Fresh Expressions

The term 'fresh expressions of church' was coined by the Church of England report Mission-shaped Church in 2004. The ecumenical Fresh Expressions initiative was started in 2005 by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with the Methodist Council.

It now involves a wide range of partners, including Church of England, Methodist Church of Great Britain, United Reformed Church, Church Army and Church Missions Society.

The national Fresh Expressions team, led by Revd Phil Potter, exists to encourage and support the movement which has seen hundreds of new congregations being formed alongside more traditional churches across the UK and internationally.

The Church Army Research Unit surveyed Fresh Expressions of Church across Guildford Diocese during the early part of 2015. Click on the link below to read their report.

Fresh Expressions of Church

It is a way of describing the planting of new congregations or churches which are different in ethos and style from the church which planted them, because they aim to reach a different group of people than those already attending the original church. They are established primarily for the benefit of those who have never been to church.

A fresh expression will:

  • Come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples
  • Have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.

There is no single model to copy, but the emphasis is on planting something which is appropriate to its context rather than cloning something which works elsewhere.

A fresh expression is a church plant or a new congregation. It is not:

  • a new way to reach people and add them to an existing congregation
  • an old outreach with a new name ('rebranded' or 'freshened up')
  • a half-way house, a bridge project, which people belong to for a while, on their way into Christian faith, before crossing over to 'proper' church.

Fresh expressions of church are not meant to replace existing forms of church and they are not in competition with them. Instead, they are to complement the work of inherited or traditional church, in what is known as a 'mixed economy' approach to ministry.

In the ten Dioceses so far researched, fresh expressions of church account for 10% of attendance, the equivalent of an extra mid sized Diocese, or about 21,000 people. For every one person sent to start a Fresh Expression 2.6 more people have joined, a rate of growth that nothing else in the Church of England comes any where near.

Three Minute Guides

National Fresh Expressions have put together the following seven extremely helpful guides to understanding, starting and developing a fresh expression of church.

They are free to download and share.

Case Studies

Some fresh expressions are very different from church as we are used to it in the UK - there is the Tubestation surfer church on Polzeath beach, Cornwall; a youth congregation based in an Essex skate park, and The Order of the Black Sheep for those who feel like the 'black sheep' of society. Others are more familiar but in unfamiliar settings - church in a café, pub, school, gym or a sports club.


Fresh Expressions training is focused on three key resources: vision days; a free to download mission shaped intro course; and the mission shaped ministry (msm) course.

  • 90 vision days have now been held across the UK, attracting over 6,000 people. Nearly 1,000 more have been to vision days in Canada, the US and New Zealand
  • Around 75,000 people in the UK and around the world have participated in the introductory msi course
  • Since msm launched in 2007, 73 courses have taken place across the UK in venues from Plymouth to Inverness, involving nearly 2,500 students, with another 11 msm courses starting in the autumn. Mission shaped ministry has also run in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Barbados

Contact: Fresh Expressions general number: 0300 365 0563
Email: contact@freshexpressions.org.uk

Revd Phil Potter, is leader of the Fresh Expressions national team. To find out more about the movement, visit the Fresh Expressions website www.freshexpressions.org.uk

Fresh Expressions also provides information on Pioneer Ministry and holds a central listing of Bishop's Mission Orders. Click here for further details.

Messy Churches in Guildford

A report has just been published looking at Messy Church in our diocese, and identifying what is working well, and making some recommendations for good practice in future. This will be of interest to clergy, PCC’s, Messy Church members and leaders, children’s and families workers (paid and volunteer), and anyone interested in fresh expressions of church and church planting.

The report looks at issues like deciding whether Messy Church is the right way forward for our context, how to set up a Messy Church, Messy Church and discipleship, witness and evangelism, sustaining a Messy Church, what happens at 11+, the potential future impact of Messy Church upon inherited ways of being church, and much else besides.

 You can find the full report here.

Other Articles and Resources

What are the differences between Emerging Church and an outreach ministry of a local church? Read more

Read Revd Stephen Cox's book review of 'For the Parish' Andrew Davison and Alison Millbank (SCM)

A report on St Paul's Cafe Church Dorking can be found here.

If you want to find out more about good practice in Fresh Expressions, or share ideas try www.sharetheguide.org

Contact Local Mission Advisor Stephen Cox for more details.
SteveCoxWeb Stephen Cox

Local Mission Adviser


01483 484922