Callington Cluster surges ahead with support for young people
Since starting, Neil Newberry has quickly immersed himself in the Cluster and his role of developing youth church, engaging with the local community and working in youth wellbeing.
Neil’s appointment marked the end of a 12 month search for the Callington team which had begun with a realisation that while there was youth engagement in church, they were not making any approach in the community at a time when youth provision was being withdrawn by the council.
Revd Tony Stephens said: “We spent time looking at what we should be doing and we put in a bid for a youth pioneer to the Bishop’s Den in early 2014 and got through to the final stages. Although we were not successful it was a good exercise and forced us to sharpen our thinking.”
The team took a step back and reviewed the whole project and funding. “We felt we were heading down the right route and we could see God’s hand in it. We received a grant of £15,000 from the Church Community Fund and we had a lot of support from our churches in funding the position.”
Despite a good initial response, it was almost a year on from Bishop’s Den before Neil was finally appointed.
Tony said: “We all felt Neil had the skills we were after. We wanted someone who was prepared to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the messy stuff. We wanted someone who wasn’t going to conform to the accepted ways of doing things and Neil came to us with fresh ideas and had experience of working in the community so that we could reach out.
“I carry the strong conviction that the church needs to be within the community not within the church and that’s how we are moving forward as a cluster. Having Neil and his wife Lydia has meant we have been able to really look at what we are doing from a different perspective.”
Neil, a father of five, was able to bring experience from his 18 years of youth work in Manchester as well as experience from outside of the Anglican Church. “I’d always worked alongside Anglican churches and my past work has been quite ecumenical but I’m actually from a Pentecostal background and led services in a very large, free, charismatic church.”
It is all this experience that Callington Cluster is hoping to build on. Tony said: “With Neil’s role, there are two sides. One side is about developing youth church and the other is about youth engagement and that’s not about bringing people to faith, it’s about being there for their wellbeing. We need to focus on catching young people before they fall – intervening to prevent them becoming just another statistic. ”
Neil said: “I don’t see my role as just setting up another church youth club. We need to be where the youth is. We are looking at a mobile unit and there has been a lot of positive feedback on that from young people within forums we have set up. One of the youngsters said to me: ‘I don’t want to come to something that is needy.’ They want something worthwhile. The youngsters don’t want normal youth work.”
And Neil and the Cluster are doing their best to fulfil that need. As well as Neil’s work, the team have been working with Duchy College on employability training (Mentor+).
Tony, who is also Duchy College Chaplain, said: “Mentor+ aims to bridge the gap between education and business, helping young people into employment. Volunteers from the church and community go into Duchy college once a week to work with youngsters, helping them understand what employers are looking for and working on their CV writing or interview skills. It’s been hugely successful and as a result, over 70 per cent of young people involved say they are more confident in their ability to get a job when they leave education.
There are also preliminary discussions underway about a mentoring project with Callington College. This new programme would be working with youngsters who are struggling and may fall through the education system. The mentors would come alongside these youngsters for 12 months with the aim of being there for them, giving them a point of reference and someone to talk to about whatever their issues are. That’s the side of mentoring Neil will get involved in.”
If that isn’t enough, the cluster is also gearing up to be the first in the diocese to work with national organisation ROC (Redeeming Our Communities). ROC’s main aim is to bring about community transformation by creating strategic partnerships between statutory agencies, voluntary groups and churches. These partnerships form new volunteer-led projects that address a variety of social needs.
There are over 150 partnership projects nation-wide. To find out more go to: http://roc.uk.com/
Tony said: “It’s all about drawing people together from the community and other agencies, looking at the needs of the community and seeing how we could work together to sort some of the problems. Aligning ourselves under the ROC banner means we benefit from the resources and experience ROC has got.”
Tony says this work is essential in today’s world. “The family unit is really under strain. There is often pressure today for both parents to work to financially support the family and there are many youngsters being looked after by others. There’s also quite a lot of educational pressures on youngsters and youth mental health issues are increasing. You only have to scratch a little way under the surface to find the problems and we aren’t going to be able to do that sat in church.”
Neil also says the rural community around Callington can add to those pressures. “This area is quite isolated and for many youngsters social media is the main way of communicating outside of school.”
To try and address this, Neil and the team are currently piloting an afterschool club in Stoke Climsland for secondary school age youngsters. Neil said: “This taster is to give us an idea of how it could all work and we are hoping we can roll it out further from September.”
Tony said: “In some way through this work we are following the example of Christ more and the community also sees the church in a different way.”
Tony says that while funding this kind of work can be an issue, it has not been a stumbling block in the Callington Cluster. “If you have a church full of disciples who are giving, you don’t have a problem. The big picture behind this is about working out what you need to be out there doing rather than worrying about that next Sunday service. We just need to be out there doing things for the community.”