Even when we are faced with immense barriers to sharing the hope of Jesus, God can give us incredible opportunities for mission. Through Summer of Change, a government-funded initiative spearheaded by secular charity StreetGames, SU enabled Newcastle Christians to connect with hundreds of children and young people who may otherwise never have had reason to interact with them.
Summer of Change aimed to support families at risk of food poverty over the summer. SU Mission Enabler Mark Oliver says, 'StreetGames were looking for local partners in Newcastle to deliver activities, so it offered us a means of taking God’s love out into our communities.'
In three areas of the city, Mark brought together churches and SU Local Mission Partner MINE and helped them to successfully bid to take part. After some basic training, over July and August the three teams made weekly visits to Tyneside’s poorest homes, delivering food parcels and children’s activity packs. Two teams also offered COVID-safe outdoor crafts and games. Mark and fellow SU Mission Enabler Geoff Brown joined the teams regularly to offer support and encouragement.
"It was great to have the opportunity to help families at a difficult time"
When the Heaton team of St George’s URC and St Gabriel’s knocked on doors, the families were initially apprehensive – but their faces lit up as volunteers gave them food and activity packs! Lexie, from St George’s, says ‘It was great to have the opportunity to help families at a difficult time. They knew we were from the local church and several have stayed in touch.’
In nearby Byker and Walker, Street Clubs were among the outdoor activities offered by MINE and St Thomas’ church. MINE’s Dave Johnson observes, ‘We ran four clubs and the same children came each week. In these small groups, we were able to pitch the activities and faith discussions around their individual needs. Using SU’s Rooted cards, we’d have a half time ‘spiritual slot’ where children discussed things that were important to them, such as keeping friends safe, mental health, and prayer. It worked really well.
‘One group consisted of three children and their dad. The kids just loved the Bible stories – and although he wasn’t a Christian, their dad understood the value of his kids learning Christian teaching.’
In the west of the city, a team from YFC joined the churches of St Mary’s, St Michael’s, and Holy Spirit, to organise outdoor games as well as distributing food and activity packs. Allison Harding, vicar of St Mary’s and St Michael’s, says, ‘We knew parts of our parishes were deprived, but being part of Summer of Change helped us to uncover the full extent. On the last day, we bought McDonalds for the children – three of them rushed home to tell their mum not to cook them tea. It’s so sad that they even knew about food poverty.
'Previously we've held outreach events at the church hall. Going out to meet children and young people where they are has made such a difference, especially with the very challenging kids. One group had vandalised Holy Spirit church – they knew that we knew, but when we reached out they responded, chatting and joining in with games.'
Mark concludes, ‘It’s been great for Scripture Union to involve MINE and churches in Summer of Change and enable them to reach children and young people that they wouldn’t otherwise have reached. We’ll continue to help them deepen those connections and journey with them long beyond the summer.’
Read more Connecting You stories
This story featured in the Winter 2020 edition of our supporter magazine, Connecting You. You can read more Connecting You stories here.
- Connecting You