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.
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?
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.
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.
You have to be true to what you believe is possible and you have to be realistic about what is likely. The clash between faith and reality can sometimes be quite painful.
There have been a few times in the last couple of years where I felt a distinct sense of belief. People have kindly prayed and brought prophetic words and I feel like a million pounds. Indestructible. Like my destiny is written in the stars. Like I could be the NEXT PIPER/DRISCOLL/VIRGO/KING DAVID!!!! Then the next sunday comes round and 10 people turn up because they felt sorry for me and then I realise that reality has punched my faith in the face and run off with his wallet.
I cannot count the amount of Monday mornings where I have just felt foolish. The sinking feeling that not only am I barking up the wrong tree but that the tree is dying and will soon fall over and kill me is burned into my brain.
I remember meeting with one guy who visited CCM:City back when it was The Chapel a few times. I explained all that I wanted to do and how he could get involved. I was articulate, engaging, funny and visionary.
I never saw him again. He ignore my texts and avoided me on facebook.
I realised that at the beginning of the church planting process vision and faith is really only for the entrepreneur because nobody else is that interested. You have to cling tight to what you believe God has called you to do because there is nothing else to hold onto.
It all sounds a little bit dramatic and over the top but you have to hold the big vision within yourself and try to win one battle at a time. I remember at the very beginning of this venture feeling like it might be easy because I was so sure of what God had told me. How naive was I?
The truth is I am more sure of what God has told me now than I was then. The only difference is that it drives me to win one person at a time and not to expect an easy ride.
This time of year does funny things to my mind.
I am sitting and waiting. This means my brain goes into overdrive. My sleeping patterns get messed up, my routine gets funny and I spend a lot of time staring into the middle distance.
Early September is the calm before the storm. In the next few weeks and months we at Christ Church Manchester will grow. I believe it. Will I regret this bold statement? I don’t think so.
We will grow in number. People will add purpose, community and complexity to us. I cannot wait to have these guys and girls with us.
This time two years ago all the vision I had was to get to Christmas in one piece. The reality of planting a church is so very different from all the books that tell you that you need a clear vision of what your church is going to look like.
I had a vision, and I still have vision, but when you can count your core group on one finger then vision seems a little pointless! There are only so many times that person want to hear “the vision”. I quickly realized that my vision was to get one more person, and after that another person.
Two years in and the world is different. People don’t look at me with pity when I explain what we are about and what we want to do. Some people even talk about joining us.
So we are faced with an exciting future.
If you are the sort of person that thinks praying is a good thing then could you throw a quick prayer up for us?
• CCM:City actually does what we think it might do!
• CCM:East also takes a leap forward
• CCM:Salford will soon spring into life so pray for Tom and Emma
• CCM:Levenshulme gets beyond the “Crazy idea stage”. We need a breakthrough here.
Thanks for reading.
So we went to Leeds and filmed Matt for an hour or so. We then sliced and diced the video into a whole bunch of snippets. I haven’t interviewed anyone before so I was concentrating pretty hard and consequently did not really listen to much of Matt said. This must make me the worst interviewer in the world!
Anyhoo, when I watched back through these videos I discovered this one –
The comment he makes about praying hard for a whole year knocked me sideways. It may be obvious to all you awesome people that read Christian blogs but to me it was a sharp jab in the ribs.
I haven’t prayed much. About time I fixed that.
One of my new blog ventures is the Christ Church Manchester Church Planting Blog.
We went to Leeds to film Matt Hatch of Mosaic Church. We asked him about church planting. He gave us so much fantastic material that we have broken the film up into a series of questions that we will put online over the next few weeks.
I got to interview Matt (don’t panic, I sat off camera and my voice has been edited out) and I found myself being challenged by his answers. He has planted a successful church that is still growing and sending out a new plant into West Leeds in January
Watch him and steal his ideas. I did.
Click through to our site and watch the film. Christ Church Manchester Church Planting.
So Sunday looms large again! We don’t live and die by our numbers because I would have died a long time ago. In fact I feel genuinely at ease about the whole deal. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d look stupid and lets be honest I have plenty of experience of dealing with that already.
I was in a leaders meeting yesterday evening when Colin Baron started telling a story about a previous church plant he had been involved in. Colin is my boss and leader of Christ Church Manchester. When Colin says JUMP I pretend I didn’t hear him.
Anyways, one day Colin gets a phone call from a Christian leader in Manchester with a simple request “Colin, you are the only person I know who could do this, can you plant a church for me and can you do it tomorrow?”. One hour long meeting in a Mexican restaurant latter and the church is planted. Ten years later and the church is doing well with a strategy for reaching Manchester.
So what is the point in living and dying by the weekly turn out? In 10 years we will still be here, with 5 people or 500.
There is no actual pressure at all. We are the church. We are meant to be here.