The Methodist Church in Britain is investing £7 million over ten years in a major new initiative designed to reach out to young adults who have no contact with the church.
The news comes as new research from the Christian development agency Tearfund indicates that, although the major historic denominations have lost significant numbers over the past 50 years, there are signs that they are levelling out and showing elements of recovery - though not in routine, weekly attendance. Different patterns are required.
Entitled venture fx, the scheme will seek to recruit 20 lay and ordained people who demonstrate vision, motivation and the ability to inspire others.
Over the next five years these people will be appointed to pioneer new Christian communities among the 20s to 30s age range in twenty different locations in the UK.
They will be offered support and training and will be able to build new, viable independent Christian congregations rooted in the Methodist tradition.
The Rev Ian Bell has been appointed Pioneering Ministries Coordinator, overseeing the plan.
“Increasing numbers of people have little or no understanding of the Christian story and might find the idea of going to church strange or irrelevant,” said Bell. “This is the challenge that the church is facing."
He continued: "We have to develop new models of church that speak to people about where they are in life and the issues that matter to them. venture fx is about tackling this challenge head on, meeting people where they are and challenging perceptions of what ‘church’ should look like.”
Mr bell is currently Superintendent Minister of the South West Tyneside Methodist Circuit, where he is developing an emerging church venture at Starbucks in the Metro Centre, Gateshead.
In the past he has helped to establish several 'fresh expressions' of church in the Sheffield and Doncaster areas, including a youth congregation and a cafe-based church.
As Coordinator for the scheme, Ian Bell will be working part time until the end of August 2009, becoming full time from 1 September.
You can hear Ian talking about the scheme in the latest Fresh Expressions podcast, available online. More information about venture fx with a list of FAQs can be found on the Methodist Church website.