PSALMS love to encourage and support Churches in their ministry. St Pauls in Cheltenham have been kicking a ball around in their local park for years, serving as a regular point of contact to build lasting relationships with the local young people in the community.
In the last year, they have seen a regular core attend and enjoy sessions. For instance, in the summer (2018), they would regularly have 12+ young people enjoy a kick around. This proved to a be a very fulfilling time, as perceptions of ‘church’ were broken down by the normal and kind-hearted nature of the St Pauls members.
Since September, there were steady numbers, until the clocks went back and the weather became a bit more unpredictable. Typically, the St Pauls community football would cease over the winter, as numbers would fall away going into the cold/darker months. Through the transition into the winter, it seemed best to try something indoors in a bid to retain numbers and pick up the outdoor football again around Easter. Trying to maneuver the session indoors to maintain engagement with the young people didn’t work out as we expected.
St Pauls began this journey of community sport very organically. It thrived without clever strategy, because of the safe space created for the young people, where they could play and encounter genuine, loving Christian community. We tried to take this indoors but were not able to get many young people into the leisure center, seeing only 6/7 of the teens throughout the whole winter – averaging 3 a session.
God is good and he knows what he is doing. We thought we had found a way to sustain numbers and keep the community sport going, but it didn’t work out as planned. Instead, God opened the door to partner with the local youth club, seeing (on the first week) over 20 younger children come and encounter a fun, safe, Christian setting for them to explore and feel at home in.
Through November and December, numbers varied between 8-20, with the older and younger youth able to explore faith, ask questions and have some really precious moments together as we all discussed what being a Christian looks like today.
Pray that going into the remaining winter months and then into Spring, we can discern what God is up to, manage the wide age range and see God’s Kingdom come in the local St Paul’s Community.
Oli Porter, PSALMS Intern (2019)