Church Army - July August 09 -
How Church Army's innovative youth projects are reaching out to young people ...
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend (28-31 August) the Church Army Bus Project will be sitting at the centre of the Greenbelt Festival. By the end of that weekend, Project Leader Rob Barker will be celebrating four years of sharing Jesus with young people on the streets of Cheshire.
After four years of being on the road, the 'God Bus' (as it is known to local people) has become a familiar sight to the young people of Cheshire. However, Rob knows that some in the community see the teenagers he meets each week as "somewhat threatening, undeserving, and maybe no-hopers".
But Rob has found, after spending many weeks with them, that there is "a real sense of community, and a desire to discover their true self-belief, through the hope that God offers."
At Greenbelt, however, the bus will be stationary for four whole days. A variety of Church Army Evangelists will be leading seminars from its converted interior, covering evangelism from a wide variety of angles.
One of Rob's fellow seminar hosts will be Paul Little, a Church Army Evangelist working with young people in Newcastleton in the Scottish Borders as part of the Grafted team. The team comprises five people, including Paul, all with a variety of experience working with children, young people, evangelism and outdoor activities.
Yet Paul talks of a great "spiritual openness" within this small group, which allows for conversations about Jesus, faith, Bible study and how their lives are changing through their commitment to Window of Time.
Another project is the Refresh group, which meets with 70-80 people of all ages every week (three quarters of whom are non-churched). Elderly people in particular have responded brilliantly to weekly visits, where conversations about faith are paramount.
In addition to this, there are outreach visits to children, young people and women's groups, which are all proving extremely popular.
Then there is the Stepping Stones programme for pre-school children and their parents. Almost every family involved in 'Jesus-based' games and teaching are unchurched, and they delight in a 2 to 3pm slot that contains organised games, free play, messy time, Bible studies, drama, worship and prayer.
The Boulder Gang and Rock Solid Crew, are similar clubs for junior school children, that encourage team play and learning.
As if that were not enough, Paul is also trained in a multitude of outdoor pursuits such as canoeing, kayaking, archery, mountain-biking, expedition, caving and fencing. All of which should give him plenty of material for his Greenbelt seminars!
Richard Waller is another Church Army Evangelist bringing Jesus to young people, but in a very different part of the world from the estates of Cheshire or the Scottish countryside.
For the past four years he has been the Parish Evangelist for both St Britius, Brize Norton, and St John the Evangelist, Carterton, in the Diocese of Oxford. Richard describes his passion for evangelism thus: "Seeing lives changed by God is the greatest encouragement I see in pursuing God’s work."
He talks in glowing terms of an "amazing" group of 11 to 18-year-olds at St John's with whom he works. Their community involvement is becoming well known through making sandwiches for a homeless project in Oxford, regular help with town clean-ups, and the creation of a garden at the local school.
They also run a monthly youth service – Sorted! – in tandem with another local group, and attend the Diocesan youth event, Vertigo, once a term.
Richard is also part of two Fresh Expressions on the housing estate where he lives. The afterschool JAM Club (Jesus And Me) has been meeting weekly for three years, and the 4Cs community café (Carterton Community Centre Café) is a new, local council initiative that allows churches to run it on a Wednesday.
Naturally, the churches see the café as a fantastic opportunity to share God's love in practical ways, with an emphasis on Jesus' words: "I the Messiah came not to be served, but to serve."
Find out more about Church Army's work at www.churcharmy.org.uk
To support the work of Evangelists like Rob, Paul, Rick and Richard, call Church Army on 020 8309 3519 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org