A Vision Of Hope

Hello friends! Our team are really excited to invite you to this year’s “A Vision of Hope” Conference and Celebration on 15th July 2023 inside Christ Church Southport.

If you’ve followed the work of SASW Trust for a little while you’ll probably know of two things we are usually heavily involved with each year: Sonfest Music Festival and our own End of Year Celebrations. Due to a few complications, the Sonfest team opted not to run the usual music festival outreach this year. Instead, we decided to bring the two events together, for some time of celebration, equipping and encouraging one another in our church communities and individual lives to live missionally, bringing Christian hope to all. Sounds good right?!

We’ll start the day with our SASW Trust celebration at 11am, spending some time celebrating the amazing ways hope has been spreading throughout thousands of young people in schools this year and even hearing from some of them directly. Following a break for lunch, we’re going to spend some focussed time together, hearing some inspiring keynote talks and round table discussion about our missional purpose as Christians in and around Southport – particularly regarding something that has been on our heart a lot this year: the great need amongst young people for hope right now. We’re seeing this more and more everyday in our schools, and we are desperate to help young see beyond their uncertainty of the future, lack of aspiration or ambition.

As part of this, we’re partnering up with the nation-wide year of mission, “HOPE 23-24”, which aims to unite the church across denominations and organisations to offer the hope of Jesus to the nation for a year of mission starting in September 2023. Christian leaders up and down the country committing to praying, planning, and working together with their denominations and organisations to launch local initiatives and projects. When we first heard about this, we were blown away with how much we felt God providing us with a vision of hope for the young people of Southport – so we’re saying: “bring it on!”

We’ll also round off the day with a time of worship and prayer for Southport, led by favourite artists from the Sonfest family. We’re really blessed that they’ve agreed to come and still be a part of the day!

Mrs Taberner’s Teacher Training

teach dice ornament on table
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Post lockdowns, the first face to face schools work that I (Hettie) was able to do, was to teach a series of lessons in a Primary School. After not seeing children or young people face to face for months, it was quite emotional for me and I absolutely loved it! During these lessons I felt a very strong feeling that I was supposed to give the rest of my working life to teaching.

It came out of nowhere (well, not quite nowhere; when I was a child, I always said that I wanted to be a teacher  when I grew up- maybe I’m finally growing up!). I went home after the lessons and prayed and asked God to make it clear if it was what He wanted me to do. There were multiple things that happened, one of which was finding out that the only University in the country to do a part-time Primary Education degree was… 20 minutes away! Lots of things fell into place and God answered my prayers in through multiple avenues. I applied and was accepted onto the course and started in September last year. It is a part-time programme at Edge Hill University that takes 4 years to complete! I have still been working full-time for SASWT during this year and have found my studies to be very beneficial for my work in schools and my role as a school Governor.

After Easter, I was blessed to be able to complete my school placement at Ainsdale St. John’s Primary School. This is a school that we hadn’t been into as much as we did pre-lockdowns, so I was very excited to get involved- plus this is the school where I first felt that I was supposed to go into teaching. I worked in Year 5 with an amazing team who I really enjoyed working with and made me laugh everyday! I observed quality teaching and gradually taught more lessons myself. It was a learning curve but I was very well supported! Some subjects such as P.E, R.E, P.S.H.E, R.S.E- all the subjects with acronyms, I was comfortable teaching due to my work, however I hadn’t ever taught core subjects like Maths and English. I nudged myself out of my comfort zone and found that I really enjoyed teaching English – I’m so used to sharing stories from The Bible with children, that I think this is what made it easier. The main subject that I loved to teach was music. Although I am a relatively musical person, I had never taught music before. I enjoyed the flexibility to be creative, use instruments, go outdoors, compose music, create an ensemble and write a parody song with the class. On the final week, we looked at how music can affect our mood. It was particularly good to see them enjoy music by Christian artists that they didn’t expect was Christian, and to share how worship music can uplift us. My growing confidence in teaching music, led us to start a children’s Gospel choir for Sonfest (see other post).

I found myself becoming more and more comfortable with teaching different subjects, but that is not all teachers do. My experience of pastoral support and our Secondary School Safe Spaces meant that I was able to offer social and emotional support to the children too. This is all the more needed after the ups and downs children have had over the past few years. One of the things that I was blessed to be part of was the ‘Sing for joy’ club. Children meet after school with an incredible teacher and they sing, because singing is good for our mental health, no matter what age we are. I taught the children some new Christian songs that they loved and were then happy to lead with me in school collective worship. It was wonderful to be part of this, as I would as a visitor to school. I supported aspects of collective worship and led class worship when we needed it last minute.

There is so much that I could say about my placement (ask Tabz, he had to endure a full excitable debrief every evening). I have never felt that I have thrived so much in my life! I loved every day and it was encouraging to feel certain that this is right where God wants me to be. Everything that I have done in my working life so far has given me skills that I can use as a teacher. I enjoy many things that the majority of teachers are less inclined towards e.g. P.E, assemblies, music, R.E, clubs, productions and feel that I could really contribute towards the spiritual life of a school.

I am very excited for the future, although I still have 3 years before I qualify, so I can use my learning to boost our work in schools. I’m full of ideas of what resources I can help develop for SASW Trust whilst I’m getting some valuable input from university, my tutors and school placements. It feels like a while off yet, but I’m really hoping by the time I move on to my first teaching job, my teacher training will have enabled me to have left a significant mark on SASW Trust, in the development and growth of our work, as well as great resources, professional links and opportunities for those who follow after me.

From Year 6 to Year 7

One of the best bits of working across primary and secondary schools is the way we get to keep our relationships with children and young people going across their transition from Year 6 to Year 7. As far back as we remember, we’ve been running a fun, meaningful and reassuring transition project with primary school leavers and this year it has been great to be back doing this properly. It’s got us very excited to see all these wonderful hundreds of young people coming to our secondary school Safe Spaces for the first time in a few weeks!

From all our years of experience and the thousands of young people we’ve helped on this big step in life, we know everyone feels slightly differently about the transition to secondary school. There’s a lot of excitement, but also a lot of worry. Thankfully these days, secondary schools run some great experience days for primary school children to come and check out what they have to look forward to. I always notice how great a difference there is in their rising excitement levels and their worries easing after these great days. We find it really helpful to reflect this back to the students to show how willing we are to journey with them.

A big theme of what we share in an ‘It’s Your Move’ session is helping students process the worries they might have. Experience shows the top five worries are:

5. Detentions – often the pupils worried about detentions are the ones who will naturally avoid them, but (without sounding too much like a bore!) it’s important to remind pupils that school discipline is there to create a culture in which they can thrive both educationally and socially.

4. Getting more homework – there is usually a pretty obvious increase in the work students are expected to do outside of class and students do worry about the effect this will have.

3. Not knowing anyone – leaving primary school friends behind can be a big worry, as well as not knowing whether you will make new friends as easily. There’s lots of underlying worries here too around identity and fitting in.

2. Getting lost – we have a couple of relatively large primary schools in Southport, but even they are outsized by our secondary schools. It’s important to reassure students that there’s help at hand from understanding staff and older students.

1.Bullying – this is a big one and so important we address it. Thankfully we get to run anti-bullying workshops every year in primary schools, so by year 6 they’ve heard us talk about it quite a few times. It’s important to remind them of the advice we’ve always given, which doesn’t lose it’s effectiveness in secondary school – it’s potentially even more crucial.

We always have a great whole class discussion around worries, which is a great point to share about the many church youth leaders (both paid & voluntary) who we know around the town and give an insight into the work they do with young people in churches and the message they bring – particularly giving chance to share some paraphrased biblical wisdom:

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

Deut. 31:6 (The Message)

A great thing about being so active in the secondary schools is that over the last few months we have used some of Scripture Union’s Rooted Card questions to have a question of the week, which we ask hundreds of secondary schools students for their thoughts on during our lunchtime Safe Spaces and get some great conversations flowing (here’s a video of some of them). We used a couple of the weeks this summer term to ask “What advice would you give to a Year 6 pupil before they start secondary school?”, and “If you could meet yourself from two years ago, what advice would you give?” We then were able to throw in lots of great advice from current secondary school students into our Year 6 sessions alongside the great Top Tips that Scripture Union provide in their “It’s Your Move” books and videos.

One of the highlights of our visit to Year 6 classrooms during their last term in primary school is our Strawberry Lace Race. It sounds like a classic childrens / youth worker type game, but there’s a secret twist! Obviously, I can’t reveal what that is on a public blog – you’ll need to ask me in person and we can decide if you’re worthy of knowing one of SASW Trust’s longest kept secrets! The message that the race brings is a powerful one though. It’s a reminder to young people to put their trust in the truths they know and what they have become familiar with. It’s a reminder that for many of them we will be a familiar face for them in their next big step, because we are a Christian charity believing in a faithful God who wants us to demonstrate his commitment to be with them always.

If you’re a praying person, please do remember our amazing 11 year olds starting secondary school over the next few weeks.

Sonfest Southport – Back to our roots!

What a way to finish off our academic year! We were thrilled to play a major part in relaunching Southport’s very own free Christian music festival with lots of children and young people from a very busy term of work in schools.

In my first 9 months of working for SASW Trust, back in 2014, I felt led to help out my friend Tina Powsey in her outreach role for the Methodist Circuit to pioneer a local Christian music festival in the town centre – Sonfest Southport. The idea was to present the life-giving, life-changing message of Jesus Christ through live music and offer a day filled with free, awesome live music of a variety of styles from jazz to indie, to alternative and to gospel. At the heart of the town centre, I knew it would attract local families and young people that we knew from schools, but I never expected it would still be such a huge highlight of our schools ministry year all these years later.

Back To Our Roots

We were uncertain what to expect in 2022. The last festival was in July 2019, before the pandemic, and saw around 2000 people gather at Kings Gardens. We had been taking quality Christian bands from The Message Trust into secondary schools all week – experts in the field of musical performance and upfront communication with young people. They then all got together to put on an after-hours evening of hyped up fun, music, and Good News sharing on the Sonfest stage. Lots of young people came from schools and responded to the message they heard, which was the confirmation we needed to embark upon the epic Higher Tour early in 2020! So, three years later, what were we to expect?

When we prayed about Sonfest during the pandemic, we felt inspired to take the festival back to its roots at the bandstand where it all started. We also felt the idea of going ‘back to our roots’ was really poignant spiritually as well, after all the trials and ‘uprooting’ of the pandemic. We had in mind to plan in some ways of asking those attending the 2022 festival to consider some deep questions around where their roots in life are, using the same ‘Rooted’ resources from Scripture Union that we use in secondary schools.

We also had a great line-up planned, due to be headlined by SoulBox from The Message Trust who toured secondary schools with us in 2019. So this year we excitedly spent a term sharing with the hundreds of students at our secondary school Safe Spaces that SoulBox were coming and that Sonfest 2022 was not one to miss.

On top of that, we took some inspiration from our friend Chip Kendal with his huge Soul Children choir at Festival Manchester, and spent the last term working with St Philip’s school choir to put together an exciting performance of Gospel songs and choreographed dance. After weeks of practice, the point at which the choir performed with loads of parents and lovely school staff cheering them on brought a whole new dimension to Sonfest Southport. We really hope this is something we can continue to build on.

Along with the wonderful well-known Christian folk artist, Philippa Hanna, returning to perform alongside Pete McAllen from Pyramid Park, Vernon Fuller, and ex Greenbank High School student, Cara Cobham, we were all set for a great afternoon at the bandstand.

Last minute dilemma!

Four days to go and I get a phone call. Both members of the amazing duo that is SoulBox were put on urgent vocal rest by their doctors and had to cancel all their upcoming gigs. We were devastated for them. Of course, I also then sprung into panic mode as soon as I put the phone down – what about Saturday? Who would replace them? All the other bands of their calibre were on holiday and it was only a few days to go.

We powered through in the hope God would bring some good out of it all, which it turned out He did! With a bunch of young people expected to turn up to the bandstand that Saturday afternoon anticipating SoulBox, I had the inspiration to chase down a DJ to do a set of SoulBox’s songs. Hettie and I would be compèring the whole event anyway, so we could throw in some games, messages, competitions and energy during the DJ set.

Turns out finding a Christian DJ with just a few days notice is no easy feat either… So much so that I got to the point of buying my own set of DJ decks and learning to use them overnight!


Honestly, the whole day was amazing! All challenges to one side, I loved being involved and would highly recommend anyone reading this to attend or volunteer for future events. The best bit would have to be seeing the steady influx of young people we knew from our Safe Spaces coming by throughout the day. Lots of them popping up just to say hi and a great group of them who stuck around right through the festival, having fun with us and asking us lots of great questions about our faith. “What made you decide to become a Christian?” was probably the best one – coming from a young person of no faith background, whilst her parents we stood there listening in and happy for Hettie to share her testimony.

Even as the wonderful team of Sonfest volunteers were packing down, Hettie and I were still caught up having fun and great conversations with the young people, building on and finding real breakthrough in the relationships we’ve been working so hard on all year.

The Starting Line

This term we have had the incredible opportunity to see ‘The Starting Line’ ran in a local school and local church. ‘The Starting Line’ is a sports themed, Alpha-style video series for children, exploring the basics of the Christian faith.

The series was originally created in-house at SASW Trust by Tabz, Hettie and Emily during the pandemic as a series of videos following similar content to the ‘Alpha Course‘ created by Holy Trinity Brompton, which is now used widely by millions of people worldwide as they begin exploring the basics of the Christian faith for themselves. We felt led to create something that would provide local Children with that same opportunity but with the added benefit of being local schools workers who are well known to thousands of children in Southport. The videos are short and snappy with games, personal stories, ‘coaches tactics’ and questions to discuss – all in the theme of Good Sport. (Watch the whole series here for free.)

Our hope was that the ‘Starting Line’ could be used in local primary schools (at least in church schools), but also as a resource for local churches as a way of following on from our work in schools with the children in their neighbourhood. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen…

First up: We have used it within ‘Sweaty Church’ in a local Primary school looking at sessions on ‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did Jesus die?’, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’, ‘What is prayer?’ etc. It has been great to see the children moving beyond ‘Sunday school answer’ to considering these questions for themselves more deeply and personally.

Secondly, a local church Kids Club has been running ‘The Starting Line’ and seen massive amounts of growth in the children. Hettie is employed separately by this church on top of her work for SASW Trust, but there is huge overlap as we also work with most of the same children in school, most of whom aren’t from Christian families.

When discussing Jesus’ death and resurrection, one Y6 girl said that she had asked her Uncle on the way to the Kids Club how to become a Christian, because she had decided that she wanted to. So we talked about it as a group and 8 others (a couple being her classmates and friends) decided to respond too and made personal choice to follow Jesus! It was especially beautiful that the conversation was initiated by a child who had clearly made a personal decision that she had thought through for herself.

The next week another Y6 girl came to the club for the first time, after being invited by friends. We were discussing who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. She observed that her friends were very interested in faith and that it was normal to join in. We gave the children the opportunity to have some quiet time and tell the Holy Spirit what they need. You could have heard a pin drop (which is not normal for this group of lively kids!). The leaders really sensed the Holy Spirit and some of us had happy tears in our eyes! We then asked the children if there was anything that they would like to share or anything that they felt that the Holy Spirit had done. The new Y6 girl said that she had been worrying all week about something that was happening and that she’d asked the Holy Spirit for peace. Her face lit up as she told us that she felt very peaceful and didn’t feel worried anymore! Other children also shared excitedly what had happened in our quiet time too. It was incredible to hear the children share so honestly and comfortably in front of each other. I love the expectation that children have; when we say that the Holy Spirit can help them… they pray believing that He will do something! 

We pray each week at the Kids Club. Some children pray out loud every week, whereas others choose not to. When discussing what prayer is and why and how we pray, it was so great to see some children choose to pray who often choose not to, and one child who prayed out loud for the first time! We love that the children are taking things at their own pace and having their own journey of faith, not doing things just because others are or they think that we want them to. 

There was so much excitement when it came to discussing ‘What is The Bible?’! The children knew that we were gifting them with their own Bibles (Adventure Bibles for the younger ones and Youth Bibles for the older ones). They had lots of questions and were really excited to share what they had read, what it meant and what stood out to them! There were a number of the Y6’s in particular who were so excited to take their Bibles home and use them to develop their own faith. One of them was hugging her Bible, saying that she loves it and that she can’t wait to read it at home. We are really expectant to see what will happen over the coming weeks as these children have access to The Bible at home!

If you’re a praying person, please pray for these children and the journey that they are on. Pray that families and classmates come to find faith in God because of these children and what God is doing in their lives.

We know of another local church starting these sessions soon during their Sunday morning kids work, and we pray that those children will also grow in faith together and inspire the wider church family too. If you would like to use the Starting Line at your church or with children in your family, it’s all ready to use online from YouTube. But, we’d love it if you could let us know so we can share and encourage others with more stories like we’ve seen already! (We also have abridged versions of the videos too if you need – just get in touch)

Dream Team

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time
Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

A running theme this last term seems to have been an excitement for working together with others to bring hope to children and young people. Many of us in Christian circles, despite criticism and outward appearance, remain confident that the Church is the hope of the world – something we are seeing in action at SASW Trust.

At our last annual charity celebration we brought our supporters a message of how important working with children and young people is “at such a time as this”. We shared our heart to enable and empower a growing body of people to serve the young people of this town, practically, spiritually and prayerfully.

We’ve loved seeing the response to this in all sorts of ways. This year we had our largest team of Mission Impossible volunteers ever (read more here), with a whole bunch of new and willing ‘secret agents’ representing all sorts of different churches from across the town.

We’re seeing increasing numbers of gifted youth leaders (and even some Church leaders) getting involved with our lunchtime Safe Spaces in secondary schools. A chance to go to where young people are and journey with them pastorally. (Read more here.)

Earlier this term we ran a 3-part series of primary assemblies looking at being Community Heroes. It was really fun to explore the theme of team working in the community through a ‘dodgeball and hula-hut’ retelling of the story of Nehemiah (very chaotic, but fun & got the message across!), before looking at the different projects that Compassion Acts run in our community as an expression of teamwork (wonderfully led by Rev Patrick – one of CA’s trustees). It’s a real privilege to be part of a bigger picture of serving different aspect of the community through local churches and Christian organisations, and it seems to really inspire the children to think about the teams they are in (family, school class, clubs, etc.) and the difference they could make together too.

We were also really blessed to work alongside a whole bunch of Compassion Acts’ volunteers recently again when we took our Good Sport project to visit their fabulous children’s holiday club. Plus, you can read more here about a secondary school project we are working with them on too.

This last term, it has been great to learn from the Salvation Army about detached youth work and explore how Southport Churches could work together, alongside projects like Street Pastors, to follow Jesus out into the streets to meet young people where they are at. We’ve already seen 10 different churches represented in meetings and trial walks in the town centre.

This coming half term, Hettie will be doing a teacher training placement at a particular primary school. She’s already learning so much through her part-time teaching degree and the skills she will build on in these coming six weeks will be of massive benefit to the work of SASW Trust over the next few years. At first this feels like a real challenge for me (Tabz) flying solo, but I’ve felt very strongly that it is actually real opportunity – a chance to enable and empower others, to work together, in shining the light of the world into the lives of children and young people.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

It was Jesus who Matthew recorded as saying this in his Gospel and its a message we really want to empower local Christians with. We are seeing more and more Church members, across denominational (and non-denominational) divides, coming together to share their mission as the Church, the light of the world for all to see.

Dreaming Together

We’re looking and praying for more opportunities for SASW Trust to be a catalyst for the beautiful teamwork of Church communities in Southport. We have loads of ways to get involved practically, lots of things to pray for, lots of ideas to fund. One step forward for now: we have received a license from Youthscape to run their training program for volunteer youth leaders – free to anyone wanting to better serve their Church and/or the SASW Trust family in shining a light to young people and journeying with them in faith exploration. We’re still finalising how we will run this training (dates, etc.), but have found the content so inspiring and informative and would highly recommend it to anyone even just wanting to understand more about the needs of the younger generation. If you’d like to find out more, please do get in touch!

Journeying Through Growth

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

Have you ever met someone who has tried to explain something to you, which they clearly understand near-perfectly for themselves, but what they are saying just doesn’t make sense?

Maybe they assume you have some prior knowledge that you haven’t been party to. Or, maybe they aren’t the best with finding the right words – something we can all be guilty of!

It’s one thing to grow in our own understand of something, but explaining and teaching it to someone else so they can grow too is a whole different ballgame. One of the things I’ve really had to challenge myself on recently is the need to put myself in the shoes of those I’m talking to – whether that be the child in an assembly, the teenager on the school yard, my friend I might have coffee with, the members of a church congregation I might visit and preach for – I need to stop, engage the old grey matter before I speak, and think: “Where is this person at?”, “What might they know (or not know) already?”, “Where are they on their journey?”.

Over the last couple of years we’ve been really excited to see lots of joined up thinking around this within organisations exploring how to develop their work with children, young people, or even generally with those society has left to become ‘unchurched’. Scripture Union in particular have launched their “Revealing Jesus” framework, which explores how we need to provide opportunities for children and young people at all stages of their individual journeys of discovering and growing in faith. They are committed to bringing the challenge and resource to anyone seeking relevant ways to:

  • CONNECT with children and young people who don’t knowingly have any prior experience of Christians or the Christian faith
  • help those children and young people begin to EXPLORE the Christian faith for themselves
  • provide opportunities for children and young people to RESPOND to what has been revealed to them
  • guide children and young people of this background as they continue to GROW in their faith communally in a culture so different to that which generations before have formed their traditions and religious style (myself included!)

Connect. Explore. Respond. Grow.

So much of what we consider “mission” work is about the ‘Connect’ stage – seeking out opportunities like Christmas shows in schools, Mission Impossible experiences, and alike – where we get to plant that initial tiny mustard seed of the Good News in hundreds and thousands of lives. Lots of big numbers and statistics to put in our newsletters! Some might say “it’s not all about the numbers”, but what I like to rejoice in is that for each one of those many numbers there is an opportunity for a seed to land in the right soil, to be nurtured and grow to bear fruit of its own. A chance to explore faith, to respond and to grow.

My starting point

I’m one of the 5-10% of my generation blessed to have grown up with an experience of Christianity. Lots of seeds sown along the way. But this last term I was given the chance to share my story of having Jesus revealed to me to the point of responding and starting out on my own journey of growth in faith at aged 15. What made this opportunity unique was that I was asked to share this story to almost the whole student population of the very high school I was at when I first made that decision.

It was Ash Wednesday 2022, our local Catholic secondary school were starting Lent, the journey to the Cross. In a liturgy led by the school chaplain and a handful of year 7 students, I was asked to share a few words about my own journey as a Christian. I shared a lent message about making decisions to let go and create space in our lives for the things that matter, making decisions of faith, to respond to Jesus’ call to “come and follow me” regardless of knowing where he might take us on that journey. When was point where the whole atmosphere changed, you could’ve heard a pin drop, and every face seemed fixed on what I was sharing? When I started speaking of the invitation Jesus gave his first disciples to set off on a journey with Him and how I first set off on that journey myself when I was a student in their school. Exactly where they are now. And, now I could share all these years later that despite my many imperfections and lack of understanding, it was the best decision I ever made, and one that has led to so much growth.

The school Chaplaincy also provided the option to all students and staff to receive the traditional sign of ashes should they wish as a symbol of response, with lots of other great opportunities in the following weeks to explore Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the impact on our world today.

Growing Together

We’ll never get to see the growth from every one of the hundreds of thousands of seeds we sow. (Perhaps if there were more of us, strategically placed, we’d see more?) What’s important to us is to celebrate the opportunities where we do see growth in the individual lives of the “ones and twos” of young people who have responded to Jesus.

The teenage girl who is still faithfully coming to church after coming to faith at the Higher Tour, regardless of whether her friends have kept up with it all. Seeing her serving in the church’s outreach programmes, often behind the scenes, growing in character and purpose.

The Year 7 student who has battled with physical disability his whole life (or at least all the time I’ve known him throughout primary school). He inspires kids and adults alike with his God-given aspiration to play football, already playing for Everton. Yet he’s still the most committed attendee of our Safe Space with Churches Together in Ainsdale (Impact Youth), giving us all pep talks about living with the same drive that the early Christians had when they fully expected Jesus to return in their life time.

The two year 6 boys who help us run Sweaty Church in their school every week. I will always remember that one week this last term where they stepped in to lead my discussion group of 5 younger pupils because I had to step out to handle a behaviour issue on the other side of the hall. I came back to find they had already discussed all the questions about “Who is Jesus to me?” and had led the group in a spontaneous time of prayer.

All individual lives with individual stories of growth that each started from their response to connecting and exploring faith with ourselves and others, when we bothered to go to where they were at and sow a seed. It’s a privilege to watch and I can’t begin to describe how much I feel they’ve each helped me grow in my own faith too!

My biggest hope and prayer right now is that other Christians would be enabled to have this experience of seeing Kingdom growth in the lives of children and young people too. That many more of those hundreds and thousands of seeds sown will have harvesters ready to receive them and guide them on life changing journeys of growth. If you feel prompted at all, please get in touch! And if you feel prompted to join us in that prayer, please see our prayer page.



Mission Impossible Once Again Possible!

Our longest running, well renowned, memorable and exciting schools work project finally returned after two years of being cancelled or provided as an online alternative. Mission Impossible was back in full force with a bigger team than ever before, new & improved interactive elements, and raving reviews from pupils, staff and volunteers alike.

“Tabz, do you remember that secret agent thing you did when I was in primary school?” asked a Year 10 student at a lunchtime Safe Space recently “You know, the one about Easter where we got to go around that cool place?”

“Mission Impossible? Why yes I do! I was there this morning in fact!”

“Really?! That’s so cool you still do that. I still remember it!”

That’s right. We finally got up and running with our Mission Impossible project again! With the exception of the last two years, we’ve been running MI since the very early days of SASW Trust 23 years ago. With a team of volunteers acting as secret agents, we welcome hundreds of Year 5 & 6 (and sometimes Year 4 at a push) pupils into a heavily transformed church building, kitted out inside as a secret agent training headquarters. Why? Because as they visit us, school by school, they get to investigate the biblical events of Easter and its world-changing meaning in the most interactive, engaging and memorable way I’ve ever been shown.

After both myself, Hettie and several others juggled isolating with COVID, we are very blessed to have rescheduled all of the schools that needed to be postponed and got everything off to a great start. This year we redesigned and modernised two of the investigation zones, using some of the new technology that Scarisbrick New Road Baptist Church have installed. Both of which went down a treat and captivated the children’s attention as they watched a hologram of Mary Magdalene above their heads giving her moving first hand account of the crucifixion, along with a chance to play our courtroom game on the interactive screen as they explored the injustice of Jesus’ trial.

Schools have been giving some brilliant feedback and the children really have engaged wonderfully as ever. In the years since we last ran the project in-person, it seems Twitter has become the favourite social media platform of schools and teachers for all their networking, PR, and resource sharing needs. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a heavy user of social media, so when I finally logged on you can imagine how excited I got when I discovered most of the schools we had visit us had filled our feed with pictures of Mission Impossible, sharing their experience for all to see! (Including one school who visited the project for the first time this year!)

We had a whole range of new volunteers who we loved working with, helping hundreds of children assume the roles of secret agents as they investigate the events of Easter for themselves. We had a real battle with COVID cases (like everywhere over the last few weeks), but really felt God’s provision and protection over each session as we JUST managed to keep enough volunteers well enough to pull off all the bookings! We are so grateful to have such an amazingly generous, diverse and willing bunch of volunteers prepared to play their part (covid-permitting!) to introduce 550 primary pupils to the most crucial events of the Gospel in the most creative and engaging way we know how – as secret agents, grappling with the ancient records, investigating what we believe and coming to their own verdict on the resurrection. A huge thanks to all who prayed and contributed in any way!

Growing community at Sweaty Church

We’ve had an amazing term with Sweaty Church: having fun, playing games and sports, and growing in faith. The spaces available were full very quickly and we’ve had a waiting list for the past few months!

We were fortunate to be able to get some much needed additional volunteer support from local churches who would work with the children every week, leading their team, supporting the children, celebrating them and encouraging growth in their faith. The school where we run our flagship Sweaty Church has such a wonderful Christian feel to its community, coupled with a great relationship with the church next door and other local churches too.

It has been incredible to see the children worship in song together (after not being permitted to sing for a while) and pray together. Their prayers are so beautiful and selfless and has been so wonderful to hear them praying out loud. Our Bible based discussions have gotten deeper with many children and we love hearing their thoughts and the application in their own life.

On our last week of term, we brought the families together with the local church community connected to the school to have a family Sweaty Church. The hall was full and adults were pleased that we weren’t going to make them run around, whilst still giving them an experience of Sweaty Church. It was such a joy to see the children lead their families and local church family in worship, listen to families discuss the importance of Christmas together and see the prayers that they had written together and hung on the tree. We loved seeing the school Christmas tree full of prayers, as did the Headteacher! We were also able to celebrate each child in front of their families and share why we think they are incredible. We had such a positive and encouraging time together, complete with cakes served by local church prayer buddies and baked by our very own Sally, a long-standing team member. Thank you so much to Sally, Paul and Sue who faithfully support the children with us each week! It is such a privilege to be able to  worship, discuss and pray with these children so regularly.

Loyalty to the Safe Space

These cards (pictured above) are just some of the 331 loyalty cards, each representing a local young person who has individually and faithfully journeyed with us over the last 6 weeks by coming to talk to us each week in secondary school.

We’ve had a whole range of conversations with a real variety of anything up to 500 students each week at our high school “Safe Spaces” – a time & place on site in schools where we create a safe opportunity for young people to explore the big issues of like and faith each week. The real joy of the last week of term was collecting in all the full Safe Space loyalty cards – 331 in total with their full 6 stamps! Meaning that 331 students have intentionally journeyed with us over the last 6 weeks, checking in every week on their emotional wellbeing, chatting about the big issues of life and faith, and forming positive relationships with our youth workers Tabz, Hettie, Paul (Lakeside Church) and Kathryn (Salvation Army).

If you’ve never heard of our Safe Spaces before & aren’t sure what we do…

Each week when a young person queues up to check in with us and have a chat we firstly ask them how they are doing. We help the conversation progress with a board of emojis that they choose from to represent how they feel, which they can tap on our iPad screens to log. Then for a more summarised view of their wellbeing, they tap the traffic light colour they are feeling that week on the iPad too. If they are feeling red, we check they are receiving appropriate support. If they are feeling amber, we talk about positive hobbies and habits to improve how they are doing. And if they are feeling green, we discuss how to love others as ourselves and help someone else feel green too. When they have checked in with us, we give them a red, amber or green stamp on their loyalty card.

We’ve now had two terms of setting up our gazebo out in the school yard (or our indoor exhibition stand in school halls / corridors), which was an incredibly fruitful step forwards for us out from the classrooms. (You can read more about how it all happened in a previous blog post.) It hasn’t just meant some great relationships forming with young people though – it’s also meant that the staff have been far more exposed to what we are about and have given us a great deal of support and encouragement for helping shape the culture of their schools. The loyalty cards in particular have proved very useful for school’s pastoral staff, as they can see if a student has lots of red or amber stamps and can intentionally offer them the appropriate professional support to accompany our helpful conversations. We’ve seen this in action week after week with issues surfacing and being dealt with that might have gone undiscovered without the intervention of Safe Space.

At Southport & Area Schools Worker Trust we are very glad of the support from Scripture Union and exist as both a ‘Local Mission Partner’ and trained ‘Faith Guides’. SU’s new framework for ‘revealing Jesus’ with generation Z & alpha is an extremely practical, very inspired, and well researched approach to working with children and young people. You can find out more about this at: scriptureunion.org.uk/revealingjesus Essentially, it carries a very heavy focus on relationship building and journeying with young people, starting at a place of belonging. We’re amazed at how great an opportunity the loyalty cards have provided for this, and that Safe Space could become a place for any young people who want to explore faith more and connect with the Church locally. Safe Space can be a catalyst for all this whilst also being a place that is safe for those who aren’t interested in faith to still build on positive relationships that are proving to be helpful for them as they journey through school and life beyond. We hope by practising our loyalty and faithfulness each week, we are helping to develop a message of value and self-worth in the minds and hearts of young people.

Looking through the cards and remembering all the students that have faithfully kept coming back each week has been quite emotional… but what was really special was choosing a student at random from each of our schools to receive a gift from the end of term ‘prize draw’, including a bunch of things for them to enjoy and resources to help them with their wellbeing. It was so fun to see their faces when we briefly pulled them out of their lesson to tell them THEY had won! And it’s all thanks to our wonderful, charitable supporters – making a difference in the lives of so many young people.

A Comically Marvellous Christmas!

Every year, for as long as we can remember, Southport & Area Schools Worker Trust has created a touring production for primary schools at Christmas time. It’s always one of the highlights of our year: with lots of fun, dressing up, and a meaningful message.

Last year was slightly different… as you’d expect! Instead of touring around and filling up school assembly halls, we put a lot of time and resource into a quality video production called “A Very Merry Laughs-A-Plenty 2020 Christmas”, which gained a few thousand views on YouTube (where you can still watch it even today!) as well as being watched in primary schools by around 3000 pupils.

As great as it was to be able to create all that we did last year, it was AMAZING to be back this year touring the schools and offering this year’s production in-person. Especially because we got to see the excitement and enjoyment on the faces of 3,300 pupils as we performed the show 17 times!

This year’s production was titled “A Comically MARVELlous Christmas” and was full of superhero themed action, fun, games, lots of laughs, and of course, a meaningful Christmas message. The children got to participate in a classic superhero-style story, where hosts Chris Thomas (Tabz) and Christmas Carol (Hettie) enlist the help of superheroes (various video actors and animated characters) to stop the plot of the evil Christmas villain – “The Humbug” (also, Hettie!) – as she tried to get rid of Christmas by nicking off with all the commercialised festivity, decoration, presents & food. The only problem was that without all that stuff in the way, it gave “Captain Christmas”, the Christmassy superhero, the perfect opportunity to show “The Humbug” where Christmas all began – long before tinsel was invented. But did “Captain Christmas” succeed using this to change the heart of our nasty villain? If so, how? You’ll need to watch the video version to find out! What you can be sure of though, is that every school we visited is now full of mini-heroes sharing the love and kindness that Christians believe Jesus came to show to the world with their family and friends.

Seeing whole school halls of excited children, cheering, laughing and enthusiastically doing their superhero actions was such a joy. As is also being stopped in the street now everywhere we go to be told by children how much they enjoyed our show! The feedback from both pupils and staff has been great, with staff being particularly “wowed” by the use of technology, the hybrid mix of live acting and pre-recorded video, and some rather advanced software for live animated characters interacting with the children. Also, so many of the teachers straight away reiterated the main message and challenge that we brought to the children.

Of course, we were on the edge of our seats a little bit due to all the news of rising COVID cases, but only one school cancelled in the end, and another had to limit which year groups were together. The beauty of so much of the production being multimedia was that, using all the time and investment from last year, it wasn’t too big an extra job to pull together a full video of the whole production, which the schools that had to cancel us coming in were then able to watch in their classrooms. AND that also means, we’ve been able to put it all on YouTube too for you – our amazing supporters and followers to watch at your leisure! So sit back and enjoy some fun & wholesome entertainment for all the family this Christmas! (Click here to watch on YouTube, or view at the top of this blog post.)

Valu£ You

In our work we care about the whole picture for each young person we work with as we explore the big issues of life and faith. One of the needs we’ve noticed more and more in the development of children and young people is the importance of fostering the resilience needed to journey through the ups and downs of life.

As part of our identity as a Christian organisation, we believe our message is absolutely full of this, and we know for our staff and volunteers this strength comes from their personal faith in Jesus. And so the challenge we are so often exploring is how to help others develop resilience for themselves, in a relevant and appropriate way.

For many years, one very specific way that we have been doing this has been by running the CAP Kids series of primary school workshops with year 5 and 6 classes. CAP (Christians Against Poverty) provides a wealth of resources and projects for helping churches and local organisations reach out to their community and bring professional support in poverty reduction. The CAP Kids workshops are a very engaging tool, with similar aims as CAP’s adult Money Course. Even just recently, I (Tabz) have back in some of our local primary schools running CAP Kids workshops, and they’ve really gone down a treat. I’ve loved exploring some basics of financial literacy alongside holistic topics of ‘needs and wants’, generosity, or even life aspirations, all in a fun and interactive way. The questions and comments from children and staff have shown clearly the building bocks of financial resilience being put in place, and also the worth of how age-old biblical wisdom continues to carry such useful and practical lessons.

I really valued the saving game, because it was really fun and had a very important meaning.

– Year 6 Child

Over the last few months I’ve been in conversation with Compassion Acts, another Christian charity covering Southport, Formby & surrounding areas with the aim of reducing poverty and increasing social wellbeing. They are well known for managing Southport Foodbanks and other services such as Community Money Advice & Southport Food Pantry. We’ve been wanting to build on the great work already done in primary schools, by created some locally produced resources for secondary schools with the aim of fostering social, emotional and financial resilience. It’s from here that we’ve began to develop the concept of ‘Valu£ You’.

Using our Safe Spaces in secondary schools we started asking students some very telling questions about how resilient they felt, particularly with regards to how ready they feel for handling personal finances in the future. I’ve tried to relay some of what we’ve found statistically, as well as a few quotes, to hopefully give some idea of what we’ve found. Putting this research alongside the wisdom of senior secondary school staff, working with the national curriculum, and using the specialist knowledge of Compassion Acts, we’re working to inject our usual burst of faith-fuelled fun into what should be an effective resource growing life-changing resilience in the our young people.

Here’s a video to show some of what we’ve been learning so far:

The funding for this project has so far mostly come from All Churches Trust alongside specific donations to Compassion Acts. We are very excited to see how it develops – watch this space!


Some time ago, I (Tabz) agreed to become a regional Youth Advocate for my mate Dan, the National Youth Director of HOPE Together. It means I get an early look in on loads of the great resources HOPE produce, almost always in partnership with a tonne of other great organisations too. Amplify is more than just a resource though, it’s a full year long experience with some of the best input you can get in the UK or beyond. Perfect for young people between 11-17, fits really nicely alongside the everyday life of a teenager (school, social life, etc.) Check it out:

Want a stress free way to help your youth ministry grow?!

Then why not let Amplify Young Evangelists Academy help you and your church!

Amplify is the nation’s national Young Evangelists’ Academy for 11-17s. We would love to serve your church and youth ministry by equipping your young people to reach their generation for Jesus! Giving your young people tools to reach out and help others to share their faith too. The corona-coaster isn’t stopping us raising up the next wave of evangelists! 

Here is a short video which explains Amplify: https://youtu.be/0EgvlPQ9PmY

The ministries behind Amplify include HOPE Together, The Message, Youth For Christ, Pais Movement, Church of England, Scripture Union, Alpha, Luis Palau, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Elim, Evangelical Alliance and a number of other partners. We have been dreaming and scheming together to see what would happen if we could raise up the next wave of evangelists in our nation. What if we find the next Billy Graham, Jackie Pullinger, or J John? The possibilities are endless: a new generation reaching their generation for Jesus, equipping the Church to reach this generation and equipping the next generation to reach the generations to come!

Amplify is for young people who feel called to be an evangelist, or those you see beginning to exercise the gift of evangelism. We are offering an opportunity for one or two of these young people from your church to join the four-part Amplify programme for a year from January 2022.

Four parts of Amplify online

  1. Gatherings: At the beginning of the year we’ll gather the whole group to begin to dream about what it means to reach a generation for Jesus. Throughout the year there are two residential events which are planned for 1st-3rd October 2021 and 18th-20th March 2022.
  2. Small groups: These will be put together based on age. They’ll meet online and will be facilitated by our small group leaders. These will follow the Advance Evangelist Group model (advancegroups.org).
  3. Specialist mentoring: Evangelism takes place in many different forms from platforms, on social media, through friendships and in many others ways. In Spring 2022 the young people will take part in online  ‘Specialist Mentoring’ sessions with evangelists from all sectors of society. These people are specialists in their field of evangelism.
  4. Ongoing platform for storytelling and testimony: There will be opportunities for these young people to share the stories of how they are reaching a generation for Jesus.

How do I sign up my young person?

Head to the website: www.amplifyacademy.co.uk then fill in an application for your young person / young people. Spaces are limited to 100 people nationally and applications close at the end of August 2021, there is a small cost of £30 for each residential, but we also have a bursary for anyone for which that is not affordable. So sign up your young people quick as spaces are already going fast. 

Good Sport – The New Season Begins

With some notable sporting events happening this summer along with the gradual lifting of covid restrictions, our Good Sport project has been making quite the comeback!

Sweaty Church:

We were able to start ‘Sweaty Church’ back up with two primary school year groups at a time. This has long been one of our most successful projects, running in a similar way to an after school sports club, but encompassing different elements of a worshipping community. It was so great to be back with the kids, playing sport and having fun, whilst praying together and learning more about Jesus through The Bible. One child initiated a conversation about The Holy Spirit whilst playing outside, which was really beautiful and natural. We are hopeful that we will be able to open this up to more schools and more year groups this coming academic year.

Impact Youth:

We started ‘Impact Youth’ back up in person with the Churches Together in Ainsdale. This is a youth community local to Ainsdale, which follows a similar ethos to our Safe Spaces, exploring the big issues of life and faith with young people. Each week in these summer months, we have used the inflatable football pitch to create a space for sports and fun, whilst also having the Safe Space gazebo available for general conversation, food and drinks. The young people loved being back together, catching up with us and having some quality conversations. We are committed to seeing this grow in partnership with many wonderful volunteers from the local churches alongside some very encouraging detached youth ministry that is beginning to grow in the area.

‘Back of the net’:

I (Hettie) shared some of my personal testimony as Tabz interviewed me for a video produced for Scripture Union’s ‘Back of the net’ resource. This resource was created to equip churches to use the Euro’s and Olympics season to run football sessions with children and young people, in order to make connections and share faith. I helped to run training on zoom for around 150 churches to teach them how to use the resource. It was a lot of fun to be part of and we hope that many children and young people have been positively impacted by this work. I also recorded a video for Scripture Union to share with their faith guides that explains the sports mission resources and how that fits in with the new ‘Revealing Jesus’ mission framework (https://content.scriptureunion.org.uk/revealingjesus). This was partly due to me having written one of the resources, helping others to run ‘Sweaty Church’ for themselves.

Summer Fest:

The most recent sports activity we have run was the ‘Summer Fest’ Holiday Clubs in partnership with Compassion Acts. The holiday clubs were run in 4 church buildings over 2 weeks, predominantly for children who receive free school meals in term time, to ensure that they have eaten a good meal and have had some quality summer activities. We were part of the content planning, created a video for each day and delivered sports workshops for the children, which was so much fun. It was great to use the videos to share something positive each day around topics including: love, joy, peace, respect and thankfulness. Many of the children knew us from school and were so happy to see us again after, in one child’s words, ‘watching Tabz and Hettie on a screen every single week since last March… at school and at home!’. 

There are loads of other great sporty things that we have been involved in recently and we are so blessed to have been so busy! Please pray that these opportunities will continue and that we will be able to manage all this beneficial work.

You, Me & RSE

A great opportunity that came our way recently was running lessons in Primary Schools. I (Hettie), was asked to write and deliver RSE lessons for Y5&6 by a local Headteacher. RSE stands for ‘Relationships and Sex Education’.

Relationships and puberty education is mandatory in Primary Schools and it was a privilege to be thought of as someone who could create quality lessons to explore relationships and growing up. I created 4 sessions in line with Government guidance and school policies that had a major emphasis on positive relationships: with friends, family, romantically and with God.

It was so enjoyable to have conversations with the pupils about the future and prepare them for the changes that will take place. Some of the conversations around positive romantic relationships were incredible: it was so beautiful to be able to tell them how much they are loved and that we want them to have the best life possible and therefore want to teach them what great relationships look like. The conversations around marriage led to questions about myself and Tabz and how we got together. It was so lovely to share with them how it was our faith and this work, that brought us together.

There were many brilliant questions which led to great conversations, one of which led to me sharing some of my personal testimony, which had members of staff tearing up (oops). I was initially asked to run the 4 lessons in three schools, though conversations between Headteachers led to me running the lessons in two additional schools. Altogether I taught 30 lessons that I absolutely loved and were very well received.

The feedback from pupils and parents showed that the pupils are feeling much more confident about the future, particularly in regards to puberty and relationships, which is great!

Here are some quotes from the pupils:

‘I liked learning about marriage, relationships and puberty and found everything very interesting’

‘I learnt a lot about puberty and babies and enjoyed how friendly it all was’

‘It was very good and interesting and I liked the worksheets’

‘My favourite thing about the lessons was everything to be honest because Hettie made it fun and interesting’

‘I thought the lessons were very good and have made me feel more confident’

‘I now know lots of things for now and the future and can hopefully have good relationships’

‘I loved learning about babies and how they are formed and how they grow. I gave the lessons 5 stars because Hettie answered our questions and explained everything very well and we had our own booklets’

‘The lessons have been very fun and I understand more about my body’

‘I liked how we learnt how to have a good and healthy relationship and gave the lessons 5 stars because Hettie was very open about everything and taught us well.’

Although, these two reviews made me feel like I was being assessed… 

‘I gave the lessons 5 stars because you did good explaining and timing the amount of time we needed’

‘5 stars because it was well organised and said in a way we can understand’.

We’re so glad to have been able to provide this resource to local schools and their children. Please do get in touch if you’d like to know more, or even enquire about booking me in at a school:

Safe Spaces in the yard

After a year of predominantly online work, we had an incredible final term of the 2020-21 school year – after a year of very limited in-person contact, we found ourselves spending time in person with children and young people every day!

Our top highlight of our sudden surge of in-person work was our Safe Spaces in secondary schools. Pre-pandemic we held a ‘Safe Space’ in a classroom or other indoor area in school. We would explore the big issues of life and faith with young people via one to one, small group and whole room conversations. Due to covid restrictions, we knew that as secondary schools started enquiring again we wouldn’t be able to run our usual lunch clubs across multiple year groups and that being indoors with young people wasn’t the safest option. We therefore prayed and took time to think about what we could offer to schools that would really help young people at this difficult time.

We came up with the idea of running Safe Spaces outdoors, in the yard with a focus on mental health support and the pupils having someone to talk to. After being invited into one school to do some 1-1 mentoring and support with a survey to see how the students were doing after a year of pandemic, we posed the idea of outdoor Safe Spaces, which was met with a very enthusiastic ‘yes’!

Very soon after this conversation, we began the first outdoor Safe Space, setting up a branded gazebo on the yard and wearing our branded hoodies with ‘Youth Worker’ on the back so it was clear who we were. We spoke to almost the whole of Year 7 on the first lunchtime session, which was incredible and slightly overwhelming after a year of little face to face contact. Many of the pupils knew us from Primary School, which meant most conversations were initiated by the pupils themselves. We were able to have some general conversations about how they were doing and some more in depth conversations about the struggles that they were facing. It was a privilege to be able to be there to listen and be there for them.

Following the success of the 1st Safe Space, we were soon in 4 Secondary Schools per week, sometimes doing multiple lunchtime sessions for multiple year groups. We have had many conversations where young people have opened up to us and we have been able to work with school to ensure that additional support is given. One young person spent the whole lunchtime with us after saying that they were struggling with friendships, felt very down and didn’t feel they had anyone to talk to. After a very long conversation and some positive input from a wonderful Christian staff member, the student spoke to the staff member that week and was able to receive additional support through school. The week after the student looked so much happier, verbalised that they were doing better and was being much more sociable.

Due to the relaxed nature of Safe Space and the resources that we have taken with us, conversations around faith have been easily initiated by the young people. We have had many conversations and questions about the Christian Faith, with young people discussing faith with their friends, which isn’t something they normally do. Naturally, being in the midst of a pandemic, prayer is something that we’ve been able to have many conversations about, which has been amazing.

As we think about moving forwards, we’ve been often been struck with the thought of “Why didn’t we always do it this way before?!” Being outside in the yard has had the most amazing feeling of “going out” to where the young people are at, being present in their space – rather than expecting them to come to us hidden away in a classroom. Perhaps there’s a wider lesson their for mission and ministry with all sorts of ages!

If you’d like to find out more about running an outdoor Safe Space, or enquire about having run one in a secondary school you’re connected to (or even an event you might be organising), please do get in touch!

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