Over the last few months, I have loved hearing some of the stories that come out of our Groups.
There have been stories from long-standing Groups about generation after generation of young people from the same family going through the same Group (sometimes with the same Leaders!). Stories about young people who thrive in their Group – they come along timid and unsure and grow to be confident and engage in the wider Group. We’ve had stories from the new Groups about teams of volunteers coming together who have all individually been praying for opportunities to work with young people in the area.
All these stories, and more, reflect the heart of Urban Saints to bring together teams of volunteers, who will work with young people to take them on discipleship journeys.
Discipleship, as we all know, is a lifelong journey. Urban Saints is bringing volunteers who want to engage with young people unreached by the church; journeying with them, providing support and a listening ear and modelling the Christian faith to the young people. We do not just want to sign up and send out volunteers - we want to remain in contact, providing support, help and training for them, too.
And now we find ourselves in a completely new season! All of the above still stands...except that we are unable to meet face to face with young people! I am reminded of a quote from Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to achieve a Bachelor of Arts who devoted her life to help others.
‘Often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us’.
We want to take this opportunity to find ways to do this differently and so at this time we are focusing on how to grow our mission online. We are providing volunteers with guidance on how they can still ‘meet’ with their Groups online and helping them to do this in a way that keeps young people and leaders safe, while still journeying together. What do we want to see during this season of change? We want as many Groups as possible to remain as safe spaces for young people, but now using digital technology. We want to engage in a broader youth work context, using social media as a key tool, to spread our message far and wide.
In a time when young people may feel uncertain or scared for what might be next, we have the opportunity to provide some stability for them, and to point them to the hope that God brings. Isolation alone is a difficult thing for young people to manage; on top of that many are dealing with disappointment or fear about not completing GCSE or A-Level exams. For some, school was their primary safe space, because home is not safe. Yet now they are forced to remain at home for the majority of their time, potentially at risk of harm.
As a staff team, we at Urban Saints have been reflecting on and praying about Romans 8:35-39. In this season, we are praying that God helps us to continue to fulfil our mission, that He helps all our Group volunteers as they keep engaging with young people in digital form, and that momentum would not be lost in Groups because of the disruption to them meeting. We continue to pray for all young people; those we do have contact with and those we do not yet have contact with.
Claire Murphy - Impact Team Director
Glimpses of God at work in new Groups
- A volunteer was reluctant to admit that they "couldn't help lead" but they could support by helping set up the venues - the very thing that the volunteer team had been missing.
- One of our Impact Team Leaders was keen to provide food for each Group gathering and found there was a chef among their set of new recruits.
- In the final few days before one Group opened its doors, a member of the local team had been praying for the chance to see a particular young person to invite them along. Not only did their paths cross but their parent/ carer had been there too.
- An Impact Team Leader approached a local school without knowing that the key contact there had previous experience with Urban Saints and was welcomed with open arms.