Putting on a Networking Event in Cheltenham
The story of how Mal (from Phoenix Assurance CWG) and Marion (from Superdry CWG) put on a regional networking event in Gloucestershire with assistance from TWUK.
On Saturday May 6th, after weeks of ambitious and courageous planning, we held our first Gloucestershire networking event.
Having set up and run new Christian Workplace Groups at Nationwide Building Society and Superdry, we knew about the work of Transform Work UK and ended up attending their 2016 AGM in Central London last October. We were deeply moved when hearing how God had been at work in so many workplaces across the UK, and how, as Christians we were called to consider our workplace as a prime place for ministering God’s message of hope and love. This came with considering the challenges and responsibilities that came with being a follower of Jesus amongst colleagues, customers and suppliers.
After such a great time in London, we were both very keen to connect with other Christians locally, passionate about making a difference at their workplace and perhaps struggling to find ways to do so. The idea of organising a networking event then came very naturally. Our local Transform Work UK ambassador, Elizabeth, was hugely supportive helping us with advertising, centralizing all the guest online registrations, writing up material, and most important praying for us.
Shortly after Christmas, we held weekly conference calls where we prayed together, asked for guidance and started to plan – where to hold it, how long, what to include, how to spread the word.
Firstly where to hold it? We felt it right to hold it in a workplace and the CEO of Superdry was very supportive, so we held it at the Superdry head office premises in Cheltenham. This included a large cafe space, an open plan office area and smaller breakout rooms for discussion.
Then what to include? The event was to the glory of God so we decided to kick off with worship, led by a friend in a local church. Elizabeth was kindly able to adapt a TWUK presentation on how to start a CWG, which included useful information about recognition and diversity law. We wanted a way of networking and sharing so we also included 2 breakout sessions – one about following Jesus in the workplace, and one about starting a CWG. Finally, lunch - we were able to be flexible about numbers due to the local sandwich shop.
To get the news of the workshop out, we contacted local churches, put posters in bookshops, told Evangelical Alliance and above all told people we knew – this last one was the most effective!
So how did it go? Extremely well in a very humble way, especially when we probably hadn’t allowed ourselves a huge amount of time to advertise the event. The fact that we didn’t have to pay for the venue meant that we had very little expenses, other than teas, coffees, biscuits and sandwiches! There were around 20 of us at this first event, with people from both large and smaller organisations including some self-employed people, across various Christian denominations. The event was emotional at times and we all learnt a lot from each other – the conversation flowed as did the coffee and tea – and we all came away with commitments which we prayed together over.
For us this was a very special day. For the first time in Gloucestershire, Christians were coming from different churches to “be” church in an office space where certainly no worship had ever taken place, united with a single purpose to see God’s Glory in our workplace. God’s Spirit was truly amongst us and we look forward to growing our network and strengthening each others in the next few months.
If you have been thinking about starting a similar network in your area, ask God for strength and wisdom, then go for it. God is already ahead of you. It won’t be without its challenges, but it could well be the start of your greatest adventure.
Get in touch with us! We’d love to hear how you are getting on.
Mal Shaw, Marion David