Be brave and have a go

Kirsty O'Grady shares her leadership journey of establishing the Spoons Young Adults Congregation in Widnes.



How did the young adult's congregation start?


A few years ago, the curate at St Paul's and the South Widnes Team Ordinand realised that there was very little provision for young adults in our town who wanted to go deeper with their faith in Jesus. They decided to start an informal young adults (18-30s) group in Wetherspoons which I joined. We would eat together before doing some sort of bible discussion/study, praying and be sent out. After a couple of years, this was going really well and the group grew, multiplying to two nights rather than one. One of these groups my friend and I took on leading and the group grew both numerically and spiritually. After about a year, we realised that we were losing momentum and something needed to change. It was around this time that it looked like I would step up to lead the young adult work and take it in a different direction. Coincidently, this just so happened to be the time that our Archdeacon visited Deanery Synod to talk to us about how low the number of young people and young adults there are in our churches and to introduce us to the Joshua Centre. 

Why did you want to lead the congregation?

I was 21 when we started looking into this and it was just so obvious to me that the people that I went to school with need Jesus. The thought that so many people my age in Widnes are living with issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness and little aspiration was awful to me. I wanted to do something about it and I knew all I could do was offer to introduce people to the living God. I was also really passionate that a young adults congregation in Widnes would look different to a young adults community in the middle of a thriving university city and as a Widnes girl, I wanted to have a go at investigating what that would look like.

What difference has it made to the local community?

Many of our young adults have come to us in a place of real anxiety and pain. Due to meeting Jesus and being welcomed into this congregation, they have grown in their confidence and so their love for others. As such, they have all become servants within the wider church and wider community helping in different ways such as with community meals, technological support, gardening and pastoral care.

Some of our members, including myself, either attend or have gone into our local sixth form and FE colleges. This has been great in building relationships with staff and students alike and so it has formed a stronger bond with them. I went in to teach the RE and Philosophy class about the Christian perspective on all they had been learning. That was a fantastic experience for me and hopefully the students too. It certainly got them asking a lot of questions, my favourite was "so how do you get to know God?" It has meant that when there have been moments of crisis or real pain, which there, unfortunately, have been, in the life of the college they have known that there are extra people to call on for support. Additionally, it has encouraged some of them to join work schemes which will obviously enhance the local community too.

How did the Joshua Centre support you in becoming a leader and establishing a new worshiping community?

I had led one of the small groups at church before but I really wasn't sure how to go about starting something new and missional that would grow and multiply. The Joshua Centre gave me and my team some really helpful principles to think about and implement. Also, knowing that there was a team praying for us and supporting us was really helpful for me on the difficult days. It has to be said that the finances helped too! The financial support from the Joshua Centre meant that I was able to be employed specifically to focus on Young Adult ministry. This was so important as it gave me time to meet the young adults already there to chat and pray, I had time to reach out into the local community (such as the colleges etc.) and some good planning time too which I was really grateful for!

Feeling Inspired? Kirsty's advice...

• Be brave and have a go! You really don't need to worry or be afraid - the team at the Joshua Centre are so encouraging and understanding.

• Accept that it's going to be tough. Don't expect things to go perfectly, especially if it's your first time having a go at this kind of stuff. 

• It's not someone else's job - it's yours too. Try not to get bogged down with thoughts of the sort of leaders you know and think you can't be like them - neither can I - but Jesus (and the Joshua Centre) don't ask you to - be you... 

• Some things that are taught and some things that happen will go totally over your head - that's okay! Ask lots of questions.

Are you interested in starting a new congregation? Need more information about what it involves? Be inspired about starting a worship group of your own, and find out what the next steps might be for you at our event taking place on 24th January 2019.