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 2018)

Friday Night Project/Feast

Wokingham Methodist Church (i.e. me!) became involved with the Friday Night Project back in September, when Kings Church and I decided to continue with this project – aimed at young people in school years 7-13. During the autumn term the Friday Night Project ran at Kings Place in Station Road. We saw volunteers helping out from Kings Church, the Baptist Church and Norreys Church, but sadly no one from the Methodist Church. On average around 12 young people came to the Friday Night Project and it ran four times from September to December. We also held a prayer meeting in early September which was well attended. In December we decided to change the format, venue and name of the Friday Night Project. From January 2018 it became "Feast", and is held at the Bradbury Centre, it features a cooking and eating together element. We are excited about the future of this vitally needed youth project.

Parent and Toddler Group

Every Thursday during term time, from 9.30am to 10.45am, at the Bradbury Centre. On average 26 parents and toddlers attend this group. We provide play equipment, crafts and nursery rhymes.

Chaos Club

Chaos Club is the weekly (during term time) group at the Bradbury Centre, for 5-11 year olds. It takes place on a Tuesday between 4.30pm and 6pm. Average attendance is around 14 children. This group has slowly expanded over the last year. Those who attend take part in fun, crafts, run around games and sometimes simple cooking.

Outreach

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 10.10am. 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. The numbers of young people attending vary so much, from zero on some Sundays to around eight on rare occasions. Sunday morning bible study groups for young people are struggling across the churches nationwide, and we are not alone. Despite our huge efforts to make this session viable, we may need to review how we serve our young people. I will be reflecting on potential for youth bible study at other times in the week and at other venues. But I hope that we will still be able to provide Sunday morning bible study for those that wish to benefit from it.

All Saints Messy Church

Messy Church runs every fortnight in term time, on a Tuesday after school. A team of dedicated volunteers host this church within itself, which is mainly attended by young families. The group meets in the Cornerstone. On average 25 people attend each session. We provide craft, stories, snacks, music, games and of course, worship and bible stories.

All Saints School Collective Worship

Every Wednesday during term time, David Hodgson (vicar at All Saints) and I take it in turns to 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 Childrens Club

Every other week during term time, I help out at Norreys Church Wednesday Club. The attendance fluctuates but it 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, and to serve the Norreys community.

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.

Community Light Party

Back in October, I organised a community Light Party as a Christian alternative to Halloween. Around 25 children aged 5-11 turned up, with the first part of the party happening in the cemetery at All Saints. We hosted a pumpkin hunt which was very well received by all. I used tea-lights to give the pumpkins an authentic feel. The second half of the party took place at the Wokingham Methodist Church Bradbury Centre where we hosted craft, games, food and a light disco. The children also took part in a short worship service.

Schools Transitions 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.

Summer Holiday Subsidised School Meals 'Lunch Pack'

During the summer holidays, a few of us from churches in Wokingham got together to run a lunch club, aimed at helping families who receive subsidised school meals during term time. Each week on a Thursday we hosted this at the Bradbury Centre. A number of families benefitted from this free meal and the additional activities we put on for the children.

Montague Park Estate community event

During autumn, a number of us from local churches in Wokingham helped at a community event on Montague Park estate, organised by Wokingham Baptist Church. A big number of families attended and thoroughly enjoyed craft tables, drinks and a treasure hunt. It was a great way to support families on the new estate.

Conclusion

2017 was a year of progress, with all of our groups continuing to develop. There was a lot of effort and creative ideas put in by groups of talented volunteers, without whom, none of our youth or children's groups would be able to run. Times have changed and across the nationwide church network, it has been seen to be more difficult to run groups on a Sunday morning. This has led to much discussion and research as to the best way to serve young people going forward. I will continue to research in to how we can reach out to young people in Wokingham, and work with colleagues across Wokingham churches in order to do so. The future most likely involves more outreach in to the community. Us going to them rather than them simply coming to us.

Jason Bowles