Fresh Expressions Are Reaching New People in New Places in North Georgia


A Fresh Expression is a form of church for those not connected to any church. Fresh Expressions take shape outside of the walls of the church in places where our neighbors are already gathering. Fresh Expressions are anchored to existing churches, connecting churches with people who would never enter the church building on a Sunday morning. 

Fresh Expressions in the North Georgia Conference are making new disciples and are passing on the traditions of our Wesleyan faith in new and creative ways.

We checked in on a few inspiring Fresh Expressions in our Conference!

Life's on Tap in North Forsyth County

In the fall of 2022 New Hope UMC in Gainesville kicked off a fresh expression called LIFE ON TAP. This new expression of the church meets on the last Tuesday of every month at NoFo Brewery right off GA 400 in Northern Forsyth County.

Since its launch, LIFE ON TAP has grown and continues to see many new faces at its monthly gatherings. Everyone who attends loves the casual atmosphere and approachable setting. LIFE ON TAP is conversational. Everyone is welcome to come and share their story as together we all navigate life and faith.  
—Rev. Andrew Covington, Lead Pastor of New Hope UMC Gainesville

There's Always Room on the Back Pew

One fresh expressions celebration story I’d like to share is one that came together “unintentionally." This group started with a shared meal by young men in their early 20s. After that gathering, the group asked, “can we get together like this again?” I knew God was wiring something together. Something special was at hand when a group of folks, nearly all of them not connected to a church, would ask to meet up again to talk about life, God, pray, and read scripture.

This group of young men were a collective of mistakes, DUIs, ankle monitors, college students, unplanned babies, ups, and downs, but they found connection at the table. 

In March 2021 we started gathering once or twice a month in one of our homes, a local restaurant, and the local brewery around the patio fire pit. We’ve read scripture each time with a format called “Cinema Divina,” where we read a couple of lines of scripture, stop, and ask, “What do you see? What do you think happens next?” We primarily stayed in John’s Gospel, but have moved around scripture when questions led us to. These conversations led to the group expanding from young men to men and women and kids of all ages since the summer. It’s been a beautiful kingdom work. 

In one of our early gatherings, someone told a story about a brief time when they attended church with their grandmother when they were a kid. He said, “We always got there late and sat on the back pew. We were in and out.” Some others shared a similar story and they adopted the name, “The Back Pew.” It’s such a perfect name for this collection of folks. Each time we’ve asked the group about opening up to others, the collective says, “There’s always room on the back pew, c’mon.”

We’ve celebrated communion, new babies being born, ankle monitors being removed, engagements, military graduation, served with local ministry with meals at the homeless shelter, have an ongoing partnership with an international mission organization and we’ve even had a baptism on the back pew and we have another one just around the corner!  We’ve had a few conversations about growing in discipleship and preparing to one day send some of the group out to multiply.  The simplicity and authenticity of this fresh expression is special and it’s repeatable. We’re excited to see where God is leading. 
—Rev. Jacob Burson, North West District Fresh Expressions Cultivator and pastor of Fairmount UMC

Senior Living Outreach and Evangelism in Gainesville

In 2018 members of the Stephen Ministry team at Gainesville First United Methodist Church recognized a gap separating the church from its homebound members. In a desire to live more deeply into the church's vision to build bridges to Jesus in the Gainesville community, and to meet a felt need among its most seasoned members, Stephen Ministers and Gainesville First UMC staff began offering communion and a devotional to church members at a nearby assisted living facility. Every month the Stephen Ministry team witnessed the transformative power that human connection, words of hope, and the eucharist offered to the church's most isolated members. And every month, as word spread about the gathering among the residents, more and more residents started to participate in the small service of hope and healing. 

When the pandemic forced extreme isolation for senior adult communities, Stephen Ministers, staff, and volunteers began to wonder: Together, what if the church found a creative way to continue to connect with our homebound members and with senior living communities across the city to offer hope and connection? For the next several months small teams dispersed to senior living facilities across the community to sing hymns, pray, and uplift one another through windows and masks.

In a small and consistent way the church still built bridges and crossed bridges in the community to offer the beloved community of Christ in one of the most isolating times in recent history. In 2023, what started as a small extension of the church's Stephen Ministry has now become one of the church's most vibrant fresh expressions of church in the Gainesville area. Every month the people of Gainesville First United Methodist take church to 8 senior living communities in the city offering fellowship, a devotional, hymn singing, prayer, and communion. This volunteer-led church is introducing new people to Jesus every week and is rekindling faith and hope in all who gather. For the people of Gainesville First United Methodist and our Gainesville First Senior Living Outreach and Evangelism community, church truly is home.
— Ginnie Highsmith, North East District Fresh Expressions Cultivator and Director of Young Adult Ministries at Gainesville First UMC

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of the church reaching new people in new places in North Georgia! We'll check in with a few others next month! Find Fresh Expressions resources, upcoming events, and connect with others at:

Fresh Expressions Facebook Page
Fresh Expressions Webpage