What ten years of running a Jesus Centre has taught us

Northampton Jesus Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2014. What have we learned along the way that has seen us through to this point?


Early on we discovered that where you think you’re going when you start isn’t where you end up but in it all God gets you exactly where He needs you to be in order to bring Him the glory.

benNorthampton Jesus Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2014. What have we learned along the way that has seen us through to this point?

Early on we discovered that where you think you’re going when you start isn’t where you end up but in it all God gets you exactly where He needs you to be in order to bring Him the glory. We hadn’t anticipated it taking a year to get planning permission and five years from agreeing the lease to opening the doors. We hadn’t anticipated the impact of the recession on our businesses and community funds which have significantly challenged our finances and increased the demand for services such as Foodbank. We hadn’t taken into consideration the need to ensure ownership beyond our first generation so that our volunteer base is stable and sustainable. We had barely imagined the extent of demand there would be for our ESOL and drop-in services and had been over optimistic about our ability to run financially viable community cafés.

So we’ve also learned that it’s a good job God doesn’t tell us our future or we’d never have attempted it. Jesus Centres have taken far more of our time, energy and resources and required a much deeper level of commitment from a congregation to make them work than they may have previously been used to giving. Certainly, if I’d known when I took on the Volunteer Co-ordinator role, how much juggling of volunteers I’d have to do and favours I’d have to ask for, in order to open the doors to serve people, I’d have been much less enthusiastic than I was. Through it all, God’s taught us to lean on Him and trust Him to provide all that we need. Like the boy in the bible with the five loaves and two fish, bringing his lunch to Jesus, He wants us to trust Him to multiply what we’ve given Him.

esolWe’ve also come to realise it matters less about the skills and qualifications someone has. What really counts is their capacity to love people: all kinds of people, all of the time. It is love that ultimately changes peoples’ lives; from the alcoholic who comes in believing that there’s no hope to the young Somali mum who wants to learn English to be able to speak to her son’s teachers.

As Christians, the central message of the gospel is that God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that we wouldn’t have to die but have eternal life. We have witnessed that it’s the small acts of kindness that do more to show Jesus’ love to people than our words. Going the extra mile and beyond is costly but that is where the real fruit of character and perseverance are discovered and where hearts are won. Be it the angry young man who was beaten black and blue by his dad, who needs patience and fathering over a game of pool a couple of times a week, to the long-term rough sleeper who needs our listening ear (and occasionally can be persuaded to use the shower), or the elderly widow who enjoys our conversation over a Senior citizens’ lunch special. From laundry, to toilet cleaning or serving a visitor with a cup of tea or offering time to help someone improve their English or write their CV, all of these things can become the tool God uses to touch people with His love and offer them hope.

cookingFinally, we’ve learned that team is everything. No one person or even a full complement of competent staff could accomplish all that we have done in people’s lives since we opened our doors – it’s the daily routine of  working together, supporting one another, bearing with one another in our imperfections and weaknesses that wins the day. As the management proverb goes “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far – go together”.

We’ve seen many projects come and go over the last ten or so that we’ve been operating. However, by the grace of God we’re still here and although there are many challenges we face both now and in the future, we are committed to being here for the long haul, by the grace of God:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.

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I've lived in intentional Christian community for over 20 years in new plants, frontline missional and welcome houses. With my husband Sid I have a ministry at one of our Jesus Centres in Northampton and was part of the team that developed our Jesus Centre in Sheffield.

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