After-school community

This afternoon was the second of the new Year 11 CU/seekers group that we’ve started on Wednesday afternoons. It developed out of a lunchtime group on a Friday which was originally intended to be for Year 9’s. However, after a couple of weeks we were gatecrashed by a group of about a dozen Year 11’s who were obviously all close friends but who were also looking for ‘something more’. Unlike the Year 9’s, who tended to come and go a bit, the Yr.11’s stayed, got involved in the discussions and asked real questions about life, faith and church. They’re the kind of people to whom I think Jesus would have said, “… you are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
With GCSE’s approaching we asked if they’d like to continue meeting on a Wednesday afternoon from 4 – 5pm. Their answer was not the vague, slightly polite but tantalisingly non-committal response I’ve become used to. They were genuinely grateful that we would even think of making that kind of effort for them. And so we started, meeting in the youth lounge of the town centre Baptist Church.
Last week about 15 turned up, some being friends who hadn’t ever attended the Friday lunchtime group. This week there were 20, as new friends turned up, many from different schools, some only Yr.9 but all fitting perfectly into the emerging sense of community.
Each gathering lasts just an hour. There’s Coke, Maltesers and Jaffa Cakes (a tradition they insisted we carried over from the lunchtime group!) pool and table tennis. A large white board has a provocative discussion starter to which people add their comments. For ten minutes we have a more reflective time when everyone gets together to share news and concerns. Anyone can write prayer requests on a large sheet of paper. Some are sharing more privately their struggles and their hopes.
Much credit for all this goes to Amy, our student youth worker. She is a people magnet for the good news of Jesus, both spoken and lived out.
It’s been while since I worked with a group of young people who are so seeking, so welcoming of others and so committed to this kind of gathering. There is a tangible sense of belonging, of welcome, of community, perhaps even of the gospel. They might almost be church.

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