Monday, 22 November, 2010

Christian SelvaratnamChristian Selvaratnam, ordained pioneer minister at St Michael le Belfrey, York, oversees G2. He traces its development since it was first featured on expressions: the dvd - 2.

This has been a six year story so we’ve been around a while, we're well known, well recognised and we've grown – we regularly get over 100 at our Sunday meetings and not everyone comes every week so the number of people generally involved is probably something more like 200.

We've got more structure to our gatherings so we meet on Sundays but we also gather in the week in a variety of small groups, cell groups, clusters, student groups and mums and tots.

G2 - floorA major change was moving the venue of our meetings. We're no longer in our original venue at the gym because we outgrew that and had to find somewhere bigger so we now meet in a community centre. Moving from the gym was a big formative thing for us. There was a great positive association and we made a lot of it – fitness for the soul and that kind of thing - and connecting with people at leisure. A few years on though, we’ve got our maturity, we've got our base and so I think we accommodated that move fairly well. In that first year it might have been really hard to move because G2 was all about being in the gym; now we're a community with a name and an activity so the place where we meet perhaps is not so critical.

We've moved our meeting time too. We used to get together in the morning which seemed the natural time when we started but we now meet in the afternoon because we find that it's a better time for the people who come and it's a better mission opportunity for us to be available then.

G2 - plasticineIn terms of people coming to faith and their discipleship, our thinking has developed over the years. What we know we have done really well is to connect with people on the fringe, people who have got a bit of church in their background - perhaps they went as a child or years ago - and a lot of those people find the church building an off-putting threshold to cross. As a result we have got a lot of stories of people who have really seen their faith come alive, some have come back to faith and they've connected with us while others have returned to faith and then connected back to their local church.

We have seen amazing things happen with students, many of whom have seen their faith refreshed through G2. We have also had some connection with people of no church background but we recognise that is an increasingly large group and, for them, we think that the point of contact will not be on a Sunday. They can come to the meeting of course but to a degree there are the elements of church taking place – there is a talk, there is worship, people might pray, it might feel like church to them even in a very nice café style package. So midweek clusters have become our main investment in connecting with the very large group of people who don't have an interest in church but probably have an interest in issues of faith.

G2 - screenOn Sundays, in many ways, we're trying to balance both those that are coming in with the core of people for whom this is their sustaining faith experience week by week so we need to be faithful to that. We also need to be thinking about what are we teaching from the Scripture. We have Communion once a month now and that's really important to us, and to many people who come. We need to have worship that’s not only accessible to somebody who walks in off the street but is actually meaningful to somebody who already is a committed follower of Jesus.

Behind the scenes there's lots of discipleship. We've used very simple one-to-one models - that may mean an hour a week in a coffee shop with somebody, maybe using a Christian book, working through a chapter a week as the basis of your discussion. That works very well; we've found a lot of people are happy to make time to do that and it pays great dividends. We try and apprentice people in leadership, public ministry and ministry roles and we just use a simple apprenticeship model where somebody watches somebody else do it, they talk about it, then they have a go with somebody there supporting and then maybe it gets handed on to them in time. It's not so much based on training courses and that kind of thing – valuable though those are – we try to focus instead on the very simple person to person approach.

G2 - prayerWe originally had one team whose work consisted of all the practicalities and all the blue sky thinking too. We now have two - the core team have got the overview of everything while there's also a larger group called the leadership team and everyone on that team has one, and only one, responsibility. They have quite a focused role. So far we've got about 14 people in that team and probably another seven to eight posts to fill as we find the right people.

We've tried to take a very high affirmation and accountability but low control and high support kind of approach to release them in their work – not so much a 'this is what we want you to do for us' but rather, 'here's the area, what would you like to do and how can we help you do it?' Already we've found that's enormously helpful in that it has really helped us grow and get that balance between getting things done really well and actually having an eye on the future as well because it's very fluid. We don’t want to stall or stagnate.

The big thing looking forward is that G2 itself needs to multiply because we recognise that we weren't just planted to stop, we were planted in order to plant out and that entrepreneurial, missional impetus that God has started, and is in us now, I think needs to spread further. Now that's a bit scary because you've got the dream team, it's just grown, you've got the buzz and you don't want to break it up but I think the right thing is that we've got our eye on this multiplying so that's what we're praying about at the moment.

G2 - balloonAt the moment it's early days for cluster groups, we've got two of them operating with a third just developing. The cluster is the outside profile and then they also meet as cells so there’s a community and discipleship focus behind that. One of the clusters is specifically for students; that's going really well and focuses very naturally on York University campus which is very near to where we meet.

We've got an emerging cluster that will probably focus on families with younger children and will connect with people at that age and stage. We've also got another cluster that's looking at other opportunities; for example we've had cell groups that have been formed through football. Guys that meet together, play football once a week, have a great time, then they meet in the pub and discuss something and maybe pray. We've seen quite a few people come into the community through that, it's very low key, it's a very patient form of mission but I can think of a number of people who actually now are card-carrying Christians as a result of it.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Saturday, 1 January, 2011 On Demand clip

Christian Salvaratnam discusses G2, the 'church in a gym' from expressions: the dvd - 1.