Blessed are the tea makers

19th July 2018

It all began with the school run. Having dropped his son off at school, Rev Andi Thomas’ short journey to work at St Clement’s Castle Bromwich would take him past the grounds of another local school. Day after day, he observed weary parents waiting dejectedly on the asphalt as they were battered by the elements. Each time he passed, he was amazed that no one was talking to one another. That didn’t seem quite right to Andi.

Over time, Andi began to brew an idea; if anything could bring these parents together, he thought, it’s the good old British cuppa. He arranged a meeting with the Headteacher and shared his observations and his idea – a team of volunteers from St Clement’s working with a key worker to give out hot drinks on the playground before or after school, 

Pop Up Cuppa

Andi’s vision for Pop Up Cuppa has always been about relationships – facilitating relationships within the community, building relationships between the church and community and developing great relationships between the schools and the church.

As I sit and listen to Andi regale the story of Pop Up Cuppa, I am wooed by both the simplicity and the efficacy of the initiative. Armed with little more than a couple of flasks of hot water, a bumper pack of teabags and a few packets of biscuits, this small team of volunteers from St Clement’s are being used powerfully by God to transform their community.

Andi tells me a few of the stories of transformation. Stories of parents who have begun to engage with other church activities and gain the confidence to take on leadership roles. The story of one parent who, through the relationship that began over a cuppa, has felt empowered to return to education, starting a course in accounting.

The team began with one local primary school, once a month. 18 months on, they now pop up in three schools once every three weeks or so. Andi tells me the schools have been enthusiastic about the impact of Pop Up Cuppa. One of the schools have even approached Andi for the church’s help with pastoral support for some of the parents and pupils.

Inarguably, Pop Up Cuppa is having a hugely positive impact on the community up in Castle Bromwich and it strikes me that it is an easily replicable project; Andi himself would love to see parishes across Church of England Birmingham pulling out their urns for the sake of the gospel. If you are interested in having a go in your parish here are a few tips I picked up from my chat with Andi:

  • Always have a key worker from the school with you. It is a joint project and this helps foster buy-in from the school. Make this part of your initial arrangement with the school.
  • Recruit volunteers who are great conversationalists. Remember this is primarily about relationships. It is essential to have team members who won’t shy away from a good chat with parents and pupils (although, being able to make a cracking cuppa helps too).
  • Seek engagement from the wider community. In which ways can people and business locally support the project. St Clement’s don’t actually pay for the drinks or biscuits, these are funded by a local funeral directors, whose manager has caught the vision.
  • Be ready for people to engage with other church activities. Don’t sit back and wait for hundreds of families to flood into your Sunday morning service; this is unlikely to be the next logical step for those showing a deeper interest in involvement. St Clement’s have found engagement and growth predominantly through Me Time – their creative community café space for parents and carers. Be prepared too. What will you be inviting people to next?
  • Get your hands on a gazebo if you can - it will really help when the weather is less desirable. Failing look for somewhere with a bit of shelter.

Would you like some help getting something like this off the ground?

Please do get in touch with the Growing Younger Facilitation team or Mike Down, the Growing Younger Schools Project Manager.