Things had been going well at St John the Divine Church in Willenhall, Coventry, with more families coming into contact with the church, and many starting to attend Sunday services. Then the pandemic hit.

Rev Pam Howell is the vicar and takes up the story: “We had a lot of children coming. It was 15 to 20 children each week, and always different children each week so we had a lot on our books. They would go out part way through the service, and come back in for the Peace and then communion. They had a wonderful time. Then the pandemic hit and it was really quite tricky.”

Like all churches, they had to take their services online, using Zoom as their platform. They tried to make the services suitable for all ages, but struggled to make it work well, so they decided to use the breakout room facility on Zoom to enable the children, together with their parents, to have their own space for part of the online service.

Pam contacted Thrive for help as this was new territory for everyone. 

“In the past,” Pam said, “Fiona had been over and given some training to our leaders. She gave really good, valuable training, to help them grow in their leadership and in how to present Bible stories in a way that was animated and engaging for the children.’

Thrive’s Children’s Ministry Adviser, Fiona Stutton, has been helping St John the Divine with their Connect breakout room most Sundays since November. 

“Fiona has grown new leaders out of the parents who were online with their children”

‘Fiona has been great. It’s been wonderful to have her as part of our church and to help with leading the breakout group, which we call Connect. Fiona came alongside us to help our leaders. It was really quite good timing, to do that with them. And in doing so she’s developed the leaders as well, as having some new leaders come on board with it too. 

Fiona has grown these new leaders out of the parents who were online with their children in the breakout room. They’re really positive and and they love it. There is one from India, who became a Christian three years ago and is really on fire for God, and another lady who’s just been confirmed as well. She’s been Christian for many years, but her family have just been baptised too.

Fiona is taking them under her wing, enabling them.  At first she would do it and let them watch and support her. Now they are leading it and Fiona’s doing the supporting so it’s great the way she’s coached them.’

When asked what the church would have done if Thrive hadn’t been able to help in this way, Pam replied, ‘I don’t even think we would have done anything because of the lack of confidence among the leaders in going on screen. It takes a certain amount of confidence to do it. A lot of people have been nervous about being on a screen and being seen.’

“The way Fiona has enabled the leaders to lead has been really, really good.”

Parents have been praising the sessions, with one telling Pam, ‘how fantastic it is and that Fiona, the way that she’s enabled the leaders to lead has been really, really good.’

There is an opportunity towards the end of each online service when the children and their families rejoin the rest of the church. There is an opportunity for the children to share what they have been doing in their group. ‘The congregation go, ‘oh, why couldn’t we have done that in here?!’’

“Thrive is an amazing resource”

Recently the church has successfully recruited a part time family worker, who starts in September. Pam is excited for this appointment and hopes that Thrive will be able to continue to provide support for the church, and for this new worker.

‘Thrive is such an amazing resource. I have found that both Fiona and Andy have given such a lot of wisdom, experience, ideas and confidence to those who are trying things out, or trying to learn. You’re very good at training up people to become leaders and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? To get other people to discover their ministries and to grow in their gifting. 

I think Thrive are great! They have such faith in what God is doing in young people and children,  and in the churches, and that God is always doing a new thing. I’d say to any church thinking of using Thrive, Go for it!’

If you would like Thrive to help your church then get in touch.