We’re part of a family of churches called Commission, and together we’re on a mission to see thousands of lives transformed, through hundreds of churches, in tens of nations. The recent pandemic has thrown up all sorts of challenges, not least that we’ve been unable to gather for our annual Connect Festival event – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting together.
In September this year we’re running a leadership conference, and I’d love lots of us to be there. The event is being held from Wed 28th to Fri 30th September at Citygate Church in Bournemouth. It’s aimed at anyone who leads anything at any level in our church or in the workplace or community. If you don’t lead anything right now but think you might like to one day, you should book in too.
The theme for the conference is:
“Leading for the glory of God”
The conference will include a mix of teaching, worship, seminars and ministry, along with a chance for us to hang out together socially as we enjoy food and maybe even a walk on the beach. Some from our church will be staying over in Bournemouth for the whole event, others will travel down each day, so I’m sure lift shares can be arranged where needed.
Booking is now open and you can click here to go to the booking page. Early bird ticket prices are available until 31st May (there is a small price increase after that, but don’t let that put you off)
This event will be a great investment in our future together as a church and a real encouragement to us all, and the short video below will tell you a bit more about it:
Our new vision/purpose statement of Life Transformed Through Jesus, our autumn Hop, Skip and Jump plans, and our release of two new Leadership Teams, will hopefully leave us in a great place to move forward together as a church, but there’s still a huge part for everyone to play. The Bible tells us that the church is Jesus’ body and each one of us is a part of it. Every part of a body is needed for that body to be healthy and to function well; we all have a part to play.
So, as well as serving, giving, worshipping, inviting, sharing your faith, showing hospitality and all the usual things Christians are called to do, here are three other specific things you might want to consider to help us build this church together for the future:
1. Pray About Some Specific Questions
We want all our plans to be covered with prayer, so please pray for all that’s ahead and be listening to God, however one significant area we are wondering about is this:
Should we be looking to send out a church plant? Should we be looking to launch a second site of Welcome Church as a multisite? Should we do both? Or neither?
Potentially we have the resources and experience to do either, but we do need to hear from God and not just do our own thing. Please pray and ask God to speak to you about these questions, and share what you hear with us. We would love to discern what God is saying to us together.
2. Lead a Life Group
Life Groups are a vital and Biblical part of church life. Following the pandemic we found that some people stepped back from their previous roles, including some Life Group leaders. With the number of new people joining us now we’re at risk of having more people who want to be in a Life Group than the spaces available to accommodate them. Additionally some of the groups we have are now growing very large!
This challenge could actually prevent people from finding their place with us as a church, so more Life Group leaders are going to be needed. Is God prompting you to step into (or step back into) this role? Obviously there are a few requirements to be a group leader, but if you think it might be you please do speak to Dean Guy or Robin Willison.
3. Book In To The Weekend Away
Our Big Weekend Away at the end of August is going to a lot of fun, and will provide a great chance for us to hang out, have fun and get to know each other better. Deep relationships with one another will be key as we move into the future, and what better opportunity is there than our church weekend away to connect together more deeply in an unhurried way?
Bookings are looking good right now and the event is getting pretty full, but there is space for a few more, so please book now and don’t miss out.
Finally … Thanks
On behalf of the Eldership team let me say a big THANK YOU to everyone who gives, serves, prays and plays their part week by week. Remember: you ARE the church! It’s not just that we couldn’t do what we do without you, it’s that we wouldn’t even exist without you all.
One of my favourite places to be on a Sunday morning at Welcome Church is at the Info Point in our Welcome Lounge, where it’s a privilege to meet some of the new people who are joining us week by week. Hanneke and her team run it really well, so huge thanks to all who are involved. 🙂
Recently lots of our new people have been South Africans, which is brilliant, and many others are from the UK and other nations, which is also brilliant! One observation we’ve made is that lots of new people in this season are already Christians; not all, but the majority. It’s great to have many well established Christians joining us who are a blessing to further strengthen us as a church; you are all a gift from God!
Life Transformed Through Jesus
As a church our vision is to see life transformed through Jesus, so of course we have a passion to reach out to those who are not-yet Christians in the town around us. Let’s remember, outreach is God’s plan; the Great Commission is really His mission.
So how can we play our part well?
When it comes to reaching out we have two guiding principles we want to follow:
Everything we do as Jesus’ followers is to be done in LOVE, and that includes every attempt to reach out to people who are not yet Christians. The best way to fulfil Jesus’ GREAT COMMISSION to go and make disciples is through Jesus’ GREAT COMMANDMENT to love people
God calls us to be INTENTIONAL in our relationships, to love people towards Jesus. The end goal for our relationship with our not-yet-Christian friend or colleague is not only friendship (though that’s a great thing!), but for them to come to know Jesus; introducing someone to Jesus is the most loving thing we can ever do for them.
We’ve found that one of the best ways to introduce someone to Jesus is to build what we call RELATIONAL MOMENTUM, which simply means them meeting, connecting with, and getting to know other Christians from your church. Since Jesus told us, “You are the light of the world” we should expect him to shine though us, and he shines even more brightly through a group of us together.
An invitation to church given to someone who doesn’t know ANYONE in your church is one thing; the answer may be a yes or a no. But an invite to church given to someone who knows you, has got to know several of your Christian friends from the church, and may even have had contact with your church at an event is far more likely to result in a yes, and that invitation creates a great moment for them to encounter Jesus.
Loving People Towards Jesus
Remember, you can’t save anyone; only God does that. Our role is simply to love people towards Jesus, and the very best way we can bring people to Jesus is by bringing them to church, where they will encounter the Holy Spirit, hear the wonderful truths about Jesus preached, and have an opportunity to respond to Jesus.
As a church, we want to facilitate you loving people towards Jesus, so with this in mind, this Autumn we are relaunching our ..
Hop, Skip and Jump
The last time we did this was in 2019 in the run up to our building launch. The Hop & the Skip was a series of easy invite social events to help us build relational momentum through invitations, leading up to a church invitation for our Building Launch Event:
We Hopped with a Fun Day in September 2019 – 1,000 people attended including 500 guests. 460 then signed up to get a free ticket to our Fireworks Night
We Skipped with our Firework Night – 2,000 people attended, including 1,700 guests
We Sang with our Carol Service For Woking in Dec 2019 – we know singing is usually part of a triple jump, but we slipped it in there because it was too good to miss
We Jumped with our ‘Welcome Stories’ Building Launch Sunday on 19th Jan 2020 – Over 1250 people attended, enjoying pastries, coffee and a great time together
Following our Hop, Skip & Jump, our average attendance grew by around 250 people each week, from roughly 500 to 750 people, and many connected to Jesus for the first time … and then 10 weeks later Lockdown hit and a whole load of momentum was lost 😮. But life is increasingly returning to normal, so …
It’s time to do it again: let’s Hop, Skip, (Sing) and Jump
Here’s our Autumn 2022 plan, to give us all the opportunity to bring people in our lives on that journey:
HOP: Welcome Church Fun Day, Sat 17th September. I would love all of us to bring friends along; there’s no limit to how many people you can bring. Details will follow soon, but please put the event in your diary now and think about who you might invite, including whole families. Think big!
SKIP: Welcome Church FireWorks Night, Sat 5th Nov. Everyone who comes to our Fun Day can receive a free ticket to the Fireworks Night, giving them a 2nd brilliant event with Welcome Church to look forward to, and it’s also a great chance to reach out and invite more new people.
SING: A Carol Service For Woking. A great opportunity to invite your friends to enjoy Christmas Carols in our building with mulled wine and mince pies, and who doesn’t love a good carol service?
JUMP: The first Sunday of our new Welcome Stories Series, Sun 8th Jan 2023.
A Triple Jump can take you so much further than trying to make one giant leap, so these Hop, Skip and Jump events will help our friends to connect and come closer to us, leading to that invite moment to the Welcome Stories Sunday in January.
Are you ready to go?
Alongside our Hop Skip and Jump we’ll also be launching some new Welcome Stories, one every 2-3 weeks, over this coming Autumn. As we launch them, it’s an opportunity for all of us to share them on Social Media, allowing all of our contacts to see these inspiring stories of God’s impact on the lives of people within Welcome Church.
During our last series of Welcome Stories, most stories had over 10,000 views on Facebook alongside other Social Media, mainly down to the fact that people across Welcome Church clicked “share” to enable their contacts to see them. If you haven’t seen our Welcome Stories then you can access them on this link.
But don’t wait for the Autumn to get started
In the weeks ahead there will be other opportunities we can take to start building Relational Momentum with people, for example the Jubilee Street Parties and other events talking place over the Queens Platinum Jubilee weekend, or a Life Group social event or perhaps just your own BBQ.
And if you want to know more, why not read, or re-read, Dub Everitt’s excellent book: Loving People Towards Jesus. It’s available from Origin Books in Woking (but if you ask in the Welcome Lounge we’ll probably give you one as a free gift 🙂)
As a growing church we’ve recognised the need to release more leadership to help us move forward as a church, and we’ve realised that it can’t be done simply by adding ever larger numbers of people to an Eldership Team that grows and grows. We have a great Eldership Team here at Welcome Church (I would say that) but we recognise a need for more voices, and for more diversity of voices, and also that we can’t effectively lead a church of this size through an eldership team that meets once a week in an evening; we need more gifts to be released.
With that in mind, coming out of our prayer week away together as Elders in January, we made a decision to release two new teams to support the Eldership in shaping and delivering the church’s vision going forward. We have now released the following two leadership teams:
1. An Executive Team
The Executive Team is a small team designed to keep us moving forward in the right direction week by week, reviewing what has gone before and planning for what’s coming up. This team is able to respond rapidly to what needs to be done day by day, to deal with issues as they occur, to troubleshoot problems and to care for the staff team and volunteers. It’s also about ensuring that there’s a seamless relationship between Operations and Ministries, which has not always been the case.
This team consists of myself (Lead Pastor), Darren Forsdyke (Ops Director) and Christopher Hawes (see below), along with regular input from Dub Everitt (Outreach Pastor) with his excellent outreach gift. All of us are employed by the church and available all week long. This team brings Ops and Ministries together in one team, under the oversight of the Eldership, with freedom to get on and move us forward rapidly in line with Eldership vision and strategy. So far it’s working well, but there’s exciting development too:
We’ve given Christopher Hawes a change of job title to Executive Pastor
This means that Chris is being released with more freedom and authority, and will also deputise for me as needed. I’m sure you’ll agree Chris is already having a good impact on us. I’ve been impressed with his leadership skill, his strategic thinking and his ability to see and grasp all the issues, not to mention his fast growing preaching gift. So we’re stepping him into this new role where he won’t replace me but will be leading more freely over lots of what we do.
For clarity, I’m not going anywhere! I’m still the Lead Pastor and I feel very called to the role. The reality is that as well as being Lead Pastor at Welcome Church, I have a wider role within Commission which takes a portion of my time each week. For example, I lead the Commission Hub Team that provides care and oversight to all UK churches, I’m part of the Commission UK Team and am chairing that while Guy Miller is on sabbatical and I’m regularly involved with helping other church Eldership Teams. This outside ministry is part of how we’re called to serve as a church. Having Chris in his new role is supporting and releasing me more in all I do both in Welcome Church and elsewhere.
As an Eldership we have also released:
2. A Strategic Team
This team is a mix of men and women who we want to speak into and help shape our strategy as a church; it’s about supporting the staff and the Executive Team as they turn Eldership vision into reality; it’s also about speaking into that vision and strategy so that as an Eldership we hear from a wider range of voices with greater diversity of thought and life experience.
This team has already been meeting and has already started to help shape things. The team as it stands includes Dub, Dean, Chris and myself from the Eldership Team, alongside Darren Forsdyke and Uti Anyeagbunam from Ops. We’ve also included Meg Ochieng , Jo Petch, Beryl Hunwicks and Simon Field. These are all people who I know we would recognise as gifted leaders and who already carry weight in the church.
We meet each month to talk about strategy, to shape what’s coming up and to speak into our key issues and events. As an eldership we’re delighted with the result of releasing this team; it’s already influencing things in a good way.
We still believe in eldership
For clarity, neither of these teams is replacing our Eldership. Our theology hasn’t changed. Eldership is Biblical; Elders are given by God to oversee the affairs of the church … but they don’t have to lead everything. Part of their role is to release and oversee other gifted leaders and to create an environment where everyone can flourish.
In 2021 we launched our Recovery Plan to help us recover from the pandemic. One thing the plan said we would do was “refresh our vision and mission as a church”.
In 2018, when we became Welcome Church, we introduced a new vision statement and mission statement. The vision statement was, “To see lives transformed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace In Action”. The mission statement was, “To share God’s Grace In Action with all people in all of life.”These significantly shaped our church over the last few years.
Coming out of the pandemic we looked at these again to see how we might refresh them for an even better future. We observed four things:
The phrase ‘Grace In Action’ hasn’t really gained traction
Having two statements was perhaps a little ‘over-engineered’ for our context
In reality, Belong, Believe, Become has actually been our mission statement day to day
Whilst the vision statement is absolutely where our heart is, it’s quite long and most of us would struggle to quote it
With that in mind, at our Elders prayer week away in January, we prayed for the church and prayed into this issue and we made some decisions:
We are going to move away from having separate vision and mission statements and replace them with one simple statement of purpose for our church
We are going to keep Jesus at the centre of it
Following this we landed on a new statement of our purpose as a church, developed from what went before, which encapsulates the heart of what we’re called to as a church. It’s just four words long:
“Life Transformed Through Jesus“
We are all about Life Transformed Through Jesus.
This also has a nice twist to it: we can change the first word. This means that every church ministry can adapt it for themselves:
Children transformed through Jesus
Youth transformed through Jesus
Singleness transformed through Jesus
Marriage transformed through Jesus
Families transformed through Jesus
Work transformed through Jesus
Debt transformed through Jesus
Retirement transformed through Jesus
Those in need transformed through Jesus
Our community transformed through Jesus
It all adds up to one thing: LIFE transformed through Jesus
Everything we do, let’s do it all to see life transformed through Jesus. As we teach the Bible, as we care for one another, as we serve, as we give, as we run ministries and events, as we care for those in need … let’s do it all because we know that every person and every part of life can be transformed through Jesus. Someone should stick it on a t-shirt.
On Sunday (May 8th) we had our WelcomeChurch Vision Evening looking at ‘Where we’ve been, where are now and, most importantly, where we’re heading in the future‘. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 1 of 5.
The pandemic created some big challenges for us all, both personally and as a church, yet we’ve known God’s blessing all the way through; He has done great things for us!
In the run up to the pandemic a lot had changed for us as a church in a short space of time, including a new name and logo, a new website, a new vision and mission statement, a new culture being outworked, a new approach to outreach, a new approach to belonging AND the launch of our brand new purpose built building in the heart of Woking. In some ways the pandemic could not have come at a worse time for us with Lockdown closing our building just a few weeks after it opened!
Despite this God has blessed our church beyond all expectation
We’re now back meeting together in person across two meetings each Sunday morning with kids work and youth work, and we’re seeing new people come and join us regularly. To encourage you, here are some Welcome Church statistics from the last couple of years:
4 people have joined our staff team: Christopher Hawes (Preaching and Discipleship), Uti Anyaegbunam (Ops. Manager), Hannah Oliver (Ops. Assistant) and Juliet Bauermeister (Comms. Manager)
147 have attended an Alpha Course
123 have attended our new Learn Groups (Bible Course, Prayer Course, etc)
457 signed up to attend Life Groups in the January refresh (plus there are a whole load more who we know attend but didn’t actually sign up … so cheeky!!!)
104 have attended our various CAP courses (Fresh Start, Job Club, Life Skills, Money Course)
79 people have been baptised
46 children attended the Welcome Kids Weekend Away
192 people attended our last 2 Newcomers Lunches (both since Lockdown ended)
96 people have attended our ‘Belong, Believe, Become’ course in 2022 alone
Additionally your generous giving as a church has beaten all expectations throughout the pandemic. We beat our budget in both 2020/21 and 2021/22, so on behalf of the Eldership Team and the Trustees let me say a huge THANK YOU!
We’ve also given lots away to some key causes over the last two years:
£19,000 was given in 2020 to help feed people in need through our Commission churches in India
£33,000 was given just recently to help our churches in Ukraine serve their communities during the ongoing conflict there
£19,000 was given to provide buildings for some of our Commission churches in Bangladesh and to support some of our other works in that part of the world too
In fact, as well as financing what we do as a church, we gave away over £158,000 last year alone, including to support both the work of our Commission church family and some other excellent local causes including Woking Food Bank and Woking Street Angels.
These are all good signs that God is at work in and through our church. We have a lot to be thankful for, so let’s be on the front foot to give God the glory for all he’s doing, even as we face some sadnesses, some sicknesses and some losses amongst our church family too.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” Psalm 126v3
It was great to start our New Year as a church yesterday by gathering together for worship. The sermon was about “Being a worshipper when times are tough and life is not what you expected” (which may be a key message for us all this year as we face so many unknowns.) The sermon itself was a last minute message pulled together because the scheduled preacher had a positive PCR test for Covid on New Year’s Day; let’s hope it’s the only time this happens.
One thing I’ve found challenging during the pandemic is that so much rapid change and uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead and cast vision for where we’re going as a church. For example, as we approached the Carol Services this year the biggest question in my head was not ‘Will they go well?’ but ‘Will they be allowed to go ahead?’ Instead of hoping people from the church would bring guests, I was just hoping people from the church would turn up themselves. Some did 🙂.
It’s hard to plan with so much uncertainty, and with that in mind the “Vision Evening” planned for Sunday 9th Jan will now be delayed until we know that our plans will actually be allowed to be delivered. This week we’ll be away for a few days as an eldership team (minus one due to Covid!) specifically to pray for our church and hear from God for the year ahead; please keep us in your prayers.
A challenge for 2022
As 2022 begins it’s not too late to take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.It will do your faith so much good! It’s not something I do every single year, but this year I’ll be going for it again. You may have done this before. You may have tried it and failed. It may be a completely new idea to you. How about giving it a go in 2022?
I like this plan because it has readings for five days each week, rather than seven, something that works better for me. You could even read all five days in a single session on one day each week if that works best for you. Or you could tackle the Old Testament readings on one day, Psalms/Chronicles on another day and the New Testament readings on a third.
Bottom line: I love the lay out of this plan and, although it’s already Jan 3rd, you’re absolutely not too late to start (though of course you could start at any point during the year!) If you do go for it, let me know how you get on. It really will do you good.
The Winter Warmer: another challenge
One last thing to mention in case you missed it is that our Winter Warmer, scheduled for Friday 7th Jan, has been postponed to Friday 1st April. This event will involve dancing and sharing food and we felt it could be unhelpful right now with Covid levels as high as they are.
Here’s the challenge: we’re going to need a new name for the event.
Suggestions so far include ‘The Easter Extravaganza’ and ‘The Spring Spring’. Can you do better than that? All suggestions welcome. Winning suggestion wins a free ticket. Seriously 😃.
A regular feature of our church diary before Covid was an annual camping weekend with Commission, which is the family of churches we belong to. This event took place each year over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August but has been on hold since 2020 due to Covid.
Although the Commission UK team (which I’m part of) have a real sense of faith and of God’s call to get back to these events again, sadly our plans to run ‘Connect Festival’ in 2022 have – for a whole host of reasons – had to be postponed to 2023. This postponement creates an opportunity for us as a church … so we’ve decided to run our own camping event this summer over that weekend.
Dates for your diary
Please do put August 26th to 29th in your diary! Welcome Church will be going camping together!
We plan to give details of the venue soon, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Woking. We want to do a final confirmatory site visit before we announce the details and open the booking, which we hope to do in January.
Over the weekend we’ll have a lot of fun with something for everyone. We’ll hire a big marquee where we can eat together, play games together, hang out together and more, and we’ll be looking to include some excellent spiritual content along the way too. So get the date in your diary and let’s get ready to have some fun.