Soon after I left university, a friend and I discovered that we were leading a small house church. Exciting days! After a year or two, we were invited to take over the local Evangelical Church down the road. This was very tempting, but after some concerted prayer, we concluded that this was not where God was leading us.
We eventually took much of the church with us into the local URC, where a significant influx of younger people throwing themselves into church life helped to encourage a remarkable period of spiritual growth in the congregation - which was already well underway before we turned up.
After a few more years, I was ordained as an Elder in the URC and started preaching regularly.
In 1999, I left my job in order to move to Bristol and be a part of a new project to train Christian workers. This ran successfully for a year, but then, unexpectedly, all the students we were expecting to train the following year all pulled out. At the same time, I was asked to take over running a small Christian charity called Crisis Centre Ministries - just a few days a week, for a few months.
I was asked to step in because Derek Groves, who had set up CCM, had just retired through ill health. At this point, there were a couple of dozen regular volunteers and two members of staff: one who ran the office and one, paid through an SRB grant, who ran the Life Skills training.
The original job description was simply to keep the organisation running while the board found someone to take over running it on a permanent basis. I rapidly discovered that there was, in fact, no organisation for anyone to take over.
There was a legal entity - a limited company and registed charity - which was paying off a mortgage on the property we occupied; there was a bank account, two staff and a newsletter which went out four times a year to a mailing list. And lots of wonderful people doing lots of wonderful things, loving people and filling in where they saw something needed to be done.
It was a chaotic place, but things worked amazingly well due to the dedication, love and sacrifice of the staff and volunters. As was frequently commented on, the 'Crisis Centre' was well named: every day there was another crisis, and people rallied round and handled the crisis time and time again.
Over the years, we managed to build on that love and dedication. I produced contracts of employment and job descriptions for the staff, some basic policies and procedures for the volunteers, training and rotas. I convinced the board that we ought to employ someone to manage the Coffee Shop, and over the years the ministry grew.
To be continued...