As the national website will tell you “Safe Families for Children (Safe Families) works hand-in-hand with children’s services to link families in need with local volunteers who can offer them help and support.”
These “local volunteers” are us - Church Wigan – people who first seek to know “who is my neighbour” and then are challenged by Jesus to go to those in need. Safe Families provides a structure which allows us as the church to be neighbours to people who we might never otherwise meet, people whose needs are great, but whose openness to support, encouragement, and the love of Christ may often surprise us all.
If someone in your worshipping community or in your family was in need of friends to support them through a difficult time, it's easy to know that you would of course respond to that need. Maybe they have just had a surprise arrival of twins, and need twice the baby equipment they were expecting, and a bit of support while they get settled as a family. Can you see yourself praying for that family? checking your loft for those baby toys you kept “just in case”? or rolling your sleeves up to decorate the nursery? taking the older children out to the swings once a week? helping mum get in some good routines, sharing your experiences and skills? Think about your worshipping community, your hub, maybe several people might do different things to support this family?
Now what if that family in need was not part of your worship community or your family, but someone in the local area, who don't have people around them? When you were new to an area, or a new parent, or recently bereaved, or simply temporarily overwhelmed by circumstances, who did you turn to? Can you imagine what life would be like if those friends, family, neighbours weren't around?
We know that there are hundreds of families in Wigan who need just this kind of short-term support, not from professionals but from people who are ready to be a friend. How do we find them though, and how do we make sure that as a church and as individuals we are able to help people safely, with the training, and support for volunteers that ensures we will do no harm? This is where Safe Families comes in, Safe Families means that you can be the great neighbour, friend, family, that you are already capable of being, to those Jesus calls us to.
Just as in our own family or Worshipping Community though, becoming a volunteer does not mean committing to constant work, simply a readiness to say yes when our own circumstances allow. Maybe you own a lawnmower ... this doesn't mean that you are out every day mowing lawns from March until September, though it does mean that if someone in your Worshipping Community was struggling with their garden, it might be you who says “I'll do it” this year.