Godsend - Learning for Mission

15 Nov 2020 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

“Godsend – Learning for Mission”: Zoom Training Sessions in November

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures

Monday of last week was the first of five zoom “Godsend” training sessions on Monday evenings in November. Fourteen people zoomed in from country, coast and capital in our Presbytery, and from Wollongong and Sydney.

“Godsend” is a learning for mission App. The App is free, and you can download it to your mobile device by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play.

Godsend sets out a simple approach to getting started in fresh expressions of church: “first, find a friend or two and together find simple ways to love people around you – in your neighbourhood, work place or as you are doing things you love to do. Make friends with people around you, share your faith and a new Christian community emerges where you are.”

Each of the training sessions includes a half hour video about the theme for the session presented by Simon Goddard and Mike Moynagh from the UK who have been involved in creating the App. These videos are from zoom training sessions that they ran from the UK for people in Australia in July.

Following the video is a half hour discussion/question time. It is great to have Rev Christine Palmer join in the conversations. Christine is a Uniting Church Community Minister, Sydney South West Sector, and is part of a team involved in fresh expressions ministry in that area. The insights she has gained in that ministry bring an extra dimension to the conversations.

One of the key points from the video for the first session about getting started in a fresh expression was: “start with who you are, what you know, and who you know”. Mike gave an example of a school teacher who realised that the mothers of her students with Sri Lankan background did not yet have a grasp of English as a second language. She offered a language café, which they were keen to take up. She started with who she was: a school teacher with a desire for people to experience the love of Jesus. What she knew: how to teach. Who she knew: the mothers of her students who had little English and friends from church who were interested in helping with the language cafe. This was the start of a fresh expression.

Another key point from the video was about the importance of listening to work out what kind of fresh expression to first experiment with. This is listening in four ways:

  • Listening to God in prayer and worship;
  • Listening to the people with whom you are seeking to build relationships to understand where they are “itching”;
  • Listening to the wider church to hear how others have tried to do what you are doing, and what the learned;
  • Listening to one another in your team of people who are working together on the fresh expression.

Christine described some of the listening she engaged in when getting started in the community of Gledswood Hills, which is a new housing estate in Sydney South-West. She joined the local community facebook page to listen to what local residents were saying about the hopes of the community. She also joined in a local walking group to hear what people were saying. Part of what she heard was the hopes of the young families for local playgroups. That was something Christine could do, and with some of her children’s toys she started “play in the park” that is now running two days a week. More recently, Christine listened to her hairdresser during her appointment. Talk turned to how the local community might celebrate Christmas this year in a COVID safe way. The hairdresser shared her hopes, and then Christine put out some ideas she had been thinking and praying about. The hairdresser thought the ideas were just right, and offered to help Christine get started. 

The video and discussion began to hit the right spot for the hopes that participants have for the mission of their local congregations. Each of the zoom sessions in the series focus on a different major theme that is explored in the units in the App:

  • November 2nd – Starting a Fresh Expression, Unit 7. Puzzled about how to start?
  • November 9th – Listening for Ideas, Unit 8. Struggling to come up with a practical way to love people?
  • November 16th – Nurturing Community, Unit 11. Want your initiative to become a community? Why this matters, and some principles to guide you.
  • November 23rd – Exploring Faith, Unit 12. Wondering how to introduce people to Jesus? Some simple ideas to get you started.
  • November 30th – Essence of Church, Unit 16. Wondering if church matters? Or if your new community is an authentic expression of church? Get your head round an important question and discover how your community can journey toward being “church”.

You are very welcome to join in one or more of the remaining sessions to get a taste for how this resource might be helpful for your congregation as an encouragement toward further mission. If you are interested, please email me so we can make arrangements for you to connect with the sessions.