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Christ Church Community Services, Bridlington

Christ Church Bridlington seeks to help people to get to know God, and then grow in their calling and discipleship. Clear, practical teaching of Biblical truth is foundational. Christ Church seeks to help the poor, the downtrodden, and the broken-hearted. This is why Christ Church Community Services runs a range of community projects. In the last thirty years, the church has grown and changed significantly. Worship patterns have changed, new congregations have been planted, a network of churches has been established and new ministries begun including Alpha and Pastoral Support.

Christ Church set up Christ Church Community Services (CCS) in 1993. It emerged from mother and toddler groups seeking to help families in Bridlington. A whole raft of different projects gradually developed aiming to stand alongside parents and children. More recently a new aim emerged to help people back into work and to this end, the Key Centre was built and a Practical Skills Team came into being.

Origins

The initial impetus came from our observation of the high levels of deprivation in our town. CCS started in 1993 as a separate charity providing a vehicle for community work by the church in the community but one which was separate for management and accounting purposes which would enable clarity of operation and create a better vehicle for funding applications. The need for this work was first realised by observation and talking to the people we met. This was then supplemented using Census and deprivation statistics. Each of our projects has developed as a logical progression from a previous one. We considered the church’s capacity to meet that need in terms of skills and resources. We have always held the view that we cannot expand beyond what our church membership is capable of supporting either financially, prayerfully or practically (although we have pushed the limits a few times!). There has been a gradual development of projects each based on experience gained in previous projects.

The objectives of CCS are:

1. To advance the Christian religion through promotion of the gospel of Christ.
2. To provide facilities for recreation or other leisure time occupation in the interest of social welfare for the benefit of the inhabitants of Bridlington and of the towns and villages within the Diocese of York (the area of benefit) with the object of improving the conditions of the life of those persons.
3. To relieve need and relieve poverty in the area of benefit.
4. To advance education in the area of benefit.
5. To promote any charitable purpose for the benefit of inhabitants of the area of benefit.

Activities

CCS runs a wide range of community projects including:

· The Key Centre was purpose built in 2006 with the aim of seeking to help young people get into employment. It has a number of rooms available for room hire, including small interview rooms, 3 IT Suites, and a seminar lounge capable of seating 25-60 people. Laptops (with broad band and Wi-Fi wireless connection), data projectors, whiteboards and screens are all included in the rental price.

· Adult Learning in the Key Centre gives access to a wide range of courses with easy to follow course materials and support from tutors. Courses, subject to inspection by Ofsted, are also offered in partnership with Humber Learning Consortium.

· Practical Skills aims to help people back into the routine of work by having structured supervised activity. The strategy is to provide mentors and opportunities for placements which involve learning on the job with training alongside courses which aim to help personal and skill development. Each person has had the chance to experience a variety of work activities from gardening to painting in church to hard landscaping in the new garden behind the Key Centre. At the beginning of 2007, the Practical Skills Team began to turn this piece of derelict land into a garden with the help of many people contributing their professional skills. Trainees come from a variety of sources: Action4employment, the Probation Service and Doorstep. Volunteers from the church have helped on a supervisory basis. Practical Skills is not primarily about getting the job done, though some excellent work has been carried out. The main task is to help people feel at ease and get used to a work environment. Working with people is also an excellent means of befriending men who would normally have no contact with the Church.

· Children and family projects include play activities for babies and toddlers and a project for mums and babies and expectant mothers. Noah’s Ark Day Care Nursery is registered for 20 children aged 6 months up to 5 years. The Nursery is held in a purpose built building with an enclosed outside play area with a garden with fruit trees and abundant wildlife. There is a separate outside play area for under 2s. The pre-school provision is open for children 2 to 5 years of age. Todz Shop sells good quality second hand baby clothes, baby equipment and toys for 0-5’s.

· Doorstep operates as a Drop-In for people with accommodation or benefit issues and is available Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays between 11 and 12 Noon in the Key Centre. It is heavily reliant on the input of capable and reliable volunteers. Many of the sleeping bags, hats and gloves are bought but the Doorstep tub in church also receives a steady flow of donations of clothing and food. Costs are kept as low as possible by sourcing some foodstuffs from the charity Real Aid which acquires end of line products and only charges for transport from Hull but food bags still cost about £2 each. In 2009, there were 532 calls resulting in 15 sleeping bags as well as other clothing and 304 bags of food being given out. By the end of March 2011 we’ve already had 131 calls and given 10 sleeping bags and 73 bags of food. There are no hostels in the area but good working relationship with both the Council and a Housing Support organisation mean that homeless people get accommodation via these links. Coffee and prayer are on offer to all who come and a person can get a bag of food once a week and also information including other places where people can get a meal, such as once a week at Open Doors.

· Christ Church Open Doors Gospel Fellowship has a remit to have a place for the homeless to have a meal and hear the Gospel. ‘Open Doors’ was never intended to be a drop in place, but rather a fellowship. It exists to bring people into the fellowship of the church. It is a place where all are welcome. “We find people cannot respond to God’s love unless they experience it.” Between 20 - 30 regulars including 10 helpers attend regularly. Some have moved on and are now members of other churches.

· Christ Church Furniture Store was set up to give away top quality second hand furniture, including suites, wardrobes, tables and chairs, beds, bookshelves, white goods and televisions, to those in need and to sustain the project by selling what remained. Last year there were donations and deliveries of free furniture, crockery, cutlery and bedding etc to over 148 homes/families. In addition, over 6,000 collections and deliveries resulting in the movement of a further 173 tonnes of donated goods and sold items. Removals are also offered for a charge: over 110 removals in one year, both within Bridlington and further afield. There were over 50 clearances, ranging form a single item to full house clearances. This activity provides paid employment for 5 people and 15 work experience placements.

Alongside this the Parochial Church Council runs:

· Counselling by trained and accredited counsellors;
· Courses to teach counselling to others;
· An Action team - clearing litter hotspots in the town centre.

Management

CCS is a charitable company limited by guarantee. The CCS Board comprises the vicar, church wardens and up to nine members voted for by the members of the company and whoever the board wishes to co-opt to develop the business of CCS. Membership of the company is only open to members of the PCC, though not all take up the invitation. Their only involvement as members of the company is at the AGM and presentation of accounts.

Leadership

The main leadership has come from the Vicar (and Chairman) and the Projects Director.

Resources

Resources for getting started included:

· the church hall;
· funding gained through numerous funding applications;
· the time of about 10 volunteers.

Currently the resources include:

· multiple premises – church buildings and additional new build buildings;

· funding through a substantial amount of grant aid, a significant amount from contracts and charges, a modest amount of rental income but only minimal amounts from donations or church giving (though there is giving in kind for the work with homeless people);

· the time of about 50 volunteers. The financial value of the volunteer time (calculated on the basis of paying the minimum wage) is approximately £312,000 p.a.

No non-financial support is received from other local or national organisations and there is no perceived need for any. CSS works very closely with Christ Church PCC though the two are separate for management and financial purposes.

Success Factors

We measure our success by:

· feedback from clients;
· numbers attending projects;
· feedback from statutory agencies;
· inspections by various outside bodies (Ofsted, etc);
· awards.

The key success factors have been

· providing top quality projects.
· highly trained and motivated staff.
· focus on Christian mission.
· close engagement and working relationships with statutory authorities.

Barriers

The main barrier has been money. The availability of funding is always less than the scope of our vision.

The challenges and opportunities for the future

A very significant proportion of our income comes through sub-contracting provision of training contracts from larger training agencies. The ‘profit’ from this area of work helps sustain the charity as a whole. Recent changes in the way the contracts have been awarded means that currently our training operation is in jeopardy. The challenge is to bring in other training contracts as soon as possible to keep the charity financially viable.


Andy Jefferson
http://www.christchurchbridlington.com/