A Cinnamon Social Action Audit was instrumental in building unity between churches in Gainsborough and opening opportunities for partnerships beyond the faith community.
Many of us can relate to the challenges faced by John and Judi Swannack, who lead Alive Church in Gainsborough.
“On your own as a faith group it’s very difficult to get into the places that you need to get order to secure grants, funding, or even to be able to deliver the services that you know you would love to”,” explains Judi.
Faced with closed doors, the couple began reaching out to the other churches and faith groups in their community. That in itself highlighted fresh challenges, they’d not considered.
“We realised that, when we met with other churches, there was a lot of cross over in community involvement,” continues John. “Some of those groups were duplicating their community work and sometimes to the detriment of each other.”
Unsure how to progress – the couple reached out to Cinnamon to see if running a Social Action Audit could help them get a grip on the extent of social action being carried out by faith groups.
The benefits became evident even before the first piece of data had been gathered.
As they began to propose the idea of running an Audit in the community, Judi and John spent a considerable amount of time meeting with other leaders. Conversations on the phone, chats over coffee, emails and texts were exchanged.
It was time well spent as the couple not only shared their vision, but also listened to the heart that others had for the community.
“We used it as a vehicle for collaboration between churches and as a way to pull the faith groups together in the town and build relationships,” says John. “We’ve seen a great development in that so now we’ve got a Churches Together group and we meet regularly.”
Audit made easy
Once others were on board, then came the practical matter of getting people to actually enter their data into the Audit.
Over the past few years, Cinnamon have been working with church leaders, activists and computer developers to make data gathering as stress-free as possible. Church and project leaders are asked to enter information on the number and type of social action projects they are involved with.
Alongside this, data on the number of people they support and the number of volunteers who give their time is also collected. It’s a lot of information, but once information about the faith groups has been entered into the system – it really takes care of itself!
“The online element really did help,” confirms John. “Once we got it set up and sent out the emails – the fact that people could do it online and it didn’t take a long time – it really did help.”
The results speak for themselves
And the results really took care of themselves. When faced with the quantitative data, it was clear where there were gaps in provision, where there was duplication and where there was little or no partnership working.
This was all evidence that faith leaders and others were keen to explore!
“When we had our launch evening, it was the first time in the history of the town that all the senior leaders of the faith groups and teams were in the same building,” confirms John.
Joining those faith leaders were representatives from local businesses, local authorities, the NHS and other agencies working in the town. Many of whom had little or no connection with faith groups.
“That was quite monumental spiritually, because where there is unity, God will command his blessing. We felt very powerfully that there was something that shifted, and the Audit and the process were the catalyst,” confirms John.
“We’ve had conversations with people we never would have. It’s connected us with people outside of our own spheres and helped us pull together people, meetings, and opportunities, which has been wonderful.”
Change, on the back of the Audit, is already taking place!
Where there was duplication, in terms of food banks, there is now unity and a pooling of resources. Where there was a lack of provision, in terms of youth work, partnerships are forming.
“We realise that for the young people in the town, faith groups aren’t going to be the sole answer,” explains John. “The launch of the Audit in November has raised the profile and we’re working with councilors as to how we can utilise the volunteers within the town to help and support the work the council are doing.”
To boost the activity, the town has also received a £10 million grant from the government’s leveling-up fund. It’s unclear, as yet, how that will be spent. But the Audit will ensure it is spent well.