A short interview with Josh Cockayne, a leader of a NWC, on how to begin imagining starting a NWC and some tips on how to find a location. It shares the story of how they got started and built a team, before explaining how they managed to find the right place to begin meeting.
How do you get to the point where you could imagine setting up a ‘new worshipping community’?
Over the years we had been part of G2, we had been part of a number of smaller projects, such as leading small groups, ‘clusters’ (missional communities), and then leading larger ministries, such as the young adult ministry. We’d also been a part of the church leadership team for a couple of years before we began G2 Central. Christian, our vicar, spoke of a vision to plant new worshipping communities for a number of years, and this was an important part of the vision for the church. He also regularly held ‘church planting dinner parties’, where different groups would gather to pray and to imagine new ideas of for worship and church. So, this wasn’t something that arose overnight, but something which was developed slowly over a long period of time.
After graduating from university, my wife Ellie and I began noticing that many young adults were leaving the church after university as the pressures of working and family life increased. As G2 grew as church community, we also noticed it became increasingly difficult to engage with people on the fringes of faith, who often thrive in smaller, more intimate communities. And so, after praying about this for a number of months, we felt that there was a need to start something which would address these needs in our community.
How did you build a team?
First, we prayed. Then we listened. There were a few individuals who we knew had been exploring some of the ideas and visions for church planting with us for a long time, and these were obvious people to continue talking with. Other members of the team happened more spontaneously. Jo approached us after a church meeting and described that she’d be praying about being part of a new church plant and had heard on the grapevine we were exploring these ideas. Other connections happened through conversation at church, and in social gatherings.
Finding a team was only half of the story, though. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other as friends, eating dinner together, playing games, laughing, telling stories, going away together, and praying together. One of the most formative times for our team was going away on retreat together in which we pitched our vision for G2 Central and had space to process and discuss where we were each at. Having space to be honest and vulnerable was essential for growing our team, and it meant that when things got more difficult, we had the trust to speak honestly to one another.
One of the first things we did was pray. In fact, for around 3 months, we met as a team, along with a few interested members of G2 and prayed every Sunday morning. Sometimes we prayed for the new community and its vision, other times we just prayed for our city and our world. This was a really important step in growing together as a team.
How did you discern what your local culture needed?
As we mentioned above, partly this came through seeing a need within the church community; we saw people disengage from church who we felt might engage with a different expression of worship. But we also spent a lot of time talking to anyone who would listen. We invited friends over for dinner and asked them: ‘How would you run a church community?’. We listened to a wide range of opinions. Our friends who were not a part of any church were some of the most important people to talk to and we gained lots of insight from hearing a perspective outside of the Church.
How did you find the right place to start meeting?
It was important that our vision was clear before looking for a location.
After the period of listening and praying together, we came up with a set of values which we felt represented the kind of community we wanted to be: Community Focused, Accessible, Creative and Honestly Spiritual. These values then allowed us to think more concretely about some of the finer grained details of the community.
We wrote a list of criteria which would help us to fulfill these values—at the top of this list we included that the venue must be in the city centre (many young adults don’t have their own transport), and that it must allow us to have breakfast together (ideally allowing us to bring this ourselves). We then had a list of secondary criteria, e.g. it must allow us to store equipment, it must allow us room to grow, and the venue had to feel attractive and inviting.
We then set about walking around the city centre noting every possible location which would fulfil these criteria—from pub function rooms, to a storage room in an ice-cream shop, and the basement of cinema. During this stage, we made sure we thought outside the box, visiting locations that might not have been perfect, but which would meet at least some of the criteria, allowing us to draw up a shortlist of potential options. This was a long process (around 2-3 months), which required some patience! Eventually, we saw a function room from a large Methodist Church being advertised in the local press and whilst it needed a little TLC (it had a very smelly dishwasher and a lot of photographs of birds!), it was a city centre room, with a capacity of around 30, which had a built-in kitchen and a large amount of storage. If we hadn’t seen the other options available, I’m not sure we would’ve appreciated just how perfect this space was for us.