In 2017, when Rev Hugh Priestner became the Vicar of The Offchurch Group of Churches, Thrive had already been working with the churches for twelve months. Fiona Stutton, Thrive’s Children’s Ministry Adviser, had been getting alongside their children’s leaders, helping them with their puppet ministry, Messy Church events and their summer holiday club.

Having spent a couple of years supporting the churches with their children’s ministry, there was then the opportunity of exploring some kind of youth group, as the children started to get older. Andy Castle has been working with them on this since May 2018.

“You make it very clear the pitfalls we need to avoid”

“Thrive has helped us both in terms of creativity,”  Hugh told us, “and by providing us with insight as to what works well with children, their deeper understanding of what makes them tick. We’ve also benefitted from the way you make it very clear to us the pitfalls we need to avoid and the sense of ownership that we want to offer to the children and young people.”

It has been hard. The Group of Churches is made up of four rural churches, spread across five villages, making transport and gathering together not always straightforward.

A fledgling youth group started to meet, under the watchful eye of some enthusiastic and committed volunteer leaders, and started to see some positive results. Then the pandemic hit and, like for everyone, face to face youth work had to cease.

But the church didn’t want to stop completely. Following a conversation with Thrive, Hugh took the work online.

“It clearly had meaning for them because they kept turning up week after week”

“It was with the courage that Thrive loaned us! I started to provide an evening zoom session with a very small bunch of teenagers. It clearly had meaning for them because they kept turning up week after week. That felt like a very important, although tiny, contribution, and gave me a sense that, despite our age differences, there was something we could offer these young people in terms of friendship and walking along together, having fun.”

Looking forward, Thrive wants to further support this group of churches by offering a Youth Mission Enabler to help them develop their contacts with young people, to better equip and train the volunteers and to help the churches be more welcoming and attractive to children and young people.

Being rural, there are fewer numbers of people locally, and Hugh hopes that as a deanery, there might be wider scope for developing youth and children’s work across local churches, with Thrive enabling this to happen.

“I’m convinced that a deanery plan for our work with young people is going to be the way forward that will sustain the local work individual churches are doing but encourage a larger, monthly gathering that would provide the kind of numbers to make the work more sustainable.”

“Getting Thrive involved gives encouragement, expertise and a guiding hand”

Hugh recommends other churches partner with Thrive because “whatever they’re doing currently, or dream of doing, getting Thrive involved gives them encouragement, expertise and a guiding hand that can provide the needed enthusiasm that this is going to be good and it is going to be fun!”

If you would like to help Thrive support churches such as Hugh’s, please consider donating to our current Youth Mission Enabler appeal.