United Media Church

Monday, 12 December, 2011

United Media Church in Kingswood recognises that people learn and engage in different ways. Adrian Wyatt explains why they describe themselves as 'the same, but different'.

In our Gloucestershire village, children and young people from the age of nine had become disenfranchised by the traditional Sunday church 'model' of doing things.

I became part-time pastor at Kingswood Congregational Church in May last year and I wanted to find out why the traditional Sunday School wasn't bringing in the children as it used to do. We are a church of about 30 adults and some research was urgently needed as to where all the children of that age group had gone. We found out by taking the remaining handful of youngsters to McDonalds and asked them, 'Why?', 'What sort of church would you like?' 'What do you like doing?' The answers revolved around eating, films and computer games.

United Media Church - car washIn February we launched a Monday church just for them. United Media Church uses film clips and computer games to teach the gospel message fortnightly on Monday evenings. These meetings, which include a short prayer time and all-important food, take place in an informal 'café church' environment. A variety of films are used and the same format has encouraged some to return to Sunday church as well.

We started the Sunday venture by watching Shrek the movie. That gave us the opportunity to discuss things like Do appearances matter? What makes good friendships? What makes a good king? Other topics on a Monday include what we learned from sport, Finding Nemo, Avatar, The Simpsons, and Friends. It really helps to keep us on our toes because they can choose to stop the film at any point and we then step in to give 15 minutes of Biblical teaching based on what they've seen and heard.

Part of my professional background is as a drug educator and some of our discussions have tackled substance abuse, alcohol and smoking but there is also a lot of fun. Plans for the coming months include a technology 'fast' for 20 hours when they will go without mobile phones and iPods etc.

WUnited Media Church - car washe now regularly attract up to 16 young people from the ages of 9 to 13, most of whom have been brought along by someone else in the group. That's very good news in that most of those children have not previously had a link with any sort of church at all but the challenge is that we outgrew our original room at Kingswood; it was simply too small for what we were doing.

We could have moved into the church hall but we felt that using the hall takes away from the special atmosphere of the place. In saying that we've now moved into the main church building because there is a big screen and a TV in the vestry room which means that some of the group can be watching a film while others are playing games or using the Nintendo Wii. We try to ensure that the film and the games reflect the same theme.

United Media Church - Africa projectThey are exploring their faith and the world around them in new ways and it includes things like supporting a youth project and families in Kenya, and sponsoring a child. They have raised quite a bit of money for their charity projects, a sleepover in the church raised more than £600. This is a way of being 'church' that our young people asked for. They also give into a collection every week because the adults do that in the main church and it's important to be reminded that we are part of something much bigger.

We have also started to develop a version of Messy Church and café church for those who would not come to inherited church and who are even put off by the word 'church' -  if not what it stands for. We're looking to build on an event which uses craft to explore a Christian message but without the insistence that parents stay. As the model develops, the parents will be encouraged to do so.

United Media Church - necklacesWe have always seen this as a fresh expression of church and not a church youth group and we need to keep that focus on being a different way of doing church. Otherwise it could easily become a youth club where you just come along and have a bit of a laugh.

In future I'd really like to see some of the older children coming through to become leaders themselves. It would also be good to see more people catch the vision and realise that this is far more than 'getting children and young people in'; it's about asking ourselves, 'What is their discipleship?', 'What is their Christian walk?', 'How is this Kingdom-building?'