We're delighted to welcome a guest blogger - Sam Knight - Love Black Country Families Champion Coordinator

I just wanted to bring you up to date with what’s happening with the Families Champions project.

I came into post last October and wanted to start by getting to know the Champions already involved, to see how the role was working in their churches, as well as meeting people from the 4 charities to find out more about the wonderful work they do:

  • Home for Good
  • YMCA – Open Door Project
  • Safe Families for Children
  • TLG – Transforming Lives for Good

We all met up together in January, over coffee and cakes, to share ideas, pray together and encourage one another.

Since the New Year my focus has been trying to meet with church leaders to share the vision of the project and promote training for new Families Champions which will be running on Thursday 26th April 7pm at Alpha House, 9 Tipton Road, Sedgley, DY3 1HE.

It has been so exciting over the last few months to meet people from different churches over the Black Country to hear about things that are going on locally and see the heart the church has for our community. I have also learnt more about the incredible work already going on through the charities in the Black Country and the need there is for more people to be God’s hands and feet, to engage with these charity projects and demonstrate the love of God to vulnerable children and families in our communities. They give us the opportunity to speak life, hope and worth into people’s lives that the church might not normally connect with.

When Mother Theresa collected her Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she urged the gathered dignitaries “to live life beautifully, because God loves us and we have an opportunity to love others as he loves us, not in big things but in small things with great love”.

One Black Country church has really run with TLG – they have 10 coaches trained to mentor children on a 1:1 basis and are currently going into 1 secondary and 2 primary schools in their local community on a weekly basis;

“I have been coaching a child for the past year, he struggles with anger particularly at home. At first it felt like we weren’t getting anywhere with the coaching as he avoided conversations about his anger and struggles and would lie about things. It has taken a while to build a relationship with him but now we are at a point where not only does he trust me but he realises that I won’t judge him or treat him differently when he is honest about things he struggles with. Now we work really well together and he is determined to improve his behaviour at home and his mom is so appreciative of my involvement and support.”

“I coach a young person in secondary school, he is often on report and gets into trouble at school for his behaviour. It has been difficult to see whether me coaching him has made any difference but we met with the key contact at the school recently and they were very encouraging and said they had noticed a difference in his happiness and confidence and I know that he appreciates the time I spend with him 1:1”

 At one Families Champions presentation on Homeless Sunday this year a church member responded to the desperate need for host families for YMCA’s Open Door Project which supports homeless young people – he started his training to become a host this March. At the presentation the Families Champion interviewed another church member who has been a YMCA host for a few years – the young person he is currently hosting asked to speak as well. He told the congregation that he had not been in church before but wanted to say how brilliant the Open Door Project was. He said he had never met anyone like his host before – someone who put other people first and would do anything to help others. The impact that Christian host had had upon a young person whose life had been spiralling out of control was incredible to see.

Home for Good wants to find a home for every child who needs one as well as equip the church to support those who do foster and adopt. An understanding and supportive church can make a huge difference.
"We have been so touched by the way so many in our church have been sensitive to our change in lifestyle, and we feel very strengthened by the shared heart and vision of others. It really does make a big difference to know people are standing with us who understand what we are doing and why!”

Recently, a little boy was placed with us who had experienced extensive trauma and struggled with extremely challenging behaviour – it was our toughest placement to date. We questioned whether we could even take him to church but every week we were reassured that we were welcome there, and more importantly, that he was welcome there. Wherever possible, our leaders tried to engage him, and if it came to a situation when my wife or I had to step in, then nobody made a big deal of it. The best thing was that nobody stared. It made it possible for us to be able to help him calm down and then he could re-engage with the activity without it being an issue.”

With regard to the Safe Families stories from across the region: 

One volunteer heard a Safe Families presentation in his church by their Families Champion. His heart was stirred to offer this kind of volunteer support. He applied and went through the volunteer recruitment process. Since being a volunteer he has:

  • Fixed a garden fence so that a child could play safely outside in the garden, this reduced stress for mum.
  • Removed rubbish and unwanted items from a family home, ensuring a family had a safe home for their children, this enabled children to stay with the family.
  • Decorated homes and carried out general maintenance, this reduced the risk of these children going into care. 
  • He is a Family Friend to 5 children and has offered a variety of different activities for these children. He invited them to young church activities which they love attending. The oldest hasn't liked going out before but really enjoys youth group and time with the volunteer. This has given the children opportunities outside of the home they would not normally have, it has also introduced them to church community. It is hoped support for this family will keep this family unit together.

A church in the region with a number of volunteers have worked together to collect four sibling from two locations allowing them to attend a Saturday morning church children's group. They kept them for longer giving them lunch and positive attention before returning them home. This team effort has enabled children at risk of going into care to have positive time together, attention from adults, learning opportunities, as well as bringing them into Christian community. This time also gave parents opportunity to focus on making their home environment better.

If you would like to find out more about the Families Champions project please get in touch with me and I would love to chat with you over a coffee or just over the phone.

If you don’t currently have a Families Champion in your church please think about who has a heart for vulnerable children and families in your congregation and talk to them about coming along to our training evening on 26th April, everyone is welcome and there will be tea, coffee and cakes Come along to hear more about the vision of Families Champions as well as to hear from the 4 charities about the work they do and how people in your church can get involved in this.

Sam Knight

Black Country Families Champions Coordinator

M: 07870 237 195

E: [email protected]