Gang of Youths
“Assemble” was the brainchild of a youth leader at St John’s, Maroubra eight years ago, and initially drew in teens from the groups run at Maroubra, Malabar and Wild Street – in addition to a local Baptist church.
In 2013, as clergy in the eastern suburbs Mission Area discussed ways their parishes could work together, Assemble – with its once-a-term gathering – was raised as a simple but effective way to do this. Now it includes groups from the Anglican churches at South Coogee, Clovelly, Coogee, Kensington and Moore Park, with the addition of teens from couple of local Presbyterian and Brethren churches.
“It started very slowly and tentatively,” says the rector of Wild Street, Rod Cocking. “We wanted to encourage teens and show them they have peers who are loving and serving the Lord Jesus in their community, but we did not know how many people would come. Right at the beginning there wasn’t a great many people who did come, and it took them a while to get used to each other!”
“The young people have gained confidence in the event every time it’s gone on.”
Assemble has always included dinner, hangout time, music and teaching. In the past four years, however, events have been planned with a stronger evangelistic focus in addition to better music, speakers and leaders, so the kids could have confidence that “they weren’t going to show up next time and find it’s wildly different”.
Halfway through last year the organisers decided that the event had grown beyond its initial home at Maroubra and would have to move to Wild Street.
“They had too many people and they needed a bigger space, which is great!” Mr Cocking says. “The first Assemble we hosted there was about 180 people – I went into the church and thought, ‘This is massive!’”
Each Assemble starts with dinner and some hangout time, followed by singing and teaching hosted by one of the youth, a game to help people from different groups get to know each other better, and supper.
“It has a twofold aim – one, to come together as youth groups, but it’s always been designed evangelistically as well: how can we together get our youth to reach their friends in the local community?” Mr Cocking says. “Our guys have often just brought friends from school.
“[The organisers] have always been clear about the format and that’s why it works. They’ve made sure it has the kind of atmosphere where your friends don’t feel uncomfortable, everything that’s been done has been fun and light-hearted but it’s always had a gospel focus.