It quickly became apparent during our one-hour conversation that Tim’s heart for children, which he clearly had when he founded Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) almost 20 years ago, burns with the same degree of passion today. So, it comes as no surprise that the 2018 winner of the Change Maker of the Year award is committed to sharing with fellow Christians how God is transforming the lives of children who desperately need to know that they are loved.

What does TLG do?

Our team of trained church-based volunteers carry Jesus into the lives of children who struggle with school owing to the tough circumstances they face. The common scenario we come across is the breakdown of family life: mum and dad no longer living in the same house. The impact on a child is vast, and their sense of safety and wellbeing is jeopardised.

So, in collaboration with schools and local churches, we run three programmes: education centres for teenagers who are excluded from school; an early intervention programme that supports pupils who are at risk of being excluded by offering them contact time (an hour a week); and our Make Lunch scheme, which provides food for children who go hungry during the school holidays.


Our programmes build and support children’s emotional wellbeing, helping them to stay connected to school and home life, which is the beginning of a relationship with a family that enables us to introduce them to their local church.

What motivated you to set up TLG?

TLG began when I was a volunteer at a church in Bradford, West Yorkshire. We opened a youth club and a crowd of local young people came. There I met 12-year-old Lewis, who lived with his mum, her boyfriend and his siblings in a small house on a council estate, where there was often a lack of money and food, and life was typically chaotic. As a result, he found school difficult.

When Lewis was 15, we became aware that he wasn’t going to school, so we spoke with his school and staff agreed to allow our volunteers to help him in his education, to encourage him back into school. We connected his whole family into the wider support of the church, as part of the assistance we offered. Gradually, he reengaged with school life, sat some exams, and went on to get a job. Lewis’ school said, We’ve got so many youngsters like him,” and asked how we could help. TLG was born. We will have been going 20 years next year.

God has taken us on an amazing journey over the past 19 years, from helping just one young person in Bradford to a network of education centres in partnership with churches across the country, and we have helped thousands of children and their families to date. Today, each of our education centres is registered and inspected by Ofsted. Schools make a referral to a local church for a package of support. 

The church will then assign trained church-based volunteers, who (for the Early Intervention programme, for example) go into schools to meet with pupils for an hour a week. They spend that hour supporting the children through some of the issues and challenges they face, and make a connection with home, which helps to foster better relationships between the family and the school. The volunteer also introduces the family to the local church.

Why is the church sharing in the responsibility to provide education?

Matthew 19:14 reads: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.” We’ve got to see that whilst our instinct might be other challenges and people, Jesus said the kingdom belongs to children; He has elevated their importance. So, we ask ourselves, what would Jesus’ response be to a child who is alone?

TLG is enabling the church to respond to some of the most significant incidents of social injustice of our time. The scale of vulnerable children who are faced with school exclusion and holiday hunger is epidemic – exclusion and hunger are growing faster than ever before.

How bad are conditions for the most vulnerable children around the UK?

The stats are shocking. More than four million children are growing up in relative poverty – up 100,000 in the last year. One in three parents on a low income skip meals to feed their children during the school breaks, making 13 weeks of holidays a massive burden on families – children and their families are going hungry! Over the past 12 months, 422,910 exclusions have been given to children in secondary school, which affect more than 200,000 different children across the UK.

The social injustice is heart-wrenching. Poor children are four times more likely to be excluded. The system should make adjustments for those who face the biggest challenges at home, because they have huge additional needs, but the opposite is true. Those who are identified as having specific needs are nine times more likely to be excluded. How can that be fair and just?

Add to this, 25,765 primary aged children have been excluded from school in England alone, an increase of 11 per cent in a year. Children who struggle in primary school are much more likely to become excluded from school. And the lasting effects are real: two thirds of the prison population were excluded from school, and so were 88 per cent of offenders. This issue is enormous, it’s growing, and it discriminates against people who need the most help.

Why is now a good time for the church to step in and be part of the solution?

There are great teachers doing a fantastic job, and we admire the difference they’re making to the lives of children. Unfortunately, though, a system that was designed to support integration isn’t working. Take pupil referral units, for example: these centres have become a destination for children, who end up outside mainstream education for years.

Public resources are scarce, but there’s still a choice about where we spend the money. In times of austerity, often it is the prevention and enrichment that is the first to go. We see this as a golden opportunity for the local church to serve struggling children and their parents and to connect with a school. It’s a three-way partnership: church, school, home. And the amazing difference that the church is making is saving the country a lot of money.

How do you make the government aware of the cracks that TLG is seeing in the education system?

We speak to the government and the media about the plights of the most vulnerable
children in our country. We challenge a system that accepts exclusion. When it comes to excluding a child, MPs talk about protecting the needs of other pupils. But, even if an education setting isn’t right for a child, the word exclusion denotes rejection. 

So, the child, who has likely already experienced rejection, and has had their fair share of relationship trauma, is rejected again. Relationship is the key to children’s wellbeing.
Therefore, our message to government and the system is: no child should be excluded!

Whose story stands out to you the most?

Ten-year-old Ruby had frequent meltdowns at the thought of leaving year 6 for secondary school, so her mum, Emma, got in touch with us. Through our Early Intervention programme, a volunteer from the local church, Jo, helped Ruby transition to year 7 successfully. Ruby started secondary school and has so far done brilliantly. She was made a prefect in her first year.

What’s more, we introduced Emma, a single parent, to her local church – a place of support, where the family can go and enjoy adventure weekends, together time’, and hear God’s heart for family and His love for us. After accepting Christ, Emma shared: I knew God was saying, I have a plan for you; Emma you are going to be alright.’ The depression and anxiety were lifted from me. It was as if a great weight had been taken off my shoulders.”

How can more local churches help?

There’s need everywhere, because families and children struggle everywhere. Wherever
there’s a church and a school, there’s an opportunity for a TLG programme to make a difference. It’s exciting to see the way that God is stirring up His church to bring Jesus and His love and compassion to these children and families. We are seeing more than a church a week signing up to a TLG programme, to be trained and equipped to serve struggling children in their community. Of course, the more churches that work with us, the more children and families we can help, so we encourage you to find our more.