Story by Shayne H. and Stuart B. , Youth Ministry
When schools shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stu Branscombe, who leads the Power to Change schools team, and Shayne Hamilton, National Strategy Director for Youth, found themselves scratching their heads.
With no opportunity to make school visits, and a few programs being cancelled, they had to look at how they could do things differently.
Plus, they had new issues to address, thanks to the pandemic, including struggling families and mental health issues.
“A lot of the programs had to be rearranged,” Stu said. “And schools were exhausted before they even started!”
Things were hard, but even in the middle of it, the team had many opportunities to love and support students – and hear their questions on faith.
At a school pancake breakfast, one morning, while one of the chaplains was flipping pancakes, two kids came up to him and said, “Can we read the Bible with you?”
You don’t get a question like that every day!
The kids were so keen that they’re now meeting twice a week. And they’ve also invited other friends along.
The plan for the team this year is to continue the great momentum from 2022. They want to build up their teams, make sure their mental health is in good shape and that they’re getting good spiritual training.
One of the great wins in the last year has been the recruitment of volunteers. That’s grown in a big way. The team now has seven regular volunteers, with another three about to join. The growth has come about through authentic relationships being developed online, mainly through the Twitch community. Through an online presence, people can contribute from where they are and see the community growing and lives being changed. The team is now praying for even more growth this year.
There are also three school tours planned across the country for this year and 2024. They will be in Newcastle, Melbourne, and Tasmania. The aim of the tours will be to serve various school and church communities with outstanding artists using music to educate young people on issues they are facing. So, please pray that students will be reached with the good news of Jesus. We really want to see people discipled authentically and respectfully.
Stu has also been really excited that our performance team has had great connections with communities and youth groups. The performance team includes a band called Amber Lights, as well as a social media team and a partner tour team. There is a great opportunity for the performance team to grow their online presence for long-term success.
The COVID pandemic of course had a huge impact on how the team operates. Stu said that, “Prior to COVID, all the performances were live shows, connecting with school communities and youth groups. Because so many people attended the shows and had many questions about the gospel, they weren’t all able to be followed up by local church youth leaders”.
As a result, the team came to the conclusion that communicating online could be a way to extend the relationship with students. More than that though, the team has realised that being online creates a community in itself. Stu explained that, “When people find us online, they realise there’s this big community that already exists and that they can be part of it.”
The bonus is that, as many communities are a bit more limited in how they can share the Gospel, the online space allows young people to come along and see faith expressed in authentic ways every week.
With life getting back to normal, Shayne and Stu are really grateful for the continued strength of the team and a continuing openness to try new things.