The 40acts challenge is back! 40 days of Lent, 40 reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity.
Now in its fourth consecutive year, 40acts is the triple award-winning challenge from Christian charity Stewardship that invites people to do Lent differently. From March 5th to April 19th you will be offered the chance to give out rather than give something up. Over 15,400 people have already signed up to take part in 40acts 2014 and there is still plenty of room at the party!
"40acts began as a simple idea that asked, "What if Lent could be about more than simply giving up chocolate? What if it was a preparation for a lifetime of big-heartedness?" says Debbie Wright, head of content at Stewardship.
"Traditionally we mark Lent by giving something up, but for the past three years we've seen people awaken to a new idea: that we can reflect something of God's incredible generosity on the cross by creating a daily habit of generosity throughout Lent."
It may be talking to strangers, hugging a friend or giving away your time but for each and every day of Lent participants will be assigned a fresh and exciting challenge that will bless the people around them as well as a daily Biblical reflections from an esteemed Christian contributor to chew on.
Those contributing to this year's 40acts campaign include: Shaun King (HopeMob), Rob Parsons (Care for the Family), Mike Pilavachi (Soul Survivor), Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Luke Smith (Fusion UK), Dot Tyler (Tearfund), Jonty Langley (Huffington Post), Caleb Meakins (My 40 Days), Sam Gibb (Sorted Magazine), Charlie Blythe (A21 Campaign, Hillsong) and many more.
New for this year is 40acts Together. Whether you're a family, church, small group, workplace, school or youth group, 40acts Together - in partnership with fantastic organisations - will provide you with the online and printable resources to guide you through your generous journey as a community.
There will be downloadable studies, prayer guides, event planners, kid's wall charts and much more to help different kinds of groups do Lent generously alongside the individual 40acts challenge.
Join in the fun, pouring out love to your neighbours while learning more about our generous and compassionate God.
Sign up here and you'll receive the daily 40acts challenges when Lent begins, as well as a unique link to download 40acts Together resources for your group from February 10th 2014.
Download the official press pack here.
Over the next two years, Fusion are hoping to visit every university location in the UK to help equip the local churches to be spectacular with students. And they’re doing it in an iconic VW camper van.
Miriam Swaffield (Student Mission Developer for Fusion) will be road-tripping around the land in the bright orange VW, seeking to raise the profile and participation of the student mission movement. “I’m passionate about seeing students grow as vital parts of the church body,” she says, “I want to see them looking outwards and loving their universities and friends in all the creative and everyday ways God calls us to.”
The VW camper van creates a tangible symbol for the student mission movement, and it’s also a brilliant mission tool itself.
“It gathers a crowd as soon as it’s parked, there’s space inside to have meetings, chill out with a cup of tea that can be made on the camper’s cooking facilities, and there are enough seat belts for a bunch of students to join me on the road from city to city.”
The plan is that any local church can use the VW to serve and fuel their local church student mission and any student can go on the road too. It’s all one beautiful gift.
Miriam believes students matter, and that connecting them with local churches can mean the difference between finding and keeping or losing their faith while at university.
“If students matter so much, if we believe that our university days are hugely important to God and a massive opportunity for people to meet Jesus, are we willing to put our money where our mouth is?”
For Miriam, who is herself an early twenty-something, it’s not enough to ask for money from her parent’s generation to help keep the student mission movement running: “If this generation is serious about reaching our mates and loving the local church, we need to commit to fuelling this movement ourselves.”
Through Fusion’s partnership with Stewardship, students have the chance to pay for the petrol money for the thousands of miles the Loveyouruni VW has to travel.
“It’s not cheap on fuel but this gives us the perfect opportunity to take responsibility for making the movement happen.” Miriam says. “And amazingly, Stewardship adds a tenner a month when you give a tenner or over to fuel the movement for the first year...we’re essentially getting double petrol money!”
The 18-25 giving account from Stewardship was set up with students in mind, to encourage a foundation of generosity long before the full-time pay checks start rolling in. It’s fee-free for two years, so the full amount given goes to support causes, and it also potentially has the benefit of an extra 25% Gift Aid on top. So ten pounds per month potentially becomes £270 to give away per year. Which, for Miriam, is a big help on the mission field…and the motorway…and the campus…
Her call to the students who read this is simple: “Let’s own student mission for ourselves,” says Miriam. “Let’s be generous with our money (isn’t all money kind of like a student loan from God anyway?). Let’s love our unis.”
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Romans 12:1 (The Message)
Place your life before God
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering…
Today a 3 month old child begins a quite extraordinary and public journey towards the throne.
Prince George of Cambridge in many ways is a most extraordinary baby – his path and place in history decided at birth. And yet, like all children, his future is still to be written. As the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us in a video this week "All babies are unbelievably special, not only royal babies".
In the midst of the extraordinary spectacle today we will see glimpses of a very special kind of ordinary.
Yes, there’ll be the glitz and glamour that follows young royals, but those present will gather in the privacy of the Chapel of St James’ Palace, a venue rich in meaning for both the Duke (where his mother, Princess Diana, lay before her funeral) and the Duchess (where she took Holy Communion before her marriage). A poignant reminder of a family’s love for one another and personal conviction of the faith they are destined to defend.
There’ll be the glare of cameras and the usual media circus; the pundits, the critics and the hash tags.
At the heart of it all, yet hidden from view, two young parents will quietly and privately dedicate a young life to God in a ceremony, according to the Archbishop, that pays little attention to status.
‘I will mark Prince George with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and that’s exactly what every single priest does at every single baptism. It’s an extraordinary moment because that is the sign by which we understand that this person belongs to God.’
There’ll be water, the most abundant and ordinary of compounds, used as a marker of the most extraordinary gift of all – God’s gift of spiritual life that two parents wish to share with their child.
“We’re celebrating baptism. And baptism is, at its heart, about … God’s gift of life; of ordinary physical life but also the offer of spiritual life to all of us, of life forever.”
Let us pray today for the Prince and all the children in our lives; that they may grow to live extraordinary lives marked by generosity, set steadfast in God’s most extravagant gift.
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By now we’re sure a lot of you will have heard of ‘Movember’. A chance for men everywhere to show support for for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health by sprouting facial hair galore!
Movember’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.
So beards, long side-burns, moustaches (however barely there) will be grown in abundance throughout the month of November.
This year, there is an exciting twist – ‘The Holy Mo’. It is a chance for faith groups from workplaces, churches, youth groups, etc. to do some team fundraising in support of this cause and get a bit competitive with it too. There’s a leaders’ board to try and climb, as well as the ‘Moscars’ where your fundraising journey can be captured through various media and entered into the running for a prize.
For any ladies reading this – don’t worry, you can get involved too (although there’s no need to grow a moustache unless you’re particularly willing and able!). The ‘Mo Sistas’ job is to encourage all the men in their lives – brothers, boyfriends, uncles, husbands – to get working on those handlebars. And to sponsor them, of course.
So, feel like a challenge? Want to get involved?
Sistas – you can’t really have a Mo Space, BUT fear not – give.net is still open and ready for you to use if you’d like to do your own (not at all competitive…!) fundraising for Movember. You could sell moustachioed cupcakes, wear moustache-related facepaint for a week, auction off moustache-themed haikus – the possibilities are endless… Start fundraising here.
St. Luke’s church in Kentish town lay unused, a dumping ground for Kentish community rubbish for over 20 years. The church building held everything from stoves, to microwaves and minibus seats. The one thing it did not hold: a Sunday church meeting. This Anglican Church was reborn in December 2011. Jon and Sus March, the 30-something vicar and his wife and their three young children, led a small group of founding settlers to reclaim the church building. The church’s mission and vision statement is: ‘to transform communities’ and they do so by engaging people at their point of need. How do they do this?
St. Luke’s is not a ‘top down’ church in structure and practice. Home groups are called ‘Hubs’ and are encouraged to identify people’s needs, face outward to the community, and plan to transform hurts to healings. There are currently eleven of these groups ranging from an Alpha Hub, to a Creative Arts Hub, two Mothers’ or ‘Crumbs’ Hubs, Compassion Hub and a Metal Hub (more on that one later). What needs are being met? The Compassion Hub holds a Tea Party every six weeks for the isolated, elderly and the vulnerable of Kentish Town. Average attendance is over 20. The local council recognizes St. Luke’s as a befriending community and refers local people in need of friends. The Compassion Hub then opens the church doors to those who are alone and hurting. Recently, one participant said, ‘A year ago the only person I would ever see was my carer once a day. Now I have people from the church visiting me and being interested in me . . . it makes me want to live a bit longer, which I didn’t before.’
At the other end of the spectrum is the Metal Hub. This Hub serves as a bridge in the gap between the church and the Camden metal community. A month ago a Metal music night with Christian metal bands was held at the church. A young attendee on the night said, ‘No one thinks you can be a Christian and into metal music.’ By a wonderful twist, a number of local, older neighbours attended the night. Jon, the Vicar, reached out to an elderly neighbour before the event so she would be prepared for the music. She said, ‘I don’t care how loud the music is. I might even sit in my garden and listen. What your church has done is amazing.’ A Hub leader said, ‘We are showing people that Jesus came for you.’
That is what these two seemingly different Hubs have in common: they build community by serving communities. And they do so by identifying people’s needs and meeting them with Jesus.
How is your church reaching the local community? Let us know in the comments below.
Eight generations ago our ancestors ended the slave trade, yet today the numbers associated with human trafficking are staggering.
Click here to access our special issue Share magazine on human trafficking, featuring interviews with Beth Redman, Gary Haugen and Christine Caine.
Part of the joy of my job is to spend hours (often the wee ones, just before I fall asleep) scouring the web for the latest news on giving and generosity. And when my own eyes fail, I ask my trusted colleagues to keep theirs peeled for the good stuff.
So when I received an email about a lady who was intending to sit on the toilet for charity, I mouthed ‘whaaa?’ and clicked on the link immediately. What I discovered made me laugh out loud. Not only was this slightly potty woman really going to sit on the loo to raise money for her church, she was also using Stewardship’s give.net to do it.
Rona’s Toilet Sit – raising money for a loo at St George’s Church, said her give.net page proudly.
“There,” I thought, considering the many hours we’d spent diligently and prayerfully dreaming up the future of give.net. “Our work is complete.”
I decided to give her a call.
“Some people do marathons,” she said, when I asked her about her unusual fundraising drive, “but I’m too old to run so I thought of a LOO-vely sitting down challenge.”
And so, the delightful Rona will be sitting on a disconnected toilet for two hours in the middle of her church on September 8th, to raise £2000 towards her church facilities project and, “so everyone can laugh”, she says.
“If I raise £2,000 I will be FLUSHED with success. But we need about £76k overall as we have to bring water in from the road.”
Two thousand pounds may well just be a drop in the basin, but it reminded me that sometimes we must do the extraordinary and slightly - well - weird to make a generous difference in the world. Very few of us are willing to make spectacles of ourselves for a valid cause (although our Facebook photos often give others ample reason to laugh at us), but as Christians we’re inspired to become ‘undignified’ in our worship and our lifestyle, with the sole aim of making God’s Kingdom known. Sitting on a toilet so that a church can have the facilities to accommodate lots of people? I’d say that fits the description pretty well.
Rona will be live-tweeting throughout the event, and invites people to send her a tweet (or more importantly, a donation) as an encouragement. “Clean toilet humour only, please,” she insists, with a laugh.
The generosity challenge:
Spot the amount of toilet-related puns in this month’s Extra Mile.
Make September your month to raise money for a cause you love, and let us know what you’re doing: we’d love to get in touch and perhaps even feature you in our give.net blog. Be extraordinary, extravagant and perhaps even a bit weird. Remember, you can use give.net to create and customise a fundraising page.
Not able to fundraise this time? Perhaps consider donating to Rona’s sponsored toilet sit! Or you can use give.net’s search tool to look for causes that interest you.
image Restroom Reminder courtesy of Raymond Gilford
In this edition of 3 mission minutes, I chatted to Dan Randall from Pais Project about being a twenty-something missionary, mentoring a future generation of world-changers and the 14-year old boy who set up 'Text a prayer'.
Dan – tell us what Pais Project does in 140 characters
We are a bridge between schools and churches. We invest into Youth Pastors, plus we offer a free Apprenticeship in Youth & Schools Ministry.
Tell us what YOU do in 140 characters
I lead Pais in East Lancashire, investing into the team leaders and overseeing all 4 teams. I raise vision, recruits and finances.
What’s it like to be a young missionary in the world today? Does age make a difference?
In my experience over the past 3 years, it is exciting to be a twenty-something missionary. I aspire to see my generation changed by God and be the change agents the world needs. I am starting to see a spark in pockets of the UK where young people and young adults are rising up to see their generation changed by God.
What’s your vision?
My vision is to see young people grab hold of God’s purpose for their life and live in it: to see them be the head and not the tail in society. Young people full of the Holy Spirit empowering them to see change and the Kingdom come.
It’s clear to me that when a young person grabs hold of God’s heart then a community can be changed, when a group grab hold of God’s heart then an entire town can be changed, but if a generation grabs hold of God’s heart the world can be changed.
Got an inspiring story from the Project?
Ben is a young person who is mentored by me, in many ways he is a typical British 14 year-old teenager: he loves football and is a big supporter of Liverpool FC;he plays the guitar and goes to high school. He isn’t particularly loud or extrovert but is known for being the one who welcomes people and connects with everybody in a group situation.
What makes Ben different from many of his peers is the mission heartbeat that is in him, and indeed his whole family. Ben’s dad, Tom was a Pais apprentice 12 years ago and his Aunty Hettie currently leads a team in Burnley.. Ben has always been surrounded by people who love God, want to make a difference to the people in their communities… and who know they can.
Ben isn’t a Pais apprentice himself, he’s too young! But he understands fundamentally that he can make a difference in his community, in his school and with his friends.
After attending a Pais: GB M4 weekender last year (a weekend where young people are inspired and equipped to reach their community and school) Ben was encouraged to start some initiatives in his High School. Over the past few months Ben has set up a simple but effective scheme called ‘Text a prayer’ which is as it says! Having been encouraged by this he is now currently in the process of setting up a Christian Union in his school. He may be receiving help and resources from Pais but still, it’s amazing stuff for a 14 year-old boy from the North of England.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Taking on my current role, leading the Hub. For me it has been a stretching, growing and challenging experience both in terms of dealing with other people and in my own life. The challenges have helped to shape me and empowered me to grow more as a leader. Particularly over the past 12 months when God’s faithfulness has been even more evident.
How can readers keep in touch/support you?
If you want to find out more about The Pais Project then you can go to our website – www.paisproject.com
You can also stay in touch with me personally by e-mailing me and I can send you my monthly update.As well as my monthly update you can support me by giving monthly or by a one-off donation. To get in touch my e-mail address is – [email protected]Dan tweets at @DanJRandall and you can support him using your Stewardship giving account. His account number is: 20115351
I’ve been watching Twenty Twelve, the BBC’s fictional take on the run-up to London 2012. The hapless Ian Fletcher, Head of the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission struggles to deal with bolshie and incompetent colleagues while desperately trying to keep things on an even keel. The clock is ticking as the Games draw near but will Ian and his hopeless staff get it together in time for the Opening Ceremony?
I loved Twenty Twelve, but having read lots of cynical press about the Games too, I wondered if it was nearer fact than fiction. I needn’t have worried. From the first moment of Danny Boyle’s flamboyant Opening Ceremony, London 2012 has been an unqualified success. Let me tell you some stories.
Claire & Ryan Cartwright took their young children along to the first day of the Games at the stadium. “We’d read all the cynical stories in the paper,” explains Claire, “but when we got out at Stratford, the staff couldn’t do enough for us. They were so friendly and gave us such a good experience. At the stadium, we were amazed by the enthusiasm of the crowd who cheered every athlete during all the heats and semi finals as if they were all on track for a gold medal.” Claire’s husband Ryan travels to work in London on his motorbike every day. His route takes him past the Olympic Park. “I’ve seen such a transformation over the past few years. From a run-down, derelict, unloved area, I’ve watched new life being breathed into Stratford.”
Fiona Green works on the Accounts Examination Team at Stewardship. “I volunteered at the Cycle Race through Esher on 28th July,” she says. “All the roads were closed so no-one could use their car. The sun was shining, which always helps, and there was the most incredibly social atmosphere. People were out on the streets having barbecues and chatting to everyone. I spoke to one gentleman and asked him if he’d like to have a cycle race in Esher every weekend. He thought for a minute and replied “well, maybe just on Sundays!”
In Stratford and Forest Gate, a group of churches and Christian organisations have been running a festival, reaching out into their local community. Pastor of The Highway Church, Simon Clinton, has seen the positive effect the Games have had on the area. “We live in Forest Gate. My wife was indoors when she heard the fireworks going off at the Opening Ceremony. She ran into the street in her pyjamas to see, then realised that the whole street was full of our neighbours, also in pyjamas, gazing skywards!” At the stadium, one of the team was praying for a security guard who had trapped a nerve in his back. “He was healed instantly”, says Simon. “Everyone could see that it was real because he could touch his toes, which he hadn’t been able to do for ages.”
Perhaps this goes to show that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on television! Only a few are chosen to be Olympic athletes. But as Christians, I’m reminded that we can all make a difference and engage with others, friends and strangers alike. Have a look at 1 Peter 2: 9-10. “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”
The Generosity Challenge:
As the closing ceremony swiftly approaches, where might you reach out as God's holy people? Could you speak to someone new, get involved in a community activity, or simply start up a conversation on the tube or in the street? Offer to pray for someone, celebrate your country's victories alongside your neighbours and show an enduring love and generosity that extends long after the final firework explodes in the jubilant Olympic skies.
Image courtesy of London 2012, credit: Populous.
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.