Oxygen St Peterâ€™s Hall London Road Kingston Surrey KT2 6QL Reg Charity No: 108 6608 Tel. 020 8547 0566 Fax 020 8547 2340 firstname.lastname@example.org www.oxygen-online.org
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Reaching Young People Beyond the Church
the story so far January 2000- August 2002
Revd Steve Benoy Associate Curate Christ Church New Malden & Others Page 2 of 42
oxygen Our vision is to… Give young people in Kingston Borough the opportunity to discover and follow Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… …As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 3:16/20:21)
Of greatest importance in fulfilling this vision will be… • Serving Demonstrating God’s love by reaching out to meet the needs of young people untouched by the Church, whatever the cost “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)
• Relationships Forging genuine relationships amongst young people, rooted in God’s love and God’s word “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:3-7)
• Relying on God Submitting humbly to God’s will, however He may lead us “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer…Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Romans 12:11-12/Proverbs 3:5-6)
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Preface As the new Millennium dawned it became obvious to the church that something had to be done to retain our teenagers and to reach those outside the church. It was as a result of seeing some alarming statistics that Steve and I decided to attempt something. No section of the community is quite so vulnerable to outside influences and we felt that we should initiate an approach to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to our teenagers. After listening to other leaders and taking stock of the resources available, we decided to embark on a project which subsequently became Oxygen. There was much spadework, contacting local clergy, borough leaders, appropriate agencies, bringing a number of people together who worked hard to ensure that the idea became a reality. Having been launched successfully now for a year, itâ€™s our prayer that it will fulfil its aim of assisting the churches to reach young people for Christ.
Stewart Downey Vicar, Christ Church New Malden Chair of Oxygen Council of Reference
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CONTENTS 1. The Purpose …WHY DID IT HAPPEN?
2. The Principles, the Process …and the Problems …WHAT FOUNDATION? …HOW
DID IT TAKE SHAPE?
3. In Practice …WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENED, THEN? …WHAT
DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
4. The People …WHO DOES WHAT? …TELL US SOME STORIES
5. Some Pointers …ANY TIPS FOR OUR AREA?
6. Final Thoughts and Thanks
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1. The Purpose WHY DID IT HAPPEN? The story of Oxygen began in December 1999 as a conversation with my vicar, Canon Stewart Downey. Two things prompted the conversation. •
The 1999 English Church Attendance Survey had just been published, noting the sharp decline in church attendance amongst young people between 1989 and 1999. This survey confirmed other reports that there were something like 35% fewer 16-26 year olds in church than 10 years before. Also around the same time, the Anglican Diocese of Southwark had published a paper entitled Recovering the Missing Generation, challenging churches to reconsider how they connected with young people.
In addition to these paper reports, there was a third factor which seemed to provide an opportunity for action locally. It seemed to us that the young people in our church were developing a strong motivation for peer-led and practical outreach, and had very strong links with young people from other churches in the Kingston borough. Largely inspired by their experiences of several Soul Survivor festivals, a number of larger celebration events had developed around the borough, notably Shout in the New Malden area and Re:vive in the Surbiton/Toworth area. These are pitched at the 16-26 age group, and led by the young people of this age. However, excellent initiatives as they are, they are clearly targetted at those already Christian rather than being in the first place outreach focussed. Whenever I attended Shout, it felt like a big bottle of Coke was being shaken, but there was no outlet locally to take to top off the bottle and release the fizz. The growing feeling, at times frustration, amongst local young people seemed to be along the lines of ‘why can’t we do the stuff around there that we have a chance to get up to in other places during the summer?’ Why not, indeed. There was a need, a Borough which in comparative terms had the resources of people and money to make things happen, and a motivated group of young people across the churches, many of whom would be due to leave school in summer 2001. Was this a moment of opportunity? What, most importantly, did the Lord want to make happen among us? In recounting the story of Oxygen so far, it is hard to stress enough how this project has not come into being because of the amazing work of a particularly gifted or charismatic individual, or by implementing some kind of text-book theory. It is a story of Christians at all levels of responsibility, backgrounds and ages listening to God and working together for the sake of young people beyond the church, churches locally re-orienting themselves so that they may be structured for outreach to unchurched young people. As the project enters its second year, there appear to me to be 4 keys to its development and progress: • Listening This is a project which has been created from the top-down and the bottom up in equal measure. Leaders have listened to young people, and young people have worked within the oversight of leaders. This is not something that a concerned ‘old’ church is doing ‘for’ a missing ‘young’ church. This is a project where those who rightly carry responsibility within the church are enabling Christian young people, with appropriate oversight and protection, to do outreach amongst their peers. It is about the church working ‘with’ each other across the ages. • Praying Prayer has undergirded Oxygen from throughout. The initial shape of the project arose out of prayer, and worship & prayer has provided a focus for all activities and events along the way. Moreover, along the way, stories emerged of small pockets of Christians around the borough who over the previous few years had been praying for something to emerge from the churches dedicated towards outreach amongst young people. In a way it was hardly surprising that once the idea was ‘out there’, many people were enthusiastic for it. All it took was someone to put an idea on the table for people to kick around. Prayer had lit the embers of desire, and a specific idea fanned it into flame. • Risking The churches were prepared to genuinely hear how culturally removed they are from many young people, and to begin the journey of rethinking. Along the way it was made clear that if Oxygen drew new young people into faith, this would have to have an effect upon the churches who ultimately would receive them. The project was also an exercise in trust, across boundaries of denomination and style, as well as age.
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â€˘ Resourcing Ultimately, the story of Oxygen shows what can be achieved when churches release people for dedicated ministries on behalf of the whole church. In the first instance, the Anglican Bishop of Kingston, Bishop Peter Price, enabled me to remain a curate at Christ Church New Malden, when in the normal course of events, I had finished my spell as a curate there. This meant that I was able to give dedicated time to undertaking the necessary speaking, networking, team leadership and planning. But the churches locally have been willing to continue to fund this resourcing, in the appointment of a full-time Youth Minister in Richard James and a team of student gap year workers. They understand that Oxygen is a youth outreach project working on behalf of all the churches that support it, not an independent parachurch organisation. To set aside dedicated workers motivates volunteers from churches to get involved, and maximises opportunity.
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2. The Principles, the Process …and the Problems WHAT FOUNDATION? In January 2000, Stewart and I met with Bishop Peter to outline the idea as we had discussed it. Bishop Peter asked for us to put our ideas on paper for him to consider. The document (Appendix 1) contained: • An outline proposal • A timetable for action • Some clarification of terms • Some theological principles driving the proposal. As time has gone on, three of these principles have emerged from the landscape as proving significant motivators. •
A Focus on Young People
Young people are leaving the church in droves. We are losing the saved let alone seeking and finding the lost. Young people need to be at the heart of the strategy & decision making for the project. We need to be less protective of the little we have got, and release the young people we do have for mission, trusting in faith that God will bless them, and that we will all be the richer as a result. “We need to release our young people to live and share the gospel outside the constraints of our inherited forms of church life, for their sake and for our sake.” “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35) • The Form of the Gospel What the project ends up doing may well end up looking very different to how the church has done mission up until now. We need to trust young people and learn from them as they incarnate the gospel in their culture. Young people can be critical of the church, because it seems so culturally alien to them and slow to react to new ideas. One of the satisfying spin-offs of the development of oxygen is how the Church as an institution (it matters little which denomination!) has come to be ‘talked up’ amongst young people locally. “For young people in society, the gospel needs to be dressed up differently. Let’s not confuse the content of the gospel with the form of the church.” “To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21) • The Future of the Church A core building block for the project was to enable young people to be at the heart of leading and delivering the project. The public face of the project should communicate that the church trusts young people. Of course, a trained adult youth minister would need to oversee it, and be supported by local leaders. But this project should be there to give local young people the opportunity to serve God in mission amongst young people locally, some spare-time, some part-time, some full-time on a gap year. 3 of the first 5 gappers were local, and 2 have stayed on to train as youth workers. 4 of the 6 gappers in the second year are local. We are pleased at this mix in the team. “We need to invest in growing a new leadership in the church.” “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) Having written this paper, the Bishop encouraged us to share the idea as widely as possible, note responses and report back to him in May 2000. Any borough wide initiative in youth outreach would inevitably cross parish boundaries, and so it was important to consult Anglican colleagues, and also ecumenical colleagues. Because written for Bishop Peter, it contains several ‘Anglicanisms’. We felt it better not to amend it for ecumenical consumption, but simply add a covering letter apologising for these ‘Anglicanisms’, indicating a desire to work as
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closely with anyone who might be interested, and also indicating genuine desire to hear people’s responses at this early stage. The document was sent to every church leader of every denomination in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Immediately obvious is the fact that the document is phrased more in ecclesiological than missiological terminology - ‘youth congregation’, ‘missionary congregation’ etc. Our idea had been initially for some kind of ‘church plant’ in youth culture which a number of churches could ‘share’. In the way that some churches have a multiple congregation structure appealing to different worship styles, so this could be a youth congregation, but one which related not just back to one church but into several who shared oversight. It was apparent from very early on that there was little appetite for this emphasis, but that there was a large appetite for an idea like it if the emphasis was directly upon outreach. This was also true amongst young people. We were confident that local young people would be enthusiastic for the idea, so waited until about April 2000 before beginning to ask youth leaders to float the idea with their groups. It would have been tragic for young people to get excited about something which, at the end of the day, church leaders felt no enthusiasm for. Once it became clear that there was a mood amongst leaders to enable a new initiative to take off, however vague at this stage, it was important to bring young people into the consultative process. We asked a number of youth leaders with whom we had discussed the idea in depth to float it in general terms amongst their groups and fellow leaders. The messages coming back were similar to those from church leaders: focus on mission and work back towards church, rather than focus on church-planting and work outwards towards mission. Young people seemed to instinctively see ‘church’ as multigenerational (even if they didn’t always do a lot of worshipping with the older members!). ‘Youth congregation’ stuck, however, as a working title until the name Oxygen was launched in January 2001. This top-down and bottom-up consensus was powerful in its unanimity. The overall impression was that people were saying ‘we’ve got to do something, so why not something like this?’. Any issues raised were done so more to flag up possibly problematic areas rather than as obstacles to stall progress. These clustered into 5 broad themes: • Ecclesiology How would we encourage new Christians within the youth congregation to integrate into local congregations? Is this really a ‘youth church plant’? What do we see this being in 10/15 years’ time? • Working with/Competing against current church youth work Is it realistic to ask so much of the young people in our churches already? How would we deal with young people draining away from local churches into the central youth congregation? • The plurality of youth cultures Its quite a wide age range mentioned (14-26)…how do they all fit together? What about university/college v. estate? • Location Where would it meet and why? • Oversight (or, for some, ‘control’) Who would appoint the staff? Who would oversee the staff? Where is the money coming from?
By April 2000, these responses were clear and we decided to call an open consultative meeting where we could share the reaction we had received, suggest a way forward, and also give the leaders present an opportunity to hear how a project like this works in practice. During March, along with Peter Holmes (then Rural Dean of Kingston) and Adam Tutton (a gap year youth assistant at Christ Church), Stewart and I had paid a visit to the Eternity Youth Congregation in Bracknell. We had first heard of this project through one of George Lings’ Encounters on the Edge pamphlets published by the Church Army. This project was very similar in terms of its aims and activities. The chief difference lay in the fact that it had emerged from just one church, and so interchurch issues were less of a factor (although Eternity had sought and received approval and limited financial support from the Anglican deanery and Churches Together groups for its work). Eternity were to prove helpful over the coming months in helping us ground our local vision in their actual experiences.
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Appendix 2 contains the paper circulated in advance of this consultation. It includes: • A response to the 5 clusters of queries raised in the previous months. • A restatement of the proposal, making outreach central and prioritising the aims accordingly
HOW DID IT TAKE SHAPE? At the time of writing (August 2002), Oxygen has had six distinct phases to its development. These phases were shaped partly by events, partly by the timetable we set for ourselves. A crucial group of enthusiastic young people were due to be leaving school in the summer of 2001, and so it was important to keep to a tight timescale, maintain momentum to the project, in order to launch the project with the young people who had invested most in it, giving them the opportunity to be the first to serve through it. At every stage, we set deadlines for the next stage, these deadlines in some ways being quite arbitrary, but aiming to give church leaders enough time to take relevant issues through their church councils without getting side-tracked. Once the first consultative meeting had taken place in May 2000, the train left the station, stopping periodically at similar consultative meetings, to allow some passengers off, allow others on, and to check people were happy with the route we were taking. If too many had got off the train, it would never had reached its destination (there wouldn’t have been enough passengers to pay the fare!), but there was a timetable from the start which, acting in faith, assumed arrival.
Phase 1: Throwing the Idea Out – January to May 2000
This stage had already been described. From hitting upon an idea, we shared this with Bishop Peter, local church and youth leaders, deanery groups, Churches Together groups, inviting comment, discussion, handling phone calls, meeting with individuals and small groups to lay out the idea, explain more and listen to reaction. We talked amongst youth groups as well as church leaders, working from the bottom up as well as the top down. We visited Eternity in Bracknell to see on the ground how a project amongst unchurched young people could work.
Phase 2: Shaping a Precise and Costed Plan – May to October 2000
The project moved forward through developing three core networks: amongst church & youth leaders, amongst young people, amongst key supporters. In June, the first Clergy Consultation meeting was held, before which Appendix 2 was circulated. 30 Representatives of 12 churches, from across the borough and across the denominations attended that meeting. It was useful to see who each other was, as much as discuss the feedback for the idea. Mark Meardon, leader of the Eternity Youth Congregation attended and spoke helpfully about their work amongst unchurched young people, and the financial and personal costs involved, encouraging strongly those there to persevere. This meeting agreed two steps: • to set up a working group formed from those churches present to come up with a precise and costed plan by October 2000. • To have a similar meeting for young people in those churches represented in July, and to invite young people to join the working group. Mark, therefore, brought a dozen of his team back to New Malden in July. Some 80 young people had a chance to hear directly about the project and what church leaders thought about it, hear about what Eternity was doing, to chat, feedback, worship and pray. They were also challenged to consider taking a gap year to help get it off the ground, to go off over the summer, chat to people and get ideas, and to join the working group. Some 12 young people did that. A group of young people also visited the Eternity night-club Eclipse to see first-hand some of what was happening in Bracknell. Also from this time on, a monthly prayer letter has been produced, sent to a growing list of prayer supporters. Also during July, I met for the first time with Gillian Hall, head of the Royal Borough of Kingston Youth Service. She was naturally concerned that the churches were serious about serving young people in the community and not simply looking for new ways to get bums on seats. But after some discussion of this she, and her staff also, have remained utterly supportive of the project and enabled us to receive a healthy slice of funding from the local council.
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The working group also met with Peter Holmes in his capacity as Vicar of Peter’s Norbiton. St Peter’s had been planning to reorder their building and were willing to consider reordering in such a way as to provide the necessary facilities for Oxygen: a remarkable step for a smallish congregation in a huge Victorian building. In August, Soul Survivor held Message 2000 in Manchester. Many local young people went, and experienced there just what we had been proposing here: involvement in community action programmes, ‘being’ good news to young people before ‘speaking good news’, linked clearly to local churches, with the opportunity of evangelistic gatherings in the evening. The only difference was that we were aiming at something sustainable throughout the year, not an intense period of mission activity for a couple of weeks. The momentum picked up during September. We held the second Youth Focus evening, at a Methodist Church in Surbiton. Again some 80 or so young people came along. During the evening, we worshipped, prayed, heard feedback from Soul Survivor and devoted time to working together on formulating a Vision and Values statement for the project. What are we aiming to do? How do we want to go about achieving this aim? It is a remarkable witness to the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit that when the working group got together a week or two later, surrounded by scraps of paper full of ideas from that evening, we discovered a remarkable similarity of ideas and hopes, even to the point where exact same scripture verses were quoted. This Vision and Values statement (reproduced at the front) provided the rallying point for the coalition of churches that eventually came together to support the project. It was during September that we also had our first contact with Youth for Christ. Ray Khan, the Southwark Diocesan Youth Officer suggested to me that YFC might prove helpful when it came to forming a new Charitable Trust. I arranged to meet Jonny Baker, then Director of YFC in London. After a couple of hours of conversation, it became clear that the project as it was coming together could easily sit under the umbrella of YFC and become one of its Accredited Local Ministries. In return for a contribution to central YFC funds (voluntary in scale) the benefits to our project were immense: templates for legal documents, national expertise, local networks, training programmes and resource material, and an external body that different churches of different styles and denominations could unite behind. In October, as the working group were drawing their ideas together to present to church leaders, we held 24 hours of prayer at St Paul’s Kingston Hill for young people in the borough. The event was entitled ‘Breathe’ and it became the first of what is now a monthly prayer focus for young people. As it happened, it also anticipated the naming of the project: it was from the name Breathe that the name Oxygen ultimately derived.
Phase 3: Gathering Pledged Support – October 2000-March 2001 st
On October 31 , the 2 Clergy Consultation meeting was held at Christ Church. At this, the Working group presented their report. This was to create a youth project: Based at St Peter’s Hall Dovetailing with the work of the council youth centres, other community groups, churches and a local Christian schools’ work trust Employing a full-time youth worker and a team of gap year volunteers It would cost £60K to run each year with an additional £30K required to reorder and set up the base venue of St Peter’s Hall. A document was produced for leaders to circulate through their church councils giving key information and asking key questions (Appendix 3), along with a publicity brochure for wider circulation amongst church members (Mind the Gap – Appendix 4). We asked to leaders to respond with a pledge of financial st support by 1 February 2001. No minimum or maximum contribution was set. We encouraged churches to pledge support for an initial 3 years (to give the Youth Minister a fair first contract). So that we could gain a realistic idea of the sustainability of the project beyond a first year, one-off pledges of support were put towards one-off set-up costs. Three factors stand out from this distance of time as being important to the positive tone of this meeting. Firstly, one church, St Paul’s Kingston Hill, arrived at the meeting already with a pledge from some central funds of £5K to support the project and an undertaking to challenge their church members to match it individually. This church had already restructured the job description of their Youth Worker, Sally Butler, so that she was enabled to give dedicated time to helping get the project going. This further practical response had a huge symbolic impact. Secondly, several young people from the working group were present and spoke passionately of what oxygen would mean to them, including some who would end up on the first gap team. Thirdly, the Head of the borough
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youth service, Gillian Hall, attended and spoke of how an initiative like this coming from the churches and their young people would be received supportively by the local council. She continued to help us with applying for council funding. Eventually, £5K (the cost of one gap year worker) was secured in the spring, a grant which has been repeated into the second year. Throughout November and December, the working group continued discussions with St Peter’s concerning the Hall and changes which may need to be made. Over the following months a variety of plans were tabled, varying in their complexity and cost. A playgroup continues to meet in the hall weekday mornings and during term times only, but otherwise Oxygen is now the sole user and the young people had a range of ideas about how to make the venue more youth-friendly. Discussions also continued with YFC, particularly from January onwards as a team of Trustees began to take shape. We asked church leaders to consider people within their congregations who may have the inclination and expertise to act as a Trustee, and by the end of the month, 5 people had emerged. rd
January also saw the 3 Youth Focus evening. It was held at St Peter’s hall. Again it presented an opportunity to worship and pray, inform the young people there of how things had developed, which churches had already indicated support, show possible plans for how the Hall might be redeveloped, and the name Oxygen was launched. This all gave a wider group of young people the opportunity to feed back, and after the meeting to express their own enthusiasm within their own church if it had yet to commit. It was also an opportunity to focus attention on the need for a gap year team. Letters and information (Appendix 5) had been sent around church and youth leaders and some particular individuals who had expressed an interest prior to Christmas. But we realised that a young person taking a gap year might need to know around Easter-time if they had a place with Oxygen, or if they needed to be looking for something else. By February 1st, it was clear from the levels of financial support already committed that something could get off the ground the following September. The issue really was what size and shape it would be, and that was dependent upon how many further supporters joined in. As well as money, accommodation had been offered which created savings on the budget, including a house from an individual in a church which was offered at low rent for the Youth Minister. It was time to call for another Clergy Consultation.
Phase 4: Forming the Trust & Appointing Staff – March-August 2001 st
On March 1 , the third Clergy Consultation meeting was held, attended also by Richard Bromley, Director of Local Ministries with YFC and the Bishop of Kingston. I had been keeping the Bishop informed regularly through the development stage, and over breakfast at this meeting, he reaffirmed his desire to see the churches in Kingston ‘have a go’ and his willingness to help secure some funding. As Director of Local Ministries, Richard was able to field questions about what affiliating to YFC would mean in terms of its structures and resources, theological emphases and the extent of local independence. The leaders were presented with information (Appendix 6) outlining which churches were committed to the project or considering doing so, how much money and been pledged and how much might be expected, how the Trust would be structured locally and within YFC, and a suggested process for moving forward with appointing the gap team and the youth minister. A particular sensitivity concerned the evangelical foundation to YFC and the mixture of churchmanships in the coalition of churches supportive of Oxygen’s Vision & Values. How could integrity be preserved on all sides? My own theological convictions are evangelical, a good deal of the money to support the project was coming from evangelical churches and their members, and most of the young people enthusiastic for the project were coming from evangelical churches. But it seemed to me that such ‘strength’ is used responsibly in service, not in power play. And the fact remained that a number of non-evangelical churches were also enthusiastic, some for the simple reason that they had no young people in their church at all and were commendably keen to support any initiative to address this. It has always seemed to me that ecumenical co-operation is at its best when Christians work together for the sake of those not yet part of the church. Denominational and theological differences are relegated in favour of the more pressing concern of reaching the lost. We were anxious that Oxygen should have this flavour and seek to express the essential one-ness of the churches. This approach also struck a strong chord with local young people, who are denominationally blind. Young people are far more impressed by churches who roll up their sleeves and muck in than by churches who action-shy because of what they perceive as theological niceties: they see it as “neglecting the weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23-4).
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We proposed, therefore, structuring the Trust whereby churches locally only had to ‘sign up’ to the Vision and Values of Oxygen in order to be part of its work and to be able to be represented on the Council of Reference overseeing the work. But the Trustees and any paid employees would need to also sign up to the YFC statement of faith (a standard evangelical basis of faith). A small number out of the evangelical churches did not find this distinction acceptable and chose to go no further with the project. Otherwise, this approach met with approval. The Vision and Values remain the rallying point for supporting churches on the surface, and YFC continues to provide the theological anchor. From here on in, things moved very fast. Through the rest of March various church leaders joined in helping interview for the gap team, and 5 were appointed in April. In April also, charitable status was secured – largely due to the ready availability from YFC of a draft constitution which simply needed a few local adaptations. An advertisement was lodged with Youthwork magazine for the Youth Minister and inquiries began flowing in. st
May 1 saw the first meeting of the Council of reference, the body representative of all Oxygen’s supporting churches. In effect this group superceded the Clergy Consultations. The meeting approved the shortlisting of 4 candidates for interview later in the month. Richard James was appointed 3 weeks later. Through June and July, accommodation for the gap team was firmed up, consultations with builders concerning the refurbishment of the th hall continued. And in July, the 4 Youth Focus evening was held, exactly a year after the first one when Mark Meardon had brought a team from Eternity to envision the young people. A group from Eternity came again, and Richard also came so that the young people could meet him. An interesting feature of these youth focus evenings was that the attendance at each had been around 80 young people, but rarely the same 80. Perhaps a core of 30 had been to them all. Yet the enthusiasm and interest was similar at each, and we have seen the fruit of this partly in the numbers of young people getting involved with Oxygen in their spare time, not just on the gap team, and also in the young people now expressing an interest in being on the gap team in future years where the seed of interest was first sown at one of these Youth evenings, and watered by seeing how Oxygen has developed since.
Phase 5: Launching the Project – August 2001-January 2002
It was apparent that the Hall refurbishment would not even be started by the time the team were ready to begin work. Whilst frustrating in some respects, it did mean that the team’s priorities for the first few months were clearly focussed on getting out and about to where young people are, rather than concentrating on putting on a lot of activities in-house which they try and drag young people to come to! The work of the first few months was necessarily much more detached and dispersed, and this has reaped rich rewards. It has meant that the core value of building genuine relationships came to prominence in the team’s work priorities straight away. Richard describes in more detail in Part 3 exactly what has happened since the start of the year.
Phase 6: Taking up Residence – January 2002…
Again, Richard’s comments in Part 3 tell the story of the activities of Oxygen from January 2000 onwards. It has been very apparent, however, that taking up residence in the Hall shifted the work of the project to a new level, in that the gap team were able not only to be ‘guests’ on the home territory of the young people, but ‘hosts’ on their own territory. They could set the agenda for the content of activities, be more explicitly Christian in their own venue. To their credit, the activities in the base venue have been developed in addition to, not instead of, time the team committed to dispersed and detached activities. It is during this period that the team began to see real fruit for their work, young people sharing their stories and problems, seeking prayer for situations in their lives, beginning discussion groups., wanting to know God for themselves.
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3. In Practice WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENED, THEN? Richard James is Oxygen’s first youth minister. He is 28 and comes to Kingston from Sketty in South Wales. Whilst working as a director with a shipping company, he pioneered a new initiative in youth outreach with his wife Debbie, along with another couple in their church. The Sketty Youth project (www.syp.org.uk) was a ground breaking initiative in Swansea, working in partnership with the local schools and the council youth service, and receiving a good deal of financial support from local, regional and European government whilst retaining a clear and distinctive Christian foundation and emphasis. Two local churches provide a spiritual anchor for the project, and in time Richard left his shipping job to work full-time with SYP. When he applied, and after he was interviewed, we knew we had met someone who could lead the project into the next stage. Like Joshua, he had seen already what the land ahead would look like. Here, Richard takes up the story of what happened next:
Since we were a new charity, the first few weeks of Oxygen in September 2001 were a lot about research, planning and preparation for the year ahead. Although we had a rough plan of what was going to happen we felt it was important to assume nothing and reassess what we were going to do, and how we were going to do it. Our first priority was to get involved with the youth centres across the borough building relationships with the young people and the youth workers. Once we knew what was going on and what was already going on we could design programmes and activities to complement existing events. Through all that we have done it has been a pleasure to work with the borough youth service and the youth centre workers, we have had full support and help from them in all our projects and plans. We are involved in weekly work at the Fountain - New Malden, Searchlight - Kingston Road, The Doris Venner Centre Worcester Park, School Lane - Tolworth and Dickerage Lane - New Malden. October saw us starting some of Oxygen's own projects, many of which operated in partnership with the local youth service, including the Breakfast Café at the Fountain youth centre in New Malden. Working on Wednesdays from 7.30 - 8.30 am this drop in centre before school has attracted up to 25 young people during each morning, serving them with Bacon Rolls, Cereal Bars, Hot Chocolate and chat. Oxygenate started on the Cambridge Estate with over 25 young people taking part in litter picks and tidy up work. The Oxygen Website www.oxygen-online went live, and within a few weeks was operating a twice weekly chat room, named Interact. This has attracted over 4,000 visitors in 8 months. Finally in half term we ran our first Football Tournament in Dickerage, in association with the Youth Service and the staff at Dickerage Lane. We also started detached work in Tolworth walking the Broadway and into Hook on Friday nights. In November Liquid Oxygen launched at New Malden Baptist Church being packed by over 120 young people. Rock Solid (a new weekly youth club) started on the Cambridge Estate, and Breathe a 24-hour prayer event for Christian young people across Kingston commenced its monthly run. Closing the year in December we ran more Rock Solid clubs, Detached Work, a Liquid Oxygen Christmas Party with the youth service in the Doris Venner, again over 120 young people turned up. Our final two activities before the year end were Thank God for that part 1 - a youth service (complete with an Anne Robinson look-alike!) and Thank God for that part 2 - a prayer time lasting from Boxing Day to New Years Eve, 120 hours of prayer with lots of different young people and supporting churches coming along. 2002 came quickly and January seemed a lot quieter, with preparing the now available Oxygen Hall the first priority. Rock Solid launched again, along with INSPIRE a new youth drama club on Tuesday nights, work at the youth centres, detached work, and now the start of work in two schools, in partnership with the RBK Schools work trust.
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The 2nd of February saw a chance for a once in all time opportunity! On the 2nd of February 2002 we held our 02/02/02 day - planning Oxygen into the next 3 - 5 years, where we go, what we do, and how we achieve it. February was when the Oxygen youth programme started again with earnest. February half term was very busy with first Breathe and LHD (love, hope and destiny â€“ a worship/outreach evening) on Saturday INSPIRE on Tuesday, Computer Games Day (a chance to play network games and Playstation 2 through a Video projector on a large screen) on Wednesday, the second football tournament on Thursday, Friday - Infuse, a workshop day for Christian young people in the morning and Rock Solid Kodak Kapers in the afternoon and finally Saturday Liquid Oxygen. Then at the end of the month we started sending a team onto the Cambridge Road Estate on Saturday mornings. March and April continued to consolidate the pattern of Oxygenâ€™s programmes up to July: something every Saturday, mid week activities and the start of just looking groups for those young people interested in seeking faith for themselves. In April we were also privileged to pray with a few people who wanted to become Christians. These guys from one of the local estates had got to know us through a range of activities and simply wanted what we had. We have also seen a couple of other people grow in faith as they have started to join in what we are doing, praying, singing and sharing with us. Our records show that on average we work with over 250 young people each week, and overall we have made contact with over 1000 young people. This is excluding activities such as whole school assemblies that we have been involved in. Some of our events attract large numbers, such as a monthly band night Thevent with the Hall at St Peters now reaching capacity. Liquid Oxygen regularly attracts over 150 young people. With 95% of these coming from the local youth centres, and a large proportion coming from the Fountain youth centre in New Malden, often seen as the youth centre that works with the most difficult young people in the borough. We are also working right across the borough helping out in youth centres in Kingston, New Malden, Norbiton, Worcester Park, Tolworth and Kingston Hill. We are involved in schools work in Surbiton, Chessington and New Malden. Our detached work takes place weekly in Tolworth, Hook, Kingston town centre, and on the Cambridge Estate. Oxygenate is social action evangelism; through this we have projects planned for Berrylands, Norbiton, Surbiton, Kingston Hill, New Malden, and North Kingston. We have also been involved in Oxygenate projects on the Cambridge Estate and in Kingston town centre. Breathe (our 24 hour prayer event) has been placed across the borough in New Malden, Tolworth / Hook, Kingston and Norbiton. We currently run 2 breakfast cafes one in New Malden (Fountain roundabout) and one in Tolworth (School Lane Youth Centre), we would love to start a third in Surbiton. Working in association with the RBK schoolswork trust we have been involved in Schools work in Surbiton High, Tiffin Girls, Kingston Grammar, Coombe Girls, and Chessington Community College. We have worked closely with the schools work trust and in February put on a training day for young people in how to show and share their faith in school. More of these days are planned for the future. Our close work the borough youth service has put us in a prominent position in the local borough. This enabled us to arrange a joint meeting between Kingston Youth Service, Oxygen and the Church youth workers from across the borough. This meeting was such a success in forming partnerships and we are planning on making it a bi annual event. In terms of hours spent then the table below gives you and idea of how these hours break down. You will notice that a lot of time has been spent in youth centres, this is crucial to the work of Oxygen. It is no good if we simply put on events for young people and expect them to turn up. We need to be spending half our youthwork time reaching new groups of young people and building relationships with them.
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Activity Hours Spent Percentage of time Helping in Council youth centres 1920 24% Oxygenate - (Social Action Projects) 120 2% Breathe – Prayer events 360 5% Schools work 120 2% Oxygen Saturday Night events 1620 20% Oxygen Weeknight Events 180 2% Detached work 480 6% Internet outreach 272 3% Team time (meeting, planning, preparation, praying, training, study) 2880 36% Oxygen Kingston (YFC) 2001 /2 Gap year time allocation We can talk about numbers a lot, but most important are the stories of young people who lives have been touched through Oxygen. One young person emailed us to say. “I’d like to say thanks for having these events on Saturdays. I met a few of the people who work there and they are all really nice people to talk to”. Another young person stood on stage during an open microphone time at LHD (Love Hope and Destiny – our outreach event), and said I am not a Christian, but I wanted to say I feel so loved being here, nowhere else do I feel accepted like I do here. At many of our Saturday events we run a prayer room where people can come to chat and debate issues of faith. Many young people have visited this prayer room, and talked, debated argued about things that they otherwise would not have had a chance to discuss. At one point the prayer room at Liquid Oxygen in March had over 30 people in it. A girl came into the prayer room and said, “So, this is the prayer room…let’s talk about God.” One young person who is a regular at our nightclub now regularly asks us to pray for him and the circumstances in his life, echoes of the Centurion in the Luke who sent his servant to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. At the recent SHOUT (youth event in St Johns, New Malden) over a dozen young people from the Cambridge estate turned up with our detached workers who have spent the last couple of months working with them. There they heard Simon Morris (youth worker, New Malden Baptist Church) preach of Heaven and the hope we have as Christians. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? In the next two years I see us as having to address what church is all about. At this stage we have 2 cell groups established, one linked to St Johns for 11 - 14s and one yet to be linked, but working with over 14s. More churches need to take these on board, and not simply provide "Sunday services" and the answer to the youth problem. In the next 2 years I believe that God is going to bring to faith several "key" people (Sauls/Pauls) who will then be able to reach out to the guys that they know and that will start a tide of change. How the church responds to this is key. Is the regular morning service the answer? Are small groups the answer? We need to be prepared to change and mould in order to accommodate these young
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people. As with the women in Paulâ€™s letter to Timothy, so these young people will not know what it is all about, and will often look to interrupt and challenge, sometimes not appropriately. We need to ensure that they are given the means within a gathering of their own (but within the overall charge of inidividual churches to be given times to grow and nurture). Without this plan in place, Oxygen will rapidly become a youth church, and that would not be right. Secondly the hardest to reach groups are not necessarily the hardest young people. We often target hard young people as the ones to work with. When we started I was not concerned about getting young people into events and activities, I knew that they would come, that God would bring them in. The middle class suburban young person is often harder to reach and harder to work with than your "estate" person. This young person doesn't venture out in the evenings does not hang around the streets, has pre set ideas on God and church, and is reluctant to make commitment to groups and activities. This group often represents 50%+ of the young people in our area, so we need to be reaching them all.
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4. The People WHO DOES WHAT? On the front-line is Richard and the gap-team – in 2001/2 they were Rae Austen, Phil Gresham-Cooke, Martha Marquez-Vega. Howard Perrin, and Mark Rodger. Mark and Martha are staying on with Oxygen into 2002-3, Martha enrolling on the Centre for Youth Ministry course at Oxford Brookes, and Mark to undertake the Academy training with YFC. Throughout the year, they have been joined by around 60 volunteer helpers giving time to Oxygen. Some have been youth workers in other churches or on other courses, seconded for part of the week to Oxygen. Most have been local church members able to commit on a regular basis to helping with a particular activity. The majority have been young people between 16 and 25. 6 more gappers, Alex Ewing, Charlotte Hansen-Kahn, Amy Hibbs, Alison Hulett, Nathan Lewis and Dave McCarthy join in September 2002 for a year. A Council of Reference meets 4 times each year, representing the local supporting churches. Each church has one representative, and each year 6 members of the CoR are joined by one of the Trustees to form an Executive team. The Exec meets each month to offer oversight, co-ordinate practical help and provide a sounding board for the team (see Appendix 7). Each of the gap team is also a member of one of the supporting churches and meets weekly with a member of that church as a mentor. Some of the people involved in different ways with the project have articulated their perspective on why the idea of Oxygen caught on amongst churches and young people, how the initial vision and the ultimate reality compare, and offer some snapshots of the work on the ground.
TELL US SOME STORIES
Mark Rodger – Gap Year team 2001/2 Many young people have caught the vision simply because God put it on their hearts. They long to see their friends and people around them know Jesus and the projects and events that Oxygen has set up are an effective way of them reaching their friends. Why did getting involved in Oxygen appeal to me? That God wants it to happen. There is no way that 22 churches of different backgrounds would ever come to together unless Jesus united them. And now looking back there is certainly no way that we would have come this far without God's hand on it. The heart of Oxygen is to empower young people to reach the lost and mine is the same. The emphasis on prayer is also important to me because otherwise the project would go pear shaped. We can't take credit for anything that has happened. It is God who has taken us this far and it is God who will take us further still. That's why I'm staying here for another year. Working with Oxygen has been an amazing adventure full of highs and lows. I've learnt more than I could ever imagine I would have done. I've seen one young person who others have thought would be in prison in a few years become a Christian with life totally different. I've seen others move forward on their journey towards Jesus. I've seen people who would never be seen dead near a church hanging around outside. I've seen people wanting to know about God. I've seen people drastically change because of the witness for Christ around them. I've seen Christians fired up for Jesus and desire him more. I've seen the disappointments of God doing things in his time and his way instead in my time and my way. And I've seen the fruit of God doing things in His time and His way. Last September six of us sat at a table wondering how on earth this was going to work. I remember lots of post it notes on the drawing board with rough ideas of what we could do. I think everything that we wrote down is now up and running. We know people from virtually all the youth centres in the borough. Just walking down the street I generally bump into several young people who I will see again later that week. We are giving young people “the opportunity to discover and follow Jesus”. At
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the nightclub there's images of Jesus on the cross and Bible verses on the screen. Most of those young people would not open a Bible. We have a prayer room where anyone who walks in is asked if they want to be prayed for. The first year has been amazing. God is going to take us further. We can be more effective in our evangelism, but we're all wearing 'L plates'.
Simon Morris – Oasis Youth Worker, New Malden Baptist Church Having worked at the Fountain youth centre in New Malden for almost two years as a volunteer, it is now great to be employed by Kingston Youth Service to work on a supply basis once a month at TheVent with Oxygen, an event I’d have wanted to be involved with anyway. I had a excellent and eye-opening night there recently. I usually work with quite a different set of young people at the Fountain and at New Malden Baptist church, and it was good to get to know some guys from another identity group: they would define themselves as "grungers". There was a big group of them from a school in Cheam that night, and they quickly accepted me as someone to talk to and fill in on what they got up to/enjoyed/got excited about. I did a lot of listening at first. But as the evening went on, I found that they started asking me questions...about what I did, why I was at the event. I got to tell them a bit about me, and be upfront and unashamed about the fact that I was a Christian. Then one of the guys, with his mates standing around, announced that he was a Christian too. (I found out later that he had been moved by a song played earlier by a Christian band, and had approached the singer, explaining how it had encouraged him). That one simple act of proclaiming with his mouth who he believed in I found really exciting. I hope it's given him more boldness to speak out in the future too. I talked to him later, and I trust that it won't be the last contact that young guy has with Oxygen.
Debbie Attfield – Part-time volunteer 2001/2 Anyone who goes outside their house at some stage during their life can see that however nice a place Kingston may or may not be, like any town, it has some very needy people. In the summer of 2000 a large number of young people from our churches went up to take part in a huge mission in Manchester. During that time we were working as part of a team of 10,000 Christians spreading the good news of Jesus in a practical way and saw many come to know and love Him. I believe that God used that time in Manchester to show some of us what others too back at home had already been shown – God’s heart for the lost. When seeing a town through our own eyes we can see the need and see it’s a shame things have got so bad. When seeing it through God’s eyes we are heart broken and spurred to change the way things are. I believe that’s why the idea of Oxygen caught on in so many people’s hearts. For me, the appeal was to see churches reaching out rather than being inward looking – to see how much of a difference Jesus’ love could make to a town laden with broken families. I may just be a romantic but I believe that a lot of where society is breaking down has to do with a lack of love. So for Christians to be able to show love and give time to young people who are otherwise shrugged off and left to their own devices was for me an exciting prospect. Also it was something that Jesus himself didn’t stop doing – lavishing love on those who most needed it. Working with Oxygen has been hard. There’s no way it could have been easy when some of the young people were so hostile to begin with and from such different backgrounds that we were trying to forge seemingly unnatural friendships. At the same time, working with Oxygen has been
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extremely rewarding because God has got us through the hard times and broken down those barriers to enable real friendships to form naturally. Oxygen’s aim is to allow young people in Kingston the opportunity to know about Jesus and to come to a relationship with Him. There is a massive spectrum of activities going on throughout the week which make that possible and while this year has possibly been more about establishing Oxygen and building relationships with young people, there have been through God’s grace many opportunities to talk to people about Jesus and we pray they have seen his Spirit working within us. There have been many highlights, moments showing how genuine friendships have been built: like when I was able to hang out with the ‘Rock Solid’ kids for a few hours at a 24/7 prayer event and talk to them about God as well as just spend time with them; or watching some of the ‘toughest’ young people in New Malden greeting the Oxygen ‘full-timers’ at the Liquid Oxygen nightclub and seeing how much respect they had for them. The there were the moment when we could share our faith with people: like when 7 or 9 or the ‘Rock Solid’ kids came to Shout and I could se them just soaking in what was happening around them – 150 young people were worshipping their Saviour; or when I was part of a team in the prayer room at Liquid Oxygen and there was a torrent of people coming in asking for prayer! One of the Rock Solid kids came to a Christian camp I was helping on this summer. Probably the highlight of the year was to see him completely absorbed in worship before my, and now his, Saviour!
Helen Thorne – Youth Leader, Emmanuel Church. Tolworth & Oxygen Executive member ♦ Joint Working. Right from the start, the young people in the churches of Kingston were passionate about the concept of Oxygen. It was offering them a chance to be involved with something exciting – something which allowed them to serve God alongside their contemporaries from church, from school, from work, from every facet of their lives. Many of them had experienced ‘all-pulling-together’ community work and evangelism through spending weeks at big national events and had loved it. Oxygen was seen as an opportunity to bring an exciting God-centred project that crossed all denominational boundaries to their home town. And I think to a large extent, it is this excitement at the prospect of working corporately rather than as individual, isolated youth groups that started and has helped to sustain Oxygen through its first 12 months. ♦ Empowering Young People. As well as giving the young people the chance to work together in ways which this area has never seen before, Oxygen has been a project which has taken the leadership and visionary skills of young people very seriously. Historically, young people seem to have been viewed as “the church of tomorrow”… people to hang on to until they’re old enough to start serving God as adults. Oxygen has taken the view that young people are the church of today and as such are called to serve God right now. They have ideas, passion, skills and initiative in great abundance and they have thrived in an environment where they are encouraged to use those skills to God’s glory. At my church, the young people recently asked if they could organise a night of prayer for the needs of Kingston. They also asked if they could organise a literature drop so that every house in our parish could be given a leaflet explaining the Gospel and information about local Christian youth activities. That kind of initiative and enthusiasm wasn’t apparent a few years ago – it has sprung from the young people being encouraged “go for it”.
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♦ Meeting the Need. Naturally, one of the biggest reasons that Oxygen caught on is that there is a very clear need for it in this area. Kingston may not have the reputation of being an area of social deprivation but there are very real needs…. Not least amongst these is the very real spiritual need so apparent amongst the 21,000 young people. It’s been a privilege to explain the Gospel to young people, some of whom know very little about love and acceptance or forgiveness; many of whom think of “Jesus” as nothing more than a swear word; some of whom have absolutely no idea that the man Jesus has anything at all to do with church or the Bible. As the year has gone on, I think the spiritual needs of our locality have come more sharply in to focus – something that just adds impetus to Oxygen’s drive to meet those needs. ♦ Unity Across Age Groups. I think the fourth main reason for Oxygen catching on is that it hasn’t just captured the imagination of teenagers. There are 9 year olds longing to be old enough to be involved in Oxygen, 40 year olds willing to lend a hand wherever they can and a whole host of ladies well in their 80s who pray passionately for the work…. Different people of different ages clearly take on very different roles within the organisation, but it’s something which has (to a certain extent at least) brought together people who normally wouldn’t have a lot to do with each other. ♦ The Providence of God. Lastly (though really this should have come first on the list), the reason why Oxygen has caught on is that God has chosen to prosper it. In human terms, a lot of time and energy has gone in to the establishment and day to day running of Oxygen, but all that effort would have been meaningless if God weren’t right at the heart of everything that happens. It’s his project – not ours.
Paul Pearse – Chair of Oxygen Trustees Over the past few years events like Soul Survivor have had a significant impact on church young people. Our own Cyfa group at Christchurch New Malden got involved in a number of Soul Survivor activities. They even recognised the importance of carrying the leadership with them and, on January 19th 1999 duly sent the entire CCNM leadership team on a Soul Survivor training day whilst they looked after the leaders children. Our young people got involved in a number of challenging SS events culminating in their participation in Message 2000 in Manchester. A number of individuals came back fired up for change and social action. I think what we saw at our church was also happening in other churches around the borough of Kingston. Consequently, the idea of a Kingston wide youth project with a clear objective of giving non-churched young people the opportunity know and follow Jesus was received with some enthusiasm by the church young people and some of their leadership. When I was approached and asked to consider taking on a Trustee role I was very pleased to accept. I was already involved in the leadership team for our church based teenage youth group. I had also been involved in preliminary discussions with a local council run youth club. The thinking was to try and identify specific roles that would enable some of the church kids to help out at some council run youth events albeit in a fairly structured environment. Oxygen could be the ideal vehicle to facilitate both church & non-church organisations and individuals working together. In addition, as a Trustee, I felt I could use some of my Project Management background to help with the set-up and planning stage. Any adventure, even one where God is so obviously involved, will have some human highs & lows. On balance, the highs have outweighed the lows, but nevertheless we have had some lessons to learn. Some of the events were in some senses a victim of their own success. We have had to implement revised procedures for tickets sales, needed sensitivity to deal with some people issues,
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and overall there were a number of events that demanded careful leadership. We were incredibly blessed to employ Richard James as our full time youth leader. Richard has been a conduit through which God has done some amazing work. The Gap year teams, the diary of events, the relationships with council & school youth workers, managing the day to day budget, the list goes on. As Chair of Trustees, Richard is my main interface into the daily running of Oxygen. Richard runs Oxygen with integrity and objectivity and is clearly depending on God in both large and small decision making situations. When I think back to where we were 12 months ago it is incredible what God has done through Oxygen. 12 months ago we had a structure of Trustees, Exec, Council of Reference, Youth Leader & Team. The organisation could well have had a conservative vision and ticked over for a few months planning one or two events. However the reality was the after the launch of Oxygen things really started to happen. Very quickly there were events every Saturday night, schools work, detached youth work etc etc all underpinned by organised 24/7 Oxygen prayer activity. The reality of the Oxygen vision far exceeds my initial expectations. 25 years ago I had done some youth work back in my home town of Liverpool. A number of the teenage lads and girls appeared quite intimidating. 25 years on, it is the same story only I think the guys are even bigger. One of the most popular events run by Oxygen is the Liquid Oxygen nightclub. I had the pleasure of running the last event before the summer break. The place was packed with 150 teenagers from the local area. The lights were awesome and the music deafening. Some of the lads & girls around the place definitely fitted into the "quite intimidating" category. It was amazing to see members of our Gap year team in amongst 10 or 15 of the local kids being totally relaxed. They could only be so relaxed and open because they had spent time building up relationships with each of them and was able to rely on mutual trust. Towards the end of what was a fairly eventful night the rap DJ's started doing their own testimony to 150 local teenagers of what the Christian faith meant to them culminating in the clear message over the PA system "you are never too young to know Jesus". The message was backed by Christian Rap music and repeated a number of times. Building relationships and presenting the gospel message in a relevant way sum up my own raison d'etre for being involved in Oxygen. To me this is what "giving young people in Kingston borough the opportunity to discover and follow Jesus" really means in practice.
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5. Some Pointers ANY TIPS FOR OUR AREA? From, time to time we have been asked for suggestions about how churches in other areas could get something like this going. There’s no neat answer. Perhaps in following the story of Oxygen so far you will have latched onto particular things that happened or comments that have been made. Below are some of the key lessons from our experience here which we would take into a new setting.
Richard’s reflections… •
Don't underestimate the power of prayer Prayer is what makes everything happen. It is key, vital and should precede and follow every event and activity. It is giving God the glory for himself and the opportunity to work. Also don't concentrate on praying for things. Acknowledge who God is, rather than treating him as an events problems solving vending machine. God we need a band .......God we need a soundman ...... God we need money ....... that restricts God!
In the same way we can’t underestimate the power of the gospel story and God’s word. It is something special, something that will touch peoples hearts. Be aware that half of the Bible speaks in pictures and stories, so we need to be willing to engage in that medium also. Logical argument is not always the way.
Don't try to take the glory for yourself. This is for two reasons, you need to realise that God is at work, that he is doing what he wants. We just need to be faithful to him and his plan. If you don't then when things go hard (and they will!) then you will also blame yourself when really God is doing something different that maybe we don't understand at this stage, but we will later on.
Don't feel like you have to get it right first time. Be willing to learn and change to the environment in which you work. This applies to work with the team, the programmes, activities and their development.
Ensure that the work that we do is based on what the young people want and not what we think that they want. We are not in an era of one size fits all. Plans and programmes need to respond to certain groups.
In order to make a successful team, all members of staff - volunteers, management, trustees, Gap, full time need to be fully involved in the decision making process. They need to be involved and not just given a task to do. They need to belong as much as the young people. If they feel a sense of belonging and involvement then they will want to pass this on to the young people they are working with.
Sustained exposure is also key Where youth work works best is when you have several points of contact with young people each week.
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Programmes and events are not youth work, but simply are vehicles to building relationships. Often these relationships are built before and after the events, when some young people choose to hang back and help tidy up. Your attitude and manner at this time is as vital as during the event itself.
Steve’s summary… a) Incarnation is the method. Redemption is the message God delivered the gospel in person through Jesus. He became like us, that we might become like him. It seems to me that when the church is makes Incarnation the message as well as the method, it loses its cutting edge. We become religious social workers, ‘there’ for people but with nothing otherwise to offer. It seems to me that when the church makes redemption the method as well as the message, it loses its contact. We become a disembodied voice spouting platitudes about how wonderful God is, completely disconnected from the realities in the lives of the people we are trying to reach. Incarnation, being there, really appreciating the circumstances and situation of people and showing Christ’s love in practical action is the method. And not just as a means to an end…for its own sake. Jesus had compassion because he had compassion, not because he got anything out of it. Redemption, a new start, a fresh hope, forgiveness, the presence of God not just in the lives of the compassionate Christian trying to reach out but personally available to the one reached-out-to is the message. If we live it, we’ll be asked about it and so tell it. Incarnation is the method, Redemption is the message. This has been expressed in Oxygen in a couple of ways: • Partnership & Distinctiveness …willing co-operation with various agencies all working amongst young people and working to their agenda. The team have been a resource for, particularly, the council youth service and Christian schools work trust. Whenever they are working with another agency, they are there to help in whatever way is helpful for that agency. Any contact with young people in any context provides an opportunity to build relationships. But in our own venue, there is the opportunity to arrange activities with a more explicitly Christian focus. Christian distinctiveness should come through wherever Oxygen team members are, but in the venue, the Christian distinctiveness of the project is more focussed. • With young people, for young people (not the other way round) …an incarnational approach is more ‘bottom-up’ (let’s journey together and see where we get to), a Redemption approach is more ‘top-down’ (this is what you need to believe). Oxygen has been developed with young people and for young people, not for young people by adults with young people. An adult agenda on what is ‘good for young people’ has not dominated, rather young people’s own creativity for outreach has been given expressions leaving adults to carry appropriate levels of responsibility to enable this to happen. Where is God calling you to get stuck in? Go there, be Christians, and help in whatever way people ask. Arouse curiosity, be ready to answer and have ways of gathering people who are interested.
b) Beyond our usual spheres of influence So much evangelism is in-grab, not out-reach. Many young people have no contacts whatsoever with Christianity. Behind Oxygen is a desire to be present in places where the church is currently invisible. This is not reaping the fringe, individually skimming little stones from the river bank. It’s together creating a new Christian presence, lobbing a huge stone as far as we can throw it into the pond and seeing where the ripples take us.
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Again, Oxygen has expressed this emphasis in a couple of ways: • Central & Satellite …working from a central venue as well as out and around the borough means that the base venue has become a place of belonging for the young people that the team meet out and about. It is not usually a place where first contact is made, but where relationship is developed. First contact is made through service, being out there and visible in the young person’s world before we invite them to be visible in ‘our ‘ world. Outreach not church planting …In the development phase, it was clear that if the emphasis of Oxygen was to be upon church planting, separate from existing churches, then there was little appetite amongst church leaders or Christian young people. Whilst this is a large topic of discussion (what is a church? What happens when the number of young people who find faith through Oxygen grows to a significant size?) it is an open question we are working through as supporting churches. What is clear is that Oxygen is primarily an outreach project working with the supporting churches and for the supporting churches, not instead of the supporting churches. The churches want to be left with working through the awkward ‘church’ issues.
They won’t come to us unless we go to them because they won’t know where we are!
c) Jesus is a person, not a programme The gospel is a about a person, not a philosophy. Certainly, there are core beliefs about Jesus we want to share, but we should avoid reducing the challenging person of Jesus to a safe set of ideas. The truth of this has been expressed in Oxygen again in a couple of ways: • Relationships within Events …When the work has been most successful, it has been because any event or activity has created an opportunity to forge or develop a genuine relationship with a young person, rather than the ‘quality’ of the presentation, important as that is. As Richard has said, seeing a young person in a variety of settings is foundational to effective youth work. • Funding follows people …Churches were willing to stump up the money to pay for the project partly because the vast majority of it is dedicated to paying for young people to reach young people. It was very apparent at one point in the development phase that if the working group had reported back with grand ideas of buying/leasing an expensive high-profile building to base the work from, then there would have been no appetite to pledge money Bright ideas alone won’t achieve much. Committed people committed to people will.
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6. Final Thoughts and Thanks Thanks are particularly due to the trusts and organisations whose generosity has contributed to meeting Oxygen’s expenditure: Azmaveth Trust Christian Initiative Trust John James Trust Lloyds TSB Trust St Pauls Hall Trust We are particularly grateful to the people and leaders of Oxygen’s supporting churches, whose faith (and finance!) has made the development of the project possible: In Chessington Methodist Church In Kingston Bridge Community Church, King’s Church Kingston, Kingston URC, Methodist Church, St Paul’s Kingston Hill, St Peter’s Norbiton In New Malden Baptist Church, Christ Church & St John’s, Methodist Church, South-West London Vineyard, St James, St John’s Old Malden, St Joseph’s RC Church In Surbiton Community Church, St Andrew & St Mark, St Matthew’s, Surbiton Hill Methodist In Tolworth Emmanuel, St George’s This document has simply tried to ‘tell the story’ and pull out of the landscape some of the principles that guided us as we went along, as well as some of those we learned along the way. The story starts in December 1999, because that was the first point at which an idea was placed ’on the table’ for discussion. The reality increasingly seemed, however, that the Lord had planted the seeds in many hearts in many ways. Paul, the chair of Trustees, rightly goes back to January 1999 and a significant training day for youth leaders at Soul Survivor which his church youth group members ‘sent‘ their youth leaders on. Some young people tell the story of an informal prayer meeting at a summer camp in 1998 asking for the Lord to bring about a local initiative from the churches in Kingston to reach lost young people for Christ. Others from Surbiton Hill Methodist Church recall prayer meetings over 5 years back which focussed on their desire to reach more effectively a troublesome group of young people who hung around their premises. Further back still, the youth work of the Bridge Community Church had met in what is now the Oxygen base venue, the hall at St Peter’s Church. The group eventually folded, but not before their leaders had developed the prayerful conviction that the location would be used by God for youth work in the future. Other stories are ‘out there’ – it seemed the Lord had got us itching in different ways and Oxygen might help us start scratching. These stories came to light in bits and pieces over the year and a half of planning, and were a tremendous encouragement to all of us as we kept going. For myself, one key text, offered to me at the start of a week’s prayer retreat kept me particularly focussed. The retreat began in the afternoon of the day we first outlined the proposal to the Bishop of Kingston: “See the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; Before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Isaiah 42:9 All of us involved in any way in Oxygen would simply want to thank God for the sheer privilege that he chooses to use us, with all our faults and inadequacies, in his work. We simply want to follow his lead, knowing that he wants young people to discover and follow Jesus more than we could ever imagine. Our hope and prayer is that the best is yet to be.
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Contacts OXYGEN Richard James Oxygen St Peterâ€™s Hall London Road Kingston Surrey KT2 6QL
T 020 8547 0566 W www.oxygen-online.org
YOUTH for CHRIST PO Box 5254 Halesowen West Midlands B63 3DG
T 0121 550 8055 W www.yfc.co.uk
SKETTY YOUTH PROJECT Project Manager Sketty Youth Project 8 Dillwyn Road Sketty Swansea SA2 9AE
T 01792 522 709 W www.syp.org.uk
ETERNITY YOUTH CONGREGATION Mark Meardon Warfield Church Office Church Lane Warfield Bracknell Berkshire Rg42 6EG
T 01344 886900 W www.warfield.org.uk/eternity.html
SOUL SURVIVOR Unit 2 Paramount Industrial Estate Sandown Road Watford Herts WD2 4XA
T 01923 333331 W www.soulsurvivor.com
CHILDRENS AND YOUTH POLICY GROUP (Diocese of Southwark) Ven. Nick Baines (Chair) Archdeacon of Lambeth Kingston Area Office Whitelands College West Hill London SW15 3SN
020 8392 3742 email@example.com
CHURCH ARMY (Encounters on the Edge Pamphlets) Revd George Lings Director 50 Cavendish Street Sheffield S3 7RZ
0114 272 7451 firstname.lastname@example.org
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PROPOSAL FOR PLANTING A YOUTH CONGREGATION IN KINGSTON DEANERY/BOROUGH The proposal •
To establish a youth congregation within the Kingston deanery/borough during 2001
Aims • • •
To use the talents and energies of Christian young people to reach their peers for Christ To forge strong links between the youth congregation and local congregations in every part of the deanery/borough To arrest the decline of Christianity amongst young people by 1. providing a regularly available environment for Christian young people to access with their friends, and so 2. provide a focus for the existing work amongst young people, enabling the church 3. to step into networks beyond our usual spheres of influence
Initial activities • • •
A weekly youth service (not Sunday) Cell groups based on locality/local church affiliation Partnership in local school and community projects
Resourcing People • An ‘invisible eldership’ of 8 adult Christians committed to the project under the ultimate oversight of the Area Bishop, who provide support to • 4 ‘year-outers’ committed to cooperative and visible leadership, under the immediate authority of • A stipendiary priest-in-charge of the congregation sharing in the staff team of a convenient local church • Provision for administrative support • Other desirable resources include a trained youth and community worker (possibly part council funded) and the involvement of health-care professionals Plant • A building able to cater for up to 500 people and have smaller rooms for office space. • Finance for hire/redecoration/running costs/insurance • Multi-media equipment Launch •
The week after a youth event at a major local venue (eg Kingstonian FC) involving established names in Christian youth circles: WWMT, Soul Survivor, delirious?
A possible timetable… January-March 2000 1. Preliminary consultations with Area Bishop and senior clergy
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2. Preliminary discussions with ecumenical and youth work partners. March-May 2000 3. Discuss with Kingston Deanery Standing Committee & Chapter 4. Discuss with Ecumenical Fraternals in Kingston , Malden & Surbiton 5. Discuss with parish youth leaders and members 6. Discuss at PCC’s 7. Explore financing with funding agencies 8. Explore practicalities and take advice from Ray Khan, Eternity (Bracknell) and Soul Survivor (Watford ) In May-July 2000 9. Raise proposal at Deanery Synod 10. Raise proposal with Churches Together in Kingston, Malden and Surbiton 11. Hold open forum meetings for interested churches In September 2000 12. Decide whether to do it or not. 13. Set launch date (before or after summer exams 2001?) and plan accordingly. Prepare advertisements for employees, select venue, advertise through youth networks, raise finance, recruit year-outers and other staff…
Defining terms and structures • Youth Celebration/Event We have not used this term because it suggests an occasional (even if monthly) knees-up for insiders which, whilst valuable as a means of bringing young people together to provide encouragement and inspiration, does not have the primary focus upon outreach. As an aside, there are a number of events along these lines already in the area organised between neighbouring churches. We are not proposing anything which undoes good work already being undertaken in local neighbourhoods. • Youth Church We have not used the term ‘church’, because it suggests a formed and mature Christian community with an established leadership possessing a measure of self-sufficiency inappropriate to a new venture. It suggests a too developed entity. We would not envisage the congregation having any sacramental ministry. For example, initiation rites (in particular) provide an opportunity to build links between newcomers and the local churches. The cell groups play an integral part here in bridging the youth service and the local congregations. This enables us to work in partnership with as many churches as possible, whilst respecting differences between denominations and church style. • Church in Youth Culture This term is in vogue at the moment, and is instructive. It recognises that ‘youth culture’ has no real age limit. It describes an environment where the format, service style, teaching and worship style are oriented towards and accessible to young people. Many older people will enjoy this, and their supportive participation would be a gift to the young people. We would be especially keen, however, that any current church member attending the youth service over the age of, say, 30 does so as one committed to the project and not as a passenger merely there to enjoy a different worship experience. At this stage, the term ‘church in youth culture’ is a little cumbersome, and potentially dissipates a clear youth-in-mission focus into discussion about ‘alternative worship’.
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• ‘Young people’ We recognise the distinction made in the diocesan paper ‘Recovering the Missing Generation’ between young people (11-16) and young adults (16-21). We envisage the proposed congregation chiefly appealing to 14-30 year olds and for ease have used the term ‘young people’ to cover this age band. • ‘Youth Congregation’ We prefer this term for it clearly defines the cultural target (youth) and the identity of the new meeting (a congregation). This is mission through belonging to a worshipping community, celebrating, learning, living the way of Christ with a particular cultural eyesight. As a congregation, it is part of the church. It could possibly be part of a particular church. But whilst its priest-in-charge would benefit from being a member of staff of a neighbouring parish, we would prefer to see the congregation owned by a range of churches in the deanery/borough, accessible to all and by all. • ‘Deanery’ and ‘Borough’ Young people are denominationally blind. The deanery and borough boundaries are practically the same. Any youth initiative of size crosses both parish and denominational boundaries. This is our problem, not theirs. The two core activities of the youth congregation are a weekly youth service supported by cell groups. We envisage the cell groups to be in reality the existing youth groups provided by local churches. Young people who come to the service would be encouraged to link up with other young people who live in their area, and so also link up with their local church. We recognise, however, that for some young people, the youth service would be their only experience of church and would not find the bridge into the local church easy to make. In this way, the youth congregation has double focus…as a missionary congregation in youth culture, and as a nurturing congregation for Christian young people. We see two ways to proceed… 1. Go ahead alone as the Anglican church…after all we have churches in every part of the borough. Reassure ecumenical partners that we are not sheep stealing. The youth service may be ‘Anglican’ but the local cells inevitably ecumenical. This may be the easiest (quickest?) way forward. 2. Build a partnership of, say, 12 local churches in different parts of the borough who contribute financially to the running of the congregation, each with a nominated representative on a steering group under the leadership of the Area Bishop. The youth service acts as a feeder into these churches. This is Anglican-led, whilst also ecumenical, but requires a more specific commitment on the part of partner churches. We would encourage the local youth leaders and their groups to attend the congregation wherever possible, and so provide the cells bridging the youth service to the local churches. We hope a great deal of productive partnership across the borough/deanery would arise out of this. This is our preferred option.
Theological considerations and imperatives 1. We’ve got to do something to reach young people with the gospel! We believe that supporting young people to do their thing can bear fruit. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
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(Mark 8:35) Where do we start with the statistics? 1000 under 15’s leave the church every week, as well as 400 teenagers. Church attendance amongst young people has declined by 34% in the past ten years. 80% of young people say they believe in God, yet 75% of those say they have no time for the church. Arguably, it is amongst the young that religious feeling and the desire for faith is most alive and most unharnessed by the Church of England. It has been suggested that para-church developments are a sign that the church as a whole has failed a particular group, which enthusiasts for a cause then seek to rectify. The growing number of youth churches in the country is perhaps a sign of this. Our proposal is not to grow an eventually settled youth church, but to plant a mission base interfacing with youth culture and the church. It is a bridge ministry, whilst we recognise that for many young people the youth congregation may be their only experience of church. Our aim is not to build a new church, but to help build up the whole church. We used to speak of the problem of bridging the generations in church life (and elsewhere). Nowadays, the ‘gap’ has less to do with age and more to do with culture. Young people have growing autonomy, individualism and financial power to create and live in their own ‘youth culture’. With appropriate support, their idealism and enthusiasm can be harnessed for good. We need to be prepared to ‘lose’ them from the church as we have it in order to ‘find’ ourselves again as the church in the nation.
2. We need to release our young people to live and share the gospel outside the constraints of our inherited forms of church life, for their sake and for our sake.
“…noone pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours the new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22) The Christian faith is both individual and collective. It is about knowing God through Christ and being identified as his with his people. The journey to Christ and the journey to Church ought not to be two separate journeys, but they often are. Some people find it easier to belong to a church whilst they wrestle with who God is, other find it easier to know God whilst wrestling with what the church is!
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Many young people are in the latter category. The church as we present it inhabits a cultural world all of its own. We might reasonably expect adults to adapt to what’s on offer, but church culture is a long way away for young people – the dress, language, music, time, building, books, teaching style, decision making…we are often too slow for them, too conservative, too cautious, they are impatient, risky and decisive. Let’s help them create a truly belonging environment for their peers to discover both Christ and Church, a new wineskin for the new wine. Perhaps our inherited forms of church won’t be under such pressure to constantly change with the times, and the vintage claret remain available to meet the needs of what is after all an aging population!
3. For young people in society, the gospel needs to be dressed up differently. Let’s not confuse the content of the gospel with the form of the church. It is the gospel which forms the church, not the other way round. “To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21) Young people understand how to talk the gospel in their own language. It is often best achieved in mass media events where they can find their identity in the anonymity of the crowd, where the ‘herd’ is so big that everyone is included rather than some excluded, and relationships are formed. I’d argue they need to be released and resourced to do their thing so that many of their peers can at least get on the road with Christ even if his church has to change a bit to do that. We contend that for some young people the pendulum is swinging back from Sunday School groups and towards Children’s Church as in previous eras. In a way, all this proposal is doing is resurrecting the children’s church concept, but not on a Sunday, with younger leadership than in previous generations and with more technological bells and whistles. Are we selling out to consumerism? Well, this is rife in the church of the suburbs, but we should not expect our young people to be the ones to stand against it when older members of the church set no example for them! Equally, let’s paraphrase St.Paul: “To those under the power of youth culture, I become like one under the power of youth culture (though I am not under the power of youth culture but under the power of Christ), so as to win those under the power of youth culture.” This is not to be ecclesiastical mavericks or mercenaries. We have in view both the individual spiritual good of countless young people in our area, as well as the long term good of the Church. The church owes her very existence to and gains her identity from a missionary God, and is called to be like the Lord she follows. As the image of God is formed among us, it is also found amongst the lost, the seeking, the dispossessed, for these are the people Jesus said he would be found amongst. It’s an old line, but how much out-reach is really in-grab?
4. We need to invest in growing a new leadership in the church. Page 32 of 42
“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) Before Timothy was appointed as a young leader over the Ephesian church, he had already been Paul’s co-worker in his missionary endeavours. What a model for us as we face a net loss in stipendiary clergy! What a statement we can make through the very existence of such a congregation, that the Church of England is willing to support, back and release young people in ministry. The deposit entrusted to Timothy was something he had observed in Paul’s life and ministry, and had seen bear fruit through the Holy Spirit in his own life experience. Now it was his turn to take his stand and pass it on. It is important that the visible leadership of the congregation is young but supported. The members of the congregation must come to speak of the congregation as ‘ours’, and not as an event which ‘they’ put on for ‘us’. Recruiting year-outers is one way that this can be achieved. Involving the participating cells in the services is another. We want to show that we trust our young people in ministry, we would look to encourage initiatives from the grassroots, rather than impose ideas from above, and we will support them in their endeavours, risks and mistakes.
In summary, we are proposing that together we make resources available to launch in about a year’s time a missionary congregation, geared towards youth culture, accessible to the young people of our existing congregations, building on current youth work, and drawing unreached young people into a new experience of church. We would be pleased to take this proposal forward within the Kingston Deanery, and as it develops share our discoveries for the development of other projects in the Episcopal Area and Diocese.
Canon Stewart Downey Revd Steve Benoy February 22nd 2000
KINGSTON BOROUGH YOUTH CONGREGATION Since distributing our paper dated February 22nd 2000 about the youth congregation, we have been pleased to receive a great deal of warm reaction, encouragement and constructive suggestions regarding the proposal. May we
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thank everyone who has phoned, written, e-mailed or asked to meet us in the past weeks. It has helped clarify for us all what we are talking about. We would like to invite everyone involved in leadership of churches and youth groups to an open meeting here in the Christ Church Centre on Monday 26th June at 7.45pm, and this document is intended to help us prepare for that occasion. In what follows, we are trying to: • Reflect and respond to some of the frequent comments made in the past weeks, and so • Put some detail onto the proposal in the light of specific ideas we have had and you have suggested. At the meeting in June, we will • Outline the current status of the project • Have time for further discussion • Hear the story of how the Eternity youth congregation developed in Bracknell from its leader, Mark Meardon • Outline the proposed method of proceeding with the project, leading in the autumn to the formation of a Youth Congregation Trust We hope that Mark’s contribution, whilst only an illustration of what churches in one area have done, will help us as we try to visualise what a project like this can look like and how it can work. We hope as many of the leaders of your church and youth organisations will be able to join us on the evening as we seek to move forward together. Canon Stewart Downey Revd Steve Benoy New Malden, 20th May 2000
OPEN MEETING – KINGSTON BOROUGH YOUTH CONGREGATION Monday 26th June, 7.45pm – Christ Church Centre, Coombe Road, New Malden We are not able to attend, but please keep us in touch with developments The following representatives from our church/group will be attending Name(s):
Please return to:feedback on your feedback Some Christ Church Office, 91 Coombe Road, New Malden, KT3 4RE Tel/fax: 0208 942 0915 E mail: email@example.com The issues you have raised have uniformly questioned ‘how to’ take forward the proposal rather than ‘whether’ to take forward the proposal. We agree that your queries hit the crucial areas we need be alert to as the project moves
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forward, and whilst we don’t pretend to have all the answers at this stage, here are some thoughts to help us start to work them through. We have been helped in thinking these through by talking with various denominational Youth Advisors/Officers, as well as representatives of Soul Survivor in Watford and the Eternity Youth Congregation in Bracknell.
How will you encourage new Christians within the youth congregation to integrate into local congregations? Is this really a ‘youth church plant’? What do you see this being in 10/15 years’ time?
There is no easy answer to these. It’s a serious point to say in reply, ‘let’s have the problem of lots of young people getting stuck in the youth congregation rather than being nowhere near church at all’. But that said, we need to think it through. No, we are not proposing a youth church, but a youth mission base. Mission is the top priority, and if the first paper seemed a little preoccupied within internal church concerns, perhaps that was because in the first instance we were most aware of the cross-denominational and cross-parish impact of the idea and we were wanting to address those issues. We do believe an experience of worship is essential to mission amongst young people, but only one part. Page 35 of 42
We have proposed keeping Sundays clear of activity so as not to jeopardise the involvement of the young people we already have in the wider life of their churches. It seems to us that the stronger the links are between the young people and the leaders of churches participating in the project, the more there will be opportunity to build bridges between the youth congregation and the congregations local to where the new young people are coming from. The cells within the congregation are crucial in this respect, but also there may be larger local events for which the youth congregation could shut down to support (and thereby introduce new young people into wider Christian activities). We realise that denominations respond differently to initiation rites for considered reasons. We have proposed that these (baptism especially) become another way of bridging new young people, via the friends they have made, into the life of a local congregation.
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As to the future, we would hope that any statement of vision & values would clearly enshrine the emphasis that the purpose of this project is outreach to unchurched young people. Youth culture regularly rebrands itself, and if the youth congregation grows old with its first intake, it will quickly be failing as a missionary endeavour Is it realistic to ask so much of the young people in our churches already? How would you deal with young people draining away from local churches into the central youth congregation? We are concerned not to duplicate or undermine existing church based work. The heart of this idea is to reach un-churched young people, not recycle the ones we’ve already got. But we believe properly supported peer-led mission has tremendous value, for the present impact of the church’s work and the future health of the church. As we have chatted with people involved in work like this elsewhere, the repeated story has been that young people do not leave their local churches in favour of the ‘new thing’. Rather they are encouraged to serve more fully in their local situation. Even those who ‘rebel into’ a youth congregation out of their local church usually find their way back (and far better to rebel into something than rebel out all together!). We don’t anticipate that the youth congregation would appeal to every young person in our churches, nor would we expect it to. We are not wanting either to be naïve about how the social background and life experiences of the young people we are trying to reach may challenge our existing young people. But we would hope that where young people from a church are keen to be involved, we would foster good communication with the youth leaders of that church, and encourage involvement in ways which dovetail helpfully with local work. Such central-local partnership is, we believe, crucial to preventing a ‘youth church’ mentality developing. We have proposed that the congregation is staffed, but if the work of those staff never connects with work dispersed around the borough, a very separate entity is almost inevitable. We would like to think of young people from local churches as ‘members’ of that local church but ‘partners’ in the mission project which the youth congregation is undertaking.
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Its quite a wide age range mentioned…how do they all fit together? What about university/college v. estate? It has been mentioned to us that the university and colleges of higher education were not mentioned in the paper. It’s fair cop! Writing in New Malden, the young people we are most aware of not reaching are those from the estates, as few students live here. The ‘town & gown’ is, however, a twin focus which we must keep in mind, and would require different approaches. Along the same lines, the wide age range (14-30) does not mean that young people of those ages would necessarily mix all at the same time and, indeed, it might not be desirable for that to happen. But we believe that age range is a realistic reflection of the missing generation. Furthermore, the year-outers mentioned as part of the staff may be drawn from those taking time out having been in employment for a while, or having just left college or university, as well as those taking gap years after school.
Where would it meet and why? Models vary from a permanent base (Soul Survivor, Watford - a warehouse on an industrial estate) to multi-site groups (Eternity, Bracknell - community halls and churches). The venue is crucial, and we’ve been glad to receive suggestions and offers. These range from hiring council venues, community centres, taking over empty shop premises and putting existing church buildings to new use. The cost, the optimum location within the borough and the appropriateness for the activities all need looking at. We also believe our young people should have an opportunity to suggest and comment upon possible sites. Our preference would be for one ‘base camp’ which can create its own image and stamp within the area, not precluding any other ‘satellites’ that may helpfully develop.
Who would appoint the staff? Who would oversee the staff? Where is the money coming from? These are the knottiest issues. Ecumenism is alive and well in the borough, but even so we do not have ready ways of translating this into structures of decision making, appointment, funding and accountability. We are grateful for the trust invested in us thus far to pursue the proposal on behalf of us all. It is clear that none of us want to repeat the mistakes of the Nine O’clock Service. Clearly a Youth Congregation Trust needs to be established from a partnership of those churches wishing to participate financially and/or through the involvement of their young people. We intend at the meeting in June to outline the work required to be in a position to form such a Trust in the autumn, and to propose a way of doing it. Also, we would like to invite young people in our churches who are enthusiastic for this project to come together soon and, in the light of the vision that is emerging,
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work together to produce a statement of core values for the youth congregation. These would provide crucial criteria for selecting staff who would need to be in sympathy with that vision and those values. We estimate at this stage that the costs each year (salary, accommodation, expenses etc) for a youth minister would be £30K, similarly a further £30K for team of yearouters. Setting up and running costs depend significantly upon the venue(s) selected, and the figures for these could range very widely. We are, however, confident that such sums can be raised through charitable trusts, central church funds, the giving of church members and of the young people in our churches. KINGSTON BOROUGH YOUTH CONGREGATION
The proposal restated • To establish a youth congregation within the Kingston borough in September 2001 …the start of a new academic year has increasingly seemed the most opportune time to begin
Aims 1. To arrest the decline of Christianity amongst young people by • stepping into networks beyond our usual spheres of influence • providing a regularly available environment for the ‘staff team’ and Christian young people to access with people they know • providing a focus for the existing work amongst young people 2. To use the talents and energies of Christian young people to reach their peers for Christ 3. To forge strong links between the youth congregation and local congregations in every part of the borough …these aims are now in a particular order, emphasising that the vision is primarily for mission, for reaching unchurched young people with the gospel, requiring us to widen our existing circles of influence. Along the way this will enable us to release Christian young people in ministry and in time bringing renewal to the churches. Initial activities 1. Partnership in local community/school/college/university projects 2. Creating a Christian ‘hanging out’ venue 3. A weekly youth service (not Sunday) 4. Cell groups based on locality/local church affiliation …If the vision is mission, then the top priority is going out and building relationships with unchurched young people in the schools, colleges and estates where they are. One way of achieving this may be for local churches/Christian groups to 'make bids' for the staff team’s time to help out on projects they are running or want to get started. …Having gone out, anyone involved then needs environments to bring the young people they’ve met back into. In the first place this would be some kind of 'social' thing, eg a nightclub, a café, a hanging out zone. …We maintain the central importance of worship to mission in youth culture and the central importance of cell groups to fostering healthy links between the youth congregation and the churches for whom it is a ‘missionary arm’. Of course, both are important to the growth and discipleship of the young people we are trying to reach!
A full time youth minister and a team of year-outers immediately responsible to a ‘invisible eldership’ of adult Christians representative of participating churches.
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…The staff wouldn't be the only 'workers' on the project but committing full-time resources always increases the capacity of what’s possible in partnership with existing church members. We would also want to encourage the support and active involvement of adult Christians with particular skills and expertise.
Launch • A weekend of youth mission across the borough …the youth event at Kingstonian mentioned previously could form part of a weekend of youth mission activity, along the lines of Message 2000 in Manchester or Breakout in London APPENDIX 7 this summer.
OXYGEN EXECUTIVE TEAM
20th May 2000
Key Relationships The oxygen Executive team is a sub-group of the Council of Reference. This council is made up from members representing the churches supporting the project financially, one member per church. CR members, on behalf of themselves and their church, sign their agreement with the oxygen statement of Vision & Values. The CR exists at the invitation of the Oxygen Trustees. It is chaired by the Vicar of Christ Church New Malden, or his/her appointed representative, and the vice-Chair is one of the Trustees.
Key Responsibilities Whilst in relation to the project… the Staff team have frontline responsibilities the Council of Reference have representative responsibilities the Trustees have legal responsibilities the Executive have practical responsibilities in ensuring the smooth operation of the project week to week, through… prayerful and practical support meeting (roughly monthly) to provide oversight providing a sounding board for ideas and advice implementing agreed strategic developments These shared responsibilities break down into particular roles:
Key Roles Chair • Chairing meetings of the Executive and CR • Maintaining attentiveness upon the oxygen Vision & Values • Being an additional focus of profile and credibility for the project amongst local churches
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Vice-Chair • Chairing meetings of the Executive and CR in the absence of the chair • As a Trustee, bringing appropriate issues from Trustee meetings to the attention of the Executive and CR Secretary • Reminding members of forthcoming meetings of Exec and CR • Circulating agendas agreed with the Youth Minister and Chair • Taking minutes of meetings • Circulating minutes and other appropriate papers to Exec, CR and Trustee members, and when appropriate to other church and youth leaders. • Maintaining accurate records of oxygen personnel, local church leaders and youth leaders. Treasurer • Ensuring the prompt payment of staff and bills. • Maintaining accurate accounts and presenting a report to each meeting of the Exec and CR, as well as the AGM • Alerting the Exec, CR and Trustees to financial issues affecting the smooth operation of the project. • Setting agreed budgets and focussing attention on the financial challenges of the project’s development Gap Team Liaison • Working with the Youth Minister in arranging appropriate accommodation, base church and mentor support through the year. • Arranging for an inspection of accommodation for the gap team prior to the year commencing, and a follow up visit after two months to ensure all is going well. • Being available for advice/consultation about any issues for the volunteer or their network of supporters which relate to their work or wellbeing during the year. Volunteer Liaison • Working with the Youth Minister in maintaining duplicate records of part- and spare-time volunteers working with oxygen, keeping references, contact details and church affiliation. • Maintaining duplicate records of papers relating to Child Protection policy and legislation • Working with the Youth Minister in addressing any sensitive issues concerning the involvement of a part- or spare-time volunteer.
Several members of the Executive are to have a small cluster of churches with which to keep in particular contact. One member will over see this as: Church Liaison • Establishing and maintaining clear lines of communication with supporting churches • Ensuring information is disseminated and collating feedback Page 41 of 42
Drawing attention to opportunities for involvement from supporting churches. Supporting Exec & CR members in planning church updates on Oxygen activities
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Oxygen the story so far