Passing on the baton

Ten years ago, we pioneered our first Thrive Team in Barton. Our vision was to raise up leaders within Barton to reach the community with the hope of Jesus. Over the past decade, we’ve done just that. We’ve worked alongside Barton Community Church, running great youth work, mentoring leaders, and seeing lives transformed. We’ve watched young people reengage with school, find work, mend relationships and put their hope in Jesus. Several with real leadership spark have become crucial missional leaders in their own community, and are now mentoring others. When we began this project, it was always our intention to plant, grow, and hand on the ministry to the local church. Ten years on, we’ve achieved our vision to help establish a solid, church-based outreach in Barton. It is now time to hand the baton on: this autumn, with excitement and hope, we say goodbye to Thrive Barton, and say hello to local outreach led by Barton Community Church.

Team news

Sam Payne will finish as Thrive Team Barton Team Leader in October, and move with his wife Erica and their daughter to Cornwall to become Youth and Families Leader in a church in Truro. This is by no means the end of the Paynes’ family chapter with Innovista – not by a long shot. We are launching a new venture – Innovista UK – which Erica will be instrumental in leading. Innovista UK will focus on training and equipping leaders for mission in disadvantaged communities, not just in Oxford, but beyond. (We can’t wait to tell you more over the coming months – watch this space!)

Our other two Thrive Teams will carry on, with Daniel Martin Thomas leading the work in the Leys, and Matt Warmington in South Abingdon. Both led stellar holiday clubs over the summer, which generated new momentum amongst young people in both communities. We have great relationships in both places and are totally committed to supporting the young people there. The day-to-day running of the work will be taken on by local churches in both places, in partnership with us. This will allow us to focus fully on raising leaders for mission here and in new locations through Innovista UK. This is the very best route to long-term impact in disadvantaged communities.

Empowering the local church

These changes to Thrive Teams could not be coming at a more important time. The injustice of inequality is being deepened by coronavirus. The most deprived communities are seeing twice as many people dying from coronavirus as the least deprived, according to the Office for National Statistics. And research by the Joseph Rank Foundation and Save the Children has found that, since the pandemic began, 86% of those with children on Universal Credit or Child Tax Credits have faced extra household costs, six out of ten of these families have been forced to borrow money, and half of all those surveyed are behind on rent or other essential bills.

Disadvantaged communities need real hope more than ever. By empowering the local church to run excellent youth ministry, we can focus on training and equipping the leaders needed in many more of these communities. This is the heartbeat of Innovista, and we are convinced that it is the best way to have the greatest impact in areas of desperate need. We all know that leadership matters. When leaders serve, change happens. As we look back with joy on the lives and stories of the young people we’ve worked with so far, we look forward with hope that the best is yet to come.

If you’d like to support leadership development in disadvantaged communities, Mary Oakes would love to hear from you – mary.oakes@innovista.org.