bagley’s blog in the Greater Southwest District’s newsletter.
In what ways will your church go to the people in your community?