Running a Nativity trail

Minister warns new tighter lockdown restrictions in the North could be  there 'until after Christmas' – Proper Manchester

This blog was written a year ago. The trail went really well, many families got involved in the planning and hundreds of kids learnt about the nativity. Read more below and get in touch if you have any questions…

There are so many limitations at the moment, Christmas markets, Ice rinks and Santa Grottos are nowhere to be seen. The typical family Christmas dinner and carol services just won’t be happening. Its possible that you may not even get to see your family for the Christmas break. Right now Christmas cheer feels a bit pointless and for so many it seems like Christmas has been cancelled. However the heart of the Christian message is that into our darkness a great light shines…

“The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.”
Isaiah 9:2

More than ever we’re called as Christians to be a light to our communities, a porch light to our streets and houses of light to our friends. Even in lockdown we can still exercise, we can still decorate our houses. We can still bring teams of people together to work on a project and create a sense of community even in self-isolation.

I’m not a children’s worker, I’m just a mum that loves her kids and their friends. The context for this blog and idea started a month ago. I’ve never celebrated Halloween but this year I ended up running a Halloween trail and Pumpkin carving competition. Read more of the story here. To promote the trail and Pumpkin carving competition we set up a simple Facebook page called Bitterne Park Family fun. Over half term the page had a reach of 9000 people and the competition had over 200 entries (each person submitted a photo onto our page). We wanted to give back to the community so we promoted local businesses as they generously donated prizes for the competition. We had such good feedback that we’ve decided to do something similar for Christmas. Many friends are running trails across the UK, have a look here to find one near you.

So here are our plans…

Nativity trail reveal

We’re planning a 24 day Nativity trail reveal in December. 24 houses telling a part of the Christmas story, 24 hidden letters to find and spell a sentence. Each house has been given a part of the nativity story and asked to creatively decorate their front garden or windows, telling the story through their decorations. We have a handout and map that we’ll give out to each child for them to write down the hidden letters that they find. Every day in December one house will reveal its decorations. At the last house we’ll be giving out little bags with Christmas Chocolate, a Christmas Tattoo and a little invitation story to find out more.

How to run a trail (all links below)

  1. Get people involved set up a google form to collect details and create a flyer inviting friends to get involved or write a letter to invite your neighbours
  2. Create a trail route we’re imagining families might do the trail every few days through December rather than in one go. Once you know how many people want to be involved create a trail route. The trail could also be adapted to 12 houses or one house. Or it could be that you prefer to create a Window of Hope. I’d love to encourage you to put a table or box on your drive and give away gift bags.
  3. Assign houses give each house a day and a bit of the nativity, encourage them to decorate their house or window in a way that tells the story.
  4. Create a trail map see the one below from Halloween (Christmas one is on its way!), or write a simple list of houses or create your own Google map
  5. Create a trail handout see below (designed by Phil Webb)
  6. Promote your trail through social media
  7. Create gift bags to be given out
  8. Invitational Flyers put a flyer in each bag. I’ve written a story called Lucy and the bird. This is very simple with the aim of raising curiosity, you can add a link to your church social media for more information
  9. Example house for day 12 and 24

Nativity trails can be done in any community or across a city. It could be that a church gets behind this and within the church Christians from different communities run it. Or it could be a group of friends decide to run it. So for example in our city, there will be a trail in Bitterne park, Shirley and the Flowers estate. The trail could also be adapted to have just 12 houses see here or one house, or possibly even a window of Hope instead (see below). I’d love to encourage you to put out a table and give out beautiful gift bags or make up ten and give them out to friends. You can buy Lucy and the Bird flyers and the Handout here.

1. Getting others involved

Before any trail, I put up a post on Facebook and ask if anyone wants to get involved. Its a great way to get to know others and build community.

2. Here is how we’ve allocated each house to a day and a part of the nativity story

3. Create a trail map or a list of houses, here are some examples Swaythling map created by Dan Pooley, Halloween map created by Rachael Samuelson

4. Create a trail handout

5. Promote your trail through social media

6. Create gift bags (Invitational postcard/flyer, clear bag, sweets, Christmas tattoo’s)

7. Invitational flyer – I’ve been writing short stories that raise curiosity about the person of Jesus Christ. This is the front, if you’d like to see how the story ends or buy some of these get in touch or look here), we also have the Alfie story that could be used for Christmas

8. Example House day 12

8. Example window day 24

I’ve written these stories to raise curiosity about the person of Jesus, read the second half of the story here. If you’d like to buy some to give out, please get in touch.


Letting the darkness point us to the light – why I’m running a Halloween trail this year

We live in an area that loves Halloween. Each year hundreds of kids get dressed up and walk around the street trick or treating. Families decorate their gardens and really embrace this event. Until this year we’ve done the complete opposite. We’ve closed our curtains, told our girls we don’t get involved and had an early night.

We live in an area that loves Halloween. Until this year we’ve done the complete opposite. We’ve closed our curtains, told our girls we don’t get involved and had an early night.

A couple of things have changed my mind, firstly my kids are getting older and asking more questions about why we don’t get involved. Secondly I’ve realised afresh that there is no need to be afraid, there is still light and hope. I am trying to, in the words of Charlie Mackesey “imagine how we’d be if we weren’t afraid”.

“imagine how we’d be if we weren’t afraid” Charlie Mackesey

I’d been reading an excellent book earlier in the summer by Rachel Denhollander who comments on the theme of light and darkness. Rachel says “the darkness is there, and we cannot ignore it. But we can let it point us to the light.” COVID19 has brought up more of humanity’s darkness and put it at the forefront of our every day lives. This, of all times, is a time to be like porch lights in our communities, offering welcome, hospitality, light and hope. We can do this because we know there is someone who can make our dark world light and a little less scary.

This, of all times, is a time of be like porch lights in our communities and offer hospitality, light and hope.

I’m a mum of two young kids, we love our school, our friends and our community. I invited all the year 1 parents to help me set up activities for our kids at this time, two responded, so we met for coffee and started planning. One of them said to me, Nay we need strong community leadership at this time, you need to take a lead. So together we set up the Bitterne Park Community facebook page. Fully aware that there is little for families, we decided to run COVID safe trails and activities. I was secretly hoping they would run the Halloween trail, but in the end it came back to me!

Going from never having celebrated Halloween to fully organising a trail has been quite a surprise. We’ve now got a team of 17 parents from the school and together we’ve planned and created the trail. My friend Rachael designed the map and we’ve all decorated our gardens. Each garden has a hidden clue that spells out a secret phrase.

For those that can’t get out we’re running a pumpkin carving and colouring competition with prizes from local businesses. Each person uploads a photo of their artwork and then judging will happen on Sunday by two local artists. Our page so far has 200 people following and a reach of 8000, we’re really excited to see who will submit photos and take part.

So what did we decide to do as a family? Well, inspired by Glen Scriveners excellent video Halloween Trick or Treat? We’ve gone for a house of light and a house of humour. Glen says “While Halloween can often be a time associated with ghosts, devils and darkness, this is a time to share the good news that Jesus is the light of the world!” In the video he continues to say…

“The future is futile for forces of evil, the bible begins with this fore resolved fight, a moment of darkness then let there be light, first grief in the gloom, then joy from the east, first valley of shadow, then mountain top feast, first wait for Messiah, then long promised dawn, first desolate Friday and then Easter morn, the armies of darkness whilst doing their worst can never extinguish this dazzling sun burst. So ridicule rogues if you must play a role, the triumph is not with the forces of night, it dawned with the ones that said I am the Light”

So we’re going for humour because we know the one who beat death, evil and suffering and light because we know the one who says ” I am the Light”. Each day this week we’re creating #funnypumpkins. We managed to find some whopper pumpkins, our first theme is swimming pumpkins. We’ve also covered the front of our house in fairy lights. To go alongside this we wanted to clearly communicate why we were the House of Light on the trail. So I’ve written a very simple, invitational flyer with a story of Alfie the little boy who was scared of everything (see below). We’re giving out bags with a sweet, sticker and light stick and then a link to this page House of Light, on the page families can find out more.

If you read this in time and haven’t already made plans, would you like to join me? You don’t need to run a trail, you could simply cover your house in fairy lights, or give out little bags with this flyer in. If you’d like any of the Alfie flyers or stickers, then please get in touch and I can send you some in the post or email you the pdf.

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Why the Rule of six could help your friendships

Coronavirus: What are the social distancing rules? - BBC News

We’d been round at a friends house for food and a catch up. Most weeks after the school pick up, we get invited and simply turn up. There’s usually between six and eight of us, from two families. There’s always great food and lots of fun, to be honest its just really easy company. This is a regular occurrence in our life and we love it… until recently.

A recent update from the UK Government meant that people can no longer socialise in groups of more than six (the “rule of six“). This announcement has scuppered the previous hope that the rules on social distancing could be lifted by the end of the year. In this blog I’m not taking an opinion or sides on this rule, rather reflecting on it in relation to friendships.

For some, this rule has had a limited impact. One comedian joked that this rule didn’t affect him. He said “I’m not really in that place, my social circle is so small, I couldn’t even get six mates to my funeral if Champions league was on”.

For others it was far more challenging. Large families unable to socialize in coming months. The moral dilemma of snitching on your neighbours. The reality that stopping and chatting with a group of friends (greater than 6) was now seen as a crime. For some friends it rubbed salt into a wound of loneliness that they’d been feeling for months.

For some friends, the #ruleofsix rubbed salt into a wound of loneliness that they’d been feeling for months.

For me, the one word I came up with was “inconvenient”. It wasn’t awful, I was sad my extended family wouldn’t be able to meet together. But I was also hopeful that it wouldn’t be for too long. On the whole, I’m creative and enjoy lateral thinking. This was a fresh challenge for me to grasp. There was no way we were not seeing friends and family again. So I just had to work out how we divide families into two, or focus on seeing friends in smaller groups.

But this attitude of inconvenience bubbling up from within really bothered me. I’m aware that many of us are on the edge, and anything stressful just adds to our already fragile nature. But I stopped and asked myself, are my friendships based on convenience or they are intentional? Are my friendships driven by love, self sacrifice and generosity, able to weather through the storms of life?

Are my friendships based on convenience or they are intentional? Are my friendships driven by love, self sacrifice and generosity, able to weather through the storms of life?

I’d been reading a book this summer called “Made for friendship”. The book starts with a quote from CS Lewis. “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it”. Over the summer I began to question what friendship really was. But to be honest in the busyness of life I’d not taken these thoughts any further. Ironically, as socialising is being limited, I think I might be beginning to learn afresh about the concept of friendship. In this season there is a unique opportunity to commit to friendships in a fresh way.

As I began to think through some of the implications on my life, I remembered that the number six is pretty good for friendships. I’m sure the number was chosen to slow the spread of COVID (and not based on friendship), but please hear me out on this one. I’d been reading an excellent book in the spring called “The Art of Gathering”. Priya Parker, the author is a “professional gatherer”. She says that when gathering people together there are magic numbers, one of them is six. Groups of six create a high level of sharing and intimacy. Compared to groups of twelve which offer some level of sharing but are far more diverse in opinions. (Groups of thirty begins to feel like a party, its has its own distinctive quality, but a single conversation is difficult within a group this size, and one hundred and fifty is an audience). This struck me that now, in this season, its a time for deep friendship, with high levels of sharing and intimacy.

So rather than fighting against what we don’t have, I want to be able to adapt and flourish with what is possible. This is a season where we can gather in smaller groups. According to Priya that group size is perfect for creating an atmosphere where genuine, real friendship can grow. For me, even in this strange season I’d love to learn to live like the Ancients “where friendships are the happiest and most fully human of all loves”.

If you’d like to read more about how we’re adapting to the Rule of six and seeing it as an opportunity to dive deeply into rich friendships in our church homegroup then click here. IFES student groups are focusing their strategy using small groups read more here


Refuge for Student Workers

This blog post is written by Helen Taylor. This is part of a series of blogs written for weary gospel workers, see here for previous blogs.

September is a big month for a student worker – filled with trepidation at everything to be done before term starts, and buckets of excitement.  

Showing new students it’s possible to have a conversation that doesn’t start with, “Where are you from and what course do you do?” and maybe even introduce them to Jesus for the first time is a joy.  

Older students returning, bringing fresh energy to church life and opportunities for discipleship is what I live for.  

But if you’re anything like me the last few weeks haven’t been filled with joy and anticipation in the same way. Maybe instead you’re already exhausted, already heart-weary and the prospect of an academic year on zoom – well you’re just not up for it. 

Students can throw anything at you and we’re going to need to be more ready than ever to extend grace, to call people to repentance and to comfort. 

Let’s be real though. That’s only going to happen if we’re willing to ask for help with those same things ourselves.  

I’m yet to meet someone in ministry who’s not tempted to self-sustain, to become the rock to which everyone else clings, to be indestructible. 

But that temptation, well, it’s out to kill us, and out to kill our ministry.  

Zoom-fatigue is real.  

Distance-fatigue is real.  

Change-fatigue is real.  

If we keep pretending we’re the only ones who don’t struggle with these things, we’ll crash.  

If we don’t adjust ministry accounting for these things, so will the people we’re trying to serve.  

Our well-being, our flourishing and the fruitfulness of our ministry this term is dependent on us being… well,  dependent.

Psalm 61 

1 Hear my cry, O God; 
    listen to my prayer. 

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, 
    I call as my heart grows faint; 
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 
3 For you have been my refuge, 
    a strong tower against the foe. 

So, will you go? If you’re lead to the rock that is higher than you, will you follow? Will you go? 

What’s it for you? Netflix? Your spouse? Trashy food? Going on another run? Wherever you escape, there’s always something that will promise to be your refuge.  But there’s only one place that will take your cries, your fears and the weight of your soul.  

So will you go to the rock that is higher than you?  

Will you celebrate and live within your limits? 

Will you be careful to set zoom boundaries? 

Will you have someone ask you about your mental health? 

Will you take time for things that bring you joy?  

Will you be diligent in protecting time in God’s Word and in prayer? And time for rest? 

Will you ask for help? 

Will you let the Lord take your full weight as you walk through this next season of ministry? 

The students you’re walking alongside this term are not the only ones dealing with grief and confusion and anxiety and loneliness and fear, are they? Why bother pretending? 

Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor is married to James and works for UCCF with students in the Midlands. She loves to feed people good food and dance to good music.

Continue learning

Read. If you’d like to think more about student work and mental health then read this months Connect. A regular mailing for student workers created by UCCF.

Listen. Catch up with this recent event run by Passion for Evangelism and Community in a Crisis with Dr Kate Middleton on Anxiety, depression and Jesus.


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.


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

This post was written in April 2020, but it seems as important now as it did then. Enjoy…

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 before COVID19 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…

Itchen Bridge - Wikipedia

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.

Jesus in his life chose self- isolation, rejection and death in exchange that we might enjoy community, acceptance and life.

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


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.


Why read together?

Passion for Evangelism Book Club

10 CITY OF GIRLS Book Club Questions + Your Reading Guide

80% of New Year resolutions will be abandoned by February

Every year more than 50% of people make New Year’s resolutions and that includes to read more books. Yet almost every study tells us that around 80% of these resolutions will be abandoned by February.

Reading is hard

Many of us we will have started a new Bible reading plan or enthusiastically added to our TBR list of books. For others we’ll have downloaded even more titles to listen to on audible whilst enjoying a walk.

We know that reading books helps us grow as disciples. We are convinced that the Word of God is sweet to the taste, sweeter than honey. And yet It is so easy to move from high ambition to failure and relapse within the space of a few weeks. For many of us that honey jar is just too far out of reach.

According to World Book Day statistics, 41% of people in the UK spend less than an hour a week reading. So how do we read more and grow in knowledge and wisdom this year?

41% of people in the UK spend less than an hour a week reading

World Book day statistics 2021

We know that reading books helps us grow as disciples. We are convinced that the Word of God is sweet to the taste, sweeter than honey. And yet It is so easy to move from high ambition to failure and relapse within the space of a few weeks.

How and why, we read matters

Passion for Evangelism is a network of female evangelists who want to grow in communicating the good news of Jesus Christ. In PfE we believe how we read matters. We want to be women that are learning and growing and so we commit to read, discuss and discover together.

We run a regular book club and create a space to meet the author for a time of Q&A. But before we look at how we do this, we need to look at why we read. The character of C.S. Lewis says this line in William Nicholson’s play, Shadowlands

We read to know we are not alone

CS Lewis, Shadowlands

We can see this is true in book sales throughout the pandemic. The year’s bestsellers show book buyers seeking out comfort, laughter, escapism, familiarity, and a sense of community. But what if how we read showed us that we’re not alone?

But what if how we read showed us that we’re not alone?

Communal reading was not only popular in Jesus day it was essential. Brian Wright says this

“Communal reading protects the truth, unites a community, shapes our faith and aids our discipleship and evangelism. Jesus, Paul, and the earliest Christian communities all read together… contemporary Christians might benefit greatly from resuming this practice”

Brian Wright, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices

This is exactly what we’re doing in PfE. Over the last two years we’ve read 6 books and met 5 of the authors from How to talk about Jesus by Sam Chan to Why can’t we be friends by Aimee Byrd. Approximately 300 women have taken part in these Book Clubs and have really appreciated reading together.

This term we are reading Forty Women – unseen women of the Bible from Eden to Easter by Ros Clarke, IVP. This book shows us how these women’s stories cast fresh light on the Bible in unexpected ways. Their shared humanity reminds us of the wonderful truths and promises of God’s word to His people.

Read, discuss, discover together

What happens at the Book Club?

Read together

We have an easy to follow reading plan, which starts on February 28th. This will motivate you to keep reading alongside others finishing around Easter time. Once you sign up, you’ll be emailed the reading plan. Sarah, one of our Book Club regulars said this “It motivated me to actually finish a book for the first time in years”

Discuss together

We’re delighted that we can meet the author and have an opportunity to ask Ros questions and discuss together. This will happen online, 7.30pm UK time, 24th March 2022.

Discover together

Our friendly App will enable you to meet others in the Book Club. Each week we’ll think through the themes and ideas in the book. And we’ll discuss questions from the end of each chapter. Tasmin said “There is a sense of gentle accountability. The shared learning experience is really helpful”.

So how about you, will you come and meet the hidden voices in the Bible’s story.? We’ll read about these women of the Bible and how their seemingly ordinary lives connect with an extraordinary God. Sign up to our Book Club here. See the difference it makes to read, discuss, discover together.

The Easter Greenhouse

The Greenhouse trains and mentors women to communicate evangelistically. Ideas on how to help empower women in your church to share the resurrection story, and how The Greenhouse can help.

Originally published for A Passion for Life

Halfway through Lord of the Rings, Frodo feels like giving up. Darkness is gathering. It seems as if evil will win. And Sam turns to Frodo with these words:

“It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But, in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even the darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.”

I think some of Tolkien’s Christian faith comes through in Sam’s words. His hope is not just for the world to go back to what it was, but that it will be even better. That is resurrection hope.

Weariness, confusion and exhaustion are at an all-time high. What better message is there to bring this Easter than the resurrection story? It’s a story of hope in times of fear. Passion for Evangelism (PfE) exists to empower, equip and encourage women in evangelism. We’re delighted to be partnering with APFL this Easter. Here are some ways that you can support your sisters and encourage them to grow as evangelists.

Include women

From the cradle to the grave, women were the first ones to witness and share the good news of Jesus. At Easter time churches across the UK will be taking part in a focused month of mission, as part of the A Passion for Life movement. The hope is that this month will fuel churches to continue sharing this good news in years to come.

As you look at your planned events, how many of them involve women publicly communicating about Jesus? Our evangelism must include prayer, personal conversations, small groups discussions and public communication. Public evangelism is vital if the gospel is to be heard by those who don’t have any Christian friends. It’s also a great way to start a conversation with those we see and interact with on a regular basis.

As you look at your planned events, how many of them involve women? I don’t just mean women organising or planning events, (however important that may be) but women actually speaking and sharing the gospel, whether that’s a testimony, a talk, a short video or hosting.

As you look at your planned events, how many of them involve women? I don’t just mean women organising or planning events, (however important that may be) but women actually speaking and sharing the gospel, whether that’s a testimony, a talk, a short video or hosting. There are many women in your churches for whom the pull to share the gospel is strong. There are many women who would like to give this a go but always defer to the expert. There are many women who would love to be asked but feel unable to offer themselves. In PfE we want to identify these women and equip them, so that, like the women at Jesus’ tomb in Matthew 28:8 who were “afraid but also filled with great joy,” they may be eager and able to pass on the message we have all been given to proclaim.

Invest in women

In PfE we love learning together, focussing on character and skills with an emphasis on peer feedback.

Why do we call our mentoring scheme The Greenhouse? Imagine planting a seed outside at this time of year. If it survives the frost, once growing it will struggle with snails and slugs. Put in a Greenhouse with warmth, encouragement, and support, it will be ready in no time to face the outside world. Many, like the women in Matthew 28, are afraid to share the gospel. For some, this is because of a lack of experience or training, or a belief that someone else can do it better. Many are left feeling paralysed when sharing the gospel with friends. We want to enable women to start their journey of sharing the gospel in public. To do this many need a period of time in a Greenhouse first! The majority of the mentoring happens in small groups over a five-week period. This gives women a chance to give and receive feedback. We also have training videos, pre-reading, a live Q&A and 1:1 time with the mentor. This scheme is for any woman who wants to grow in confidence and skills in communicating the gospel.

The majority of the mentoring happens in small groups over a five-week period. This gives women a chance to give and receive feedback

Here is what others have said…

“I would really recommend The Greenhouse to others! I found when I came to deliver my talk I was much more calm and I felt I knew the material really well. I don’t think this was due to the amount of time I took to write it. I think it was the discussion and thinking and prayer around it, that made my talk something I delighted in, as well as a message to share with other women”.

Encourage creativity

Many of us shed a tear as we read those words from Sam in Lord of the Rings. Stories help you to feel, they help you to identify, and they take you to places you’ve never been to before. In PfE we want to equip women to do this too. We want to journey together to see afresh the story of the resurrection. And then, in collaboration with each other, we want to learn how to be creative in our communication. We want to communicate the hope in times of fear that Jesus can bring to our friends, whether that’s on social media, at an event, or through a video, spoken word poem or blog.

We want to journey together to see afresh the story of the resurrection. And then, in collaboration with each other, we want to learn how to be creative in our communication

These are all things that women in our Christmas Greenhouse did. 26 women from across the world joined us. Here is what one of them said…

“I have joined the GH because I would love to learn more about evangelism. I want to try and see how I can best use my creativity for this purpose. I am not exactly sure what that would look like for me yet, so I am excited to try something new”.

What can I do?

Are there women passionate about evangelism in your church? Why not invite them to come along to the webinar we are doing in partnership with A Passion for Life, and send them to be part of the Easter Greenhouse? Encourage women by inviting them to speak at evangelistic events, share their testimony or perform some spoken word poetry. Some may prefer to share the gospel on social media. Take time to support them as they share the gospel creatively around Easter time.

Sign up to the webinar on 8 February and find out more about The Greenhouse Project here.

In sickness and in health – who is the church for?

Its a Sunday morning and I’m sat at home on my own with COVID. Its been circling for awhile, like a bird of prey, waiting to dive and snatch its next victim. Since December 21st someone in our home has tested positive. We’ve had back to back isolations, a bit like a busy night club where its a one-in-one-out kind of system. Its tiring and relentless and adds to the exhaustion of the last two years.

Although I’m isolating, I’m not isolated. This morning I’ve been with my church family, we sang together, learnt together and had a decent catch up. All this is possible because of what we’ve learnt as a church through the pandemic.

For the last two weeks the numbers of people coming to our “in person” church service has been significantly lower than normal. In the UK approximately 6% of the population has COVID, so this shouldn’t be surprising at seeing less people come to our Sunday gathering . Other churches are experiencing this too. In a recent twitter poll 26% of church leaders said they had less people attend church over the last two weeks. So we have an acute problem due to soaring COVID rates, but lets not be fooled. Our lack of preparedness points to a chronic problem that the church needs to face.

This isn’t the first time in my life where I’ve had to miss our gathered church on a Sunday. For years I struggled. As a young mum I was isolated from main services due to caring for a child or feeding. This was followed by chronic illness and later on a time of caring for a child with anxiety. Yes I appreciated individuals and homegroup. But I missed the gathering of God’s people and the collective nature of church. 

It seems like we don’t know how to welcome the sick, the depressed or the chronically ill to our gathered church. We have forgotten that we’re one body in sickness and in health and deep down I wonder if the church is actually for the sick or just for the healthy?

I have many questions and few answers, which is why I’m writing, I am looking for your thoughts and wisdom both for the acute and chronic problem that I see. What would it look like for church to be accessible? How do we welcome the sick & chronically ill? And why oh why did so many object to online church when for some, it meant church was finally accessible?

There is so much irony in what we learnt as a church during the pandemic. We were isolated yet became more accessible, we were scattered but learnt how to be a body, we were on our own yet somehow one. Could it be that there is still much more to learn? How can we let this acute problem draw us back to God himself and help us see that the church, just like Jesus is to be a people who prioritise, value and welcome the sick.

Here are three things that I think will help churches in the coming weeks. I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Remember your Oneness

I want to explore more the theme of Oneness and in particular Oneness in sickness. I’m struck by the relevance of these words “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health”. These are familiar words to many, I’ve known the truth of these vows for 17 years in my married life but I am only beginning to see how this works out in my church family.
Those vows taken when two individuals become one body and continued as a commitment through life. The same metaphor of the body, of oneness is seen in 1 Corinthians 12. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” But what does it look like to faithfully commit to each other as one body? Could it be that we are called to live out these vows not just in marriage but as a church?

Prepare for less people

In the coming weeks expect that less of your regulars will come along to church in person. This could be for a whole host of reasons. If we’re to expect less people at church in person, then we should prepare to welcome and engage more online. Since Easter 2021, we’ve continued to live stream our church services. Yet my gut feeling is that we treat those online as second class citizens. We remember to welcome them or leave the odd comment about those watching online. But we could do so much more.

Merge your audiences

Increase your social interaction and engagement between your in person and your online audience. Here are some simple tips that I’ve used over the last few weeks…

  • Welcome the online audience first
  • Encourage the inperson audience to turn around and wave
  • Ask questions in your sermon and encourage discussion and opinions through an app like Sli.do
  • Open up a Zoom room at the end of the service for those watching online
  • Livestream everything; prayer meetings, sunday gathering, homegroups
  • Have a church whatsapp and encourage everyone to respond after a Sunday gathering; how has God spoken to you, write up a prayer for the church, share an encouraging Bible verse.
  • Notice who is missing from church, send them a text, give them a ring, pop round on the doorstep, acknowledge that we’re scattered but one body.

God longs for us to be one, one with each other and one with him – for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.

Running a Narnia Trail

Photo credit: Tatiana Symonds

“Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said” by C.S. Lewis

During lockdown I decided I wanted to do something with our community and for our community. Over the space of 18 months we ran many events that brought families together. I organised this all through a simple Facebook page called Bitterne Park Family Fun.

Three things that are essential

  • Join in first – Find out what your community love. Go their things first. For me this was running a Halloween trail. The more you can get involved in what your community loves, then the easier it will be to find others that want to join in with what you’re doing.
  • It’s all about people – These trails work best when they’re done for the community-with the community. Within your own communities there will be talented, creative people that love contributing to society and to friendship. The more people you can get involved from the start, the more successful the trail will be.
  • Encourage creativity not perfectionism – Families have really enjoyed creating together, using paper, scrap material, recycling wardrobes and the like. Encourage creativity and celebrate everyone’s contribution. I love to encourage an emphasis on building community, praising and celebrating each other and deepening friendship.

I was asked recently do you think the trail has been successful? I answered, well 350 maps were taken over the first weekend and we’ve got a reach of 10k on our Facebook posts. But you know what makes it successful? Hearing giggles and laughter on your porch. Opening up the front door and seeing yet another family taking part. Our community is bringing light into the darkness and hope into the sadness of our current situation. That’s what makes these trails successful.

Hearing giggles & laughter on your porch. Opening up the front door & seeing yet another family taking part. Our community is bringing light into darkness & hope into sadness. That’s what makes these trails successful.

How did it all start?

last year at Christmas time we ran a Nativity trail with a team of 24 local families. We advertised it well and many experienced the story afresh as we walked around our area. As a prize at the end we gave away 600 gift bags with the Nativity story. Here are some of the photo’s from last year and if you want to know more, here is how we did it.

This year two friends of mine Laura and Rachel came up with the idea of running a Narnia trail. We wanted to keep things fresh and felt this story would be something others would love to join in with.

Why do a story like Narnia rather than the Nativity? I’ll be writing a blog post on this soon. Sign up to receive it.

How we did it this year

First and foremost I need to clearly credit the work of Ana Lorena, Laura Waterton and Rachel Stage. They are an incredibly talented group of women that have designed, edited and completed this project to an incredible standard. I’m sure you’ll find others in your community that will step up and join you.

  1. Gather your team. I have a core team of 2 or 3 that help me out with (design, writers, comms, fundraising etc) and a wider team made up from anyone that wants to get involved. I create a Facebook post and encourage people to sign up through a google form. I guess you could use alternative ways to invite others to join in, this is the simplest and most effective way for me!
  2. Organise the core team. The core team then started worked on the content of the trail, the route and worked out how many stations we wanted. This year all of this work was done by my two friends Laura and Rachel. Here is the narrative of the trail, you could simply take this and make it your own!

3. Organise the wider team. By this time we had received a huge response, in the end 46 families got in touch through the google form. We allocated the houses that worked best and designed the route so that it worked for little legs. We also added a mini challenge in St Denys. St Denys is a separate community, but wanted to get involved. The mini challenge was to find letters in the windows. The letters spelt out the name of the place where a prize was waiting for them. The first 10 children were given a free copy of The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, courtesy of a local Independent bookseller. the rest were given a gift bag.

4. Communicate with the team. We set up a whatsapp group to organise the trail and sent through suggested ideas for each house. These groups are more than just communication, they are a great way to get to know other people and build a sense of togetherness whilst you’re getting ready. We use these groups to share ideas, support and encourage each other.

5. Design. We then started on the design work and asked around for artists/designers locally to help us out. We were delighted this time to find Ana Lorena who has hand painted all of our publicity. Ana created images to use for posters and a beautiful map.

6. Build interest. Whilst houses were getting ready for the trail, we built momentum through a social media campaign, sharing photos and ideas of what we were creating. We also set up a FB event for people to register their interest and communicate. We also wrote to local schools and put up posters in shop windows.

7. Do what the community loves. Last year we started doing Father Christmas post and so decided this year to tie in Father Christmas’s appearance in Narnia with these post boxes. So we used similar design work for this. The team for this ran separately but in a very similar way (starting December 1st). There were 16 helping out, some with boxes on their drive, some just writing responses!

8. Create a buzz. Once the publicity was designed, we printed and distributed it. widely. You’ll see we created QR codes which linked to our FB page.

9. Give generously. We wanted to give out gift bags at the end of the trail. So we worked out the budget and approached locally churches to ask if they’d like to give towards this project. In each bag we put a candy cane, festive chocolates, a postcard and a badge. We used Best Badges and the images that Ana had created.

For the postcard we used Solopress. Here is an image of the postcard, the content was cowritten by Nay Dawson and Laura Waterton.

10. Launch well. And finally we were ready to launch. Just for a bit of fun, we added in a launch procession. A local Grandad had a T Ford Car and was more than willing to drive it around, followed by a Samba band and Narnian characters. We also sent out Press Releases to local papers. Here is one that got published.

May be an image of 4 people, people standing and outdoors

You are welcome to use these images. But please credit @AnaLorena

Get in touch if you have any questions

Love in Corona

Love in Corona is... postcard  stories that raise curiosity image 4

This a short story that raises curiosity about Jesus. It is on an attractive square, pulp postcard and could be given with a gospel and some home baked treats! This is a gift to be given with love to a friend.

Buy it here.


105mm x 105mm
• Eco-friendly messaging on 380mic paper
• Uncoated textured finish, for a rustic feel

Full story

Delivering food to the vulnerable & elderly

Living in a caravan for a year in order to protect your family

Sailing for 85 days across the Atlantic just to see your mum

These extraordinary stories show love, sacrifice & kindness in desperate times like ours.

Yet perhaps you think: these are other people’s stories – there’s no-one who would do that for me

We all need to know that we are loved because our humanity is founded on a love story. Jesus was someone who left the comfort of his home & father, he travelled from heaven to earth, lived a life of suffering and died a lonely death.

He did this to communicate a simple message to each and every one of us: “Since the beginning of time, I have set my heart upon you, because…”


Love in Corona is... postcard  stories that raise curiosity image 3


Photograph: fedrelena/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hey, how are you? You’re tired?

How tired?

Oh, you’ve never been this tired in all your life kind of tired? You dream of sleeping for 10 years tired? Every part of you is tired, even your hair?

Yeah same

Guardian, ‘Rest is on the other side of exhaustion – promising to be an antidote. But do we even know how to rest?’ by Brigid Delaney

So what’s your weariness rating today?

This article gave me words to describe how I’m feeling, It spoke to my weariness and helped me see that I’m not alone. There is something so deeply troubling in our society right now. As many have said this is the pandemic after the pandemic. Brigid helpfully continues… “Rest is on the other side of exhaustion – promising to be an antidote. But do we even know how to rest? Properly rest, with no stimuli? Our dopamine-addicted brains have been jacked up for years on notifications, social media likes, watching Netflix while tweeting while texting, etc. Neurons drenched in stimuli, our fight or flight response activated for almost two years – how do we recover? We’ll have to learn a whole new way of being. There’s no one there to show us. There’s no profit to be made from rest“.

So we’re exhausted from being exhausted and there’s no one to even show us the way. This simply could not get more depressing.

Yet Christmas, ancient wisdom whispers a secret we need to hear. “O Holy night” the well known Carol song says this…

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’
Fall on your knees, o hear the angels’ voices
O night divine, o night when Christ was born
O night divine, o night, o night divine

Could this be the new way of being?

Could this be the one to show us the way?

Could this be the antidote?


A burden that is light.

A way of being that is kindness.

An antidote that not only shows us the way but is the way.

For all those who are weary of being weary. Choose this way. This new morn. Christ of this carol says come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.

Lucy and the bird

The stories are written for families to read together with a focus on the 6-10 age group. Through reading the story readers are left wanting to hear more and wishing it were true.

These can be bought and given out in gift bags, at Christmas markets, family events, carol services or schools. These are intended to be used in outreach and bought in a large quantity. To accompany the stories there are activities for the children to do, this gives them the opportunity to think further on the story through activities.

Houses of light shop

Lucy and the bird is a very simple story, my aim in writing is to raise curiosity about the person of Jesus. We’re planning to give them out in gift bags to friends around Christmas time. There are 8 pages in total. As well as the story there are some fun activities for children to do.

Size – 148x148mm 130gsm Silk Inside 8pp Stapled Brochures Square

Full story

It was Christmas Eve and Lucy had gone to sleep in her brand-new onesie. When all of a sudden, she was woken up, she could hear an awful squeaking noise downstairs.

Could it be the wind outside? Or a mouse in the walls? Or maybe Santa had come early? The closer she got, the clearer the sound was. A few moments later she heard a little cheep inside their chimney and knew it was a bird in distress. She needed to do something, but she was very very scared.

Lucy being the smallest member of the family climbed inside the chimney. Stretching and squeezing around the bricks she found the bird.

Placing it in her hands she carefully climbed back down and scrambled out of the chimney. She was covered in soot from head to toe, her brand new white onesie was completely ruined. But then she saw the bird and its broken wings and started to cry.

Over time Lucy and her family nursed the bird back to full health. By the time spring came they released it back to its family once again.

Imagine if there was someone who could enter the messiness of our world and heal the bits of us that are broken with his loving touch – a bit like Lucy did for the bird.

The message of Christmas is that God came to earth as a baby to be like us. This baby grew to be a man, gave up everything for us, to reach out and rescue us.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more

Buy them here.

Sharing the Incarnation with your community

We’ve got two girls and have spent more hours in soft plays than I wish to admit. I have never warmed to these places and am grateful that adults aren’t allowed to play and join in. Apart from the inevitable, MUMMMMMM I’M STUCK. At which point I put down my coffee and book and put on some socks. I squeeze and crawl and do many other undignified things and rescue my child from being trapped.

Imagine if there was someone who could enter our world, hear our hearts cry for help and come and rescue us.

This is the message of the incarnation.

Alistair McGrath says “The idea of the incarnation means God taking on flesh, humbling himself to enter into human history and take on by himself the entire experience of existence as a human being”.

But how do we communicate this with our friends and our wider community so that they hear the good news of the Christmas story afresh?

Sam Chan writes in his book that our western post Christian culture story line is one where Jesus equals a loss of freedom. He continues… “We once believed in God, fairies and unicorns. But as we became more and more enlightened, we became rational and stopped believing in the supernatural. If we can leave behind our past superstitious beliefs and realise, we are only physical atoms and molecules then we can be free to be who we really are. The only thing that is holding us back are those who still haven’t gotten with the programme. That is religious people who still believe in God and who continue to oppress us with their outdated traditions, beliefs and morals. But we can courageously be true to ourselves we can discover the authentic selves within and we can discover and pursue our full potential, chase our dreams and refuse to let anyone tell us who to be“.

How do we communicate the message of the incarnation into our post Christian context? A context where Jesus equals a loss of freedom.

The nature and form of the incarnation has challenged me in my approach to telling the Christmas story in the last few years. At its very heart the incarnation shows us that Jesus offers access to God, both by making God known and making God available.

At Christmas time we have such an opportunity to make God known and make God available both to our friends and wider community.

There are 18,000 who live in our area. Many invites will go out for carol services. But there are many more for whom the impact of the Christmas story will simply pass them by. I’ve been thinking about how we can take this story out to others. How through Jesus we can offer access to God, make God known and make God available.

Three ways to share the incarnation story

1. Sing the story

Carol singing is still popular amongst many. Whether that’s on the radio, at a Carol service or at the switching on of Christmas lights. The lyrics and music of many carol songs communicate the message of Christmas. This is my take on carolling this year…

Kingfisher Swimmers Festive swim and sing
I love swimming, I swam competitively as a child and have adored it since. Yet as an adult I’ve not found friends to swim with. When lockdown hit and all the pools closed, swimmers took to ingenious ways of keeping fit. For me I turned to our local river and put an advert out on social media for someone to join me. 19 months later, we have a vibrant river swimming group with over 60 regular swimmers. For the second year in the row, we’re hosting our annual Festive swim and sing. Everyone dresses up in fancy dress, brings flasks full of mulled wine and lots of cake. We then do our regular swim but accompanied by musicians in a canoe singing carols.

What communities are you part of? Why not suggest a Christmas get together to sing carols? Find out in your group who is musical or who has a friend that could play an instrument. Whilst planning invest in beauty, creativity, generosity and fun. This could become an event that people look forward to each year.

2. Experience the story

Over the last year we’ve run 7 trails for our local area. Over 200 families have taken part on the teams and thousands of people have visited the trails. Last year we ran a Nativity 24-day reveal. We had a trail map, a team of 24 local families and a gift bag to give away. Families learnt more about the nativity story and experienced it as they walked around our area. We promoted this through local schools and social media. It’s been a great way to bring people together and to create fun, wholesome events for the kids.

This Christmas we’re doing a Narnia trail. We want to bring the beauty, wonder and awe of Narnia to our area. It’s a story that resonates with many of us as Christmas lights up the dark nights. We’ll be encouraging families to get a copy of the book and read it and join our trail. The trail is launching on Dec 10th, 31 houses are taking part. Each house will take a part of the story and decorate their gardens. Families will follow the trail map; the final house has a gift bag for the children. We’ll be including chocolates and a postcard that conveys the hope of the original Christmas story.

Read more here about how to run a Nativity trail.

May be an image of text that says 'Bitterne Park 24 day Nativity Trail Bring your family or household bubble for socially distanced trail around Bitterne Park. Collect your trail sheet on Dec from 117 Manor Farm Road Find the hidden letters at each house and make a sentence Displays will launched around Bitterne Park three stages... Visit the nativity themed displays over the next few weeks Collect your prize on 24 Dec from 22 atherine Road House Dec, 7 Dec and 18 Dec spread out the festive fun.'

3. Gift the story

I’ve been writing stories for families to read with their children. They are designed and printed and look really beautiful, I put them in gift bags full of seasonal treats. I’ve given out these bags on trails, at Christmas markets, to friends and at events. Have a look here at my Christmas story – Lucy and the bird. My hope is that it will raise interest in the person of Jesus and leave people wanting more. I want to give people the opportunity to hear, with limited baggage the good news of Jesus for themselves. Then they can make an educated and informed decision about what they believe.

I want to give people the opportunity to hear, with limited baggage the good news of Jesus for themselves.

In the Bible God gives a huge variety of stories, images, emotions, and metaphors. They are designed to reach each person exactly where they are and connect with them emotionally, culturally, and existentially. No matter who your friends are and what they’ve been through the Bible has a story about Jesus that will speak to them. This is a story that will speak to our friends!

Alongside the Nativity trail I wanted to tell a story. Stories can have a powerful impact, they can raise curiosity, pique interest and leave us wanting more. Below is a quote from Philip Pullman, I find his comments about stories intriguing…

What I seem to be saying, rather against my will, is that stories come from somewhere else. It’s hard to rationalise this, because I don’t believe in a somewhere else; there ain’t no elsewhere, is what I believe. Here is all there is. It certainly feels as if the story comes to me, but perhaps it comes from me...” Magic Carpets – Essays on Story Telling.

Here is an example of the impact stories can have over a period of time…

A friend of ours became a Christian at University. She heard about how Jesus gave his life for her and was deeply moved by his sacrifice. She had grown up in China and hadn’t had the opportunity to hear for herself the Christian message. After Uni, she came to live with us for a while and spotted the Narnia stories on our bookshelves. We discussed the connections between the Christian faith and the story, and her jaw dropped. She stopped and paused and said, “we watched these films in school in China, this film meant so much to me, it was the only film I’ve ever cried at, now I understand why”.

Lucy and the bird image 6

What do I do now?

  • Take some time to remind yourself of the generosity of the gift of Jesus to us. Why not pause and take some time to read one of the accounts of the birth of Jesus, watch an episode from The Chosen or have a listen to Hark the Herald Angels sing.
  • List the different communities that you are a part of
  • Write down ideas of how can you communicate the story and meaning of the incarnation to your community and friends this Christmas

Visit my Houses of Light Etsy shop here.

Running a Nativity trail read more here.

Building community through vulnerability

Vulnerability: The Key to Close Relationships - Hey Sigmund

“For many businesses, coronavirus was the toughest problem they’ve ever had to face. With customers under lockdown, shops shuttered, cashflow drying up and staff on furlough, they wondered how they were going to survive. But amid all these threats, some companies found ways to forge ahead.” Coronavirus: Five firms booming despite the lockdown, BBC.

For many entrepreneurs lockdown was a time to adapt, pioneer and flourish. Think Joe Wicks, watching world class theatre in your front room or takeaway from your favourite dine in restaurant.

Thriving in lockdown

In lockdown I set up three initiatives: The Kingfisher swimmers, Community in a Crisis and Bitterne Park Family Fun. I loved it, I felt liberated and it brought a whole new world of friends and connections into my life. It felt like I had learnt afresh how to be me and how to build community in the area that we live. Looking to the immediate future this is something I didn’t want to forget.

Early on in the pandemic (June 2020) I’d been advising CMF on their new online conference. As medics on the frontline I felt it important to listen to what they had to say. They shared that one of the biggest problems for the NHS would be the impact on mental health and non COVID care. Roll on 18 months and this was no longer a prediction, it is a daily reality. Mind – a mental health charity is calling this a mental health emergency. Recent research shows that “more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said that their mental health has gotten worse during the period of lockdown restrictions, from early April to mid-May”.

But this isn’t just “a” daily reality, its our daily reality. Huge, sad, sigh…

I won’t go into details, but one of my small family of four had a mental breakdown in March. Overnight life completely changed. Friendships, activities and commitments were all affected. Although we came out of lockdown in June, our family entered our own semi-permanent lockdown. Life was hard, sad and insular and felt incredibly vulnerable.

Brené Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It’s that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.  This is exactly how we felt.

About the same time I was chatting to a friend about our situation. She knew me well and knew how I had thrived in lockdown. Just to add the comment didn’t sound as brutal at the time as it sounds here!! She said, “what are you going to do now Nay about building community? You can’t organise, you can’t gather people together, you can barely even leave the house!” She was right and it was painful. I’d been banging on about building community to anyone that would listen. But as most other peoples live were beginning to open up once again, ours wasn’t. I began to ask questions. What happens if you can no longer keep up with friends or activities you used to love? What if you are unable to do life anymore? Is it possible to contribute to your community in the midst of difficult times?

Vulnerability opens doors

Around this time a beautiful baby photo of my eldest popped up on my Facebook memories. It was a peaceful photo of her as a sleeping baby taken just a few months after she was born. It would have been so easy to share this on my feed, with no comment and leave the impression that all was well. Yet, however beautiful the photo was, at that time I was broken.

So I shared the photo and wrote honestly about my experience of childbirth; Fibroids, ICU, PTSD and the rest. The response was surprising, I received comments and private messages, friends showed not only support but they also showed gratitude. I realised that vulnerability isn’t the problem I thought it was. Instead I discovered it can open the door for true friendship.

Vulnerability isn’t the problem I thought it was. Instead I discovered it can open the door for true friendship.

A friend had recently invited me into a Facebook group called Reminds. This is a huge group (1.5k) for parents in our city who have kids with Special Educational Needs. I joined intending just to observe. However a few weeks in and life got tougher, I decided to reach out for help. I posted late one night asking for advice. Admitting you’ve got problems is still a taboo for so many and for so many reasons. What happened next led me to tears. Four local mums had seen my post and messaged me privately. Each of them saying we’re here for you, do you fancy coffee and a chat sometime? I just couldn’t believe it.

Life had changed so much for us and in such a short space of time. We were desperately clinging onto the life we’d had before, wishing we could just rewind a few years. But no, the dawning reality was that this just wasn’t the life we expected. However, into this new reality something profound and meaningful happened. As I opened up, I found others that understood, were willing to walk with us and happy to support us through this time. I love this group of people and feel grateful for them. Since that first post I’ve been on courses, posted multiple times and found help, advice and friendship. 

Vulnerable is what we are

For many the last 18 months has been a wake up call. Life has changed so much and in such a short space of time. Our senses have been heightened and our own mortality seems closer than ever. For some of us we’re beginning to realise how vulnerable we actually are.

So how do we live with this fresh awareness of our own fragility? I guess for many it exposes what we really think about life and whether it works or not. I’m thinking of worldviews that celebrate strength and penalise weakness. Or where vulnerability is not discussed and its all about keeping up with the Jone’s. For me this awakening of vulnerability has led me to draw in closer to my reason for life, my reason for building community in the first place.

A major motivation and model for me in building community is the character of God. Let me explain a little of what I mean…

 “you loved me before the creation of the world” John 17:24

Love because you are loved – God is relational. Since the beginning of time there was love, relationships and community, these were created and sustained in the relationships of God the Father, Son and Spirit. But this love was never meant to be kept a secret. It was a gift for us.

Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” John 17:20

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness” Hebrews 4:15

Love gets involved – This love was given to us as a gift in the person of Jesus. Jesus himself faced uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure for us. Just take the start of Jesus life as an example. Born an illegitimate son and soon became a child refugee, forced to flee his homeland for fear of persecution. This is a love that gets weakness and vulnerability.

Dane Ortland says this “in Jesus, you have a Friend who, in your sorrow, will never lob down a penny from heaven. He cannot bear to hold himself at a distance. Nothing can hold him back. His heart is too bound up with yours”

The character of God motivates and inspires me. But it is more than that. It is my ultimate support as I live in the ever increasing tension of feeling vulnerable in my own skin.

She needs you to stop fudging the issue

“Employees who experience role clarity are 53% more efficient and 27% more effective at work than employees who have role ambiguity”

Recent research shows that clarity in the workplace is essential for workers. I’ve been wondering if the same is true for the church?

For decades I’ve seen women sent by their church to work abroad, they end up leading, pioneering & teaching in churches. Yet when back at their home church they are barely allowed to do more than give an interview. Am I alone in observing this?

Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself? Within a parachurch organization you’re free to lead and yet within your own church these opportunities don’t present. Or perhaps you’re invited to teach at the church plant but not at the main church. Or maybe its inconsistency in another area.

In this blog I’m not talking about how much women are asked to do when they’re home on furlow, I’m also not addressing specific theological positions on women in ministry. What I’m questioning here is inconsistency within a theological framework. I want to honour and respect different view points of the role of women in the church. But I want to question inconsistency on the role of women in church and I want to communicate what it feels like.

Theological inconsistency

I’m interested in looking at inconsistency in women’s roles within the church. Here are a few examples from friends that shows a level of inconsistency…

I was encouraged to go on a summer team, be involved in public evangelism yet when I returned home, I wasn’t even allowed to give a report in the church service, a male youth leader read it on my behalf”

“I’m financially supported by my church to help church plant in Europe, as part of this I lead, teach and train others, back in my sending church this just simply wouldn’t be allowed”

“My church regularly invites me to speak at the plant church, they haven’t once invited me to speak at the main church”

This isn’t a new problem. By 1900 there were two missionary women in China for every male missionary. These Western women found themselves gifted for work in teaching and evangelism in ways which would have been impossible in their churches at home. Valerie Griffiths writes “In the 1900s If the call of God came to women in Britain, it had to be lived out in a Western culture cluttered with centuries of history and traditions that sometimes had little to do with the Christian faith, but constrained them as Christian women. In China away from all that, they were set free to  take up opportunities of service unknown in most of their home churches today”. Not less than everything. So the problem isn’t new, its been around for awhile.

Because women couldn’t serve in churches they went overseas. If women can’t serve in their home church, then let them serve abroad this was the ethos of church leaders and missionary’s from the 1800s. I’m sure the church outside of the UK has benefited from many gifted and Godly women. But for me there are many problems with this. As Eddie Arthur in a recent tweet replied “This says so much about how we view both women and Christians outside of the west.”

But to keep focused, I want to concentrate on the impact inconsistency has on women in the church. How does this inconsistency and lack of clarity effect women?

How inconsistency makes me feel

Here is what some women have said about this lack of clarity and how it impacts them…

“Its extremely demoralizing for a teenager. I’m sure its even more frustrating for grown women who only want to tell everyone about the work they are doing for God

I’ve seen this a lot and have been really confused by it. If a church holds the view that it is not for women to lead and stand by this in their church in the UK, why is is ok for them to send a woman out to lead a church often in a less affluent and more dangerous part of the world? It leads me to wonder if there is a very concerning view that people of other countries and cultures are ‘less than’ adult men and women in the west and therefore it’s ok for a woman to teach them”

When a church is inconsistent I find it frustrating. It can definitely leave women in a position where they have uncertainty about what they are ‘allowed’ to do in a church, meaning they won’t volunteer for fear of that being met with suspicion because what they have volunteered for turns out not to be for women…”

So this lack of clarity rather than being generous is actually a problem.

Sitting on the fence about the role of women in the church may appear generous, but from the ground it is demoralizing, frustrating & confusing

But what about you, how does it make you feel? Take some time out to think it through, journal write down your experience.

Getting clear

Kadi Cole has written a book called – developing female leaders. She says the most important thing you can do as a leader is to get clear on what you believe. She talks about the gap of untapped potential. To discover this you need to do some reflecting. Have a look at the graph below. Firstly there is your line of what you think theologically, under that is the line of what women think they should be doing, and under that is the line of what women are comfy doing. Kadi talks about the importance of being clear both in your theology and aligning your practise with your theology. This picture taken from Kadi Coles book is very helpful.

But what about you? These blogs are not meant to air the churches dirty laundry. They are meant to be helpful. Have a look at this image above and fill in the table below with your own examples.

Untapped potential or a gift you would like to explore usingYour churches
theological line
Where are these gifts currently used in the churchWhere you think
the line is
Where you feel
comfy leading
Where is there untapped potential with your gifts?

Teaching the Bible
You can teach kids, youth, women & in home groupKids, youthYou can teach kids, youth, women & in home groupKids, youth & womenI’d like to lead small group but feel too nervous. There are no opportunities to speak to women, but I would if I could.

From the table above
Where is there inconsistency?
What lies behind this inconsistency?
What are the short term and long term changes that could be made? What surprises you?

This topic can be painful it can be demoralising, frustrating and confusing. Lets pause before we finish and remember one of the stories where Jesus is found interacting with women.

Luke 10 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I love this passage. There are three things I notice…

1. Jesus is clear but not arbitrary – few things are needed, indeed only one. Mary chose to sit and listen to Jesus the Rabbi, Martha was still serving herself, thinking that Jesus wanted her works rather than her ears and her heart. I’m not suggesting you need to write long essays of what your church does and doesn’t believe. Sometimes long lists of what women can and can’t do just become so arbitrary. I’d encourage you to see the simplicity of what Jesus is doing here.

2. Jesus bucked cultural norms – when the culture was screaming that women should be in the kitchen preparing food for their guests, Jesus did the opposite, he invited Martha to stop worrying and working and instead to listen and learn from him.

3. Jesus valued women as disciples – There are two unusual things here. Firstly that women were viewed as disciples at all. At that time women would not have been allowed to come and learn. Secondly a disciple would have chosen their Rabbi to learn from not the other way round. Here, very unusually, the Rabbi himself chooses Mary to be his disciple. This would have been outrageous. But what an affirmation to Mary, you too are called to steward the earth and go and make disciples in my name.

As I reflect on inconsistency in the church and listen to the stories of friends, I find it speaks of a lack of care and lack of consistency to the Bible. Not just that its demoralizing, frustrating and confusing. For centuries we’ve sent women to make disciples across the world, but for some reason, doing that on our own doorstep is not allowed.

Most of all I would love for churches and women to sit together and read this. Take time to evaluate where you’re at with inconsistency with women’s roles in your church, listen to how that makes women feel. Pray hard, study the scriptures and work out how to take that untapped potential and use it to build up your church.

Read more in this series

She needs you to fix the leaky pipe

She needs brothers for her to speak in your church

She doesn’t feel good enough to serve in your church

She needs help failing in order to serve in your church

Suggested reading

Worthy by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher – Beginning from Genesis and working all the way through the storyline of the Bible, Worthy demonstrates the significant and yes, even surprising, ways that God has used women to accomplish His kingdom goals. Because, like men, they are created in His image, their lives reflect and declare His worth. Worthy will enable and encourage both men and women to embrace this true and lofty vision of God’s creation, plan, and their value in His eyes.

Developing Female leaders by Kadi Cole – How to More Effectively Leverage the Leadership Gifts and Abilities of Women in Your Church. What would your church look like in the future if it were to maximize the dormant gifts of the women God has brought there? In Developing Female Leaders, Kadi Cole, twenty-year veteran in leadership and people development, offers a practical strategy to help church and organizational leaders craft cultures that facilitate the development of women as volunteer and staff leaders.