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‘God’s word, expressed practically’ 

 

A charity that seeks to support the country’s must vulnerable children is increasingly drawing on the roots of its Baptist founder

 

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Spurgeons Children’s Charity was founded in 1867 by the famous Baptist preacher and writer Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon was compelled by his reading of the Bible to seek a practical response to the great needs he saw around him.  
 
The charity began as an orphanage for fatherless boys, with Spurgeon and his associates aiming to provide shelter, education and the hope of a better future. Within 10 years of opening, girls were also welcomed into the orphanage and more than 500 children lived there.
 
One hundred and fifty years on the charity looks very different, but its heart, and the inspiration of its founder, remain the same, says chief executive Ross Hendry. He explains that over time, like many big charities, much of its funding comes from delivering public services. As austerity hit, demand for help from vulnerable families grew.  
 
It’s been a time to ask ‘fundamental questions about who we are, why we do what we do’.

And that’s where Spurgeon comes in.
 
Spurgeons RossHendry‘Going back to our founder has been helpful,' explains Ross (pictured). 'The charity grew out of prayer, and was a practical response to a social need.
 
‘So while society is very different now compared to then, there are a lot of similarities. We are quite clear we want to be a Christian children’s charity. We always ask: how do we model Christ-like qualities and behaviour as we deliver services? How do we go beyond the bare minimum?
 
‘For everything we seek to do seeks to be honouring to Christ. It’s dangerous in that it’s setting us up to fail. We can’t possibly meet Christ’s standards – but we can do our upmost to aim for them. We are constantly striving for excellence.’
 
To underline this focus in its 150th year, the charity has undergone a refreshed look, with a new website and branding. The ‘S’ from Spurgeon's signature has been incorporated into the new logo to illustrate an embrace between parent and child, and the cared for and the carer.
 
‘We are motivated in the same way Spurgeon was,' says Ross. 'It’s God’s word, expressed practically. This is a way of linking to our founder.’

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Spurgeons is one of the UK's leading children's charities, supporting children and families affected by social disadvantage. In the last year, it delivered over 80 services, reaching more than 37,000 children and 64,000 parents or carers.
 
Working with families struggling to cope is one of its core areas. Through its children’s centres parents can get advice and support. The approach is understanding and relational, explains Ross. ‘The soft approach is very non-threatening – and life transforming things take place in children’s centres.’
 
Supporting young carers is another major focus. Young carers often have to assume a level of responsibility that would normally only be asked of an adult. The stress and anxiety this can cause can leave them feeling isolated and unsupported. Spurgeons works with more than 1,500 young carers across the UK to help them overcome the challenges they face.
 
Families affected by imprisonment is another area of work. Statistics show that a child whose father is in prison is more likely to go to prison than university. Spurgeons works with dads in prison to help them explore how they can grow their relationship with their children. ‘Ironically, being in prison has helped many with their relationships with their children,’ Ross says. ‘Through our work, they learned how to be parents.’
 
In light of its roots and ethos, Spurgeons has always actively encouraged churches and Christians to connect with it and each other.
 
Ross says church support is the bedrock of the charity. ‘We’d love churches to partner with us.
 
‘It’s primarily through prayer – we grew out of a prayer meeting. We need protection, vision and provision. All these things come from God.’
 
Ross also hopes that some may be moved by the Holy Spirit to respond in other ways, either financially or through volunteering. Not all of Spurgeons’ work is funded by the public purse (the prisons work is an example) – the charity needs to find resources to carry out all it wants. 
 
Another way of supporting is by volunteering. For instance, its Together for Families programme puts dedicated staff within its children’s centres to encourage local churches in their community work with children, young people and their families.
 
The teams also link parents with more specialist family support to help them with physical or mental health issues, debt, financial hardship or employment problems. In places where there is no Spurgeons’ centre, the charity encourages local churches to partner local organisations. Ross says the charity wants to challenge churches to see mission as local as well as international.
 
‘There is a danger there is a demarcation between overseas mission and the community needs on the doorstep,’ he says.
 
‘Church can see the acute need at close quarters, and there are ways of supporting those involved in meeting those needs. We deliver really meaningful services through volunteers, and we are being very intentional in hooking up churches with local services. 
 
‘I would challenge them to do something local – the need is there.’
 
SermonPartly for this reason Spurgeons has teamed up with new Baptists Together President Dianne Tidball to create a new resource for both individual and church use.
 
‘The charity grew out of a prayer meeting,’ Ross explains. ‘The church was informed and concerned, and it’s important for us not to just assume that the church knows. We want to develop resources the church can use. 
 
‘We want to provide congregations with a window onto the issues facing many children in our communities. And not just to stand by the window looking, but act with us in ways that practically expresses the gospel.’


 
For more on Spurgeons visit: https://www.spurgeons.org/
 
For more on how Spurgeons works with churches, and to sign up for its prayer updates, visit: https://www.spurgeons.org/secondary-nav-pages/churches-engagement
 
For the resource with Dianne, visit http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/291551/Spurgeons.aspx

 

 

Baptist Times, 19/06/2017
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