Bringing hope through young leaders in Barton, Oxford OX3

Bringing Hope through Young Leaders

15 Aug 2012

Isn’t it great when a vision that you’ve had starts to come into fruition? Innovista’s Thrive Team in Barton estate, Oxford, have always had a passion to see young people from the estate acting as agents of change, leading transformation in their community.

Now Thrive: Barton are seeing some of the young people who they’ve been building relationships with over the past two years starting to lead others around them, offering them credible opportunities to discover that life is best with God.

Five young people who the team have built relationships with took on the role of Junior Leaders at a Holiday Bible Club in the estate. Held during the first week of the school holidays, Barton Community Church ran the club for 5-11 year olds from the estate.

Aged between 12 and 18, these Junior Leaders, who are either mentored by a Thrive Community Mentor or known to the team through Sunday@5 (the Sunday expression of church pioneered by the team on the estate), assisted the running of the programme and the facilitation of the groups.

25 children came through the doors of the holiday club over the course of the week. The Olympic themed week offered opportunities to hear Bible stories and pray in groups that were led by the Junior Leaders. In a council housing estate where churches have historically struggled to make a significant impression, the week presented a great opportunity for kids to hear the gospel in ways that were interactive and dynamic, and relevant in their context.

The heroes of the week were undoubtedly the Junior Leaders. Nikki Smith lives on Barton and helps with the girls group at Sunday@5 as well as being a trained Thrive Community Mentor. She says, "Over the course of the week the Junior Leaders displayed more and more initiative, and grew in demonstrating responsibility. We saw them find problems, express these to the group and initiate solutions."

"On the second day, one of the guys who was a junior leader came an hour before he was asked to help set up and was asking about how he could become a senior leader next year! We really want to see him get involved with the Sunday@5 programme, and are offering him opportunities to lead in contexts like this throughout the year."

"I’d never done anything like this before," says Thea, 18. "I really enjoyed it because I got to talk to the children about God and how they feel in his presence." On the last day, one of the leaders asked if any of the children would like to pray. Five then prayed out loud, demonstrating the confidence they had been growing through their small groups, encouraged by the Junior Leaders.

Give thanks for these Junior Leaders, and pray that they would seize opportunities to continue to be involved throughout the year, bringing hope to their community.

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