In October, the Diocese of Bath and Wells marked the success of the first group to trial the new cascade model of Launchpad. The initiative, created by Youthscape, is aimed at nurturing youth ministry and connecting young people with the church. The program teaches church leaders how they can initiate youth work in their church and in doing so, strengthen the bond between young people and the church. This is the first time Launchpad has been delivered by a diocesan team and it has already begun to yield promising results and has gathered praise from the first Bath and Wells participants.
The Revd Guy Scott, Vicar at St John’s Church, Midsomer Norton, was one of those who took part, he said, “I found the course really helpful and encouraging. It made you reflect on what you’ve got and not what you don’t have – and there was no pressure to take anything forward. I went into it not feeling confident that I knew how to engage with young people, but it made me realise I could! With my colleague's past teaching experience, and his engagement with our church school, we have made positive steps in transforming the relationship with our school.
"The Launchpad course has helped us to focus in on an initiative which we can manage, and will enable us to develop a good relationship with year six pupils. The school has agreed that their year six classes can visit the church once every half-term during the school day. The sessions will involve the children exploring and experiencing the space in church, getting to know it and sharing their thoughts on how they would like to spend the time when they visit in future. Our hope is, as they move on to secondary school in the future, that they will know they have a connection to our church and feel a sense of belonging into the future.”
A celebration event to mark the completion of the program by the first cohort, brought together clergy participants and parish colleagues, to acknowledge their achievements. Bishop Ruth and the Revd Alice Smith, Head of Launchpad UK, awarded each a certificate. During the event, clergy members talked about the newfound confidence that taking part in Launchpad has given them and shared the initiatives with young people that are already beginning to emerge in their parishes and schools.
- Two Year 6 transition projects: supporting this year group during their transition from primary to senior school and linking them with the life and traditions of the church. It is hoped that both initiatives will develop into new youth groups owned and shaped by the young people themselves.
- School lunchtime clubs: For Year 6 students, these clubs aim to facilitate a joint youth pilgrimage shared between two neighbouring parishes.
- Year 7 Sunday evening group: A new monthly gathering for young people who recently transitioned to separate secondary schools, helping them to keep in touch with one another and providing a space for reflection about God.
- After-school drop-in: A potential new initiative for Year 6 students to use the church space for activities like enjoying hot chocolate and as somewhere they can access homework support.
- Benefice vision reshaping: Focusing on intentionally linking youth ministry with community arts and music projects and forging closer connections with schools.
- Sunday morning youth ministry growth: Growing the Sunday morning youth ministry and exploring the development of a new homework club.
- Closer links with secondary school chaplaincy: Strengthening connections with secondary school chaplains.
Tony Cook, Head of Growing Faith and Everyday Faith and Adviser for Bath Archdeaconry, says “Launchpad is not a one-size-fits-all blueprint for youth ministry but can serve as a window into the world of young people growing up today and the role faith can play in their lives. This came across in each one of the stories shared by our first cohort.
"As a diocese we are committed to Launchpad, because we recognise its potential to support churches of all sizes and traditions with limited or no previous engagement with young people. Helping them to start something small that can organically grow. Launchpad is not just a program; it's a journey of faith, hope, and connection.”
Looking ahead, the diocese is already on the lookout for its second cohort of 10-12 clergy members who would like to be part of the next Launchpad journey, which starts in March 2024. If you want to hear more about Launchpad, please email Tony.Cook@bathwells.anglican.org