Many of our Groups started back during the Autumn, in a variety of different ways.
In September, several of the restrictions began to ease, offering a new sense of hope for Groups to begin meeting in person once again. During the first academic half term, our Impact Team Leaders were working hard to support Group Leaders and identify some of the challenges they still potentially faced. It quickly became apparent that for many, circumstances had changed, and the wider impact of the pandemic had left many Group Leaders having to recruit new volunteers, find alternative Covid-friendly venues, and deliver detached youth work sessions to connect with and re-engage young people. Despite the difficulties, it has been particularly encouraging to see Leaders seek out additional training, embrace outreach work, or re-envision their aims in order to re-establish their Groups.
Over the last three years, we have seen 21 new Urban Saints Groups open, all of which are progressing well. We have redefined the distinctives of an Urban Saints Group and undertaken a process to realign the terminology we use; thus, identifying all Groups – whether new or existing – under one name. We currently have 75 Urban Saints Groups across the nations, plus 1,363 groups or organisations that are supported through our Energize resource.
At the start of the pandemic, we had 75 Urban Saints Groups. During the last eighteen months we have seen 5 of those Groups (6%) close. In most cases, this has been the result of a change of personal circumstances for the teams involved. In turn, we have seen 5 new Groups open during this time, bringing the total back up to 75. God’s favour has been upon us, and we are extremely grateful for the hard work and commitment shown by the volunteers, with the support of the Impact Team Leaders, to retain and maintain the same number of Groups throughout this challenging season.
Of the 75 Urban Saints Groups, 70% are now actively meeting on a regular basis either in person (67%) or online (3%). For some (9%), significant changes in team leadership or the young people ‘aging out’ of the Group, has catalysed Leaders to re-assess their Group’s needs and work alongside our Impact Team Leaders to completely relaunch. The remaining 21% of Groups are currently paused for various reasons, including, insufficient volunteer ratios, newly recruited Leaders going through the safer recruitment process, or issues with sourcing an adequate meeting venue. We continue to actively support and pray for these Groups while they navigate through these factors.
However, this is not the end of the story! In the last few weeks, a number of Vision Evenings have taken place to share the mission and recruit new volunteers, with several other potential Group enquiries and early leads in the pipeline. In addition to this, there are 7 confirmed Groups who are currently going through the initial training programme or finalising details before they officially launch. We have seen an increase in the number of enquiries about starting a Group within a school setting, one Group in the South West has had to start a waiting list as there is so much interest, and several Groups have taken their young people on residentials again. There is much to be thankful for and a lot of exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming year. Praise God!
For more stories of what has happened over the last twelve months, do watch our video: ‘The Journey – Looking Back with the Impact Team’ at urbansaints.org/lookingback
Impact Team Manager (Interim)