There is a God-given compulsion deep in the heart of every long-term leader which drives them to work among children and young people in their community. Some stay in the same area for decades, others move for work or other reasons and start again when they do. All are heroes of the faith. What motivates us all is to see a generation rise up who know the Lord and live for Him.
I have worked for Crusaders / Urban Saints in Wales since 1996. Thirteen years ago, God moved us to a small rural village on the edge of Snowdonia. Llandderfel is a community of around 270, the majority being first language Welsh. We knew when we moved that God was bringing us here to reach this community for Christ. When we’d been here almost a year, I began volunteering in an existing 8-11 year old club - which actually contained 4-14 year olds since this was the only thing on offer in the community for anyone under 18. Have you ever tried running games for 4 and 14 year olds together without the older ones accidentally killing the little ones?
Thankfully, we have since managed to develop the Group and have added younger and older sections. We also work with parents and volunteers from the village Church and Chapel to run Llan Llanast (Messy Church) bi-monthly. We have good relationships with at least two generations of almost every family in the village (the vast majority of whom do not attend church) and have had the privilege of seeing a number of youngsters come to faith over the years with some going on to lead CUs, go on mission trips, take a gap year and play a full part in the life of God’s Church wherever they have ended up.
Although my day-job is to work for Urban Saints, this group is a volunteering role for me as for so many others. Personally, I could not imagine that we would live anywhere and not be involved with this kind of Group. We use Urban Saints’ Energize material which we adapt each week for our Welsh language context. Finding volunteers in a village context is tough but we’ve always had just about enough to keep going – God is good.
In the context of my work in Wales, I have had the opportunity to help begin Groups in many communities over the years – both rural and urban – each one run by a dedicated team of volunteers who, like me, just cannot help themselves but do this.
Impact Team Leader Wales and Group Leader of Llandderfel (Clwb Plant & CIC), North Wales
If you’re inspired by Andy, consider starting a Group in your village. Email Claire Murphy at email@example.com for advice.
Boscombe is an urban area to the east of Bournemouth with some of the issues of a big city. Emily Croucher and Jack Spong are two of the Leaders at the new Urban Saints Group launched there recently. We talked to them about why they started a Group.
In Boscombe, there are a lot of vulnerable and under-privileged young people who may not have a safe home life, or a place to truly be themselves. There are so many pressures on young people today and, with the growth of social media, our young people are at risk of becoming the most isolated and lonely group of people the world has known.
Our heart and passion as Leaders of Boscombe Urban Saints is exactly what Urban Saints nationally is focused on – to ‘Gather, Love, Disciple, Launch’. We want to create a safe space for young people where they feel they belong; where they can be loved, encounter God and become disciple-making disciples.
Engaging with young people can seem very challenging. There is an assumption that you have to be relevant or unique and it can be tempting to try and make your Group more ‘cool’ or ‘engaging’ to appeal to the younger generation. However, what we have found is that young people just want to be loved. They want to find a place of safety that provides respite from the pressures of life. It is up to us to take that first step and let Jesus do the rest.
We love seeing God move in our Group. One example is that we have a meal each week around a dinner table because we desire to invite them into a home environment that breaks down boundaries and encourages true and meaningful conversation about God, faith and life. Recently we served chilli con carne for our community meal. The young people initially complained that they didn't like chilli con carne and so refused to eat it - however, by the end of the session they were coming up to be served seconds. It’s been a real answer to prayer to start changing the perspective of young people in this deprived area regarding food. This session was a big leap forward in this regard. Praise God.
Emily Croucher and Jack Spong
Leaders at Boscombe Urban Saints
If you’re inspired by Jack and Emily, start a Group to Gather, Love, Launch and Disciple! Email Claire Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.