Marking National Youth Work Week, which takes place November 7th-13th, the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, has praised the outstanding youth work that takes place across the Diocese of Winchester.
The Right Reverend Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester, said:
“There is some absolutely brilliant youth work taking place across the Diocese and it is right that we celebrate this – not just during National Youth Work week, but throughout the year. It’s great to see the good work that is taking place at St John’s Hartley Wintney, the Bishop of Winchester Academy and at the Weston Youth Project – work that encourages young people, allows them to develop new skills and to encounter the person of Jesus Christ.
“This work is vital. It is transformative and it is obvious to me that it makes a real difference to the lives of young people. This work is also at the sharp end of mission and I am delighted that the youth work taking place across the Diocese is offering young people a truly life-changing encounter with the Christian faith. As we celebrate National Youth Work week, I applaud our youth leaders – be they employed or voluntary, lay or ordained – the support they provide to their local communities, and the young people they encourage and resource”.
Some examples of this youth work are detailed below – these are followed by a quote from Sarah Long, the Diocesan Youth Advisor:
The Bishop of Winchester Academy, Bournemouth
At the Bishop of Winchester Academy, in Bournemouth, each week throughout the school year between 25-30 pupils from years seven and eight gather together for a youth club. The club, organised by the staff at the school and volunteers gives those who attend the opportunity to make new friends, play sports and learn new skills. Each week the students take it in turns to cook for each other and then discuss a ‘thought for the week’ – generally a question around faith – whilst eating together.
Jenny Nightingale, Chaplain at the Bishop of Winchester Academy, said:
“This group provides a real sense of community for those who attend and that is especially true for the year sevens when they’re new to the school. The group provides a welcome each year for local year six pupils who will be studying at TBOWA the following year – allowing them to make friends before they even arrive!
“During the time I’ve been helping to organise this group, I’ve seen pupils come and form brilliant friendships – providing them with a real support network for when things get difficult. I’ve also seen students with little or no faith come along and hear about God, coming to faith in the safe environment that the group provides. This group is mission and I feel privileged to be a part of these young people’s lives”.
St John’s, Hartley Wintney
Meanwhile, at St John’s Hartley Wintney, a youth group for 14-18 year olds takes place each Sunday evening and is attended by as many as thirty young people. Members of the youth group worship together, discuss their faith and are mentored and encouraged to step up to leadership by Ben Chase, a curate and youth leader. Young people from the group serve across the church, from leading worship, through to helping with the technical side of things.
Away from church, the group regularly meets socially and last month organised a ‘grub crawl’ event – spending an evening having a starter, main course and then desert at three different houses, each cooked by members of the group.
The youth group has also been active much further afield. Earlier this year, Jenni Norris, the previous youth pastor, led members of the group as they travelled to the town of Hoima, in Western Uganda, to support the work of a Hartley Wintney charity that does good work in the town. Help Hoima works to improve the lives of children and the quality of healthcare, education and agriculture in Hoima – including building a school and an orphanage. Whilst there, members of the youth group helped out wherever possible including running summer camps for the children of Hoima.
Ben Chase, Curate at St John’s Hartley Wintney, said:
“The youth group really is at the heart of our mission here in Hartley Wintney. We have a great heritage of worship and it’s great to see young people getting so involved in that. Jenni Norris, the previous youth pastor, and a great team of leaders have faithfully matured this ministry over the last 5 years, and it continues to be an amazing blessing to the church.
“As well as the brilliant stuff that we’ve had the opportunity to be involved in – from travelling to Uganda through to going to Soul Survivor – it’s also been great to see the transformative impact that the group has had on those who come along each week. I’ve seen people arrive here with no faith, sometimes with difficult histories and backgrounds, only to find incredible faith. I’ve seen God, through this group and its members, really turn people’s lives around – and that’s incredibly gratifying to see.”
Weston Church Youth Project, Southampton
In Southampton, Weston Church Youth Project (WCYP) has existed for over twenty years – organising a number of activities and initiatives in order to enable, encourage, and equip the young people of Weston to live life to the full and contribute to the wider community.
One example of the group’s work in action is at Chamberlayne College for the Arts secondary school, where workers from the project mentor students on a one-to-one basis. In the course of last year, eight students were mentored at the school, being supported with their academic progress, attendance and behaviour. As a result of the work, the college found that these students had a 100% improvement in their self-confidence, 100% had dramatically improved their level of engagement with their work, 88% of those mentored had improved their attendance, whilst half saw significant improvements in their behaviour at school.
Alongside their work in education, WCYP also organises Rock Solid, an open access youth club that run three times per week – on Thursdays for those aged 7-11, and on Fridays for those aged 11-14 and 14+. The groups provide a fun and accessible programme where young people can take part in a variety of activities including pool, table tennis, computer games, football, craft or cooking – all whilst building their social skills and self-esteem.
The work at Rock Solid is also supported currently by a team of fifteen youth volunteers who, over the last year, have given over 650 hours of their time. This has included setting up and packing down Thursday’s Rock Solid youth club, as well as providing support on trips and other special activities organised by WCYP. These volunteers have developed leadership, organisation and planning skills and have also gained self-confidence and self-esteem along the way.
Libbi Beckwith, Project Manager at Weston Church Youth Project said:
“I have now been working with Weston Church Youth Project for over eight years and have seen some really exciting things during that time – from helping children to do better at school through improving their confidence and self-esteem, through the regular youth groups and activities that we run, which allow kids to make friends and improve their social skills.
“God has been really faithful to our work here, giving his wisdom and guidance and above all providing us with an awesome group of children and young people to serve. It is a privilege to lead the team and continue the good work that was begun over twenty years ago”.
Sarah Long, Youth Advisor at the Diocese of Winchester said:
“There is so much fantastic good work happening across the Diocese and I’m pleased that National Youth Work Week has provided an opportunity to highlight some of these amazing examples. Across the Diocese, we have employed youth workers, volunteer youth leaders, clergy and licensed leaders, working with young people, with a shared a passion to see young people empowered to participate well in society and be free to become who God made them to be. Young people matter to God and they matter to us.”