GRANTS of more than £9 million have been awarded to expand the Church of England’s ministry among “Generation Z”, 11- to 25-year-olds — many of whom have never set foot inside a church.
Blackburn and Blackpool, in Lancashire, will receive £3.5 million from the Church of England’s Strategic Development Fund (SDF) to promote youth ministry and social outreach; and, in Chichester diocese, £2.5 million will be used in Brighton, to develop four new church congregations, and, in Hove, to create a centre for mission.
In West Yorkshire, £1.5 million will fund church-planting in student areas in Leeds and Huddersfield; and, in Devon, £1.5 million will be used to address social problems among young people and families in Torbay.
Funding of £407,000 has also been awarded to St Paul’s, Slough, in Berkshire, to support social outreach, training of lay ministers, and intercultural work in the Oxford diocese.
The Church of England’s national youth-evangelism officer, Jimmy Dale, said: “It is so exciting to see the Church engaging with students and young people in a way that, historically, we have often fallen short. Young people — the ‘Generation Z’ of 11- to 25 year olds — have faced enormous challenges as a result of the pandemic, not just socially and financially, but educationally, and with regard to mental health. The message of the good news of Jesus Christ offers this generation a real beacon of hope.”
In Devon, the money will help to establish the Bay Church at St Andrew’s, Paignton, which, with Torquay and Brixham, makes up the English Riviera district of Torbay. It has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the south-west, and a large population of young people and families.
The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Revd Nick McKinnel, said: “For a long time, the Church of England’s presence in Torbay has been under resourced; so it is great to see the Church Commissioners’ willingness to invest in work with families and children across the Bay.” Two more churches are planned in the near future.
Bay Church will be led by the Revd Matt Bray, an Assistant Curate at Harbour Church, Portsmouth. He said: “Torbay is a place of incredible beauty, yet under the surface there are some areas around family life which are quite sad.
“In the last year, particularly with the pandemic, there has been a greater strain on young people and family life, especially in single-parent homes. There are also problems around domestic violence and hospital admissions for self-harm among young people.
“It’s exciting to be able to join in with the already-great work that is going on with the churches there, not just the C of E churches, and start something new.”
St Andrew’s is one of three churches in the Paignton parish, but its weekly Wednesday-morning service has been suspended since the pandemic struck last year. It is currently used as a foodbank.
Mr Bray will move to Torbay this summer to build up his new community, and hopes to launch regular Sunday services next Easter.
“I see my role as two-pronged,” he said. “I am definitely not a social worker, but my example would be Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. He recognised that people were hungry, and he fed them, but he also preached the good news of Jesus. If you just talk about Jesus and don’t feed them, it won’t have as much impact.”