Getting Missional in Bradford with Rich Jones on Resource weekend

Resource is a course/series of weekends where we visit mission projects and communities in locations around England to learn from what they are doing.

We have been doing this for 8 or 9 years now and in my experience it’s one of the best ways to learn. People doing the pioneer course incorporate 4 weekends into the mission in contemporary society module. But equally people can just opt into Resource or do individual weekends.

Ian Adams runs a CMS network of missional projects and communities (search for that in facebook if you are interested). This is a really exciting growth area at the edges of the church. We wanted to focus a weekend visiting a missional community as part of Resource. And Ian suggested Bradford would be a great place to visit to see what Rich Jones was up to with his missional community Roots, and youth project – the Joshua Project. He wasn’t wrong – we have just had an amazing weekend!

Rich has been on a journey like all of us I suspect. He was very involved in church based youthwork – leading worship, running successful events out of youth ministry in the local Anglican church. However a hunch that something different might be needed to reach young people in his community outside the walls of church grew and grew. And it was coming across thinking around missional communities that really helped Rich make a radical shift in what he was up to. Al Hirsch and Mike Frost’s wonderful book The Shaping of Things to Come was the text that crystalised things in his mind. This is an incrdibly simple version of a several year journey but since then he has moved into the local (very poor) neighbourhood with his family. Together with others they have experimented in a number of different spaces to be present and meet people in the community – the pub, allotments, on the estate, in homes. By being in those spaces and sharing faith in an ordinary way lots of small groups have grown where faith and discipleship and new communities are growing. It’s quite remarkable.

Alongside that Rich and others run the Joshua Project and have managed to raise money (again there’s a lot to this story) to develop the Impact Centre which is a base in the community for meeting and helping children and young people. Over the Resource weekend we heard Rich’s story, joined in the Impact centre, visited various spaces and met people in the community whose lives had literally been transformed and were now involved in the project, as well as reflecting on 20 tips for how to develop missional communities.

Rich was given an award for young social entrepreneur of the North of England last week which is an amazing achievement that he is a bit embarrassed about but happy to use as an accolade if it will help the project and mission grow. This was a good follow on to the missional entrepreneurship week for me and a few others. It was also brilliant to hear how enthusiastic about CMS Rich was through the encouragement and support he has received through Ian and the CMS missional projects and communities network. Ian is also a complete star in my view and together with Rich they were a wonderful double act hosting the weekend.

The next Resource weekend is in London visiting Grace and Moot – it’s not too late to book but be quick as we’d like to finalise numbers soon…

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