The story so far…what we’re learning from Youth Minsters in Kensington
Levi Phillips from Capital Youth joined a meeting between Youth Minsters in Kensington, to see what the teams have been learning so far in trying different models of youth ministry and supporting other parishes.
One of the initiatives of Capital Youth is “Youth Minsters” – local parishes awarded funding in order to become a resource and hub of support to the Diocese. The overall goal for Youth Minsters is to reach and grow large numbers of young people in their context.
As an opportunity to learn from each other and celebrate everything achieved so far, Bishop Graham arranged a meeting of the three teams based in the Kensington Area: St Saviour’s Sunbury, HTB and Christ Church W4, with teams all compromising of a youth worker and incumbent or curate, with a few other key people that have been collaborating on the Youth Minsters.
Three models for reaching young people
Every Minster is working to explore different formats whilst looking to collaborate and support other churches in the process of reaching and growing young people:
- St Saviour’s Sunbury are exploring what it looks like to create ‘church’ within a school community – aiming to be a continuous presence and culture-setter. A highlight for Sunbury so far has been seeing young people transition from engagement at school to attendance at the church.
- HTB are exploring how to support new youth workers through formal training routes, whilst partnering with other parishes to plant them as sustainable ‘satellite’ youth workers. They are also building local outreach channels to schools in Kensington. They have been successful in supporting two interns through their degree course so far and hope to take on two more interns in 2019.
- Christ Church W4 are building a “Beating Heart Collective” of clergy, youth workers, artists and charities across the area, working together to run events and channel young people into local community, whilst developing new resources for the Diocese, including a confirmation course. Christ Church W4 currently employs one youth worker who has a part-time focus on coordinating the collective. They have partnered with The Message Trust in London to create high-impact events that naturally channel young people into local youth groups.
All Youth Minsters are expected to capture their journey of growth, to provide key learning points for the Diocese as a whole and become a resource to others in their area. We expect significant challenges because of the experimental nature of the initiative, but also significant success and insight from what is learned along the way, so we can create effective and feasible models of outreach and ministry across the whole Diocese.
What we’re learning: St Saviour’s Sunbury
St Saviour’s started creating their offering to become a Youth Minster by simply asking, “where are the young people?” The obvious starting point was school and through praying they discerned a vision to explore what a “church” would look like if it was formed entirely inside a school context.
Working with their local Church of England school, they have been negotiating how they can become a consistent “staff presence” within the school, which has taught them a lot about the responsibility and role of headteachers in forming and safeguarding culture at their school. Throughout this experience, they have learned about navigating the boundaries of working in schools and what they offer. Their youth minister has recently been working to create a safe space within the school, where students can come and talk with someone, which seems to be working well so far.
What we’re learning: Holy Trinity Brompton
The team at HTB have begun a renewed focus on changing culture within their own youth group, kicking off a “year of invitation” as a means to encourage young people to invite their friends to youth meetings.
The team have been surprised at how bold young people have been with inviting their friends to activities. Having the theme of invitation has been consistent through their teaching, but even as the initial buzz of the theme simmered down, young people were asking if it was okay to invite their friends to wider church events and less seeker-sensitive meetings (such as youth worship nights). Though the answer is always “of course”, it’s shown the team that young people do want to share their experience of God, through church, with their friends – no matter what the event is. They’ve also seen these young people attending and bringing friends to normal Sunday services, which is very encouraging to see.
Because HTB’s youth group has grown so rapidly, they also have been working hard at putting in place more infrastructure to effectively manage and capture things. This is foundational work to support the growing number of young people coming through the doors and prepare for effective management of any ‘satellite’ youth ministers later.
“Being a Youth Minster has actually given us fresh impetus to renew our focus on young people and really invest heavily in prioritising them. It’s brought us into a new season of intentionality, where we’re thinking really strategically about what young people need and trying to provide space where they can build community with the right support.”
What we’re learning: Christ Church W4
Early on, Christ Church W4 realised they needed to invest time in making sure their offering was going to work. With an “innovation consultant” from the church donating her time, they refined their ideas with others from across the area. As result, they created a much stronger project plan and have since been focusing on making their first-year plans a reality.
A key factor of the project has been connecting with other churches to create a strong sense of co-ownership. They’ve managed to do this successfully so far, but not without hard work on building relationships.
“You need to start with relationship – nothing beats face-to-face time if you want other people to get involved in your event or project.”
Zoe Phillips has been helping to coordinate SoulNET, a local meet-up for youth workers. “Only employed youth workers can really meet in the day. I love meeting that group, but I want to connect with all the volunteer youth workers in churches too, which is tricky.”
Another learning point is planning. They initially planned to run a “bootcamp” retreat for young people, but even with four months notice, the lack of signup meant it had to be postponed. The team have since put another date in the diary one-year on to make sure it can be promoted effectively in advance.
Christ Church W4 are hosting the next LIFT event at St Paul’s Hammersmith on 13 July. They are excited to see more young people come along and realise it’s a “cool event”.
The idea is to present the gospel message in a fresh way, with young people seen on stage and local artists involved. It’s all about building community whilst providing a new and exciting place where young people can safely gather and enjoy music together, whilst hearing a message of hope. The first LIFT gig took place in May, where over 100 young people attended and 25 responded to the message. These were followed up and a number of young people have started attended their local youth groups as a result. The gig was strategically placed at the end of the LIVELIFE Kensington schools mission and promoted to students throughout all five weeks. There has been a lot to learning running the event and making it dovetail with the Kensington mission. Capital Youth hopes to provide a full report on the schools mission in the near future.
We hope you find this content useful – if you have any questions or feedback, or would like to connect with a Youth Minster, email the Capital Youth team at firstname.lastname@example.org.