Lessons from HS2 for Online Community Building

Four years ago my life split apart at the seams, along with the lives of 200 other families on the estate that I lived.  Emotions ran high.   Anger and fear and sadness.  Some people hid in their homes.  Others sought out solace in those around them.  News crews swarmed and reported and blew out of proportion.  What would happen in the end?  Nobody really knew.  But I knew that if we were going to get through it, we had to pull together.

The news of HS2 coming through the estate where I lived happily brought so many similar things to what society as a whole is feeling today as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.  Yes it was on a much smaller scale, and the outcomes are very different.  No-one was going to die of HS2, and nobody was stock piling toilet paper!  But the feelings that it brought were very similar.

I decided that standing out on the street and crying wasn’t the most helpful of reactions, and instead set up a Residents Facebook Group.  We needed to be community, to strengthen each other, and the best way to do that when we had no community hall or space to gather was online.  Today we see many churches and organisations trying to figure out how to be community online.  And I wanted to share my wisdom and learning from what happened with us four years ago.

Not everyone will want to be involved

My heart for setting up a Residents Facebook Group was so that no-one would have to deal with that news on their own.  I imagined a utopia of support and encouragement, community events off the back of it with happy smiling faces, everyone patting me on the back and saying how great it was.  But that is not the reality.  Truthfully, not everyone will want to be involved in an online community, and THAT’S OK!! Maybe they already have their own support networks – leave them to do their own thing.  Maybe online isn’t for them – pop round and see them instead.  Maybe they just want to deal with it on their own – you can’t force them not to!  But providing an option for those who are feeling scared and vulnerable to connect with others in the same boat is a really valuable thing to do.  Don’t let those who don’t want to be involved stop you from doing it.

emotions will run high – don’t take it personally

In the first few weeks after the news had dropped on our estate, everyone was dealing with it differently.  My husband was calm as a cucumber.  I was crying at every little thing.  My next door neighbours were angry with the government and ready for a fight.  Emotions were right on the surface and people were all to ready to share them online.  Yet there weren’t so good at accepting others had different views to them.

I felt like, as the admin of the group, it was my job to calm everyone down and make it all better, BUT IT WASN’T!!!  We must not fall into the trap of feeling responsible for the wellbeing of those in our online community.  Let them process what is going on.  Let them share their fears and emotions.  Let the group as a whole minister to them.  And don’t take emotional outburst personally – you are just the person providing the forum for it.

aim to be a peacemaker Not a peacekeeper

Sometimes, as the admin of the group, you are going to have to make controversial and difficult decisions.  You won’t always be able to placate everyone and keep the peace.  Sometimes you will have to stand up and MAKE the peace (read my keeper vs maker post from 2016!).   Fight for what is right – freedom of speech but not those who abuse others from behind their keyboards.  Maybe sometimes you’ll have to offend or upset your friends or neighbours by doing that.  It is really really hard to be the keeper for an online community.  But try being a good role model, sharing positive and encouraging things, and praying for those in the group.

digital detox will be needed

Some nights I literally could not put my phone down.  There would be a constant stream of notifications and comments to vet on the the group.  It started to take over my life and head space.   And with so much of our lives likely to enter into an online space over the next few weeks you may just end up with square eyes!!!

So schedule in some digital detox time.  Put do not disturb hours on your phone so notifications don’t ping all night long.  Make it clear on your online group when you will or won’t reply to comments.  And then switch off.

2020 Plans and Prayers

How on earth is it March already?!

And this post, which I am normally very quick to get written in the first week of January is still sat in my drafts folder.  Has the year been zooming past quickly for you too?  As a mum on a mission life can sometimes seem to just slip out of our hands, and yet it is still really valuable to make sure that we take time to pause, review and put God at the centre.

2020 Plans

My 2020 has already started, but I want to encourage you to stop and make sure your year is going the way you want it.

  • New Job – I’m going to be honest here and say that this is taking over my life, but in an amazing, God given, happy way!  My role as Youth, Children’s and Families worker is such a blessing.  I love that now I get to spend my time intentionally connecting with families and children.  That I can put into motion events and activities I want to see happen.  This year I know will be filled with many thoughts and much time spent on work, but joyfully!  By the end of 2020 I hope I can say that I have made some amazing friends, worked my hardest for God and brought some new people into his kingdom.
  • New Kitchen – With the little bit of redundancy money I got from my old job, we decided to tackle one of the rooms in our house which really needed doing.  The kitchen.  If I’d written this in January it would have been a plan!  But now, in March, it is almost finished!  So it’s nice to know I’ve completed at least one of this years plans already!  This might also transfer into some other DIY projects over the year – hopefully the hall stairs and landing will get done and a possibly an upstairs bathroom.   But we will just have to wait and see.
  • Walking and yoga – As with most homeworkers, exercise can be hard to come across during the normal working day.  So this year I am prioritising trying to walk more and do daily yoga to help with those aches and pains (I feel like I am getting older!).  I’ve tried going to classes and other things but it just doesn’t work for me and fit in with family life.  So walking to school is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Reading more – I love escaping into a good book, and I also know the value of reading books that will inspire my faith journey or help me in my new role.  So I am going to try to read at least 2 books every month – one fiction and one non-fiction.
  • Adventure/Pilgrimage –  We don’t have any holidays booked, don’t know what is happening with my husbands contract, and no clue how life will go this year, so I am embracing adventure and following God on this crazy pilgrimage that is life!  I don’t really have any plans or care where we end up as a family as long as God is there with us.  I hope by the end of 2020 that my boys have grown spiritually and us too.
  • Other stuff – I really don’t have any plans or know what 2020 holds for my side projects.  This blog, my bible journaling ministry and Mummy Meditations are all there but not my priority right now.  Perhaps God will inspire some others to take up these mantles.  Or perhaps I can weave them in to my new job.

Verse for the year

My word for the year is “ADVENTURE” and this links in with how pilgrimage is an “intentional adventure in to God”.  That is what I want for this year.  I can’t see or plan how it might pan out, so instead I am aiming to adventure in to God.  The verse that goes with this is:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage”  Psalm 84:5

 

are we nearly there yet book cover

Are We There Yet? An Easter Book Review

Disclaimer – I received a free copy of this book from 10ofthose.com to review, but all opinions are my own. 

are we nearly there yet book cover

I love love love that there are so many great resources out there to equip up to use every opportunity to connect those around us with the gospel.  With Easter coming, I am sure you are all thinking about how to use this time of the year to share the message of the cross.  In kids work, toddlers groups, your local school, there are loads of kids that we can connect with, and I want to tell you about a new book which I think will help you in this.

are we nearly there yet cover“Are we nearly there yet?” is a short booklet style book, but with a strong card cover so its doesn’t just feel like a throw away pamphlet as some books like this can.  The front cover design is modern and eye catching, and because the title isn’t really “in your face” Christian, I think it would work really well as a giveaway in non-Christian environments, such as schools.

The story itself follows a narrative of a family in a car, and the familiar question of “Are we nearly there yet?”.  Whilst they are waiting to get to Granny’s for Easter, their parents tell them the Easter story, and all the way through they see the disciples asking similar the question of “Are we nearly there yet? When will you be king?”.  The pages go through the familiar Easter sequences – palm Sunday, Garden of Gethsemane, the crucifixion and the stone rolled away at the tomb, but not just in a plain story telling way which the kids will be all too familiar with.

The illustrations and use of speech bubbles throughout the book is very good and engaging for kids.  I would probably say that this book would be useable for 2 years up to mid primary age (maybe 8) as it could be read to children, or they can read by themselves.

At the end of the book, there are included some ideas for taking it further, discussion with the children and playing through the story too.  These would be useful for parents, toddler group leaders or teachers if they wanted to include it in their pre-Easter activities.

All in all, this a very well thought out book, and one that will work well as a giveaway instead of chocolate this Easter (who needs more chocolate!!).  10ofthose.com sells the books individually for £3.50 if you want to grab one for your family, or if you are planning to give them away then you can take advantage of their offer of a box of 50 for £50 (RRP £175!!!!).

Why not invest £50 into your world this Easter and use some of these ideas:

  • Buy a box to give to your kids class teacher to give out to the whole class
  • Buy a box and go round your neighbourhood and give to kids at their doorsteps
  • Bless your church’s kids ministry by buying a box so they can give them out free to anyone who comes into church over the Easter period.
  • Take a box down to your local library and ask if they will give them away to any children who come in over lent/Easter

mum on a mission podcast banner

Mum on a Mission Podcast – Episode 4 Litter Picking

mum on a mission podcast banner

Mission with kids is difficult.  We can make lots of excuses.  Listen on to hear one way I have found to love my community with my kids tagging along (no matter what age).

 

If this episode has interested you, the check out this link for information about The Great British Spring Clean 2019, and how you and your family can take part.

Starting from scratch – mission in a new place

So, the eagle eyed among you will know that recently we moved house.  It was a really exciting move, away from a stressful situation, and into a new and exciting place.  But with the arrival of a new school term, with my son starting in a brand new school, I was suddenly struck with how we are starting from scratch.

Starting from scratch with the neighbours.

Starting from scratch with the mums at the school gate.

Starting from scratch with different school routines.

Starting from scratch with our local places – library, post office, swimming pool.

Everything is brand new, and that means having to start all my relationships from scratch.  And when I looked at having to get to know teachers, kids, parents, office staff at my sons new school this week it was all looking a bit daunting.  I thought about the mums from the old school, the chatter on the school yard and the friendly welcoming faces that would have been there and I felt sad.  I thought about all the teachers who I had gotten to know at the small school of 140 pupils and my heart-wrenched. I had lost my whole network.

But then today in our parents lifegroup, another mum reminded me of something.  That those former relationships didn’t start up over night.  Not at all.  It took 4 years to get to know my neighbours like I did.  It took a whole year for me to get to know the mums and teachers at the school.  I cannot expect to jump back in to a place of intimacy within this new setting.  Instead I should just see where things go.  Let things start organically rather than forcing things to be like they were.

So I will start off with chatting to the neighbours I see out on the street.  I will start off with trying to smile at some of the parents in the yard.  I will seek out new opportunities to get to know people – such as joining the library and going along to the school church for its coffee morning for new parents on the first day of school (what a great idea!).  I don’t need to be super confident or even to look at ways to “do mission” here yet.  I just need to get to know people.  In my own time and my way.  That is a very relieving and releasing thing to realise.

app for loving your community

Can an app help you love your community?

app for loving your community

can an app help you love your community?

I live in Doncaster, and despite it being crowned the “most chilled and least stressful place to live in the UK”, most people’s reaction to this announcement is “oh that’s a shame!”. You see, Doncaster isn’t the nicest place in the world (although I’m sure it’s not the worst!). It is a typical slightly rundown town surrounded by ex-mining communities.

the problem i face in my community…

Sometimes I walk around my town and feel sad. There is litter, broken things that no-one has fixed, buildings that no-one cares about and general signs of poverty all around. It makes my heart sink and my soul feel heavy. I cry out to the God who created and loves this world – why has it become so unloved by those that live in it?

Practically I try to look after my little corner of the world – my house, my garden, my estate. But try as I might, I can never clean up everything. Even when I go out with the community action team at church and litter pick the streets for a couple of hours it isn’t going to change everything. And yet the impact of just simple litter can be HUGE. Health, crime, anti-social behaviour, loss of business are all things that stem from and can be worsened by the presence of litter in a neighbourhood. Once that pride in a community is lost, it is difficult for it to be rebuilt.

a new strategy…

So I decided a new strategy was called for. I could not be a one woman army who tackles the whole of Doncaster’s litter and other problems (there would be little time for looking after my kids if I did that!!).  But I could flag up every problem I saw that made me sad to live here so that someone else could deal with it.

Who might that someone else be? Well they came in the form of an app on my phone, that goes by the name of My Doncaster Council. (Yes the council).

Our local councils are there to help do tasks that no-one would normally do if it was left to us. They provide public goods and services. We pay them through our lovely council taxes to look after our local environments so that we don’t have to. But lately councils have had to cut back on a lot of things, and so they won’t be out patrolling and checking the local area as much. We can be their eyes and ears on the ground. The app I have means that I can report litter, fly tipping, graffiti and a whole host of other things right there and then. I can post photos and videos so that the council can see exactly what the issue is. I am doing their investigating for them.

will my community feel the love?

Why is this loving I hear you ask? Because I want my community to feel good when they step out the door. I want them to have pride in where they live, to be healthy and happy.  We joke that it’s a British pastime to moan.  Well I want to try to report everything that would be the cause of that  moaning (although I can’t change the weather so we’ll always have that to moan about!). I don’t want to just keep walking past the litter and the broken things and expect someone else to do something about it.  I am loving my neighbours by using this app to get them fixed and cleaned up.

Why don’t you see if your local council has an app too…..

prompt 28

What is #Prompt28 all about?

prompt 28

I am sucker for a digital campaign that aims to try to connect me with God or the community more (you will already know how much I love 40 acts each lent!).  So when I heard about Prompt 28 I was very intrigued.  I signed up straight away with only a few days before it started the first Sunday in June.

What is the concept?

The idea behind Prompt 28 is that for 28 days you will ask the Spirit a question.  Being aware of what we are asking the Spirit (and taking our prompts from the daily text/email from Share Jesus International) will hopefully make us more open to opportunities and aware of the Spirit moving in our daily lives.  Some of the prompts are “Who can I pray for today?” or “Who could I eat lunch with today?”.  Some are practical and some are more spiritual, but all are eye opening if you let the Spirit use them.

has it helped me?

Yes and no.  The prompts haven’t been especially imaginative so far, and I have found some of them hard to fit into my lifestyle (I work from home on my own so have no-one to invite to lunch!).  But some of them have been very powerful and pushed me to pray things I might never have.  I have spotted opportunities to reach out that I may have ignored.  I have offered prayer to those on my facebook feed, I have been inspired to write notes of encouragement to those in power above me, and I have jumped at the chance to feed a family in need.  I prayed that I would have the chance to say sorry in person to someone who I never see, and then the next day their car was outside my house and I was able to clear the air and apologise.  I spent one whole day praying peace over my estate and I made an extra effort to be cheerful to all those I interact with during my day.

What has the spirit answered with?

The tag line of the Prompt 28 campaign is “Ask the Spirit a question, see what happens next..” and I love this!  You know what, when you invite the Spirit into your everyday life it is always a little bit scary.  You never know where He is going to lead you or what he is going to prompt you to do.  But it is exciting too!  To know that you could be used to bring someone one step closer to knowing Jesus is exhilarating.  To know that your prayers could change someones world, or your gift of love be influential in someone’s life is so exciting.  I really want to live like this everyday, for it to be Prompt 365 if I’m honest.  Don’t we all need that little kick in the morning to remind us what potential the day has to make an impact for Christ?  No day is a write off.  No day doesn’t hold something unique.  And if Prompt 28 does nothing more than remind us of that, then it is amazing.

But I know that it has done much more than that.  This is only its first year, and Share Jesus International have started off well.  I hope and pray that even more people take part and it becomes more widely known, so that more of us can be prompted to include the Spirit in our everyday lives.

£2 a day challenge for zambian children

Mum on a Mission does the £2 a day challenge

£2 a day challenge for zambian children

I always try to keep my shopping bills as low as possible, whilst still feeding my family well.  I try to keep to a £70 a week budget – this is normally £40 in lidl on my big weekly shop, with a couple of emergency trips to ASDA in the middle of the week!

So when I read about the £2 challenge with Zamcog and Voucherbox, I was really interested to see if we could do it.  £2 per head per day would mean that my family of 4 would get £8 to spend (slightly less than my £70 a week budget which would give me £10 per day to spend).

Why am I doing this?

It costs £2 per day to feed and educate a child in Zambia.   Charity Zamcog are asking bloggers to change the way we think about food, to spend less and try to cut out waste for just one day.  In exchange for blogging about this, Voucherbox will donate £50 to Zamcog so they can carry on their work in supporting Zambia’s at risk children through food and education (win-win hey!).

Planning for the challenge

Doing this challenge obviously took a bit of preparation.  Here is my menu plan for the day:

Breakfast – total 64p:

  • 3 x weetabix (my husband doesn’t eat breakfast!) – 12p
  • milk  – 50p
  • 1 x tea bag –  2p

Morning Snack – total 54p

  • blueberries – 45p
  • digestive biscuits – 7p
  • 1 x tea bag – 2p

Lunch – total 80p

  • homemade sweetcorn fritters – 50p
  • 3 x yoghurts – 30p

Afternoon Snack – total 82p

  • 4 x individual malt loaf bars – 80p
  • 1 x tea bag – 2p

Dinner – total £4.45

  • 4 x chicken kievs (on offer at lidl) – £2.18
  • 2 x supernoodle packets – 38p
  • 1/2 bag of frozen vegetables – 49p
  • jam roly poly – 99p
  • 4 scoops of ice cream – 39p
  • 1 x tea bag – 2p

GRAND TOTAL = £7.25

 

Doing the challenge

weetabix for breafast

Picking a day was hard, as the boys are often in nursery where I have no control over their meals, and we are always out and about making it harder to cook certain things. But what I love about the menu I chose is that I haven’t opted for lots of things that are different to normal, and I haven’t skimped on having snacks or pudding.  I have just been able to choose well using the range available in lidl and known that their prices are reasonable.  Meat is often the most expensive thing, so by choosing items that were on offer that week (we are always searching for the yellow reduced stickers to put in the freezer!) we have managed to have a healthy and filling meal as a family for a good price.

two pound challenge photos including dinner and pudding

It has really got me thinking about how I can cut out expensive things that aren’t necessary (chocolate, cookies, takeaways…) and actually how achievable it is to eat on £2 a day.  Yes we can afford to have treats every now and then, but those in Zambia don’t have that option.  If I planned more thoroughly like I did for this one day, then maybe I could donate more money to those who have no option.

why not take up the challenge yourself?  For every blog post written about it, Voucherbox will donate £50 to ZAMCOG so go on!  It will cost you nothing but will support children in zambia.

 

 

 

 

candy cane bombing

Candy Cane Bombing!

So I am feeling rather festive at the moment after weeks of preparing everything at work and now the decorations have gone up at home.  It got me thinking about how I am going to bless those around me this year.  I have done numerous things in the past – leaving secret hampers for neighbours, having an open house – but this year I wanted to do something fun!  So I have chosen to do some CANDY CANE BOMBING!!!

My friend mentioned this on social media last year, and it felt a bit too late to do it then, but this year I am on the ball!  Basically, you get some candy canes and all a little message (see below for my free printable sheets).  Tie it all together and then hook them on to the handles of cars so that when the driver comes back they get a little Christmassy treat.

To tie in with our Mummy Meditations theme of joy I have chosen to put the following verse on my cards to go with the candy canes:

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger” Luke 2:10-12

To get your free printable pdf version of the candy cane bombing tags and have a go yourself just click here.
 
Why not share some photos of where you have been bombing on my facebook page or tag me one twitter (@ace_rach) – I would love to see!