Beth loves being a Leader at the Trowbridge Impax Group, having had an equally positive experience going to the Group as a young person. This is Beth’s story…
"The Urban Saints Group is truly a place where young people are made to feel welcome and that they belong and can get to know God..."
Impax is a Group for young people from years 5 to 10 (approx. 10-15 years old), based in the Wiltshire town of Trowbridge. It has been running for over 30 years and two of our Leaders (Richard and Ruth) were leading it when I was a young person! The Group’s make-up has varied over the years, with between 30% and 50% of young people having no previous experience of Church, and there are several churches in the town feeding into the Group.
I started going to Impax when I was about 10, mainly because my older brother went and I was jealous that he got to go! It was – and still is - a fun place to hang out with friends and explore faith. I was always happy to invite my friends along because it was so much fun. It felt more like a community than a church youth group - somewhere you could bring friends to that was Christian but that they would feel welcome and at home. The Leaders were so committed to the Group and not just week-by-week but also running overnight sleepovers and trips to watch the fireworks over the town.
I remember it being a “big deal” going to the (Crusaders Centenary celebrations at the) Royal Albert Hall in London back in 2006 and I always loved going to Spree South West too. I loved that the weekend included all ages – it had a family atmosphere (but without your parents!) – and was packed full of different activities and experiences to take part in. It was a safe environment but a place to grow your faith as well. I always came back fired up and ready to tell my friends about Jesus.
I left the group when I was about 15, but having trained as a teacher at university, I reconnected with the Group when I unexpectedly had the chance to become the church youth worker. I’ve now been an Impax Leader since 2018 and I absolutely love it! I enjoy seeing the children and young people grow in their relationships with each other – growing up and making friends – and it’s a privilege to be part of their journey with God too. Some of the Group might not feel they can talk to any of their family members or teachers about stuff like this and it’s wonderful that they can look to us. We can be there for them when they are asking questions that they otherwise wouldn’t get to ask. What an opportunity it is to demonstrate how God can be a comfort for them – and the Bible can be a guide - in the difficult emotions and situations they face growing up.
Impax has experienced its fair share of challenging times, and even tragedy, including the testing experience of going through the Covid-19 lockdown periods. We managed to keep meeting in lockdown using Zoom. Some weeks it went well – others not so much – but it was good to keep that connection with the Group. It was lovely to see the children befriending and supporting one another in these times – even when the Leaders were perhaps questioning what God was doing – and we also witnessed God speaking through the children in the Group too. The way that the children responded to situations has been a great lesson for us as Leaders too – the child-like faith they display in challenging times has been inspirational.
We really value the Energize materials that Urban Saints provide. We use them every week - including relying on them during lockdown - and the wider church youth and children’s work does too. We think they are brilliant and really useful – I don’t know how we would do the groups without Energize. Also, knowing that we can get in touch with an Urban Saints team member if we have any questions is so reassuring. It’s great to have all the guidance and good practice stuff provided, meaning we don’t have to worry about whether we are doing the right things. Urban Saints provides a port of call to get help whenever we need it.
We love that Urban Saints helps us to facilitate friendships with those children and young people who would never have made friends otherwise. There are kids of different ages, from different schools and churches but they would have never met outside of Impax. We are continually reminded that even those young people who only come along for a short while are still experiencing the impact of their time with the Group. The Urban Saints Group is truly a place where they can come along and make friends – are made to feel welcome and that they belong - and get to know God too.
Beth Wigley - Leader, Trowbridge Impax