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A courageous decision at St Thomas’ Kendal

Nick and Kath Gray are the Christian Aid Church Reps for St Thomas’ in Kendal. They led an initiative to make significant changes to their Christian Aid Week, which had significant impact. We asked Nick and Kath how they did it.

We wanted to engage as many church members as possible, by informing them all about Christian Aid, rather than just assuming they knew what the red envelope and logo was all about.

Nick Gray

Church Representative, St Thomas' Kendal

Prospery Raymond talking at St Thomas' Kendal

Prior to 2018 what did St Thomas’ do for Christian Aid Week?

“We organised a doorstep collection in the parish of St Thomas’ to play our part in the local and national effort to contact every house with at least an envelope. We used to have a lot of Christian Aid collectors, but by 2017 we had fewer than half a dozen.”

Why did you decide to change what you do during Christian Aid Week at St Thomas’?

“It was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit doorstep collectors and folk were reluctant to ask for money from less well-off households in the present economic climate. The doorstep approach was maybe feeling slightly out of date in an online world.

It was also felt that telling people that Christian Aid Week was coming up and asking for help was inadequate in a world of competing information and multiple NGOs; we needed to inform people about the aims, scope and history of Christian Aid.

We wanted to engage as many of the congregation as possible by informing them all about Christian Aid, rather than just assuming they knew what the red envelope and logo were all about.”

How did you go about making the changes before Christian Aid Week 2018?

“In the January meeting of our PCC, we discussed a consultation paper on the profile, strategy and communication of Christian Aid Week. In February, four of us met, including the Rev George Briggs, and we discussed outline ideas. The next month, an inspiring talk by the Christian Aid regional coordinator helped share the Haiti story and informed us of the material available. We were also very fortunate to have a superb and moving talk from Prospery Raymond, the country manager from Haiti, a couple of weeks before Christian Aid Week.”

What did St Thomas’s do when Christian Aid Week arrived?

“We gave a short presentation and video in church services two to three weeks before Christian Aid Week, to tell people about the work of Christian Aid. Members were given an opportunity to individually take envelopes/fundraise.

We held an “All together” Big Brekkie on Sunday 13 May. This brought together our two Sunday congregations to one event and a shared cause.

We used a lot of the resources from Christian Aid: banners and bunting outside and inside the church, balloons, literature and the Big Brekkie resources were all very useful.

After Christian Aid Week we surveyed the church members to get feedback on how people felt about the changes.”

What were the results?

“The profile of Christian Aid in the congregations was greatly raised - people actively engaged and giving more. Informing people of the aims and scope of Christian Aid's work allowed people to engage and pray more effectively. The amount raised, mostly from the Big Brekkie, was four times higher at over £2,500. 

The survey found an overwhelming majority feeling positive about the church being united behind, and better informed about, the aims of Christian Aid. The respondents would have liked more input in the service and would welcome speakers from Christian Aid, or on other global justice/environmental issues in church at other times.”

What are your plans for 2019?

“We will propose to the PCC that we repeat the Big Brekkie with a Christian Aid speaker beforehand in April and act on ideas and requests of the survey recipients, giving more information. And hopefully add a new twist!”