A different approach to church: B1

Tuesday, 8 September, 2009

This story illustrates the principles of a different approach to church in the Guide.

B1 worshipB1, a church plant begun in 2000, aims to be a network church, serving not a particular area, but appealing across Birmingham through members' personal networks.

Meetings are held three Sundays a month in a central Birmingham location. The fourth is free to enable members to spend time with friends and family who do not go to church.

The first stage was to surf our own networks,

explains leader, Geoff Lanham, a Church of England minister. In the first two years, 150 people attended extra events held by B1, but though enjoyable, it was recognised that these did not help to build community and so they ceased. What has continued is a monthly alternative worship event, Synergy, held in a bar.

B1 now has 50 adult members and some children.

Every year there is a mini exodus and every September some influx,

Geoff says.

A more important figure is those who've belonged to us along the way, which is about 130. It's the transitional nature of emerging church in a city context. We're working with people while we have them and then we hand them on to the next stage of their journey. It's a kingdom mentality. We're described as a twenties-thirties church, but we're now varied and not age-targeted.

'We are trying to see faith-sharing as discerning where God already is and living in a way which causes people to ask questions'

The cross-cultural bit is the hard bit, but it's exciting. Meeting in bars, cafés and pubs prompted questions from those employed there and we saw that God is at work among people who staff these places.

Geoff describes the church itself as having been on a journey as members seek to grow the church through their personal relationships.

One model we find helpful is thinking about sharing faith as a dialogue,

he says.

We value friends for who they are. This is partly why we moved away from events. We are trying to see faith-sharing as discerning where God already is and living in a way which causes people to ask questions.

Welcoming and including newcomers wherever they are on their spiritual journey is a deliberate choice for Geoff and B1. So, for example, one couple who had come only to social events were asked by B1 members to become godparents. As a result, the couple

took the decision to hang out with us.

They are now in a small group and help with children's work.

The belonging thing helped them grow in faith,

Geoff believes, and this is something he has seen in others, too. Holding back on his private opinion about the new relationship of a recent divorcee, he offered an unconditional welcome to B1 to the girlfriend. Now this couple and their new family are 'flourishing', he says.

This is a learning point from: