Guest Blog

The Centenary Project… growing the church younger

In 2014, the year of Diocese of Sheffield’s Centenary, a significant decision was made to use £1 million of reserve funds into a new, 10-year initiative to create a step change in ministry with children, families and young people.  Now three years later, that money has grown 12 Centenary Project Workers so far, people placed in parishes across the diocese to engage, nurture and disciple children, families and young people.

The Project has grown incrementally with progress that has significantly exceeded our targets. 

In the first year the target was to engage with an additional 600 children and young people through the project.  Our data shows that our growing team of workers have engaged with 1,496 children and young people.  The first nine churches with Centenary Project Workers have also seen a 28% rise in Average Weekly Attendance in 2015-2016, compared to a diocese-wide growth of 1%.

“Due to the popularity of the Project, key workers have been appointed faster than originally planned, and the initial £1m will be used up ahead of time” says Centenary Project Leader, Helen Cockayne.  “This is why we are approaching the National Church of England’s Commissioners asking them to support our ambition to grow this exciting network of workers who are trained, supported and mentored to facilitate excellent ministry in their local churches.”

The diocese is now waiting to hear the success of phase two of the application process for Strategic Development Funding, requesting £1.5 million in order to appoint a further 10-15 full or part-time workers. This is alongside three part-time Area-Coordinators who will work closely with churches on their applications for a worker, to mentor a number of workers in post and to oversee the Centenary Project network across a designated area.  This could unlock a further 2,000 new relationships with children, families and young people.  News of whether the diocese has been successful in its application or not is expected by the end of 2017/early 2018

“I want to see my community transformed.  I want to see young people achieving things they never thought possible.  With the Centenary Project, I’m confident that this will happen,” says Dan Fall, Centenary Project Worker.

Our Centenary Project directly addresses some of the main reasons why many youth or children’s workers positions have failed in the past,” says Children and Young People’s Adviser for the diocese, Mike North.  “Workers will leave if they are overworked, or feel under-valued or unappreciated.  Paid workers also dropout due to poor line-management, or unrealistic-expectations from clergy, PCC members or parents.  The other reason is money.  Churches save up enough to appoint someone, but often fail to work out a strategy for raising the funds necessary to continue the post.  The Centenary Project provides achievable objectives for workers, and support for clergy.  It provides payroll services, and looks after recruitment.  Workers join a network that prays together, and are trained, supported and mentored.  Churches agree to support the ministry and workers by volunteering, praying and raising additional finance to support their worker long-term.”

“Our workers are not there to do it all, but to focus on drawing others into ministry with children, families and young people,” says Project Leader, Helen.  “They build up teams of volunteers and develop pioneering new expressions of youth or children’s ministry.”

With Strategic Development Funding, the Centenary Project can also expand its work and connect more meaningfully with the work of ‘Make Your City Shine’, based in St Thomas Crookes, Sheffield.  This secondary schools-focused ministry has communicated the gospel to thousands of young people in schools across Sheffield and Doncaster over the last 5 years, and will continue to work with the Centenary Project to provide church, schools and community events, inviting young people to be disciples in their relationships with local churches.

The Strategic Development Funding will also enable us to create a new intern programme, providing a year’s work experience and training for those exploring a calling to youth or children’s ministry within the Centenary Project.

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Comment by Rev Canon Peter Wright on 10.16am 13th December 2017 Your article is so exciting. Growth among children and your people is so important/ Carry on with the good work. Our prayers are with you and all the workers in post. God Bless/ PW
Comment by Jayne Spaven on 8.28pm 12th December 2017 Exciting and positive news. Good luck for the new funding bid - the centenary workers I have engaged with have been outstanding!!

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