It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to be given an almost blank page as a Children and Family Worker across the North Cornwall Cluster. Exciting? Daunting? For Marcus Jones, it was a mixture of both. “These are rural churches, so there is a fragility to engaging young people and families but when it works, it’s very rewarding.”

Marcus is no stranger to the role. He used to hold a similar post in Falmouth, working across Churches Together. “It was great to work with so many different churches – it’s a wonderful mix of people and personalities. I loved being alongside the different congregations, all of whom had a strong commitment to each other – but it was hard too.”

In the end, straddling so many churches took its toll and Marcus felt he had to walk away. In fact, he told God that he didn’t want to go back to the church and rather hoped He’d signed him off. He worked instead with Cornwall Council, looking after young people and families living with autism and other issues. “But when you say no to God, He has a way of coaxing you back in!”

“When you say no to God, He has a way of coaxing you back in!”

Marcus is a gentle soul who doesn’t appear to do anything unless he has given it a great deal of thought and prayer. “The advert for the post in North Cornwall came and went, I even gave it to a friend, but when catching up with an old colleague she mentioned the post was still vacant and that I should consider going for it.”

Ensuring children and family work is sustainable for the long term

Marcus felt that a door might be opening but it was with trepidation that he nudged against it. “I was very keen to learn from my experiences of the past and, if I were to take it, to make sure that whatever I started or became involved in, would be sustainable and embraced by the communities so they could carry it on for the long term.”

Happily, Marcus accepted the role and they are a good fit for each other. There were a few things already in place, like Messy Church and Open the Book, so Marcus took time to come alongside the teams, watch, listen and help to alleviate any concerns they might have had about a new person getting involved to “Do Youth.”

“An important part of my role is gaining trust. People can often be wary of change, fearing it might threaten precious things they have nurtured and grown. Taking over and trying to change things has never been my intention here. I see my role as not just helping the activities to grow, but to encourage and support the volunteers so that they grow in faith as well.”

Marcus is very keen that the work isn’t pivotal to one person, or small group of people, but that can be hard to avoid in small rural communities where there aren’t many volunteers willing to take up the reins.

“We’ve started Mini Fingers, which comes from St Minefreda who St Minver Church is dedicated to, which is a group for young children that is proving to be very popular. We also run a group for teenagers and young adults, and although they tell me they would like to do more it is a challenge to find the space and volunteers to facilitate that. One family holds a group at their home, which is so generous, but we really need more people to offer their time if we are to make a difference.”

Being brave enough to keep going

Marcus believes that the churches in the cluster have a heart to be more open and welcoming to all generations, “It’s about being brave enough to travel through very low numbers in the belief that more numbers will come.”

“It’s about being brave enough to travel through very low numbers in the belief that more numbers will come.”

And coming they are. The number of young people engaged in church life has increased from zero to 12%, they offer more family and special services and recently Marcus was really chuffed with a pet service at St Minver. “In many ways, a pet service is more inclusive than a family service! Everyone loves their pets and they are very bonding – as well as being great fun and a perfect talking point.”

Marcus is well supported by Revd Elizabeth Wild and is delighted that the funding for his role, that has been raised by the churches in the cluster, has been extended for two further years. That surely is affirmation that he is doing a good job and provides a solid bedrock for him to build on and be more confident of God’s provision for children and families in the North Cornwall Cluster.