New youth group meet in Great Glen during Advent

A fledgling church youth group has come together during Advent, to learn, laugh, eat dessert and explore faith together for the first time.    

The group made up of four teenagers, four adult leaders and curate Revd Ben Williams, have been meeting on Monday evenings since mid-November in Great Glen.

Ben joined The Oadby and Great Glen Team Ministry as curate at St Cuthbert’s Church in July of this year.

One thing he immediately noticed was that there were plenty of children in the church, but no teenagers - and he wasn’t willing to wait for them to grow up to encourage youth work!

After much conversation and listening within the parish, Ben thought Advent was the perfect time to start something and got together a leadership team of church family members to guide and support.

They advertised in the church and village social media pages, and have consistently had four young people, aged 11 upwards, come along to the four sessions which have been held in Ben’s home.

Ben says two of the young people were already connected to church through their parents, while one is a friend, and the other responded to the advert.

Whilst the group may be small in number, the getting together in faith and fellowship has been hugely significant for these young people.

“There’s a real need in Great Glen and opportunity arose to create a space that’s safe and meets these young people where they are at,” explains Ben.

“I adapted the Love Life Live Advent material that came out a couple of years ago, which is made for children, but was perfect for this youth group as it taught the Bible in a very practical and hands-on way.”

The first week they used wool to create family trees, with loops, so they could see every time someone had invested in them, and how that could grow and do the same by being a blessing to other people.

The second week, they read about Jesse and the prophesy of Jesus coming, watched nature videos time lapsed and thought about how desperate life would be if it stayed Winter, and Spring never came. Subjects such as Covid 19 and ‘hope’ also came out of these discussions.

Another session used art and poetry to look at the different ways they could approach Christmas – from material things and ‘Scrooge’, to the main focus of the manger - discovering how they might portray this time of year and Jesus to their friends.

They also discussed classic and modern interpretations of nativity artwork from across the world, taking in different contexts and culture.

“One painting that had the most impact on us all was of the wall that stands between the path to Bethlehem, where people cannot walk freely,” explains Ben. “We were struck by how so much has changed and that quite naturally brought up discussions about the issues refugees face. It also made the young people realise that it doesn’t have to be a neat and tidy ‘nativity’ story - it can be relevant and speak into current issues in our lives.”

Interpreting the art also gave the young people the realisation that they can think about God and theology in their own way.

In a wonderful expression of everyday action, every single week the group each made a commitment that they would carry out between their meetings using what they had learned in their session to bless someone else. This included everything from being more active in holding open the doors at school for their fellow pupils and sharing cakes with their siblings, to bigger, more discipleship-led actions such as inviting a friend to the Christingle service or engaging with a neighbour they wouldn’t usually speak to.  

From Abraham, to Jesse, to David, to Jesus, the young people also got to grips with the Bible, finding the book, verse and chapter, during the study elements.

“Taking time to let these young people discover the Bible for the first time has been amazing,” says Ben. “The questions they’ve asked have been a lesson for us all, including those of us leading.

“Youth respond to a huge heart and consistency and that is what our leadership team have given them – these people are the same faces they see in their community, walking to school and in the Co-Op.

“What I would really love is for more of our grandparent-aged church community to get involved, so our young people can walk alongside and learn from those who have journeyed with Jesus for a long time.”

As a diocese we recognise how important it is to connect with young people in our communities. We want to see our ministry teams working proactively with our youth, in teaching the faith to those new to the church, mentoring young people, enabling them to live out their discipleship and witness among their peers, and encouraging them into leadership in the church.

So it’s particularly exciting to hear what’s taking shape here in Great Glen.

“Advent has been a great, short, snap of time for bringing these young people together and has enabled us to engage them further with Christmas services,” says Ben. “One of our group did a reading at the Nine Lessons and Carols service, and another has been asked to play the role of deaconing during a service. We’re building trust, taking time to make sure they’re comfortable in church and establishing relationships with them and their families.

“We’re hoping to the see the group grow in the new year, if we’re able to resource that,” he adds. “The hope is for this youth group to grow from the ground up, so that it is youth-led and they can take ownership of it from the beginning. We’re encouraged that they want to bring friends along in the future, so we will pray for that and keep listening as we go.”

First published on: 20th December 2021

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