With just over a year to go for the Calling Young Disciples Project, the team continues to work with parishes throughout the Diocese to help them to bring more children, young people and their families to faith.
Two new Mission Enablers have been appointed and with the retirement of Project Director, Ruth Walker at the end of September (see previous news story), Director of Ministry and Discipleship, Jonathan Kimber has taken over responsibility for the team with Simon Hill continuing to provide support as Associate Director.
Jonathan said: “Ruth has done a great job as Project Director, combining a passion for work with children, young people and their families with a deep knowledge of the realities of parish life. Under her leadership, parishes have found new ways to reach out to young people and everyone involved in the project wishes her well as she moves onto a new stage of her life.”
“In the meantime, the project continues. It’s been a tough time during the pandemic with children and young people disproportionately affected by the switch to online worship. Churches are only now starting again to offer activities for this age group and many are grateful for the ongoing support of the Mission Enablers.”
The funding from the National Church for Calling Young Disciples is due to end in November 2022. Mission Enablers are working with their final group of parishes and will also be doing a series of shorter pieces of work, either stand-alone projects or revisiting previous parishes that they’ve supported.
“We’re keen to ensure that the project ends well and that parishes we’re involved with feel properly supported over the final year. Our Mission Enablers are now very experienced in what works well and are also great at supporting each other. I’ll be in the background to make sure everything continues to run smoothly and provide extra support to the Mission Enablers and parishes if required.”
Since the start of the CYD Project in 2016, 60 churches have hosted a Mission Enabler with many more parishes receiving support from the team. Before the pandemic, there was real evidence of more children, young people in churches as a result of the programme with our 2019 stats for this group appearing to buck the national trend of decline. The independent evaluation has suggested that CYD has also increased the capacity of churches to offer different activities with more people stepping up to take a leadership role. As of November 2020, there had been a net increase of over 270 new volunteers working with children and young people and over 50 new people co-ordinating this work. Although not all may be able to return, post-pandemic, it is hoped that many will.
“Having the Mission Enablers to walk alongside parishes to support, encourage and resource them has helped parishes realise that they can do something to reach out to children, young people and their families. It has enabled the dreaming of dreams, and has then helped turn the dreams into action. Our evaluation has also highlighted that things like the communication of events and the welcome a church offers is often just as important to families as the quality of the children’s work – that’s something we can all improve.”
Over the next few months, the team will be doing some work around how to capture the learning from the project to help more parishes – sharing ideas and resources that have worked well and hosting some events and trainings. Simon Hill is also taking the lead of what might happen after the CYD project comes to an end.
“There is no doubt that work with children, young people and families remains a key priority for the Diocese and we are actively exploring what might come next,” concludes Jonathan. “What is clear is that CYD has asked probing questions of us as a Church: – for instance, how important is it for us to connect with this group? Will we only connect on our own terms? Or will we take steps out of our comfort zone to reach out? Facing these questions candidly, and adjusting priorities where we need to, can make a real difference. Encouraging new generations into church is not a quick fix. However, CYD has made clear that, with prayer, desire and discernment, we can all take steps that will bear genuine fruit.”