The end of a year gives us opportunity to look back and reflect on at what has been happening in church life.
At Bearwood Chapel, there’s much to give thanks to God for including baptisms, new congregations, outreach events, opening the community café etc. There’s also much to challenge us. We’ve seen some people not settle and move on, We also know that we are still only scratching the surface in terms of Gospel impact into our communities.
Nueva Vida –Started in February this year. This wasn’t really planned but grew out of our increasing contact with Spanish and Portugese speakers. As a fledgling congregation it has had its ups and downs. We have seen a high of about 40-50 people attending but due to some people initially being attracted to something new and others struggling to balance work commitments not everyone has continued to attend consistently. There’s currently about 15-25 people who attend consistently on a Saturday and/or are engaged in midweek Bible study.
We are encouraging core group members to focus on making time to visit and study the bible with fringe attendees who are still genuinely interested in the Gospel but finding that weekends are not good times to come out to meetings.
The 9:30 Service. Attendance has tended to be around the 30-35 region though this includes ELCO team members. This year it has been good to see a number of new people joining the congregation. Some people have also moved to the 9:30 congregation after initially starting out at 11:15.
11:15 Morning Worship. The 11:15 Congregation has fluctuated this year. At a high point we saw about 70-75 people attending regularly at about Easter time though this has dropped back down to around 60-65. This reflects a number of movements including a few couples and families choosing not to stay with us as well as some people migrating to the other congregations.
Again, throughout the year we have been encouraged to see a number of new faces coming along and people starting to meet with us regularly.
This is our newest and smallest gathering with on average 8 people coming along each week of whom 4 or 5 are specifically attending at this time whilst the other 3 coming to a morning meeting as well.
Sunday Night Church. On average, we see about 30-40 people attending Sunday Night (including Community Life, Dig Deeper and 21CD). This includes about 15-20 attendees who do not attend on a Sunday Morning or Saturday evening. This year it was a wonderful encouragement to see two people from the Sunday Night congregation get baptised.
Outreach. This year we have run a number of special events including “The Difference” in the summer and our Light Party at Halloween as well as our usual Easter week activities. We also gave out 300 copies of Luke’s Gospel in Bearwood and Cape-Hill. Over Christmas and the New Year we gave out a further 100 Matthew’s Gospels along with an invite to Engage or Sunday Night Church.
Our weekly activities and groups provide a great opportunity to make connection with people. These include Monday Group which has evolved from Ladies Hour with a number of men now attending and the Community Café which opened earlier this year and now sees a steady through put of “customers.” We have been able to offer Community Lunch through Monday to Wednesday and it is encouraging to see some people becoming “regulars” and building up friendships with the staff.
Our ESOL class at the Chapel has 34 women on the books with an average attendance of 22. Nueva Vida have also been able to begin offering English Classes at Thimblemill Library for Spanish speakers.
Toddlers have over 60 families on the books . Both morning and afternoon sessions are often busy. Encouragements have included seeing a number of the parents getting more involved with helping at the group including running Toddler arts and crafts and helping with the refreshments. The team have been able to build up relationships with a number of mums and to offer advice and prayer.
Our children’s and youth clubs are a great opportunity to build links with the community and we usually include a short Bible slot at each club. After School Club on a Wednesday continues to see about 12-15 children attending. In the main, these are not church families though one mum and her two daughters now attend at 11:15 as and when mum’s shift patterns allow.
The big challenge is that many of these groups stretch resources and we often rely on the same people. From 2016 OM we will not have an OM team helping with midweek activities this is likely to put additional pressure on resources.
Across the different congregations and groups we have covered a wide range of teaching this year covering doctrinal, ethical and pastoral issues ranging from The Trinity, through divorce and re-marriage to living through trials and suffering. We have preached through Mark (Sunday am), The life of Jacob & 1 Peter (Sunday Night Church) and Galatians (Nueva Vida).
For next year, we are preparing teaching on Proverbs and 1 Corinthians (9:30 and 11:15). Genesis 1-11 (Nueva Vida) & Matthew (Engage and Sunday Night Church)
Discipleship and Pastoral
One of the great things about Bearwood Chapel is that there are usually some people meeting to pray and study God’s Word on most days of the weeks. There are 10 different small groups meeting each week including 1 in Spanish, 1 that meets in a Hotel and 3 that meet at the Chapel. 3 groups run during the day and the other 7 on evenings (Wednesday-Friday).
Discipleship and pastoral care face the following challenges
- A number of our older members are increasingly frail. This also places an additional burden on family members with increased care responsibilities
- Increasingly our demographic includes people who find themselves in temporary accommodation. This can be a result of things including waiting immigration decisions, domestic issues and recent release from prison.
- We have a number of single parents in the congregation
- Language. For example, as well as the Spanish speakers we have contact with an Italian family and an Albanian family with very limited English.
- When people gain employment it is often shift work and casual work which disrupts attendance patterns at church gatherings and impacts on family life.
- Several people suffer from emotional and physical health issues which are often seasonally variable
These factors can lead to irregular and inconsistent attendance habits. It also means that it isn’t always easy for people to slot into the usual church rotas. However, what is encouraging is the real desire people have to serve and to learn in different areas.
We believe that a local church should be committed to actively supporting world mission through prayer, financial giving and sending people. This year we have supported mission work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and closer to home through Birmingham City Mission and OM Lifehope. We also have sent one church member on various short visits to help with medical mission.
Strategy and Direction
Key things to think about going forward into 2016
- Staffing –we have begun to look at the possibility of adding an additional staff worker
- Church Planting and our potential role in it
- We will need to continue to monitor and consider the possibilities for space to grow & site development
Other big questions we will need to keep grappling with will be about how we can be effective in Gospel ministry. Some questions to consider include:
- What would our church look like if all growth was from conversion not transfer?
- How do we move from contact and friendship building to Gospel conversation
- How do we encourage and equip the whole congregation to share the Gospel with neighbours and friends?