Who are we?
Serve Scotland is a movement which champions good practice, shared vision and unity to empower local churches, organisations and communities to bring positive, transformational change in the lives of individuals, communities, and the nation.
Where did we come from?
Serve Scotland was set up as a result of wide ranging discussions between many organisations including Evangelical Alliance, Bethany, Blythswood Trust, Cinnamon Network, Care, YMCA, Alpha Scotland, Glasgow City Mission etc and representatives from a number of churches across Scotland. A year of development work including two large consultations culminated in a strong endorsement that there was a need and role for the new organisation.
Since the decision to launch Serve Scotland, other organisations e.g. ROC and Message Scotland have expressed support for the organisation. The number of churches involved has grown and churches involved come from a very wide cross section of the church in Scotland.
Serve Scotland is to be a passionate movement that brings inspiration and creativity to encourage the Christian faith community to serve the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. We seek to be a movement which champions good practice, shared vision and unity in a way that empowers local churches to see light shine in the darkest places of society. We want to see active, influential engagement with local and national government and with communities.
Serve Scotland will engage with churches and Christian organisations, seeking to build networks of activity around best practice, inspiring stories and untapped potential. We want to change the narrative from passive to active; from timid to bold.
Together, we want to identify needs in the nation and work to deliver projects of transformation. We want to share good practice and help all to see the infinite possibilities that are found in the riches of God. We long for the church in Scotland to have a longing for Jesus and a bias for the poor; to Change Scotland for Good.
Mission, Vision, and Aims
Serve Scotland will be a body whose structure and operation reflect its core purpose of enabling and supporting the church and Christian voluntary sector to do more for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. We will facilitate rather than control; release rather than contain and empower rather than constrain.
Serve Scotland’s mission, its reason for existence, is to: support, resource and equip the Church within Scotland, to provide life-changing community social action, in support of people and communities seeking to meet the needs they see around them.
Its vision, or the desired outcome of its existence, is that: through the power of the gospel in action, the Church will be a catalyst for transformational change in the lives of the people and communities it serves across Scotland.
In order to fulfil its mission and to achieve its vision in the early years of Serve Scotland’s life it will have four strategic aims; namely to:
- Represent the Church to national and local government and to the broader public, private and voluntary sectors on issues relating to community social action;
- Facilitate networks of Christian social action leaders and practitioners in order to promote and share successful projects, partnerships and best practice;
- Inform the Church of national and local community social action policy development, outcomes reporting and evaluation; and
- Resource the Church with advice and expertise in fundraising and development in order to encourage the growth of financially and operationally sustainable social action projects across Scotland.
To achieve the above aims Serve Scotland we will engage in a broad range of activities to support the faith community as it seeks to engage with vulnerable people in local communities. Core activities will include:
- Work with Christian faith community leaders in casting vision, sharing information, accessing resources, identifying best practice and making connections with those who have directly relevant experience;
- Identify opportunities for partnership, supportive relationships, pooling of resources within communities, networking of people and organisations;
- Support churches and organisations to develop their passions and ideas into projects by providing access to information, resources and expertise from within the Serve Scotland network and beyond;
- Promote the work of churches and organisations engaging in Christian social action projects across Scotland, to the faith community at large, to national and local politicians and to the general public;
- Commission and/or undertake research to determine gaps in service provision, both nationally and locally, exposing instances of unmet need and opportunities for service;
- Engage with and seek to influence church, political, voluntary and private sector, leaders and organisations, national and local government and broader civil society; and
- Take every opportunity to promote a bias for taking action and encourage churches, individuals and organisations to take informed and calculated risks on behalf of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised in their community.
Much of the early work of Serve Scotland will centre around three areas: Development of Local Serve Networks, Development of a web store, National Activity Research.
Local Serve Networks
These local networks will bring coherence, shared vision and growing relationships amongst those involved in Christian social action, leading to new projects and greater effectiveness. Each local network will be driven by people involved in work within that town. They will bring together those involved in the Christian voluntary sector to share information, talk about new initiatives and discuss unmet needs. This would help shape vision and build relationships. This group could perform a local audit, contact key councillors and agencies and plan strategically for the benefit those in need in the local community.
By creating these networks Serve Scotland aims to learn the best ways of building creative and sustainable local groups that think and act together to see lasting transformation across a whole city, town or village. Good practice lessons can then be shared within the overall Serve Scotland network.
Creation of a web store
Serve Scotland believes there is need for a web store that contains ideas, information, case studies and other key information from across the Scotland. This would be a one stop shop, making it easier for churches and groups to look at what might work for them and how they can implement ideas successfully. It is really vital that groups and projects learn from one another. There is need to discover what is being done well in various parts of the nation; what challenges are being faced; what funding has been sourced etc. A website which is easily accessible will be of huge benefit to the all engaged in the sector.
The web store will form the basis for future information sharing across the Serve Scotland network, including information on projects that evidence best practice, lessons learned in project development and operation, sources of funds, evaluation tools, case studies and stories of transformation, advice etc. Once established the store will be a major resource for anyone starting out and/or fully engaged in Christian social action in Scotland or wishing to partner with those who are.
The web store, while populated and maintained by Serve Scotland on behalf of the Christian voluntary sector, will be accessible to any inside or outside the sector who have an interest in supporting the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised in Scotland.
National Activity Research
Serve Scotland believes that the faith community is doing a huge amount of good across the nation. However, there is shortage of statistical evidence about how much is being done or about its impact on the lives of vulnerable people and communities. Nor is much known about where in the nation much is happening and in which areas less work is taking place, and what needs are well catered for and where are the gaps.
The research will show the volume and value of work already being carried out by churches and organisations in Scotland and the impact of that work on the lives of individuals and communities. It will highlight the role of the Christian voluntary sector as a major player in Scottish society. Serve Scotland leaders will be able to speak with authority on matters of social policy at local and national levels. This will help to build a coherent strategy for the Christian voluntary sector to serve the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised across Scotland.
There are various initiatives currently being discussed to address or partially address this shortage of evidence. Serve Scotland will work with others to find the most effective way to gather this information. The objective is to detail the work done, the cost involved and the amount of volunteer hours dedicated to the work. The outcomes will be presented to politicians at both national and local levels.
Similar research conducted in Wales by the council of Christian voluntary service (Gweini) was hugely helpful to both the Christian voluntary sector and the Welsh national and local governments. It formed the basis for better dialogue with government and media and made conversations about needs of communities, joint areas of concern and streams of funding much more productive.
Serve Scotland’s Theological Impulse
Jesus once said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6.20). This is not a conditional challenge but a statement about the way things are. If the kingdom of God does belong to the poor, then we know something important about why Jesus prioritised them in his roving work. And because Jesus did prioritise the poor in what he did, so should we. That is why Serve Scotland exists.
Jesus’ preferential option for the poor in his actions and teachings is the culmination of centuries of emphasis upon the same. In the story of Ruth,for example, Naomi’s family friend Boaz ensures that the impoverished Ruth and herself are left enough sheaves from his fields after his reapers have collected the harvest (Ruth 2). It is interesting to note that Jesus belongs to the lineage of Boaz (Matt. 1.5). Sometimes virtue passes through the generations.
Boaz’s act of charity was unsurprising in some ways because God himself had made clear provision for the poor in the law he made for his people Israel: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19.9-10). Boaz was just doing as any good Jew should do.
But God wanted his people to really feel for the disadvantaged and commanded them to respond in with compassion when, “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour” (Deut. 15.7).
Later on the prophets brought God’s message of justice and concern for the poor to the door of his people, who were being neglectful of them: “The Lord enters into judgement with the elders and princes of his people: It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts” (Isa. 3.14-15). And many other prophets followed suit if God’s people fell foul of further injustice towards those in poverty. They didn’t hold back either, which shows just how passionately God is on the side of the poor.
So when Jesus came on the scene it was no big shock that the God of Israel in the person of Jesus announced that the kingdom of God, the new reign of God, belongs to the poor. His message has been consistent throughout the history of his people.
And in the early days of this new reign, the Holy Spirit was poured out abundantly at the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. Some frustrated followers of Jesus brought the case to the twelve apostles that there were some widows who were being missed out on a daily distribution of food to those in poverty. So the apostles identified seven good men, full of the Holy Spirit, and with this issue beating in their hearts to sort the problem out. (Acts 6.1-6)
Serving the poor is at the heart of following Jesus.
We seek to continue this as an organisation because serving the poor is what we do.