Jamie was 10 when he ran away. He had been struggling at home and at school for some time and just couldn’t stand it anymore. Discovering him missing, his parents called the police who eventually found him late that same night after an intensive search on foot, in cars and by helicopter. But, once he was safely back at home, his parents, who aren’t Christians, did a curious thing – they accepted help from the local church. Jamie had been attending a breakfast club at his school for some time and had made friends with the church workers and volunteers who staffed it. Now, following the family’s acceptance of help, he regularly meets with a member of the Mile Project’s staff who works with him one-to-one. He is doing much better at school and has also settled down at home.
Maybridge Community Church understands holistic service. Their ‘Mile Project’ incorporates a broad range of initiatives to meet the multilayered needs of the surrounding community. Aside from the breakfast club for school children, they also run a Citizens Advice centre, a befriending scheme, a ‘Good Neighbour’ project, a calendar of social events for the elderly and vulnerable, a ‘well baby’ clinic, a parent and toddler group, and an after school club for pupils who are at risk of exclusion from education.
Maybridge Community Church thinks in an integrated way. The various services it offers to the local community all feed into each other. Jamie’s story is not unusual – many people who make use of one of the services that Maybridge offers, eventually go on to use others and become part of the Church community. For example, volunteers regularly working on an elderly person’s garden (as part of the Good Neighbour project) invariably build good relationships with them. Over time they might encourage their client to attend the ‘Community Teas’ programme which offers them the chance not only to get out of the house but also to make new friends.
Similarly, parents who attend the ‘Well Baby’ clinic to meet with health professionals in their child’s first months easily make the transition to ‘Take a Break’ (the parent and toddler group) as their child gets older.
This is ‘joined up’ thinking – establishing programmes which make sense independently but even more so collectively. If we are truly going to serve people we must consider the whole person – body, mind and spirit. It’s a bit like doing a Rubik’s Cube – you can’t solve the puzzle by concentrating on one of the sides; if you focus on just getting all of the blue squares in the right place the other five sides will be a mess. You need to think in a ‘joined up’ way to solve a Rubik’s Cube and you need to think in a ‘joined up’ way to serve people. Maybridge has looked at the problems in its community and come up with a web of ways in which it can help. It’s still early days but it has truly earthed itself in the community and become an example of how the
Church can deliver a cohesive and consistent message of hope.
If you would like further information about Maybridge Community Church’s ‘Mile Project’, ‘joined up’ community development or to debate the issues it raises, visit www.faithworks.info
Faithworks exists to resource and equip churches, Christian projects and individuals as they play their full part at the hub of their local communities as well as actively liasing with central, regional and local government.
The Faithworks Movement is a partnership between CARE, Care for the Family, Caritas - Social Action, Christianity + Renewal, Christian Herald, Credit Action, Moorlands College, Oasis Trust, Shaftesbury Housing Group, Stewardship Services and the YMCA, and is also supported by a wide range of denominations and church networks.
Chalke and Change Jargon Buster
We live in a world addicted to jargon. Computer nerds, businessmen, the military, politicians, Christians – all have their own specialist language.
P.D.As, C.P.As, R.P.Gs, L.S.Ps and L.E.Ps; pdf. files, low hanging fruit, collateral damage, early day motions and ministry times – society is littered abbreviations and ‘in crowd’ terminology. The problem comes when one group or tribe wants to communicate with another. In order to hear and be heard it has to learn a foreign language. If the Church is going to talk to the government, other voluntary agencies, social services, the NHS etc. we are going to have to become bi-lingual. Each month Chalke and Change unpacks one key phrase of community development language and explores how it can be useful to churches. This month what is ‘joined up thinking’?
Joined up thinking – considering how individual policies or projects fit together and serve purpose of our broader objectives; looking at how specific initiatives tie in with the bigger picture; planning in an intelligent, integrated, efficient, effective and cohesive way.
Perhaps it’s easiest to explain joined up thinking by looking at examples of where it breaks down. For instance, recently the government has expressed its commitment to working alongside faith groups. For the first time in years the politicians have realised that people motivated by faith are key players in the provision of social care because they deliver real results. However, the same government that recognises the need for faith groups is in the process of passing legislation that in some cases will make it illegal to consider faith in the employment of new staff.
The two things don’t tie in with each other – on the one hand the government is saying that faith groups are valuable because they get the job done, but on the other they are making it much harder for a faith based organisation to recruit like-minded staff. The government has failed to realise that faith is the critical, defining factor for faith communities. This isn’t a result of stupidity or bloody-mindedness – it’s just because life is very complicated.
But it’s not joined up.