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The MSM Annual Gathering

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Stories, inspiration and a time for shared learning

Back in June, a bunch of folk involved in delivering MSM training across the UK met for their annual gathering – and whilst this may feel like a somewhat niche area of interest to report to you about, we thought we’d seize the opportunity to update on how the course is being used and about emergent learning which is relevant for us all. Bear with us…

For those not in the know, MSM, or ‘Mission Shaped Ministry’, is a one-year, part-time course which equips, resources and supports those pioneering souls who are beginning or already running a Fresh Expression of church. The course provides the opportunity for individuals or teams to enroll and learn side-by-side as part of a supportive community – becoming more mission focused and reflecting on what that means for their lives and ministries. It’s a course which can be used in various ways – flexibly alongside other work, or in a more structured way – but the focus is always to resource and train FX leaders and we’re always up for a bit of that.

The course has now been running for ten years, and has been delivered to over 3,600 people with reported outcomes including beginning a FX or applying the MSM principles to an inherited church. And so, when the annual gathering of trainers and course developers met at Kings Park in Northampton this year, the focus was on developing new materials and platforms for equipping FX growth as well as sharing stories, good practice and something of the journey with each other. An ongoing challenge of anything focused on Fresh Expressions is the need to keep adapting and remaining relevant to changing cultural contexts and challenges, and this understanding provided an important backdrop for the gathering.

The Kings Park meeting included sessions exploring areas such as the international context for MSM, and top tips and challenges for delivering the course. “King’s Park is time to touch base with some of the best trainers from across the UK,” reflected Ali Dorey, Fresh Expressions Director of Training. “It’s always a place of inspiration as well as mutual encouragement and support”. This year, the gathering also spent time examining possibilities for new platforms to complement MSM – watch this space…! – and discussing how the MSM website and materials can be improved through introducing a series of ‘Quick Look’ Guides. Ali commented, “Our time together meant that some of MSM’s most experienced trainers helped to shape our new resources and make improvements to our existing resources going forward”.

In the evening, a ‘liquid prayer room’ was available to those gathering at Kings Park – a creative space including prayer stations with actions to do and reflections to read, alongside music for meditation. The following morning brought news of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and so Ali led the gathering in simple, sung chants before heading outside to pray for all involved using a short passage of scripture and a simple body prayer. During the sessions, some practical suggestions were shared to help the MSM course run smoothly – points from “use name badges” to “make sure your speakers know how to use the technology”! – alongside other points of deeper learning which emerged from the time together. For further information if you are an MSM practitioner who couldn’t make the event – do keep up to date with the course’s Facebook page.

The struggle to stay connected with others working for the same goals in different areas of the country and how to share experiences and good practice were recurrent themes – and this point resonated for wider FX learning. How can we as practitioners, learners and teachers in this fast-evolving context keep connected as the Body of Christ – in accessible ways which fit around busy schedules and competing demands? As you may know, the FX website and communications are being re-thought and given a bit of a freshen up – but how can those of us ‘on the ground’ stay rooted and connected in community? Hubs, learning groups, Whatsapp groups, Facebook…? We always love to hear your thoughts – so if you have bright ideas and can help shape the sharing of the FX story we’d love to hear from you.

Back to the MSM gathering, and the time shared together was a valuable way to share those stories and plan the road ahead together. It was also a time for inspiration – to hear from others and hear from God, and look to the future as a community of trainers and FX supporters.


If you’d like more information about MSM or to find a course near you check out the pages on this site.



Article by Hannah Skinner