3.08 @ Kingshill, Nailsea

Friday, 30 October, 2009

When the Bishop told Associate Vicar Steve Tilley he would be comfortable with a few ‘heroic failures’ he gave permission to those wanting to start fresh expressions of church to experiment in a daring way. The leaders at Christ Church, Nailsea in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, took him at his word. Here Steve takes up the story.

Why didn't Christ Church, Nailsea reach families in one of its more distant estates effectively? 10 am Sunday, with a walk involving crossing the main road, may not have been an attractive proposition.

So we decided we would like to have a go at planting an all-age congregation in Kingshill School. It was easy to reach, and attended by the children of many of our target families. We opted for a monthly service and it didn’t clash with Christ Church's own all-age service. But what about Sunday lie-ins, local football teams and Sunday morning shopping trips? Inevitably this conversation happened:

'What time shall we start?'
'How about 3.00 or 3.30?'
'Why do church services always start at times like that?'
'Don't know.'
'Why don't we start at a strange time; then everyone will remember it?'
'What, like eight minutes past three or something?'
'Why not?'

And 3.08 was born. We expected everyone would arrive at 3.15. We planned that the first seven minutes of our event would be good, but never important. Over the next two years only once was anyone late. People tended to arrive for 3.00. We finished by 4.00 pm with tea, cake and chat.

Lesson one: start at a memorable time.

How did we try and attract people? We leafleted every house in the neighbourhood. We put an entry in Kingshill School parents' sheet. We advertised in the local paper. We used word of mouth. We gave everyone who attended a postcard with the details of the next two events.

On our launch 43 people turned up. Many had come to support us from local churches. There were few, genuine newcomers. That was disappointing and it  proved to be the highest number we ever got. Most of our guests over the next two years were folks from other churches interested in trying it themselves. That may be where it bears fruit, we thought.

The content? We went for simple teaching and worship with activity. For the first year we worked through the creed, in the second year the Lord's Prayer. We grew in confidence as a team and our mini-dramas were appreciated. A puppet, Russell (the crow) asked awkward questions by holding up laminated sheets with his beak. We used many of Dave and Lyn Hopwood's Telling Tales resources (CPAS). For our prayers we tended to split into three groups so that some could talk and meditate, some pray together and some work on a craft.

We planned carefully every month (we met at 6.08 for about an hour - the 08 was catching). One of us would bring an outline and then we'd put some meat on the bones, allocate tasks and fix the running order. Lots of the details were finalised by email.

Lesson two: a wise use of technology can keep preparation meeting time low.

Sadly, despite working really hard on our publicity, we never penetrated our target constituency. Maybe there wasn't enough personal invitation by word of mouth? Maybe the idea was flawed from the start? Perhaps it simply wasn't God's will for now. There will be many reasons why 3.08 at Kingshill didn’t work as we hoped.

Reluctantly we took the decision to stop after two years and 22 events. The all-age leading skills learned will be used at Christ Church. An afternoon event at that church is being mooted. A couple of us are going to try another angle and maybe target men.

Lesson three: if it isn't working, stop.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010 On Demand clip

Steve Tilley share the three mistakes they may have made - and the lessons they have learnt from them - in starting 3.08 @ Kingshill.

Sunday, 1 November, 2009 On Demand clip

Steve Tilley talks candidly about the beginning and ending of 3.08, Nailsea.