Calling ALL Welcome Church People!

At Welcome Church we are in the middle of our “Life Group Refresh”. You can sign up for new Life Groups right now using this link here (or find out what’s going on using this link here if this recent change has passed you by!)

Life Groups start again in the week starting July 1st.

Please don’t forget to sign up ASAP so that you don’t miss out! If you don’t sign up we might assume that you don’t want to be in a Life Group.

Something for everyone

Since there are no Life Groups running during the rest of May and all of June, we will be using this time to do something different: we are going to run our new “Belong, Believe, Become Discipleship Track” (click here for details) at the Welcome Centre

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Let’s all get on the track

Please prioritise these sessions

Whether you are new to the church or have been here for 50 years, these sessions are intended for YOU! It would be so easy to sit back during these weeks, have a break from Life Group and disconnect a little … please don’t do that!

These sessions are so important that each one will run three times:

  • Tue & Wed evenings: 8pm – 9.30pm
  • Wed afternoon: 1pm – 2.30pm (finishing in time for school pick ups)

The exact dates can all be found in our church diary (click here) or through ChurchSuite

We want the whole church to have the chance to experience this discipleship track in person. 

Why are we doing this?

In short: we haven’t replaced membership with nothing; we have a new discipleship track.

This discipleship track is to help people grow and mature in their faith. The reason for running these sessions now is so that everyone who is already part of the church can experience it. This is important for two reasons:

  1. We all have a part to play. We all need to understand this if we’re going to help and encourage other people to access it and move forward in their faith
  2. It will bless you personally!

So come along ready to receive from God over these evenings.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there 😃

Come And See … our new building

This Saturday (11th May) we have an Open Afternoon for our new building project. You can drop in any time between 1pm and 3pm to get a view of the work done so far, to walk around the site, to ask questions and to pray. This will be an exciting opportunity to see the project before it’s complete and we move in next year.

Please remember that it is still a building site, so please do not go directly to the new building, but meet at The Welcome Centre first for a safety briefing. O&D Construction have confirmed that we will not need to wear hard hats but have stressed that sensible (closed) shoes must be worn.

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This is an exciting time for us as a church, and building work is moving quickly. We will be holding final gift days on Sunday 9th and 16th June to enable us to finish the job, and to help fund the additional items we’ve discussed over the last few weeks (details here).

If you missed the new ‘information booklet’ last Sunday with all the details, please pick one up either on Sunday morning, or when you visit the building on Saturday.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all there!

Saving Lives, Helping The Poor

On Sundays June 9th and 16th we will be having the final Gift Days for our New Building Project. We are going to give away a tithe (10%) of what we collect to a project working with the poorest of the poor … and the good news is that every gift we give to them on this occasion can be doubled!

Child Survival

As a church we are already sponsoring many children in Togo through Compassion UK, and it’s a country with a lot of needs. One of the big challenges is around infant mortality and health in pregnancy.

At present in Togo:

  • 1 in 20 babies die before their first birthday … and most of these are from preventable causes
  • 1 in 58 women also die

These are shocking statistics, and Compassion are working to change this though their Child Survival Projects (CSP). These CSP’s are run by local churches in Togo. They work with mothers throughout their pregnancy and for the first year of the child’s life to provide:

  • Medical support
  • Vaccinations
  • Basic provisions – including safe water, hygiene kits and nutritious food
  • Education – on how to care for a child – remembering that many of the mothers are little more than children themselves
  • Skills training – to teach work skills that can help them earn a living
  • Spiritual support and mentoring

These projects are so important that for a short while they are receiving matched funding from our UK Government.

Our donations to this vital work (before Gift Aid) will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government

So what we give to them will be doubled

This means that if we hit our target of £300,000, and we pass £30,000 on to Compassion, it will be doubled to £60,000 – enough to fund a project for several years.

Jesus told us that he was sent to bring good news to the poor. Let’s join him in that mission as we come to our Gift Days.

If you have any questions, please do ask.

Buildings: Finishing The Job Together

In case you haven’t noticed, our building work is well underway! Work on the new building (behind our current building) is progressing daily and is on track for us to move into during January 2020.

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There are now two challenges ahead for us:

The first challenge is the work to be done to our current building

There is a lot that will happen to the current building, including: an extension to create new offices, new professional quality kitchens, new toilet facilities, a new entrance, new doors leading through to the new building, a new reception area, a redesign of the current room layout, removal of the old baptistry and stage, a new boiler and heating system, electrical work, decorating throughout, cladding to the outside, landscaping, fencing, gates … the building will be transformed!

Our challenge is that on July 1st we will lose access to the whole site while the work is being done, and we won’t get it back until the job is finished in Dec/Jan. To make things more challenging, everything has to be cleared before work starts.

While the work goes on any ministries or meetings that would usually run in the building will NOT be able to take place there. The impact of this is being worked through with each ministry individually: some will find alternative venues, others will stop for a term. We are also looking to rent some office space off site for this period – more details on that when we have it.

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The second challenge is finance

Giving to this project has been phenomenal. Our Gift Days in May and November, plus some giving outside of that, have raised £1.935 million pounds. I want to say thank you for that generosity.

The challenge is that we still need a little more to finish the job, so we will be holding a final set of Building Fund Gift Days on Sundays 9th and 16th June. We would like these Gift Days to close the gap in the funding for our current plans, and we would also like to cover the cost of a few additional things/opportunities that have come up along the way. 

Some of the extra costs include:

  • Video: we would like to introduce video for recording our preaching, which will be key for our outreach and for reaching new places – we want to fund the equipment and infrastructure for that
  • Sound: this is very important and, after many quotes, we now know that it will cost more than we budgeted for – this is essential for us going forward
  • Folding doors: the folding doors we have need replacing (they are beyond repair) and sound proofing is needed above them too – this is not in the current plan
  • Drains: we have discovered that we have a collapsed drain, and twice during recent alpha evenings another drain has backed up and flooded the kitchen – these need to be fixed
  • Cladding: we are cladding some of the outside of the current building and want to do more than originally planned if we can
  • Windows: some single glazed windows do need updating – this is not in the current plan but would make a big difference if we can do it
  • And additionally it would be great if we could reduce how much we need to borrow from the bank.

Then there is one last thing. It is the most expensive thing, and in my view the most exciting one. I call this:

The Upper Room

This would be the addition of a completely new room above the new kids rooms in the current building; our architect has put together a plan of what this would look like and there are some pics for you to look at.

This upper room would have several uses: it could be a prayer room for people to use, a place for people to meet with God, a place for pastoral meetings, a place for quiet study. It’s different, it’s stylish and it’s ours if we want it … we just need to fund it.

I feel a real conviction that this is something we should go for if we possibly can, and like all the work we want to do, to do it now is much cheaper and far less disruptive than to try and do it at a later date, when the main work is finished and the building is in constant use.

We have a target for these Gift Days

We set very ambitious targets for our previous sets of Gift Days, and we didn’t hit either of them, but undaunted I’ll set one for us this time anyway! It’s a lot less than before:

If we can raise £300,000 we will be able to do all of this work.

Anything beyond that will reduce our eventual debt.

There is another factor in the mix for these Gift Days too. We are about far more than buildings, we are also about serving people and caring for the poor. So …

… a tithe (10%) of what we raise this time will be given to a ministry to serve some of the poorest and most needy people in the world.

I’ll tell you what that ministry is in my next blog. (Of course, if you want to give solely to the building fund, that’s fine – you can just let us know, no problem at all – but do at least look at what it’s going to first!)

And please remember: No one is under any pressure to give!

This is entirely between you and God. If we hit our target, great. If we miss it, we will do as much of the extra work as we can.

Open afternoon

One last thing to mention: we have a “New Building Open Afternoon” on Saturday 11th May, between 1pm and 3pm. This is a chance to visit the building site and see the work done so far; it’s a chance to stand on the site, walk around it, see how it feels, pray.

It is a building site, so you will need to wear sensible footwear (closed toes, no heels) and trousers would be ideal if possible. It’s also not really for kids – sorry!

Faith

I’m believing God that, with his help and blessing, we can raise the money to do all this. Ultimately He is the source of it all. Many of us have given generously so far, and God has not hesitated to bless us in response. I can testify to that personally.

Let’s go again in faith and finish the job together.

And remember this is all about our vision as a church. This is not ultimately about a building; it’s about our mission and calling as a church in this town.

Introducing ChurchSuite

As a church we need to store the information we have about people safely and process it properly. To help us with this at Welcome Church we ha e introduced a new database system called ChurchSuite. Some of you may have heard of it or used it before.

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Not that kind of sweet

 

What happens next?

If you are already on our Welcome Church database you should have received two e-mails:

E-mail 1:  Is simply to let you know that you’re on our ChurchSuite database. If you don’t want to be on it anymore you can ask to be removed.

E-mail 2: Gives you login details for your personal account.

If you believe you are on our system (or want to be) and you haven’t had an e-mail from us, something may be wrong with the info we have. Please let us know straightaway.

ChurchSuite comes with a handy App

ChurchSuite comes with a free to use App for smart phones and tablets. Please download it and login to it. It works on a web browser too, so you might want to login to it on your laptop and bookmark it too.

Some important info: this App will replace the previous Welcome Church App, which we will cease to use or update as of now, It will disappear from the App Store soon, but you might want to delete it now and save some precious space on your device! 😀

What the ChurchSuite App does for us

The app will initially contain:

  • Your data (Address, DOB, phone number etc.) Please check that it’s correct and edit it if it’s not. You can also add more data than we currently hold if you want to. No one else can see your  data except those who we have authorised to see it. (Even if you change the settings on your data to “visible”, this will still be true. We’ve set it up that way on purpose …)
  • Podcasts – so you can keep up to date with our latest talks easily
  • Links to our Facebook page and our Website (which might be helpful)
  • The church diary, and the chance to sign up for events (which will be hugely helpful)

In the next few weeks we will be adding some more functions:

  • Serving rotas will soon be added (some are there already). Reminder e-mails will also be generated through the App for when you’re serving
  • You will be able to mark when you’re unable to serve so that you don’t get put on a rota, and you’ll also be able to organise swaps with people.
  • For people who create rotas: we will soon be showing you how to do this easily through the App; although at first we are adding them centrally
  • Registration for kids and youth work will soon be done through the App
  • Later on you’ll be able to see your life group, or serving team and message them all through the App
  • Further applications may also follow

We really hope this is helpful for people. If you have any questions please message Darren in the office on Darren.Forsdyke@allwelcome.uk

Thanks … and enjoy!

Refreshing our Life Groups

Life groups (small groups that meet in homes) are a key part of our church life. They are a great a place to connect and make friends, to have fun together, to explore faith and to share life together.

Home based small groups go all the way back to the Bible (see Acts 2v46). Christians have been meeting like this since the church first began, and our church has a great history of these groups over many years.

We want all our Life Groups to be built around …

Fun, Food and Friendship … with Faith

They are about sharing life together, helping new people to connect to the church and building one another up. Some of the groups have been going for many years now and a lot of life has been shared!

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Over the next season we are going to do a refresh of our Life Groups. 

There are several reasons for doing this refresh, for example:

  • Some Life Group leaders feel the need to take a break from leading, often after many years
  • Some groups have been going for a long time, with people feeling that perhaps it’s time to “mix things up a bit”
  • Some potential leaders are very keen to step up and lead new groups

So for these and other reasons, it’s time for a simple refresh!

Here is the refresh process:

The first step is simple: all of our current Life Groups are closing at the start of May. The last week of meeting together will be during the week commencing 6th May.

Why not take the chance during this last meeting to really honour your Life Group Leaders and show them how much you appreciate them?

Then, from 12th May – 9th June, there will be a chance to sign up for new Life Groups. We are producing a small booklet for everyone, listing who all the group leaders will be going forwards, and when and where they will meet.

There will be lots of groups to choose from, meeting in different locations and at different times, and you will be free to sign up for whatever group you want to go to – perhaps listing a top 3.

By mid June we will finish a process of working out who goes where, probably with some discussions as needed. New groups will then start on July 1st running through to Easter 2020 … when we will probably do something similar again

But what if I REALLY LOVE my current Life Group?

If you are in a group you love, and the leaders are carrying on leading and you want to stay with them (and they are happy to have you 😃) … you will get priority for that group.

What will happen in May and June midweek?

Since there are no Life Groups running during most of May and all of June, we will use that time to do something different – we are going to run our new “Belong, Believe, Become Discipleship Track” (click here for details) at the Welcome Centre

Each session will run three times

  • Tue & Wed evenings: 8pm – 9.30pm
  • Wed afternoon: 1pm – 2.30pm (finishing in time for school pick ups)

The exact dates can all be found in our church diary here

Please prioritise these sessions. We want the whole church to have the chance to experience all of it in person. 

We love our Life Groups

We want them to thrive. This refresh is part of that desire.

And don’t forget, there is always space for new leaders to step up …

Vision Focus: The Year So Far

Last night at Welcome Church we had our Vision Focus meeting for the Summer Term. It was great to see so many people there. I will post a few blogs this week to help keep everyone up to date.

Vision focus is a termly meeting  to communicate what’s been going on in the church  and what’s coming up; a mix of information, inspiration and prayer; a chance to find out what’s happening and what’s ahead.

It’s been an interesting and exciting year so far

In January we made the change in our approach to membership, talking instead about belonging. Other church leaders have been talking to me about what we’ve done; it’s a subject that seems to be under review in lots of churches.

Alpha is going well. We have 35 completing the current course. God is at work. He has put people in your life who you could invite; we are still barely scratching the surface. We had 17 baptisms in March, of which 8 came from alpha. If you want to get baptised next time, just let us know.

Kids and Youth work are going well. Our youth and kids pastor, Ben Martin, is currently in Basingstoke for a secondment and is doing a great job there by all accounts. Do keep Ben and Nancy in your prayers and remember that they are still living here in Woking,

Ben and Becca Corbett are leading the youth team well. The youth work is growing and they just had a great youth alpha.

The kids team is now being headed up by Steve Blowfeld, known to all as Blowers, and what a great job they did with a family service on Sunday morning – including some fun costumes for some of the elders …

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What happens when the kids work take over

This term we also launched Welcome Works.

Welcome works is our new initiative to draw together all our ministries to the poor. I love the new strap line: With You, For You.

As part of Welcome Works we launched our Compassion child sponsorship programme, sponsoring children in Togo. So far as a church we have sponsored 142 children as part of this new initiative. It’s not too late to sponsor – just ask.

For those who are already doing it, do be faithful to start writing letters and building a relationship with the child/children you are sponsoring

As I write this, our new International Cafe is in progress here at the Welcome Centre. Led by Marion Mcallister, this new event is a great chance for people who speak English as a second language to come along, make friends, and practice their English. I just stuck my head round the door and got very excited by what I saw!

Soon we will be launching our very own CAP Centre too. This project is about helping people and families to get out of debt. More details on this will follow soon – watch this space.

Good things are happening in our church  and we have a lot to be thankful for!

I’ll post some more blogs this week to detail what’s coming up in the months ahead, including information on Belonging, Life Groups and our Building Project.

An Amazing Result

This weekend saw the launch of Welcome Church’s partnership with Compassion UK – sponsoring children in the African country of Togo (click here for more info ). This launch is the latest addition to our Welcome Works initiative.

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It was great to hear from Tim Robertson about how Compassion are:

  • Jesus centred
  • Child focussed, and
  • Church based

You can find out more about this excellent ‘three cord’ approach to ministry here

Or you can hear more of what Tim said by clicking here

The result was fantastic:

On Sunday Welcome Church stepped up to sponsor 111 children in poverty

And that number is already going up. This is really something to celebrate; lives will be changed as a result. Jo and I now sponsor a 7 year old girl in Togo. We’re looking forward to sending her a letter soon.

So what do I do now?

If you sponsored a child:

In the next few days you should hear from Compassion with some introductory information and confirming your bank details etc.

Once that is all in place I would recommend doing the following:

  1. Set up a My Compassion account with Compassion UK online – this gives you all the info you need, and will link you to information about the child you sponsor, the community they are in and how you can write to them
  2. Download the Compassion UK App onto your phone/pad. You can put your account info into it and it makes everything even more accessible. You can use the app to do everything, including viewing and writing letters; you can even do it on the way to work on the train.
  3. Write to your child. Try to do it a few times a year, and don’t forget a birthday card and gift when that comes around (Compassion will remind you). If you can, why not try to write at least once a term, after all you are looking to build a relationship with them? Remember you can include photos too. If you’re unsure what to write, the Compassion website will give you some great pointers. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to show you care. If your child is very small, it may be the parents/carers who communicate with you at first, but that will change over time.
  4. Pray for them and their family, and for the church who are running the project. Remember, this is spiritual ministry and they need your prayers.
  5. If you have kids of your own, involve them. Let them write a letter or send a photo – it’s great way for them to grasp something of God’s heart for the poor.

If you have not yet sponsored a child:

You will get another chance to step up this Sunday and next Sunday at church, so in the meantime you could listen to Tim’s talk, check out the various links above, and see if it’s something you want to do.

For £25 a month you can genuinely change a life, and help to release someone from poverty in Jesus’ name. And that’s what our church is all about: seeing lives changed and communities impacted for good by God’s grace in action.

Exciting times!

Called to show Compassion

This Sunday at Welcome Church we are launching our newest Welcome Works initiative: we will be partnering with Compassion UK to sponsor children in the nation of Togo, Africa. (To find out what Welcome Works is, click here)

I love what Compassion do. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s precious.

They work with the poorest of the poor to help lift children, families and whole communities out of poverty and to give them hope. They also work to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus, meeting their deepest need of all. I love that Compassion do all of this by working through local churches in the countries they serve.

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By sponsoring a child with Compassion you get to build a personal link with the child you are sponsoring: they write letters to you and you can write back; you can send them Bible verses and encouragements, and ask how you can pray for them; you get to see them grow up; you get to see the impact that of the gospel in action through your sponsorship.

Jo and I have sponsored children in the Philippines through Compassion for several years now, and we are looking forward to expand that to include Togo as well.

Why Togo?

In short: because the majority of children in Togo are desperately poor.

Togo is one of the least developed countries in Africa.

Without decent healthcare, under-5 mortality rates are 45 per 1,000 live births. Even those children who manage to survive those early years face countless obstacles including disease, malnutrition and limited access to medical care and education.

Less than five per cent of children who attend primary school in Togo go on to secondary school. Many families simply can’t afford the school resources and for others the need to send their children to work is too great. As a result, many children are denied the freedom of childhood, and a quarter of children are married before they are 18.

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Just stop for a moment

Re-read those last facts.

Let them sink in and touch your heart.

These are children, just the same as the children we may know personally. They think and feel just like the children we know. They have dreams and fears like they do. They need food, clothing, healthcare, education and hope, just like them. They also need to hear the good news of Jesus.

Why Togo? Because the need is so great, and Jesus told us to care for the poor – and it seems from the Bible that Jesus has a particular place in his heart for children. (Matthew 19v13-14; Matthew 18v6)

Compassion’s work in Togo began in 2009. Now, more than 197 local churches in Togo are reaching out to more than 50,982 children through partnership with Compassion. We are going to increase that number.

So this Sunday come ready to let God touch your heart, and come ready to step up.

Our church vision statement says that we want “to see lives changed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace in Action.” That’s what this is all about. We are going to take steps together that will change lives and destinies for children.

I actually believe this Sunday might be the single most important Sunday at Welcome Church since I arrived.

Welcome Works – caring for the poor

We launched a new initiative at Welcome Church on Sunday. We’re calling it Welcome Works.

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When Jesus started his ministry he described what he had come to do like this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4v18-19

The poor includes those who are “spiritually poor” – people who do not know God – and it also includes those who are physically poor in all sorts of ways – people who are in need, or are sick, or in prison, or oppressed, or in debt, or stuck in addiction – they all matter.

God cares about the poor and those in need.

The Bible is full of verses describing our call to remember the poor. Here are just a few sample verses, picked from among many:

  • “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” – Psalm 82v3-4
  • “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” – Proverbs 19v17
  • “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” – Proverbs 29v7
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” – James 1v27  … an interesting verse in which God seems to give as much weight to caring for the poor as he does to personal holiness

Every Christian and every church has a part to play in caring for the poor …

… so as a church we’re launching a new approach to this area of our church life and we’re calling it Welcome Works. To support this initiative a whole new section of our website has now gone live and you can access it by clicking here.

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Welcome Church is involved in many different projects that aim to bring help to those in need in our community and further afield. Welcome Works is the unifying banner that pulls all of these together.

There are some amazing things going on among us! Check out the website to see what they are. Some of these things we do as a church, some we do in partnership with other churches or agencies and some are done by individuals as part of their personal calling.

There is a lot going on and each of these things matter.

There are too many things being done to list them all, but we’ve brought a number of them together under the title ‘Welcome Works’. We are doing this to create a context where we can give greater profile to them. We want to create a context where we’re making it easier for people to get involved or to seek help from them.

We want to create a more coordinated approach to those we help, for example some people may need help from more than one ministry. We want to enable the sharing of resources – people, skills, facilities, courses. We want to work more smoothly alongside other agencies or churches. This will also help us to give better oversight and support to the people who serve in these different ministries.

These areas of our ministry are central to the heart of Jesus so they must not be on the sidelines of our church life.

We want to talk about them, embrace them, give profile to them and encourage everybody to get involved in them. Our launch of this initiative also coincides with a whole preaching series about God’s heart for the poor. You can hear the first one by clicking here.

During the series we’ll also hear from some of the Welcome Works we are involved in as a church. This week we heard about some of the work we do in two local prisons. Is that where God wants you to get involved?

As we go through this series, let God speak to you. Keep listening to him carefully each week. He may lead you in a direction that could surprise you and set you on an adventure!

 “Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” 

Isaiah 58v10-11