Sharing uplifting stories of church and diocesan youth work during lockdown

13 JUL 2020
Last week, we released new research giving an interesting insight into how more than 600 churches have been engaging with children and young people since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. 
While some of the headline figures gave cause for concern, with around a quarter of churches experiencing a drop in engagement during lockdown and 30% not having been able to run any activities for the younger generation at all, there were reasons for optimism too. 
The survey revealed that more than half of churches (55%) have been able to engage children and young people through regular online worship, while 46% have run family focused online activities for children and parents and 31% have specifically run online activities and challenges for young people. Similar numbers have reached out by phone and e-mail.
We wanted to share with you some really uplifting examples of how some of our church, diocese and Christian charity beneficiaries have been connecting with young people during lockdown, bringing hope and fun into their lives and, in many cases, providing a lifeline to those feeling isolated and suffering with poor mental health. 
You may also be interested to read the case studies from churches in a range of settings – urban and rural, big and small – that are featured in our Growing Lives research report and you will find useful advice and tools for connecting with children and young people in the dedicated section on our advice and resources hub.  
St Alban’s Church, Fulham
St Alban’s activities for disadvantaged children and young people are currently all virtual/online, and aim to: reinforce positive role models and strong self-belief; offer space and diversion from the worries of life; support and mentor young people. They continue to maintain a good level of support and interaction with a minimum of 65 young people per week from the local community, many of whom are feeling isolated and are struggling with their mental health. 
The church is using Instagram, Zoom and phone calls to connect young people with the youth team. As many of the youth team currently have reduced work commitments, they have been able to offer help to young people who are struggling to engage with their school work. They are also able to offer three to four mentoring sessions weekly with individual young people, or in small groups, helping them to open up about the challenges of the current situation and process their feelings. 
The church has also been able to release weekly online content, including cooking and drum tutorials to give young people opportunities to try new things, and hosted a weekly Instagram Live where young people can join online games. Two young people participated in a panel recently, discussing their personal experiences of racial injustice, which was live streamed by St Alban's, in the light of the anti-racism protests. 
St Alban’s is now planning to survey all the children and young people who have accessed these services since the lockdown started, to ask for feedback on what they found helpful. The church hopes to be able to run some non-contact outdoor activities for young people from July onwards. 
An image from St Alban's Fulham taken before lockdown
All Aboard – Navigating Life Together: case study from Polwarth Parish Church, Edinburgh, and charity partner, People Know How
Polwarth Parish Church and People Know How have been using the time during lockdown to prepare for their commissioning of a new purpose-built canal boat. They have also found alternative ways of connecting with the Union Canal community despite lockdown measures, including their social media campaign Stories Along the Union Canal, capturing memories and stories of this community spanning across all ages – from young people supported by People Know How who took part in the project pilot, to Polwarth Church Sunday school children, to older members of the community with memories spanning back to almost 70 years ago. These have been compiled into an interactive map on the All Aboard webpage with an open call for new submissions.
Partners People Know How have been running adapted services throughout lockdown. Their Positive Transitions Service has been adapted into one-to-one Online Befriending and Group Sessions, all run through an online video chat platform. In this way they have been able to provide a safe, supportive online environment where children and young people can talk, play games, learn, and share stories, helping to guide them through this time of uncertainty. Through online campaigns and digital engagement, the charity has recruited over 30 new volunteers for the service and is now supporting over 70 service users online, a number that grows with each day.
In providing support online, People Know How also identified the need for digital devices in the home. In response to this, they created Computer Delivery, a project in collaboration with Venture Scotland, delivering devices to members of the community. By refurbishing donated devices, delivering them to people’s doorsteps, and providing follow up phone support, they aim to support members of the community to stay connected, find support or home-school their children. This service is in high demand and the charity is on track to deliver over 1,000 devices across Edinburgh and East Lothian.
Diocese of Coventry – Together for Change Coventry and Warwickshire Family Link Workers
Family Link Workers in Coventry (part of Together for Change Coventry and Warwickshire) work in partnership with local schools and churches to build strong, long lasting relationships. As typical face to face groups were no longer an option due to social distancing, things have had to get a lot more ‘digital’ for Rea Verdon – the Family Link Worker supporting St Laurence’s Church and St Laurence’s C of E Primary School in Coventry. 
Rea has moved as many of her family activities online as possible. She has been livestreaming coffee mornings from her living room and hosting cooking classes in her kitchen – much to the delight of the local children. She has also led online science experiments, art lessons, gardening and prayer, as well as online children’s groups and family sessions. The youth group has even been helped to produce their own worship service to broadcast.
Alongside the online support, St Laurence’s Church has launched a Hope Hub to offer practical support for anyone experiencing crisis, working in partnership with Coventry Foodbank (which had to close as many of the volunteers were shielding) to deliver food parcels to vulnerable people in the community. For VE Day they even offered a delivery afternoon tea of homemade scones, cream and fresh fruit to brighten the day of many older neighbours.
As life begins to return to ‘normality’, the church is looking for ways to continue the Foodbank and Hope Hub, possibly as a community café and support hub. 
Many of the Christian charities we support have also been reaching out to young people in creative ways during lockdown. 
iSingPOP is one of a number of organisations involved in the Church of England’s Faith at Home initiative and you can read more about this work and their new YouTube channel funded by Allchurches Trust here. Another Allchurches beneficiary, the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, is also a key partner in #FaithatHome, and has seen record traffic to its Young Leaders’ Award at home hub.
Listening People – a division of the Ataloss charity – has moved fast to bring forward the production of its Tough Stuff bereavement journal – a new resource to support churches and youth workers to help young people who have experienced loss that has been funded by an Allchurches Trust Growing Lives grant.
You can still apply for funding through the Growing Lives programme, although you’ll need to get your application in by July 17th for it to be considered at the next Grants Committee in September.
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