Can you believe it’s three years since your support enabled us to sign up the first Faith Guides? They included Joel Barwick who we featured in the summer 2021 edition of Connecting You (read his story here). We caught up with him to get an update on what’s happened since.
When we first introduced Joel, youth worker at St Thomas’ church in Newcastle, pandemic restrictions were still in place and he was doing detached youthwork at a park in Newcastle’s East End. That’s how he met ten year-old Spencer*, who wouldn’t eat the packet of crisps Joel gave him because he wanted to take them home for his mum who had no food. The church arranged for the family to receive food parcels from a foodbank – and continued to stay in touch.
Joel says, ‘Last September we started a youth group on Tuesday evenings – we regularly get around 15 young people and Spencer is one of them. They’ve told us it’s a space where they feel comfortable to share their lives and what’s going on, and to express themselves, and they come to meet with Jesus as well.
Creating safe spaces
‘Then last February we ran a residential and Spencer came to that too. One session was on the verse “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:9) and we said, “If anybody wants to draw nearer to God this week, then close your eyes and put your hands out in front of you,” and Spencer put his hands out. I don’t know that he would say he’s a Christian, but he’s listening and exploring and growing in understanding which is great to see! He even comes to church on a Sunday morning; he gets the bus down by himself.’
'Now I know that God's real'
Toby* , another boy who came on the residential, had a remarkable encounter with God. Joel says, ‘We were telling the story of David and Goliath. The kids each held a stone to represent the pebble that David used to kill Goliath. Toby said that, when he put his stone down, it felt like all his sins were being washed away with it. And then when he went to sleep that night, in his dreams he saw a glowing cross with angel wings coming out of it. He heard a voice say, “Jesus is here with you always, never forget he is coming. Be prepared.” Later Toby told me, “Before this residential, I wasn’t really the believing type. But now I know that God’s real. And I feel like before the residential, my brain was backwards, but now it’s the right way round.” What a great description of how God transforms us!
'Being a Faith Guide and having SU's support and care has been brilliant'
‘Being a Faith Guide and having SU’s support and care has been brilliant – the training they’ve given and coming along to help out with our groups. And also, just being there to listen and offer advice and expertise in what to do going forward. Recently I went on an SU Faith Guide retreat and it was great to meet with other youth workers who are doing similar work. In my youth group I can see God doing something every week but outreach to the 95 is a lot more difficult and takes a lot of time and patience, so it’s good for Faith Guides to be able to encourage one another.
‘But when that patience and persistence pays off and you see children like Spencer and Toby really connecting with God, that’s the greatest encouragement of all!’
*Name and image changed to protect identity
This autumn, three years after launching the Revealing Jesus mission framework, we are ready to widen its reach and impact by providing a level of Mission Support to those who are not quite ready to become Faith Guides.
With 95% of under-18s not in church, sharing Jesus with the younger generations is a real challenge. But we're here for you! We've got years of experience under our belts, and we're ready and waiting to inspire, equip and empower you in mission to non-church-going children and young people.
So whether you're just looking for inspiration and resources or you want full-on one-to-one practical support, we've got you covered!
Read more Connecting You stories
This story was featured in our supporter magazine, Connecting You. Subscribe to the print or digital edition for free, and keep up to date with what God's doing through Scripture Union.
- Connecting You