Finding new ways to connect with young people

CHARITIES

A Growing Lives grant of £20,000 from Allchurches Trust has given South West Youth Ministries (SWYM) the resources they need to engage with young people even in the most challenging of times.

SWYM‘s main vision is to place trainee youth workers within churches and local ministries across the South West of England to engage young people, offer them new opportunities, and help them to explore their faith.

Through partnerships with over 200 churches, SWYM has trained over 600 youth leaders to run events and residentials that have reached over 20,000 young people in the last 20 years.

Allchurches funding is enabling SWYM to reach out to families from more disadvantaged backgrounds with tasters of their residential programmes, using sports equipment, projectors, screens and consoles as a teaser of what to expect.

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“Thank you to Allchurches for enabling this work with children and young people to take place. You have helped us to build a strategy of day events feeding into residentials, to build trust with families thus making the jump to a full residential much easier. 

“We’re sadly not as far on as we would have liked to have been because of the pandemic, but are pleased we have been able to innovate and still come out with some great ways to connect and reach young people.” - Paul Friend, Director of SWYM

In 2019, SWYM delivered an evening beach party event called Solar Flare, partnering with Ivybridge Methodist Church. They also hosted three one day events: ‘Geek Factory’ at Plymouth Methodist Central Hall; ‘Football Fest’ in Bournemouth in partnership with YMCA and Moorlands College; and finally ‘Go Wild!’ at Great Wood Camp in Somerset in partnership with Scripture Union. SWYM’s research showed that 50% to 60% of the young people who attended the taster days were from unchurched families.

These day events were really successful and the ‘Geek Factory’ taster in particular attracted many young people to the full residential in February 2020.

And then COVID…after a fruitful end to 2019 and beginning to 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the planned spring/summer activities. However, determined to carry on the momentum of their work, SWYM adapted and have been using online platforms to engage young people ever since.

In June 2020, they produced a range of football videos for social media, ranging from debates to short talks from former pros and even a former football hooligan! SWYM delivered eight videos each day and had hundreds of young people watching and interacting. 

They also produced a range of online materials - games, crafts and camping at home ideas for those who would normally have attended SWYM’s biggest camp (SPREE SW) run in partnership with Urban Saints.

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As part of the virtual camp, SWYM held a ‘SPREE’s GOT Talent’ evening, live on social media, which engaged over 500 people.

“It was brilliant to hear that the young boy who won the contest had been shielding due to a rare health condition and his church later wrote to us to say what a huge impact the evening had on him and his family” – Paul Friend, Director of SWYM

SWYM are pushing forward with a positive attitude for their future camps, planning a new residential called StarCast which will be drama and theatre based, exploring faith through the medium of drama, based in Somerset.

After the success of their online platforms, SWYM will use digital engagement to raise their profile and reach young people in this challenging period, and will continue to use online resources to complement their physical events and residentials when they re-launch.

Paul Playford, Grants Officer for Allchurches Trust, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to support SWYM with their physical and online resources, so that they have been able to reach young people in times of difficulty and give them something to look forward to. They have done an amazing job staying connected with the young community and we look forward to the point when they can reopen their physical residentials for more football, fun and games!”