We gave it a go with help from The Spark Fund
Jacob Holme interviewed Becca Rowden, the project leader for ‘Ignite’ – an exciting Spark Fund project currently running at Christ Church, Mayfair – about her experience so far.
Ignite is a fortnightly youth gathering for young people hosted by a group of young people at Christ Church, Mayfair for under 15s, which has managed to continue meeting, albeit online through the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Jacob Holme [J] (The Spark Fund Administrator) caught up with Becca [B] to find out more and see what’s been happening.
J: So Becca, I suppose the first thing we should ask is for you to introduce yourself: who are you? And, what do you do?
B: Well, I work in the energy industry in central London and I’ve been part of Christ Church (CCM) since I started university in 2014. Just a few years ago, I started volunteering with the Sunday youth group at Church, and have been involved with all things youth at CCM ever since!
J: That is great! Whilst we’re thinking about what you’re involved in, perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about Ignite and what’s been happening?
B: Ignite is our fortnightly Friday night youth group that we have been hosting at church and of course, more recently online. We had our first gathering back in September 2019, and had so much fun transforming the church building into a youth-friendly space! Using funding from The Spark Fund we were able to buy beanbags, games, decorations and food to make it a really welcoming space. Each time we met we’d have a theme (e.g. Olympics, Outer Space, Music Festival, Under The Sea, Carnival etc.!) that would influence the food and games for the night.
J: I must admit, I am wondering quite how those themes could look in the form of food! It sounds like a lot of fun… What do the young people get up to, then?
B: Well, Ignite would begin at 7pm with people arriving and socialising over food and catching up about life and school. Then we’d play a big game together (highlights from different nights include apple bobbing, building space-ships that had to protect an egg from extreme impact, and creating a massive marble run together). And then, after the game we’d grab some refreshments and a seat to listen to a talk from one of the leaders, to help think through how to live out the Christian faith at school.
J: There’s definitely lots going on then. What exactly have you been exploring with the young people in the talks?
B: Our talk series in the first term was all about the big questions we have, like ‘Can we trust the Bible?’, ‘Hasn’t science disproved God?’, and ‘How can God allow suffering?’ (and a Christmas special: ‘Why is Jesus better than Santa?!’) Through the talks, we wanted our young people to be drawn to Jesus and the incredible new life that he brings to those who trust in him. With cheese toasties to cap off the night it was a great chance to discuss what we had heard in the talk, to voice our ideas, stories and questions.
J: The difference a cheese toasty can make in those discussions… It all sounds amazing, but The Spark Fund is for young people running missional projects to reach out to their peers – how do you fit into that and how are young people involved?
B: We play lots of crazy games and the youth get to choose them. But, the leaders including myself are all under 25, which works really well with our relationships with the young people. Plus, we are always on the look out for talents and interests amongst the young people, so that we can encourage them and perhaps get them to showcase those talents.
J: Wonderful! So, how was it moving everything online?
B: Since moving online we’ve tried to keep the set-up similar, with time to catch-up, play games over Zoom, and listen to a leader give a talk with discussion and prayer to finish. We enjoy celebrating the end of term with a special games night, whether it’s a murder mystery evening where we all get dressed up as different characters, or an online escape room that we race to finish between teams!
J: It sounds like you’ve all been super-creative and able to keep the engagement and madness up, even online – which is brilliant! One of the big aims of The Spark Fund is to empower and support young leaders in the church, how has running Ignite encouraged yourself and the team?
B: We all feel really encouraged having fostered relationships with young people and seeing them grow – it influenced our own faith – being invested in the young people’s lives. When it started, James (church children and youth worker) would give the talks and over time, the young leaders began to take on the responsibility – it’s helped us grow massively! James trained us up, helped us plan and gave us feedback for the future. There’s really beginning to be a sense of a long-term vision in supporting the young people and this work going forward.
J: It all sound really encouraging and it really is superb to hear that you’ve carried on throughout the lockdown, which is no easy task. Thank you so much for sharing with us!
Before we do finish, if you could give some advice to somebody considering getting involved with The Spark Fund, what advice would you give them?
B: Give it a go! Everyone at The Spark Fund was so encouraging and supportive during the process for us, we had a workshop session to help us develop our idea and our pitch (it isn’t scary like Dragon’s Den!). They really want to see youth work flourish and there’s so much support on offer, so don’t be afraid at all about applying.
What would young people in your church do with a grant? Find out more about The Spark Fund and apply at london.anglican.org/spark