For church leaders looking to build, innovate & thrive

Over the last season we have been hosting virtual round tables for church leaders. The content from these roundtables can be found below:

How do we utilise online tools moving forward?

How do I better support my congregation through this time?

Thriving faith for children and young people in the pandemic

Christmas Isn’t Cancelled

Thursday 24th June | 10am - 11:30am

Faith sharing and social action?

A bit of context…

Andy Frost and Mark Waterfield have been leading church leader roundtables since 2012.They have been happening around the UK with regular ones in London. They were birthed out of a relationship with Claude Thomas who is now part of the team at Keystone Church.

These roundtables gather church leaders from different denominations and streams to share together, support each other and push each other to fulfil the vision God has given us to reach the UK. In 2019 we brought many of these roundtable groups together for the first Ekklesia Conference.

Since September 2020, we have been hosting virtual roundtables. Our first session explored how we gather as the church during a pandemic. You can check out some of the content here that provoked conversation in smaller groups.

The roundtables have been a space to pool resources to maximise our mission. For example, in London, church leaders have worked collaboratively on sermon series such as ‘What would Jesus say to…’ exploring how Christ would interact with celebrities from todays culture.

Helpful Truths about kids & Youth work during this pandemic

Mark Waterfield is part of the Ekklesia leadership team and leader at Hope Church, Newham. Here are his 5 helpful truths about kids & youth work during this pandemic … and a challenge for us all…

1. Authenticity trumps presentation every time

The danger when we are engaging with kids and young people online (or in person) is to think that it’s all about slick presentation, superbly put together videos and faultless storytelling with jokes and Gospel punchlines! The reality is that what really matters isn’t being a CBBC presenter but honesty and authenticity, sharing the ups and downs of life – lockdown, school, missing friends, home life, emotions, etc. If you are being authentic you are making a difference.

2. Focus is on the family

One thing that the pandemic has brought into sharp focus is the family. The bible is clear that the primary place for discipleship is the home. ‘Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’ (Proverbs 22 v.6). Far too often Christian parents have put the responsibility of a child or young person’s faith at the doorstep of the kid’s or youth worker at church. Church leaders, we need to equip and encourage parents to grow in their faith TOGETHER with their children. Think discussions at the dinner table and prayer challenges. There are loads of great resources at the Kitchen Table Project to use and put this into practice.

3. Connect the modern way & communicate the timeless gospel

The phone is the modern way of connecting with people – Instagram, Tik-Tok, Snapchat, YouTube and many other platforms. There are so many great ways that technology can be used to connect with kids and young people, During the roundtable we heard about churches hosting Minecraft nights, zoom kids klubs, Facebook Live cooking sessions, football sessions online and Insta challenges. (Do check out the youthwork videos). Once you have made the connection, we build a bridge to communicate the timeless gospel of Jesus in bit size chunks (think school assembly talks rather than one hour Bible studies).

4. Faith is Active

Faith is by its very nature active and is something you participate in. When working online with children and young people the challenge is to get engagement – through games, bible stories, questions, prayers, worship and activities. Always look for active engagement and not passive consumption of content. There are some great resources at the Equipping Every Kid website.

5. Consistency and showing up really matters!

You might feel incredibly inadequate and not up there with technology and the world in which kids and young people are living in BUT one thing that really matters is consistency! Turning up every week whether 20 or two young people are on the zoom call, dropping round activity bags for three families or 30 – kids and young people are impacted by consistency. As one young person said in lockdown to a church youth worker, “I knew when there was no school and my mum was at work all day that you were the only person who was there for me every week, to talk and listen to me.” Wow! Turning up is massive. Never underestimate its impact!

And Finally a challenge…

So much of our time, effort and resources with children and young people over the last 7/8 months of the pandemic has been focused on providing material and engagement for kids and young people who are already connected to the church. This is great BUT what about the other 95% of children and young people who have no church contact? So little of our time and energy is going on reaching out with the gospel to children and young people in this digital and Covid restricted world we are currently living in.

How do we reach children and young people with the Gospel when so many of our tried and tested methods are currently lying dormant and ineffective?

Reflections on ‘Christmas isn’t cancelled’

Chris Frost, part of the Ekklesia team, shares his 5 take-aways from the October Ekklesia Roundtable: Christmas isn’t cancelled…

1. Now’s the time to change tact

When the synagogue was shut-down for Paul’s gospel outreach in Acts 19, he changed tact and used the hall of Tyrannus instead. With many of our usual Christmas outreach opportunities shut-down, where is God calling us to change tact? What new traditions might be created this Christmas?

2. Empower the scattered church

Rather than feel burdened by all the extra energy required to invent new ways of connecting with our communities, we can encourage our church congregations, and small groups, to take initiative and responsibility for reaching out in their localities. With neighbour contact at an all-time high in many areas during lock-down, this could be a key opportunity. There are tons of great ideas;  organise a street Christmas Advent calendar in windows; hand out Christmas books  with the question ‘May I give you this book about Christmas?’; or arrange to take a Christmas meal to your elderly neighbour.

3. We need to find the lonely

The lonely won’t tend to self-disclose their situation. The Christmas season can be cruel to the isolated, especially after the restrictions we’ve been under this year. Therefore, what spaces can we create to connect? Perhaps some doorstep visits on Christmas day, a shared meal over zoom, or an online ‘Blue Christmas’ event for people to mourn any loss they’ve experienced this year.

4. Let’s Collaborate

Whether it’s asking the local council or schools if there are people that could do with a ‘Christmas lunch on Jesus’ this year, or inviting other churches to run a Christmas service in a car park together, we can do more together than we can apart!

5. Christmas isn’t cancelled

Now’s the time for us to bring the love, light and hope of Jesus to a hurting world. Let’s make a big deal of celebrating Emmanuel, God with us! Whether we sing carols to our streets like the portable priest, create a walkable Christmas labyrinth in our buildings, or get J John and Cliff Richard or Andy Frost to speak at our virtual Christmas services for free, there’s loads of opportunities to ensure #Christmasisntcancelled.

To view our Christmas ideas page, click here.

How do we gather in a pandemic?

Last week, I helped host our first Ekklesia virtual roundtable exploring how we meet as the local church during the ongoing pandemic. With five interviews with different churches, this was an opportunity to both be challenged and to learn from different traditions on how we should gather at this time.

From the discussion, here are five questions that emerged as key for local church leaders to wrestle through…

1. What is the purpose of meeting?

What came through very clearly from the different churches that were interviewed was that each church has a different nuance when it comes to the purpose of gathering. That purpose may be celebration, sharing the sacraments, community, discipleship, ministry, evangelism or a concoction of the above.

We can easily get stuck in a formula for gathering in person and the same can be true in this season but our purpose for gathering needs to impact how we gather. This is a great opportunity to look at our purpose afresh and recast vision about what the church is about.

2. What habits are we creating?

We used to have to get up, get dressed and head out of our homes on a Sunday morning. Now we can sip coffee in bed, in our PJs watching a live stream. Habits are powerful and during the pandemic many of our habits are changing (just think about the handshake!)

The big questions is about how important it is to *go* to church.

Some churches that have begun public gatherings again are finding that young people and young families are not turning up en masse. They have adopted attending church virtually instead. With two young children, the normal hectic rush out of the door to race to church has been swapped with a much more tranquil brunch in front of the live stream. I can understand the reluctance to return to going to church but are these newly formed habits going to be detrimental in the long term?

One church that was interviewed has purposefully stopped streaming to Facebook because they do not want to become a Christian Netflix service. Even if we are operating virtually, do we need to use different platforms so there is the sense that people are pro-actively engaging with the gathered church? (Hebrews 10:25) The concern is that church solely becomes about spectating rather than participating.

3. Who are we reaching?

Two very different things have happened since the pandemic. Many of us have become more linked in to our local community than ever before. We now know our neighbours and have an opportunity to share faith. But at the same time, by streaming our services online, many churches have connected with a wider, even global audience.

First up, how do we equip the congregation to share Jesus with these new local relationships? And secondly, what is our role with this wider audience that are connecting with us? Should we be intentionally looking for ways to disciple virtually or helping this new audience connect and find a home with a church local to them?

4. How do we stay consistent?

With so much uncertainty about the future, many of us are longing for some kind of consistency. The danger is that we, as the local church, flit between different ideas week to week. How can we create some consistency for people? I have been encouraged by the number of local churches that have created virtual rhythms of prayer and discipleship throughout the week. Prayer gatherings on a Monday evening and lunch time reflections on a Thursday via zoom.

And in a state of flux, where consistency is not possible, communication is key.

5. How are we using this opportunity?

Within weeks of lockdown many of us had become broadcasters. The danger is that we just broadcast what we have always done rather than re-imaging what works in this season. For example, 25 minutes of sung worship broadcast to your living room isn’t the same as worshipping with 100 people in situ. I think here, we need to rediscover how we lead people on a worshipful journey drawing upon other liturgical traditions.

What if we looked at this moment as an opportunity to experiment? As mainstream businesses have been given the opportunity to innovate, this is our excuse.

One poignant illustration was that of an expert chess player who would often practice by playing without his most prized piece, the queen. In many ways, as local churches, the Sunday morning gathering has been our prized piece. We have used the Sunday morning as a place to cast vision, disciple, worship and reach out. In this time of transition, how could God be leading us into some creative ways to be the church?

‘I love the Roundtables because they facilitate candid & practical conversations that can and will help your church grow, if applied.’

Andy Gray | City Hill

‘This is a great forum for leaders to learn and grow together. It has been encouraging to see leaders developing ideas together that impact both local congregations and communities across London.’

Sarah Grimshaw | Methodist Circuit

‘I have found the Roundtables a very useful stream of creative ideas for church leadership. The content has been practical and challenging. As a local church we’ve benefited hugely from the shared preaching series in the last 2 years, with it’s creative promotional material and collaborative preparation of messages.’

Andrew Holmes | Every Nation London

The Roundtable sessions provide teaching input and the opportunity to meet and share with other church leaders. I have found it a great place to bounce ideas around and learn from others. It is a blessing and encouragement for me, and my church has been strengthened as I have take back ideas and implemented them’

Dave Simms | South Chingford Congregational Church