Every month we have an article in the Christ Church Pennington Parish Magazine. Below you can read our most recent contribution!


An insight into our CAP Life Skills Courses run by SVC  – Ally Murden   


If you could bring about one real change to your life what would it be?  Imagine what life would look like.  How would things be different for you, for the people around you? 

This question is one of the opening sentences involved in a Life Skills coaching session. It establishes the dream, asks people to look up.  After that there is a lot of work to break the dream down in to titchy steps which members can take for the duration of the course.  The progress depends on their bravery and action alongside us keeping them accountable and providing support and a listening ear.

New Life Skills members are generally daunted at coming in to a new place, with a lot of people.  Sometimes they come expecting it to be like courses they have been forced to attend in the past.  So having a friendly greeting, the brews ready and soup cooking in the kitchen is key to our first week.  A Logo quiz and some daft questions gets them talking without the threat of too much eye contact or awkward small talk. The returning members, who have some idea of what it was like, are always keen to share what a difference the course has made to them and to try and to remember the answers to the quiz from last term for an advantage!

Life Skills has 3 elements: the community of lunch together, the coaching mentioned above, and the course element.  Course content concerns money, cooking, physical health, mental wellbeing and relationships.  Teaching activities are as hands on as possible and we have 3 or 4 volunteers strategically “dotted” around to help the activity, possibly scribe, summarise the discussions, as well as reminding members  we aren’t at school and they aren’t being marked on spelling or handwriting! One popular activity is the taste test- we anonymise 3 of the same food, like cornflakes or chocolate and rate them without knowing the prices.   This is just to challenge member’s brand loyalty and willingness to try something new. It helps members to realise that we have choices about spending and our priorities.

 By far the favourite week is cooking week.  Blue hats and pinnies on, followed by much chopping and chatting, facing the spitty-fat-in-the-pan fear, culminates in a tasty meal together. It bonds the group and is the first major achievement for a lot of members.  Some members will have chosen cooking as their coaching goal will be ready to go home and try this meal again or another, talked through first with their coach.

Our members tell us they have never been anywhere as positive as Life Skills where the people are kind and encouraging.  They tell us that we listen and are not judgemental, just helpful where we can be.  Consequently so many wanted to come over and over again we saw the need to set up a Graduates Group which we are blessed to have Helen Leakey to run. About 80% of the people in that group have made commitments or are in church regularly.  The ability to make long term relationships with people is such a privilege, not to have to turn people away when they have been on the course a couple of times, to keep supporting their changes and get to know them properly.  Do you remember Peter and Dawn who were interviewed at CCP a year ago?  Peter has a part time job now.  He can be found in the SVC car park every week saving the best spaces for us!  He said he realised that we had become family to him, and he watched us for a long time and gradually came to realise that what we said about Jesus actually made sense. Dawn still tells me she doesn’t hold with all that God stuff but she looks forward to every Friday when Life Skills is on as the best day of the week.

Please can I ask you to pray pray pray?!  Our service has become well recommended and on the day of writing this (26th Sept’) I am gearing up for the possible arrival of 15 members tomorrow!  If they all come we will be really busy.  Each person brings their own needs and personalities and it can be difficult to balance them all and for me not to go into problem solving mode for each person.  The first couple of weeks can be emotionally really challenging.  Please pray for wisdom about what we can and can’t help with.  Life Skills is meant to help people become more independent and bring about their own change at their own pace, not do it all for them.

Please pray for my core volunteers:  Sharon McBride, Sue and Rob Murray, Helen Leakey, Simon Edwards. They all give to Life Skills amidst family, job changes, and health complications.  Please especially hold Sue and Robin in your prayers as recent surgery to Sue’s brain has not stopped the horrendous headaches and she is having to have further investigations.

It is a great sadness that we are losing the Debt side of our CAP centre.  Please pray for Laura, Angela, and for Helen Bolton as they grieve for this amazing service, and for the clients who are still on Debt repayment plans being supported by the Wigan centre and head office. Please pray that our supporters will value the work of Life Skills enough to continue to give financially so that local referral agencies will still have somewhere to send vulnerable people where they may find hope; and we may have the opportunity to enrich their lives practically and spiritually by introducing them to Jesus.

Lastly please pray for some of our returning members to be in a place where I can train them up and have them as volunteers, ultimately that they could become trained coaches.  It makes a real difference to the members that Sue and Sharon were CAP clients and have been in a place of despair and come to know God’s strength to cope with life. It would be fabulous to have some more similar team members to show the hope of transformation.

Thank you for all your support- prayer, financial and practical.  Your commitment to client events and appeals like hampers; the provision of the Café where I take clients for affordable food and friendly environment; your care for the people we are reaching is a blessing to both them and me. 

Much love



SVC meet in the Harriers Building on Leigh Sports Village, Sunday afternoons, starting at 4:30pm  www.sportsvillagechurch.com

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