Testing Fresh Expressions investigates whether fresh expressions of church really do what is claimed for them by the fresh expressions movement and, in particular, whether their unique approach helps to reverse trends of decline experienced by traditional churches. Part 1 examines those claims and untangles their sociological and theological assumptions. From a careful study of factors underlying attendance decline and growth, Part 2 argues that long-term decline can be resisted only if churches are better able to attract children, the non-churched or both. Part 3 tests the comparative ability of a group of growing parish churches and a group of fresh expressions to resist trends of decline and discovers some intriguing social dynamics common to both groups. Part 4 argues that fresh expressions do not fulfil the unique role often claimed for them but that they do have the capacity to help reinvigorate the whole church.
’This book breaks new ground. Fresh Expressions are one way the Church of England and several Free Churches can be seen to be seeking to address long-established decline affecting many European, Australasian and Canadian Churches today - yet their empirical effectiveness has never before been rigorously and systematically tested. This book does just that and, in the process, makes a real and original contribution to our knowledge. An important and much-needed book.’ Robin Gill, University of Kent, UK ’... a very welcome contribution to the study of mission today in the UK. ...a major piece of academic research on the effectiveness or otherwise of Fresh Expressions in the Diocese of Canterbury by John Walker, who himself has experience of both traditional parish ministry and innovative church planting.’ Ministry Today