This three-year project part-funded by the Trust employed a youth development worker to grow gifts, skills and confidence in youth work amongst volunteers from local churches in Birmingham’s Warley deanery.
Warley Church of England Deanery covers 11 parishes on the border between Birmingham and Sandwell local authorities. It is a lively, diverse area which also contains areas of acute social need. The local Anglican churches have worked well together to serve the needs of the area over a number of years, including through its deanery youth project, the Unity Project. In the late 2000s, the churches of the deanery decided they needed to step up their engagement with local young people. Between 2008 and 2011, the Trust was one of several charities supporting a youth work project with a difference. Rather than simply employing a youth worker, the Unity Project opted for a different approach: the engagement of an experienced youth worker (Steve Alexander, in a partnership with youth work organisation Worth Unlimited) to focus their efforts of developing local churches’ gifts, confidence and skills in working with young people themselves. After three years’ part-time intervention, the intention was that more of the churches within the deanery would feel equipped to undertake their own youth work on a more sustainable basis.
By the end of the initial project in 2011, five new initiatives had begun in churches across the deanery, with two more in the pipeline. The project offers some wider lessons for the creation of ‘facilitator’ type posts to grow the gifts, skills and confidence of local churches to engage with their communities themselves.