Young leaders from Peterborough Diocese, aged between 11 and 14, started an adventure by getting on a mini-bus at All Saints Clipson on 5 November. The beginning of their venture was travel to Midshires Covert for a fire themed day with games, sharing, learning and walking together.
There was a bonfire, a wide game ‘Capture the Flag’ and a chance to talk about faith. At one point they went on a walk through the woods and in a tunnel.
Becky Wills, Archdeaconry Youth Missioner for Northampton, said: “It was very dark on the way there through a disused railway tunnel. You could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but all around you it was very dark.
“We had already sat around the bonfire and talked about sparks that kept their faith alive.”
“As we headed into the tunnel, we asked them to think about the times that are dark and difficult – think about the sparks that light the darkness and light all around you.”
In the middle of the tunnel there was a chimney shaft which allows a pool of light in the middle of the darkness. “we gathered in the pool of light and prayed for each other.”
Becky was very positive about the experience: “The inspire days are brilliant. Particularly with this age group, they are so open. They inspire us. We come away very encouraged.”
There were eight churches all across the diocese that sent their Junior inspire leaders. The young people are selected by each of their churches. Becky explained that usually they were doing something at their church, such as helping out in the welcome team, working in Messy Church or making coffee.
“Junior Inspire is generally open to young people who are already in some sort of position of leadership – or have been identified by someone as a potential leader.”
This was important as it was the first step of a leadership track: Junior Inspire, Inspire, Internship was a possibility then, and then possibly ending up in ordination.
Becky was quick to say: “They don’t have to be part of the ordination track – or any track at all, it’s good in itself to learn leadership.”
Junior Inspire came about because of the Inspire programme that Pete White, the Diocesan Youth Officer, has been running for a number of years for 14 – 18 year olds.
Becky explained: “We discovered that there were quite a lot of churches that didn’t have many or any young people over the age of 14 – but they had tweenagers (between the ages of 10-14). Those children were in the situation that they were outgrowing children’s work. These young people were often asked to help out in church, and so were already leaders. We thought rather than wait until they were 14 to join Insipire, it would be better to “Inspire” them now.
The Missioners worked with Rona Orme, Children’s Missioner, because it spanned the age group she works with as well.
“There has been church growth research which finds in order to stay in the church, young people need meaningful roles. They want to be part of the whole inter generational family, to feel significant and important. There is a much better chance of them staying if they have these roles – and that they’re not tokenistic. It’s a kind of investment in this group as a contra-strategy to help them feel valued and at the heart of things. And for them to take that back to their churches and model that.”
Junior Inspire started last year with a week of prayer for youth. “The second one was February, and then we also have it as a strand at Starburst where they were given the opportunity to join the workshops at there. They also put together the worship for the day.”
Junior Inspire days happen three times a year.
“The inspire days – when you meet particularly this age group, they are so open. They inspire us. We come away very encouraged.”