Author and CEO of the Cinnamon Network, Matt Bird, considers what God is doing and how we can join in.

Matt Bird
Matt Bird

Emily: Your new book 'Transformation' is out. Tell me about it.

Matt: 'Transformation' is my observations of what I see God doing through his church around the world, to transform communities and cities. The subtitle of the book is 'What is God doing and how do we join in?' Each chapter of the book asks that question and I write about a different aspect of what I see God doing through his Church to bring transformation.

Emily: How does the content of the book link in with the work that you do at Cinnamon Network?

Matt: A lot of what I've seen God do through his church, I've experienced through Cinnamon Network.

One of the chapters for example is called 'Numbers speak louder than words' and one of the things that Cinnamon has done to help the Church in the UK, and now around the world, is to help the churches in a location, whether a village, town, or city, measure the social impact of what they do.

We've helped 87 towns and cities around the United Kingdom measure the social and economic impact of what they do, and this is really important to help the Church. I say to help the Church become 'bi-lingual', because we're natural storytellers in churches, but we're not natural with numbers. So we're helping the Church learn to speak in numbers about the impact of what it does.

You actually help the Church engage with civic organisations because they speak in numbers instead of stories. One of the chapters looks at the social impact in terms of measuring that impact the churches have in the community.

You may remember the research when it was published and reported in The Times newspaper, which reported "Loving thy neighbour is priceless, but it's worth more than 3 billion a year," and that's the value that we've put on the time given by the Church in the UK to their community each year.

Emily: So have you got an example of some of those projects that the Church is doing and that you've seen happening in the UK?

Matt: We've seen some incredible projects emerge over recent years.

One of the chapters in this book is called 'You are a force for good', because so much of what the Church does is actually an incredible force for good in society.

One of the projects that we've recently helped is called 'Care Home Friends'. We found this church that adopted a local care home and trained volunteers to go in and do befriending. Because people in care homes, I don't know if you know, are twice as likely to feel isolated as they are if they live in the community. So this church, by going in and offering befriending, is helping these elderly people engage.

On average, and this is a national disgrace really, people in residential care homes get two minutes of social interaction a day. That's just awful to think about people who are feeling lonely and they get a conversation for two minutes a day. It's terrible.

We're helping that project replicate across lots of churches, so that lots of churches can adopt a care home and train befrienders to go in and work in them.