Welcome Stories

Over the last few weeks at Welcome Church we’ve launched a brand new initiative called Welcome Stories.

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Welcome Stories are short videos from people in our church whose lives have been impacted for good by Jesus. You can check some of them out on our Welcome Stories website, or you can find them on our Welcome Church Facebook page, our Instagram account or our YouTube channel. There are lots more coming in the weeks ahead.

Sharing

As we launch these stories week by week we want to encourage people to share them to their friends via social media. Liking them is kind of you, but sharing them is actually useful for the gospel!

Please don’t use religious language when you share them, but do perhaps use the hashtag #WelcomeStories.

You can share them on Facebook and Instagram easily by sharing the posts we’ve already made on our Welcome Church pages. You can also share them from You Tube or from the Welcome Stories website onto Twitter and other media.

Why do it?

These videos are about helping people connect to Jesus … and that is already happening. We are already seeing fruit from these stories.

So far over 28,000 people have viewed one of our Welcome Stories. Just imagine the impact we could have in Woking if everyone in our church shared these?

And of course, this is all part of the run up to the launch of our new building on January 19th. It’s part of the invitation process. We will even kick off our new year with a preaching series called “Welcome Stories”.

So let’s get sharing, let’s get praying, and let’s expect God to do big things!

I’ve put a link to one of the stories here – Enjoy!

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

It’s an exciting new season … let’s do this together!

Life moves in seasons. We  go through different phases, such as child, teenager, parent, student, young adult,  grandparent, employee, manager, owner, retirement, engagement, bereavement, new babies, empty nest and so on.

Each season has its own blessings and challenges, and it’s important to recognise, embrace and enjoy the season we’re in. Sometimes we can be so keen to get onto the next season of life that we forget to enjoy the season we’re in.

Church life moves in seasons too

We’re at the start of a very exciting new season for Welcome Church with a huge opportunity ahead, perhaps the biggest  opportunity we’ve had for about 45 years. From January we will be meeting in our new, purpose built building in the heart of Woking, and we want to maximise this great opportunity for the church and the gospel.

What a moment this will create! I believe we could see hundreds or people coming to our big launch Sunday on January 19th; it’s a God given opportunity to create the most exciting Sunday morning we’ve had for years.

The season we are in now is all about that

The activities we will be doing over the coming year are all about getting us ready for that and making the most it; it’s our number one top priority for the year ahead. Let’s recognise the season we are in and make sure we embrace it and enjoy it.

To help us all to maximise the opportunity this new start creates, we’ve made some big and exciting plans, so let’s all be ready to get involved.

Welcome Church Fun Day

The first step in our big plans is the Welcome Church Fun Day tomorrow.  (Sat 28th September, 11am – 4pm, Schifano’s Field in West End).

This date also coincides with our church’s 140th birthday.

The Fun Day has something for everyone: BBQ, Ice Creams, Candy Floss, Teacup Rides, Inflatables, Magic with Peanuts the Clown, Live Music, Tractor Rides, Assault Course, Games, Competitions and more.

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Do pray that the sun comes out for us, at the moment it’s looking GOOD! 🌞

We’ve given the full details out lots of times on Sundays, so I won’t repeat them here, but if you have any questions please ask. And if you’re reading this and you’re not from Welcome Church and you want to come – you can. Just reply to this post and I’ll send you the details ASAP – we would love you to join us.

Just do one thing

For this event we  want everyone to do one thing: bring someone with you.

Bring a person, bring a family … just bring someone. It’s an easy invitation to make, so let’s all be on the front foot with it. And it’s absolutely not too late to ask people, you can even do it on the day.

Making a Triple Jump

The world record for the Long Jump is 8.95 metres. But the world record for the Triple Jump (also known as the Hop, Skip and Jump) is an incredible 19.29 metres – that’s a whole lot further.

We are thinking of this launch as a triple jump.

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Hop: bring people to the Fun Day

Skip: bring them to our Fireworks event (9th November)

Jump: invite them to the Big Launch in January

Of course we have lots of other things going on too, not least our Carol Service for Woking at HG Wells on 15th December with the Cobham Brass Band and our amazing new Welcome Stories initiative.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what God does through us all in the next few months!

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.

 

Final Gift Day Results

On Sunday we announced the results of our final Building Fund Gift Day. Here is an update in case you missed it  – and it’s gone up a bit since Sunday morning too:

Our target was £300,000

That’s a lot of money and, along with a mortgage, that would enable us to finish the job – albeit our finances would be TIGHT! What we really wanted to do was beat that target.

After the first week we were just under the half way mark.

Following the second Sunday I have the privilege of announcing the final result.

The total amount raised consists of three parts:

  • Money given and now in our bank account
  • Money that people have pledged to give over the next few weeks
  • Gift Aid that, as a charity, we can claim on people’s giving – reclaiming the income tax paid on the money that was donated

Adding these three figures together gives us a total amount of

£498,287

Wow! That is a lot of money! It’s just under half a million pounds … given over two Sundays … following two other huge Gift Days this year!

And for the first time we actually beat our target. 😃

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Hooray!

This result means that we can do everything we planned to do, and perhaps (we cannot say for certain yet) we may be able to borrow a bit less than was anticipated, which would make a huge difference going forward .

Giving some away

Our plan has always been to give away a portion of this giving to  Compassion UK, to help fund a Child Survival Programme in Togo (for details click here) and the amount that is eligible for this is just over £40,000.

That money will be doubled under a matched funding initiative from the UK Government making it up to more than £80,000.

We received this short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK and Ireland, saying thank you. Do give it a watch.

This video contains sub-titles – just click on the caption button to switch them on or off.

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

Thanks

I want to take a moment, on behalf of the Welcome Church eldership team, to say thank you for all your faithful giving. What a huge difference this is going to make to us as a church and to the lives of mothers and babies in Togo.

Gift Day: Reflections & Building News

Last Sunday (16th June) we had our final Welcome Church Gift Day to raise money for our New Building project. At this point we don’t know how much was given – we’ll announce it when we do know – but ahead of that news I wanted to share some reflections and some building news.

Seven Reflections

(Yes. I restricted myself to just seven. 😃)
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Reflections

My first reflection is how incredibly generous people in Welcome Church are. We are a church that knows how to give sacrificially! Whatever the outcome of these last Gift Days, we have given well in excess of £2m in one year. That is incredible. Miraculous even. I feel humbled, thankful and incredibly proud of us all. It’s a privilege to be leading this church.

My second reflection is the sense of responsibility this brings. We always need to be responsible with people’s giving, but the sense of responsibility feels higher with such a huge amount of giving. We will use it carefully.

My third reflection is that people have given to the building because it’s part of our mission together. We have to remember this as we go forward. It’s going to be a church building! It will be a centre for worship; a place for ministry; a resource to enable our mission together; a facility to serve and bless our town and the wider Commission family of churches. It’s not built to be a source of profit making; that’s not what people gave for so sacrificially.

My fourth reflection is the deep sense of unity we have. Despite a huge amount of change in Welcome Church over the last 18 months, people have been so clearly on board with this project and I’ve loved seeing the excitement it has brought.

My fifth reflection is that everyone has been involved. Although I haven’t looked in detail at what individuals have given, I’m aware of just how many people have given. Some have given small amounts and some have given huge amounts; both can represent a big sacrifice. Even our Welcome Kids have been involved, with some even emptying their piggy banks. My prayer for them is that this giving sets them on a path of generosity and trusting God that will stay with them for life.

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Everyone has been included in this

My sixth reflection is how God has blessed people in response to their giving. I’ve heard testimonies all along the way from people who have given in faith and afterwards have been incredibly, undeniably blessed by God’s unmistakable provision for them; Jo and I can testify to this ourselves. BUT EVEN IF THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED FOR YOU, even if you’ve given and have simply found yourself poorer afterwards, your giving does not go unnoticed by God; it is worship.

My seventh and final reflection is on the exciting future God has planned for our church. He did not give us this building just so we could run our Sunday meetings more easily. The way God has blessed this project creates an excitement in me that He must have some big plans for Welcome Church. Let’s look forward to our future as a church with expectation and faith!

I am so grateful to God

God’s blessing on us all along the way has been incredible. He deserves our worship, praise and thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to our first meeting in the new chapel; what a time of celebration that will be!

And whatever the result of these last Gift Days let me say thank you to everyone who has given! Even if all we gave last Sunday was a button and some chewed gum (it wasn’t 😮) our church has still given amazingly generously all along the way.

Some Building News

The building news I want to share is about God’s provision for us for these next few months. We need to move out of the Welcome Centre altogether from July 1st until the end of the project. We had been looking for a small office facility to tide us over, but we’ve been blessed far more than we could have ever expected.

Yesterday we moved into what used to be the Job Centre, just a stone’s throw from the Welcome Centre. We will be calling it The Annexe. A huge thank you goes to everyone who came along and made the move happen.

The amazing news is that this building has been given to us and to the Useful Wood Company, rent free, for a year. (Useful Wood is one of our Welcome Works. It is a new social enterprise being set up by people in our church to help long term unemployed people learn new skills and find employment. It will also recycle a lot of old wood.)

The Annexe is vast. It runs over three floors and I keep finding new rooms. It will meet every building need we have as a church during this time (except for Sunday mornings which will continue at HG Wells for now). It even has parking for about 20 cars.

The most amazing thing is that we weren’t even looking for a provision like this; God has given us incredibly more than all we could ask or imagine; he really did know what we needed before we even asked.

In case you need it, the official address for the building is: Welcome Church, 15-29 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6JT.

And when we know the result of the Gift Days – soon I hope – we’ll let you know.

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Time to get the calculator out

Gift Days: the result so far

Last Sunday we had the first of two Gift Days to complete the fund raising for our New Building project at Welcome Church.

You can find out more about what this giving is for by clicking this link here

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Our target for the two Sundays is a total of £300,000. If you want to know the results at the half way stage, you can find out by watching this short video:

 

This video contains sub-titles – just click on the caption button to switch them on or off.

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

Let me say a huge thank you to everyone who has given so far; it’s a joy to be part of such a hugely generous church.

This coming Sunday, 16th June, is part 2.

Let’s not be casual about this or assume others will do the giving. Let’s all seek God about what he wants us to do, and then step out in faith.

If we hit our target we can do everything, otherwise we will need to make some tough choices next week. Either way, what we have accomplished together this year is incredible and God is the one who will meet all of our needs.

Thanks for being on this journey with us at Welcome Church.

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 😃

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.

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!