Getting in and Getting on

Abbeywood Community School
Joel Preston, youth minister
Stoke Gifford, Kingswood & South Gloucestershire

The youth worker at St Michael’s began engaging the church with the school without any kind of agenda and has moved to relationships of deep trust, a growing church youth group and seeing young people come to know Christ. For both pupils and school leaders, their work has been a model of God’s being revealed through acts of service.

Joel is full-time youth minister at St Michael’s and looks after the church’s two interns. Building a link with Abbeywood, a secondary with between 800 and 900 pupils, was begun by looking at what could be offered to the school. He tried to find out from Ofsted reports and from the teachers what the school’s needs were. The school asked the team to look at providing lunch clubs. These were offered based on the team’s own expertise (e.g. guitar, French). At one point, each of the four members was running two clubs.

As the team became more established in the school, building a reputation for quality clubs, they began to take collective worship, and then to liaise with the Special Educational Needs and the Student Support teams. A need was identified to mentor pupils on the verge of exclusion and now the school trusts the team to the extent that monthly meetings with these pupils occur, organised by the school’s Achievement Mentor. Pupils feel safe and respected enough to talk about their personal difficulties.

The team’s holding a weekly Christian Union is an overt sign of their faith. The general principle for clubs and mentoring, though, is to explain what motivates their acts of service only when asked. Even so, they were encouraged by the school to advertise the church’s own youth programme. By providing fun activities and, importantly, by building trusting relationships, one of the school lunch clubs saw pupils come to the church youth club and on to Kainos (a monthly worship event) where they committed to following Christ.

Taking stock of where they’re at every 6 months is an important way to see how things are progressing and making sure the school is being served as best as possible.

Read more about how Joel pioneered the school link: Google ‘Joel Preston getting started in schools’.