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Planting Churches With Ninja Children

We have been in Manchester for 3 years and 4 months. By we I mean the Simmonds family. The Manchester branch of the Simmonds family includes me (Husband, Dad, Churchy Workery type), Vicki (wife, Mother, Nurse), Abi (Daughter, Pupil, Artist) and Esther (Daughter, Pupil, Ninja).

We moved because of me. I felt called to Manchester and church planting. Vicki and the kids gracefully allowed me to chase after my dreams. The move meant Vicki gave up a good job, we left all our friends and all our community connections. Vicki was onboard and excited but she sacrificed more than I did.

I remembered this recently when we started our new morning meeting. CCM:City meets now on Sundays at 10:30am and 6:30pm. Until we started this meeting we were all going to CCM:Gorton. We have a bunch of friends there and my kids get to join in with some brilliant kids work. Abi and Esi had a bunch of good buddys that they loved seeing every week.

Now, the kids work at CCM:City is just my kids. So now me and girls have started talking about church planting! We pray that families join, and that children become christians. Honestly, this is a new one on me. I feel a certain amount of pressure because I want my kids to be an important part of church life (as all kids should be) and at the moment we are the only parents with young kids! There are benefits to this, as my kids always have enthusiastic adults to play with every Sunday and we have total domination of the babysitting network. However, when I was a kid I went to churches with amazing kids work and talented kids workers.

The kids are 5 and 3 so everything is an adventure for them. They don’t complain, they enjoy church and they love their older friends. I am just praying that the adventure will include a few more buddies their own age.

Popcorn, a comedian and a posh town in cheshire

I am thinking a lot about Popcorn at the moment.

My friend Tom described Christ Church Manchester as being a little bit like Popcorn. We chuck a lot of seeds in the pan and turn up the heat. Some seeds pop quickly, some take a while and some don’t ever pop.

It sounds a touch flippant but I think it’s a good description of the season we are in at the moment. CCM:City started because I wanted to have a go, CCM:Withington and CCM:Salford started because leaders joined us who wanted to plant and loved our philosophy. CCM:Levenshulme was attempted because I wanted to have a go. It didn’t pop. Not yet.

So the latest seed is being thrown in the direction of Alderley Edge. Every Wednesday 5 or 6 of us meet in Alderley Edge to pray. We pray that a site of CCM will be planted. I love it and slowly but surely contacts are being made and ridiculous plans are being hatched.

However, most Wednesday evenings before I drive into the posh Cheshire countryside I find myself wondering what on earth I am doing! Why Alderley Edge? Why now? Why me?

What makes us decide that we should try to plant a new site in a new place, often when we have hardly any people there?

Faith. That’s all.

It’s a gut feeling that God might be moving and I want to see what could happen. I don’t have many people, in fact we have one gentlemen who lives in Alderley Edge, three people that come over from Silklife Church in Macclesfield because they want to stand with us and I have Jamie from CCM:City (Jamie’s a hero). We have a few other contacts and we shall pray that they find there way back to God and into the church.

What’s the plan? Ummm….the details are a little sketchy but I am going to use this small mission community to do a big attractive event.

We desperately want to see some fruit, so we are going to shake the tree and see what we get.

I was sat in a church planters training event recently and the speaker said that attractional church models were pointless. He felt that big events that attract people were a bad idea and in some way anti mission (I am simplifying his point to make my argument look better). As I listened to him talk I knew that I disagreed. Lots.

So in December we are going to do a big shiny, attractive Carols and Comedy event.  We will take the CCM:City band, a comedian, a lorry load of mince pies and invite the whole town.

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong?

This is one of those weeks that I used to pray would happen. I used to daydream about days like these. However, now I am actually here I am not so sure!

CCM:City started meeting in its current form just under two years ago. We had barely any people but we had an idea of what we thought God wanted to do. So we held our breath, closed our eyes tight, pinched our noses and dived in to the massive swirling pool that is church planting (that’s a touch dramatic but you get my point).

Two years later and we aren’t dead. Result.

In fact we have grown. People have joined, become our friends and new plans have been hatched.

So this week is a big week in the life of Christ Church Manchester. This week we start a brand new Sunday service. This means from this Sunday we will be running three services across two different locations in Manchester. This Sunday (2nd September 2012) we shall start a morning meeting at 10:30am as well as carrying on with our 6:30pm meeting. We will also carry on meeting at Wright Robinson School in Gorton at 10:30am every Sunday.  Exciting times / petrifying.

I was recently sat in a meeting about church planting and I was having a very civil conversation with an experienced church planter. I was telling him about our plans for doubling our sunday services at CCM:City, he asked how many people we currently had. I quietly mumbled something about “60 people on a good day” (we don’t get that many good days), he looked at me, blinked a few times and then changed the subject. Oh boy.

So, once again, if praying is your thing then please pray for us.

Pray for –

  • We want more people that bring people!
  • We want to plant a few more sites this year (Withington and Alderley Edge are in our sights)
  • God needs to move. Things are much simpler when he moves.

Cheers for reading.

Three Years and a Curveball

Three years we have lived in Manchester.

Manchester continues to treat us very well. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what this magnificent city contains. The people are generous, innovative and mad as fish.

Year three has seen the church grow with people and new sites take shape in Salford and Withington. I have also found myself travelling to Alderley Edge every week to pray with a handful of people about another site of Christ Church Manchester being established in North Cheshire. The futures bright, the futures wildly unpredictable.

In September CCM:City will be launching a morning meeting. This means CCM will have a 10:30am sunday meeting in Gorton and Fallowfield as well as a 6:30pm meeting in Fallowfield. This feels like a bold step considering our numbers. We will be a church of 60-80 in CCM:Gorton (+20 kids) and 50-60 at CCM:City (if every regular turned up at the same time) with three Sunday meetings. Breath deeply.

Starting another Sunday morning has been on our minds for a while. It is a logical step for CCM:City to broaden the range of people who could join us, we will even have kids ministry in the mornings. KIDS MINISTRY!

I have always tried to be honest on this blog about the journey we are on. So in the interest of honesty I should be clear that I have no idea how this is going to work. Everyone at CCM:City has brought into the idea (which is humbling) but every time you push into something new there is risk involved. Massive risk. That’s why it’s fun.

At this time of year I always wonder what I will be writing next year. I hope that I will be able to tell you about more Mission Communities, more Sunday meetings and who knows what else.

Dear CCM:City

Dear CCM:City,

This blog post is just for you. You are beautiful people. Wonderful, in fact.

Your generosity will stay with me forever.

You listened to me bang on about Yalova in Turkey (it doesn’t rhyme with Pavalova). I asked you for money to give to another church in a whole other country simply because we want to be generous.

You didn’t moan. You smiled and asked how much. Then you gave more than I expected.

Today we made the world slightly better.

Nice one.

Tim

9 Twitter tips for church leaders

For reasons you cannot understand you feel compelled to plant a church.

So you move to a new town, city, village, country or planet to start your brand new church and you decide it’s time to drag your sorry ass into the 21st century and use that Social Media thing your mum told you about. You sign up to twitter and start slamming out Spurgeon quotes. Stop. Stop right now.

How should church planters and church leaders use twitter most effectively? Let me tell you.

1. Understand what twitter is and what it is not.

Twitter is like a loud pub. Music is playing. There is fight in the corner. Someone is definitely drunk.

Imagine you are in this pub. You sit with a group of friends and you discuss the issues of the day, your interests, your hobbys, your successes and your failures. Your friends respond, comment, console, provoke, laugh at you and laugh with you. Sounds like a normal night out. Right?

Then a new guy wanders into the pub. He sits at your table and then starts shouting quotes at you. Weird.

Another guy walks in. He sits at your table. This guy has a book to sell. He spends the evening repeating the nice things people have said about his book and ignoring the rest of the pub. Everybody moves to a different table.

Twitter is a community. It is a place to hang with people you already know and make brand new friends.

2.Follow people in your city

When I moved to Manchester I follow marketing firms, designers, bloggers, journalists, promoters, writers, local politicians and leading business types. I got a quick inside track on the culture of Manchester.

3. Tweet people

Get into conversation. Simple really. There are people in my church that I met on twitter.

The best part of twitter is when someone new responds to a tweet and you meet someone completely new. The world just got a tiny bit smaller.

4. Don’t just tweet quotes

A few quotes are OK but if you fill my twitter feed with quotes and retweets (RTs) of other peoples quotes then I am going to unfollow you. If you just tweet Piper, Driscoll and Spurgeon quotes it does make you seem a little narrow minded. Tweet your interests outside of church stuff.

5. Work at it

Longevity is the key. Keep checking your followers and follow back the people you are interested in. It’s also worth glancing at who they follow or are followed by.

6. Watch your tone

Rick Warren says “Arguing with people on the internet is like a wrestling a pig. Everyone gets covered in mud and only the pig likes it”. I honestly don’t bother seriously debating or arguing on twitter. It has no nuance or subtlety and you often end up looking ridiculous.

Twitter is largely a liberal place (certainly in the UK) and so I think very carefully about what I tweet or retweet. If I  hold a particularly counter cultural opinion then I want to be able to explain it to people clearly, compassionately and I want to hear their opinion. That is not easy on twitter.

7. Don’t tweet angry

Just don’t. Trust me.

8. Don’t retweet compliments

It is hard to explain how vain this looks. Instant unfollow.

9. Enjoy Twitter

You will find plenty of people like you and you will find people who are completely different to you.

@tsimmonds

CCM:City’s Turkish Delight

CCM:City has taken a few interesting steps forward in the last month or so.

We had David Devenish with CCM for the weekend in early March and many of us felt challenged by his passion for Mission to unreached people groups. Following a bunch of conversations (largely between me and God!) we decided to do this -

It feels like a big step for us. The sort of thing proper churches do!

A response to Andrew Wilson

I have become an avid reader of the What You Think Matters blog. It is often thought provoking, witty and the tone is just right. There is nothing worse than theology by angry/aggressive/annoying theologians. The writers on WYTM are none of those things and because they are involved in church leadership in some way I feel like they understand the practical reality of life (unlike some theologians).

So I was very interested by Andrew Wilsons article of Church leaders obsession with Church size . As usual it was very well written and thought provoking. As a church leader who obsesses a little to much over numbers I thought I would respond.

Cast your minds back to valentines day in 2010. CCM:City (or the chapel as it was known then) had been going for 6 months. We started with 7 or 8 people and frankly we still only had about 7 or 8 people. Every now and again a few visitors would turn up and we thought revival was breaking out. It wasn’t. The visitors would take the free drink, back away slowly and then change their mobile phone number.

On Feb 14th 2010 there was 6 of us sat in the top floor of a freezing cold vodka bar in Fallowfield. The meeting usually start at 7pm and by 8pm I realised that this week was going to be quieter than usual and usually we were pretty quiet. This was my magnificent church plant. 6 people and a headache. I remember the week after wondering if I had lost my mind. That was probably the lowest point.

Just over two years later it is easy to look back and smile (I have’t quite managed to laugh about it yet) but the reality is that when you plant a church (a site of a church in our case) then numbers are very important. If nobody turns up to meetings, joins a mission group or joins the community then you don’t have a church plant you just have an acute sense of loneliness. ACUTE.

Andrew suggest 4 reasons that leaders obsess over numbers, which I will offer my opinion on -

1. The first is that, in a group of churches where the size of congregation drives income and hence the staff base (which is not true in many more established denominations), larger congregations provide greater job security and opportunities to specialise for their leaders, two things which many (though by no means all) church leaders aspire to.

Well, yes Andrew is probably correct but in all honesty I suspect that this thinking starts a little while into a church plant. To start with you just want the thing to live! When there was 6 of us all I wanted was there to be 7 of us, specialising to my gifting had not even entered my thinking. To be honest my gifting largely consists of badgering people to come to church until they give in.

2. A number is one of the most rapid ways of placing your church in some sort of context for people who have never been there.

Absolutely bang on. When asked by another church leader “How it going?” I know they want to know how many people I have (at least that is what I assume they are asking). All sorts of internal assessments and judgements then get made. That is certainly what I do. Some repentance may be required!

3. It is hard to argue with the fact that in general, and all other things being equal, more gifted leaders lead larger churches.

This is hard to disagree with but I think I am going to disagree. I know a few guys who lead churches of a 1000 + and they are gifted in ways that I can’t even dream of. However, the gifting required to get a church from 0 to 50 is completely different and probably undervalued (I would say that though). In fact getting a church from 0 to 5 is hard enough so I am not sure Andrew is being fair.

4. The main reason we are tempted to measure leadership success by church size is simple: it’s because it’s easy to count.

Absolutely, and I love the alternative suggestions that Andrew suggests for measuring the health of a church but every church leader will still count people.

Failure

I have always wanted this blog to be an honest account of what it’s like to plant a church/site in 21st century Manchester. So it is about time that I filled you in on some failure.

In the summer of 2011 I started banging on about starting a new site of Christ Church Manchester in Levenshulme. I had a plan. It was a fairly simple plan and I was convinced it would work. Basically, we were going to book a room somewhere in Levenshulme in the middle of the week, make a whole bunch of noise using social media, pray, worship and hope that people started showing up. Simple.

We found a room. Boom. Site planted.

Then a couple of things happened –

1) We lost the room
2) September, October and November at CCM:City distracted me.

So CCM:Levenshulme didn’t exactly happen because it didn’t exactly happen! We took the idea for a spin and we came up against a few obstacles, including my own time limitations, and we couldn’t get the engine started.

At CCM we describe ourselves as church planting entrepreneurs. This sounds a little grand but all it really really means is that we have faith that God will use us to start something from nothing. So at the very beginning of a plant we only need a tiny bit of leverage (a room, a couple of people) to give us the faith to keep pushing. With CCM:City a very cheap room, and a couple of visitors in the first few months gave us faith. Levenshulme needed to give us a tiny bit of faith quite quickly, and that didn’t happen.

Is that the end of the story? Nope. In fact I think I have a better idea of how we can make it work next time round.

Am I upset? Not really. In fact I am pleased that we took the idea out for a spin and I genuinely believe that something will happen for us at some point in Levenshulme.

To sumarise – CCM:Levenshulme hasn’t happened…yet.

Getting Old and Stuff

I have been pondering this post for a while and I have no earthly idea how to write it. I have always wanted this blog to be honest and open about the journey we are on as a family and my experiences in working for a church.

I always wanted be involved in church leadership. I remember being about 5 years old and deciding that I wanted to be like my granddad who led a church. That’s a bit of a weird ambition for a 5 year old boy to have but there you go.

If I am being honest that ambition did me no favours at all. Idolising church and leadership is not in anyway cool and I was deeply uncool. The good thing about idolatry is that God gets you in the end. Idols get broken. That’s pretty much all I want to tell you about that!

Anyhoo, tomorrow night I am being turned into an elder. That’s where we are in our journey right now. Apparently, in Manchester, starting a church community in a vodka bar gets you made an elder. I love this city.

My main concern is that all the elders I know cannot sing, or clap in time, and have appalling taste in music. Is this a choice they make or does it just kinda happen?

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