"Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." This is a sentiment that is attributed to the former American President Theodore Roosevelt. It may not have been originally associated with the church, but it’s been a driving force for us in our work locally, especially through The Shed Project.

The gospel is the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. As with any good news, it is worth sharing, even more so when people struggle with their own sense of bad news about themselves. When people are left to make up their own mind about God, especially in a more religious setting, they tend to view Him negatively. God can be known more for what He’s against than for what He’s for. As a result, they are reluctant to want to know Him or experience His love.

In order for us at Martin’s Memorial Church in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, to share the good news, we had to make God’s love more real, visible and tangible. Like God the Father did with His Son (John 1:14), we needed to put flesh and bones on our message about His love and our love for people. That’s the heart and vision behind The Shed Project. Our vision was to move from being a one day a week service church’ to being a seven day a week serving church’. We needed to show and share God’s love in such a way that even if a person never came through the doors of our or any other church, they would have the opportunity of encountering His love through His people.

All of our community work, including The Shed Project, runs under the ethos of No Strings Attached!’ We don’t have a hidden agenda or an ulterior motive in looking to journey with people in their lives. We believe Jesus led by example for us in this respect in the way He fed the 5,000. Before He fed the crowd, He didn’t ask who went to a synagogue (church) or who was ready to commit to following Him. He simply saw a large crowd, had compassion on them, as they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and fed them (Mark 6:34). This expression of God’s love was real, practical and tangible.


God has commissioned us to love people in similar ways, to have compassion on them, and in His name to show them care and offer support. Our goal is not to get more people in church; our goal is to let people know they have been made in God’s image and that He loves them. If they want to know more about our faith, then we gladly share the good news with them and tell them that God has a better and brighter future for them (Jeremiah 29:11).

One of the unique aspects of the work of The Shed is that it is both youth and community focused. For example, we run drop-ins for those with current or former challenges with alcohol and drugs, a playgroup for parents and toddlers, a monthly meet-up’ for dads, grandads and male guardians and their toddlers, and an extensive youth programme. And this is to name just a few of our initiatives.

The Shed is already having a positive effect on individuals. A young woman was due in court. She was fully expecting to have to go away at Her Majesty’s pleasure. On appearing before the judge, she was found guilty but was given a deferred sentence. She was bewildered and even fearful about her next steps. Where would she go? What would she do?

Her social worker could see this and was reluctant to leave her. After a few moments the social worker came up with the solution. She invited the young woman to come with her to her car, and to The Shed. She knew that this would be a safe place for her. Not only that, but she had already found community and acceptance there, and the social worker knew she would find a safe place that provided the support she needed.

On another occasion, during Impact one Sunday morning, one of the leaders was called to the main door, where a policeman was waiting. It transpired that a concerned mother had contacted the police after waking up on Sunday morning to discover that her young teenage son was not in the house. She panicked as she had no idea where he was. The police managed to contact the friends of the young lad. One of them mentioned The Shed and how their pal would often go there. The policeman gave a description of the lad and sure enough he was upstairs with Impact.

The leader suggested to the policeman that she would gladly go and get the boy for them, to which the policeman replied No – it’s okay. Leave him where he is. If he’s got himself out of bed and here this morning, he obviously wants to be here and is benefitting from it. We’ll contact his mother to reassure her that we’ve found him and that he’s okay, and that we’ll drop him off in due course. When do you finish so that we’ll call round to collect him?”

The policeman went on to say that he had heard about The Shed and because he was aware of the great work we were doing in the community, he was happy to leave the lad at Impact with his friends. Our community know that we care.

Small beginnings

The Shed Project began some 13 years ago when I came to be minister of Martin’s Memorial Church. I was aware of needs in our community, but I was also aware that the church was somewhat blind and even oblivious to such need.

God began to speak to me about showing His love to people in practical ways. I read the book Conspiracy of Kindness – A unique approach of sharing the love of Jesus by Steve Sjogren and saw how an important aspect of the ministry of Jesus was expressing the love of God in practical ways.

In response to this we ran our first ever Giving Tree’ initiative. We contacted social services (social work, homelessness, alcohol and drug partnership, etc) in our community and asked them to provide us with the basic details of individuals they were working with (such as single man in his 40s / single mum with two young children). 

We then attached these basic details to a Christmas tree in our church and invited our people to take a card from the tree with the basic information and go and purchase gifts with a value of £5 – 10 and return the gift to the church with the card attached. This enabled us to give the gifts to the social services who then distributed them to their service users.

This opened the eyes of our people to the very real needs that were on our doorstep and opened their hearts to have compassion on those in our community who faced struggles in their lives. It let our people know that if we worked together, we could do something about this and make a difference in the lives of people around us. Were it not for the Giving Tree it is unlikely that The Shed Project would have been established.

This tells me that a project like The Shed can be replicated in any community. Start small, start where you are, start with that you have, and watch God do great things. Let your community see what God looks like, regardless of whether or not they ever go to church. One of the greatest compliments we’ve had about our work came from a community leader who commented, The Shed is helping put something fresh on the face of the church.” Why don’t you do the same where you are?