All Souls’, Leichhardt and Village Church Annandale have recently launched Bayside Youth, a combined group to better connect young people with Jesus.
The partnership grew out of the churches longing for young Christians to have a consistent crew of peers walking alongside them as they follow Jesus or explore faith. With both youth ministries struggling for numbers after two years of COVID, the parishes decided to join their groups together – allowing them to have 20 or more young people meeting and encouraging each other in their faith each week.
“At the heart of our partnership is a desire to see young people connected with each other as they meet around Jesus,” says the Rev Toby MacGregor, the youth pastor at Village Church.
Building a partnership
Forming this partnership took 12 months of conversation and prayer between the rectors and youth pastors of the two parishes. These discussions involved issues such as budget, safe ministry, location and leadership.
They also needed to navigate the question of where to hold the youth group – but instead of this causing conflict, the churches were united in prioritising simplicity for those attending. Rather than swapping locations each week or term, leaders decided to pick one “host” church to allow their youth to be settled at one location, and settled on Village Church.
“We were convinced that hosting at one church would help young people feel comfortable and confident about the space they meet in, which, God willing, will help them be more confident to invite their non-Christian friends,” Mr MacGregor says.
Both teams have also taken steps to help build a sense of identity and ownership between the youth and their home church. Joshua Taylor, assistant minister at All Souls’ and youth leader with Bayside Youth, says Leichhardt runs regular youth studies and includes youth in hosting evening services to help them feel they have a stake in their parish.
A model of gospel unity
With the combined youth group now in full swing, the two parishes have been encouraged by the level of unity they have seen between their youth and leaders. Rather than members leaving one church to join the other, leaders have seen young people growing in their commitment to and engagement with their local church each week.
“I think having leaders from both churches serving together, practising a gospel unity, has been a really good model for young people,” Mr MacGregor says. “They’ve been able to see older Christians serve Jesus together in both a local church setting and in a partnership setting.”
I think having leaders from both churches serving together, practising a gospel unity, has been a really good model for young people
The leadership of the team is equally comprised of leaders from both churches. Mr MacGregor says this helps avoid a sense that one church is doing the other a favour, and instead emphasises the “kingdom thinking” that gave rise to their collaboration.
Mr Taylor says this has also given leaders opportunities to grow their skills that they wouldn’t have had with a smaller group. “It’s given us a sense of community and fellowship among the group of young adults who are keen to serve Jesus and serve the youth, too.”
And this gospel partnership has already started seeing fruit in the hearts and lives of those attending.
“I liked how my friends and I could come and we shared dinner together,” says Year 6 student Aquila. “It was nice to try and answer some more advanced questions [and] fun being with people who I hadn’t met before. I really like youth and l can’t wait to go again on Friday!”