10 indicators of a fresh expression of church


What makes a fresh expression of church?

On the first day of the mission shaped ministry course we’re helping to host in Newport, there was some discussion about what makes something a fresh expression of church.

I’ve found the Church Army Research Unit’s 10 criteria incredibly helpful as pointers towards what is a fresh expression and what isn’t. You can find the original criteria here. Here they are adapted slightly.

5 indicators that something is a fresh expression:

  1. Was something Christian and communal brought to ‘birth’ that was new and further, rather than an existing group modified?
  2. Has the starting group tried to engage with non church goers? There was intention to create a fresh expression of Church, not do an outreach project from an existing church. The aim was to help these Christians change, to fit a culture and context, not make the local/indigenous people change, and be fitted into an existing church context.
  3. Do the resultant community meet at least once a month?
  4. Does it have a name that helps gives an identity? A search but no name yet is allowed.
  5. Is there intention to be Church? This could be from the start, or by a discovery on the way. The key is that they are not seen as a bridge back to ‘real church’.


1 indicator that it’s an Anglican fresh expression:

  • Is it intended to be Anglican, or an Anglican partner in an Ecumenical project? Anglican means the Bishop thinks it is part of the diocesan family, not whether it only uses centrally authorized worship texts, or has a legal territory (a parish).


4 important factors for maturity and sustainability:

  1. There is some form of leadership recognised within, and also without.
  2. At least the majority of members see it as their major expression of being church.
  3. There is aspiration to live out the four creedal ‘marks’ of church, or ecclesial relationships – ‘up/holy, in/one, out/apostolic, of/catholic’. We question validity if there is an absence of mission/ ‘out’. We see Baptism and Holy Communion as a consequence of the life of a missional community which follows Jesus, but not the sole or even best measure of this.
  4. There is intent to become self-financing, self-governing and self-reproducing. These are marks of advancing maturity, not indicators of independency, or breakaway tendencies.


Check out the full criteria here.

About the author: James Henley
James Henley
James has been with The Lab since 2007 and leads our team. He's an ordained pioneer minister in the Church in Wales.