Focus Service Sheffield Church

Tuesday, 1 September, 2009

David Middleton, special needs Minister for the Baptist Union, tells the story of Focus Service: Sheffield Church.

Duration: 3:14   | Download Download mp3


Introducer: There's a very unusual fresh expression of church in Sheffield. It all started when one congregation felt God was calling them to reach out to those living locally who had learning difficulties. Church Army Evangelist Keith Blinston takes up the story.

Keith Blinston: We sing lots of songs, we worship God, we act out the Bible stories in drama and then we try to apply what we've learnt from the story to people's everyday lives. We have special services at Christmas and Easter, we have about twenty-five people in all plus carers that come each week.

Introducer: The Revd David Middleton was surprised by how popular the special services were and soon realised he had a new church on his hands.

David Middleton: We got a team together, I trained up the team a little bit in what we call cognitive development theory, the theory of how people think and how they learn to think, because people with learning disabilities have problems in that area and if we were going to do a church we had to make sure that it was going to connect with where people were thinking, what level they were thinking at. So we knew that we needed to have actions, we used to have thinking attached to action, we needed to have lots of interaction between ourselves as leaders of the church and our congregation, and so one of the first things to go was the monologue sermon just got chucked out.

Introducer: And for those who attend, this is real church.

Female voice 1: I enjoy coming to church, I do, I like doing drama, and singing as well.

Male voice 1: Drama, I like it, like it, aye. Prayers, I like that, I like it.

Female voice 2: I like all the songs that we're singing.

Female voice 3: The food

Female voice 4: The food!

Introducer: David Middleton believes that real sensitivity's needed when reaching out to those with learning difficulties.

David Middleton: We try all the time to not treat people in any childish way. Just because we are bringing the cognitive demand down doesn't mean we have to treat people like children. We thought we were going to give something to people that was in addition to what they were getting at their local church, so we made it late on a Sunday evening – seven o'clock. But in actual fact everybody that came through the door were unchurched, i.e. they were not going to a church in the morning. And soon they started to say this is our church, so in 2004 we drew up a constitution and since then we've had church meetings where all our congregation who are members of the church come to the church meeting and they decide what we do as a church.

At the moment we're a big step of becoming what we call a local ecumenical project, bringing all the denominations that are represented in our church together and hopefully if we can get that LEP agreement the denominations well begin to take notice of us, begin to promote us as a church. Maybe we can get extra funding, maybe we can get extra volunteer help, and people'd feel some responsibility towards us that we continue and we grow.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Monday, 3 December, 2012

Keith Blinston, Assistant Minister, updates the story of the Focus Service, a church for adults with learning disabilities.

Wednesday, 4 July, 2012

Focus, a church for adults with learning disabilities, is the first BMO in the Diocese of Sheffield and the first ecumenical BMO in the Church of England.

Thursday, 8 October, 2009

Focus Service: Sheffield Church is a church for people with learning difficulties and everyone else who enjoys an interactive experience of God.


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