East Worthing Café Church - update Jul13

Monday, 22 July, 2013

John Beales tells how the Café Church has developed since its launch in 2009.

We have a core group of about 30 who come along week in, week out but that number can go up to 50. We had a couple more people come in as a result of our most recent fun day but, of course, the challenge is to allow the freedom for people to come and go and yet maintain contact with those who 'dip in'.

That's where Facebook has been a marvellous tool for us, social media means that we can drop them a line to let them know what we're up to or ask them how they are but it's not as intrusive as ringing them. People can feel that you're 'chasing' if you call on the phone.

I really work hard to make sure that people don't feel they have to apologise for not having been to Café Church for a while. Something that has really helped us in developing a culture of 'we're all in this together' is something called DIY Sunday which takes place once every quarter.

On a DIY Sunday I invite people to contribute something to our time together; it may be a musician who wants to play a particular worship song, it may be a poem that someone's written for the occasion, it could be a Scripture or a short talk about how the Bible has spoken to someone and changed their view on something in their life. I never set a theme, I never check what people are going to do, I just put my trust in the Lord and – every single time – it has fitted together, I just co-ordinate it. People come up to me right at the beginning of Café Church and I collate it then and there.

East Worthing Café Church - cakes

Recently we did have two people who wanted to sing the same worship song for us but that didn't matter, it was fine. It made us listen to it all the more closely! There will always be a gem in the midst of a DIY Sunday, there will always be something that speaks to all of us at Café Church and I have also seen individuals really grow in their faith as a result.

One mum and her daughter used to write poems about cats and read them to us; it would have been all too easy in another setting to say it wasn't appropriate but – in their own way – they were telling us of what was important to them. They have been with us for quite a while and those poems are now about God. 

I have seen others come through as lay leaders and it's so important to give people a chance to do these things. Jesus gives us all a chance so why are we so scared of giving others the opportunity to have a go? I think it's all about us wanting to keep control of things – even in a fresh expression of church.

The team has changed quite a bit in recent times but that's to be expected because I see it as part of my job to make disciples of people and then release them to do whatever it is they feel God is calling them to do. Other people are now coming in who may be able to help us in leadership but the underlying question is definitely one of sustainability. I'm still thinking very much about how to sustain the church as myself and my wife, Christine, are moving to Ferring, another area a bit further down the coast. It's not far at all and I'd very much like to develop a fresh expression there, there's certainly potential for that, but it's far enough to mean that we're no longer on the doorstep. Will it keep going if I'm not there? I just don't know.

Perhaps we should link in with someone else, another church in the area? We do already have close links with the local CofE church, St Stephen's and on every third week we go to their Sunday alternative worship night called REWIRE. That helps us to recharge our batteries and deepen the relationships with others in the area.

The fraternal for this part of Worthing is very good and I regularly meet with the leaders of the Anglican, Baptist and URC churches; it's good to be connected in that way. I don't hold with any comments about 'sheep-stealing' in the Christian church, it's all to do with freedom as far as I'm concerned – people don't 'belong' to me or to Café Church, they belong to God.

East Worthing Café Church - pair

Worship as part of a fresh expression can be something that develops later in the life of the community but we have always incorporated sung worship into our regular programme. However we always use background visuals to the songs so that I can ask people to look out for something on the screen that relates to the theme that day, children may be asked to try and spot an animal, for instance, but I will also try and pose a question for all ages to think about.

In one of our Café sessions we would only have maybe three songs and I don't use religious language at all. We do have people who have been involved in church life before but we also have those who wouldn't have a clue what I'm talking about so I'm very careful about that.

Our Tuesday night house group has at least 12 regular members but that can go up to 16. The age range at the moment is 16 to 92. We would like to have two groups but we are looking for others to be hosts.

People do give to Café Church, our average collection is about £63 for 30-40 people though we have also had a grant from the Greenhills Trust which helps to pay for our community fun days. These are hosted by us but we don't do anything overtly evangelistic as part of them.

We will be starting our fifth year at Café Church in October and my prayer is that we can sustain our café-style church so that it can continue at East Worthing Community Centre. This would then give me the freedom to start something else.

We offer Holy Communion once a month at Café Church and in House Group; that's very important to us because we very much concentrate on teaching about the Body of Christ and having a relationship with each other in Christ. The thing we have to be vigilant about is falling back into a traditionally 'churchy' mode. For four years I think we have managed to do that and keep the whole thing fresh in its outlook but it's something we have to keep on our guard about.

This story is an update to:


I have to say that it is great hearing about how the Church is developing and that it is very exciting that the new ways of bringing people into church life works for all ages.
I have attended a few times and always have had a Family feel, that your not there on your own but that you are with your family learning and having fun.
I would highly recommend going and experience it!!

thanks for this it gave me more insight of what the church is trying to achieve

Have to say I have been at Café Church now for nearly 5yrs I do not always attend every week but what I love about it is everyone is really friendly and we do try to make sure that people who drop in are made to feel Welcome with no pressure. It is great seeing how many are willing to do something for the DIY Sundays and are from all ages no-one We see young ones waving flags, making and doing things to enhance the whole experience if you want to see something new that includes all ages come give us a try meet the family who care.

Totally ensorse JB and Christines Cafe church, so unique so fresh, so normal so people and Jesus orientated. A vision in action, well done you two, I know you do it all fr God's glory, I sadly come too infrequent the journey is a bit too long, if I lived nearby, I'd be there regularly. I always fihd a warm welcome, a freshness, a a 'normal'ness and God there, I do pray and knowthat he that has begun a good work will keep it going, That's God i mean!
Terry Lawton

I've known JB through sking and Magic for some years. What a great bloke he is. What a good skier and entertainer.

His heart like Chris his wife is open and he has a passion in sharing life and his love for the church and Jesus.

He is definitely not 'religious' in the boring sense of the word. He is innovative and if I've spelt that wrongly then I'll use the word imaginative instead.

If you are able to pay a visit to the Cafe church, you will find interactive Christianity at it's best. I thoroughly recommend this ministry, if I lived closer that would be my church

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
We use spam protection. View privacy policy.