I like to count. I like to track growth and decline. I like being able to see when and why we grow or shrink. This is fun when you have a full room, and it sucks when there is only six of you (that was a low in every sense of the word).
So The Chapel started at the end of September 2009. Since then we have had over 60 first time visitors, roughly 30 – 40 people come along regularly and the last two months have seen us average around 20ish (biggest night was 24) people on a Sunday evening. We started in September with a handful of people who were committed to The Chapel, this group changed over the year.
It feels like we have scaled the heights and plumbed the depths, however I doubt that we have done either. The strange thing about looking back is the odd feeling that it is only going to get more exciting, difficult, joyful and excruciating in the future.
I have learnt a whole bunch about pioneering, planting, security, ego, how much I suck and what having faith actually means. I will unpack a bunch of that over the summer.
I always want to learn something. I have made it a rule to assume that nothing works like you think it will first time. Therefore, you have to learn, adjust and improve. If you think you can no longer improve some thing it probably means a) It sucks, or b) you suck.
The Crypt was our first run at a club night and because I am a bit miserable, and a touch faithless, I expected failure.
Thankfully God doesn’t like to beat me round the head for sport and we had a cracking night.
Bplus (the DJ) was fantastic. Honestly, there were points when I thought my spleen was going to jump out my throat because the bass lines were so vast and….well…..bassy!
We had a bunch of people from The Chapel turn up and we had a whole bunch of people just walk in off the street.
I will blog this week about the different things I learnt. I think with a few adjustments we could really be on to something.
So when we started The Chapel in the only venue I could find in the area I wanted (that didn’t cost stupid money) was Baa Bar. This vodka bar has been awesome. The staff have been uber-helpful and haven’t flinched at our churchyness (that is a word), even if one girl did compare us to a mentally ill homeless guy who claimed to talk to Jesus about his shopping habits (low point).
We have been able to gather a group of people that is wide, weird and disparate. I think we have about 40/50 people that visit us fairly regularly but never on the same night. So if we push over 20 we are doing well.
We discovered that people are viewing The Chapel as a cool thing in a vodka bar that they can visit when their “normal church” isn’t doing anything on a Sunday evening. Which is OK if thats all you want. I want more. I want a wide, weird and disparate Church that loves Jesus and loves Manchester. I don’t want another odd little ministry that is consumable but nothing to commit to. That would be lame. Manchester needs churches rammed full of passionate and committed Christians.
So we decided that shifting The Chapel up the road to a more conventional building and turning it into a proper Christ Church Manchester site/location (CCM:City) was the way to go. Really I need to have something that I could ask people to commit too.
So recently I have been tempting you with nuggets of news. I have suggested that The Chapel is going to undergo some changes, a bit of nip and tuck.
Well from September we are going to start meeting on a Sunday evening at Luther King House while the mornings will stay at Hyde Town Hall. The evening meeting will be called CCM:City and our morning meeting will be CCM:East. The Chapel is going to morph into something else entirely.
I will unpack what these changes mean over the next few blog posts but to start with its worth covering a little bit of background that give some context to the change.
We started The Chapel in September 2009. Since we started we have seen 60 ish first time guests come along who would never otherwise heard of or have come to a Christ Church Manchester meeting. Up until March 2010 we averaged about 14-17 people on a Sunday night. Since the beginning of March we have been getting 20-25. So we are definitely getting somewhere.
We decided that the by moving to a slightly more conventional venue (the room we are using is actually an old chapel) and becoming a fully fledged site/location/campus of CCM we will be able to appeal to more people and will gain the freedom to turn The Chapel into something more outreach focussed.
I will write more over the week. Honestly, I am dead excited about how this going to work out. It feels like we are trying to be genuinely innovative in a City famed for innovation.
It seems that we are on the verge of a Chapel re-jigg. This is exciting and petrifying in equal measure. I am not going to tell you what they are yet because we are still fiddling with the detail but soon I will. Probably.
I can say that we have some high quality people who are joining us and a few people giving us funny looks. Either way we are desperate to have a church that is uniquely Manchester. The ride remains incredible.
Anyhoo, this (believe it or not) is keeping me calm –
I love Sundays. I love seeing who is going to pitch up, meeting new people and explaining who we are and where we are going. Mostly, I love it when the presence of God is there. Nothing feels more relevant than the church meeting God.
Anyways, this Sunday see the Chapel return (have I mentioned this already?). We are inching our way forward, which is awesome because there was a point, not long ago, when I thought we were nearly done. It feels different now. It doesnt matter if nobody shows on Sunday evening, I know that God is with us. Regardless of any success or failure we experience God is with us.
(6:30PM start. Cakes + Worship + Crazy idea for the future = The Chapel)
The Chapel is taking a two-week break for easter (there must be something wrong with church stopping for easter…).
So this seems like a good time for a brief review of how we have done since christmas.
Up until Christmas we ran on adrenaline and a small amount of success. We had 30 ish visitors from late Sept to early Dec. Some of these visitors came back, some didn’t. Either way we made some good friends.
We recommenced in mid January and to be honest it was a little like pushing watery custard up a hill. A steep hill. January and February were just plain difficult. We had very few visitors and very little interest. People began asking questions. I was questioning the viability of the chapel myself. Valentines day was a low point as only six people showed up. Six.
Then in March something changed. Honestly I am not sure what changed but something did. Since early March we have had 21 brand new first time visitors, we have regularly got 20 people on the night and that 20 is different every week. So it looks like we have a regular crowd of 30 – 40 people.
The worship has improved with a real sense of Gods presence every week and the teaching has gotten better as well. We are better at following up newbies and we have the beginnings of a cracking core team.
We start again on April 18th until the end of May. We shall meet through the Summer to pray for September and train the core team. I am very very excited about September, back in January and February I couldn’t even think about September without feeling slightly depressed.
(Warning – this post is me clearing my head. What I write may seem obvious/dull to you but the process of blogging helps my thinking. Cool? Read on)
Since Christmas the question of what the chapel is has been bugging me. To be honest many people have asked me the question and that bugs me as well. I was asked if it was a church plant, if it would become a church plant, if it was an alpha course, a discussion group, or a prayer meeting. Someone even asked me if it was a “cafe church”? What does that even mean?
Anyways, questions and critique do us good. So I let the question fly around in my head (plenty of room up there) and finally I feel like I am getting somewhere.
The Chapel is absolutely and fundamentally a church. No question. It is a meeting of Christ Church Manchester. It is a meeting that is equal to our morning meetings. So The Chapel is a site of Christ Church Manchester.
This means that we are pioneering a site of Christ Church Manchester. We are not planting a church….. although when are we not planting churches?
Last night at the chapel was sweet. We had a new worship leader, who did a cracking job and we carried on with our new laid back acoustic vibe. The oral assault of our power trio will return but for now the guitar and percussion route seems to be working well.
We have a steady stream of guests every week. Some of whom appear to like the chapel experience and have come back. Which is kind of the point.
A few people have said to me that they enjoyed it but want more people to show up. Obviously, I agree. However I am loving what God has given us so far. Also I desperately want to avoid people doubling up with meetings on sunday morning and evening. There seems so little point in that. We have a few very serving people who are doubling up but I want it kept to a bare minimum. I want to grow with newbies.
This sunday evening Chip from thebandwithnoname will be speaking. He has a mohawk and is American. Seatbelts will be provided.
Yesterday my good friend Al blogged on change. It struck a chord with me as our lives have been constant change since May this year.
- We have had a second child
- Sold a house (eventually)
- Moved city
- I have started a new job and Vix is looking for a new job
- We have joined a new church (I work for these guys)
- We have started an evening meeting for this church
- We have merged two churches together (Something the Simple Pastor is also doing)
- We are starting a new charity for the people of Gorton
With all that’s going on we never really pause to catch our breath. Thank goodness.
The change is constant and invigorating. Sometimes I am tempted to suggest to our leaders that we may need to hold off on the constant innovation so that we can build what we already have but then I remember that change comes when God blesses you. To be stuck in the same place with nothing new happening means that you are not laying hold of the kingdom. We desperately want this thing to move forward, for people to get saved, for the church to be massive and important.
It is not about constant upheaval for the sake of it, but rather it’s taking the gospel forward and changing to fit with Gods plans. Marvellous.