re:generation - update Jun10

Tuesday, 1 June, 2010

generation logoRisky, messy, and a lot of ups and downs along the way. That sums up what has been happening at re:generation in Romford since its launch six years ago. So says Ruth Poch, who oversees the ministry of the fast-growing, fresh expression of church with her husband Jamie.

I believe the interesting journey we've all had to make has led to deeper discipleship, mainly because we've had to take calculated risks in using young people's talents in a way we might not have done in a more traditional church setting.

generation workingIt's amazing now to think that the seeds of re:generation were sown as a Bible study around our dining room table. Our average Sunday evening attendance is now in the 80s, though 98 recently came through the door which was quite phenomenal.

In early 2010 we organised a survey to find out where people were coming from and we were surprised, in a good way, to discover that many were coming from a non-churched background. It's encouraging to see. We also did a census on the age and the gender breakdown in the church: the average age is 25, and most of those on the 10-strong leadership team are in their early 20s.

Jamie and I are both deacons and our first appointment in 2000 was to the Romford Circuit. We job shared and our role was to co-ordinate youth work amongst the 13 Methodist churches which, in some senses, sounded quite a grand scheme but actually when we got there we discovered that there were very few teenagers involved in the worshipping life of any of the churches.

generation bandThe work began by listening to the young people and serving their needs. A drama group was set up, social events were organised and monthly youth services began. After a while, the young people were saying, 'look we don't go to any other church, this is our church. We want to have something that we can actually own and have other kinds of activities throughout the week.'

Therefore in September 2004 we moved to Gidea Park Methodist Church premises to 'officially' plant a fresh expression of church among young people. Gidea Park had closed its Sunday evening services, giving us a wonderful opportunity to have that space and time every week.

A core value of the work of re:generation has been discipleship. Now weekly Bible studies are increasingly led by the young people, and they also have rotas to lead the prayer ministry time and input from Scripture. Our discipleship groups for guys and girls are peer led so that's very much about going deeper and being able to share things in a safe environment. To have that more intimate setting and the prayer support that comes from that have been key factors in establishing those groups.

generation girlsAt the beginning we prayed for more adult volunteers but it never seemed that God really answered that prayer. In hindsight it has been a blessing because we had to use the young people in the work of the church, or take risks with them serving in ways that we wouldn't have done had we had more mature people coming along at that stage.

Having to take those risks in leadership meant that the young people themselves knew that if they didn't work and do jobs and have vision for the church, it wouldn't work. It all makes for a very exciting journey because it's constantly evolving. When we started, some people thought regeneration might just meet the needs of a particular group of young people that we had at the beginning but actually, year upon year, we have seen growth - despite key people on the leadership team leaving for university etc.

Interestingly, a few parents began to turn up. I think they were fascinated as to why this church was playing such a big part in the lives of their son or daughter. We had our youth Alpha course when a group of adults started coming and having their own discussion group. Some came on the residential weekend and it was fascinating - and amazing - to see how the young people responded as they ministered in prayer and give support to these adults.

generation boysSince then we have had other people coming to re:generation, some of whom are quite vulnerable with mental health issues and so on. The church has become quite diverse, culturally, and in terms of age range - even though it is still predominantly young people. It keeps us on our toes all the time because we are constantly having to cater for an increasing number and a wider age range of people from very different backgrounds.

As pioneers, the early years were hard and very lonely at times but if you feel that God has given you a vision to carry on and really persevere, I'd say keep on going when it is difficult and try to create an authentic community.

Back in the dining room Bible study days, we used to ask, 'How is everyone doing?' 'Are you having any difficulties?' No-one seemed to have any, and certainly no-one shared what those difficulties were. Now almost the opposite is true. Ask the same questions and you’ll begin to wonder if there is anyone who doesn't have some sort of problem going on.

I think that's all because there's now a sense of being safe there, a place where people feel they don't have to wear masks or pretend to be something that they're not.

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