By the end of our Jubilee year, our vision was to pioneer 150 new mission concepts for children and young people who aren’t in church. With your amazing support, by August we’d already piloted 110 and reached 11,000 children and young people, 9,000 of them with no church links.
These new missions have been incredibly diverse, from an afternoon with a few children on a beach to a weekend residential with hundreds of children and young people.
Helen Franklin, from our team in Wales says, ‘We have to keep missions simple as many of our churches are tiny.
At Barry Island, a popular day trip destination, myself and four church volunteers held a pop-up mission. We turned up, handed out invites to every family on the beach, and across the day around twenty children dropped in to play cricket, do crafts and listen to Bible stories.
‘One six-year-old boy made a card for his dad, although he said he never sees him. Hannah, one of our volunteers, was brilliant at building a relationship with him. She played every game with him and then encouraged him to make up more. By doing so she showed him something of Jesus to go alongside the things he heard about Jesus in a Bible story we’d shared.
‘This isn’t about bringing children to faith – we have to start further back when they’re not part of a church. It’s about building relationship first and foremost. The rest follows on.’
Mission doesn’t need to be complex
Rob Steward from our team in the North West of England agrees. ‘We can sometimes think mission is more complex than it actually is. We worked with local churches to pilot some three-day pop-up beach missions at Blackpool, Cleveleys and Fleetwood, helped by 60 local church volunteers. George, in his 70s, was one of them, and nervous at the prospect. However, he was soon in his element, joining in with some of the children in a game of cricket. When I said,
“George, you’re doing mission!” he replied, “But I’m just playing cricket!” What he was doing is the vital first step of outreach – building relationships.
Build relationships, and young people will at least listen to what you have to say about Jesus. Thanks to George and the other volunteers, over four hundred children and young people and their parents got to hear something of the good news.’
Dan Wicks from SU’s South East team has been piloting residentials aimed at children and young people not in churches. He says, ‘One weekend away equates to around three months of ongoing youth ministry. So we refocused and relaunched SOLID, an Essex-based residential weekend, supported by Urban Saints, Red Balloon Family and the Church of England’s Chelmsford Diocese. Christians from across the county brought along over eight hundred children and young people that they’d befriended through local mission activities. We offered sports, games and crafts, worship and a central gospel message. Before the weekend was out, 134 young people became Christians. SOLID, as a missional tool, will now be an annual event – and hopefully expand to other counties too.’
It’s not all about numbers!
By contrast, Runway residential had just seven children. This included 8-year-old Alex, from a broken home. Dan says, ‘His school said he’s an extreme introvert that can’t speak in front of others. When we explored how God is our Father and what that means for us, Alex began to open up. One mealtime, he asked if he could say grace. His prayer was passionate, personal and so unlike the Alex we’d known until then. By the end of the week, he was right in the thick of all the games, activities and studies, and so vocal that the session leader had to ask him to give other children a chance to speak!
‘On the minibus home, Alex explained what it meant to realise that God was his Father. He said, ‘I can call him Dad. That’s good because I don’t know who my dad is.’ This little 8-year-old fatherless boy had discovered the ultimate love from the ultimate Father!
‘Is it worth putting on a mission event if you only have a few children? I think of Alex and I say a resounding “yes”!’
We can help you do mission!
If your church needs a little help to get its own mission off the ground, we can help. Contact your local SU team.
Support your local SU team
Find out more about what SU is doing in your local area – donate, and get involved.
- Connecting You December 2017 – February 2018,
- Connecting You