North Hampshire Downs - Informal Services

    18 Dec. 2018

    A North Hampshire Downs, Benefice of the Future Update 

    We launched a new Informal Service at All Saints Church in Odiham, a rural parish in Hampshire, in mid-2014. From the outset this has been a regular weekly service at 11.15am every Sunday morning, with the objective of offering a more informal style of worship than our existing 9.45am Parish Communion and the 8am BCP Communion weekly services.

    We started out with a small group of about 10 in this new congregation and have now steadily grown to a weekly congregation of about 50-60, including an average of 12 children. Most growth is currently occurring amongst families with children under 7, although with a newly appointed Youth Pastor in our benefice, the upper age of our children is steadily increasing. Growth has been mainly through additional people coming to church, with almost no transfer from other services at All Saints, or from other churches.

    Our informal services follow a regular pattern of six key components

    1. Welcome and introduction with a relaxed ‘meet and greet’ time 
    2. Time of extended sung worship and prayers
    3. Encouragement - which is ‘open mic’ time to share testimonies and answers to prayer and encouraging videos
    4. A talk preceded by a Bible reading
    5. Close and blessing
    6. An invitation for prayer ministry. 

    The service aims to offer something for all ages rather than being a ‘family service’, and so the children stay in for half the service and then mostly all go out to enjoy separate children’s church activities, whilst the adults enjoy a further time of worship and teaching, and the children then re-join towards the end of the service.

    We did not have worship leaders available when we launched this new service, but instead discovered and have been greatly blessed by music provided by iSingWorship, which we continue to use today. iSW have re-recorded 160 songs, ranging from the latest worship songs to traditional hymns, using a professional band, and providing sync’d lyrics and backgrounds which we find work seamlessly using the screen and projector which we have installed in the church. The songs can be set up in advance on an iPad, PC or Mac, and the operator can follow this pre-set pattern or have the flexibility of a worship leader to repeat or remove choruses and verses as they feel led during the worship. It has been a wonderful resource and has provided us with a superb quality of music and worship leading from the outset, and people have even asked us where the band were standing as they couldn’t see them!

    There are four key factors that we feel have underpinned growth in this new informal congregation. 

    1. The first is a focus on prayer, and we are strengthening our focus on this as a key priority. 
    2. The second is a focus on welcoming newcomers and helping them to become quickly involved in serving – joining what we call the Engine Room, which is essentially joining a serving team. We also have regular socials, where we aim to get the whole congregation together, normally for lunch quarterly after the Sunday service. 
    3. The third is a focus on children and youth, where we have invested in children’s church, and as this is an informal service, we aim to make children feel excited and involved, and their parents relaxed about noise and moving around! 
    4. Finally, we are encouraging all in this new congregation to deepen their faith and to grow as disciples, and we have launched new programmes to support this such as Alpha, Bible in One Year, and new homegroups, and we are finding that this is also supporting continuing growth.