Jason Bowles - Youth and Children's Worker

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Jason came to Wokingham after growing up in Harrow. He is enthusiastic about working with vulnerable people and hopes to use this in his role as youth and children's worker at All Saints and Wokingham Methodist Churches. He has many years' experience of leading youth and children's groups at his previous church and has mentored young people in Care. He is happy to admit to never having really grown up and still enjoys having fun! Jason is keen to work with young people who are already 'churched' and those who are yet to find God - in fact any young person who could benefit from empowerment, support, activities and community.

Annual Report (February 2019)

Friends Social Group (for 13-17 year olds)

During the end of 2018 I began planning for a youth home group for older teens.  It was felt that there is a gap in support from churches in Wokingham for this age group. Fortnightly, from Sunday 17th March 2019 I will be leading on the new Friends Social Group. During each session we will watch an episode of the comedy sitcom – Friends – which often raises issue's relevant to young people.  We will discuss which issues relate and also look at what the Bible says.  The aim is to develop friendship, fund, discussion and prayer.  Towards the end of 2018 I have gathered together a number of volunteers to help me run this project and in early 2019 have started promoting it.

Feast Friday youth drop-in

In December 2017 we started running Feast youth drop-in at the Bradbury Centre.  Anyone of ages 13-16 were welcomed and the drop-in featured an element of cooking and eating together.  Just as Jesus did with his followers.  The project ran for three terms with the help of youth workers and volunteers from Wokingham Baptist Church, Norreys Church and Kings Church.  An average of 12 young people attended each fortnightly session and the group bonded well. We were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate young people with autism.  At the start of summer 2018, Wokingham Council came to us to encourage us to bid for funding to expand the drop-in to run weekly.  One of the councillor's son's was a Feast regular.

But it was with great sadness that this project has now come to an end. For a number of practical reasons we didn't have the capacity to run it weekly, and the strain was beginning to show on everyone involved in the project.  We officially ended this project at the end of the summer 2018 term, but continue to run the occasional event, inviting ex-Feast young people.  Many of the group have been signposted to other projects that they can benefit from.

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Andrew Honeyman and the Methodist Church choir for putting up with the noise on a Friday night and to Kings Church, Norreys Church and Wokingham Baptist Church for helping this project run for as long as it did.

The Youth Church 'Experiment' (working title)

This is a project I've been working on since the end of 2018. If it works as it should, it will become a proper youth church on a Friday night in central Wokingham, with a youth band, teaching and discussion. The dual aim of this project is to empower young people in Wokingham to develop and run their own church with the support and teaching of qualified youth workers.

Parent and Toddler Group

On average 26 parents and toddlers attend this group. We provide play equipment, crafts and nursery rhymes. This group still performs really strongly and of late, numbers of toddlers have been over 30 per session.  The established group of volunteers do an amazing job. Late 2018/early 2019 saw a number of new, regular volunteers which was also exciting.

Chaos Club

Chaos Club is still going strong, despite moving from weekly to fortnightly. It takes place on a Tuesday between 4.30pm and 6pm at the Bradbury Centre. Average attendance is around eight children these days. Those who attend take part in fun, crafts, run around games and sometimes simple cooking. I will be honest and say that 2018 has been a challenge with this group. For a number of non-connected reasons we have lost a lot of volunteers and are still struggling to find replacements. But I will try to continue to make this group a success. Hopefully 2019 will see a brighter future.

Dr Lesley Gray – Messy Science session

This year started with a bang – literally! – as my friend Dr Lesley Gray came to the Methodist Church to run a Messy Science session for the children.  They had an amazing time and I received very good feedback from parents and children alike.  Lesley will be coming back to Wokingham in the summer of 2019 to run another session at Summer Holiday Club.

One Way UK Puppet Workshop

Way back in early February 2018 I organised for Christian puppet ministry – One Way UK – to come to the Methodist Church to run a puppet workshop for all ages.  Much fun was had by all.  Later in December 2018, a puppeteer from a locally based puppet group and also linked to One Way UK (Naomi Holloway), came along to the Chaos Club Christmas Party and ran a basic puppetry skills workshop for the children.

Other youth and children's work I've taken part in throughout the year – outreach in Wokingham

All Saints X-Plore Youth Church

X-Plore is All Saints Church Sunday morning youth church and runs every Sunday in term time from 9.15am until 10.20am.  We start with breakfast, provided by volunteers, then have around forty minutes of bible study and discussion.  X-Plore wouldn't happen without the small but superb volunteer team who help out.  We have an average turnout of around ten young people and this year the numbers have grown nicely.

All Saints School Collective Worship

Around once a month I lead Collective Worship at All Saints School.  The whole school attend and it gives us the chance to share bible stories and themes such as peace, honesty and humility.  All of which are vital to the school curriculum.

Norreys Wednesday Club

I recently added myself back on the rota to help run this group, which takes place weekly at Norreys Church. It is aimed at children from school years 3-7.  The group is usually well attended and acts like a drop-in with table tennis, video games, craft and sports in the hall. It's a good chance for me to get to know some of the young people who attend All Saints and Keephatch Schools, plus serve the Norreys community.

Norreys Community Group

I am now a member of the Steering Group for this project, aimed at developing practical projects across the Norreys Estate.

Sunday Tea Service

I have started to help run a special church service on every third Sunday of the month at Norreys Church.  It aims to use simple examples and modern language to teach people with additional needs about Jesus. The aim of the group is to be inclusive and everyone is welcome.

Wokingham Youth Christmas Party

I helped as one of the leaders of the Wokingham Youth Christmas Party at Kings Church, which was aimed at young people across Wokingham.  The event was a success and attendees received a three course festive meal and took part in a silent disco.

Open the Book at Westende School

Every Wednesday during term time, myself and others from the Wokingham church community go to Westende School to present a bible story from the Open the Book series.  This is a bible learning course specifically aimed at children and in bite sized form.  We present each story as a drama sketch to the whole school assembly.

Schools Work through Soulscape

At the end of the summer term and the start of the autumn term, myself and other volunteers supported children through the difficult transition period from Junior to Secondary School.  This was as part of a team organised by the Wokingham Christian charity Soulscape.  This involved befriending children and being there during their introduction day to their new schools, and being involved with transitions workshops.  During winter of 2018 I also helped out with a new programme of training provided by Soulscape, called Give and Take.

Conclusion

It has been another busy year, with ups and downs.  Some projects have remained steadily successful – such as Parent and Toddler Group.  While others have fluctuated.  Despite going fortnightly, I have tried to be more creative with the activities I plan for Chaos Club and the children that do attend still love coming.

It was a big shame to see the end of the Feast youth drop-in, but hopefully the aim is to replace it with more targeted projects such as the Friends Social Group and the Friday Youth Church.

As per usual I have seen my role as serving the youth and children of Wokingham as a whole and not just those that come in to contact with Wokingham Methodist Church.  There have been numerous opportunities to do so over the last year and will be moving forward in 2019.

Jason Bowles