Outreach Youth Worker – Annual Report (Apr 09)

Thank you for the opportunity to report back on what’s been going on and what I’ve been doing here at St Francis of Assisi over the past year. Here is a brief overview of some of the things that are happening:

•    Our youth group for older young people, FAITHFUL, has been up and running since Sept 08. There is now a core group of 8-10 young people.
•    The parish blog is being used to publish my monthly Youth Round-up, plus other youth news and events.
•    I am now working regularly with yr6 at St Francis School by running a weekly, rolling programme which supports transition into secondary education.
•    I am continuing to help staff The Source – an after school drop in for young people at Rowheath Pavilion.
•    Our older Sunday morning group, Sacred Space, has been meeting twice monthly since October and is being well supported.
•    My work at Bournville School continues and I am currently involved in supporting a new CU.
•    The Youth Worker Advisory Group has been meeting with me for nearly a year. I find it an invaluable resource for planning and evaluating my work.
•    I now have access to a computer, desk and storage space in the vicar’s office. This has made the work much easier

Strengthening the Foundations
I am grateful to Revd Peter Babington for allowing me to regularly take time for training and reflection. I find these days extremely useful and apply many of the things I learn to the work. I also have annual retreat time which I take at an abbey near London.
It is always important to look again at the values and principles behind what I do. I intend to continue to seek ways of improving the professional aspects of the work – recruitment, record keeping, child protection, health and safety etc – so I can make the most of the face-to-face time I have with young people.

The Parish
Notable events that have taken place with the young people in the parish over the last year include the Talent Show hosted by FAITH, Slum Survivor (a fundraising ‘sleep out’) jointly run by local youth workers, the Nativity built by our older youth group, FAITHFUL, and Sleeping Beauty which starred young people from FAITH and FAITHFUL. Launching groups such as FAITHFUL and Sacred Space has given older young people more opportunity to play a part in the life of the parish and to develop their spirituality.
One of our aims last year was to encourage the young people to become increasingly involved with parish events as well as serve the parish in very practical ways. Recent examples include hosting refreshments after Choral Evensong and sweeping the car park of leaves and rubbish as part of our Lenten observance.

I am now two terms into what we call ‘Transition groups’ at St Francis School. They are designed to help the young people consider the important issues that arise when they leave St Francis for secondary education, the challenges they create and the opportunities for growth they offer. Topics we cover include ‘Leaving a Legacy’, ‘Identity’ and ‘Success and Vocation’. The groups are still in the early stages and the programme is being constantly reviewed and tweaked. There may be the opportunity for one-to-one work in the future and I have also attending school outings with yr6.
Work at Bournville School is progressing, but perhaps in a different direction than I had anticipated! While I am involved with developing a new CU and inputting in other ways in to the spiritual life of the school, I have also been able to be of practical service by staffing school trips and even driving the minibus (for which I had to take a test). I am currently in discussion with the school to take part in a Faith and Identity project facilitated by the Museums and Libraries Archive.

The Community
Our youth groups have had contact with local organisations and charities. BVT youth worker, Steven Wood, came to speak at FAITHFUL and Christian Aid recently gave some presentations about their work and how it could be supported.
Having appointed a new youth worker, Rowheath Pavilion are continuing to run The Source – an after school drop in for secondary school pupils. This has the potential to reach young people from King Norton Boys and Girls, Bournville and Cadbury schools. There is even the possibility of extending the group to other nights of the week. In addition Thomas Loftus, Rowheath’s youth worker, is currently helping to staff FAITH.
Links with other churches are improving and there is now a monthly meeting of 7-8 local church-based youth leaders. Our aim is to bring local Christian young people together at jointly hosted events such as Slum Survivor, Inter-church Sports Day and 007 Themed Night as well publicising our own youth and prayer events to a wider ‘audience’. An up and coming idea is for another themed night.

I am pleased to report that the recruitment drive we went on during the summer term last year has been a great success. While we have consolidated the work we’ve been doing by keeping the volunteers we had, we have also recruited new volunteers to support the work at FAITHFUL. These people have become invaluable partners without whom much of what we do would not happen. They are committed and skilled at relating to the young people and I would very much like to invest in them further and help them grow in their calling.
But we cannot rest on our laurels, and we need to look again at encouraging one or two more people into the youth work for September as volunteers move aside or step back a little. Your prayers for this would be appreciated.

I would be grateful for the continued prayer of the PCC and wider parish community. I remain committed to regular prayer for the youth work and for the young people and would like to encourage more individuals to make these intentions a part of their daily intercession. The monthly Youth Roundup and church notice board can be used to keep up to date with current prayer needs and intentions.
Please look out for other ways of supporting the youth work/young people in prayer – I will be launching an initiative in the next few months by which parishioners (both young people and adults) can begin to pray in common for one another and for the work in a structured way. This is something I have been working on since I began in October 2007. Prayer is the single most important thing for supporting the mission St Francis Church has to the young people of Bournville both now and in the future.

Paul Northam (Outreach Youth Worker)
April 2009