Another Council proposes to axe all its youth clubs

sutton-youth-centre-sutton-council1250-343x343It’s not surprising but frustrating to read of another Council proposing to close all its youth clubs.

Sutton Council said it has to reduce its annual £1.1m spend on youth and adolescent services budget as part of £74m of cuts that have to be made across the authority by 2019.  It is proposing to only maintain services that have to be provided by law. This would result in savings of £667,000, a cut of 60.4 per cent to the overall budget.

The council said that as a result there will be “no physical youth service”, meaning two youth centres will be closed and a third will instead be used for office accommodation. Meanwhile the borough’s youth parliament will also be axed.

The council said that statutory provision will mean the council continuing to support and track young people not in education, employment or training (Neet). Meanwhile a youth officer will become responsible for the oversight of youth provision in the borough and engaging with local providers of youth activities.

Wendy Mathys, chair of the children, families and education committee at Sutton Council, said:

“Unprecedented government cuts to our budget mean we have no choice but to reduce the size of the council and the services we offer.  Our youth and adolescent services are a valuable resource and it is with great regret that we are having to make these changes.  It is really important that people have their say so we can understand what services matter to people. We can then work with our partner organisations to find other ways that our young people can receive the support they need.”

Sutton Council has launched a consultation on the proposals that closes on 13 December.

87% of American teenagers send text messages each month

We all know teenagers are glued to their mobile phones. New data from the Family Online Safety Institute shows which mobile activities are keeping them hooked.

Text messaging is the most popular activity, which 87% of teens have done in the past 30 days. More than 80% of teens also have also participated in mobile gaming, emailing and social networking.

Statista‘s chart shows how many teens engage in different mobile activities:

Digitial Life of Teens

A Dad for Christmas

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survey highlighted in The Telegraph of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot. One child asked for Eva Longoria and another wanted Harry Styles from One Direction.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

Top 6 ways to get the most out of Youthwork the conference


As I sit writing this we’re halfway through this year’s Youthwork the conference.  You’ll have heard lots of great things from speakers, stayed up too late last night, and rushed around trying to grab lunch.  This conference is so important – not because the conference is the best, or the speakers are the biggest names, but because for one weekend we get to take off our mantle of responsibility and leadership, and become participants and receivers.

So here are 6 ways to help you get the most out of the next 24 hours of Youthwork the conference:

1: Take a Seminar You Don’t Agree With: My favourite thing is to hang out with people who agree with me and like all my ideas, my model of youth ministry.  Yet most of the opposing views aren’t ridiculous, and are held by equally passionate Christians who are committed to seeing young people come to lasting faith.  Being challenged in your theology and practice will actually sharpen you and cause genuine growth.  Because we are all at the same conference, chances are you already agree on the big stuff, so let the small stuff sharpen and refine you.

2: Don’t Go to Everything: We don’t want you to do everything – there’s main sessions, seminars, keynotes, after hours, networking meetings.  We can only cope with so much, so don’t do everything.  Find the ones that are most interesting and helpful, go to those and ditch the rest. This conference is our one time a year to get recharged. If we cram our brains with too much information, we will get worn out before we even get home. Hit the beach, take a nap, read a book, meet up with friends.

3: Find 3 Practical Take-A-Ways: There is so much to learn at a conference.  Everyone has a good idea that will revolutionise your ministry.  Remember though that you have a very specific context in which you do ministry.  You know your young people the best.  Find 3 practical things you can add to your current ministry to tweak it and improve it.  Once you have your three, stop – trust what God has been doing in your ministry already.

4: Wrestle With One New Concept: You will be challenged to adopt all sorts of new ministry models, curriculum, and causes.  While I think it is silly to chuck what you have been doing because of some great marketing, it is important to be open to new things that God has for you and your ministry.  Use the conference experience for God to begin or confirm a new work in you and in your ministry.

5: Connect, Connect, Connect:  Our journey in ministry is hard, we need fellow youth workers who understand young people, what it means to work with the church.  This conference gives you an opportunity to connect with other youth workers.  Make new friends, nurture old ones, just connect and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through this unique community in this unique setting.

6: Be Expectant: At the end of the day, our attitude 100% shapes what we take a way from any conference experience.  God has all sorts of work to do on our souls and in our ministries.  God wants nothing more than to encourage us in our faith and in our calling.  Let us cut away the parts of our hearts that are hard, cold, judgmental, self-righteous, and rude, and ask God to give us his eyes, his ears, his heart as we lean into all that God has for us.

May God use every single thing while we are away to restore our weary souls. Every session, every speaker, every conversation to fill up our cups to overflowing so that we can go back to our ministry context and live fully into the woman or man that God called us to be.  Let us soak up this mountain top experience so we can enter back into the valley with clear vision and purpose.  And may all of it be to the glory of God.  Blessings!

Digital Children: Q&A with Bishop Paul Butler

Q&A with Bishop Paul Butler at the Digital Children conference:

Why is it that most Vicars only receive 1 seminar on children’s ministry in 3 years of full-time training?  Wouldn’t disagree with you, keep arguing and don’t seem to get anywhere.  Heads of Theological colleges began to take it on board but changing the culture takes time.

In Australia people are licensed as a Children’s Minister or Youth Minister – everything rises and falls on leadership – why are we not empowering on this?  The last year or two of CYM has struggled to get its numbers in the Children’s Course and the number of churches that are employing a children’s specialist.  If All-Age becomes the sustainable model do the training colleges begin to slim down?

Churches seem to struggle to find the calibre of workers should we employ from abroad?  But the Border Agency would not welcome this.

Refreshing to have a Bishop who gets it – don’t take that for granted – for many a children’s worker issues of leadership are real.  How do we encourage leadership generally from sentiment and rhetoric to meaningful action?  Show me a budget and I will tell you what your focus, but let’s be honest in our accounting so that we include volunteer hours.  Honestly don’t know the answer which is one of the frustrations.  Chair the Joint Liaison Safeguarding Group between CofE and Methodists – one of the positives is that Bishops are now waking up to the seriousness of the situation and to the wider issue of where are headed with childhood.  One of the things might be to find different ways in – coming from another angle people are now willing to speak about The Good Childhood etc.  Alongside Safeguarding try Parenting and Grand-Parenting skills.

Youth worker seeking ordination thinks schools and community work has to stop – that you graduate from children’s and youth ministry to focus on the grown-up issues of weddings, funerals and more.  Part of that is about placing Ordinands with Vicars and Rectors who get it.  It is still depressing to hear that said especially given how we now say bring your business skills, or teacher skills or social work skills.  In some Dioceses the do a weekend to train Curates on Children’s and Youth ministry.

Parishes that are having the most significant success are those that are tackling the issues of poverty – for churches doing football etc., they were feeding children, building better homes and more.  We can ask for more children’s workers but it is about missiology and the child piece in that.  It is not rocket science to look at what works for the community, 8am service was to allow the workers to milk the cows, do the service and then go back to cook lunch whilst the Lord and Lady attend the 10.30am.

Half churches aren’t engaging in children’s and youth work – there is a sense of larger churches growing due to their churches – thereby leading no people to lead that work.  How do we solve this?  There are schemes to get a part-time worker; maybe it is okay for some churches to not have children’s work as some areas have a demographic where there are very few children and so should focus on the elderly etc., and partner with a local place for the few children; ecumenical partnerships will be increasingly important.

Sticky Faith talks about involvement in all areas of the church being key for faith development, but All-Age Worship is often the worse attended, committed to it as a principle but how do we shake that image.  The only way is to shake it up by having an all-age group to plan the all-age worship to think how the different ages etc. work as too often it is child worship not all-age.

We are still focussed on aspirations – children and young people who go to university – half don’t so how do we connect with them?  So much is connected to those who go off to university, and we have to go back to Rakes with the Sunday School movement and the Ragged Schools – what is the equivalent for us – Glee Club and where we can raise aspirations.

Greatest cricketer in Viv Richards asking a guy in his congregation who was a poor county cricketer to improve him.  How?  He watched and spotted and commented it and left it to Viv to make the changes.

Church AGM Report


Here’s a copy of the report I wrote for the church AGM on Monday and the AGM PowerPoint Presentation:

As I sit writing this report in the reception of a local school waiting to do another Easter assembly I’m struck by the changes that we are in the middle of.  A lot has changed in the last year – both for the Children’s and Youth Ministry here at the church and for me personally.  Our volunteers have worked exceptionally hard during the time without a Children’s and Youth Worker to continue the high quality of work that has gone on here.  As I joined the church I have been impressed with their continuing concern and effort for the children and young people of our community.

Why do we do what we do? 

We read in the Bible: ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel’ (Judges 2:10).  That is the problem we have with this generation of children and young people – they are growing up knowing nothing of God.  How do we change this?  ‘We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord.   We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did … so the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born … that they in turn might teach their children.  So each generation can set its hope a new on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands’ (Psalm 78:4, 6, 7).  That is what we are called to do – this is our responsibility.

Hopes and Dreams

Over the last few months the key children’s and youth leaders have been doing some Godly dreaming – imagining what our children’s and youth ministry could look like if there were no limiting factors such as finances, premises or volunteers.  Reflecting on these ideas we’ve developed a vision for our children’s and youth ministry based around children and young people having life changing encounters with Jesus.

We want to run a ministry that is inspiring, relevant, integrated, inclusive, holistic and supportive.  The vision has been structured around the concept that most young people are on a spectrum of faith, or a journey of faith: they are engaged, they develop faith, they are discipled and grow in that faith, they are released to ministry themselves.  The benefit of this way of thinking is that we create steps in our programmes and activities for young people to follow in their journey of faith.  It should hopefully make it clearer to us, and a non-Christian young person, how they develop and grow their faith.

  • Serve: Our church is at the heart of our local community.  Using census statistics, we know that there are approximately 1,076 children aged under 11 and 685 young people aged 11-18 across our Parish.  They are our primary mission field.  At times though, we are called just to serve and bless the community, expecting nothing in return.
  • Engage: We want to engage, to connect with as many of those young people, to enable them to meet Christians, the church and Jesus in positive light.
  • Transform: In quite bold terms we want to see conversion, we want to see young people declaring their faith having experienced a life changing encounter with Jesus.
  • Grow: We want to pastor young people, to help them grow in their faith; to put them on solid foundations.
  • Release: We are not building a kingdom for ourselves or for St. Andrew’s and All Saints, but for God, in Dibden and Dibden Purlieu.  We want to release young people to serve both in our church and in the local community, but also in this country, and across the world.  We want young people so strong in faith that they are becoming staff in churches, becoming missionaries across the world, seeing their job – be it in London as a city high flier or the school cleaner to see it as their mission field.

To do all this we need to develop strong relationships with leaders, parents, the wider church and statutory organisations.  During the summer term we will be sharing more detail on this with parents and the wider church.

In the autumn of 2012 we divided the children’s and youth ministry into three clear segments:

  • Dibden Minis – our work with babies and toddlers
  • Dibden Kids – our work with those in infant and junior schools
  • Dibden Youth – our work with those in secondary schools and sixth form colleges

This has been done for two reasons: to highlight the specific areas that we minister to and to enable us to ensure a development across all three areas, rather than focusing on one specific area; and for clear branding to engage with others from around the community.

Another big change in the last year has been the appointment of Steph Gray as a Ministry Apprentice.  She has been invaluable in helping us in our work with the children and young people of our community.  Steph has formed fantastic relationships with the children and young people, and used her creativity to really enhance our ministry to children and young people.

Dibden Minis

The church has developed weekly groups for toddlers which initially took over the slots of the Rainbow Toddlers groups which had stopped running on Monday and Thursday mornings.  On Mondays Steph runs Crafty Mondays – designed for toddlers to come and make, paint and create.  Playtime Thursdays meets on a Thursday 10.00-11.30am in the Main Hall giving plenty of space for ride-ons, puzzles, car mat, train track, baby zone and more.  We saw such an uptake to Playtime Thursdays that at the end of February we set up a second session with Playtime Tuesdays!

We also set up Dads and Minis which is a group especially designed for dads/granddads/male carers and their children.  This takes place on the fourth Saturday of the month, 9.30-11.00am, for all under 5s, starting with a drink and snack for the little ones, and a warm bacon butty for Dad!  Dads have a great time playing with their children, doing dad friendly craft together and more!

Since the beginning of January we’ve seen over 600 attendances from little children at the mid-week groups.  We’re indebted to Mary Parker, Paul and Sandie Spanton and others who come along and help us to serve refreshments to the parents and carers.

In addition to the new mid-week groups we’ve continued to develop good links with the Orchard Pre-School taking them into the church on a number of occasions.  We’re very grateful to Rachel Sheppard who has for several years overseen the Sunday crèche, she stepped down from leading this group at the end of 2012.

Dibden Kids

Our children’s Sunday groups have continued to develop well:

  • Scramblers: for those aged 2 years 9 months to the end of their Reception year. It includes a mixture of play, craft activities, stories and singing.  This group is led brilliantly by David Turner and Helen Fritter alongside a team of great volunteers.
  • Climbers & Zone 66: an upbeat and lively group for 5-11 year olds.  The children meet together enjoying live worship, drama, lively Bible teaching and big games!  After that they break into age groups for small group discussions, crafts, and prayer.  We are very grateful to the super Carole Ovenden, Fiona Western, Jo Fenton, and Jacqui Besley who run this group with the brilliant young people from Uncover.

Over the last year we’ve had a regular presence in Wildground Infants, Wildground Juniors and Orchard Infants Schools doing assemblies, RE lessons, church visits, and pastoral care.  This means that we have shared the gospel with over 1,000 local children.

Dibden Youth

Pathfinders, running for 11-14 year olds meets on a Sunday morning in a magazine style with a blend of games, bible teaching, worship, and prayer time run brilliantly by Heidi Shaw and her fantastic team of volunteers.  Our work with 14-18 year olds has developed two groups who together have taken on the sponsorship of Tuyishimire Yvette from Maranyundo, Rwanda:

  • Uncover Sundays: A place for young people to meet together, explore their faith and dig deeper into what it means to be a Christian in today’s world – how it looks and feels to have a love for God, a love for each other and a love for the world.  On the first Sunday of the month the group joins the adult congregation for the Contemporary Service.
  • Uncover Tuesdays: The group spends time eating, laughing, playing games, and exploring what is faith in a relevant and credible way for teenagers ably facilitated by a great team of leaders.  In the autumn of 2012 we ran an Alpha course which saw over 30 teenagers each week come and explore what the meaning of life is.  All seven of the non-Christians in the group have made great steps of faith, and are still coming to Uncover!

Following on from the trip to Soul Survivor in the summer, the Youth Weekend Escape to Fairthorne Manor, near Botley, in the middle of February, was a great time.  The young people really enjoyed the activities – aerial runway, crate challenge, Jacob’s ladder; and the Team Challenges were very competitive.  We explored the story of the Prodigal Son – looking at how we can relate to the younger brother, the elder brother, and even the father.  After a failed attempt on the Friday night, we managed to light the bonfire on Saturday – it was great to worship and praise God around the bonfire.  Lots of people took steps of faith – 5 young people want to be confirmed and over 15 are looking to be mentored by someone like you – someone older, and possibly wiser, from the congregation.

Over the last seven months we’ve developed a great relationship with Oak Lodge School running a lunch club each week on a Monday, mentoring two pupils, and regularly doing assemblies and being involved as the school celebrates the church festivals such as Harvest and Christmas.

The Future

During the summer term we’re expecting to see continued opportunities to partner with local schools – plans are already in place to develop our work with Orchard Junior School and Noadswood School.  We’re also hoping to start a church-based after-school club that will give us the opportunity to engage with children and young people from across the Parish so look out for further information in the coming months.  In addition I’ve been asked to join the New Forest Local Children’s Partnership Board which has strategic oversight for the work with under 18s in our area.

The summer holidays will see two major events in our annual calendar.  An exciting opportunity to encourage more young people and their families into the Church is the Holiday Club that we are going to be running Monday 12th to Friday 16th of August.  Here is an opportunity to bring 100 or more children on to our premises for a week and explore the whole of the Bible message with them in a fun and relevant way.  We hope to then encourage those who visit us for the holiday club to join our mid-week and Sunday groups.  The week after we will be taking our teenagers to Soul Survivor – we’ve already got 25 young people signed up for what will be a great week of life changing encounters.

Thank you for all your support in the work that we are doing – please do continue to pray for our work, without these prayers the work would be so limited.


Director of Children’s & Youth Ministries