September Stories: Stepping Stones
Today’s story comes from a Missional Community leader from St George’s Church in Deal, Kent. It’s his story of how the first Missional Community he led started, developed and grew.
What exactly is going to Church? (or Martini Church – any time, any place, any where)
I grew up going to a lively Anglican Church in South London. My mum says it’s Surrey but she’s a bit posher than me. We all went every Sunday, at least once and sometimes twice. Mostly, this was a good experience.
As a grown adult living in Deal our Curate rocked our Church boat one morning in 2005. On Sunday mornings our building was uncomfortably full and she wanted us to stay away to leave some space for newcomers! Instead, our leaders encouraged us to do an alternative form of Church ourselves but somewhere else. The vision (for vision is essential) was to create communities that would, themselves, grow.
My wife, Jacqui, has more ideas than you can imagine. She talked about forming a group, called ‘Stepping Stones’, with a vision for reaching out to families with younger children. The vision has changed, or rather, developed as we’ve gone on and the way we’ve met has varied massively over the years. Our concept of what going to Church meant was so shaken and since we were tearing up the rule book anyway, we were free to experiment and adapt to find out what worked best for us. Interestingly, the children had fewer hang-ups than the adults. They just asked ‘is it big church or little church today?’
Our Church agreed on five core values (which we borrowed from Phil Potter) that each Missional Community would try to embrace
- All involved
- Becoming disciples
- Creating community
- Doing evangelism
- Encountering God
Initially, we succeeded in drawing in a number of families who had loose connections with the Church, gave them jobs to do and made sure they kept coming back! We basically ran a family friendly act of Worship on a Sunday afternoon (and soon on a Sunday morning instead) in the Church Hall and then in a local school. Getting away from Church buildings proved to be a good move. It was hard work but fun and relatively successful. People liked coming, felt valued and were committed to the group. We have been best at creating community but have never lost sight of our other values.
One Sunday morning we took about 20 adults and 20 kids 10-Pin Bowling in Margate. I felt so uncomfortable! How could this be Church? In fact, to me, it felt wrong! I started to chat with a Dad I’d never met. His daughter was starting soon at my kids’ Primary school. I knew his wife and daughter who came most weeks we did Stepping Stones, but less often to Big Church. We got chatting about sport, work, life in Deal, the kids’ school and so on. He enjoyed his day out with us and his wife was thrilled. He’d never been to anything run by the Church before. She described the event as ‘the most spiritual thing we’ve done’. He now comes to Church (big Church more than Stepping Stones) sometimes and he once came to an Alpha supper.
Stepping Stones grew. It became too big. It’s two MCs now, Sunday AM and One Step Beyond. Each has a separate and distinct vision although they overlap one another. People have come and gone but the vision for reaching out to people remains.
We have gone from being a group of people who go to Church to a group of people who do Church. It’s a much healthier arrangement.
Bruce Watson lives on the Kent coast and teaches Modern Foreign Languages. He taught for 3 ½ years in Pakistan, married the Science teacher & came back to England (where he planned to live happily ever after).
N.B. This story was first published a few years ago so even more exciting things have been happening since!
Photo courtesy of Milan G on flickr.com