Reaching Out with Care and Kindness (ROCK) is a community meeting every Tuesday during the week, worshipping God, exploring faith and the bible, and seeing people blossom. It meets in a care home, and is a mixture of Springfield Church members and local residents (about 1/2 of the Ministry don’t attend a Sunday expression of Church). ROCK came about, not through intentional strategy, but rather through the passions of key individuals and openness to following God’s lead.
It all started 12 years ago when a small group decided to meet at a care home because one of the elderly church members lived there. Ann (a gifted lay member) was asked to pastor this group, and ended up giving lifts to another member to and from a different care home. Seeing the missional possibilities, Ann began very intentionally to build relationships with the management at both establishments because she had discovered a passion to love and serve elderly people. It was obvious that there was a need, both for community and for Jesus in these care homes where isolation, loneliness, and facing the reality of death were all acute issues. In the existing small group, there was a ready and willing team.
Ann’s next move was to observe what was already going on at Springfield, and to see where there might be opportunities to link these in to the elderly community. A cupcakes ministry to Springfield members was an obvious starting point to extend to the care homes. With the favour she already had with the care home managers, monthly ‘Caring Cupcakes’ meetings started. This provided a key opportunity to engage with the wider elderly community.
At this stage, one the core values of ROCK started to form. The original small group were now engaging with elderly residents on a regular basis and sought God’s guidance for what to say. ‘Honesty, be yourself’ was the result of prayer and discernment and subsequently the team learned to talk about faith in the reality of struggles, and serve according to their gifts. Bakers baked, prayers prayed, and pastors pastored. They also focussed on listening, really listening, to the residents and building trust with them, and their families. All of this was instrumental in building a real sense of community.
As the sense of community grew, and as residents were opening up, Ann recognised the importance of communicating God’s hope and the love of Jesus. In a brave move, she started giving 5 minute ‘faith slots’ at the Cupcake meetings. While this was a huge step of faith for her, and well outside her comfort zone, the residents absolutely loved it in both care homes. Ann’s reflection, looking back, was that this would not have been possible had relationships with both residents and institutions not been so strong. Talking about Jesus was welcomed because of trust that had been nurtured.
ROCK is a fluid entity. The small group that still meets remains a core part of this ministry and underpins everything else in prayer. Caring Cupcakes has evolved, drawing in a wider team and growing to include a book exchange service and running Alpha for Seniors. A third care home is in the early stages of inviting in the Caring Cupcakes team. It is an example of a fresh expression that is continually being refreshed. There is no expectation that residents come along to Springfield Church, though they are always welcome, but rather that the worshipping communities where they live are their church. And for a demographic where mobility is ever decreasing, this is a key factor. About 50% of the ministry is with those who don’t attend a Sunday expression of Church
Ann recognises some of the struggles she’s had over the years. There was always a frustration that there were more people Ann wanted to visit than she was able. Furthermore, she recognises the need to pray more, especially for more team who were like-minded and available. This latter issue of availability is especially difficult to overcome in the context of a daytime ministry. Ann says that if she were starting again now, she would be regularly praying for God to provide more people to be on the team, and wouldn’t stop until He answered!
Ann has learnt that relationships are key, and that they take time. Progress isn’t always obvious, and it can take years to build trust – especially with secular institutions. This ‘long game’ view has to play a part in setting and managing expectations, and Ann reflects that creating goals that provide more excitement than pressure is crucial.
ROCK’s hope looking forward is to see the elderly in our community continue to meet Jesus as we reach out with care and kindness. Quite what this looks like, and quite whom it may involve is unknown. But the example of the last twelve years is that intentionally looking to see where God is already showing favour, opening doors, and strategically placing people in missional contexts is the best and most exciting strategy.