Big Society, Big Mission

Recently I attended a seminar entitled ‘Big Society, Big Mission’, organised by the Central Baptist Association and presented by Geoff Colmer & Helen Wordsworth. On reflection, it was very light on Big Society info (as is the government!) and so focussed on Big Mission. Nothing ground breaking, but a useful challenge and some Holy prompts along the way for me and my context.

What follows are my sketchy notes of the content as presented, and thoughts which arose during the session.

The Big Society is a Conservative idea with its roots in, among others, the Centre for Social Justice & and the thinking of Benjamin Disraeli. Many of the people involved in the continued efforts to shape and develop the concept & practice are Christians of many persuasions.

Details are very difficult to come by, but the working definition shared was of: social action, public service reform and community empowerment.

The government have identified four areas in which to trial the Big Society implementation: & Tendring. Liverpool was originally one of the areas but has recently pulled out stating the incompatibility of the budget cuts and the Big Society agenda – Tendring have taken their place.  Each trial area is to appoint a Community Organiser who will be assisted by a Civil Servant.  Their tasks will include devolving budgets to ‘street level’, open source planning & delivering (presumably commissioning) broadband services.

Part of the Big Society plan is to develop a new Community Bank to which communities & groups will be able to apply for funding for their initiatives & services. However, it has been pointed out that due to the budget cuts, the new bank will already have less on the books than is currently given to third sector organisations.

How do Churches fit in?

Currently it can be difficult for Churches & faith groups to gain access to funding due to their faith connections – many funders are reluctant to support them.  It was suggested that under the Big Society ‘model’ the ‘door is ajar’ for faith groups to seek funding: ‘faith will not be a bar to community involvement’ – Eric Pickles, MP [1, 2]

Malcolm Duncan, formerly of FaithWorks, has said that the Big Society represents a once in a generation moment for Churches, and that we must grab it with both hands; he suggested that if we did not, future generations will look back and wonder what on earth we were thinking (no source provided for this quote).

At this point we were asked to share some of the activities/projects our Churches are currently involved in which are practical expressions of the Big Society and its community involvement aspiration. These included dyslexia support groups, debt & budgeting groups, credit unions, conversational English classes and many more.

It was playfully suggested that getting involved in the Big Society means that we’re bailing out the government, and therefore why should we get involved? Wouldn’t it be a distraction to our core mission? This led onto discussions around the relationship of faith & social action: can you get involved in these opportunities & preach the Gospel?

Mention was made of the book ‘Saving Souls, Serving Society’, which provides 15 studies of US churches and discusses the idea of building both social & spiritual capital.

There followed some discussion about mission generally, and the theological imperative; being both evangelistic & serving society, and the connection between the two: [here my notes get even more sketchy]

Williams Carey – ‘using means for the conversion of heathens

References: Matt 28:19-20, Genesis 12:1-3, Psalm 24:1,

The Mission of God – Christopher Wright (Langham Partnership)

  • mission is God’s grand narrative
  • a God of mission chooses a people of mission
  • Abraham to Jesus – then through the disciples
  • the mission of God: not ‘where does God fit into our world?’ but ‘where does our life fit?’
  • God’s big story combines both social action & evangelism

Using the metaphor of a river with Christians on one bank and non-Christians on the other, we considered how we could seek & create opportunities for engagement, and looked at a few different methods of ‘crossing the river’. [This time included some questions for reflection, and time for discussion in small groups offering the chance to apply the principles to our own contexts – I didn’t capture all of this detail…]

Firstly, building a bridge, which takes time and a lot of effort & resources, and is usually built from both sides.

  • So what could we do to build bridges with those outside the church?
  • What bridges of communication with people on the other bank already exist and how could they be better used?
  • Who might walk across the bridges which already exist?
  • Who are the best Church people to be on those bridges and how can we release them to be there?

Secondly, find a ferry, an existing crossing (opportunity) which you can use to reach the other side. It was suggested that Chaplaincy services (to schools, shops, workplaces, geographical areas) might be existing opportunities. If you have health professionals or language/music teacher in your church, you might find ways to use them. Perhaps we could even deliberately using public transport more often in order to intentionally engage with people in the community.

Thirdly, place some stepping stones.  Recognising that the gap between the Church and those outside it is too big to cross in one leap, what stepping stones can we intentionally place between the two sides to assist them? We need to make sure the stepping stones are aligned appropriately for each group/opportunity.

Fourthly, build a raft. Create a new opportunity using the resources available – so working in partnership with other groups & organisations, what service could we provide which will meet the needs of our community? Are there people on the other bank who we can engage as helpers in the new project?

Links which may be helpful (or not!):

Ten Commandments Rewritten

Just seen this version of the 10 Commandments, rewritten for kids:

  1. Put God First: God is number one, everything else comes second.
  2. Nothing else is more important than God
  3. Don’t say ‘God’ when you don’t mean it
  4. Have a restful day – chillaxing every week
  5. Respect. Treat adults how you would like to be treated.
  6. Don’t hurt anybody
  7. Stick together/look after your friends
  8. Don’t take from anyone without permission
  9. Always tell the truth. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t want something others have got.

There’s another version posted there too.

Prezi Reflections

I put this short presentation together to assist & encourage the Amicus members to reflect on the last year. If you’ve not tried Prezi, give it a go. It’s a simple yet sophisticated new approach to presentations. Don’t take my word for it though, check out some of the popular presentations which have been created using the tool.

Issues with Tweetdeck for iPhone

Over the last year my use of Twitter has developed from simply geek-chic & vanity, to it being a genuinely useful tool for my work/ministry & interests.  I’ve connected with a huge number of people around the country (and some further afield) who have shared resources, experiences & conversations which have been of great value.  As my Twitter use has developed, I’ve had to find appropriate tools to keep up with everything.

For a long time I used Twhirl on my desktop for multiple accounts, and it served me well, but was lacking in some areas.  So I moved to Tweetdeck and have been very happy with it as a desktop client. Unfortunately it is let down by some hugely frustrating issues with its sister app for the iPhone.

The biggest issue is its instability: it crashes up to four times a day with very little pattern or consistency.  The only consistent crash is when I try to ‘unfavourite’ a tweet – when it dies every time.

But there are areas of functionality which drive me crazy and make it almost unusable.  When returning to the app (either via the Home screen or the Multitask bar) it re-starts the app rather than returning to its previous state:

  • all previously unread tweets are marked as read
  • the interface scrolls to top of tweets and so losing your place in the timeline
  • if you open a tweet and follow a link then open it in Safari, returning to the app loses your place (as above)
  • if you scroll down the tweet list, slide across to a different column, then back, and it’s scrolled back to the top

When introducing the multitasking functions of IOS4, the Apple website saysApps can remember where you left off. So when you return to the app, you can jump right back into […] whatever you were doing.‘ This seems to have completely passed by the developers of Tweetdeck.

Also, if you tap on a tweet, then the user’s profile, then the ‘recent tweets’ tab, you can’t interact with those tweets in the way you can with the main timeline (add favourites, etc)

There are a couple of areas of functionality which seriously lacking:

  • there is no landscape mode when viewing tweets or webpages (pretty fundamental error)
  • there is no option to schedule tweets (unlike the desktop interface)

Other than that, it’s a nice product ;o) but I’m afraid I’m no longer using the app – instead I’m trying Hootsuite for iPhone.

Do you have any Twitter app recommendations? Share them below…

Bookmarks for November 18th to November 19th

These are the links I’ve bookmarked recently on Delicious [November 18th to November 19th]:

Bring the Christmas Story Alive

Introducing the Natwivity (Twitter Nativity)

This Christmas, parents and grandparents will attend their childrens’ schools to watch their miniature shepherds, angels and inn keepers perform the Nativity story. This traditional retelling remains a huge part of Christmas in the UK and, for many, will be the only time they hear the Christmas message.

But many others – particularly those in their teens, 20s and 30s who are yet to have children – won’t have this opportunity. This is the internet generation, and although they are unlikely to cross the threshold of a school, they do spend a considerable amount of their time online.

The Natwivity (the Twitter Nativity) takes advantage of social media’s unparalleled capacity to engage people as they go about their everyday life to re-tell the Christmas story in a fresh, personal way. Available on Twitter and Facebook, people will be able to pick up the ‘tweets’ online in their homes, in the high street using their phones and at work.

The Natwivity will give this famous story an immediate, real-life feel, transforming them from people 2,000 years ago to friends of the user, who are going through the drama now. Followers will be able to read Mary’s angst as she tries to come to terms with the birth of her child, and hear from the stunned shepherds after their encounter with an angel.

Each 140-character entry will be a thought or comment from Mary, Joseph, collective wisemen and shepherds, with further entries from Herod, an Inn Keeper (and his wife) and friends of Mary and Joseph.

The project aims to…

  • Reinforce the story of Christmas
  • Allow the 21st century audience to engage with the story in a new way
  • Create a space for Christians during a cluttered time of the year to remember the story
  • Create a way for Christians to engage their friends with the story in a thought-provoking, yet fun way

What Now?

Bookmarks for November 17th to November 18th

These are the links I’ve bookmarked recently on Delicious [November 17th to November 18th]:

Bookmarks for October 26th to November 4th

These are the links I’ve bookmarked recently on Delicious [October 26th to November 4th]:

  • Milton Keynes Safeguarding Childrens Board – Milton Keynes Safeguarding Children Board (MKSCB) is a statutory multi-agency group of senior managers which has been set up as part of the Every Child Matters reforms, and requires all organisations that work with children to co-operate to keep children safe from harm.

    The MKSCB agrees how local services and professionals should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

    At the heart of establishing the MKSCB is the desire to provide useful information and a user-friendly tool that will aid professionals, volunteers, children, young people, and their families to ensure safeguarding is everyone's business.

  • 500 Internal Server Error – 500 Internal Server Error
  • ‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Ditches Scientology – New York News – "I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology."

Bookmarks for October 20th to October 24th

These are the links I’ve bookmarked recently on Delicious [October 20th to October 24th]:

  • 500 Internal Server Error – 500 Internal Server Error
  • Voluntary Sector Gateway MK | VOLUNTARY SECTOR GATEWAY MK – Managed and developed by Milton Keynes Council of Voluntary Organisations this website is where you can find out about about voluntary and community activity in Milton Keynes.
  • everystockphoto – searching free photos – a search engine for free photos. These come from many sources and are license-specific. You can view a photo's license by clicking on the license icon, below and left of photos. Membership is free, without advertising, and allows you to rate, tag, collect and comment on photos.