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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Someone leading without anyone following is just someone taking a walk.
This is almost true. Jesus is our model for leadership and at times he was completely isolated.
Church planters start by effectively leading nobody. We can sometimes find ourselves in this position for a while. There comes a point when people start signing up to the new church and it feels like you are getting somewhere. It feels like they have bought into the vision and are ready to be led into the great unknown.
The reality is a little different.
Sometimes I encounter this expectation that leadership is a deeply idealistic position where people follow your vision, your ideas, your preaching, your theology or your gifting. To start with I don’t think this is true. When a church is small enough for everyone to know the leader (1 – 100ish) then relationship is what matters. First of all people need to like the leader, only then will they follow.
Lately I have discovered myself living a strange existence. I have been spending a lot of time convincing people that I am likeable (tough sell), whilst be myself and only needing the approval of Jesus not men.
Most people joining the church don’t care that much about our theology, our worship, our small group structure or our vision. They just want to feel like they can belong. Only once they have found there place in the community do they worry about the other things.
Here is the CCM:City take on Jesus Saves –
I think this is my favorite one so far. It has a fair bit of cross over and so is probably not pure dance music but it really thumps!
We want Manchester to hear us and be surprised!
All three songs that Mike has re-imagined are here –
I have been looking forward to writing this post for the last 18 hours.
Manchester has looked after the Simmonds family and CCM rather well in the last week. To be more specific, the churches of this beautiful city have really stepped up to the plate and slammed the ball out of the park on our behalf!
On friday I was sat with my good friend Nathan Whilians (from Kings Church) in a cafe. Nathan, being the good guy that he is, asked we what we needed. At that moment it occurred to me that this is a brilliant question and I cannot remember if anyone has ever asked me this question before. “What do I need?” is so much better than “What do you want?”.The things I want are stupid (people, money, recognition etc etc), the things I need are simple.
In a flash of reality I realised I needed God. I need God to move. I don’t need anything else. Nothing at all. Every perceived issue we have, every hope, every dream and every expectation all get addressed when God moves.
So I did what any normal bloke would do. I cried. right there in the cafe. Like a toddler (less stamping of feet but the point stands).
Nathan was gracious enough to wait for me to compose myself and then he prophesied over me and encouraged me while I did a bad bad job of getting my act together.
Fast forward by 48 hours and Sarah Smith from Vinelife was speaking at CCM:City. The Vinelife guys have been consistently amazing to us. They have served us, encouraged us, challenged us and very publicly supported and promoted us.
Anyhoo Sarah preached the Holy Spirit turned up, prophecy bounced around the room, Non-christians experienced God, Christians reconnected with God and our meeting was a mess (guess what? I cried. In fact I am crying now….).
You have to remember that we are a new church, we are fighting to exist and we are growing slowly. There is no reason at all that Kings or Vinelife should even know who we are let alone care that we succeed.
Something is happening in this city.
We have run monthly Open Mics after CCM:City for about 18 months. To start with I organised them and they were rubbish. Seriously, 5 people in a room listening to some skinny white indie-kid play Switchfoot or John Mayer. Nasty.
Then Jonny joined our church and boom. 80 people a night, tons of talented musos, stacks of Non-Christians and one very very happy Tim.
Have a butchers –
Our hope is that the music that we worship God too will be missional. We want people who don’t know Jesus to see and hear us worship and to be able to identify with what is going on. Also, I want our worship leaders and musicians to feel very free to be creative. I don’t want them to feel in the slightest bit restricted by my personal taste or by any expectation of what worship music should sound like.
I want our corporate worship to be Jesus focussed, Spirit powered and God inspired. After that I want creativity that makes God smile and that Non-Christians will be surprised by.
Anyways, Mike Bradley has finished another song. Fancy a listen? Of course you do –
Your Love Never Fails is by Jesus Culture.
Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to post a version of Jesus saves which is probably the best song we have done so far. No pressure Mike. No pressure.