The Trustees are pleased to present the Annual Report and Financial Statements for The Crusaders’ Union, operating as Urban Saints, for the year ended 31 December 2021.
Since 1906 The Crusaders’ Union, now operating as Urban Saints, has been reaching out to children and young people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We are passionate about working with children and young people, helping them to realise their full, God given potential, as they journey from childhood to adulthood.
Our impact in 2021
This year we were flexible and committed to the adventure as we found our way through the COVID 19 pandemic. Every area of Urban Saints’ work with young people navigated the different government restrictions, as well as the individual needs and concerns. There were definitely challenges, but our Teams of volunteers who led groups on the ground and our paid Team who supported those volunteers were creative, resilient and committed. As a result we engaged with young people and moved the mission forward together.
“This is the one place I feel that I can be loved and accepted because I can’t do this at home.”
J, age 16
During the first quarter of 2021, the Impact Team dedicated their time to training and supporting Group Leaders. This enabled them to take their ministries online and helped them to find innovative ways to sustain relationships with their young people. Creative solutions were experimented with, as the Impact Team Leaders produced online resources, video content, and increased Urban Saints direct engagement with young people via social media. Networks continued to be developed with local contacts, with discussions about potential new Groups when the pandemic regulations would allow.
Weekly online Groups were a much needed safe space for many young people, in the midst of otherwise isolating circumstances.
“(The Zoom meetings) were dependable when school had suddenly stopped. They were engaging and interesting when I was tempted to just drift around. And they were encouraging - I often left the Zoom meetings thinking “That was just what I needed to hear today!”
As we moved further into the year, Urban Saints Groups started to make plans for returning in person. From doing doorstep conversations and phone calls, some Groups managed to adapt to the new circumstances, operating small groups that met outside when restrictions allowed. Regular communications (emails, calls) with Group Leaders were continued by the Impact Team Leaders.
“This is the best part of my week because I can just come and enjoy myself.”
P, age 11
Although the focus has been on supporting existing Groups and their Leaders, the Impact Team have managed to follow up on conversations with people who were exploring starting new Groups. This included hosting ‘vision’ meetings with groups of potential volunteers and church partners. During the year, this training evolved from meeting virtually, to a hybrid of online and in person. We continued to use social media to try and connect with young people, Group Leaders and supporters. This included Tiktok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“This conversation has inspired me to start again.”
Group leader in South Wales
Energize continued to help those supporting young people with resources and material that could be used online or in person.
“Oh, you work for Urban Saints. Your materials literally saved my youth group as we didn’t know how to run our group on Zoom and Pick n’ Mix was perfect for our group.”
The number of Energize subscribers continued to decrease in the first half of the year as youth groups were still not fully meeting in person. We were thankful that many subscribers chose to keep their subscription even though they may not have been using it as much as they could. Whilst the reach of Energize did not increase in the first half of the year, the Team were using the time working hard to develop new materials and update some of the content that was on the platform.
As groups and churches began to meet in person in the second half of the year we saw a re-engagement of subscribers to Energize. Although still not to the level of pre-pandemic, it was a glimmer of a sign that leaders were beginning to meet with young people.
There were 1,430 subscribers at the end of 2021.
Having run seventeen virtual Camps between Easter and December 2020 we took the decision to try and run some camps in person in 2021. This was a significant risk as we were still in the pandemic. There were questions around whether volunteer leaders would be willing to be ‘in person’ leading camps and whether young people and families would have the confidence to meet in this setting. There was also the financial risk of Camps potentially having to be cancelled at short notice. There was, however also the risk of not running Camps, the biggest being young people not having somewhere to have a positive experience following such a tough year and a half.
“Being at camp made life feel normal again, for the first time in nearly 2 years my anxiety level was manageable.”
Once the decision was taken to run camps then came the immense work of navigating government and National Youth Agency restrictions and guidelines. This sometimes changed every couple of days. It is a sign of the passion, commitment and competence of our Camps Leadership Teams who are mostly volunteers and our Camps Team Leader, that we were able to run 24 Camps. This saw approximately 1,000 young people and families attend and over 300 volunteers serve on these Camps.
Having moved to digital platforms the previous year we delivered 55 training events/conferences for those working with children and young people with additional needs in 2021. As a result, we trained and inspired over 1,539 church children’s, youth and families’ workers, and some parents, to reach out to children and young people with additional needs and disabilities, who can feel really isolated and forgotten. In collaboration with Youthscape we produced and launched our ‘Invitation To Belong’ resource at the National Youth Ministry Weekend (NYMW) in November 2021, with this resource given to around 800 Youth Workers.
“I’m so excited to use this resource. It’s in line with things I’ve been trying to set up within our church.”
“Really inspirational, thank you for the incredible resource! Great job!”
“Great to listen to Mark Arnold from Urban Saints talking about a new resource to equip churches to be more welcoming and inclusive to young people with additional needs. This is so important and central to the gospel.”
Quotes from leaders attending the National Youth Ministry Weekend
We gathered parents at ‘The Dad’s Fire Circle’, a website, gathering and Facebook group for dads of children with Additional Needs. Our Additional Needs Ministry Director continued to write the ‘All Inclusive’ monthly column for Premier Youth & Children’s Work (YCW) magazine along with articles published by Evangelical Focus, Firefly, Key Ministry, Different Dream. ‘The Additional Needs Blogfather’ site had 92,293 visitors and 115,535 views by year-end, double 2020 totals. The ‘Additional Needs Alliance’ social media community had 2,727 members by year-end, up 196 on 2020. He also wrote a Grove Youth series book, ‘How To Include Autistic Children And Young People In Church’ which was launched early in 2022.
“Thanks so much for coming to be with us on Tuesday night. The team and I really valued and enjoyed the session, and lots of folks have been talking and thinking about it all week. We really appreciate everything you brought, and I believe it’s the good next step for us as a church in becoming more welcoming, inclusive and accessible.”
Feedback from a church Youth Leader.
“Thank you for everything you have done for me. You have helped me out a lot over the last year, giving me the chance to be able to boost my confidence and experience new things. This year has been hard but doing stuff with Urban Saints has kept me going. Thank you for asking me to come to the conference. I had so much fun and laughter. Everyone was really nice to me and I felt like part of the team.”
Tom, age 14
Westbrook Residential Centre
As 2021 progressed it was great to be able to welcome schools, youth groups, church groups and Urban Saints Groups back to our centre on the Isle of Wight and for the centre to become “alive” again with all the opportunities it has to offer. During this time it has been good to build some closer relationships with the schools on the island. The impact of COVID 19, and the associated restrictions, did limit those staying but the opportunity was taken to continue to make improvements to the site and buildings where funding and other opportunities arose. Whilst most staff have been retained staffing the centre at the right levels and with the right skills continues to be a challenge.
All Overseas Adventures were unable to run due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This page is an extract taken from the Annual Report and Financial Statements for The Crusaders' Union - 31st December 2021.
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