My youth group on Ventures
'This summer, I brought eight young people from St Peter's with me to Sizewell, aged 16-18 (you can see us all dressed up for the last night banquet in the above photo!). There's something special for them about going on a residential together and spending time deepening their friendships both with each other and with others from elsewhere. Most of my group go to the same school and are from similar backgrounds, so it's a great experience for them to meet other Christian peers from different backgrounds.
'We do something called "blessings" at Sizewell which really helps build community among the young people. At the start of the week, everyone is anonymously assigned someone else to bless. They then put "blessings" in an envelope for that person. It can be anything from a Bible verse to something they made in a craft session, a book from the bookshop, a card, a funny story or anything else the person might like. It's all very exciting and secretive, and it's a great way to encourage the young people to get to know each other. It always feels like Christmas when we give out all the envelopes at the end!
'As well as meeting young people from elsewhere, Sizewell is also a great chance for my group to meet other leaders, and hear teaching which is often quite different in style to what we do at youth group meetings. Sometimes I'll see my young people really understand something at a heart level for the first time during the Venture. Something about being away together and getting so much extra input can really help things to click into place.
'Back at church, I've often heard young people mentioning things they learnt at Sizewell, and seen evidence of the renewed enthusiasm and confidence the Venture gives them, as they come back keen to share their experiences and put into practice what they've learnt. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and inspires both the younger children and the church at large. The congregation prays during the week we are away, and we all see something of the impact as they come back stronger in their faith, and wanting to get more involved in things like leading Sunday school and taking part in services.
'As a youth leader, one of the most encouraging things for me about bringing my group to Sizewell is getting a glimpse of how they're growing and developing year on year. When you see them every week, it's sometimes hard to see them changing, so it's lovely for me when other leaders at Sizewell say to me, "Jo, they've really changed and grown since last year!"'
Jo Smith is overall leader at the Sizewell Venture and has just begun studying at theological college following six years as the youth minister at St Peter's Halliwell in Bolton.
Inspired by this story?