The report was commissioned in 2015 by the Directors of the Free Churches Group, our Eurodiaconia member in the UK. It was intended to explore existing projects and initiatives in which the Free Churches are involved, identify good practice and discern the most effective areas of engagement for the Free Churches with further and public education.
The report found a synergy and certain similarities between congregations and educational institutions. This stemmed from the fact that despite both being ‘community-facing organisations’ they often occur outside the mainstream, remain ignored by the media, and share a common concern for the disadvantaged and the principles of equality, inclusiveness and freedom of conscience. Based on these similarities, the study highlighted the benefit of a concerted effort to improve collaboration between free church congregations and further and public education for the benefit of the community and society. It advocated for congregations bringing forward their mission of social justice beyond their church building, being active in educational activities including community learning, chaplaincy, classes for the elderly, and retraining for the unemployed.
The document is a relevant piece of work within our membership, through its reflection on how congregations and faith based organisations can be encouraged to engage with public education services as an opportunity to reach into their local communities. The Eurodiaconia network and its projects and outreach are underpinned by principles of social justice, equality, inclusiveness and the value of every individual. As such, attention to how engaging with education services can meet the needs and requirements of diverse learners of all ages and abilities, and foster training, skills development and inclusion is an important insight. Moving forward, the report recommends that free church congregations and faith based organisations engage with public service education and higher education bodies to provide tailored learning opportunities to learners with special educational needs.
To learn more about how the Free Churches Group envisages developing engagement with education institutions to contribution to outreach, mission and social justice goals, you can find the complete report, titled “Serving from the Margins”: The Free Churches and Further Education on their website.