Acts 435 is an online giving charity which forms an innovative resource for churches across the country.
It links the people who can give with the people in need using the Church as the physical, face-to-face forum to enable virtual, online giving. Participation in Acts 435 allows you to reach out in a very practical way to those in need in your local community, to provide that school uniform for the children or replacement washing machine – genuine needs that cannot be met by many individuals in the UK today. Explore the Acts 435 website and see how you can help.
GroBrain is a new parenting resource for parents of babies pre-birth to 1 year.
It is based on attachment and neuroscience, linking basic parenting skills with infant brain development. It delivers aspects of Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. The website contains resources, training events, and other hints and tips.
Right from the outset its important to get a feel for the area you live in. Cultural differences and family make up vary greatly. Start out by informally getting to know some families in your area and asking them what they feel is missing for families in the community.
There are also useful tools available that can help you identify needs in your area. Community Mission is one charity who have a community questionnaire you could look at. www.communitymission.org.uk
What local organisations could you talk to? • Your local council – Family Information Service
• Local schools
• Sure Start and Children’s Centres
• Health visitors and local GP’s
• Local families projects
• Local churches – either to team up with, provide complimentary services to or to get advice from
• Police Community Support workers
What support already exists locally? You may waste time and effort setting up a project that duplicates a service that already exists. Its vital you take the time to find out what projects are already running. It may be that more of the same is needed, or perhaps you could set up a complimentary project to work alongside what already exists.
Promoting your work Use as many face to face contacts and networks as possible. Spreading word in the community takes time; but people are much more likely to come to your project through knowing you and feeling safe than by responding to an advert.
If you are running a parenting course, offering a taster session at local schools, playgroups or coffee mornings can work well at showcasing the material.
Getting local councils on board can also help –local directories like the Family Information Service or speaking to health visitors can build bridges. Work out if you already know key contacts – teachers, doctors – in the local community who could help promote your project.
What parenting support could you provide?
Parent and toddler groups
A parent and toddler group can be a vital lifeline for parents and carers who may feel lonely and cut off at home.
“One lady started coming to the group, not knowing anyone or speaking much English. She now meets up with friends from the group and her English has improved vastly - the impact is visible in her changed persona.” Company parent and toddler group, Nottingham Christian Centre
Make sure you have enough volunteers so that together you have time to welcome newcomers and build friendships. Provide a variety of play equipment, including activities that encourage creative play between children and parents.
There may be ways you could provide extra support the families who attend your play group. Could you offer a family arts and craft session, a summer play scheme, a cooking on a budget course, or set up a toy library?
Try to involve volunteers without children who could perhaps make the tea or bake home made cakes. Finally, you’ll need to ensure that your site is child proofed and that entrances are securely closed to prevent escapees!
One to one parenting support If you already have regular contact with families in your local community, you might want to consider offering some mentoring support - perhaps responding to their individual needs. You will need to build an action plan for their particular issues and regularly assess what progress is being made.
You’ll need volunteers who are able to commit to supporting parents regularly and for an agreed length of time. Some training, support and safeguarding systems will be a necessary part of mentoring projects. However, mentors should also be aware of the range of professional services in your area they can refer their mentees onto.
Parenting courses There are a variety of parenting courses you could use – it’s worth looking at several to see what might fit your area (check out the websites listed at the end). One course a growing number of churches, community groups and local councils are using is the 'Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities' programme.
One church who’ve run the Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities course say “the course has been really helpful at taking down the level of stress and violence (verbal and non) in homes and parents feel they’ve grown in confidence as people” St Mary’s, Stoke Newington
Requirements for safeguarding children If children will be visiting your project, safety on site is something you will need to give careful attention to. Your local council or diocese should be able to give you useful advice in these matters. Alternatively, the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) provides professional advice, CRB checks, support, training and resources in all areas of safeguarding children and for those affected by abuse. www.ccpas.co.uk
What difference does it make being linked to the church? Being linked to a church can provide you with a natural volunteer base. They will also be a great source of advertising your project as families with young children tend to be in contact with the most other families.
If your project has church links, its worth investigating whether there are professional child support workers within the congregation who could give training, support or expert advice.
If you are bringing new families into your church, remember to think through whether your current church service/children’s church is a friendly and welcoming environment for them?
Final top tips -
Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. If you’re just starting out, why not try some free arts and craft sessions, or a community coffee morning?
Be a signpost for other support available Get to know about specialist provision for families in your area, so that you can help them access other help they may need.
Invest in your volunteers Supporting families can be hard work so make sure you’re thanking your volunteers. Work together as a team to provide a friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental environment for harassed parents!
Many thanks to:
Tracey Calvert at Bandywood Families Project, Luke Goss and Tamzin Ritchie at 58I, Rev Lucyann Ashdown and Helen Balfour for sharing their experiences in supporting families with us.
St Christopher's Church is based in predominantly Muslim area in Birmingham. Over the last few years, it has worked with the mosque across the road and the local council and recently opened the Springfield Children's Centre. The church has been able to engage positively and effectively without losing its Christian distinctiveness. Read more »
Helping church groups set up local pregnancy crisis and post-abortion Centres. These Centres will be part of a nationwide network helping provide information and ongoing support for women and their partners who are facing unplanned pregnancy, or who are trying to come to terms with their experience of abortion, miscarriage or the trauma of baby-loss. Read more »
Starting a foodbank is a great way to help those in crisis in your own community, by providing boxes of nutritionally balanced food and support. The foodbank collects tinned and dried food from the public at supermarkets, churches, schools and other local groups. The Trussell Trust will provide you with a complete toolkit, training and support for running a foodbank project. Read more »
Church Urban Fund's film about Christian community hero in Liverpool wins Jerusalem Award: watch the winning film