Funding grants for church buildings so that Christian youth groups can thrive

Allchurches Trust gave a grant to St Luke Hackney for two new outbuildings on unused space behind their church buildings. ‘The huts’ were completed in May 2019 and participants in the Sunday youth groups have since grown from 12 to 30 each week.

In 2018 the Bishop of London commissioned the re-joining of neighbouring parishes, St John and St Luke, into a new multi-site resource church - Hackney Church.

While the larger church building of St John Hackney is undergoing a £5 million restoration and modernisation development, St Luke’s also has a long tradition of vibrant engagement with the community and it too requires more space.

With the creation of Hackney Church and the exciting new ministry rapidly growing across the church’s sites, young life and Christian youth groups at St Luke’s have been at maximum capacity.

‘The huts’ were an innovative and cost-effective solution. Situated on a small patch of waste ground not used in years, at the rear of the church buildings, the project budget was around £12,000.

Jenna Nelson said, “What a lovely problem we’ve created for ourselves now. ‘The huts’ have turned out to be so successful that the new space for youth groups is very nearly maxed out again!”

Another unexpected benefit arising from the project is the number of people who ask to use ‘the huts’ as a prayer space throughout the week.

St Luke’s has run a weekly toddler group for almost 40 years to support parents and carers. For 5 years it has provided overnight space for the homeless in partnership with Hackney Winter Night Shelter. It is a Foodbank distribution centre and on distribution days it provides free financial advice and access to a Credit Union. Having an additional two flexible meeting spaces, with power, heating and folding furniture, has enhanced the facilities for the whole church and its community engagement and outreach.

“We never expected ‘the huts’ to become an in-demand space for prayer; people are asking to use them throughout every week. We’ve turned a bit of unused ground into a very special place, for very little money.”

Hackney has a population of around 250,000 with an average age of 32; it is a hugely multi-cultural community with around 42% of residents born outside the UK. It is one of the most deprived areas in London, but has also become home to an influx of young professionals working in the City.

Hackney Church, in not more than a year, has evolved and grown to reflect this vibrant, dynamic community, meet its needs, share its resources and become a model of hope at the heart of Hackney.

A large community orchard, along with a garden and beehives, have been established by the Garden Crew. And the church has grown its Alpha courses, drop in lunches, introduced a growing number of weekly Connect groups and a summer festival. The Church programme of services and worship continues to expand along with the size and diversity of its congregation.

“Regular attendance has grown to more than 500. The first Christmas event welcomed 2,500 people last year, and our ‘Hey Baby’ toddler groups involve 150 people every week. We feed 100 people each week at our drop-in lunches and the youth groups are at capacity.”

Located between the two church buildings and forming a shared community space at the heart of Hackney Church is the Hackney Church Brew Co; this craft micro-brewery is the creation of an exciting new church partnership and also serves live-fire food in a welcoming and contemporary space. The venue supports the church’s Lighthouse Project and provides another meeting place of welcome, extending the church beyond its building walls and into spaces shared with the community.

Jeremy Noles, Grants and Relationships Manager at Allchurches, said: “We were delighted to award a grant to Hackney Church to create two new outbuildings in the unused space behind St Luke’s. Apart from increasing space for young people, the project enhances multiple use of the whole site and church garden throughout the week. It is also another great example of how Hackney Church is really thinking about how it can share its resources with the whole community of Hackney.”