Playing the Long Game

Published on May 21, 2014

One of the distinctive features about Eden is that we want to live with the communities we work with.

We’ve found that the most effective way to have a long term positive influence on the lives of hard to reach young people, is by being a large team with homes in the heart of the community. Here, three Eden leaders share the challenges and highlights from their team’s perspective.

Langworthy, Salford

Fifteen years ago I moved into Langworthy, at the start of the Eden Salford project, writes Chris Lane (pictured right).

During that year, 27 others moved into the maze of red brick terraced streets in that estate. Today, my old house is no longer there, but some of that original team are still living and working here as committed to the place as when we first moved in, still working and praying for transformation in our community.

Back then we were a bunch of eager teens and twenty-somethings who were fully expecting revival within the first couple of weeks, and saw Andy Hawthorne’s challenge to stay for 5 whole years as costly and radical. During the last 15 years we have seen many wonderful things happen – young people coming to faith and progressing into leadership, a new church planted to serve the community, LifeCentre Salford growing into an essential community hub, incredible partnerships with local schools and other community groups, physical healings, the whole atmosphere of the estate changed for the better, and much more. And we are convinced that the best is still to come – the LifeCentre work is growing so quickly that we are taking a big step of faith and employing a manager to help grow the work to another level.

Looking back, what have we learned over the 15 years that might be helpful to newer Eden teams? Some brief thoughts:

  • 5 years is not even scratching the surface when it comes to impacting a community. It’s a good start, but after ten years is when you really start to see fruit, and even begin to work with children whose parents were in your youth group not long ago! This is when generational change begins to happen.
  • With the first point in mind, we could have avoided lots of people burning out if we had planned much more for the long-term – rather than going flat out for a year then crashing, to build healthy rhythms of life, to centre around prayer, to believe that this is a place where you can meet God and also a place you can raise your family. Build around people and their callings, rather than around projects.
  • When we moved in we imagined ourselves taking Jesus with us into this dark place and introducing him to people. We quickly realised that Jesus was already in Langworthy! He had been calling us there, and was already at work in the estate, creating justice, peace and joy. Our job was not primarily to create new projects and ask God to bless them, but to discern what Jesus was already doing and join in with that – to partake in the mission of God. This was hugely transformative for us – the realisation that it is not our mission or ministry, but God’s.
  • We have so much more to learn than to teach. We must listen more than we speak.
  • It always feels as though it all might fall apart at any moment, but that’s ok. It’s part of trusting that God is in control, not me. There is always beauty to be found in the ugliest places.
  • A fusion of radically inclusive hospitality and Spirit-filled living is a powerful combination. As a church we eat a meal together every week at our Sunday gathering. This provides a welcome to anyone and everyone. For many years at least 50% of our Sunday attenders were not Christians. But we must be more than a social club. There is a deep spiritual hunger in our estate, and most of the guys who have come to faith have done so in the context of a profound experience with the Holy Spirit. We need a church community where all can feel welcome, but all are encouraged to encounter the living God who brings transformation.

To find out more do look on www.langworthycommunitychurch.com, or Facebook or Twitter @chrisdlane

Chris Lane is leader of Langworthy Community Church and Chair of Trustees for LifeCentre Salford.

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Netherton, Liverpool

Nine months after moving north to ‘temporarily’ live with a relative of Emma’s we’re still not in Netherton, due to unforeseen delays (writes Tom Grant, pictured right with his wife Emma)

  • We’re learning to take each day, week, month as it comes and live in the ‘now’ rather than always waiting for the next thing.
  • Whilst it has got us close enough to get to know the church and the community we’ll be moving to, it’s amazing how a 10 minute drive away, might as well be an hour as a lot of people don’t drive and public transport to our estate isn’t great !
  • We’re really looking forward to being in the community of Netherton and for people to be able to walk to our house. We can have more of the open home that we’ve both wanted and begin to feel like part of the community rather than a visitor.

To get in touch with Tom and Emma, you can email them on netherton@eden-network.org and take a look at the team page here.

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Wheatley, Doncaster

Six months ago, I (Pod, pictured right) moved to Wheatley in Doncaster to build an Eden team with the local churches who wanted to partner with Eden.

Very early in the process of us discerning if Eden was right for us, the Lord made it very clear that it was essential that the whole family (me, my wife Alison, our daughter Anna [18] and our son Jack [13]) agreed on our ‘calling’ to move to a new place and become urban missionaries.

  • Anna has found a brilliant apprenticeship at a lovely day nursery on a farm, has made some great friends and her faith has gone on to a completely new level.
  • Jack has settled in to a school (a massive answer to many prayers), got stuck in to various football things and also found a great spiritual home at the same church as Anna.
  • Overall, we feel more and more at home, are getting to know our neighbours, and feel that the Lord has made a ‘4 Pods-shaped’ place for us here in Wheatley, Doncaster.

Find out more about Eden Wheatley, you can contact Pod on Wheatley@eden-network.org and look at the team page here.

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