Dear Breakaway Friends,
As you may be aware, after 26 years our Breakaway program will not be resuming this fall. Many of you have been a part of Breakaway for years and others more recently. For those of you who have valued your time at Breakaway, this news is difficult to hear. We want you to know this decision was not made quickly or lightly. Having personally begun Breakaway decades ago, it has a special place in my heart—and we knew that a decision like this would impact many women. While the decision-making process was prayerful and agonizing, and has saddened and angered some, we still feel it is the right decision at this time.
First, I am sorry for your disappointment and sense of loss. This is a huge change in a program that many of you have attended for years. I have read all your posts and emails—and it’s OK to express those things in gracious ways. I want to listen and empathize as well. In some sense, these comments speak to the beautiful 26-year-run that Breakaway women enjoyed! And that is good and should be celebrated.
I recognize that program change is very difficult and it’s challenging to embrace something different or new. But I do know that God births new things at new times, just like he did with Breakaway many years ago. And he will be faithful.
Secondly, I would like to share in detail some of the rationale for ending the Breakaway program. I know some of you will not agree with these reasons, and that’s OK, but it might be helpful overall to see where we are coming from.
Breakaway began as a connecting group for young moms who felt isolated at home with young children. My son was a 1-year-old when Breakaway launched! More importantly, the Breakaway vision had a strong Outreach component as a bridge-building program to the community. Because many more women were at home in the early years, women were able to invite friends and neighbors and attendance of unchurched women at Breakaway averaged 25-35%. Outreach was the driving factor for starting classes such as cooking, crafts and exercise. We wanted to create a space where we could bring our unchurched neighbors and introduce them to Jesus. And it worked! However, in recent years—our unchurched neighbors are almost all unavailable during the day. Except for seasons of Maternity leave or retirement (which I will address later), unchurched women have largely not been able to attend Breakaway.
Numbers at Breakaway reached a peak about 10-12 years ago, with upwards of 250 women in attendance for a time. However, largely due to women in the workplace, attendance in recent years averaged 100-120 over the Breakaway year. In general, attendance consisted of moms with babies/preschoolers (1/4-1/3) and women 50+ (2/3). We value BOTH these age groups! But this demographic affected our volunteer leadership base as many new moms and older women were not able to step into the considerable leadership team roles needed to run a program such as Breakaway.
Leaders also resigned every 2-3 years. Why? In part, the balance of designing and running a program to reach young moms and older women was a challenge. Young women leaders desired to reach out and engage the younger generation to keep Breakaway growing, but meeting the needs of older women at the same time was a tricky balance and meant that sometimes younger women and older women were both unsatisfied with Breakaway direction and vision. Younger women wanted to keep their babies with them, visit and chat with other moms. Older women wanted to engage in meaningful worship and hear a speaker. With Michelle Epp stepping into a different ministry role this Fall, we recognized that once again, finding another woman to fill the difficult leadership role of Breakaway would be a challenge.
While the central focus of Breakaway was naturally shifting from outreach to connection, our church and lead pastor was also embracing a focus on Discipleship. While women enjoyed participating in classes such as cooking, art, knitting, etc, classes for discipleship were less well-attended. And in recent years, many women came for the friendship and social time and opted out of classes entirely. It became more difficult for the Breakaway team to find women to teach classes. Connecting, caring, and enjoying coffee & friendship is not to be undervalued, but it requires immense time, resources and effort to maintain a program like Breakaway for women in the church. We asked the question—is apprenticeship to Jesus happening best in a large program like Breakaway? Would there be better ways to encourage women of North Langley to use their gifts and abilities to make more intentional and meaningful apprenticeship “circles of 12 and 3” as Pastor Matthew is encouraging? Of course, some friendship and table groups did experience deep connection and spiritual transformation, and that is beautiful! We hope that continues in different settings!
So, we are working to make space, resource women, and encourage you in a variety of ways to creatively build meaningful relationships.
Finally--if you have made it this far--I want you to know that I would love to hear from you and I am available in person or through email or phone. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Can I please ask you to refrain from posting on FB if you have questions or concerns? Thank you. I am trusting that this next season will be filled with new things that God is doing in our church family and beyond.