Look After Yourself: Gentle Exercise to feel better and enjoy life more
Broadway United Reformed Church in Worcestershire engaged more with its local rural community by creating gentle exercise sessions.
Where did the idea come from? How did it start?
Our Outreach Development Worker spotted potential opportunity as a good fit with mission objective to increase engagement in community by helping neighbours in a practical way. Began by preparing a one page “ideas” paper that was presented and discussed with Elders. Gained support to start further investigation.
Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
For everyone. Particularly popular with the over 65’s. Equally beneficial whether seated or standing. Increases happiness and health, extends independent living by improving mobility, balance and diet with a group of welcoming and friendly people.
What preparation did you do?
Desk research uncovered reports and evidence including from Age UK. Met to discuss separately with NHS, Worcestershire County Council, Wychavon District Council, Local G.P. surgery, and discussions with local people at other activities and events. Investigated provision and found there was a gap.
What resources did you need and how did you find them?
Pre-requisite was qualified tutors, and was a gap in our capability. Discovered when we approached local Housing Association with the idea that they were about to recruit a Wellbeing Coordinator. Church hall was available at no charge. Part-time Outreach Development Worker would develop, design, set up and lead project including welcoming and hospitality at sessions. Supported by one unpaid volunteer from congregation to serve coffee every Thursday morning. Outreach Development Worker half funded by Broadway URC and West Midlands Synod. Sessions offered free to participants. Donations welcome up to £2 per person per session to contribute to costs. Housing Association organised two tutors at no charge to URC to lead Extend and Tai Chi sessions and provided their Wellbeing coordinator free of charge to cover the very occasional absence of the tutors.
Who have been your partners in this project?
Housing Association and the two unpaid independent, self-employed, qualified tutors who they introduced us to. Marketing materials displayed, issued and verbal references given by staff at village outlets including Housing Association residences, local shops, library, Broadway Parish Council office, and all four churches in the village who also include it in their magazines.
How did the congregation get on board?
Kept informed at monthly church meetings and invited their comments including design of marketing materials. They were encouraged to make people aware of initiative. Invited to volunteer to help organise and run the sessions including serving coffee. Invited to attend sessions. Some did including the original launch. They then, naturally, told other congregation members friends and contacts how it was going. Regular updates in Church magazine and at monthly church meetings. Asked to support with prayer.
What were the key steps from idea to day 1 and how long did it take?
1. Prayerfully sought guidance of the Spirit with Elders received go ahead to investigate further and prepare a proposal for church meeting
2. Co-design of approach with partners and potential participants from congregation.
3. Soft launch, ran sessions for 8 weeks pilot then finalised design.
4. Design of marketing materials using photos from pilot run or full launch
5. Sign off by management of partner organisations and commitment of resources including prayerful consideration at Elders then Church Meeting to proceed
6. Launch of marketing material and explanation of approach to outlets in village.
7. Handling enquiries and following up with potential attendees, including reminding them of sessions soon to start. Offered pick up and drop off. Elapsed time 5 months.
What legislation did you have to deal with?
Self-employed tutors selected who already complied with public and business liabilities and insurances. Housing Association responsible for obtaining personal health disclosures by participants and risk assessment of church hall. Church responsible for hall insurances.
IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
What impact has this project had on the life of the community?
Commenced October 2015, first 12 months, 45 sessions, 591 session attendances, 46 different participants, typically 13 participants per week. Social aspect of sessions as well as health aspects appreciated by participants and their families and carers.
How has this changed the relationship between the church and the community?
One in five of the attendees (20%) are from URC congregation. Church is far better known and seen as welcoming and friendly. We are much more aware of what is going on in the village because people and organisations come to talk to us. Participants feel comfortable to help out with serving coffee, and moving chairs and invite other people to attend. People are attending other activities and events too. Church is invited to join meetings to discuss the broader aspects of the village and to help with other village events including Tour of Britain, Broadway Arts Festival, Flu-vaccine day, and Broadway at Christmas events.
IMPACT ON THE CHURCH
How does the project connect with your faith and mission?
Our mission is “To know Jesus better and to make Him better Known”. Look After Yourself has increased our presence in the community enabling us to meet and get to know more people. It is faith combined with action. It has enabled us to show our love for each other by doing something practical for our neighbours. Inviting people to come, or even just making them aware of the sessions, is an opportunity for the congregation to show their faith and grow in their discipleship. (James 2:14-17, Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:27-37, Matthew 28:19-20)
How has the life of the church been transformed because of this project?
It has raised enthusiasm and confidence. It has made us a more inviting as well as welcoming. It has shown how more of the congregation can become involved in mission. It has increased the appetite for more initiatives.
Additional resources and weblinks
07949 296 738PDF