G2 - update Jan11

Saturday, 1 January, 2011

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

Duration: 11:56   | Download Download mp3

Transcript

Christian Selvaratnam: So my name's Christian Selvaratnam and I'm an ordained pioneer minister at St Michael-le-Belfrey Church in York. I look after a fresh expression of church and I also look after some of our other mission initiatives, and then I also work half-time for Alpha International, the charity that helps support the Alpha Course.

Interviewer: Christian, tell me a little bit about the development of G2, lots of people will have seen it on the DVD, what's happened since those days?

Christian Selvaratnam: Lots and lots has happened, some of it now different to ordinary church life, to do with people and events and changes, it's been a six year story, so we're actually not so new or fresh in that sense, we've been around a while, we're well-known, well-recognised. We've grown, we're regularly over 100 people in our Sunday meetings – and not everyone comes every week – so the number of people generally involved is probably more like 200. We've got some more structure to our gatherings, so we gather on Sundays but we also gather during the week in a variety of small groups, cell groups, clusters, student groups, things for mums and tots and things for people during the week. We've moved venues so we're no longer in our original venue, we outgrew that and had to find somewhere bigger, so we now meet in a community centre, and we've also moved our meeting time – we used to meet in the morning, it seemed the natural time to meet when we started, we actually now meet in the afternoon because we find the people who come, that's a better time for them, that's a better mission opportunity for us to be available in the afternoon. And then along the way we've seen all sorts of life events with people. Lots of baptisms, we've got some baptisms coming up this Sunday and lots of people growing in faith.

Interviewer: So, no longer in the gym.

Christian Selvaratnam: No longer in the gym. And that was a big formative thing for us, it was a great positive association, we made a lot of it – sort of fitness for the soul, that kind of thing – and connecting with people at leisure, maybe that was distinct from religion – I think that sort of helped us. A few years on though I think we've got our maturity, we've got our base, so I think we accommodated that move fairly well. Maybe in that first year it might have been really hard because G2 was about being in the gym. Now we're a community with a name and an activity and where we meet perhaps is not so critical.

Interviewer: And in terms of people coming to faith and discipleship, moving them on, is that done through the cell groups and cluster groups? How does that work?

Christian Selvaratnam: So our thinking I think has developed over the years, we've learnt from experience. What we know we've done really well is to connect with people on the fringe. We've connected with people who are sort of… they've 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. And we've connected really well with people in that situation, so we've got a lot of stories of people who've really seen their faith come alive, they've come back to faith, or they've connected with us, come back to faith and then they've connected back to their local church, so they sort of pass through. Many have stayed but some have passed through. We've seen amazing things happen with students and we've got lots of stories of students who've really seen their faith come alive in a fresh context through G2. We've seen some connection with people with no church background but we recognise that's actually an increasingly large group. And for those people we think it's not so much Sunday that will be the point of contact for them. They can come 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 a bit like church to them even in a very nice café-style sort of package. So for them mid-week things, through clusters – which are more interest-based, more about socialising – that's actually our main investment for connecting with that very large group of people who don't have an interest in church but probably have an interest in the issues of faith.

Interviewer: That's interesting. So they would really be seen as the fresh expressions of church.

Christian Selvaratnam: Yeah. I think the reality is, our innovation now is more in the realm of what we do mid-week through clusters and some of those ideas, and on Sunday in many ways we're trying to balance both those that are coming in, but we've actually got a core of people for whom this is their sustaining faith experience, week by week, so we need to be faithful to that. We 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 and we need to have sort of worship that's not only accessible to somebody who walks in off the street but is actually meaningful for somebody who is already a committed follower of Jesus.

Interviewer: Yes because I know with a lot of people there's usually concerns about the stage at which you grow and then get to communion, how do we do that, people want to be baptised, confirmed, married, whatever it may be – these are issues you've obviously come up against along the way.

Christian Selvaratnam: Yeah, and behind the scenes there's lots of discipleship, we've used very simple models of one-to-one meeting up, a simple form for example of an hour a week meeting in a coffee shop with somebody, using maybe a Christian book – work through a chapter a week, let that be the basis of your discussion. That works very well for a lot of people and we've found a lot of people are happy to make time to do that and it pays great dividends for people. And we also try and apprentice people in leadership, public ministry, ministry roles, and we just use a simple apprenticeship model where somebody watches somebody else do it, they talk about, then they have a go, somebody there supporting and then it maybe gets handed on to them in time. So it's not so much based on training courses and that kind of thing, valuable though those are, we've tried to focussed it on just one-to-one, very simple. And we've found it's paid great dividends.

Interviewer: And in terms of team now Christian, how many people have you got involved with G2? Do you have lots of people on your team?

Christian Selvaratnam: Well we originally had one team and I think they got to the point of burnout really. I was a member of that and our team consisted of all the practicalities and then all the blue sky thinking as well. And we reached the point actually where because of the complexity of what we were doing, we often only attended to things when they started to go a bit wrong. So we've restructured, we've got two teams now, one called the core team – it's not a very exciting name – but the core team kind of look after everything and they have the overview. And then we've got a larger group called the leadership team, and everyone on that team has one – and only one – responsibility, quite a focussed role. It might be prayer, it might be students, it might be worship, it might be hospitality, and we've got about fourteen people in that team and probably another seven or eight posts to fill as we find the right people. And we've tried to take a very… a sort of high-affirmation, high-accountability but low-control, high-support kind of approach to them to really release them. We've said to them not 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. And already we've found that's enormously helpful in just getting more done, and that's really helped us grow and it's helped us 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.

Interviewer: And just thinking a little bit about the future, what about hopes and dreams for that, Christian?

Christian Selvaratnam: We want to grow and connect with more people, we want to do better at connecting with the people who are outside of church experience, and that's something we'll need to learn in. We're just beginning with that I think, even though it's going well I think that's a new area that we need to learn about and get wiser on, we need to hear from other people on that. And I think the big thing looking forward is G2 itself needs to multiply. And I think 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, you've got… you know it's just grown, it's getting really going, you've got the buzz, 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, what are the opportunities, what might it look like and who are key people that might take that forward.

Interviewer: And I suppose then yes, if the drive is being forever missional, and creating ecclesial communities, that's all part and parcel of that. And in terms of development reaching the unchurched or the never-churched, you say obviously that's a challenging thing to do, part of the whole fresh expressions meaning is to reach out into people's context, listen to what's going on, find out what's happening in the community. With the cluster groups, do they meet across York? What sort of geographically do they cover?

Christian Selvaratnam: Yeah, it's early days at the moment, we've got two, nearly three, clusters that are going. Cluster is the outside profile, and then they also meet as cells, so there's a community discipleship focus behind that. One of the clusters is specifically for students, and that's thriving, that's going really well. So that focusses very naturally on York University campus, which is very near to where we meet. So that's a very natural people group, very natural geographic focus. We've got an emerging cluster that will probably focus on families, families and younger children, and will connect with people in that age and stage and the times that are good to meet may be different kinds of times, so we've got another cluster that's looking at that. And I think maybe other opportunities, we've had examples for example of cell groups that have been football cell, 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. And 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 that. And so I think we would like to explore more of that, there are lots more things we could do like that, maybe a cycling thing or activity, maybe people who want to meet up in Starbucks for a discussion, things like that. So it's early days really, we need to work out what those opportunities are.

This story is an update to:

G2

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