Methodism did not reach the Channel Islands until nearly four decades after the Wesleys' 'Aldersgate Street' experience, and then not from England, but from across the Atlantic. Two Jerseymen involved in the fishery trade with Newfoundland were influenced by Laurence Coughlan's ministry and on their return home to Jersey formed the first Methodist society in 1775. In 1783 R. C. Brackenbury responded to an appeal for a bilingual preacher and spent the next seven years in the islands, supported by the native preacher Jean de Quet(t)eville. Thomas Coke visited him at the beginning of 1786 and the Channel Islands were one of the areas included in his missionary Address of that year. Adam Clarke was sent out as a second preacher and John Wesley himself paid a visit in 1787.
Jerseyman Pierre Arrivé, then living in Guernsey, heard of the movement and while visiting Jersey was taken to a class meeting. He was converted and invited Brackenbury to visit Guernsey. The first chapel was opened in 1789. There were separate French and English circuits. The BCs opened a chapel in 1826; PM work began in 1832 and amalgamated with the WM English Circuit in 1933. A single island circuit was not established until 1976.
In the early days Methodism spread despite great opposition. Military service was compulsory during the Napoleonic wars and Methodists were fined or imprisoned for conscientious objection to Sunday exercises, until Coke successfully intervened on their behalf with the Government.
Both Adam Clarke and John Wesley visited Alderney in 1787. The first chapel in was opened in 1790, with a French Methodist church in 1814 (closed c. 1914). In later years it came under the supervision of the Butes minister, with both English and French services being held. The present Butes WM church was built in 1851-52 by the firm working on the island's defences. A PM chapel opened in 1840, but survived for only thirty years before becoming a Salvation Army Citadel. The first chapel in Sark was opened in 1797. These are within the oversight of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Circuit, but in 1991 they became the responsibility of the Channel Islands District.
Wesleyan membership in the Channel Islands reached 795 in 1800, rose to a peak of 4,079 in 1870, but declined to 3,326 by 1901 and to 3,150 at the time of Methodist Union in 1932.