Lent: 40 ideas to transform your community
40 Christian leaders share their ideas for how you can transform your community during Lent 2014.
Day 1: Neighbour nights
"Start doing “Neighbour Nights”. Once every fortnight my wife Jen and I have one family from our block for dinner (or go to theirs). Without the discipline of having it in the diary, we can so easily live here, but not dwell here. Prayerful, intentional hovering can sometimes be required to facilitate ‘bumping into’ people for invites! After a very slow start, five years later our block is a very different place. The kingdom is viral!"
Andy Flannagan, director, www.christiansontheleft.org.uk
Day 2: See your community
"Attend to your relationship with God. Wrestle the knowledge of your belovedness to the ground. In doing so you will remove sibling rivalry. You will be able to see your community as also the beloved of God, and work for its well-being with deeper honesty."
Rev Jody Stowell, blogger, broadcaster and Church of England priest
Day 3: Try Fairtrade
“The Fairtrade movement tries to put right the economic legacy of the slave trade. Growers are paid a Fairtrade Premium and a fair price for their goods. During Lent, give up your favourite brand - try a Fairtrade one. Then find out more information about the Fairtrade Premium and the good it does.”
David Marshall, director, Meaningful Chocolate Company
Day 4: Show hospitality
"The Lord visits us every Saturday night. He comes in the person of destitute asylum-seekers, who receive food, fellowship and a bed in our church building, followed by a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning. Some would come to church that morning. Our hospitality is part of a night shelter we provide, along with six other churches in Manchester during the seven wintery months. As our Lord says: 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
Marijke Hoek, South Manchester Family Church
Day 5: Chat
"Chat to the people that get ignored. The checkout staff at the supermarket, the bus driver, the refuse collector, the street cleaner, the parking attendant... Thank them for their work, ask what time they are finished. Wish them a good day. It's all about recognising the people who get ignored."
Steve Clifford, general director, Evangelical Alliance
Day 6: Prayer-walk
"Prayer is a vital foundation to transforming your street or community. Why not take up the challenge this Lent to intentionally prayer-walk your own street and pray for people you have not met or spoken to. Tell your neighbours you are giving up chocolate for Lent (or whatever you might be giving up!) and perhaps buy them a bag of sweets or some chocolate? I tell you, a choc bar works wonders! The key is making an authentic connection with neighbours. Everything else flows naturally or supernaturally from there."
Jonathan Oloyede, convener, National Day of Prayer & Worship
Day 7: Find your inner activist
"Use the 40 days of Lent to find your inner activist… and raise awareness about a human rights issue such as female genital mutilation (FGM), trafficking or child marriage. Visit our website www.28toomany.org to see how to stay informed, address the issue with your MP, engage on social media or fundraise for your newfound cause."
Ann-Marie Wilson, founder, 28toomany
Day 8: Coffee
"Transform you community with coffee! Invite a local community leader (councillor, MP, voluntary sector leader, etc) for a coffee and a chat with the primary aim of being a friend to them, listening to their passion/vision and seeing how you might support them."
Lloyd Cooke, chief executive, Saltbox
Day 9: Be alert
"Make a commitment that the next time you see or hear someone behaving abusively to their partner that you will take action by ringing the police or if you are able to safely communicate with the victim, tell them that there is help available. They could ring the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 2470808 2000 247."
Natalie Collins, gender justice specialist
Day 10: Take a walk
"Take a slow walk around where you live. Take your time. Look up, look down, look around. Look into people’s eyes and say: ‘Hello.’ Have a cup of tea in the local café and chat to the person who serves you. Spend some time people-watching. Ask God to show you where He is working and how He wants you to be part of it."
Katherine Maxwell-Cook, editor, Rhythms
Day 11: Bank it
"Look around your home. How much do you actually need? So much of what we own sits idle so much of the time – set it free by posting it on Streetbank. Then you’re neighbours within a mile will be able to request it. One in the eye for our possessive tendencies and you’ll be blessing your neighbourhood to boot!"
Sam Stephens, founder, Streetbank
Day 12: Make goody bags
"Make goody bags. This can involve lots of folks from your church. Get people to bake either small tray bakes or mini hot cross buns. Get kids to make/ colour in bookmarks etc Get small clear bags - fill with the goods. Wrap in ribbon. Put a bright note on the outside: "with love from your local church." Or "have a great Easter." Put on a tray, them go out onto the streets around your church/ or at local shops and give out your goody bags. It is amazing how many conversations you will see develop."
Fred Drummond, national director, Evangelical Alliance Scotland
Day 13: Get creative
"Love your neighbours by getting creative. On our estate we have a number of elderly neighbours who like nothing more than tea, homemade cake and an opportunity to sit and chat with a friendly neighbour. So spend some time together this Lent as a family baking homemade Easter cupcakes decorated with sugared eggs and small Simnel cakes and teach your children the importance of giving time to others. Place a few cakes on a china plate, add a homemade card, and visit your neighbours. Make sure you have saved some time to chat with them too, and bless your neighbourhood."
Lesley Sutton, director of PassionArt
Day 14: Bless your city
"Every Wednesday I take 90 minutes to prayer-walk in Chester city centre asking God to bless my city, remembering I work for the peace and prosperity of the city. So I pray to the Lord for it: for its welfare will determine your welfare. I also seek to step out and pray for people I meet, believing that the same power that guided Jesus’s life and raised him form the dead now lives in me! #DWJD"
Andy Glover, Link Up, Fresh Streams and leader of Hoole Baptist Church
Day 15: Repair some damage
"The floods missed our home in Cardiff but the winds demolished a garden wall nestled between us and a parking lot used by three neighbours. Helping to repair the damage during Lent will provide an excellent opportunity for me to get to know each of them better and to share a story or two."
Elfed Godding, national director, Evangelical Alliance Wales
Day 16: Party
“Jesus was good at feasting and partying with people. Could you use the time of Lent to pray and plan an Easter party for your community, neighbours, your colleagues from work, or your friends? Let’s be the people who throw an amazing party as we’ve got the best reason ever to celebrate.”
Rachel Jordan, national mission and evangelism adviser, Church of England
Day 17: Engage with God
“Morning devotion is vital. Encourage people to read a bible passage and pray about what they’ve read. Engaging with God on a daily basis brings growth, refreshing, direction, comfort and a gift that you can pass on to others. Starting a radio show is serving as a platform to spread the good news about God’s love."
Sade Kaffo, Real Relationships
Day 18: Get online
"The online world is not a 'virtual world', but a part of our whole life. Something as simple as a Facebook group can add a helpful 'augmented layer' to offline, geographically based relationships, allowing 24/7 relationships to give insights to a full life, not just the 'occasional meet'. Use the tools to arrange more face-to-face meetings too!"
Dr Bex Lewis, research fellow in social media and online learning, Durham University
Day 19: Take the initiative
"This Lenten season, put action to your faith and commit to intentionally live as an agent of the kingdom. In His sovereignty, God has placed you in the family, neighborhood, and workplace that He desires so that you may be an ambassador for Him. Ask the Spirit to show you opportunities to engage with those around you. Take the initiative, make the first step, be bold, live differently, take a risk for the Kingdom… you very well may be the only Jesus follower on your street."
Rob Peabody, missional pioneer and director of Awaken Movement
Day 20: Tell the story
"Last night I was a guest on Premier radio, my job to rally the troops to actually let others in on this magnificent secret of an Easter story. I had a conversation with a lady called Pam who phoned in to say that she was too old to do anything to let others know the gospel. Pam then went on to tell of how she had felt prompted to buy an extra Easter egg, one of the ‘real ones’ with the Easter story booklet inside, when she was in the supermarket. Pam asked God who it was for. On the way home she met a family feeding the ducks and as she slowly walked past them she knew it was for them. They were touched by the gesture and Pam was able to explain what made this Easter egg extra special. 'That’s one family who will get to read the Easter story,” Pam said. 'But I’m too old to be used by God to share the Easter story!'"
Chris Duffett, The Light Project
Day 21: Inspire your creative
"If you're a creative, or know someone who is, why not check out creativeartsnetwork.co.uk. It's a community of creatives exploring the bit in the middle between the Church and creativity. The Creative Arts Network serve, showcase and train creative people, raising their employability prospects by hosting exhibitions, workshops and training courses. Get involved to explore how the Church can become a hub of creativity and a centerpiece of inspiration again."
Aimee Basson, community builder & assistant editor, Creative Arts Network
Day 22: Encourage leaders
"Leadership can be a lonely place. There are leaders in your local community – politicians, ministers, business owners – who have to make difficult decisions which influence many lives. Research has shown that women in particular need a lot of encouragement before they step forward into leadership. Encourage your community leaders by dropping them a letter or an email – cheer them on."
Dr Claire Rush, participation & advocacy co-ordinator for GB Ministries and a trustee of Sophia Network
Day 23: Search social media
"Social networks like Twitter are full of accounts geared towards specific local communities. People who live in an area use them to share tips, ask each other questions, and spread local campaigns. It's a great way to find out what's going on around you and connect with local people. Search for your own local area's name on Twitter, and follow any community accounts you find – and if none exist, why not start one yourself?!"
Claire Jones, churches editor, Christian Aid
Day 24: Carbon fast
"I like a Lent carbon fast, like http://thecarbonfast.org/, for example. It starts conversations about why God cares about climate change, why it’s urgent, and why He gives me hope. It challenges me. And it turns an extremely mundane task, like chopping veg smaller to cook faster and save fuel, into an act of worship."
Ben Niblett, head of campaigns, Tearfund
Day 25: Offer to help
"Next time you pop into the corner shop or supermarket, keep an eye out for mumsor elderly people who are struggling with their shopping bags and offer to help them to their car, taxi or home. Taking just a few minutes out of our busy days and helping with a task we take for granted can often be such a great help to others."
Amelia Abplanalp, public policy officer, Evangelical Alliance
Day 26: Be generous
"Living with an open hand is a conscious decision and takes practice, but it's ultimately reflective of the generous God we love. God's kingdom is a dynamically powerful gift economy that never runs out. We can't out-give God, and when we're generous with our time, finances and talents, we transform ourselves as much as the person we give to."
Alexandra Khan, digital marketing executive, Stewardship
Day 27: Restore
"To 'restore' is to re-establish or bring back a previous practice or situation. Restored buildings can look breathtaking, and so too can restored relationships. In Lent, why not make the decision to restore relationships. Be bold enough to forgive failure - yours and others' - and take the first step to transforming communities by restoring relationships."
Katei Kirby, head of operations at Ruach City Church
Day 28: Show up
"Church: Show up early. Stay late and talk to a stranger. The body will only be effective when it starts to act like a body."
Hannah Malcolm, theology student at Cambridge University
Day 29: Reach out to key players
"Why not get some church leaders together to hold a breakfast for your civic leaders in your city/town/borough? Invite the key players, CEO and leaders of the council and there senior staff, head of police, health, housing associations, citizens advice, major charities, any key leaders of major businesses etc. Tell them you simply want to say thank you to them for all their work and to ask them if you can as churches support them in any way? See what happens. See what new relationships it creates. Whatever you do, do not ask them to do anything for you; you're there to thank them listen and serve them. This is what blessing the city means."
Roger Sutton leads Gather
Day 30: Provide community
"At the recent community consultation which we facilitated a number of great ideas were suggested from something as simple as smiling when walking around your neighbourhood, right through to setting up special interest groups. A ‘crafty knitting’ group was established a couple of years ago in Stockport and it has been a real lifeline for people with long-term health issues including depression. Another group was set up organising football for senior citizens. My charity, ROC, has set up more than 50 community-based projects across the UK including; ROC Homework clubs, ROC Restore (restorative justice neighbourhood panels), ROC Care luncheon clubs for the elderly and ROC Café youth clubs. Simple ideas which give people a safe place to meet and a community to belong to."
Debra Green, founder and director of Redeeming Our Communities
Day 31: Cross racial divides
“While we’ve come a long way in terms of racial equality, many of our churches and communities remain divided along ethnic lines. As the Church, we are called to radical diversity and godly hospitality. This Lent, why not try to be intentional about speaking to people or building relationships with people who don’t look like you?”
Yemi Adedeji, director, the Evangelical Alliance's One People Commission
Day 32: Be open and honest
"Allow your mask to drop enough for those around you to see the real 'you'. Stop pretending that you have everything 'together' and learn to be honest. That will encourage others to do the same and together you can learn how to support one another in an even deeper way."
Claire Musters writer, editor, pastor's wife and worship leader
Day 33: Lead
"Communities need leaders, and leaders are closer than you think. They’re working in politics, in the media, in education, in business, the arts, and anywhere responsibility is being taken. If the Church supports leaders in public life, if it trains and equips them and releases them to a ministry beyond the walls of the church building, then it is taking a vital step to transforming their community." Find out more at www.thepublicleader.com
Danny Webster, advocacy programme manager, Evangelical Alliance
Day 34: Start some stuff
"This Lent, share some ideas. Talk about injustice and imagine solutions. Practise seeing your streets, towns, cultures and structures and unfixed entities, canvases, shapable and changable. Have a meal with an ecclectic group of passionate people. Go around the table talking about social injustice and some answers. Join projects. Apply for funding. Start some stuff."
Miriam Skinner is one of the curators at the Alliance's threadsuk.com
Day 35: Be a Home for Good
“There are 6,000 children awaiting adoption and 9,000 foster carers needed in the UK. That’s 15,000 children who simply want somewhere to call home. As the Church, we are uniquely placed to be a support network to adoptive and foster families; and after all, looking after the widow and the orphan are what we are encouraged to do in James 1:27. So come on, Church, let’s rise to the challenge and find these children a Home for Good.”
Krish Kandiah, Home for Good, and executive director: churches in mission at the Evangelical Aliance
Day 36: Invite
"Invite people to church! With friendly folks from your church and with colourful invitations knock on doors. You'll be surprised how many people have been thinking about trying a church, but never getting around to it. You'll also be surprised by the closedness of others. But that's what happens when you "scatter the seed" - you discover the different soil types (Mark 4). Try it!"
Glen Scrivener, Revival Media
Day 37: Seize the opportunity
“Christ came to bring salvation to all nations. This amazing message of love is one that every culture, tribe and nation should have the opportunity to know about. This Lent we want to encourage believers to pray for opportunities to reach out to Asians in their local communities with the love Christ. This takes boldness and a willingness to step outside your comfort zones. Jesus met each of us where we were at and so this time provides a great way to relate and engage with Asian communities on a journey of discovering who Jesus really is. The new course Discovering Jesus Through Asian Eyes has been created to help you do this.”
Kizzy Horner, project manager, South Asian Forum
Day 38: Admire sacrifice
"Lent is about sacrifice. What is a sacrifice? As Holy Week hots up, spend time admiring the sacrifice of Jesus - who went from highest heaven, to the pain of being forsaken by his Father for us. Jesus acted out of a deep desire to glorify God, to love and save us. Our king was crowned with thorns. Repent, believe, follow."
Ed Mayhew, Making Faces Comedy
Day 39: Carry the presence
"We know a healing, redeeming, death-to-life God and He chooses to dwell in us - His followers. We carry the presence of this divine healer. Taking a moment at least daily to connect, to ask God to fill you with this shalom presence transforms our interactions: wherever you place your foot, wherever your eyes rest, whoever you are talking to - the game-changing presence of Jesus, of grace, can flow out from you. That presence is powerful. Our world and day-to-day lives sometimes groan with unutterable suffering: go and be present, carry the presence, sit with those who suffer to soothe and usher in resurrection."
Sara Hyde works with, and campaigns on, women in the criminal justice system
Day 40: Say thank you!
"Take two pieces of paper. On the first write a thank you letter to God. Think about the death and resurrection of Christ. What did Jesus go through for you? What hope does his resurrection bring you for the situations you face today? Don’t rush this... it’s important to thank God! Take the second piece of paper and write a thank you note to someone in your life. It might be someone who is often overlooked, someone you have taken for granted. It might be someone you don’t particularly get on with... even someone who has hurt you. Ask God to help you to see them with God’s eyes in light of the Cross and Resurrection. Find things that you are thankful for in them, if you need to, tell them you’re sorry or that you forgive them. Feel the challenge it is to do this. It can feel like something is dying in us as we move beyond our comfort zone. It’s a gift we offer in light of God’s HUGE gift to us. Let love win and resurrection start today!"
Reverend Sally Hitchiner is senior chaplain and faith advisor at Brunel University, London