‘Father to the fatherless, defender of widows, this is God, whose dwelling is holy. He places the lonely in families.’ (Psalm 68: 5-6a, NLT)
This scripture perfectly sums up what our growing Oxford-based network Doorsteps is all about. This action is needed now more than ever in Oxfordshire as the County Council is closing 44 children’s centres in 2017.
This will have a huge impact on all the hundreds of families who were previously being supported by these centres. However, it does open a window for the Church to step up and provide the necessary help and support for these families.
If you want to help make a difference, Doorsteps is hosting a conference in November to discuss ways in which churches can more effectively support vulnerable families in their local communities.
Any Doorsteps-led programme in this area will rely on volunteers being passionately servant-hearted towards the community and this conference is a great way to kick-start and inspire the momentum that will build in Oxford.
Studies in the UK have shown that unstable family life and struggling parents are some of the most pressing issues facing young people. Low income, unemployment, debt, mental health problems and family breakdowns can all cause this.
Children need safe, loving families in order to be happy and fruitful. The Church has the capacity and opportunity to support families and provide early help so children can grow up in a healthy family context.
Katy Thompson, Viva’s Network Consultant, says, “If we make the effort we can transform the lives of thousands of children and youth by bringing them into the large, loving family of the Church, with Jesus at its centre.”
One particular barrier for people regarding church has been the churches themselves, or the buildings at least. A good way to attract new people into the church family is by taking the Church to them.
By taking over a familiar, public building and holding church-led programmes such as parenting courses or kids camps, it encourages new people to come and take part without feeling like they are in an unfamiliar setting.
The Church Urban Fund has stated: “Over the last few years, there has been renewed recognition of the vital contribution churches make to our society and to the common good. Not only do churches offer services that meet specific needs, they also create spaces for people to connect and get to know others, helping to build stronger and resilient communities.”
This is not new to the Church though. It has a long history of helping and supporting local communities. It is thought that 47 million beneficiaries are supported by local churches in the UK today.
Katy says, “We will now have to focus our efforts even more with public sector provision reducing. This also gives us the opportunity to live out our faith as being salt and light of the world and reaching out to the most deprived, vulnerable members of our own community. We can only do this if we work together and passionately move forward with this initiative.”
Could you and your church get involved? The more churches, volunteers and resources available, the bigger an impact we can make! Do encourage youth leaders, children’s workers and anyone working with young people to come to the conference in November.
Book now at https://doorstepsconference2016.eventbrite.co.uk We would love to see you there.
Click here for more information about the council’s plans.