In spite of some serious health issues in his retirement years, Roger Purdom has chosen to become a Faith Guide and to continue introducing young people to Jesus. He shares some of his story and why he feels that volunteers, whatever their age, have a vital role to play in building the church of tomorrow.
Roger has had a long association with SU; he went on his first SU camp in Arthog near Barmouth in 1964. Later he became an SU team leader, helping on different holidays. For many years, he was a teacher at a school in Croydon, and ran SU holiday clubs at the church where he was an elder.
He moved from Croydon to take up the Headship of a Christian Boarding School in East Sussex. This led to new adventures. In 1995 ‘I became the pastor of an independent church in Littlehampton,’ Roger recalls. ‘We launched summer holiday clubs at church, using the SU material. Each year we had 60-70 children attending.’
Opportunities in retirement
Eventually Roger retired, having started a summer camp for local children in 2003, most of whom had no church involvement. ‘We took them to the beach – a first for many of them, even though they lived so close by,’ Roger recalls.
‘We played games, they got soaking wet and filthy dirty and had an incredible time! Eventually we moved the camp inland to Lodge Hill, an activity centre. The kids could do all sorts of adventurous stuff which they loved – abseiling, mountain biking, climbing. In the morning and evening we’d have Bible stories, worship and a talk. Every year we were oversubscribed. We celebrated 20 years of Summer Camp in 2022!
‘I tried visiting schools too, but initially there was quite a bit of resistance. Then one school heard that I was trained as an OFSTED inspector and asked if I’d come and do Christian assemblies to help them pass the spiritual aspect of their forthcoming inspection. Word got round and soon I was going into ten primary schools.
‘Those doors have never closed, not even during COVID! It was then that I started doing assemblies on Zoom. Going online has allowed me to continue now that my health is poor, and I’ve done over 100 now. The kids know I’m going to tell them a Bible story and pray, but I usually get a positive reaction and a listening ear from them.’
"If you want to draw children into a relationship with God, first you have to build a relationship with them"
Roger sees the value of being a Faith Guide and journeying with young people longer term. ‘If you want to draw children into a relationship with God, first you have to build a relationship with them (and with teachers and parents too), which is what the assemblies and camps have done. You have to genuinely seek to serve the community first and offer them something they need. It takes time and patience, especially with schools.
‘That’s why I feel ordinary church members of all ages have a vital part to play – if the relationship resides with the church leader or youth worker, it can falter if those people move on. Not all church leaders have the skills or experience to work with young people either.
‘The world is changing so fast that it’s frightening. More than ever, young people need to hear that God is there for them, loves them and that he will never, ever change – he’s the same today and forever. Nobody is ever too old to share that wonderful truth with them – and I’m looking forward to keeping going!’
"Ordinary church members of all ages have a vital part to play"
You could also be a Faith Guide
As Roger can testify, you don’t need to be in your younger years or a professional to be a Faith Guide. You just need a heart for the 95 and the desire to journey into faith with children and young people.
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