The weekly Renew Wellbeing Cafe at St Andrew’s, High Wycombe, offers a safe space for young people from the nearby secondary school to take a break from the pressures of school and society.
Since opening in September, the cafe has reached over 40 young people who have never stepped into the church before. We caught up with Kathryn Aboud, Youth Pastor at the church, to hear how the cafe project has progressed in its first few months.
“The café is organically growing into something which is really healthy and where we can be free to adapt and minister to the needs of the group. Each term we have seen a new group of young people coming into the church, all with different wellbeing needs and of different ages.
“This spring term, we have a great group of younger teens, in years 7 and 8 joining us on a weekly basis. Many are from low-income families, accessing free school meals so, we have introduced a ‘food craft’ time, alongside offering free toast and hot chocolate.
The cafe focuses on both the physical and spiritual needs of young people, reflecting the mission and ministry of Jesus.
“I am always drawn to the lame man lowered down by his friends. Jesus healed the physical need of not being able to walk, but also addressed his spiritual need. The same with the feeding of the 5,000. He addressed their physical hunger, but also taught them about God’s provision and what happens when we trust God. So we want to try and emulate this at Renew."
Kathryn and her small team of volunteers have begun building connections with the students through monthly promotional outreach.
“We’ve been giving out free hot chocolate outside of the school at the end of the school day as a way of making initial contact with students about the Renew space and it’s resulted in more of them popping their heads into the space to check it out. We also introduced takeaway drinks at the café as a way in, with some of the students who are still unsure. We want the youth to feel comfortable in the space so it allows them to check it out without it being too daunting. One week someone will come in for a takeaway, the next week they come with a friend for a takeaway, and the following week they come in and stay.”
A key aim of the cafe project is to help tackle the rising mental health problems among young people and to provide a space for reflection and prayer where the students can explore faith in their own time.
“We are continuing to offer the time of meditation and reflection each week in a way that is relevant to the youth who come and developing relationships with the young people to engage with this space. It is slow going to build trust with the students, but it is really encouraging to see them coming back to join us and that they know there is a safe and welcoming space for them at the church.”
The Development Fund
The Renew Wellbeing Cafe project received a grant from the Development Fund in 2021 to create a space for young people to meet and access pastoral and compassionate support by setting up a ‘Renew Cafe’.
The Development Fund is open to all parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford and especially those with limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. Applications are open for the next round of funding and close on 30 April 2022, find out more and apply on the¯Development Fund page¯of our website.