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Encouraging and inspiring youth faith

A youth worker in a Reading parish is having a significant impact in the lives of young people attending church and is reaching into the wider community, supporting knife crime prevention projects.

The Caversham Thameside and Mapledurham parish received a Development Fund grant from the diocese to help provide a youth worker for the next five years, covering the three churches in the parish.

Associate Vicar, the Revd Penny Cuthbert, explains: “When I arrived in 2016, my brief was to change the demographic of St John’s as we had a mainly older congregation. In 2018 several new families joined the church, and we employed a part-time Children and Families Outreach Worker which led to further growth of our children’s ministry. As some of these children reached secondary school age, we realised we needed a youth worker.

“Then, following the tragic stabbing of Olly Stephens in January 2021, we set out more mindfully to create a role which would disciple our own youth, and reach into the community too – tackling knife crime. 

“We are hugely grateful to the Development Fund. Their support enables us to have a longer term strategy. We were able to advertise the post as a five-year role, making it more likely to attract a candidate, giving them more security, putting our youthwork in a more sustainable position.”

Parish youth worker Ben Nicholls arrived in October last year and works across the parish to nurture the faith of the young people who attend church and to work with youngsters in the community. On Sunday mornings, he alternates between St John’s ‘Blaze’ group and St Peter’s Sunday Youth, as well as running a midweek cross-parish evening youth group, which includes a Bible-based session and games. He leads a committed team of volunteers.

Ben has also made links with other church youth workers in the area and supports a local youth group at the Weller Centre, based in one of the most deprived areas with significant social challenges. Knife crime has been a focus of all youth work in the area, and Ben has been part of a group working to create a hub/safe space for young people.

Penny said the PCC had been intentional in their approach to attracting the best candidates for the role, speaking to other youth workers to ascertain what made them stay in their roles, as well as advertising the post throughout the local Christian network and beyond.

She added: “We sat down with the PCC and we tried to put together the best package that we could, the best salary range, depending on experience and qualifications, and whether the post holder wanted part-time or full-time work. We wanted to offer something that would enable them to live well and flourish, rather than scraping by.”

Find out how to apply for a Development Fund grant

Page last updated: Wednesday 8th May 2024 10:19 PM
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