Welcome Church, The Future – Part 4: Autumn Plans

On Sunday (May 8th) we had our Welcome Church Vision Evening. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 4 of 5. (You can find Part 1 by clicking here)

Plans For The Autumn

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Relational Momentum

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?

Welcome Stories

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 🙂)

Tomorrow I’ll finish this series of Blog posts by talking about how we can all play our part.

Welcome Church, The Future – Part 3: Leadership

On Sunday (May 8th) we had our Welcome Church Vision Evening. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 3 of 5. (You can find Part 1 by clicking here)

Releasing more leadership

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.

Beryl, Darren, Dean, Steve, Uti, Jo, Meg, Simon, Chris, Dub. The cats are not actually part of the team, but they’re still important.

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.

Tomorrow I’m going to blog about our exciting plans for the autumn.

Welcome Church, The Future – Part 2: A New Vision

On Sunday (May 8th) we had our Welcome Church Vision Evening. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 2 of 5. (You can find Part 1 by clicking here)

Refreshing our vision and mission as a church

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:

  1. The phrase ‘Grace In Action’ hasn’t really gained traction
  2. Having two statements was perhaps a little ‘over-engineered’ for our context
  3. In reality, Belong, Believe, Become has actually been our mission statement day to day
  4. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Tomorrow I’m going to blog about our how we’re now releasing two new leadership teams and creating a new leadership role to help us move forward into the future.

Welcome Church, The Future – Part 1: Looking Back

On Sunday (May 8th) we had our Welcome Church 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
  • £36,000 was raised in 2020 to support Your Sanctuary
  • £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

Where do we go from here?

Looking back at God’s past faithfulness brings great encouragement, faith and hope for the future. Tomorrow I’m going to blog about our brand new vision statement as a church which will now begin to shape where we go in the future.

Plans For Sunday Meetings At Welcome Church From Sunday July 25th

On Monday 19th July we reach step 4 of the national unlocking plan and we’ll be getting closer to holding ‘normal’ Sunday meetings. Personally I’m excited and raring to go, and at the same time I recognise some of us will be more cautious, especially with rising Covid case numbers.

We want everyone to feel confident to attend, so to help bring reassurance where it’s needed here’s our plan for how things will work. This plan covers things we will stop, things we will start and things we will change. There are also some Covid safety measures listed at the end to help reassure people further. As always this is all subject to change if the guidance changes.

What stops from July 25th

Online kids work will not take place from that day onwards.

You will no longer be required to sit socially distanced from other people, unless you want to.

You will no longer need to book to attend or register on arrival; just turn up.

What starts from July 25th

In person kids work, including creche, restarts that day, with Sunday youth work to commence from September.

You will be free to stand up and sing during the worship … at last!

You will be free to pray for people and to be prayed for as appropriate.

Breaking news:

We will create a specific ‘socially distanced’ seating area for people who would like to use it, where face masks will also be worn. This will be situated at the back, near to the car park doors, and you will be able to enter and leave that way to avoid getting close to too many people. For everyone else we recommend using the front doors, as we did before the pandemic.

What changes from July 25th

Instead of one meeting at 10am, we will have two meetings which will be at 9am and 11am. These will each be around one hour in length.

The livestream will operate for the 9am meeting only, and will no longer have a chat feature. This means that for now you can still choose to watch online if you need to.

Children will stay in the meeting with their parents during the worship time, before going out to their groups, giving them a much shorter time in kids work or creche than before the pandemic. We will register your kids on arrival at the meeting so do try to arrive in good time if you can and please use the front doors and not the car park doors for this.

Face masks will no longer be legally required, however government guidance recommends they are worn in crowded indoor areas. With this in mind we encourage you to wear a mask on arrival, on leaving and when moving around the building, such as going to the toilet or collecting your children. We will not be policing this, so our encouragement is that we each seek to be responsible and to care for others where we can, remembering that face masks are mainly worn to protect other people and not ourselves. Once you are seated you will be free to remove your face mask or to continue wearing it as you see fit, except in the socially distanced seating area where masks will be required.

Some Covid safety measures

There are several things we’re doing to help keep people safe:

1. Our heating and cooling system has been set to ‘extract’ mode and is not recycling any air. This means that we will be sitting in a flow of new air, and what we breathe out will be slowly drawn upwards and out of the building – this has been the case since meetings restarted.

2. Our hand sanitisation stations will remain in place and we encourage you to use them.

3. The meetings are shorter than they would be in normal times, reducing your exposure time to others.

4. There will be a longer gap between meetings leading to less crowding.

5. Despite reduced numbers being expected as many people will be away during the summer, we are holding two meetings in order to create as much space as possible and avoid overcrowding.

6. We will not yet be serving refreshments, so bring your own tea, coffee or water – this will avoid crowding around refreshment tables.

7. We encourage you to use the outside areas to socialise, including the car park, the area outside the front, and the areas between the two buildings.

Full steam ahead?

We are hoping this is now full steam ahead on the road to normality but we must bear in mind two things:

  1. We don’t know if there will be future restrictions put in place if cases rise or new variants emerge, especially as we head into the autumn
  2. No specific guidance for churches has been issued this time. If that does come out it’s possible we’ll find something that affects our plans; if that happens we will let you know.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for us all during the pandemic and there have been losses along the way. We’ve also been warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’.

With all this in mind let’s enjoy this new freedom as much as we can and as responsibly as we can. I’m excited to get back to worshipping God together in person again and I hope to see you all there.

Our New Operations Manager

In case you missed it on Sunday morning …

I’m delighted to announce that we have appointed a new Operations Manager for Welcome Church: Uti Anyaegbunam.

Uti has been part of Welcome Church for around 17 years and will be well known to many in the church. She is married to Nnamdi and together they have two children. In her spare time she likes to play tennis and is also a fan of Korean soap operas 🤔

In case you’re unsure, Uti can be pronounced either as ‘You-Tee’ or ‘Ooh-Tee’. She really doesn’t mind which way you say it, but goes for ‘You-Tee’ herself.

Uti comes to us from a successful career as a trademark lawyer with a firm in London. In her new role she will become part of the Senior Leadership Team of the church, working alongside Darren Forsdyke, our Director of Operations. We are really looking forward to her starting with us full time from 1st August.

As lockdown ends and we return more fully to ‘in person’ church life and open up the offices and the building again, we expect to carry our more recruitment for our operations team. Do watch this space if you’re interested.

Congratulations to Alice Potter

On Maundy Thursday this year Alice Potter received an incredible honour: she was chosen to receive the Maundy Money from the Queen.

Earlier this year Alice received a letter from Buckingham Palace, signed personally by Her Majesty The Queen, notifying her that she was a Maundy recipient. Normally Alice would have been invited to meet the Queen in person during a service at Westminster Abbey that commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. This year, due to Covid, the Queen sent Alice the two special purses containing the Maundy Money along with a personal signed letter.

Each year the Queen distributes the Maundy money to people who have done great work in their local communities. The tradition goes all the way back to 600 AD and you can read more about it here or here.

This is an incredible award that recognises Alice’s ongoing service to the local community in so many different ways including as a Chaplain with Surrey Police and her volunteer roles with Welcome Church, along with her involvement with Street Angels. In fact she has done so many things that this award is well deserved!

The red purse contains the traditional sum of £5.50. In the past this was ‘an allowance for clothing and provisions’ (though it wouldn’t go far today). This year the £5 coin commemorates Her Majesty’s 95th Birthday and the 50 pence coin portrays the 50th anniversary of Decimal Day in 1971. The white purse contains Maundy coins: silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences, totalling 95 pence, corresponding to The Queen’s age.

Jo and I had the joy of sitting in our garden with Alice on a dry but windy day last week to have a look at it all. She told us that when she first received the letter she thought it was a scam! We’re delighted that proved not to be the case, and I’m sure many of us would want to join in congratulating Alice on this well deserved honour; she is an amazing wall building hero in God’s kingdom.

Part Of A Bigger Picture

Welcome Church has been meeting online for a year now, and this week I’m publishing some blog posts to talk about where we’ve been and our thoughts for our future. The first one can be found by clicking here. This is part 5, the last part.

We’ve talked about the challenge of the complexity we face, we’ve considered the place of online church for us going forwards and we’ve talked about the need for us to count the cost of returning to in person meetings. Today I want to point us to the bigger picture we’re part of.

As we restart in person meetings, let’s remember that our meetings are not an end in and of themselves; they serve a wider purpose. When we consider the effort involved in meeting in person again, and we ask ourselves how we feel about it all, let’s remember one thing:

It’s really not about you!

We are part of Jesus’ church; we belong to Him. When we gather it’s for His glory and not our own convenience or comfort. If we were only concerned about ourselves we might feel less motivated to make the effort, but God has a bigger role for us to play in the wider world as individuals and as a church.

Let me highlight the bigger picture in three ways:

1. We are part of a local community

It’s been said the church is the only organisation on the planet that exists mainly for the benefit of it’s non-members. Whether that’s accurate or not is a matter for debate, but it’s certainly true that our church is not just about us; we have a mission both to the town we live in and further afield. Jesus loves Woking, and so should we; His mission should be our mission.

As we start to gather in person again, our meetings are not just about being together and worshipping – although that is important – God actually has a role for us to play as a church in Woking, and a role for each individual to play in the places where they live and work; a role that goes way beyond our meetings. A key part of gathering together is about equipping people for the wider calling they have – the call to ‘love your neighbour’.

The last year has been challenging for our nation and people have been impacted in a lot of different ways. Challenges to health, finance, emotional wellbeing and more won’t disappear overnight and we may find that all sorts of situations of need are brought to our attention; let’s be ready to respond in faith and to help people across our community.

I’m especially looking forward to seeing each of our Welcome Works up and running again, remembering that we’re here to do good and to bring the kingdom of God to people. I’m also looking forward to seeing new people making a commitment to follow Jesus and getting baptised. I’m looking forward to seeing our children being taught and having fun together at church again. I’m looking forward to seeing more leaders raised up and released to serve our church and further afield.

2. We are part of the UK

One thing we need to do as we come back together is pray for our nation. Let’s pray for God to move in renewal and draw many people from across our nation into His Kingdom. We don’t know what God might do in the months ahead, but let’s pray for Him to use what’s happened with the pandemic for His purposes. Let’s pray for him to build his church in every town, city and village in the UK.

I have the joy of meeting (currently online) with leaders from our wider family of churches across the UK, as well as with church leaders from across our town. Every church is now considering how they unlock and at what pace, so it’s a journey we’re all on together, supporting and encouraging one another along the way.

Let’s pray for the church in our nation to stand on it’s feet again and find its voice again. Our nation needs the gospel right now more than ever, so let’s be praying that every church will play its part, whatever the cost, remembering that we’re all on the same team. Let’s pray for a revival.

3. We are part of an international family of churches

We belong to a family of churches called Commission, with churches in 14 different nations including the UK, Europe, South Asia, USA, South America, Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. Let’s remember that we have a part to play in that as well.

To highlight our belonging to an International family of churches there’s a one hour event this Sunday evening (28th March) at 7.30pm called Commission Global. I want to encourage as many of us as possible to join in.

You can register for this event using the link above, or it can be accessed via this video link:

Enjoy!