Side Door

Monday, 21 February, 2011

Side Door - minibusThe Side Door Youth and Community Church, featured on expressions: the dvd - 2 and once threatened with closure, now attracts more than 150 people - aged between 4 and 95 - every week. Circuit youth co-ordinator Elaine Watkinson explains the turnaround in fortunes.

Side Door is based in the Laceby Road Methodist Church building. Laceby Road ceased to meet in May last year but the community church is open seven days a week, running a variety of different groups on the Nunsthorpe estate.

The changing status of Laceby Road prompted fears that Side Door would also have to call it a day but Grimsby and Cleethorpes Methodist Circuit decided to allow a year's trial from March 2010 to prove that we could become self-sufficient and secure its future. Our members are now responsible for maintaining the building, setting budgets and keeping accounts.

Side Door - RIP

The Circuit has supported us very well and provided oversight of all we have done. The first months of being sole trustees were extremely successful and it has been marvellous to make the most of any opportunities that came our way. Of course we didn't have to wait to get permissions to try something; it was up to us to get on with it! Having the freedom is excellent but we still need an income from the building for it to be worthwhile.

The local YMCA now uses our building once a week and so we have been able to engage with all their young people, we even did a panto with them. Here is a church that is 'being' church, 'being' outreach, affecting the lives of ordinary people on the street. That's why I can find it so difficult when we seem to be continually questioned as to whether we're really 'church' or not. It seems particularly odd when there so many churches which cannot lay claim at all to 'being' outreach or affecting the lives of ordinary people and yet their status is never queried.

Side Door - crossThe situation will be reviewed at the end of March but, at the moment, we continue planning on being here for the foreseeable future because this is a live and going concern.

It's an awesome responsibility, an albatross of a responsibility at times, because the Laceby Road building is a huge, rambling place but is also so right for what we are doing here. I wouldn't say we 'wanted' the building but we do need a base and it's perfect for that. There was a time when we would have fitted in a tent on the lawn outside Laceby Road but there's no chance of that now!

We are very forward looking and intentionally missional because we know this building has got to earn its keep. We are not going to meet that by relying on a membership of 25, many of whom are at university, or short of money, or older in years. We are very reliant on God's grace.

We have a church council and everybody who comes along to The Side Door is, more or less, on the church council and our leadership team. They can't all vote of course but they do all have a say. There are about 35 people who come regularly to worship with us and that's great.

Side Door - floorSide Door started as a project but developed into a church. We had our outreach before we were a church, which is the opposite way round to the way it usually works. It officially remains a Circuit-based outreach more or less owned by the church. Some churches can exist without outreach. We can't. Now the outreach needs the church, they are inseparable.

We are open every day of the week at some point in the day and the breadth of people we are in contact with is staggering because of all sorts of activities. It may be something for children aged five and over, lunch clubs currently attracting people up to the age of 95, and the YMCA crowd which include that missing generation of 30-somethings.

We are still very much focused on reaching young people but others are now being drawn in. There is a community event on a Wednesday lunchtime where those in their 40s, 50s and 60s come along from the local estate to sell items of their personal clothing or belongings in an auction. We were unsure of letting it go ahead at first and we were quite uncomfortable with it but this is something that is very much needed in this area and now we are so glad we said yes because we have been very blessed as a result. All sorts of conversations are now underway that we would never have had without it.

Side Door - poolThose on the estate will, in all probability, not be moving on from there because many will not have that freedom of choice. Those people are now saying to us, 'We want to spend time with you.' The mindset has changed completely. In turn we have to be prepared to cope with ways of thinking or doing things that we may personally find difficult or strange.

There are pressures involved in all of this, of course there are but we all feel called to be there. No-one is here out of duty, we are here out of love. We are as vulnerable as any other church but I'd say the difference is that we are very aware of the need to avoid complacency. There's too much to do and too many people to reach.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Tuesday, 7 May, 2013

Elaine Watkinson was involved in the ministry of the Side Door in Grimsby for 12 years and continues to volunteer there.