By Dave Ludbrook
92Teens is the group that I had the pleasure of inheriting when taking on the role at St.James. When I took over in April 2016 there were 6 – 8 young people attending the fortnightly youth group. We began over the first few months of trying different styles of programme to see what worked well and what could be adapted. We did this whilst following a series called ‘The Ultimate Superhero’ looking at different superheroes and their strengths and weaknesses and how ultimately it led to Jesus being the ultimate superhero.
In the following term we moved onto another series ‘Women of Hope’ exploring women in the bible and most recently ‘Living by the Rules’ a series based on the 10 commandments. Each of the sessions includes different games, activities and crafts based on the theme and helps to make the sessions more engaging for the young people.
We have gone from strength to strength since Christmas as new young people have joined the group along with a new female leader, Lizzie Rolls, joining the team. On average the group now attracts 12 young people each time we meet. A highlight of the year for me would be the 92Teens sleepover. it was a positive night in the parish hall spending time together having fun and bonding as a youth group with the blessing of then leading and being involved in the service on the Sunday Morning.
Although 92teens has been very rewarding both for myself and those in attendance, we have made the decision to close the group at the end of the summer term to make way for something new and exciting called FRESH. We hope the new group will allow us to reach out to young people in our community, whilst keeping a discipleship focus that 92Teens has provided for those already attending church. I thank God for his continued grace and merciful hand upon 92teens and those who come along and pray that this is just the beginning of their spiritual journey and also that we will continue to see them at FRESH here at St.James
Fresh Cafe was the one off youth event that we piloted in the October Half Term Holidays in 2016. We saw 8 different young people over the two days with 5 each night. Although the numbers weren’t as large as we had hoped I was really blessed with the number of volunteers we had to run this event and the general positive attitude towards the event. This was a pilot for the new FRESH that will be launched in September 2017. Before we officially launch we have another one off event – similar to October to ‘test the waters’.
The evening consists of a time for games such as Jenga, table top snooker and table tennis. After refreshments we move into a more café style church with a story from the bible and an opportunity for the young people to talk together in groups. We end the evening with more team based games. The intention in September is that on alternative weeks the group will be more focused on the bible story from the previous week to help the young people to go deeper in their faith.
Cafe Church was held on the Sunday morning following the holiday club and half term Fresh event. We had a great morning together in the parish hall spending time together around coffee tables having drinks and breakfast snacks together, playing games and quizzes and having a time of worship and message around the same theme that the children and young people had been learning about during the half term activities.
There was a positive number of people attending this service including people known to the church but not known to the Sunday congregation which was a real blessing and showed how God had been working in their lives and brought them to that service – hopefully to be repeated in the future.
Messy Church Extra
In January, I began Messy Church Extra to minister to the young people who still came with their parents and younger siblings but are now too old for the normal Messy Church. We follow the same theme but the activities and teaching are more appropriate for the younger teens who attend. There has been varied attendance so far but we hope to see this group progress over the year and it will provide links to FRESH in time.
Schools Work – It’s Your Move
During the summer term I was able to carry out a programme with the year 6 pupils in both of the local primary schools surrounding transition to secondary school from a Christian perspective. It was a really positive programme which opened up the opportunity to work with Y6 and Y5 children in a mentoring programme. ‘It’s Your Move’ is to be repeated this summer in both schools.
Schools Work – Mentoring
During the past academic year I have had the blessing of being able to work in Woodhouse West Primary School with the year 6 – and more recently the year 5 pupils – doing some mentoring sessions around friendship and self-esteem. It has been a real blessing to be with those pupils on a weekly basis and to see them grow and develop with other pupils in their classroom and making positive contributions to school life.
Schools Work – #Cribintheclassroom & #Theeggcelentstory
This work was carried out at Christmas and recently Easter working with individual classes at Brunswick Primary School looking at the Christmas and Easter story in a fun and interactive way. Helping them to learn things about these stories that perhaps they didn’t already know, but also, teaching them what these stories actually mean to them and what it can do for them.
Schools Work – It’s Your Move
During the summer term I was able to carry out a programme with the year 6 pupils in both of the local primary schools surrounding transition to secondary school from a Christian perspective. It was a really positive programme which opened up the previously mentioned mentoring programmes. This programme is also to be repeated this summer is both schools.
Secondary School Christian Union
Gaining access to our two secondary schools has proved immensely difficult but in November we were blessed when a member of the congregation began working at Handsworth Grange. As she developed relationships we were able to extend an invitation to some of the pupils in the Christian Union to the Diocesan Youth Event in January. I helped escort the youth to and from the event and developed relationships with the staff members involved. I have now been invited to attend the CU after Easter with an intention to help run the group. I am also working closely with Chris the Centenary Worker at Handsworth in this endeavour.
St James has been part of an initiative in the community to open up some uniformed organisations in the village. As part of the churches commitment to this community action as well as allowing the groups to use the church hall for free it was suggested that I be involved working in the scout group as this was the group they were struggling for leaders for. As scouts is for 11 year olds upwards the opportunities that this would provide to build relationships with young people in our community seemed a God inspired opening. I have been involved with the group since it began in February as we now regularly see 10-12 young people each week and as the relationships develop I hope to be able to invite them to other groups within the church such as FRESH and Messy Church Extra.
During the second year of my appointment I hope to develop the relationships I have already built in 92Teens, moving into the new FRESH group, and within the schools and through the scout group. The work in Handsworth Grange through the Christian Union will hopefully develop and lead to other initiatives within the school. I will continue to develop lay leadership and encourage volunteers in each of the groups to grow in their own faith and confidence as they lead the young people. As well as FRESH in September I will be beginning a new Sunday group alongside Sunbeams and Blazing Stars as there is now a group of children who will be too old for the current groups and I hope to provide something more age appropriate to keep them engaged with the Sunday morning worship services.