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Story 8 Naturally Intentional

Mind the Gap Ministries, Dorchester, Dorset 
Written by Suzie Abramian from Paul Ashley's interview with SCBA  
 
After over 20 years in Church leadership Paul Ashley and his wife Louise moved out of a more traditional context of ministry into what has now become Mind the Gap ministries based in Dorchester, Dorset.
What began as about 10 people gathered to listen and discern with Paul where he felt God was leading, has now developed into something that allows people to encounter God right where they are at, outside of a traditional church context. It essentially seeks to bridge the gap that so often exists between people of no or little faith and a church community.

Mind the Gap notices the struggle that many churches often encounter when trying to get people to attend events or services and also the struggle that many outside of church have in seeing any relevance of church in their lives. Paul saw that from the contexts he was naturally in, whether that was in his home improvement business or friends on a pool team, that he was amongst people who would never step into a church as they weren’t even in a place of thinking or asking questions about God.

Mind the Gap exists to journey with people, helping them start to ask those questions and see how God could be relevant in their lives by meeting them where they naturally are.

One of the first expressions of this ministry has been to hold ‘pub church’, not with the intention to set up a church or service in a pub but rather to meet people in a place where they are comfortable, relaxed and encouraged to have conversations which can lead to spiritual subjects if they wish. Instead of being focussed on attracting large numbers, pub church looks at how to share life together and within that people’s faith. Furthermore, with around 6 people meeting it means that there can be a real depth of relationship and mutual support.

If people do want to go further or ask deeper questions, there are many churches that Mind the Gap point people towards in their local area and even accompany people along to. This not only gives support to those who have begun their walk of faith outside of a church context but also supports the local church by journeying with people prior to getting them integrated into a church community.

Paul recognizes that there will always have to be a balance between intentional, explicit evangelism and just friendly socialising. He describes this as being ‘naturally intentional’, maintaining our authenticity with others whilst also giving considered thought to the people we have connections with and being tuned in when opportunities arise.

 

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