What is meeting-centred support?
Meeting-centred support is the joint response of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) and Woodbrooke trustees to today's challenges. It means working in new and different ways to help Quaker communities across the Yearly Meeting to thrive.
Quaker communities know best what support they need to help build the world described in Our Faith in the Future. And support from BYM and Woodbrooke works well when staff walk alongside Friends to offer help, ideas and challenge. By working together, BYM and Woodbrooke can make best use of our shared resources and expertise.
There's an appetite amongst Friends to try new ways of doing things. The public health emergency has made that even stronger. The number of young adult Quaker groups is growing.
The same questions being discussed beyond the Quaker community – questions about the right balance of resources between north and south, London and the rest of Britain, and between Britain's different nations – are important for national Quaker work too.
And at the same time, the number of Quakers overall is declining slowly, and meetings are getting smaller. For many meetings, the focus is on keeping going. They care about Quaker work in the world, but don't have as much time or energy to get involved as they'd like.
The Vibrancy in Meetings Pilot Programme, the Youth Worker Development Programme, Woodbrooke on the Road and online learning, and specialist programmes on property, simpler meetings, mental health, and supporting young adults, have all shown the benefits of staff being personally known, and locally available.
BYM and Woodbrooke are responding by recruiting more local development workers. These are staff based closer to where Quakers are, walking alongside them, connecting them to others, and facilitating their work.
By 2025, there'll be a local development worker in reach of every Quaker community in Britain.
We're also going to experiment with a pilot hub outside London and Birmingham. This will be a new location for some staff working for Britain Yearly Meeting and Woodbrooke.
What does a local development worker do?
Local development workers offer support to Quaker communities in many ways including:
- listening, encouraging and reassuring
- connecting Friends with people and resources
- signposting to other BYM and Woodbrooke services
- facilitating sessions on a variety of themes
- helping to review existing activities or processes
- assisting with major projects.
The approach reflects learning from the successful Vibrancy in Meetings pilot. Find out from Friends how Vibrancy made a difference by watching this short video:
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When will my meeting get a local development worker?
There are already five staff in place: four local development workers and one coordinator.
The next group of local development workers will cover Scotland, North-East England and the parts of Cumbria covered by Cumberland Area Meeting, Yorkshire and East Anglia. We expect them to take up their roles early in 2021. We will keep that timetable under review, as the public health advice changes and the longer-term impacts of the pandemic become clearer.
Our aim is to have a new group of local development workers in place each year until 2024/5.
If you think your part of the yearly meeting would benefit from a local development worker, we'd love to hear from you. Find out about how to get in touch below.
What will a staff hub be like?
Friends often say that work and support based in Woodbrooke and Friends House can feel a long way away. We plan to trial a hub of staff outside London and Birmingham.
The hub aims to improve links between local Quaker communities and our yearly meeting-wide organisations. It will also provide more locally-based support for meetings' services. In time it may also become a home for other Quaker groups and projects.
Where will we base the staff hub?
The preferred location for the hub is 188A Woodhouse Lane, Leeds – a self-contained office suite attached to Carlton Hill Meeting House.
We are continuing discussions with Friends in Leeds to make sure it will work as we expect it to for the local and area meeting, and for BYM and Woodbrooke. That work will continue over the coming months.
What to do if you're interested in hosting a local development worker
We originally invited Quaker communities to let us know by 1 December 2019 if they were interested in hosting a local development worker or the pilot hub.
We received almost forty expressions of interest from across Britain. These have led to energising and creative conversations with Quaker communities across Britain, many of which are still continuing. This work is part of a wider discernment process which is being held by Quaker Life Central Committee.
If your Quaker community didn't submit an expression of interest in a local development worker, it's not too late! We'll be introducing three or four new local development workers across the yearly meeting every year for the next four or five years. So we'd still love to hear from you.
Please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the conversation.
If you plan to discuss this in your Quaker community these resources may be useful:
- Vibrancy in Meetings Pilot Programme page on Woodbrooke's website - more information about the pilot programme which informed the decision to take a more meeting-centred approach.
- Experiments in faith: providing meeting centred support (PDF) – a leaflet outlining how the support BYM and Woodbrooke provides to Quaker communities is changing.
- Expressions of interest questions – a downloadable PDF version of the questions included in the expressions of interest form, to support group discussion.