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Post-review, Chichester to invest in youth work

14 March 2014

DIOCESE OF CHICHESTER

AFTER a review of Church House, Hove, which aroused "strong views", the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner (above), sought this week to assure the diocese of the "exciting plans" for youth work.

In November last year, it was reported that the four posts at YES, (You Equipped to Serve), the youth and children's team for the diocese, were to be reduced to one (News, 6 December). In a statement, the diocese said that the diocesan synod had approved a planned deficit of £241,000 in its 2014 budget "on the proviso that everything possible would be done to minimise costs and maximise return on assets".

On Tuesday, Dr Warner said that the review had been "welcomed in many quarters", and had "focused on accountability, value for money, transparency, and an even quality of excellent service to parishes, schools, and deaneries across the whole diocese. Overall, we expect that there will be savings from this exercise, while at the same time retaining our commitment to primary mission and evangelism in the area of youth work."

Investment in the staffing of youth work was "among the highest in the Church of England". There are about 30 full- or part-time youth workers in the diocese.

The plans for youth work include expanding the work of St Bartz, a retreat centre; continued investment in children's work; and offering training and qualifications for anyone engaged in youth work.

Dr Warner said that he was particularly excited about training for youth work, and the possibility of establishing a fund-raising team, to help parishes and deaneries to secure funds for youth workers. He was keen to see the establishment of a youth council and other mechanisms to enable young people to contribute to decision-making in the diocese. He also singled out the development of student chaplaincy, including the "fantastic" work at St Peter's, Brighton.

On Wednesday, the Curate of St Margaret's, Angmering, in Chichester, the Revd Tom Robson, reported that after the launch of a Sunday-afternoon service, attended by 120-140 families each week, the number of under-16s had doubled.

A youth worker, Ben Martin, said that about 40 11-to-18-year-olds came to the church, attending Sunday School, an evening Bible study, a Friday-night youth group, and trips away. Many had grown up in the church, and he suggested that they were best-placed to reach out to peers who had not done so. There were "great benefits" to having paid youth-workers, he said, but he acknowledged that "it's not always a possibility for everybody and lay people can do tremendous work as well".

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