New Elders For Welcome Church

This Sunday at our Vision Focus evening I had the joy of putting forward three men to join the eldership team at Welcome Church.

It’s a sign of God’s blessing on a church when godly leaders are raised up to lead and govern God’s people; when they are raised up as shepherds to feed, guide and protect ‘the flock’. It’s my privilege to propose three such men for this church (and I can see more on the way too).

Each of them will bring their own unique combination of gifting and personality, each has demonstrated solid character and good leadership, and they all model godly family life. Hopefully none of the names comes as a big surprise:

Eugene Engelbrecht

Eugene is married to Jodie and they have four children. Together Eugene and Jodie run a business called Engel construction. Eugene has a strong pastoral gift and loves to see people discipled, set free, full of the Spirit and thriving in God. He and Jodie also lead a fairly enormous Life Group.

Christopher Hawes

Christopher is married to Sarah and they have three children. Christopher works in a school as a drama teacher and Sarah works in acting, as well as serving the church in leadership in children’s work. Christopher has a strong Bible teaching gift and is hugely creative. He is also one of our Sunday morning worship leaders.

Mike Reid

Mike is married to Lou and they have three children. Mike works in London in underwriting and Lou regularly gives time as a volunteer, serving in our church offices and helping with pastoral care. Mike has a strong prophetic gift and a clear pastoral heart too. Mike is also one of our church trustees.

We wholeheartedly recommend these three men and their families to you and believe they will be a blessing to our church

They will add a solid strength to our current eldership team, and we are looking forward to what the future brings together. At this point in time all three will continue in their regular full-time jobs.

What next?

The Bible lays out what sort of person an elder should be in three places: Titus 1v5-9; 1 Timothy 3v1-7; 1 Peter 5v1-4. Do have a read of those passages.

Appointing elders is done in combination between apostolic oversight (Guy Miller), the current eldership team (Dean, Dub and myself) and the church.

The church, meaning each of the people who make up the church, has a God-given responsibility: we are called to submit to our leaders, especially our elders, and to receive their ministry in faith. We are also called to encourage them and make their task a joy (Hebrews 13v17).

On this basis, if anyone has any Biblical concerns please let us know straight away. Equally, if you agree that these men are awesome and will be blessing to our church please also let us know that too. Remember: everyone needs encouragement!

A date for your diary

On Sunday 23rd February, at a special meeting, we will appoint these men as elders. Guy & Heather Miller are going to come and join us and lead us through that occasion. Please arrive from 4pm for coffee and cake with a 4.30pm kick off, wrapping up at 5.30pm with more cake.

This will be a celebration for the whole church family, so come with your kids. We will also be meeting as normal that morning at 9am and 11am.

See you there!

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Time to celebrate!

Merry Christmas – what a year it’s been!

We’ve made it safely to the end of another year (almost), and what a year it’s been for Welcome Church! I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Some highlights

Along the way we’ve built a new building, moved into the annex, held an amazing Gift day, launched Welcome Works, sponsored 141 kids in Togo with Compassion UK, launched The Useful Wood Company, seconded Ben & Nancy to Gateway Church Basingstoke for a while, welcomed Rhea John onto staff, said goodbye to David & Tina Maskell, taken 300 people to Westpoint, finished meeting at the HG Wells Conference Centre, launched and shared our Welcome Stories, published our first book, run an amazing Fun Day, held a fireworks event with around 2000 people, put on a Carol Service for Woking (featuring both the Mayor and our local MP😃) and done a whole lot more too.

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Additionally there’s been the usual, day to day stuff of church life that has carried on, including baptisms, pastoral care, Sunday meetings, worship, preaching, weddings, funerals, kids work, youth work, Life Groups, Alpha courses, ministry to the poor and lots more too.

If you’ve chosen to make Welcome Church your church then we want to say,

“Thank you for being on the journey with us in 2019”.

Looking forward to 2020

2020 is going to be and in incredible year for us. The new building will be launched in January, and there will be many God given opportunities and blessings ahead for us. I’m sure we will also face some big challenges, yet we have a big God who is with us every step of the way. Let’s all start inviting people to the launch event on the 19th.

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Something for us all to do

ImageIf you haven’t done it already, or even if you have, why not take a quiet moment over the next week or so to read Dub’s book, “Caring and Sharing”.

This book is our ‘manifesto for evangelism’ as a church. It’s easy to read, full of great stories and it will only take 1 or 2 hours to read from cover to cover.

I know that if we were all to put the principles in this book into practice in 2020, it would have a huge impact on many lives.

Merry Christmas

I hope you have an amazing Christmas this year, whatever you’re up to. Do take some time out along the way to reflect on the real reason for the season: Jesus coming into the world. Do take time to pray and to thank Him for all he’s done in your life. And I look forward to seeing you all in 2020.

Summer Reading

In case you have a bit of time over the summer to do some extra reading while you enjoy the sunshine, here are some books that I found particularly helpful this year and want to recommend:

1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This book, by Kenneth Bailey, looks at the life of Jesus from the perspective of those who live in the Middle East. A special focus is given to the stories of Jesus’ birth, his attitude to women, the Lord’s Prayer, the beatitudes and several of Jesus’ parables.

I found it extremely interesting, easy to read and personally challenging. It was packed full of insights that were completely new to me. I will definitely be reading more by this author and I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the life and teachings of Jesus.

2. A War Of Loves – the unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus

Jo and I have had the privilege of meeting David Bennett, having dinner with him and hearing him speak. This book is his autobiographical account of how he came to faith in Jesus, and the implications of this for his life. It is an honest account and doesn’t shy away from some deeply personal and challenging issues.

I would recommend this book to every Christian … I would even call it “essential reading”. Read it with an open heart and let God challenge you; it brought me to tears several times. And if you want to know more, David will be speaking in two seminars at Westpoint this year as well.

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3. Developing Female Leaders

This book, by Kadi Cole, is the one I’ve read most recently and is an absolute gift to anyone in the church. It looks at some of the reasons why women have struggled to maximise their leadership gifts in the church context and gives eight, easy to implement, best practices to help turn that around. It contained truths that I can now see are blindingly obvious, but which I had simply been unaware of before.

I particularly like how the author doesn’t have a big personal axe to grind; she just has a deep desire to help churches live up to the fullness of what they say they believe. Regardless of where we might sit on the “egalitarian” vs “complementarian” debate (and this book is not about that) this is relevant, practical and helpful. I’m looking forward to putting these steps into the practice in the months and years ahead.

4. Sustainable Power

Simon Holley’s book is not new (it’s been on my shelf for four years) but I only got round to reading it this year … and I’m so glad I did. It looks at the ‘rocks’ in our hearts and lives that can prevent God from moving in and through us to impact the world around us. It’s full of relevant stories and examples and is easy to read whilst being personally challenging to read at the same time.

If you want to grow in faith, grow in expectation and grow in your walk with God, this is the book for you. Just don’t expect to reach the end unchallenged and unchanged.

Hope you have a great summer …

… and if you do take the time to read any of these, feel free to (politely) let me know what you thought of them in the comments section below.

 

Our Welcome Church Story

Our church has a fantastic back story, which has been written across a time span of 139 years. It was founded in 1879 by Edward Tarbox who seems like a fairly impressive guy to me; a heroic ‘wall-builder’ in God’s Church.

A few years ago John Gloster wrote a history of our church, covering the period from 1879 to 1999, and it makes fascinating reading. This year he has produced Book 2, and it looks like this:

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In this new book John traces how God has grown Welcome Church from its early roots as Woking Baptist Church. He recounts how God has led us from the early days, on through the Coign Church years until today, when more than 600 men, women and children are sharing His ‘Welcome’ with the Woking community and far beyond.

Copies of the book are available at the Welcome Centre, costing just £5 (£1 less than the price on Amazon) but, as all profits are going to Welcome Church building fund, feel free to pay more than £5, if you wish! 

John will also be selling copies after the 10.00 a.m. service at HG Wells on Sunday 23rd December.

And what a great idea for a Christmas gift, or for some Christmas reading for yourself. 

The book is fascinating, whether you’ve lived through many years of the Church’s history yourself, or are a comparative newcomer wanting to know more about the heroic ‘wall-builders’ of our past.

And rumours are that Book 1 is getting a makeover too and may be available again in 2019 as well. I’m looking forward to that.

Recent Travels & Some Future Plans

You may know that in addition to my role at Welcome Church, I’m also involved with Commission more widely. In that role I’ve been out and about a few times lately:

Regional Celebration

46503824_10157865078449692_8412979250755272704_nOn Sunday 18th November I was speaking in the evening at a Regional Celebration for three Commission Churches held in Epsom. The churches involved were Kings Church Epsom, Open Door Church Sunbury and Jubilee Church Shepperton. Epsom have just recently joined Commission so it was great to be there with them for the first time.

I spoke on the topic of Seeing People Clearly, covering some of the material from our own Belong Believe Become preaching series.

I really enjoyed the evening and was pleased to give one of my favourite shirts an outing too. Big thanks to David Maskell for coming with me.

Eldership appointments

The following Sunday evening, 25th November, I was at Bridge Church Newbury appointing three new church elders: Mark Landreth-Smith (Lead Elder), Pete Carter and Alastair Clark.

This was the first set of eldership appointments for this newly planted church, which is a church plant no longer … now a full fledged church.

Jo came with me and it was great to be with them for the evening, and to see the excitement, passion and vision of the people there.

On the same day, in the morning, Chris Kimbangi was appointed as the new Lead Elder at Centrepoint Church in Guildford following Boggles and Jill Harty moving on. Chris is married to Catherine and they have two small girls. Chris was also part of my team back at Grace Church (before I moved to Woking).

I wasn’t there for the morning, but it’s another big step in the life of a church that was planted from us here at Woking. I’m really glad to have Chris and Catherine just up the road and the early reports are that things are going well.

Week away

In between the two Sundays David, Dean, Dub and myself had a week away, as an Eldership Team, in a remote cottage on Dartmoor to talk, pray and plan for the future … with no phone signal or internet!!! 🙁

We had a great time that included looking at some 360 Feedback on our leadership styles (with help from Robin Willison), the role of eldership, pastoral care plans for the future, plans for life groups, plans for integration of new people (with help from Chaz and Mazz McCallister) and future leadership development. We also had the odd visit to a pub (purely to access their Wi-Fi!)

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We now have lots of plans formed for 2019 … YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!😃

Compassion UK

One more thing in case you missed it: Dean is currently in Kenya with the child sponsorship charity, Compassion. He flew out on Thursday morning … and landed back at Heathrow a couple of hours later due to the plane’s undercarriage malfunctioning!

He says it was pretty tense on the plane as it came in to land, but the stewardesses were excellent (nice one BA). He then flew out again a few hours later, this time getting all the way to Nairobi (we hope 😃). Do pray that he has a safe trip and a life changing experience.

This trip is giving Dean the chance to look at the work of Compassion in Africa, something I did myself a couple of years ago. It was an experience that still lives with me.

Next year we will be launching a project with Compassion as a church (although not in Kenya). Look out for more details of how you can get involved with that in the New Year.

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Welcome Church Begins

Today is a new day for us as a church: we have now become Welcome Church.

Logo_Color_previewWe’ve been working towards this as a church for some months now, and the day has finally arrived! The new name reflects our new identity and culture as a church, which I have attempted to explain below.

We summarise our approach to church life in four simple words:

Belong, Believe, Become, Together.

Belong

So we say, “Come as you are”

There are no perfect people at Welcome Church; we are all recipients of the love, acceptance and inclusion offered by Jesus Christ, who makes us friends of God and friends with each other. Because of Him we can come with all our questions, doubts and struggles. We can belong together, experiencing God’s grace in action.

We are people of grace!

Believe

So we say, “Know how loved you are”

As we journey together, we seek to know God as our loving Father, His son Jesus as our friend and saviour and the Holy Spirit’s life and power within us. We believe Jesus has the answers to this world’s challenges, so we are learning what it means to trust and to follow him.

We are people of faith!

Become

So we say, “Become who you were created to be”

We believe that God has a purpose for every one of us, and that He created us all with a unique identity. As we follow Jesus we want to find God’s purpose for our lives and learn about the identity he has for us. We want to become who God created us to be and to live that out.

We are people of identity!

Together

So we say, “Find your place”

Together we are God’s church and we each have a part to play. Jesus has restored us to a relationship with God as our loving Father and he wants us to have good relationships with one another as well. Together we seek to show the love of Jesus to everyone, both those who are part of the church, and those who are not.

We are people of community.

By living these values out, we aim to fulfil our mission:

“To share God’s Grace in Action with all people for all of life.”

And we pray that we will see our vision fulfilled:

“To see lives changed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace in Action”

Want to know more? Get in touch with us.

Want to join us on a Sunday? We meet at 9am and at 11am at the HG Wells Conference Centre in Woking.

Check out our new website too: www.allwelcome.uk

And remember: It matters that you’re here.

It Matters

Changing our name

As a church we’re changing our name, and introducing a new vision statement and a new mission statement, and also a new logo and artwork

Why make a change at all?

The Coign has been our name and identity for many years – first as The Coign fellowship and then as The Coign Church – and during those years God has hugely blessed this church. Lots of good stuff has happened, so let’s be quick to honour the past and let’s be thankful to God.

baby nameThat said, the idea of changing the name has been well received and even expected. My predecessor, Malcolm Kayes, told me he planned to change the name when the new building was completed, and that was hoped to be a while ago!

 

Of course, whilst no name is perfect, a good name can be a great tool for us to connect with the culture around us. It can be even better if we have a name that reflects the culture of our church too; a name that communicates to people about who we are and helps to draw people in.

The process

Choosing a name has been a long process. It began with a Listening Tour in our church, conducted during September to November 2017, shortly after I arrived. During the Listening Tour I asked four key questons:

  1. What is one thing I need to know about the church?
  2. What is one way we will reach new people?
  3. What is one dream you have for the church?
  4. What is one thing you are afraid I might do?

Those questions gave everyone a chance to speak into the process, albeit without knowing it, and they were hugely informative, after all – we need a name that reflects our intended culture and our aspirations.

Getting help

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Paul Graves

We then engaged the help of Paul Graves from seeseven.com. He’s a branding specialist, and a pastor in a church in Seattle. He’s also a friend of one of our trustees and originates from Basingstoke – so he’s as British as fish and chips! Working with Paul, we drew together a small and diverse team to look at the whole area of branding and naming.

 

Focus Groups and Seeking God

Along the way, Paul conducted a series of eight Focus Groups with us, which included all sorts of people from across the whole spectrum of the church  and also included people from outside our church; people from local politics, from church leadership and from the volunteer sector too. We were looking for “quality of data” rather than “quantity of input” at that stage,  which meant that not everyone could be involved, although everyone had already had a chance to input during the Listening Tour.

The focus groups gave great insight into how we are currently viewed as a church, some of the challenges we face, and also the aspirations we hold for ourselves, and out of all that data we began to recognise a simple clear contender for the new name … it actually came really easily.

At the same time, as a team, we were praying and asking God to speak prophetically, and we believe He has many times: to us as individuals, to and through Paul Graves, through prophetic contributions in meetings, through the focus groups, through wisdom and a sense of peace, and in prayer meetings too.

Making the call

So in the end, as an Eldership Team, we reached a decision on the name, and it was honestly a very easy call to make; we were simply confirming a unanimous sense of what everyone involved in the project believed God was saying to us.

So we’re changing the name of our church to: Welcome Church”

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The first Sunday under our new name will be Sunday 20th May, and between now and then we have some work to do to change a lot of things! The change is not now a secret, but we’re planning the publicity to start from May 14th onwards.

Incidentally, if you wonder where you’ve heard the name before, it’s the same name that Graham and Kimberley Allen, sent out from our church, gave to the church they planted in Austin Texas. Although our choice of name and our whole process was completely independent from that. I’ve spoken to Graham and he’s very pleased.

More than a name

Our new name is more than just a name; it’s something that reflects our whole culture, identity and purpose.

Let’s remember why we exist: we’re not here for our own benefit; the church has a mission! We exist to make disciples of all nations! We exist to serve this town and to reach out in love to people with the good news of Jesus.

That’s why we’ve come up with a new ‘strapline’ to go with our name, a strapline that captures some of the essence of the culture and message we want to communicate to people: “It matters that you’re here”

It Matters

Jesus has a purpose for each of our lives. Every person is precious to God. It matters that YOU exist; it matters that you’re here!

Jesus has a purpose for our church too, and that purpose is not about us being warm and comfortable in a nicely ordered church meeting! There are thousands of people in Woking who God is calling us to serve and reach out to with his love and grace, and we’ve hardly begun. We each have a part to play; it matters that you’re here.

A new vision

In my next blog I’ll talk about our new vision statement and our new mission statement, but that’s enough information for one blog!

 

Focussing Our Vision

This Sunday evening (22nd April, 6.30pm at The Coign Church building) we have our next Vision Focus evening, and it’s going to be a key one for our church.

During the evening, among other things, we will reveal the new name for our church, along with details of a new Vision Statement and Mission Statement and of course a new logo and artwork. It’s going to be a very significant time for us together, which will shape our culture and focus our vision more sharply for the way ahead.

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Let’s focus our vision for the future

On the three Sundays following this (29th April; 6th May; 13th May) we will be holding gift days to help fund our new building project. These are also very significant for us and will shape our future as well.

There’s a lot going on right now!

Pressing forward in faith

Two weeks ago I spoke about growing in faith, looking at the story of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind (John 9). Do have a listen if you missed it.

In the talk I listed seven barriers to faith:

  1. Misunderstanding
  2. Lack of knowledge
  3. Cynicism
  4. Religion
  5. Fear
  6. Self Righteousness
  7. Pride

These barriers to faith, can also be barriers in our hearts when it comes to our response to change.

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Sometimes we can’t see the end from the beginning, but we have faith in a God who can

As we go through these times of change, we each need to watch our hearts and ask if any of these  things are standing in the way of us fully and joyfully embracing where God is leading us together.

 

Which of these is is the biggest challenge for you personally?

Sometimes we can’t see the end from the beginning, but we have faith in a God who can.

A call to faith and prayer

As we go through these times of change together I want to call us to faith and to prayer.

I would encourage all of us to be at our prayer meetings during the following week (Tuesday 24th at 8pm; Wednesday 25th at 2pm and 8pm).

I would also encourage each of us to consider seeking God personally in periods prayer and fasting. We need God’s help as we move forward; our human efforts are not enough! Let’s be diligent to  bring our church before God in prayer during these weeks.

And please pray for your leaders too; we always need it and value it.

“… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph 6v18)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4v6-7)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12v2)

A Season Of Change

Sitting working at home today it looks like Spring has arrived in our garden at last! Long may the sunshine continue!

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I love this quote from Song of Songs:

“See! The winter is past; the rains (and snow) are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” (Songs of Songs 2v11-13)

Jesus loves his church

We are Jesus’ bride, and He calls us to arise and follow him. He is the one who brings us growth and fruitfulness, and we’ve certainly seen some fruit recently, for example last weekend we had the joy of 12 baptisms. This included people from eight different nations: Nigeria, South Africa, Cyprus, Spain, China, Brazil, South Korea and the UK. Jesus is at work in our church!

A new season

As a church we’re about to embark on a significant new season, full of of change, to help us become even more effective and fruitful:

  • On Sunday April 22nd we announce the new name for our church at our Vision Focus Evening (6.30pm at The Coign Building)
  • After that we will have Gift Days towards the New Building Project
  • In May our new name will go live and we will relaunch ourselves in Woking

These are significant changes and will impact us all in various ways. As we go through these changes, we would be naive to think that it will all be smooth sailing or that we don’t have to be both watchful and prayerful.

Let’s keep watch on ourselves

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” 1 Peter 5v8-9

Our enemy would love to spoil our beautiful new season and halt the growth that God is bringing us, so let’s pray and let’s be watchful … and let’s not do his job for him!

Let’s each keep a close watch on our own hearts as we go through these changes.

Five things to watch our hearts for

These changes are positive and exciting, yet change can also be challenging for some people, so let’s make sure we each handle things well.

Here are five possible challenges we might face, which could damage our church if not handled well! Also, here are some links to helpful resources for each situation.

Watch out for fear: excellent link here

Watch out for gossip: check out this excellent article

Watch out for negativity: excellent resource here

Watch out for ungodly criticism: try this link

Watch out for disappointment: this article is particularly helpful

And finally, let’s keep on praying as we move forward together into our future as a church.

Doing Life Together (an update about our small groups)

We love our small groups!

As a church The Coign has been running small groups for a loooooooooong time. For a while now they’ve been called “Neighbourhood Groups” and meetings have been based around four “W”s:

  1. Welcome
  2. Worship
  3. Word
  4. Witness

Small groups are a great idea …

… in fact they are a Biblical idea. When we look in the Bible at the book of Acts, we see that right in the first church they met in one another’s homes. Christians have been running small groups for a loooooooooong time; they are as old as the Bible, and they are a backbone of church life.

Being in a small group helps in many ways:

  • It creates a place for us to belong
  • It helps us to make closer friendships within the church
  • It can equip us for life and ministry
  • It creates a place to serve
  • It provides a place to find love and support
  • It is the front line of pastoral care
  • It is about ‘doing life together’

That’s a pretty good list of reasons to join one, so if you’re not in one, or if you are and you don’t attend, why not step up and get involved?

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Belonging

We’ve been talking on Sundays recently about how we want to help people from all walks of life to “Belong, Believe and Become”. This desire to welcome people will affect our culture and approach as a church, so it shouldn’t surprise us that small groups have a part to play. With this in mind we’re making a few adjustments to help our groups become even more effective in our overall mission. (We discussed these changes with group leaders at a meeting recently, but we do want everyone to be aware)

What are the changes?

The first change is in the name of the groups. We are going to change the name from “Neighbourhood Groups” to

“Life Groups”

This is because we want them to be about “doing life together”. The idea is to build the groups around three “F”s:

Fun, Food and Friendship

Dub has made a short video to talk about the changes, which gives more detail about why we are doing this and what we intend the Life Groups to be like. The video should be visible below, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

In summary we want Life Groups to eat together, share life’s challenges and blessings, encourage one another in our faith and create an environment where new people, including people who are not yet Christians, can comfortably get involved.

What about our four “W”s?

There is nothing better than food to help people feel welcome. With food involved you could consider starting the meeting a bit earlier too … if it works for your group. Keep the food simple and share responsibility, including for the washing up. It’s a great way to build friendship together.

In terms of worship we don’t expect people to sing along to a CD or try to reproduce a Sunday morning but, if it seems right and you have the resources, you could sing together … but you absolutely don’t have to. For most groups it would probably seem more natural and manageable to break bread together around the table after the meal, and then to pray for one another.

In terms of word, for groups that want them we will continue to provide Life Group questions for the fortnightly meetings to aid the discussions – which again might be done around the table (if you have the space to sit around a table!)

In terms of witness, we want Life Groups to be very accessible – a place we all feel we could invite people to. This is a key part of these changes. Let’s make people welcome!

If you have questions then it’s probably best to start with the video. If you still have questions then please do ask us.

Let’s have fun doing life together!

And let’s have fun helping people from all walks of life to “Belong, Believe, Become” as we reach out to this town with the good news of Jesus.