Since October 2009 Ruth and I have been exploring the possibility of church planting into Slough!
For us as a couple, the journey began off the back of one of the regular newfrontiers regional leaders’ meetings that I attend. On this particular occasion, Sean Green from Reading Family Church had been speaking on church planting and Mark Landreth-Smith had closed our time together by simply encouraging everyone to be open to God speaking and also by encouraging us as leaders to take ownership together for the region.
I came home from that morning feeling that at the very least I had a responsibility to be praying for those areas in our region where as a family of churches we’d still not planted a church. So I got out a map, looked right across our region, and Slough just seemed to jump out at me. I couldn’t believe that there was a town the size of Slough on our doorstep, which didn’t have a newfrontiers church. And more to the point, I couldn’t believe that I’d never noticed this before!
At this stage, I don’t think I’d ever really been to Slough and to be honest all I really knew about it was that it’s where the TV series ‘The Office’ was based and it’s also where Mars bars are made.
I mentioned all this to Ruth and suggested that maybe God wanted us to consider being involved in planting a church in Slough. What struck me – actually it surprised me – was that Ruth seemed quite at ease with the idea.
A few weeks later, I travelled to our next regional leaders’ meeting with Sean and during our time together in the car I asked him at one point how newfrontiers go about deciding where to church plant. In short, Sean responded by saying that to plant a church 3 key components need to fall into place on the ground – you need a location; you need a leader and you need a team. Sean also shared that he had driven through Slough on his way home one day a few weeks before and that he’d also begun to question why as a family of churches we didn’t have a church there.
Then, in early November 2009, Ruth and I spent the large part of a Monday morning driving around Slough. I think the main things that struck me on that first visit were its density, its diversity and the fact that it’s twinned with Riga in Latvia. The connection with Riga really resonated with me because of links that we have there but overall, to be honest, I just came away feeling quite overwhelmed by the thought of even considering starting a church there. I think it took me at least a week to recover from that first visit!
Following this, at the start of January last year I shared with Derek and Nick (the other elders of the church I help to lead in Caversham) that I was beginning to wonder whether God was calling me to be involved in planting a church in Slough – I felt it was important to be open with them from the outset and for the same reason I also got in touch with Mark Landreth-Smith in February last year.
Ruth and I subsequently had lunch with Mark and Beverley in March last year during which we shared with them that we were beginning to feel a bit of a tug, that we wanted to come under Mark’s leadership and direction and that this was something we’d simply started to pray and seek God about.
Mark suggested we revisit things in June, which resulted in a couple of brief conversations and the only meeting that really took place between March and November was in July when Sean and I spent the large part of a morning with a friend of Mark’s who’s familiar with Slough, both as a place and in terms of the church scene there. That morning helped Sean and myself start to get a feel for the area as a whole.
Mark, Sean, Derek, Nick and I then met together in November and again at the end of January this year. Since then, Mark has talked to the UK team within newfrontiers and I – with Sean’s help – have pulled together my initial thoughts on how things might shape up. In the middle of March, we got the green light from Mark to go public with the news that we are exploring the possibility of planting a church in Slough!
(To be continued…)