"The best is yet to come"

1st Jul 2021

Ant Horton joined Urban Saints as Chief Mission Officer on 14th June, having been CEO at east to west, a Christian youth work charity based in Surrey. In the run up to him starting with Urban Saints, we asked him to share a little more about himself, his time in youth ministry, his past experience of Urban Saints and what God has put on his heart…

‘I am hugely excited to join Urban Saints and to get to know the people who make up the movement. I’m really looking forward to spending time with the young people, the volunteer leaders, supporters and the Team as I learn more about their motivations, excitement, challenges and the opportunities we have as Urban Saints. For me, it is always about the people and trying to support everyone as best we can, understanding what’s needed as we journey together to share the love of Jesus with children and young people.

My involvement in youth work started as a volunteer leader in the church youth group at the same time I was working in the reprographics industry. In 1995 I felt called to change career and so started working in the youth team at Bromley Baptist Church, which then led to the church supporting me through the Oasis Youth Ministry course. In 2001 Rachel (my wife) and I moved to Guildford to take up the role of the Youth Pastor at Millmead, then in 2015 I became CEO of east to west.

I believe God has called me to create places where people of all ages can thrive. I am motivated by developing cultures where we learn by doing, recognising our values and explicitly living them out. I have come to understand the importance of forming cultures that are supportive, where it is safe to try, fail, learn and celebrate together. All of this is in the context of knowing our identity is in God (John 15).

One of my sons is involved in the Urban Saints Group in Guildford and Crusaders provided my own first introduction to Christianity. I didn’t give my life to Christ there but I know that it was a significant step in my own faith journey. I went along to a Group in Petts Wood, Bromley. Initially it was the friendships and relationships that kept me going along. Then the Group moved to meet in the local school and the change meant that more people came along. Looking back, it was probably my first lesson in mission, going out from the church into the community.

For me, that adventure is daily saying “Ok God, here’s my life, what do we do today?!”

The other wonderful memory I have was receiving my Crusader badge. Attending ten consecutive weeks would have felt like a lifetime at that age but I still remember that moment when I was called up to get my badge – I’d done it! It wasn’t just that significant sense of achievement, but I believe receiving my Crusader badge has also subconsciously affected my approach to youth work since then.

There are very few positive rites of passage for young people, beyond school transitions, exams, learning to drive and first jobs. They need significant moments that both help them reflect but also encourage them forward. Imagine a whole nation of young people that want to go on that journey of adventure where there’s a day-to-day desire to get to know God, receive His love and then share that with their friends! For me, that adventure is daily saying “Ok God, here’s my life, what do we do today?!”

I want to say a massive “thank you” to everyone involved in Urban Saints. To the faithful volunteers, “thank you” for giving up your time, your creativity and your effort in sharing the love of God with young people over many, many years. 

“Thank you” also to all the supporters for journeying with Crusaders and Urban Saints. We would love to continue that partnership with you. I always believe that God wants to take us forward and the best days are yet to come – as God helps us become more like Him day-by-day. So, let’s journey together and see where God wants to lead us.’

Chief Mission Officer?

The Trustees decided to use the role title ‘Chief Mission Officer’ rather than ‘Chief Executive Officer’ as they wanted Urban Saints to be seen as a mission organisation first and a business second. We do have to make sure that compliance, governance and finance are all conducted to best practice, but we must never do this to the exclusion of the mission to make young disciples for Jesus. We wanted the person leading the organisation forward from here to be more in the field, inspiring our volunteers and young people to aim higher in their service for God and so the focus of the job title is on mission.