Side Door - update May13

Tuesday, 7 May, 2013

Elaine Watkinson is on the Mission Team at Gainsborough Methodist Circuit. She was involved in the ministry of the Side Door fresh expression of church in Grimsby for 12 years and continues to volunteer there.

I was Circuit youth coordinator in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, and Side Door came about when people from the nearby Nunsthorpe estate turned up in increasing numbers to find out what was happening there.

When the children from the estate first started to come, we felt very inadequate because they brought many issues with them. Initially we tried to integrate the children into existing churches but they would do things like whistle through prayers or applaud worship songs. So instead we developed church where we were and people started to respond to it, so much so that - in 2005 - we became a recognised Methodist church in our Circuit and in 2010 became managing trustees of the building.

In 2010 the Circuit gave us a year's trial to prove that we were self-sufficient. That went well and we continued. There was a real test last year because the whole heating system broke down and our congregation of 30 members (10 of whom are at university) managed to find most of the £76,000 needed to renew the system and continue our mission on the estate and surrounding area.

It is a very difficult area and it is clear that if Side Door wasn't there, the young people wouldn't come to a traditional church at all. We believe that variety is very good for this sort of community; that's why we do a regular prayer weekend, take them to all sorts of events and also go out as a mission team. The encouragement is that we are reaching new people of all ages with the gospel, not just young people – children, young people, parents and the elderly.

The biggest question we have is, 'Where do we go from here?' We have always had to fight our corner and plead our case but the concern is that Side Door is gradually being moulded back into the framework of what already exists in the Circuit; it feels like putting new wine into old wineskins.

It's important to maintain its recognition as a church but it's difficult and finance is quite an issue. We don't have a collection, for instance, and - by the very nature of the outreach - the people we attract are not financially viable. Also we have not been established long enough to build up reserves or to have had legacies like those a traditional church might have. This is not always taken into account.

The money comes in through tithes and donations but now, because we are recognised, we have to pay our assessment and we have a very large building. There is only a limited amount of money and resources available so to continue to put yet more in is very tough. I believe the problem is that many churches have become money-driven not passion-driven about mission. They think it's all about saving money for a rainy day but it’s pouring down outside.

But it must be said that, on the whole, this work has been - and continues to be - a joy. When things get tough we need to remember that people's lives have been changed forever by the work and outreach of this small church family and it's important to celebrate that.

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