August 07 - Church Army
Church Army’s Rob Barker and Rick Tett’s ‘God-bus’ is seeing young people become Christians in Cheshire
Church Army's Bus Project, headed by Rob Barker and supported by Rick Tett, has a mission to share the Gospel with teenagers.
For almost two years the Bus Project has been making request stops for mission all over Cheshire, providing a different approach to mission for local churches.
The 1966 Bristol Lodekka provides a mobile base for volunteers from inviting churches to meet with mainly young people on neutral territory, helping them develop sustainable relationships.
“This is about developing a long-term commitment to specific communities,” says Rob. “We actively encourage people from the teams we work with to share their faith through words, attitudes and action.
“We don’t have a particular ‘God-slot’, as the Lord is with us all the time, so He is often spoken about, often asked questions about and often prayed to throughout the evenings. We always end with a joint time of prayer, and faith in Jesus is shared and received.”
The bus, complete with DVD, TV and a coffee bar is dubbed the ‘God-bus’ by local youths. It is on mobile mission two evenings a week with two different churches, meeting with both younger and older teenagers. And the work Rob and Rick do in discipling young people is really making a difference and changing lives. The time young people spent on the bus is valued and they are surprising open to discovering more about Jesus and his relevance to their lives.
Rick explains: “Wednesday nights we take a team out from St Thomas’ Ellesmere Port. We have a team of 12 great volunteers who have worked with us for the last 10 months. The kids we reach out to tend to be older teens and young people in their very early twenties. We meet them in the town centre – an area identified as a hot spot by the local police for anti-social behaviour. We now have a core group of around 30 visiting the bus. Many now join us in prayer, and great relationships have been made.”
Rob believes that the bus serves a real need for evangelism, in reaching out to young people where they are – a point from which church could not normally hope to begin. This is an approach he believes all Christians need to embrace.
“We are saved to engage in God’s continuing mission to all His creation. We are called to go and live out our faith, to give what we have been given. All Christians are invited to participate in the great commission. It is a whole of life calling to walk with Him, and share His love freely with others.”
Rob became a Christian in his home town of Birkenhead as a result of the witness of the local church and adds: “One of the delights in leading this project is to see churches being encouraged to share their living faith in Jesus and watching the impact this has on the people they meet. God is doing extraordinary things with ordinary people like you and me.”
Rick adds: “There is a real spiritual dynamic taking place weekly. The bus is far more than a provider of youth social work. Helping people to respect each other and themselves is part of the new beginning that Jesus offers his followers. This is no ‘hit and run’ mission, it is about developing and sustaining a real Christian commitment to serving those who may think church has nothing to offer them. We want to show them a vibrant, caring Christian community through the bus team and our volunteers.”
Like many teenagers who come onboard, teenage friends Alice and Hanna (both 16) think the bus is great. “They teach us how to respect ourselves and others. It’s great fun, it’s friendly and it keeps us out of danger. We also pray for each other.”
Kate, a young lady from Kingsway Fellowship who works with the bus team adds: “At the start of the year we decided we would deliberately start trying to mix our church youth groups, and somehow do something so that we could also reach out to the local young people.
“At the end of April we as a church held a youth social weekend. The mad weekend started on Friday night with our usual Friday night programme, followed by a sleepover. Saturday we all went out for the day and again, they stayed over and the weekend ended after our usual Sunday morning programme.
“But what was planned as a social weekend turned into something very different. We saw a number of young people give their lives to Jesus, and since the weekend, we have seen this response continue and with some 25 young people saying they want to know God on a personal level. This has obviously brought about some changes – so many young people suddenly join a church, suddenly become Christians, the local area suddenly is seeing a change.
“But it isn't just the kids becoming Christians, it is the impact they are now making in their every day lives. Last week on the bus, there were kids playing and talking upstairs. Downstairs, at their request, there was worship music and Bible reading. The week before that there was a group of kids sitting outside the bus, just praying for each other.
“Kids who ask questions about God, have other kids who have only known God for a few weeks, answering their questions. God is changing them and using them to reach other people. It's a great movement to be part of!”
What’s does the future hold?
“I’d like to see the project as a missionary base for evangelism across the North West,” says Rob. “Helping churches in reaching out and really getting to grips with growing as Christians and what it means to be relevant to our communities. It would be great to see a number of buses and teams out there and making use of the St Paul’s Trust Ship and fishing boat.
“We will provide training opportunities for those training for ministry within Church Army, and young people working in Xplore – the new global gap year programme. The main thing we are about is working and praying to see communities radically changed as people become more like Jesus.”
Find out more about the Church Army Bus Project at www.busproject.org.uk
Rob Barker and Rick Tett are Church Army Evangelists serving in the diocese of Chester