"The Group has become a place where there is mutual care, trust, and openness."
As we approach our next 24/2 Prayer event, we turn our prayer focus on how Offload is providing stability, love, and care to young people during challenging times. Offload is a weekly Christian youth group in the town centre of Halifax that was launched by Halifax Central Church under the umbrella of Urban Saints in September 2021. We have been going for just a year now and have a regular attendance of 16 young people from the ages of 9-16 years.
The young people come from diverse educational and social backgrounds in the Calderdale area. Offload is supported by eight volunteers. Apart from providing a safe place for fun, Offload is an outreach mission bringing the love and hope of Jesus to our youth through the current challenging times.
From our discussion with parents and relatives there are concerns over the growing needs of their children including the following:
- The rise of utility bills, for example, one parent said that she was concerned over the rising electricity bills and their high use, and the amount of time her children use electrical devices.
- Weekly food costs – how they can feed the family
- Replacing items when they wear out, especially expensive items like iPads and laptops for education.
- School uniforms
- School bus fares
- School events increased costs, especially having to pay the whole amount upfront rather than in instalments.
- Cost of fuel
Offload is about being there as a Christian presence in the landscape of young people’s lives. As Offload is held in a building near the town centre, this means that it is within easy reach for most families. Also, the weekly activities we provide for the children are free or of little cost to the families and we often subsidise for those who need it. Examples of activities are listed below:
- Subsidised outing trips, like bowling.
- Family movie nights with snacks provided free of charge
- Sports on the nearby moor with free refreshments
- Access to tabletop hockey and table tennis and table football and computer games
- Art and craft provided each week
In addition to the social challenges, many of our youth at Offload are experiencing change as they move from primary school to secondary school. Also, we are seeing God bring hope and transformation into their lives through the everyday trials and difficulties that occur within their family relationships.
Over the past year relationships have developed between the Leaders and the children – Offload has become a place where there is mutual care, trust, and openness. Likewise, relationships have developed amongst the young people, so they feel free to express themselves within the group. Offload workers and volunteers are there to listen and talk with the young people and give emotional support and encouragement as required. There are many opportunities where we can encourage the young people to bravely explore what the future can look like despite the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine, systemic racism and pressures of fitting in with friends.
Our greatest joy is to be incarnational in our approach to sharing the love of Jesus, as St Francis of Assisi is quoted to have said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.’
We let our ability to actively listen to each young person and our own lives show God’s love as well as the ‘check in’ times and talks each week.
Please pray for us, as we, as a Group:
- Allow space to develop conversations: Our weekly activities include conversations on a deeper level when children have the opportunity to share their concerns about what is happening around them, for example, during the ‘check in’ at the beginning of each session. Pray for wisdom for the Leaders as they respond.
- Explore topical themes: We have time for small group work, which includes topical themes that address current affairs, as well what is happening for them.
- Respond to the stories of visiting speakers sharing their faith experiences: Visiting speakers and Group Leaders share their faith in Jesus and how it has helped them on their journey through challenging times, for example, Eliezer, a local youth worker from Bradford, came to share his experience growing up in Rwanda during the conflict and how Jesus healed him and gave him a purpose in life. The children were greatly moved and impacted by his story. As a result, some of the children have wanted to come to our monthly Sunday school.
- Support parents / guardians: Offload workers and Leaders are also there for the parents and guardians as they listen to their concerns while they are waiting to pick up their children.
Angie Ross and Emi Horton - Group Leaders at Offload, Halifax Central Urban Saints Group