Julia Faire asks Matthew Bird, The Cinnamon Network’s founder a few questions.
Hi Matt. You are obviously very busy so thanks so much for giving us your time.
Please can you tell us why you are so passionate about helping set up church-run social action projects and what made you found Cinnamon Network?
The reason I started The Cinnamon Network is because, after loving God, the single most important thing any Christian must do is to love and serve their neighbour and wider community. The other driver is that the 40,000 ‘branches’ of local churches across the UK represent some of the greatest social infrastructure in our society. If those churches step up and step out they can help meet some of the greatest social needs in our communities.
What impact do you think The Cinnamon Network is having on churches and local communities in the UK?
The Cinnamon Network is making it easier for local churches to serve those people at need in their communities. There are currently over 3,500 local churches leading a Cinnamon Network recognised project, mobilising over 50,000 volunteers and serving over 700,000 people. This is a threefold increase in 2 years and we dream about achieving an additional threefold increase.
What kind of churches and Christian organisations link up with The Cinnamon Network?
We’re working with Christians of every background… black and white, from the north and south, rich and poor, young and old, traditional and new, Protestant and Catholic. God is breaking down many of the historic divisions in the church. Local churches are increasingly finding one another and choosing to work together to serve those people at need in the community.
Have you any tips on how churches involved in social action can keep their God-focus?
Be confident and unashamed about being a Christian. Be unconditional and extravagant in the love that you show people. A beneficiary of one of The Cinnamon Network church-based community projects asked a volunteer, ‘Will you still be my friend if I don’t accept your Jesus?’ The answer has to be ‘yes’ otherwise our care and compassion is shown to be contrived, false and inauthentic.
What is your vision for the church in the UK?
In my early days as a Christian I regretted having not been around through the charismatic renewal of the 1970s and 1980s. However, today I believe that we are living at one of the most exciting eras in history when the Church is facing an unprecedented historic opportunity to meet the needs of our nation.
Our society sees the Church as a bunch of homophobic, sexist bigots. My vision for the Church is to be known as the people who love God and love our neighbor, the people who love and care for the homeless, indebted, drug-addicted, the widows, the orphans – everyone who has hit rock bottom. If we can achieve that, the way that our society views the Church will change.
You are the creator of ‘Relationology’. What actually is it and how has your expertise in the area of business relationships affected the way you run The Cinnamon Network?
‘Relationology’ is my business; it helps leaders and organisations build the relationships they need to achieve greater success. Typically I work in professional services to strengthen their new business development and client relationship management.
Relationships are at the core of everything I do, including The Cinnamon Network which is based on relationships. The Cinnamon Network is a movement of people passionate about social transformation. Our leadership consists of friends who enjoy working together. Our projects offer people very practical help to people in need; however beyond that, they offer friendship to people in crisis.
Can you tell us about any recent exciting developments connected with Cinnamon?
The Cinnamon Network has over £500,000 to award in £1,500-£3,000 micro-grants to any local church or group of local churches who want to start one of our recognised projects. If you want to find out more please do attend attend one of our regional events.
Find out more by visiting the Cinnamon Network website.
For more information about Matt’s new book ‘101 Secrets To Grow Your Business Through The Power of Relationships’ (including some valuable free information) see link www.relationology.co.uk/secrets
In 2010, David Cameron delivered his vision for the ‘Big Society’: local communities would be given more power to run their affairs and charitable groups encouraged to take an active role in supporting and meeting needs within their communities.
Inspired by this, Matt Bird, founder and director of Relationology, an organisation promoting successful business relationships, gathered 50 Christian leaders in the Cinnamon Club in London to come up with a scheme to fast-track a way of helping UK-based Christian organisations to be better equipped to run social action projects. As a result, The Cinnamon Network was formed. Its mission statement is to: “make it as easy as possible for local churches across the UK to help those people most at need in their communities.”
The Cinnamon Network has grown rapidly, with over 3,500 churches (and over 50,000 volunteers) now running a Cinnamon recognised project. Projects include Make Lunch (provision of meals in holiday times for poorer school children), Parish Nursing, Link Visiting Scheme (visiting older isolated people in communities), Street Pastors, Community Money Advice, Trussell Trust Food Banks, Night Shelter and CAP Job Clubs. All these are designed to show the love of Christ to people in practical ways.
The Cinnamon Network aims to foster the replication of existing successful projects by hands-on advice, support and handing out start-up micro-grants of anything from £1,500 – £3,000.
In 2013 David Cameron gave The Cinnamon Network a Big Society Award, “in recognition of the huge difference they have made across the country.”
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