It was just over three years ago that Mark Willett, church delegate from King’s Church (Penwortham Free Methodist Church) responded to Bishop David Roller’s call at the U.K. Annual Conference to take risks and try out new things to reach our communities. After pioneering the area’s first church-based work club in October 2011 in Penwortham meeting every Thursday morning. Willett and his team partnered with Christians Against Poverty in April 2013 to establish Lancashire’s first CAP Job Club. One of Willett’s volunteers also established a church-based Work Club at St. Thomas Blackpool.
Then, later in the year, Willett was contacted by Calvary Christian Fellowship to ask if the church would help it deliver a Job Club in Lostock Hall. Willett successfully applied for funding from S Ribble Partnership and Job Centre Plus and trained their volunteers.
On May 2, 2014, the new Job Club was opened. The location delivers a community drop-in/coaching from 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. each Friday and will host the Steps to Employment course from 1:30 –3 p.m. Thursdays servicing both locations. The Job Club Team now has 10 volunteers from five different churches working to support the two locations, and, since 2011, has helped over 140 residents take steps back to work. In June, Willett started a CAP Money Course to help job club members manage their finances and stay clear of debt.
CAP nationally now has 83 Job Clubs U.K.-wide and the vision is to have 500 by 2021, one in every major town and city. CAP also has Debt Centres in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“When the bishop spoke at the 2011 conference, the Holy Spirit stirred up within me a passion for those who were struggling in the recession, who were being made redundant or were struggling to get back into the labour market. After the conference, I shared with the leadership my plans, and, with three friends, we started the club,” Willett said.
“Unemployment can destroy families and can be a cause of people slipping into debt and poverty, but getting a job can make a massive change in individuals and their families. Besides helping people back to work, we have had the privilege of praying with people, sharing our lives as Christians with many who have no contact with church, developing a language of love and compassion. Working with Calvary has been an amazing journey; they have been involved with CAP as Debt Centre for a number of years and working together is a great witness in the community, so much so that the local council members are asking advice how we can help them reach other communities in the locality.”
If you are considering similar efforts in your community, you can contact Willett at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website theworkclub.org.uk for more of the CAP Job Club’s story and information on how to start a work club/job club. “