Community in a Crisis survey

Online Church experience Survey in English.

Community in a Crisis is an initiative that has been set up as a response to the pandemic. We’re passionate about relational church online. We’ve been helping churches get set up online through events, blog posts and training videos. We would like to find out what the experience of online church has been across Europe so are conducting a study starting on May 31st.

Church online experience survey

What has your experience of church in lockdown been? We’d love to hear from you, whether during this time you joined church for the first time, or whether you’re a regular attender or church leader. Our survey will be shared across Europe and our hope is that we can learn lessons from lockdown that will shape the future of the church.

The survey is anonymous and the data will not be shared beyond the Survey team.  Survey results will be published only in aggregated form where individual respondents cannot be identified. The purpose of the survey is to help churches understand how they can best serve their congregations and visitors. It is anticipated that, in some countries, restrictions may persist for some time. These insights will also help church leaders to make decisions about routes out of lockdown which will best serve the needs of their congregations and visitor as restrictions are partially lifted. The survey has been translated into many languages so that we get a whole picture of what is happening across Europe.  




















Links to publicity in different languages.

Translations coming soon Maltese, Portuguese and Ukranian.

The survey team are:

Nay Dawson

Nay has been a staff worker, Team leader with UCCF and co-ordinated the Science Leadership Network, she now works for IFES as the Regional Training Co-ordinator setting up a network of Seeker Bible study trainers across Europe. Together with her husband they wrote Uncover Mark and were part of the team that created and launched it. Nay has set up Passion for Evangelism a network of female public evangelists. In lockdown as a response to churches being closed Nay with a team of friends has set up the initiative Community in a Crisis.

Dr Martine Barons

Dr Martine J Barons is the Director of the Applied Statistics & Risk Unit and the University of Warwick, UK and vice chair of the Christian Postgraduate and Staff Network, Warwick. Martine started her career in accountancy and after 20 year full time at home bringing up her family, she took a degree, Masters and PhD in mathematical sciences. Martine’s key research interest is quantitative decision support for decision-making under uncertainty and she has published  research on health, food security, pollination and expert judgement.  Martine has been part of Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa since 1986.

Supported by

Jo Rogers

Arie De Pater from European Evangelical Alliance

Press release

Protestante Digital

Evangelico Digital

Evangelical Focus

A really big thank you to our translators

Igors Rautmanis

Morten Birkmose

Eirini Panteliou

karolina van Wijk

Li Bell

Cat Senior

Beata Szrejder

Janka Sotáková

Birthe Birkbak Hovaldt

Ela Magda Džafić

Veronika Hylánová

Tim and Nicky Sandell

Rebecca Davies

Redona Pjeçi

Heledd Job

Neeman Melamed

Andrea Storhaug

Gunn Elin Vage

Ela Magda Džafić

Lucy Higson

Rachel Wadhawan

Gergely Pasztor Kicsi

Alan Andrioni Fernandes

Roberta Grixti

Bianca A. Dia

Andru Modol

Raluca Arba

Raquel Medina

Learning from the experts in the new normal

Can you think of a situation where you’ve tried to learn something new without taking the advice of experts? This is me all over. My lack of patience plays out in many ways. One of these is an unwillingness to read instructions. This has resulted in many failed attempts at new recipes and DIY projects. My latest disaster was a lockdown hair cut for my husband 3 days before he preaches on Zoom. I’d confused number 1 and number 10 on the clippers, leaving an accidental Nike stripe in the back of Jon’s hair. The children were crying and the house was covered in hair. My daughter looked at her father and said Dad are you actually going to leave the house looking like that? At that point we went back to the instructions and started all over again.

We’ve had to think through how we do church and mission in a pandemic for the first time. But now the UK is over its peak. We’re beginning to see other countries coming out of lockdown. Questions are beginning to emerge about church online after lockdown. What has God been saying in this time of intentional interruption? When this is over can we go back to normal? Is there a new normal?

I really want to think about this. Do we even want to return to normal?

We know that the “old normal” is a long way off. Open air cafes might just open in the summer. Schools might open with a staggered approach with the youngest going back in October. Churches in Germany will open soon but they might ban singing. There is a lot of uncertainty. But in this space of uncertainty I’d like to ask a few questions. Do we really want to return to normal? Was normal really that great anyway? Could we even have a new normal that far more reflects the body of Christ than before?

I’ve read many articles about church life after lockdown. In each of them I hear a repeated sentiment that seems to hint that this hasn’t been real, that this hasn’t been church and that this couldn’t be permanent.

Here are some examples of these statements

Billy Kennedy in his excellent post on 3 reasons to stay online says this: “Church is community and community is expressed when people meet together… Sure, we can do some of this online but nothing beats the face to face interaction, the hug, the handshake or the huddle.”

Tim Hughes talks in his interview about The Blessing and online church. He says “If our only interaction is online, that’s not great, because that’s what I’m missing as a pastor. There’s so much nuance you miss. Body language and just being around people. And I miss the joy when you’re in church and hundreds of people are all united singing these songs. That’s powerful and you can’t quite replace that through endless Zooms!”

I agree with so much here. But what about for those for whom this isn’t the new normal, they’ve been doing online church for decades. And for these, after lockdown has finished, they still won’t be able to leave their homes and go to church  because they haven’t yet found a church that is accessible. 20% of the population have disabilities and yet many of our churches are not accessible to this people group. Lausanne tells us the most unreached people group in the world is the disabled community with 94% unreached. 

I think , the established church could learn so much from this community about how to do church online. For this community churchessuch as Disability and Jesus, London Internet Church, Pixel Church and iChurch have been doing this for years.

Here are two questions I’ve been asking as I’ve thought about this:

1. Was normal really that great anyway?

I’ve begun to see that the body we had, just really wasn’t that much of a body after all. I’m not yearning to return to a building, I’m yearning to be together as a body.

I’m not yearning to return to a building, I’m yearning to be together as a body.

One of our church is housebound due to disabilities. This is what her daughter said after our first online church service:

“Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas. Wonderful. This is amazing. Thank you. Praise God”.

Initially I thought that was wonderful, a way in which online church was working to improve church. But as I look back I am sad that it took a pandemic to wake me up. When one of our members can’t be part of the body, the church gathered, there is something not right with our body.

Emma Major writes about her own experience with church and how she and others have felt: “Many thousands of disabled persons have been excluded from so many churches for so long. We’ve been church online for years. This is because the established church often isn’t a place where disabled people can meet together in person with other Christians”.

Malcolm Duncan, now pastor of Dundonald Elim Church in Belfast, says in a recording made some years ago for an Enabling Church conference: …“A church that doesn’t have disabled people in, is disabling itself”

2. Could we have a new normal that far more reflects the body of Christ than ever before?

The disabled community are 20% of our population. And yet I wonder if they make up 20% of our churches. I wonder too if our churches and events are accessible, warm and welcoming to all?  Would you join me and listen to Malcolm, Kay, Emma, and others and learn from them at this time about being the body of Christ?

Kay, told me that social media posts about disability are shared 1/3 less than other posts. I asked her what it would look like to listen to the disabled community. She said: “I long for people to have the ears to hear, and by ‘hear’ I don’t mean a nod of agreement. I mean a hearing that leads to action and a church where all can belong.”

Emma Major writes about the irony of lockdown and the churches response. She says “The fact that physical churches are now exploring how to find relationships online without thinking to ask those who’ve done it well for years is intriguing.”

On a similar theme Kay Morgan Gurr says “It’s taken a pandemic for the church world to catch up with this. Yet today I still see ministers and congregants alike saying that online is second best and they look forward to getting back to ‘real’ church.”

The disabled community have been doing this for years and could teach us about church online, if only we would listen.

Right now I want to repent that I was and am so unable to see to an entire people group.

Right now I want to listen. Malcolm Duncan talks about how we’re all broken and marred, that even Jesus himself limited his capacities in becoming human. I want to listen and be taught by those who are the experts in thinking through being the body online.

Right now I want look at accessibility issues in the areas I have responsibility. 

What about you?  What will be your new normal?

Here are a few guides on how to make your church and events more accessible https://www.throughtheroof.org/forchurches/churchresources/


Read more here

Emma Major – Church online nothing new

Watch here

Kay Morgan Gurr sharing about offering hope in a Crisis


Offering hope in a time of crisis

For extroverts lockdown is a testing time. I’m a 98% extrovert I love people and I love community. I am really grateful for technology and how it is being used to build genuine community during lockdown. I run daily chats on conference apps for my daughters and their friends. This took a few days to get used to it, but now they love it. The 5 year old generally plays Pictionary, makes silly faces or does an extensive show and tell. My 7 year old and up to 15 friends natter for over an hour every day. Here is what some of the parents have said…

“Daily chats have helped my seven year old stay positive over these last very strange weeks. Thank you for organising daily zoom calls for her and her friends. I can’t thank you enough”

“It’s been so great listening to Aria chatter with her school friends. She has come out of her shell it has been such a help for her, it has given her a freedom of friendship even when stuck at home xx”

So for me being salt and light has taken a massive U Turn during COVID19. I’ve become an online party host on most days. But this seems to be what my friends need right now. The country is in isolation and we’re lacking real community. We’re unsure and afraid about what the future holds for each one of us. Yet as Christians we have something to say and now is the time to say it.

Priya Parker has written an excellent book called “The Art of Gathering. In this she says “I have come to believe that it is the way a group is gathered that determines what happens in it and how successful it is”. In this article I’d love for us to pause and think. I’d like us to think both how we gather and how we communicate our message online.

Eamon Holmes journalist and broadcaster was at the races in Cheltenham in 2009. He was chatting in a box with his friends. In the box were 11 men, 1 woman, all in their 50s. He says this. “They were all very confident and all very well fuelled with alcohol. They were chatting around my wife – who’s not my wife at this point. She’s loving it, and I thought ‘why isn’t she my wife?’ I thought ‘why have I not got that tied up” This annoyed him and inspired him to propose. So how did he propose? A man with money, influence and connections. Wait for it…Eamon wrote his girlfriend a six page text message.

Now stop a moment and ask yourself how would you feel if you received a marriage proposal by text? Or even worse if you sent a marriage proposal by text? What is it that doesn’t sit right with proposing by text?

How we communicate shows something of the message itself. How we communicate during COVID19 says exactly the same.

How we communicate shows something of the message itself. How we communicate during COVID19 says exactly the same. We’re going to explore some ideas here about relational online communication. I’d like to look at offering hope in a time of crisis. I want us to dream big. Remember what life was like BVC and push technology to its limits. Relational online events done really well will push social distancing to its boundaries.

Friends are asking so many questions. What do you believe? Where do you find hope? Do you get angry? Friends genuinely seem to be interested in these questions that are so central to what we know in Jesus. But how do I communicate with them when I am in lockdown? Lets go back to Eamon Holmes’ proposal. For me personally it lacks humanity, it lacks relationship and its deeply unsatisfying. I would have been so disappointed not to have been asked in person.

I wonder if some of the ways we’ve previously thought about communication and online events have lacked a human element to them?

There are some excellent resources out there on reaching out to friends and offering hope in a crisis. Many of these are high quality, one directional live video communication. There are many benefits to this platform, you can have breadth and reach in a way that you might not have otherwise. I’m conscious though, that with online saturation being at an all time high, we need something more than this.

A huge felt need in COVID19 is for relationship and gathering. We’re experiencing isolation, a lack of community and physical contact with people. It would be a shame if in our attempt to offer hope, we miss out on the best that communication technology can give us. Our events, friendships and conversations could be even better. Let me give you some examples of this. Firstly I’m not saying that you need slick, top notch equipment. In many ways my friends think that its a complete joke that I’m responsible for our new church COVID19 tech team. Jamie Haxby captures the same point in his blog post:

“I’ve done devotional thoughts live on Facebook from the treehouse in my garden amongst other weird places; it’s never well-produced: it’s just shot on our phones, but it does engage with people….we are not a big church, we are not well equipped with tech equipment, quite the opposite.  But, we are creating 8000 engagements a week on Facebook alone: this is comments, likes, shares, reaching 50,000 people in the last 28 days. The result has been many new people watching on Sundays and telling us that they have been watching, people getting in touch asking us to phone them up to tell them about Jesus from a variety of backgrounds.  There are some amazing testimonies starting to come to the surface.”

Through Community in a Crisis I’ve heard stories from many churches. God is opening a new door. Churches across Europe have seen an increase in guests at their services, this is surely good news. William Wade from Life Church says this “Online presence for services have trebled/quadrupled. We use pre-recorded videos and put them on our Facebook page at 11am each Sunday (with daily encouragements throughout the week). One of the best outcomes of moving online has been to ask church members to send in a 1 or 2 minute video of encouragement. It has really served to remain in some small way connected. It also serves to give a voice to the many rather than the few”.

There are so many ways that we can creatively and publicly engage with our friends. My favourite to date was a facebook watch party that we held. Two friends came along both of them thanked me for the opportunity to hear more. One messaged afterwards “It reminded me of church as a teenager, I knew something was missing in my life, but I didn’t know what until tonight”. The other friend and I ended up chatting on zoom and doing a Seeker Bible study. These watch parties are so simple and a great way to go from attending an event with anonymity to engaging your friend with the person of Jesus.

We have the most incredible reason to believe in and offer community and relationship at this time. We believe in a God that is relational to the core, from the very beginning of time he was Father, Son and Spirit.

I’m encouraged as I write this that I’m not alone in seeing this open door. There are some really helpful articles in Christianity Today talking about this opportunity and open door at the moment. One that really stood out was one entitled The Pandemic lockdown is a Godsend for the Indian church. Issac Shaw says “I believe the church has been ushered into a new age of growth and engagement with each other and with the world around us. We are witnessing a huge turning after God.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if church online could provide this in increasing measures. We have an open door to invite friends to our church services during this time.

In the rush and pressure of this new online life, lets not forget something essential to the gospel. The incarnational, human, relational aspect of sharing this good news with our friends. If the way the message is being communicated says something about the message itself. Then, maybe we need to rethink how can we use technology to its best potential? How can we create the most relational, warm, welcoming events and church in this season? How can we be praying daily for our friends? How can we love our friends and care for them at this time? We’ve not (in our life time) had to think about our ecclesiology or missiology during a pandemic. We’ve not had to think about public evangelism in a pandemic. What a great opportunity to learn some lessons and even take them into life after COVID19.

In this time of need this exhortation rings clearly from 1 Thessalonians “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well”. Lets be people that love our friends, share our lives with them and speak the good news of Jesus.

Never before have my friends been so open with me, never before I have been so open with them. COVID19 is changing all of us and is changing our relationships too. I have had more opportunities in the last few weeks to show love to my friends, to pray with and for them and to speak of the good news of Jesus. Its been a great time for honest conversations between friends.

Other ideas for online evangelism

Listen: Offering hope in a time of crisis Q&A panel (Please register here) We had a panel of church leaders and evangelists sharing their ideas.

Read: Communicating Hope during #COVDI19 – ideas from across Europe

Watch: Community in a Crisis Youtube channel – Jamie Haxby from Hope Church Lancaster shares about his experience of how they are seeing many more people engaging with their church since being online.

Community in a Crisis

At Community in a Crisis We’re passionate about building #relationalonlinechurch during #COVID19. Visit our facebook page or on Twitter. Register here for our training materials, recordings and events. We have training on; Offering hope in a Crisis – Evangelism in the local church, Multi-Platform worship training for worship leaders and Getting your church online through Zoom.


Not the end of the story…

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I feel each day like I am living in a dream. I hope that one day soon I will simply wake up and return to my old life (termed by my husband as life BCV).  Each day feels like ground hog day with attempts to bring routine and order in the absolute chaos.

It was a hard day today and tonight I have had enough of humanity. In the space of a few days I found out that some of the nearest and dearest to me have lost their jobs, been thrown out of their flats, had their car stolen and been scammed. At least three families I know have crossed the poverty line. How can all this be possible in the UK in 2020?

The sad reality is that today we are broken. We are isolated. And we are in a complete mess.

My attempts at home schooling failed within a week, our girls are virtually feral and things that don’t normally go wrong are going wrong every day. But tonight I decided to venture out.  I cycled around the ghost town of Southampton, crying, and sobbing at the state of our world. Angry in many ways that we are where we are. It all just feels so surreal, as if I’m on a movie set of a film. It’s simply enough to make you want to give up on humanity. As I cycled I had so many questions; How can we be so cruel? Is there anything beautiful left in this world? How can we stock pile when elderly, vulnerable and key workers don’t have enough? Why do I care just for my small family and forget those friends I once loved? As I cycled over the Woolston bridge, the highest bridge in Southampton, I saw the Samaritans number. It was at that point I came to the conclusion that if man is the measure of all things, then there is not much point in keeping going.

As I raged around Southampton, it was dark and empty, eerily silent, yet strangely beautiful. As I cycled over the crest of the Woolston bridge it suddenly hit me, I heard God say to me. Nay…

this is not the end of the story. Man is not the measure of all things. I am the measure of all things, I love this world and I love you.

I heard him say I faced self- isolation for you. I was rejected for you. I was abandoned by my friends for you. At this point a sense of freedom entered my mind. I recollected what I knew from the eye witness account of Jesus life.

Jesus in his life chose self- isolation, rejection and death in exchange that we might enjoy community, acceptance and life. I heard God say Nay you’re not in control. Nay this is not the end of the story.

I heard God say Nay you’re not in control. Nay this is not the end of the story.

As I cycled home I felt freer, I felt that Its ok to wake up, however dreadful the situation. I remembered that Jesus was the one who existed before anything else and the one who holds all creation together.

I arrived home an hour later, parked my bike, still weeping. But noticed a friend with her teenage daughter carrying a large bag of food, we chatted (2m apart) and shared, with tears still in my eyes. I went into my home and shut the door again.

The coronavirus shows the very best and worst in each one of us. We’re not just broken but if we’re honest we break others too. The following evening on my daily exercise I cycled through the streets at 8pm for the first NHS shout out. As I cycled I joined in wooping and cheering with the hundreds of local families. My daughter couldn’t quite understand what was happening, she asked “Mum how will they know that we’re thanking them? They’re not here, on the streets”. I told her they’d know,. That our good friend the internet would tell them. So I cycled, celebrating friends and family who sacrifice for us and are fighting for us.

I was overwhelmed with the noise of pots and pans and again cried my way through another bike ride. But this time questioned. How can humanity be both so life affirming and so desperately low at the same time?

How can this virus expose more genuine love for friends but also an inner desire to control and hoard?

How do we recover from this even bigger problem? I don’t watch much of the news, as its so overwhelming. But the bit I look to each day is the recovered stats, 135 recovered today, 2,921 have sadly passed away. Imagine the relief of recovering from this virus. Finally this dreaded thing and potential death has now passed.

But there’s another recovery that I think we all need. I wonder if something deeper than this is happening in humanity right now. I wonder how we recover not just from the Virus. But how we recover from a self centredness that hoards and lashes out. An inward focus that retreats from those around us in need. How do we learn to love generously to anyone in need?

We can’t do this on our own, however hard we try. How do we recover from the deeper virus within our hearts? There is one who sustains and upholds the Universe in his hands and he is saying right now, this is not the end of the story. He gives us a clear offer, Jesus gave away all his privileges, he became vulnerable, he even gave his own life. And all of this for us. As we turn to him, confess this problem. We trust him to give us new life. So that we might recover from this deeper problem we all face.

“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.” Keith Getty


5 models of online church

I’d like to introduce you to five of my friends all who live in my city bar one. 5 friends, 5 very different experiences of online church.

Matthew lives a 3 minute drive from us, he lives in a shared house and is teaching music online. He’s already suffering from screen fatigue. He says this about his church “It was lovely on Sunday to be able to connect with my church family over the internet. We had a service at 10:30 as usual but over Youtube, pre-recorded and edited in advance, followed by virtual coffee break over Zoom. It was reassuring to be able to see church staff and people I knew on the screen leading the various parts, and I enjoyed watching and singing together with my housemate. After the novelty of it wore off, it was fairly easy to focus, although sometimes the picture wasn’t terribly clear and there were a few distractions within the videos. Re-Zoom, I loved that we could be put in random small groups to chat, it meant getting to talk to people we might not normally speak to.” 

Rebecca lives a 6 minutes walk from us. She has a husband and two lively kids. On Sunday her church Livestreamed the service with facebook chat after, they ran their homegroups and youth by Zoom. They appreciated the chance to chat with others on facebook and grateful for the opportunity to relate with others/

John lives a 10 minute drive away away. He’s in his 80’s and pretty isolated. Hestruggles with his hearing and has slow, intermittent internet connection. His church ran Livestreaming only. He enjoyed listening, even though the internet was slow, however he’s feeling the loneliness and separation from his church family already and its only day 7 of Lockdown.

Sasha, lives a 10 minutes drive away from our house. She is in her 60’s has a phone but no laptop. Her church ran their whole service on Zoom. She said this afterwards “Nay I loved the service. I miss my wider family. Thank you so much for bringing us together. Next time I’ll definitely use a laptop to make it a better experience. I’m really looking forward to it already”

Sally lives much further away, she says this. “Lockdown came at a very tricky time for me. I was on the verge of exchanging contracts on a new house in a new area. March 15th I “left” my current church expecting to be moving imminently. And then I wasn’t! As it happened the church that I had ‘left’ decided to not have any form of meeting last Sunday (very sad for the church family as a whole). So I decided to join the zoom meeting of the church I had intended to join when I move! It was the most intense “first Sunday” I have ever had at a church. And yet, I have in the last week. I been able to join; a new life group, been added to a whatsapp group prayer group and have people in the church enquire about me and my move amongst other things! Instead of a Sunday with no fellowship, I met more brothers and sisters got to start being involved in their lives, and them in mine”.

So 5 people – four of which live in one city. The diversity of what church online looks like is enormous.

What we’re trying to advocate for @communityinacrisis is relational sustainable church through the use of conferencing apps.

We are advocating conference apps for church because unlike more commonly used livestreaming options they are sustainable and relational:

 1. Sustainable. You can have a worship leader in one home, a pastor in another, a host in another, all leading the same service, not needing to be in physical contact. And if one gets sick they can be replaced.

 2. Its relational, you actually get to see people, interact with them. 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so this will increase your feeling of connectedness.The resilience and sustainability of a church’s ministry and its ability to overcome isolation and loneliness is something we need to consider in a new way.

If we work on 50-70% of the population getting COVID-19 at some point then we need to factor this into our service planning. Read the blog post here on the size of teams you’ll need due to Coronavirus.

Our hope is that if Christians are well cared for they in turn can care for friends, family and offer hope to a watching world. Studies show that up to 70% of communication is non-verbal. For the communicators and those listening we need to rethink how we communicate. We need to rethink how we express gratitude to those leading services. “So let us care for our church by preparing well. We’ve moved on from churches being run by a few people, we need to reconsider team leadership and grow our teams.” Read more here about expressing gratitude and supporting those that lead online services at this time.

My good friend Emma Wyatt came up with an excellent diagram to explain what we’re talking about. She is going to be writing more about relational church and small groups in another post.

But let me introduce the diagram to you. The blue box is life before and after Coronavirus. The diagram shows you the relationship between technology and offering genuine relationship in this time of crisis.

So how does this apply to us as we think about church in the coming months? Lets see if we can put my five friends onto this diagram.

Matthew and Rebecca’s church is somewhere between the yellow box and red box. They had Live streaming with the smaller groups on Zoom breakout rooms.

John’s church is the yellow box. He appreciated it and it was easy to use. Live Streaming alone though lacks interaction and community which is what we so desperately need.

Sasha’s church is  the red box. The church was fully relational (in a Lockdown sort of way!).

Sally’s church is the green box. No online platform, the doors are closing; no church, no homegroup during the lockdown.

Of course there are many good conference apps out there. Zoom is the one I’m familiar with. We all want to be moving towards the red box. Its worth using this to debrief with your teams after Sunday to ask some of the following questions. But before that, lets just read what some encouragements from our church last sunday after using Zoom for the first time.

Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas.  Wonderful.  This is amazing.  Thank you.  Praise God.

Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas.  Wonderful.  This is amazing.  Thank you.  Praise God.

Without internet access here, we listened in to the Sunday service by phone (no conference app, just a number). It was a great way to worship and maintain fellowship together and a new experience for Mum and Dad who normally can’t get out to church. As this crisis develops it is important that we keep   these links as a church fellowship over the coming weeks. I’m still praying for everyone each day. God bless”, Clive our Pastor (who has moved to care for his parents who have not internet)      

So here are some questions to think about

1. Where does your church fit on our diagram?

2. How sustainable is your church right now? If 50-70% of the population get COVID 19 – is your church leadership team prepared to take that hit on any given Sunday. A friend hosted her church service last week, this week she’s too sick and won’t be able to even join in online.

3. How relational is your church? Get some feedback from church

4. How could you move towards a High level of Relational opportunity in the coming weeks?

We’d love you to join us at our next Event – How to host churches by Zoom or if you’ve already done that join Beth Butler for Zoom for churches Tech with Beth Butler Event.


Building a team for online church – God is at work in new ways

After leading our first ever Zoom church service I went away feeling happy. We’d gathered 80+ from our church together. We’d cared for those who found it a struggle getting online. We’d scrambled together a team and in the midst of crisis we built community.

We love our diverse International church. We have a high percentage of elderly folk from a South Asian background. We knew that if Zoom was going to work, we needed to work hard. Of course there were funny moments, much laughter and many mistakes. But I never expected the email I received a few hours later.

To put this in context. I’m passionate about raising up female leaders and evangelists. I’ve been praying and working hard for two years on a project called Passion for Evangelism. It’s strange to say, but the Lord is answering prayers in a way I never anticipated. The email I’m referring to was from our dear friend, a respected member of our church.

Dear Nay, as I’ve reflected a little bit on this morning. Two things impressed themselves on me quite strongly: 1. It’s wonderful to see a ‘generational shift’ taking place at church. Which is such good news for the future of Kingdom ministry in the church. The leadership, spirituality and confident assurance of the team, all come from a big shift down in the generations from a year or two ago. This is exciting and deeply encouraging. It poses the question for those of us nearer my generation. How we encourage and support you well as you take the reins more and more.

2. Secondly the majority input (at least in numbers) were of women. I’m certain that if we listen to the prompting of the Spirit. and release the God-given potential and gifting of our women, who are passionate in their love for Jesus, the church will flourish in new ways.”

So as you think about growing your new team to run online services. Be encouraged that the Lord is at work in fresh ways. I’ve written here on how to get your church together online. But I wanted to go into the details of building a team and what that might look like.

Like any service you need a team but in this season you need a bigger team

If we work on 50-70% of the population getting COVID-19 at some point then we need to plan this into our services. Potentially at any point 50-70% of the service planning team could be ill or looking after sick family. It maybe that someone’s work changes last minute or they’re struggling with suffering, anxiety or depression due to the current situation. I’ve lost count of the number of people who say they are now busier than ever before. So let us care for our church by preparing well. We’ve moved on from churches being run by a few people, we need to reconsider team leadership and grow our teams.

On Sunday we ran a service with 7 people; Speaker, Host, Musician, 1 Tech Host and 3 tech Co-Hosts. Working on the 70% statistic…

If you have a team of 7 then 5 will get COVID 19 at anytime. This leaves you with 2 to run the service online.

If you have a team of 14 then 10 will get COVID 19 at anytime. Then this will leave you with 4 to run the service.

If you have a team of 24 then 15 will get COVID 19 at anytime. This will leave you with 7 to run the service.

So multiply all your teams by 4 in order to care for your church.

So this week we’re going to be extra prepared and aim to recruit a team of 24. 7 of those will be put on the rota once a month with 17 on standby every week.

The document below shows our new team roles and job descriptions with a sample running order. Have a read of it now, what do you notice that is different?

You’ll see we had a shorter sermon, breakout rooms at two points, short testimonies from a key worker and a mum at home. You’ll need to rethink the structure of the service to adapt to being online. According to recent Zoom training by Intervarsity staff

“Its 10 times easier to tune out during online calls than in person”.

One way to prevent this dynamic is to make the meeting as interactive as possible. Change the learning style/engagement every 15 minutes. Encourage participation through the group chat. Encourage guests to respond visually with the interactive white board. There are some excellent resources here written by Intervarsity staff.

This has implications for the length of sermons, notices and singing. Make use of the breakout room function you’ll need to enable it in your settings. Group conversations work best with 4-5 people, so keep your groups small. There are many interactive functions for group discussion too.

By breaking into small groups, you not only keep attention but you encourage participation. We had a short sermon with small groups afterwards. Most of the groups worked really well. We thought it was important to check how they were going. So one of the co-hosts visited each room for 20 seconds to check everyone was ok.

When you split into small groups you can do this in a few ways. 1. Pre-assigned 2. automatic or 3. manual (all the info is here). For me as a 98% extrovert Its great fun entering a room, you have no idea who is in there! For those who are more introverted I have some more thoughts, but will save these for another post. Please keep the groups small so that everyone can chat. For those who struggle in this setting, you can opt not to join a group.

Zoom has some excellent resources to help you.

1. Online tutorials are here – watch these first

2. FAQ section is here

So do these groups work? Why is actual interaction better than just transmitting a message online? Here is some feedback from friends at church about the breakout rooms.

“Thank you all I really enjoyed that, especially enjoyed the discussion”

Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week”

Great to have an opportunity to reflect on what has been shared in the service. Such a helpful way of engaging with the talk and helps for the message to stick in our heads.”

COVID 19 is changing us as people. Online church is changing our relationships. In this space of change and uncertainty there is an opportunity to build community in the midst of a crisis.

We all now face physical isolation. Yet as believers WE ARE NOT ALONE. We have the Spirit living within us an ever present help in times of trouble. Once again, as at various points in the church’s history, we are a scattered body (1 Peter 1:1). Isolated, yet not alone. Afraid but full of joy. There are so many opportunities we have now to build community and offer hope.

A time of crisis reminds us of our fragility and brings a new awareness of how things can change in a ‘twinkling of an eye’. When it feels like the end of the world we can remember that the church since Pentecost has always lived in the last days. This is the time during which according to the prophet Joel:

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

So let us continue to meet together in such a way that allows the voices of men and women, young and old to be heard – and all the more as we see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

We’d love to hear how you have done online church services. How have you encouraged participation, discussion, interaction in your church? Please send us any comments so we can learn from each other.



In a crisis people sing

A woman sings from her balcony Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

We’ve seen reports of people singing from balconies and porches across Europe: songs of courage and songs of hope. 

For many of us today we’ll be sad that we can’t meet in person. For years we’ve left our home around 9.45am to arrive at Lighthouse church. On arrival we enjoy a warm embrace and a chance to catch up with old friends. The strangeness started last week when I could no longer hug people on arrival. I felt the need to show my affection some how, so I took hand gel and offered it to anyone I met. 

I’ll miss teaching kids: hearing their stories of the video games they’ve played, their fun facts from the week. I’ll miss singing in a room with 100 people. I’ll miss the plentiful snacks and chat after the service and the offer of prayer and support by friends. 

But today is a new day. We won’t be leaving our house to go to church and this makes me sad. Psalm 121 reminds us that when God’s people on their annual pilgramage faced insecurity and dangers from every side they sang. When they felt vulnerable, fragile and unsafe they did not cover their mouths with fear, instead they sang against danger.

So today I’m joining my church through an online video conferencing facility and we as a family intend to sing in the face of danger. We love our church and we love the way people are warm, hospitable and welcoming. Today we’re working hard to make that happen online. We’re starting the meeting early at 10am because “some” people like to arrive early at church. Half an hour before the meeting starts we’ll open the call. When people enter, we’ll say hi and split them into small breakout. Each room has a designated welcomer assigned in each room. 

To make the meeting run well we’ve got a technical host and a team of co-hosts. We’re going to create small rooms for people to pray and discuss questions. We’re going to offer support for those using the App for the first time. 

Once everyone is in the call, we’re planning on having our service as normal. We’ll sing, hear from God’s Word, pray and listen to testimonies. We’re experimenting with doing discussion groups. Research shows that optimal conversation happens in groups of 5, so after the talk, we’ve got discussions for the groups. We’ll aim to keep them small so they have a feel of intimacy and care. 

One of the things I’ll miss is the after service chat, tea and encouragement. We’re going to leave the Zoom call running after the service. We’ll encourage guests to go and make a cup of tea. Then come back and chat with anyone remaining on the call. If too many join in we’ll assign them to breakout groups again.

There are of course some draw backs and fresh challenges, but we’ll be working on those in the coming weeks.

Studies show that up to 70% of communication is non-verbal. For the communicators and those listening we need to rethink how we communicate. We need to rethink how we express gratitude to those leading services. 

Imagine giving a talk to an empty room. Or, imagine speaking to a room of babies, wondering if they’re understanding anything you’ve said. 

Friends that have spoken online recently have described the intensity of the experience. They said how detached the whole experience is for the speaker. So today when I’m listening I’m intending to use the chat function and non verbal functions in Zoom. By using this we can express by our words and icons what my eyes and body are saying. We intend to encourage the clap and high five function. We will also encourage guests to write in the chat.

A few weeks ago two women came up to me after the service I had hosted and said, “thank you for your words; they meant so much to me.” And you know what, it also meant so much to me; I’d chosen to be vulnerable on that day. So today after the service, please consider how you will encourage your pastor, worship leader, host. You can’t do it in person, but you can do it in other ways. Give them a call, a text, a Whatasapp video message. Thank them and encourage them. As the tech host I’ve saved the entire group chat and sent it to the team involved; this is a great way to encourage them!

We can be family together. In fact, if this week is anything to go by there is an open door for better and deeper community than we’ve ever had before. We can choose to go online, choose to be family together and choose to reach the world around us for Jesus.

God is opening a door for a new way of communicating. Doing church online with a conference app can actually change and enhance relationships for the better, it doesn’t just pass or transmit a message it helps create community:

“Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas. Wonderful. This is amazing. Thank you. Praise God”.

“Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week.”

“Thank you for putting this together. I never thought that this could be possible. Awesome!” 

Psalm 121 was a song for rough and uncertain roads like ours. The refrain over and over again in these eight verses was that the Lord can and will keep them. The psalm was written because the long and lonely road to Jerusalem was dangerous — and because the long and often lonely road we face is dangerous too. Your world might have become very vulnerable and fragile over night. The Lord will keep you. So lets sing new songs of grace in this time of trouble.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Encouraging female evangelists

In the ‘Passion for Evangelism’ (PfE) termly book club, we have been reading and discussing Aimee Byrd’s excellent book Why Can’t We Be Friends? Aimee reminds us that the way to stand against culture’s inadequate and over-sexualised word around men and women is by not allowing it to drive us apart.

“the way to stand against culture’s inadequate and over-sexualised word around men and women is by not allowing it to drive us apart”

Rather, she says, ‘It is by seeking the brother-and-sister closeness we are privileged to have as Christians. True, godly friendship between the sexes that embraces the family we truly are in Christ serves as the exact witness the watching world needs.’ As women and men proclaim the gospel together, we have an opportunity to show the world to show what restored, sibling relationships look like. Men and women working together in evangelism adorns the gospel and points to a better story!

“As women and men proclaim the gospel together, we have an opportunity to show the world to show what restored, sibling relationships look like. Men and women working together in evangelism adorns the gospel and points to a better story!

A word in season

There’s a particular need for this emphasis today. In recent years I’ve met many men and women that view Christianity through the lens of oppression rather than life-giving liberation. Through shows like Spotlight, The Handmaid’s Tale and His Dark Materials, many are hearing that the gospel is restrictive and controlling.

Karen Soole recently put it like this in her excellent blog post Equipping women to reach others for Christ: ‘Secular women, in particular, are suspicious of the Church. They hear church leaders arguing about women’s roles but what they see is an institutional church which has been guilty of abuse. They suspect that the Bible has an oppressive and misogynist view of women and are convinced its message is of no value to them. If the Christian message is presented only by men, then at first glance at least, this suspicion goes unchallenged.’ 

Raising up female evangelists is particularly important in our universities

The majority of students on campus are women. Some female students prefer to hear the gospel spoken by a woman, including many from global cultures. These cultures would probably include those of Muslim-majority countries, where it is difficult for women to attend a meeting which is perceived as being primarily for men. Amongst male students too, there is growing demand to hear female and BAME voices. If we want to reach our universities, workplaces and communities for Christ, we vitally need female evangelists working alongside male evangelists.

If we want to reach our universities, workplaces and communities for Christ, we vitally need female evangelists working alongside male evangelists.

Fears around public evangelism

Though many of us may wholeheartedly agree with these comments, consider: how many evangelistic events you’ve attended in the last year have had women speaking? How many women do you know that are confident and who have opportunities to speak evangelistically? Why are so few women speaking in this context – and what can we do to help women be courageous? 

For many, the idea of public speaking is terrifying. American comedian Jerry Steinfield says: ‘According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!’

This quote aptly reflects the attitude many of us have around public speaking. And because public evangelism is a daunting task, and because there are so few female public evangelists, we set up the Passion for Evangelism conference and network in April 2019.

Introducing PFE

There are now 450 women in the network. Our aim is to encourage and support one another, to share prayer requests and give feedback on talks. We have a new mentoring scheme called The Greenhouse, through this two month scheme 8 women are equipped to communicate the good news of Jesus. It’s been exciting to see women from all ages and professions giving talks for the first time. At last year’s conference we had sessions on taking risks for the gospel, communicating Jesus to a weary world, an overview of women in the Bible and what they teach us, and how we might engage with feminism. Our hope was that each guest would go home and find opportunities to speak.

 One guest tells this story: ‘Off the back of Passion for Evangelism, I approached my workplace and asked if I could run and speak at three evangelistic talks at work through the workplace CU. I suggested it as a summer series and the rest of the group were keen.

Passion for Evangelism conferences feature main teaching sessions, you can listen to the 2020 conference here. The bulk of the remainder of the conference is spent in small groups, where each delegate will present a ‘Passion Talk’ and receive feedback. Passion Talks are 15-minute evangelistic messages in which we speak about an aspect of the speaker’s own passion: why they do what they do, why they care, and how this flows out of knowing Jesus. Passion Talks allow us to show why and how following Jesus makes a difference in real life. There is an open door in many university, work and community contexts for sharing this kind of attractive and trustworthy gospel hope.

If you are a woman – or there are women in your network who’d benefit from this fellowship, please encourage them to join the Passion for Evangelism Facebook network.

3 tips for investing in female evangelists 

  1. Help emerging women evangelists get some experience
    Could you ask a woman who’s never spoken in public before to share their testimony or be on a Q&A panel? Give them the encouragement they need and be sure to debrief with them afterwards.
  2. Encourage them to read and listen widely
    Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity is a multiple award winner and is a great place for women growing in evangelism and apologetics to point them to first!
  3. Expose them to more experienced female evangelists
    You could share these YouTube videos of Kristi Mair speaking on sufferingAnn Brown on whether the Bible is anti-womenSharon Dirckx on neuroscience and belief in God or Ellie Cook on whether Christianity inhibits freedom (see below). 

This article was originally published in UCCF Connect Newsletter for student workers.

The Art of gathering online

How we gather matters. How we gather online matters even more. You may not have noticed the importance of venues, but each venue comes with a script. Think about these venues: the lawcourt, a beach and a night club. What words come to your mind? What do these venues make you think about? The law court gives a sense of respect, everyone has their place, there is a hierarchy even in the room itself. The nightclub, everyone is welcome, this is a place to dance and party. The beach signifies a time to relax, swim and read a book.

So a venue is a nudge, but its not just a nudge. A venue can enhance your values or take away from them too. When planning a gathering purely for logistical reasons you can end up with a venue that doesn’t serve your values.

Many organisations, faith groups and businesses have gone online during lockdown and many are considering online conferences and events. In planning these events many people have opted for something simple, something they’re familiar with. I’d like to suggest its time to rethink these gatherings. Where will you hold your event? Will it be Zoom, Facebook Live, Youtube or something else? I recommend you consider the community that you’re trying to build. Consider your key values and then choose a platform that supports and enhances those.

Priya Parker has written an excellent book called “The Art of Gathering. In this she says “I have come to believe that it is the way a group is gathered that determines what happens in it and how successful it is”. Here are 5 things I learnt from this book and how it applies into the gatherings I see in our faith communities.

1. Why do you gather? What is your purpose in gathering?

More than ever lockdown has caused us to stop and pause and consider why we actually gather, just take a few minutes and jot down your answers to that question. If you’re struggling maybe reverse engineer an outcome, think of what you want to be different because you gathered and work backwards from that. Your purpose is like a bouncer. The purpose of your gathering is more than an inspiring concept, it is a tool, a filter that helps you determine all the details, grand and trivial. So to gather is to make choice after choice. Virtually every choice will be easier to make when you know why you’re gathering.

2. Who will you invite?

Who is your meeting for? Be specific with your invites. The potential of online gathering means you could open it up to anyone and everyone, but working out clearly who it is and who you won’t invite will make a huge difference. The optimal size for conversation in online is groups of 4-5, so, consider the numbers. Gatherings of up to 6 create a high level of sharing, gatherings of 12-15 are small enough to build trust and intimacy, but they’re large enough to offer diversity and opinion. Groups of 30 begins to feel like a party, its has its own distinctive quality, but a single conversation is difficult within a group this size, anything over 150 becomes an audience.

3. Where will you meet?

There are so many platforms that you can use. I’d suggest you look at which platform your guests already inhabit. How you could use that platform, in combination with others to create and build community? In lockdown I’ve been part of many events and conferences. I’ve used: Zoom, Facebook Rooms, Facebook watch parties, Stream Yard and Facebook live. I’ve also attended events and meetings on Instagram live and YouTube Live. There are many options for where you’ll meet. Don’t choose a platform because you’re familiar with it or because its easy. Choose a platform that best supports and grows your values.

Priya explains this here “seek a setting that embodies the reason for your convening. When a place embodies an idea, it brings a person’s body and whole being into the experience, not only their minds”. So its not just which platform we choose to meet on, but the environment we create. A great example of this is “Saturday night collaboration Live from the Railway carriage” run by Andy Mayo and Dewi Jones. Andy hosted this in his railway carriage and invited musicians from across Europe to play live music together. The atmosphere created by the location made a huge difference in the event itself.

Dewi Jones, Tech engineer for Welsh National Theatre adds another helpful insight. “One thing that will help is having online events that aren’t just people on webcams. The shows with live interaction have had a better reception because you give people a sense of an event they’re watching. I recently live streamed a festival from Cardiff castle. They had bands playing on a stage, two presenters hosting and 20,000 people watch throughout the day”. So where you can gather together as hosts and speakers to present your event.

4. Don’t be a chill host

The best online hosts are completely prepared, in control but almost invisible. Its easy to think that you just need to set up a meeting and the rest will happen. But like any event or party before lockdown you’ll know the amount of planning needed to prepare well. Its not just preparation, but connection too, a good host works hard to network and connect friends at a party. Priya describes a chill host as “you caring about you masquerading as you caring about them”. To be kind to your guests, you need to be completely in charge. Hosting well means that you protect, connect and equalize all your guests. I’m sure you’ve been to events where one person can dominate and others remain completely silent. Be prepared to step in during an online meeting, speak to a guest afterwards or gently encourage others to contribute.

5. Build community between events

As we continue being online we need to remember not just to plan events, but to consider how to build genuine community. Here is a worked example of how my thinking has changed. Through lockdown I’ve been running events online. We were initially using Zoom and our events would usually attract 50 people. Once we started to record, edit them and put them on YouTube, these events would still attract 50 people but another 150-300+ would watch them on catch-up.

This fits with a statistic I heard from Patrick Dixon, he said “for every 1 person that registers for an event 5-10 more will watch it on catchup”. However the engagement and interaction on Facebook, which is the platform for our community was low. See the picture below, for this event we had very few comments and engagements.

I was aware of the potential of livestreaming but we hadn’t done live events before. I hadn’t realised the potential that livestreaming gives for building community. There are many options for this, the one we opted for was Stream Yard.

Since using this, our events have been better attended, the last one had 80 on the evening and the number of views grew significantly afterwards. But its not just the reach that grew, the engagement and interaction of our members on our Facebook page and group grew too. Doing live events has helped build engagement, interaction and community, you’ll see this with the number of comments, shares and reach.

Why is it that building community on Facebook seems intuitive? In 2017 Facebook hit 2 billion users that’s 2/5 of the worlds population. At that point CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the milestone “As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!”. Zuckerberg said in his post “we’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together.” Following this he then head hunted and appointed Nona Jones as the Head of faith for Facebook.

Facebook is looking at both the value of community and a commitment to tech. Nona Jones does a great interview here on the way she is helping Facebook develop to help faith groups grow.

Here are some other ways that we have used Facebook to help group our community. I run a network of female evangelists called Passion for Evangelism (PFE). We’re a network of women seeking to encourage each other in creative public communication of the gospel.

  • PFE page and PFE Instagram is like a shop window
  • PFE closed group is for encouragement, engagement, sharing and commenting.
  • FB mentoring groups are used to help mentor a small group of female evangelists called The Greenhouse.
  • FB rooms help us gather together to pray ahead of events.
  • FB Live for seminars/events
  • FB watch parties inviting their friends as speakers to live events.

A huge felt need in COVID19 is for relationship and gathering. We’ve experienced isolation, a lack of community and physical contact with people. It would be a shame if in our attempt to offer hope, we miss out on the best that communication technology can give us. Our events, friendships and conversations could be even better.

As Christians we have the most incredible reason to believe in and offer community and relationship at this time. We believe in a God that is relational to the core, from the very beginning of time he was Father, Son and Spirit.

Embracing Fragility: how we can have peace when we’re not in control

Finding peace by finding trust

This is part two of a two part guest blog by Mike Hood

In the first part of this blog I suggested that the daily death count on the news has brought many of us back to the age-old truth of our fragility as human beings – and shared an image for that from one of the Psalms in the Bible which I find really powerful, of us as fragile flowers:

“The life of mortals is like grass,
They flourish like a flower of the field;
The wind blows over it and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.”
(Psalm 103:14-15)

But in that ancient song, either side of those lines, we find two bold and beautiful claims about what the real God is like, and between them we find, much to our surprise, that we have everything we need to be able to embrace our fragility, and find peace, by entrusting ourselves to Him.

Firstly we’re told that the real God is compassionate.

“As a father has compassion on his children,  
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
(Psalm 103:14-15)

God gets it, and he cares. When you think about it, that’s a pretty surprising claim to make about an infinite, all-powerful God. We might instinctively picture a cruel despot toying with us, a dictator in the sky, or perhaps just a harsh headmaster watching with his beady eyes for an excuse to rap us on the knuckles – but a loving father who genuinely understands us, and who cares enough to share our pain? Really?

And yet we know for a fact that this is what God is really like, because this is what God has done in Jesus. In Jesus of Nazareth, God, in the person of his Son, took a human nature himself, so he could actually share our pain. He knows our dusty, fragile life from the inside – he understands our fears, our struggles, our pain – God even knows what it’s like to die.

But it’s even more than that. God didn’t just come to suffer with us in Jesus, but to suffer for us. We’ve all basically told God to leave us alone, but Jesus, who had never said that to his Father, and didn’t deserve this at all, tasted for us what happens if God ultimately says ‘Yes’ to our request. As Jesus hung on the cross, degraded and alone, he went through the deepest darkness of separation from God and everything good that comes from him, and he did it so that we never have to. If we’ll embrace him and trust him, we never have to fear that deepest, loneliest darkness of all because Jesus has gone through hell and back to rescue us and give us peace. That’s compassion. That’s how much God cares.

And then we get the second thing. In stark, glorious contrast to us mortals – fragile and temporary – we hear this:

“But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him”
(Psalm 103:17a)

God’s love is everlasting. Really? Stronger than death itself? How can we actually know that? Because God has proved it in history – in front of humanity’s very eyes – when Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus lifted onto his own shoulders the crushing weight of the death we all deserve, and then he defeated it. He got up and walked out of his tomb and hung around for six weeks with his disciples eating with them, touching them, teaching them until he was sure they’d got the message: it looked like death was destroying him on the cross, but in reality he was destroying death. And now he will never die again, and that means his love for us will never die.

Which means that if we trust him and surrender ourselves into his hands, we can relax. We can have peace. Because fragile though we are, his strong, loving hands will never lose their hold on us.

They will bring us through death, and out the other side into a healed, renewed world to enjoy with him forever.

Grasping these two realities about God doesn’t magically remove everything that scares us, all the ways we feel like we’re curled up, being tumbled over and over by waves we can’t control; but it does make a profound difference to our experience of that.

I think if we entrust ourselves to God we’re less like frightened flowers, and more like trees rooted by never-failing streams of water. Small, dependant, fragile: yes. But deeply safe; because we are deeply and solidly rooted in His compassionate, everlasting love.

Mike Hood

Mike Hood works with student Christian Unions at Cambridge and Bedfordshire universities, helping people explore the big questions of life and consider Jesus. You can find some of his talks here . He also loves writing and performing spoken word poetry, which you can find here, he blogs (not as often as he’d hoped) at Daily something different.

Choosing to enjoy uncertainty – student ministry in lockdown

The Wisdom of Uncertainty

This blog is in a series on the future of student work. Mark Ellis Director of Christian Unions Ireland (CUI) has written this guest blog.

Jesus didn’t step into a normal world. He stepped into this world. He was born during days of upheaval. He grew up in days when ‘give us this day our daily bread’ was a heart-felt cry. When people accepted uncertainty. His normal world was not our normal world.

But Jesus stepped into this world because the Father loves this world. The Father desires so many more sons and daughters to love in his Son. And so Jesus stepped into this world on mission to seek and save the lost.

And we have the same mission. Our CU students have the same mission. No one gets to choose the days we’re born in. But we do get to choose how to live them. And we want to live each one with Jesus. We want to be who we are in Christ. And we want to do what he is doing. We want to join him in his mission.

Because still today, our God is a missionary God. He is always on the move towards people. And so, by his Spirit, we want to move closer to students in any way we can.

We want to point them to our good God. We don’t look back with nostalgia to what normal used to be. We live today. And we look forward to living tomorrow on mission with our gracious God.

We don’t look back with nostalgia to what normal used to be. We live today

We don’t know what new semesters will look like after the summer break. Most universities in Ireland have announced their plans, using phrases like bubbles and blended learning and online community and virtual-hybrid teaching. I don’t think even they know what that will look like until it happens. No one is quite sure about Freshers arriving. About international students returning.

But God has been incredibly kind to us in CUI. He has just given us four months of lockdown to prepare and experiment! Some stuff we’ve done, failed. But mostly we’ve found these have been unusually fruitful days. Because our world may have tilted. But the important stuff hasn’t. And we’ve done all we’ve done with the same clear purpose and core ministry of giving every student across Ireland an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. And all with the same core strategy of helping students reach students for Christ.

And so as we look forward, we will continue to creatively proclaim Christ to students who don’t yet know him. We will train and equip and stand with student leaders. We will pray together, asking the Spirit to open blind hearts that they would desire Christ. We will continue on mission with a good God, making the most of every opportunity with joy.

We would not have chosen these days, but by God’s grace we will live and speak for him wherever we are able. We will use every means possible. Because he is worthy of all glory and honour and praise. And we want to give every student in Ireland an opportunity to join us in finding Christ to be their greatest treasure.

This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” – Psalm 118.24

Mark Ellis

Mark is the Director of CUI. Mark is married to Joanne they have three teenage children, all of whom will be at University from this year. Mark has cross–cultural experience, having worked with OMF for over a decade, mobilising students and young graduates for mission

The future of student work

Over night, due to the pandemic, 1.6 billion students across the world were temporarily out of education in March. To add to this disaster the HE sector in the UK spends less than 3% on digital infrastructure (this is far behind many other sectors). What impact has this had on the future of the University? Mark Andrews from Adobe recently said “we are in an unplanned experiment which has accelerated discussions…to deliver good student experience”.

On Tuesday 26th June I attended a panel run by the Guardian called the Future of the University with colleagues from IFES and student workers across Europe. The panel looked at some key questions surrounding the future of the University. We wanted start thinking through the implications of university post COVID19 on our vision, mission and values.

This blog post looks to summarise and highlight some of our findings. I’d love to invite you to respond with your comments about the future of student work. This more than any other time is the time to work together, to listen to each other and to learn from one another.

We joined the call to listen to the trends and begin to process what might we as student workers need to stop doing, continue doing and what we might need to start doing.

General trends

There were some general trends and patterns that were made very clear from the panel.

Less students going to University

Universities are gearing up to receive less students than normal. For UK Universities these statistics are constantly changing read here for the latest for Times Higher Education. For International students travelling to the UK there could be 80% less students.


As we look to the academic year of 2020 there is a degree of uncertainty and likely disruption ahead. Universities will not be returning to normal anytime soon so learning needs to adapt.

Lack of community

University is much more than just learning in lectures. Universities need to provide community both socially but also as an essential part of peer to peer learning. There will be an increase in mental health and pastoral support needed.

Blended learning

Universities are looking at a blended approach to learning, synchronous learning. This is much more collaborative using a variety of modes and platforms. There will be a shift in emphasis on how students learn and engage with academics.

Lessons learnt from lockdown

For me the part of the panel that stood out the most was the summary from Leah Belsky, Chief Enterprise Officer at Coursera. Coursera is a world-wide online learning platform founded in 2012 by Stanford computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller that offers massive open online courses, specializations, and degrees.

Coursera uses a combination of pre recorded lectures that students listen to on their own, then come together through study groups on slack, virtual classrooms and chat, this could also be done in person. So the emphasis is taken off the lecture as a transmission of a message and more the importance of students working together online and discussing their ideas with Academics. Online education is broadening access to university study globally, this has been seen with the rise of universities getting in touch with Coursera from across the world but also lifelong learning counts increasingly as education becomes more available..

Leah summarised three points of reflection on Universities during lockdown and looking into the future. Education will need to be…

1. More personalised

For many they are unable to return in person to their University, Immigration, pandemic fears, enjoyment of distance learning will all affect how students come to university. Universities have had to adapt and personalise education for individuals and will continue to need to do this. Universities will have to alter how they teach and offer alternative modes. – Education will become more personalised and more business-like.

2. Relevant

Now that the University has been reduced to simply learning as opposed to an experience and a community, more than ever the course needs to be relevant. The focus now is whether the University is teaching them job relevant skills – otherwise what is the point of learning? Students need to see how we blend face-face and digital modes, to enhance learning experiences. Students have become and will become even more demanding, wanting to receive the best skills possible. Its important to remember there are different modes of being online and how we utilise different programmes, opportunities and technology

3. Collaborative

Online education is broadening access to university study global. There has been and needs to be a greater collaboration between Universities. There is the potential for students to listen to lectures from different Universities. If students can listen to lectures from top class institutions, then it no longer makes sense for every university to teach and repeat lectures. Leah encouraged more collaboration between different universities and joining of courses.

Rethinking student ministry

Student workers from across Europe met afterwards to listen to each other and discuss the implications of the panel. Some key questions emerged that we are going to look at addressing in upcoming discussions and blog posts. Here are the questions asked that we want to find answers to. Many of them fit into Leah’s three categories of University needing to be more personalised, collaborative and relevant.

5 things to consider for the autumn

Lead well in chaotic times

One thing was really clear from the panel, the future is uncertain. At this point in an academic year our plans for the autumn would be done and dusted. However this year they’re not. Everything is changing and almost everything is unknown. So more than ever we need to lead well even in the choas. This article by Jenni Catron on Carey Nieuhof’s blog is really helpful. She shares here “If all of life were clear shades of black or white—if there were no difficult decisions to be made—there would be no need for leaders. That’s the game-changing reality for us. The great tension and the great responsibility of leadership means navigating the complexity our circumstances present. That’s what we do. It’s who we are.” 5 things you can do to lead well in chaotic times.

Co-create with students

I will never be a digital native, I was born in the wrong year, but more than ever I can invite and listen to students and encourage them to lead the way. One of the encouraging trends in lockdown has been the opportunity for dormant leaders to use their gifts to serve the church. Many of these are tech savvy with a gift of leadership. In the student world there are many leaders who are digital natives that can help us navigate the future, if only we would invite them with us on this journey. There is the potential for a new way of thinking, where students are co-creators and collaborators rather than just consumers.

Blended approach to ministry

A word that kept popping up in the session was blended learning, this ability to be online and offline but also to use a variety of platforms and modes to encourage learning, debate and discussion. This could be an exciting opportunity to move away from a ministry that looks like a simple transmission of a message and instead move to a style of learning that actually supports discovery, learning, & growth. Francina De Pater from the Netherlands says this about the Autumn. We’ve been “thinking through the most realistic scenario (which in our case is next semester’s blended forms of online and offline teaching), then prayerfully considering what to do”. Peter Dray shares “we used to be a physical ministry with some digital presence we are now a digital ministry with as much physical presence as possible”. There is huge potential for a great reach through online work, there is the potential for depth in smaller groups both online and physical. Consider a flexible, synchronous approach in your strategy for the coming year.

Offer community

There was a recognition that online learning lacks the community aspect that University has traditionally offered. Alan Tower Director of Friends International summarised it like this “Online learning needs to see how to create community and guard mental health”. Surely this is an open door. We have the most incredible reason to believe in and offer community and relationship at this time. We believe in a God that is relational to the core, from the very beginning of time he was Father, Son and Spirit. For me being salt and light has taken a massive U Turn during COVID19. I’ve become an online party host on most days. But this seems to be what my friends need right now and have expressed how grateful they are to me. The country is in isolation and we’re lacking real community. We’re unsure and afraid about what the future holds for each one of us. Yet as Christians we have something to say and now is the time to say it and demonstrate it.


It can be overwhelming as we look to the Autumn. Dewi Jones student worker shares this feeling here “The issue is really getting people to engage, people are suffering from online fatigue and there is a lot of competition for your time online”. Collaboration is key in the future of student work. There is the potential for churches and para church organisations to work together more. This could provide high quality training, events and engagement for students. There have been some great examples where student groups have joined together, one such example is the Scottish Christian Unions. Kenny Robertson from UCCF shares here

“In the space of one week we had 10 different events, including 3 specifically for international students, in a wonderful collaborative effort from nearly all the CU’s in Scotland (at least 17 out of 19 CU’s at the last count). Each event had at least 100 people join in with the live stream, peaking at nearly 400 watching live as John Lennox answered questions on God & suffering. Each night we followed up with further Q&A discussion on zoom, which continued for up to an hour after the main event on more than one occasion. Each event also appeared on the Facebook news feeds of several thousand people.”

Another example is in Serbia, throughout lockdown every Monday night all of the student groups in the country joined together for an evangelistic event. Because of this they were able to get high quality speakers each week and had a far greater reach because they worked together. Often the follow up was arranged in smaller groups online. As they look to the autumn their problem is how to keep on supporting the students that they’ve only met online!

What are your hopes for the next academic year?

Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, president of IE University in Madrid says this “Over 90 per cent of professors who try hybrid formats feel more satisfied and engaged, because they provide more opportunities to interact with students.” I wonder if the same could be true in discipleship and evangelism amongst students? For all the challenges and uncertainties there seems to be an open door right. Peter Dray UCCF Head of Creative Evangelism shares “Tearfund found that 18-24s are more likely to be engaging in spiritual practices than any other adult age cohort in the UK. 10% of 18-24s reported starting to read the Bible for the first time. Lets pray for a turning to God in this time. In lockdown God has been stripping away our previous structures giving us a chance to think afresh about discipleship and evangelism. I can’t wait to see what will happen in the Autumn term. This more than any other time is the time to work together, to listen to each other and to learn from one another.

Below is a summary of the Guardian panel discussion by Lorna Moore

Embracing Fragility: how we can have peace when we’re not in control

Face to face with fragility

This guest blog post is by Mike Hood. This is part 1 of a 2 part blog.

I once heard someone describe the experience of surfing and getting sucked under a massive wave. He said you’re curled up in a ball, being tumbled over and over and over, with no idea of which way is up; and there’s nothing you can do except hold your breath and hope that it spits you out before you run out of air. He said it was the definition of fear.

As I’ve spoken to friends about these strange weeks and months, a theme that’s cropped up many times is the way COVID-19 has forced us to realise that we are not in control. We’ve all had plans uprooted and wrecked by this. But we’ve also had to admit that it’s not only our plans that are fragile, we are fragile too. One friend in his late thirties said to me, “It makes you realise: my wife might die this week. I might die this week.” We know we might die – in fact we know we will die – but we don’t know when. Of course that’s actually nothing new; I was struck recently by how one of the ancient songs in the Bible, the Psalms, articulates this very contemporary and utterly universal experience:

“The life of mortals is like grass,
They flourish like a flower of the field;
The wind blows over it and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.”
(Psalm 103:14-15)

We have always been fragile flowers, it’s just that the daily death count on the news has woken some of us up for the first time to feel ourselves trembling in the wind.

So how do we deal with our fragility? Well we have two major default tactics in the 21st Century Western world. Ignore it, and insulate ourselves against it. Instagram, YouTube, Netflix and co. make a vast amount of money from us because they offer to numb us and distract us from ourselves, so we never need face even a few minutes of quiet self-awareness or reflection. We don’t want to sit quietly in a room alone, in case we’re forced to wonder who we are or where we’re going, so if we’re ever threatened by that possibility we instinctively get our phones out.

And we insulate ourselves by finding ways to feel like actually everything is under control. We are fragile little flowers, but we surround ourselves with calendars and to-do lists and five year plans to help us feel like we’ve got a grip on our future. Or we place blind, unquestioning faith in whatever promises to protect us from uncertainty.

I read a brilliant article a while back by Yuval Noah Harari, who was warning against exactly that kind of blind faith in medics and scientists to solve the current crisis. He said,

“The question on the lips of everybody from the White House, through Wall Street all the way to the balconies of Italy is: ‘When will the vaccine be ready?’ When. Not if.”

We are fragile flowers, desperately trying to convince ourselves that we are castles. Exhausting ourselves trying to feel impregnable. And it is exhausting; because it’s ultimately impossible. It’s running around with sandbags trying to stop the tide from coming in.

But what’s the alternative? What can we do with our fragility that’s less exhausting and delusional than insulating ourselves against it and ignoring it? Well the obvious alternative to trying to feel in control ourselves, is to admit our smallness, and place ourselves in the hands of something or someone who actually is in control. We can embrace our fragility only if we can trust.

So we’re left with a question: is there a God who can be trusted? Is there a God who could give us a peace that’s deeper than distraction or delusion? And the short answer is: Jesus has convinced me that there is.

Mike Hood

Mike Hood works with student Christian Unions at Cambridge and Bedfordshire universities, helping people explore the big questions of life and consider Jesus. You can find some of his talks here . He also loves writing and performing spoken word poetry, which you can find here, he blogs (not as often as he’d hoped) at Daily something different.

Running a course online

There are many opportunities to put our events and courses online. Here is a simple post outlining how to set up a course through Zoom.

1. Setting up a registration for your event

Its not safe to put a Zoom link on the internet. You can create a simple registration or email out the Zoom link depending on the size of your event. We tend to use google Forms. You could just send the link by email or use Eventbrite.

Start a new form

Fill in the details of the event and the questions you want to collect answers for

Click on the link button to send the registration form to others

You can see the responses on this same form

2. Buy a Zoom package. For all the course and events that we’ve run we’ve used the £11.99 package. This has been fine for small groups up to 100. If you’d like to have more guests you can simply pay and add in more.

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3. Sign up for Zoom https://zoom.us/freesignup/

Download Zoom app

Click on the link that the course leaders send out

Read for more information https://naydawson.com/2020/05/07/zoom-for-beginners/

4. How to schedule a Zoom meeting

You’ll need to schedule the meeting, you’ll find this in your settings, simply fill out the details.

For recurring groups meetings tick the recurring box, then you can use the same link each week.

5. Check your settings before your start your meeting, this enables you to have all the functions you need. See pdf below

6. Pre assigned breakout groups

Many courses want to create pre arranged discussion groups, this is possible through Zoom.

Participants need to register with Zoom, make sure they tell you which email address they have signed up with. https://zoom.us/freesignup/

7. Sending the Zoom link to guests

Once you have saved your settings, click on copy invitation and send this to your guests.

The Joys of sleep part 2

This guest blog is part two by Bill Merrington. The first part can be found here

I recently became a grandfather for the first time and have been reminded of the impact of a new born on the life of parents. I can see already that my son is beginning to form those parental ‘bags under the eyes,’ through lack of sleep.  Whenever we have new challenges in life, we seem to be able to cope with short periods of disruptive sleep. But when it persists it soon can affect our judgment, creativity, mental flexibility and mood. When sleep disruption lasts for longer than a month, we are heading for insomnia.

Insomnia is usually accompanied by reports of daytime fatigue, mixed anxiety and mood disturbances such as irritability. The good news is that most people overestimate the time spent awake during the night and underestimate the time spent asleep. For a short period, sleeping pills are often prescribed in order to provide some solid nights of sleep, so that worry about insomnia does not start to maintain insomnia. 

The danger is that we end up with a cycle of disturbance. We are aroused by some physical or cognitive (over thinking and worrying) or emotional (I must get more sleep or else tomorrow will be horrible) issues. This leads to some negative thinking, rumination over the consequences of the lack of sleep. What often follows is excessive time in bed or forming an irregular sleep schedule and daytime napping.  This naturally leads to more mood disturbances, fatigue, impairments in performance at work and general social discomfort. treatments can include psycho-education, sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, stimulus control (behavioural changes), sleep restriction and self-hypnosis training. 

However, the first thing to do is to keep a sleep diary. This monitors any perceptual distortions. Secondly, we need to think about our sleep hygiene. This is simply looking at well-established ‘common sense’ principles for overcoming insomnia that focus upon changing your behavior in relation to sleep.

It is important that we do not underestimate these simple recommendations. It does require motivation to solve your problem by making a few small changes to your daily life.

Begin with caffeine reduction. Caffeine is stimulant drug. It can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, some ‘drowsy’ medicines and chocolate.  Even decaffeinated coffee still contains some caffeine. Caffeine keeps you awake and makes your muscles tense. But do reduce your caffeine gradually as you can experience withdrawal symptoms. Also, avoid any kind of stimulants including cigarettes, as they increase your heart rate. Next, remember that bulky or sugary food and drinks will make it harder to sleep.

Aim to eat your main meal earlier in the day and avoid lots of drink late at night, as you will find yourself disturbed by going to the toilet. Alcohol can also cause insomnia; it actually makes the quality of sleep poor and interferes with natural bodily cycles of sleep.  

Following on from this, see if you can create a regular daily routine as sleep follows the law of habit. Constant changes confuse the body and make sleeping properly difficult. So be more predictable in regard to eating, working, taking exercises at the same time each day. Become a creature of habit. Encourage yourself to engage in a quiet period of non-stimulation, tranquil, relaxing activities, late in the evening. This allows the body to begin to wind down from the business of the day.  

We too easily think we should just instantly go from being awake and active to suddenly asleep. Unfortunately, healthy sleep doesn’t work this way.  So, prepare your sleep by trying relaxation techniques. There are various audio recording you can listen to.  A therapist can teach you a variety of relaxation techniques. Dr Edmund Jacobson developed what is called progressive muscle relaxation. This is where a person is trained to tense and relax groups of muscles releasing tension. He found that facial relaxation was particularly affective for insomnia.  Christian hypnotherapy can also aid in breaking unhealthy habits using auto-suggestive tapes. Today we can personalise this on a mobile phone.   

If you are still struggling, it is worth getting your GP to check your general health. A therapist can help you by doing an insomnia assessment; looking at the things you are worrying about and looking for ‘thinking errors’ or unhealthy patterns. A personalised schedule can be produced using CBT and Christian hypnotherapy to begin to provide quality sleep. This involves using evidence-based techniques.  First, reducing the amount of time you spend in bed, contracting your sleep pattern with a commitment to getting up each morning at the same time, regardless of how much sleep you think you have achieved.  Usually 5-6 sessions will produce very effective results.   The good news is that my grandson is now sleeping for 4 hourly periods, enough for my son and partner to survive.  


Bill Merrington

Canon Dr Bill Merrington, PhD, Hon PhD, MPhil, BSc (Hons), CPsychol, PGCE, FHEA, Dip-CBT-Hypnotherapy 

Bill has over 30 years of experience in handling loss issues. As a Minister of the Church of England, he has worked in city, town, rural and chaplaincy settings of a hospital, university and high security prison. He has a PhD from Warwick University in the subject of understanding parental child loss cross-culturally where he carried out research in the UK, Africa, Lebanon and Japan. He has specialised in counselling parents bereaved of children and bereaved children. He has written several books on various subjects relating to bereavement, counselling and pastoral care. Bill is a Chartered Psychologist and counselling supervisor with the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC). Bill served on the board of ACC and was made a life honorary member in 2019 as well as awarded a Hon. Doctorate from Bournemouth University for his work as a chaplain. Bill has lectured nationally at conferences, universities and theological colleges on pastoral care, counselling and bereavement. He has also spoken internationally on the subject of bereavement.  

The Joys of Sleep

Suffering insomnia over the coronavirus? Having strange dreams ...

This guest blog is part one of three posts by Bill Merrington

As a therapist, I always begin with two simple questions. First, how is your sleep? Secondly, do you eat breakfast? In counselling, you can talk around all kinds of emotional and psychological problems, but if a person is running on empty fuel with poor sleep, they wont achieve very much.

Almost everyone, at some point in time experience poor sleep. It might be because of a sick child, or an impeding interview or general life worries. We can down play the role of sleep with our friends, but insomnia can cause daytime fatigue, mood disturbances, problems with attention and concentration. It can even make simple tasks difficult to achieve. People experience recurring problems with sleep. It might be falling asleep watching the TV but the moment your head hits the pillar, you can’t get to sleep. Perhaps you don’t feel stressed all day but when you go to bed, your head just fills up with a million of things to worry about. Others fall quickly asleep, but wake up in the early hours and fail to get back asleep.

If these words sound familiar to you, then you are not alone. It is estimated that about 1/3 of the population struggle with sleep at some point in their lives.

Sleep is divided into stages each associated with different brain waves. These stages make up a sleep cycle. On a typical night a person will go through several sleep cycles. This also varies according to your age. But why do we sleep? There are various hypothesises. Is it a period of maintenance of organic tissues, or allowing the brain to psychically process the past day, or a time of energy conservation, regulating body temperature, and immune functions. Could it be simply an evolutionary way of protecting ourselves from danger in periods of inactivity? No single theory accounts for the complexity of sleep. We do know that NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is involved with restoration of physical energy, while REM (rapid eye movement) sleep allows some resolution of emotional conflicts from the day and consolidating newly acquired memories.

You might hear a few myths about sleep such as ‘I have to have 8 hours of sleep,’ or ‘a little nap wont affect by night sleep,’ or ‘a few drinks wont affect my sleep.’ Alas, sleep isn’t that simple. In general, individuals without insomnia issues will sleep between 7-8 hours a night. However, some people function well on 4 or 5 hours whist others require 9 or 10 hours. These patterns are usually stable over adulthood and may be genetically predetermined. Due to the business of our lives, people have had to adapt with multi tasking and are now sleeping 1-2 hours less than 50 years ago. However, humans are very adaptive, but there is a cost to the lack of physical restoration. Animals totally deprived of sleep during a prolonged period eventually die. The good news is that even if you feel you are a poor sleeper, you will be resting your body and some restorational work will be taking place.

Like most things, overcoming insomnia doesn’t just happen overnight. But if you begin with a few basic suggestions and guidelines things should improve.

First, your sleeping environment should be very slightly colder than the rest of the house and as dark as possible. Secondly, try and remove any gadgets, light distractions in the bedroom. This may seem hard in a world where we are addicted to our mobile gadgets. But these screens activate the mind and are not conducive to rest and sleep. Finally try and spend as little time as possible in the bedroom. Best to keep the room for only sleep (and sex). This is giving a clear message that when you go to bed you will sleep. This is more complex for those living in studio flats or where you have to use the room for other functions. But anything you can do to separate the sleeping environment from the rest of your life will help. So don’t go to bed until you are really sleepy. If you’re awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and do something boring and very tedious till you’re sleepy again. This tells the brain that it is not beneficial to wake in the night. If you do something pleasurable during the night, you are simply rewarding yourself to keep on waking up and enduring disturbed sleeps.

Bill Merrington

Canon Dr Bill Merrington 

PhD, Hon PhD, MPhil, BSc (Hons), CPsychol, PGCE, FHEA, Dip-CBT-Hypnotherapy 

Bill has over 30 years of experience in handling loss issues. As a Minister of the Church of England, he has worked in city, town, rural and chaplaincy settings of a hospital, university and high security prison. He has a PhD from Warwick University in the subject of understanding parental child loss cross-culturally where he carried out research in the UK, Africa, Lebanon and Japan. He has specialised in counselling parents bereaved of children and bereaved children. He has written several books on various subjects relating to bereavement, counselling and pastoral care. Bill is a Chartered Psychologist and counselling supervisor with the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC). Bill served on the board of ACC and was made a life honorary member in 2019 as well as awarded a Hon. Doctorate from Bournemouth University for his work as a chaplain. Bill has lectured nationally at conferences, universities and theological colleges on pastoral care, counselling and bereavement. He has also spoken internationally on the subject of bereavement.  

Caring for people experiencing loss and grief

This blog post comes from Francina de Pater

A beautiful book (in Dutch) about this was written by Belgian Prof. Dr. Manu Keirse. He says: “It is not the passing of time that has a healing effect, but the expression of grief over a period of time, and the support one finds in others. One should not go to grieving people to tell them something, but to listen to what they have to say to us in their grief. ” Mourning consists of four tasks:  

1. accepting the reality of the loss  

2. experiencing the pain of loss  

3. adapting to the environment without the deceased  

4. giving a new place to the deceased and learning to love life again.  

The grieving process is complete when all four tasks are fulfilled. The time it takes someone to process depends on many factors, such as; the relationship with the person who dies, the way the survivor processes, the circumstances of death, the premature nature of death, the support that one has experienced in the processing, the way in which the death was communicated and what one has been able to do for the person before dying. This multitude of factors may make it clear that it is not easy to predict how long the processing can take. A period of 1 to 2 years is not a long time to process a significant loss. And five years is not long at all to deal with a child’s death. A sign of good processing is that one can remember the deceased without experiencing intense pain all the time, although some of the pain of loss lasts a lifetime.  

Sadness after loss goes along with people throughout their entire lives, as the shadow of a person accompanies him or her everywhere.

The shadow of a person is sometimes large and sometimes small, sometimes it is in front of him, sometimes behind and then next to her. Sometimes they can be seen and at other times they are invisible. It can suddenly be full size. The end result of processing is integration,  not forgetting – forgetting is not consolation, it is denial of sorrow. Integration has happened when we can think of the deceased without the physical symptoms, such as intense crying or a feeling of suffocation in the chest. The mourning process is also finished when one can invest back in life and in new relationships. The good outcome of the grieving process is difficult to determine. It contains at least three of the following aspects, which are closely related:  

One feels well again in life most times and one can enjoy everyday things again 

One can deal with life’s problems again 

One is less absorbed by the grief.  

The deceased may otherwise be present in this life as a source of inspiration and strength. 

Time is said to heal all wounds. Nothing is less true. Time does not heal a single wound. Time is only healing in the grieving process if the grieving one uses it to deal with the grief, not if he denies, pushes or postpones. If sorrow is pent up for years, it does not provide pain relief. 

Comfort is listening carefully so that grief can flow out in words and tears. Comforting is being able to remain silent and to let the other feel signals of hope, safety and confidence in a look, through a touch. It is wrestling, searching and hoping together. It is participating in the grief rather than taking away the grief. It is daring to call it sadness. Comforting is helping people to live with questions that have no answers. Comforting is not a dam against sorrow, but rather a bed for sorrow. 

Sadness and grief are much like a broken connection. Only when the wires are reconnected to those of other people, so that the mourner starts living again and can experience a certain warmth in human contacts, only then will the possibility of making contact with the Other, God, revive. 

Francina de Pater

Francina de Pater lives together with her husband and the youngest of 3 children in the beautiful city Gouda in The Netherlands. After a PhD in Medicine and some years working in research in 1998 she started in ministry. First offering pastoral care and help to people in prostitution for 14 years. After studies in coaching and counselling in 2009 she started her own practice Precious Coaching & Training. She offers life coaching/pastoral care and is specialized in topics like trauma, grieve, stress, burnout and depression. Since 2012 she is the National Director for International Student Ministry (ISM) in the Netherlands and since 2017 she joined the IFES Europe Regional Team as their ISM coordinator.