It takes courage to speak of Jesus in a world where Christ crucified is seen as a stumbling block and foolishness. Therefore, it’s so important to create safe spaces where we can support one another as we do this. In essence, this is what the Greenhouse is all about. Anna McCracken, one of the mentors says, ‘The Greenhouse is about people using their own situation, whatever it is, to create opportunities and be spurred on in their evangelism.’ It’s a safe place to develop ideas and to grow, similar to how a greenhouse in a garden is used to cultivate and protect tender plants.
I had the privilege of being involved with the project in the lead up to Christmas 2021. I’d like to tell you a little more about it and about my own experience as part of a small group.
How does Greenhouse work?
The Greenhouse project is for women who want to deepen their own understanding of the gospel and grow in their ability to share it with those around them. It happens twice a year in the lead up to Christmas and Easter, and provides training, mentoring and feedback for each participant. The intention is to help one another create and deliver evangelistic material, maybe a talk, a short video, a blog or poetry. In our small group, we helped one another prepare for two wreath-making events, a toddler group Christmas party and a coffee morning for first time mums, but more of that later!
Greenhouse lasts for five weeks. There is a video for everyone to watch beforehand and an online training event two weeks in, but the majority of the time is spent in small groups, either online or in person. These groups provide peer feedback and support, a key element in the process. At the end of the five weeks, encouraged and spurred on by one another, each participant is ready to take up the opportunities that Christmas and Easter afford.
Small groups meet four times. In our first session we talked about our own situations and the evangelistic opportunities we’d been given or hoped to create, our feelings of anticipation and apprehension as we embarked on this process, and we read the Bible together and prayed. Each of us brought concrete ideas to the next session and gave one another feedback, encouraging one another and praying together. In the final two sessions we spent time tweaking our talks and discussing final preparations. We were able to deliver our talks in a safe place before having to do it ‘for real’ at an event.
The companionship and the walking together throughout the four sessions were appreciated by everyone. All of us benefited from being a part of this project in one way or another. It was a timely reminder of how good it is to work together on things, one body but many parts in action. The different personalities, gifts and experiences enriched the whole process.
Putting it into practice
Two evangelistic opportunities that came out of Greenhouse were a church based wreath-making event and a coffee morning initiated by a first-time mum for first-time mums in her community.
A great team from church, together with an experienced wreath maker, organised the event and a talk was given by one of the Greenhouse participants. 37 of those who attended the wreath-making event were invited friends or community sign-ups and most were unknown to the church. At least 20 went along to other Christmas events.
The speaker said: ‘I found the Greenhouse fun and stretching, and enjoyed the training session part-way through. Being part of a diverse group of women with whom I hadn’t worked before was brilliant. They were gracious and helpful.’
The first-time mums’ coffee morning was full of cake and crafts with a goody bag to take home. We included a Christmas storybook, an ‘Emmanuel, God with Us’ decoration, baby snacks, chocs for mums, and an invite to the church Christmas events.
The mum who organised it said: ‘I’ve had some encouraging conversations with one mum in particular who has moved to Wales and struggled to make friends. She was so taken aback by the offer of hospitality, and it’s been the start of a great friendship.’
Personal reflections on Greenhouse
I’m glad I did it! Being part of a team was such an encouragement. We all grew in our appreciation of the gospel and our desire to speak of Jesus more often. We talked together, worked together and prayed together. We saw God at work in one another, and in others too. It’s God who brings growth and yet there is planting and watering to be done (1 Cor. 3:7- 9). There is work for us to do.
Greenhouse is a real opportunity ahead of Christmas for us to get ready to talk about the coming King. If you’re not sure this is something you can do, then know that we all said that when we first met last November. If you feel a measure of apprehension and yet anticipation, so did we. Can I encourage you to at least explore the possibilities? Be in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
For more information visit www.pfe-women.co.uk/the-greenhouse-mentoring-scheme
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