Early Learnings on hosting a Warm Space
At least one in five of our churches is providing a warm space this winter. Some new initiatives, some adaptations of things that were already happening for new circumstances. These are some of the things we have learned so far.
What is needed?
Churches adapting existing activities have often seen a noticeable increase in attendance. Those starting new sessions from scratch have generally seen gradual growth in attendance – so if this is your experience don't panic.
- Hot food is making a big difference, e.g. soup or a bacon sandwich.
- Ask"how could we improve? What shall we do next week?" The people who attend are your greatest source of wisdom. Give them agency. Act on their suggestions.
- Innovate. Keep trying new things and tweaking what you offer until you discover what works in your neighbourhood. Be flexible and quick to respond. Most inventors fail many times before they succeed.
- Be good enough. As long as what you are doing is safe, don't wait to be perfect before you start
- Pool volunteers as a circuit. Trust that if your warm space grows more volunteers will step forward.
Even people in real financial need can feel too uncomfortable to come to something labelled as about keeping warm. Instead focus your advertising on positive reasons to come to your event – making new friends, activities, hobbies, having fun together, growing local community, reducing carbon footprint.
Forms of advertising which have worked are:-
- word of mouth
- regular social media including sharing on local community Facebook groups
- flyers delivered door to door, via local schools, or handed out liberally to everyone you meet
- local newspapers
- prominent signs if people walk past your building
- your local GP may send people to you via social prescribing, speak with the GP Practice Manager if you can
Keep advertising. As a general rule, when you think people will be sick of hearing about your warm space, they will only just be starting to notice its existence.
Maximise Local Networks
Get registered on the databases of warm spaces being used by your council
Co-ordinate and share advertising with other local churches, faith groups, and community spaces (e.g. libraries)
Use this moment to get to know your local councillors, community forum, residents association, local businesses, PCSO's, schools better. They want the flourishing of your chapel to transform their neighbourhood.
- Invite people to other things your church does or hosts. Always in the context of relationship and based on interest they have expressed.
- Include. How might your worship, festivals, community events be tweaked to be more welcoming for people from your warm space? How would they know what to expect? What ideas do they have? When do you eat together as a congregation?
- Prayer stations. Offer a simple way for people to pray or reflect if they wish to. e.g. a prayer box/ tree or quiet corner
- Most councils are offering small grants for warm spaces – speak with you councillor
- ASDA are keen to support if you are near a store www.asdafoundation.org
- Co-op are offering to match online donations. Probably only helpful if you have a batch of people you are about to ask for financial support co-op-warm-spaces