Thrive Youth Ministries was formed to help churches be more effective in reaching out to young people and discipling them in the Christian faith. It was set up by Andy Castle, a youth minister with many years of experience with serving young people and the local Church.
It can be challenging to keep coming up with fresh ideas for creative worship. Inspiration can be lacking and for Fiona Stutton, unless she has the opportunity to see something new, she has no idea it’s out there. That led to Thrive pulling together an evening of sharing various forms of creative arts in ministry to inspire our leaders and to give them opportunities of discovering something new.
The evening covered drama, dance, puppets, flags, ballooning and sticks. We then moved into black light topics using ultra violet lighting. These arts included handmime (making shapes, words and images using hands wearing white gloves), floobies (again making shapes, words and images but using firm but flexible fabric tubes) and ultra violet puppets. We talked through how these various forms could all be used in worship. We also looked at the benefits of involving children and young people in taking part and ways to make a what you do genuine worship rather than a great performance.
The idea of covering various items in one night was to give leaders a chance to discover new forms of creative ministry. Following on from this, Thrive are now looking to run training events on specific arts that proved to have lots of interest from the attendees to help develop skills and enhance worship in their local church.
“It was a really great evening! It got us thinking outside the box about how we might engage our children and young people better in worship. As a team we’re looking forward to take some of the ideas and use them in our context.” Megan Bishop – Holy Trinity Coventry.
‘As the evening progressed I found out more and more opportunities through which, as a children’s worker, I could implement various ways of worship.’ Cami – Foleshill Baptist
‘I really enjoyed the evening, seeing different ways to use creative arts in worship, being inspired and encouraged to try something different or use the skills we already have in new ways. I am looking forward to taking some ideas, especially the flags, puppets and sticks, back to share with our team and seeing how God will use these in the future.’ Ruth Powell – Foleshill Baptist
Our latest Thrive Juniors worship event for primary school aged children and their leaders, was a wonderful time of fun, worship and activity, ending with children dancing for joy to the songs of worship.
It was great to see St Mary’s Church packed with 117 children from 14 different churches across our local area. They began the afternoon with games related to teddy bears. Jemima Strain, local Methodist minister, introduced our theme by linking teddy bears to comfort. When we feel down, we quite often cling to our teddies, but we have a great God who can bring us real comfort in times of need. It was a pleasure to have our worship led by our Thrive youth worship band who did an amazing job teaching a new song and leading us worship. We had a brilliant puppet mime done to music led by the puppet team from Foleshill Baptist Church.
The sketch highlighted how the puppets were being bullied. Each time, another puppet tried to cheer them up, but nothing would help. At the end, the three upset puppets were shown hearts representing God’s love and a sign that said “God is our comforter”. To which the puppets looked up to. This led into the talk reminding children that wherever they are, God can bring comfort. Following on from this, we had four zones for the children to do, which included 1) games 2) craft – making heart decorations with the memory verse in it. 3) A quiet space with bibles, word searches and colouring sheets. 4) A prayer zone, where they could pray for each other, the world and also ask God to comfort them as they stood in a paddling pool and became surrounded by a large bubble that went over them.
We wrapped up the afternoon with the song “the greatest day.” Seeing so many children dancing to that song was a real joy to watch. We want to thank all the children for coming and the leaders for bringing them.
God’s presence there was incredible and we thank God for blessing us with a truly amazing afternoon.
Sixteen year old, Luke Distin, has been volunteering with Thrive since September, working as Thrive’s Staff Team Assistant. Luke has been a wonderful asset to our staff team. He’s helped prepare for our key youth & children’s events, has stepped out in teaching other young people and has turned his hand to whatever task we have needed him to do. As Luke moves on in June to take up an intern position with Youth For Christ, we asked Luke to tell us what the last year has been like for him.
The last 9 months have been some of the most important of my life. I have spent the year growing and learning and getting to try new things as a result of my internship with Thrive. I’ve grown as a leader and as a Christian as the result of my time with the growing leaders course. I’ve had plenty of time to spend learning and growing in my faith and relationship with God.
I’ve been given opportunities to lead and preach at events such as the youth weekend away as well as being allowed time for any opportunities that I might get outside of Thrive to try out leading worship or preaching etc.
The last year in general has been a great opportunity for growth in my faith and in my life, and I honestly couldn’t be more thankful for it. To be entirely honest as well the people who work at Thrive make the whole experience a lot better. It’s hard to believe we get work done with the constant stream of banter and laughs going on in the office and it has done nothing short of making me feel welcome and right at home. Andy, Fi and Graham are without a doubt the best co-workers I could have asked for. There’s always support when needed and no-one has any issues with anyone else and everyone is there ready to support one another and all I can hope is that I was a useful addition to the team and was more of a help than a burden.
I’ve also been able to make many Christian friends my own age through Thrive with not just the opportunities at the weekend away and with Growing Leaders but also any event run by Thrive you can be sure that there will always be some young people to help out and make new friends with. I’ve also been able to make good friends and contacts with a few youth/children’s leaders and to be perfectly honest I don’t think the young people in Warwickshire could have asked for a better lot of people to help them grow up.
Many thanks to everyone I’ve been able to share some time with this year.
I visited a local church recently to talk to them about the work of Thrive. After the service, I had several different conversations with individuals over coffee about what we do and about what they might do to work with young people. I noticed that a few of them referred to the bigger, ‘successful’ church up the road and how it was easier for that church to run an exciting youth work, but they were too small to ‘compete’. Is this true?
I found myself saying to one person, ‘you don’t want to spend time thinking about what you can’t do, but what you can!’ It seemed they had a fixed idea of what youth work must look like, perhaps a high energy, fast-paced youth club, with loud music, and indoor football, and a tuck shop. There is no chance that this small church, with a largely retired contingent, would be able to do such an event. And that’s true and it’s quite right that they shouldn’t.
I followed this up by saying that firstly, the church up the road probably isn’t doing it’s youth work at all how you might expect, and secondly that just because God wants that church to do youth ministry a particular way, doesn’t mean that your church should.
As I have reflected on this visit, I have come to realise just how disabling the mentality of competition for churches can be. How can they compete with a church with more members, more money, a bigger building and so on? But surely this removes us from understanding why we are a different church, what God might want for us to do and he must want us to serve our community in a different way to other churches, otherwise wouldn’t we meet as one church?
If you are part of a church where there is currently little or no provision for young people, here are four statements to discuss as a church to help you think through what God might want you to do to connect with young people:
1. You don’t have to do something every week
You don’t have to look to create yet another activity for the church to be involved with all the time and create yet another rota to be filled up. Most church members have had enough of rotas and the idea of one more brings deep fears! Maybe you would like to do a one-off thing? One church I know didn’t have any teenagers in it on a Sunday but they noticed a few started to hang out under their lych gate at the end of their church drive every Friday night. They thought they could either just ask them to move on, they’re on church property after all, or they could do something different, something kinder, that might show God’s love. They decided to bake a cake and to take it to them the next Friday. They took the cake, left it with them and walked away. A few weeks later they did the same. Now there’s no ‘successful’ ending to this story. The young people didn’t all end up coming to church, but what we do know is that those young people experienced something of God’s love in those visits, and who knows how that might affect them in later life.
2. Young people look for safety, warmth and a sense of value
Young people don’t need to be entertained, there are many other places they can go for that, and who will do it much better than a church. What they seek for, and what churches can offer, is a place of safety, a place of warmth (both physically and emotionally) and a sense of value. Let’s work on coming up with an idea that we might be able to offer young people to meet these needs. What might this look like for your church? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a repeatable activity, a one-off is fine.
3. You are in connection with more young people than you realise
People often think that their church has no young people but the members of that church will be in connection with plenty. These might be children, grand-children, god-children, their neighbours may have children, and so on. If you gather as a church and plot all the different connections you have, you will be surprised by how many young people you do know of, even if you don’t know them yet yourselves. Once you’ve done this exercise, you can pray about how you might meet the needs of these teenagers.
4. What are you good at as a church?
Don’t think about what others do but consider what you are already good at. What makes you go to the church you attend? What draws you in? Don’t try and imitate a different one but use what God has given your particular fellowship. Then think about how you can use these strengths in a way that might bless young people in your area. It might be offering a safe space to meet, it might be offering drinks in the park in the early evening, it might be holding a BBQ and giving away free burgers. Use the skills and gifts you have and be creative and imaginative with what you could do.
It’s not what others do that God wants you to do. He has a unique plan for your church so seek him for what that might be to reach out to young people and then be bold and go with his leading. We want young people to experience something of God’s love for them, not to have just another option for filling their time. Relationship building is far more important than activity.
Attendance at this year’s Basecamp youth weekend saw 105 young people and their youth leaders attend, the first time getting over 100 people since the annual weekend was launched four years ago. Once again there was a wonderful, uplifting atmosphere throughout the weekend.
Young people and their leaders gathered together at The Pioneer Centre, near Kidderminster, coming from 14 local churches from across the area, including Leamington, Warwick and Coventry, and areas in-between!
This year’s theme was about adventure, specifically a ‘life of adventure with God’. There were talks on following God’s plan, taking risks for God and also what to do when life gets hard or things don’t go as planned.
It was wonderful to see the youth leaders investing in their young people, getting alongside them and encouraging them in the response times, as well as cheering them on when they took part in the different outward bound activities, such as the high ropes course and the aerial trek (think child adventure park but for adults, and much, much higher!).
Worship was led over the weekend by some of the young people. There was a real authenticity in their leading and helped the whole group to step into the worship and praise God together.
Once again the weekend was overseen by Andy Castle and Ruth Ditch, together with a young leaders team, helping to co-ordinate the programme, run the Friday evening welcome games and host the Saturday evening quiz night based on famous TV gameshows. They also had the opportunity to grow in their teaching skills by each working alongside a youth leader to deliver a choice of four workshops on the Saturday afternoon, ranging from ‘Jesus’ snapchat profile’, to ‘overcoming anxiety’, and ‘reaching the lost and lonely’ to ‘how do I follow God’s plan for my life”.
We have had such overwhelmingly positive response to the weekend from both young people and youth leaders alike, and an excitement for next year when we do it all again.
We’ve booked The Pioneer Centre again for Friday 31st January – Sunday 2nd February 2020. Put it in your diary now!
We want to thank all of Thrive’s supporters for enabling this to happen. Thrive runs this event to cover the event expenses but it does not cover the actual cost for hosting the weekend, in particular Thrive’s staff costs, for which we depend on our wonderful supporters. Thank you!
Luke Distin is sixteen years old and volunteers for Thrive as our Staff Team Assistant. Since September, Luke has been taking part in our Youth Growing Leaders course. This year we are running two programmes: one based in Leamington Spa and one in Coventry. We asked Luke to tell us how the course is going and the difference it is making to him…
“Over the last few months I have had the privilege of being one of the young people involved in Thrive’s Youth Growing Leaders programme. This has been a really amazing and inspiring course that has let me learn loads about both myself and God.
The first session had both groups (Leamington and Coventry) come together and spend 24 hours with one another. It was fairly scary at first when I walked in. I barely knew anyone and had no idea what was going to happen. However I spent the weekend learning about God, what it means to be a Christian leader, how to follow in the example that Christ set, as well as learning about different styles of leading and what style of leading suits me best. I also spent the weekend getting to know some amazing young people who are all as excited to learn about Jesus, and grow as a Christian, as I am!
The next few sessions were all on the first Monday of the month from October to December. In these various sessions I only met with my group of growing leaders (Leamington). However in these sessions I was able to not only grow my relationships with these amazing young people, but also learn more about myself and how to be discerning as a leader.
The latest session we’ve had was the second 24 hour session. Both the Leamington and Coventry groups came together again. In this session everyone was a lot more comfortable with each other and was ready and eager to learn about their calling in life and what gifts and talents we’ve been given by God and how to use them. Everyone who came mingled and got on well with each other. There was a clear buzz the entire 24 hours and there were many occasions where God was speaking to many of the young people (myself included). Overall it was a great 24 hours where I grew as a person and in my faith and was able to spend time and get to know some quality people.
The whole course has been really enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the next meeting so I can learn more about what it means to be a leader in Christ.”
On Saturday 10th November, Thrive hosted our Transform conference at St. Martin in the Fields Church, Finham, Coventry. This was a great event for youth and children leaders from all over the Warwickshire area (and further) to come together and receive some learning.
Hosted by the Thrive team with extra help from some young leaders from our Youth Growing Leaders programmes, it was an overall great experience for both the team and the delegates that came. About 75 delegates came from 20 different churches.
The day started with some social time to try and help some of the delegates mingle and chat together, possibly sharing ideas within their separate ministries to help one another. As the first session came around the delegates moved out of the foyer area and into the main church building.
“Very enjoyable, encouraging and you learn a lot in not too long a day, practical and inspirational.” feedback from a participant
The first session included worship led by some of the young people before having a talk by Thrive’s CEO, Andy Castle. After this session concluded the delegates had a short break before being sent off to their first workshop, choosing from:
“Starting a youth group from scratch” – Jon Mills from Coventry Youth for Christ
“Using story telling skills to teach Bible stories to children” – Fiona Stutton from Thrive
“Helping children and young people with grief, loss or separation” – Pete English from At a Loss
“Enabling young people to explore God’s plan for their lives” – Graham Hayes and Andy Castle from Thrive
The workshops were well received and seemed to impress the delegates, giving them new skills to bring back to their own churches.
Next was a lunch break with more time to socialise and for the leaders to share their ministry some more with each other. With so many people there wasn’t enough room in the foyer! People ended up eating in the church and side rooms.
“Feeling inspired and re-enthused for the work I’m involved in” participant
After lunch was the second set of workshops, choosing from:
“How to work with those with addition needs” – Rebekah Hayes from Castle Wood broad spectrum special primary school, and Fiona Stutton from Thrive
“Small numbers, wide age range – how to cope!” – Simon Barker from Scripture Union
“Recruiting and building a team of volunteers” – Andy Castle from Thrive
“Teenage Identity and Self Esteem” – Tom Millington from Kenilworth Youth for Christ
These workshops were equally well received as the first set of workshops. After these workshops and another short break the delegates moved back into the main church building for a final session with a lot of time for reflection to end the day.
Overall it was an incredibly successful and useful conference for various different youth and children’s leaders from all over the Warwickshire area and more. Thank you to everyone who came and for your continued support.
We had an awesome afternoon in worship and activities helping to focus on the blessings that God had given to us and how God can use us in the little things we do which can be a blessing to others. We were thankful to the band from St Mary’s church who led us in worship and the puppet team from Kenilworth Methodist Church, performing, “Showers of blessing.”
After worship we ran six different zones:
Cooking Zone – decorating cupcakes that the children were encouraged to give away
Craft Zone – colouring in magnets with a bible verse and image on
Games Zone – throwing bread rolls into baskets and thinking about the blessings we have from God depending on which baskets the bread landed in
Music Zone – A chance to sing some more
Prayer Zone – a treasure hunt for bread and fish with prayers on them
Quiet zone – An opportunity to read the bible stories and colouring in the pictures
The children could come and go into the different areas to take part in these activities. Each zone had a focus on blessings from God.
We were grateful to the generosity of Tesco for donating the squash and biscuits for the children. Whilst munching on them in their groups, the children were able to feedback what they had done during their zones and some discuss a few questions following on from all they heard up front.
It was such a delight to see 15 churches represented, with over 80 children, 37 leaders and 6 young people. I would like to thank everyone involved in the planning and running of Thrive Juniors and of course to all the churches that came and supported our event. Here’s to our next Thrive Juniors – Saturday 16thMarch 2019
In September, Thrive hosted an evening event at St. Michael’s Budbrooke as a reunion for the Basecamp weekend away event earlier this year. Around 70 young people plus their leaders took part in the event.
We gathered at around six o’clock with youth groups and youth leaders from all over the Warwick, Leamington and Coventry area. There was bustling enthusiasm from everyone as friends gathered and new bonds were made between young people and leaders.
The evening started with a barbeque with sausages, burgers and vegetarian options for everyone. After some time of chatting, eating and bantering we moved onto some fun and games.
These games started outdoors with some tug of war and then moved inside for some more games.
This was then followed by some powerful worship led by Thrive’s youth band, formed from young people from different churches, playing keyboard, guitar, bass, drums and vocals. It was wonderful to see these musicians come together and lead us into God’s presence.
The worship was followed by a talk given by Thrive’s Andy Castle on how we are different as followers of Jesus as we don’t simply have a religion but instead have a relationship with our amazing God.
The evening finished with some more worship as the young people began to leave and say goodbye to friends and youth leaders.
Overall it was a successful and fun event for everyone involved and was a good start for getting people excited for Basecamp in February 2019 where we hope to have an even better turn out and help loads of young people connect with Jesus.
Over 24hours in September, Thrive held a retreat for youth and children’s workers from around the Warwickshire area.
As the leaders started arriving at around half past three on Monday we started by getting them drinks and chatting, making introductions between leaders who had never met each other before. The whole vibe was relaxed and everyone felt at ease.
We hoped to give these dedicated leaders a period of relaxation and retreat to spend with God and provide all their needs along with some teaching.
“It was brilliantly lead, really useful sessions, great to network with other youth leaders who understand the highs and lows of ministry and a great balance between ‘lead sessions’ and quiet time alone with God.”
“Thank you for organising and planning this event. It was my first retreat and it was such a Holy and God filled time for me. You all served in such a way that made me feel relaxed and closer to God, than I’ve felt for a long time. Thank you again, for sharing your experiences and knowledge of our great God. I feel totally blessed to have experienced how God works amongst us and through us.”
feedback from some of the participants
After everyone had arrived we all gathered together and Andy gave the first talk of the retreat, introducing everyone formally and talked about what the goal of a retreat was: to switch off from work and everything else and just listen to God. He then spoke on Ephesians 3:14-21 before giving everyone a bit of time to themselves while dinner was prepared.
Following our evening meal, we gathered in the lounge area and had some fun and games before people started disappearing off to bed and a select few stayed up a bit too late!
The next morning, breakfast was served before Fiona gave the second talk of the two day period. Fiona talked about keeping a godly perspective. There was then a chance for some silent individual retreat up until lunchtime.
After lunch we had our final talk given by Andy which was used to think about the importance of doing what God wants over what people want. He also spoke about taking care of ourselves and not letting ourselves be drained spiritually, emotionally and physically.
After this the two day retreat was up and people left to return to their regular lives and jobs keeping in mind the lessons learned and appreciating the time allowed to spend with their heavenly father.