Mission is the heart of our church, and of our lives as Christians.
The word ‘mission’ itself comes from a word meaning ‘to be sent’. As Christians we believe we are sent out to show God’s love to the world through who we are and what we do.
At St Leonard’s we try to do this through a number of projects where we reach out or go out to the community of Lexden and beyond to address the need around us. Some examples of our mission work include a bereavement group, lunches for the isolated, a long and close relationship with the Colchester CAP Debt Centre which helps those struggling with money, a brick club, new parents support groups and more!
Below you can find details of the Life Skills course which St Leonard’s runs in partnership with Colchester CAP across the town.
Life Skills: giving people practical tools to budget and manage their money,
supporting them to be more independent, confident and to improve wellbeing.
In September 2019, St Leonard’s, working in partnership with the Colchester CAP Debt Centre, (CCDC) started the first Life Skills course in Colchester. St Leonard’s has been a key supporter of CCDC since its creation, and remains so, providing regular financial support, volunteers and a trustee!
Life Skills is a free, 8 week course, open to all, and is all about giving people the tools to build a budget for themselves and then to stick to it, to cook fresh food, to look after their mental and physical health and live well, even on a low income. As well as the weekly group sessions, trained coaches can offer one-to-one support on particular issues too, helping course members set and achieve their goals (and so far we have a 90% success rate at achieving targets by the end of the course!).
Life Skills sessions are run by one of the three trained coaches, and supported by a team of volunteers from St Leonard’s and other churches across Colchester.
Just as important as the practical budgeting tools and skills we teach is creating a supportive community. Every session starts with a shared meal – which we often prepare together too – and some social time. If we have to keep meeting online, we plan to deliver meals to people in time for them to join a video call when we can still have lunch together! We also play fun games linked to what we’re learning about (could you tell the difference between economy and luxury crisps or washing up liquid?!) and also try new things. We’ve tried making origami animals and knitting poppies for remembrance and decorating cupcakes.
It is this community building that really sets the Life Skills course apart from other budgeting courses. As well as helping reduce social isolation, the community building is central to improving confidence and wellbeing, which then helps people apply what they have learned to how they live.
Feedback from previous courses supports this. For example: one group member told us that by the end of the course they were not only better able to budget and save, but that they felt happier, part of a community and had more hope for the future. We’ll take that! And another group member enjoyed it so much, she’s done the course twice!
“I found Life Skills fun and welcoming and everyone was nice and friendly…
I had so much fun doing Life Skills with you.” Amanda
We know that the need for Life Skills was growing even before the impact of Covid-19 began to hit. The pandemic has increased isolation, unemployment and mental health issues, making this service even more important.
As of May 2020, we have run two courses at St Leonard’s, two online (during lockdown), one in the Hythe and one in Greenstead. We have plans for more in future – both at St Leonard’s and in other venues across Colchester, so that the courses are as accessible as possible. This has been possible in part due to the generous support of Colchester Borough Homes, for which we are very grateful.
We currently have three trained Life Skills coaches (one of whom started herself on the first course we ran!) and we are growing our team of amazing volunteers from St Leonard’s an beyond. We also have great links with local agencies (the local food bank, JobCentrePlus and housing associations, for example).
“The people who run Life Skills are very open, welcoming and non – judgemental.
What I learnt from the course was ideas for budget recipes, how to make soup
from chicken bones and also mastered knitting after years of trying. The course
has pushed me to try new things and experiences
including signing up to become a Life Skills coach myself.” Samantha