Seeing and sharing what God is doing in mission

Paid Pioneers From the Margins to the Mainstream?

Church Army’s Research Unit have been at the forefront of research on pioneer mission and fresh expressions of Church for many years. This report distils some of the key insights we have gained on pioneering in recent years into a digestible and accessible format. It summarises the findings of some of the evaluations of pioneer ministry we have conducted for Anglican dioceses and other denominations and brings these into dialogue with things that we are learning about pioneering from Church Army Centres of Mission.

Click here to visit the Paid Pioneers webpage

Fresh expressions of Church reports

The following reports were published in November 2016, and are the culmination of four years’ research into fxC in the Church of England. They provide a broad insight into how fresh expressions of Church develop, who attends them and how they can be sustained. Click the covers or titles to download PDFs of each.

The Day of Small Things – by George Lings

A large-scale analysis of over 1100 fxC surveyed across 21 dioceses of the Church of England, this project provides vast and rich data on missional and ecclesial characteristics of fresh expressions of Church.

Encountering the Day of Small Things – by George Lings

A 36-page summary version of The Day of Small Things.

Who’s there? – by Claire Dalpra and John Vivian

This compares responses on church background from 2000 attenders of Anglican fxC with 500 attenders of inherited Sunday congregations.

Sustaining Young Churches – by Andy Wier

This pilot study qualitatively examines how 12 case study fxCs have approached the challenge of sustainability, a vital question for church growth.

What happens after research? – by Elspeth McGann

Is all this research useful? This report examines how 10 dioceses in the Church of England reacted to and practically utilised the investigations of Church Army’s Research Unit into fxC.

Seeing the bigger picture

A four-page leaflet summarising the above reports.

Seven Sacred Spaces

Seven Sacred Spaces, by former Director of Research Canon Dr George Lings, was previously available as issue 43 of Encounters on the Edge in 2009, then as an updated colour booklet from Church Army. These are now both out of print, but a full length, more definitive, edition of Seven Sacred Spaces was published by BRF in 2020. It can be ordered here.

“Too often people’s understanding of and engagement with ‘church’ is reduced to corporate worship, when it is so much more. In Seven Sacred Spaces: Portals to deeper community life in Christ, George Lings identifies seven characteristic elements in Christian communities through the ages, which when held in balance enable a richer expression of discipleship, mission and community.”

Snapshots – Stories From the Edge

Snapshots – Stories From the Edge was a free downloadable bulletin, in PDF form, which was released two or three times a year in 2014 and 2015. Each issue was written by George Lings and told the story of a particular fresh expression of Church, or explored the thinking within the relatively young discipline of creating fresh expressions of Church.

Click on each title to download the issue.

  1. Issue 1 (January 2014) – Exploring Holy Ground – this issue examines a community called Holy Ground that meets in Exeter Cathedral once a month using alternative worship, café church styles and extended meditation
  2. Snapshots Issue 1 update (December 2015) – Holy Ground has had a new baby
  3. Issue 2 (June 2014) – Surprises in a normal setting – a look at Fun-Key Church in Richmond, North Yorkshire, a monthly congregation that works for young and old, adults and children, with worship aided by craft, music, activities, prayer and fun
  4. Snapshots Issue 2 update (December 2015) – Depth at Fun-Key and diversity across St Mary’s
  5. Issue 3 (December 2014) – Church plants and fresh expressions of Church – how do these terms best relate? – George Lings argues the case that ‘church planting’ is a subset of ‘fresh expressions of Church’ rather than the other way round, and that an interpersonal way of describing church is better than a horticultural one
  6. Issue 4 (May 2015) – Welcoming the black sheep – this issue examines The Order of the Black Sheep in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, a fresh expression of Church, with rock music and ‘heavy metal’ roots, which provides a safe haven for those who feel they don’t fit in traditional church or refuse to ‘dress up’ to attend it
  7. Issue 5 (June 2015) – Good practice in deploying and working with pioneer curates – co-written by Ali Dorey and George Lings, this issue gives some guidelines on how best to deploy and map the key relationships of Pioneer Curates and their Training Incumbents

Modality and sodality thinking

During the last ten years, the terms modality and sodality have emerged as helpful frameworks to understand the function of two different kinds of structure that appear to play a part in biblical, historical and contemporary mission. These terms were introduced into mission thinking in 1973 by Ralph D Winter as a way of celebrating both the particular gifts and calling of mission communities (such as Church Army), as well as the gifts and calling of local church structures (parish, deanery and diocese) in mission. It is vital that both structures understand and appreciate the other so as to work together in a complementary fashion.

Click on the titles below to download two relevant PDF articles.

Why modality and sodality thinking is vital to understand future church by George Lings

The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission by Ralph D Winter (hosted by the Frontier Mission Fellowship website)

Encounters on the Edge

Encounters on the Edge was a series of quarterly booklets from Church Army’s Research Unit, exploring the wide range of church plants and fresh expressions to come out of the Anglican Church in recent years. It ran from 1999 to 2012, reaching a total of 56 issues.

The majority of the issues were based on case studies (most in the UK, but some international), reflecting on good practice, and including strategic and theological commentary. Other issues covered generic subjects related to fresh expressions of Church.


Anglo-Catholic11, 16
Arts and church25
Café church33,34,45
Cell church3,20,28
Church planting2,6,15
Community1, 14a 14b 14c,37,38,51
Council estates18
Ecclesiology (what is church?)5
Exile (post-Christendom)13
Evaluating fresh expressions of Church50
Grafts10a 10b 10c
HTB plants (Holy Trinity Brompton)15
Larger churches47
Lay leaders9a 9b 9c
Leading fresh expressions of Church36
Learning disabilities44
Messy Church46
Mission-shaped Church report22
Monastic29, 53
Multiple congregations8, 35
Network church7, 19, 41, 53
New towns52
New housing estates23
Older people40
Recovering addicts17
Reproducing churches48
Rural27, 28, 42, 45
School-based church55
Simpler church32
Spare-time leadership54
Strategies for discernment in mission30
Sweaty Church56
Under 5s31
Urban14a 14b 14c, 39
Weekday church11
Workplace church24
Youth church1, 2, 4, 21, 36, 48

Issues in order of release

Click here to see a list of all 56 issues in order of release, including download links.