If you’re hoping for a bright dawn after the dark night of Covid, you’re mistaken. There is no glorious sunrise but rather a murky twilight. Within this gloom the church needs to shine brightly.

On the back of the recent budget, research from the New Economics Foundation predicts that the poorest fifth of all households will be worse off this year despite the chancellor’s decision to partly reverse cuts to universal credit. 

The report makes grim reading, but the reality could be even worse. Pain and struggle are rarely captured accurately in economic data alone. If you need more convincing, take a look at these stats:

  • The number of adults in England feeling lonely has been increasing since 2017 and in the last year jumped by 44 per cent. 
  • Action on Addiction saw an 86 per cent rise in the number of people seeking help in January 2021 compared with January 2020.
  • Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for online advice on divorce and ending a relationship.

We’ll stop there, but you get the picture. Things are tough. 


What has the church got to offer?

If there is one positive trend from the last 18 months, it’s been the response of the church. As Mike Royal, Co-CEO of Cinnamon Network put it, When people have no food they don’t go to their local authorities, they go to churches.”

Churches have already stepped up their efforts and a University of York report suggests that, as we look to the future, church networks are increasingly important to the future wellbeing of our communities.

Now let’s pause for a moment to consider the wording here. It’s not churches”, or church projects”, but church networks” that are identified – and that’s significant. Churches may run food banks, parenting groups or provide debt support, but the truth is they never operate in isolation.

Community is key

Back in 2018, Cinnamon Network published a report with the support of Allchurches Trust on the role that churches play in supporting the health sector.

It concluded that it was the broader community provided by churches that really helped sustain individuals as they made positive progress. Being valued as part of a group of people is extremely powerful.

As John Stott so eloquently put it, the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community.” Churches are communities and it is within communities that we flourish.

However, when it comes to supporting those who are experiencing debt, domestic abuse, or a mental health crisis, we need to tread carefully. Good intent, even within the context of a supportive community, is not always good enough.

Partner with those who have expertise

Another trend witnessed throughout the pandemic has been the explosion of partnership working. Of the churches surveyed in the Church Urban Fund Church in Action’ report

, 28 per cent said they are now working more closely with local authorities, and 27 per cent said they are now working more closely with local charities. It’s a trend that Cinnamon Network and Allchurches Trust are looking to accelerate.

Back in 2016, a Baptist minister named Ruth Rice pitched an idea for a social franchise that would enable churches to replicate a wellbeing café to support those in the community suffering with mental health. She received funding to take part in the Cinnamon Incubator – a two-year programme where she received training, support, coaching and connections to help her set up the franchise programme. 

Fast forward five years and, as Ruth says, Renew Wellbeing is now a national charity with over 200 churches joining in to open spaces to see wellbeing renewed in communities. This started with the Cinnamon Incubator competition where I had to pitch to get funding. I’m so glad I did.”

Renew Wellbeing is not an isolated project, it’s one of numerous Cinnamon Recommended Projects that are helping churches to respond with expertise and professionalism to real needs in their communities.

New initiatives for a new future

Through a new partnership, Cinnamon Network and Allchurches Trust are coming together again to accelerate the growth of five more initiatives that can help churches respond to emerging needs in their communities. The five new projects address topics of: wellbeing and self-esteem; financial security; addiction; suicide; and support for those with learning disabilities.

Over the course of the next two years, these initiatives, which have already proven to be effective in a handful of locations, will get the support and investment they need to grow through churches across the country.

If we as churches want to burn brightly in our communities and not be a passing flicker, we need to look for ways we can support our communities well. No church has the answer to all their community’s problems, but by partnering with organisations who can help bridge the gap, we can create networks that will be a blessing to our communities now and in the future.

Get involved

Check out Cinnamon Network’s list of recommended projects for churches. These offer best practice, tried and tested initiatives that churches can replicate easily and quickly.