Forge youth: a Short History.
Forge Youth began in 2007 led by Rick Atkinson at St Thomas Philadelphia and grew significantly as Kings’ Centre and St Thomas Philadelphia became one church.
As both the churches had strong calls to the wider city and not just their geographical area, we found that we were working with young people from many different backgrounds and many different experiences of faith. God started moving amongst the young people and we saw him break into more and more people’s lives yet something wasn’t quite working. It seemed that no matter how big or how professional we made the youth events that we were running, we never quite seemed to scratch where people were itching.
Some people found that there wasn’t enough prayer, some people just wanted to run around, some people found the music too rocky and some people said it was too hip-hop! We also found that leaders were too busy running events to actually hang out with the young people – which was why we started in the first place!
Then we had a thought – why are we trying to make it big when we could make it good?
We decided to re-think our approach. Instead of having big events that everyone attended, we decided to launch a network of youth projects, each one shaped to fit the community it was working with. This meant that each of the leaders could build real mentoring relationships with their young people and they would notice when they weren’t there! It also meant that the young people themselves could shape their youth work – let it look like they wanted it to and serve them how they needed.
This was a great season of growth for Forge and in 2009 we were generously given external funding that allowed us to take on 5 extra staff members, and as you’d expect, Forge grew to about 5 times its orginal size! We started planting projects all over the city, reaching people where they were at and allowing their youth workers to really be part of their lives. We had schools projects, detached projects, youth clubs, football teams and loads more all over Sheffield, we were working with nearly 1000 young people!
Times of Change
In 2010 Rich moved onto and Dan Brown stepped up to lead Forge Youth. This was an exciting but scary time of transition, as not only due to leadership change but because during the financial crisis at the time we also lost the money that we had been receiving to pay the staff – what did God have in store for us next?
Back to basics
We were left with a choice, did we walk away and go and find a job? Or stay, living by faith, and fight for the vision that God had given us to see a city’s young people given the opportunity to live their lives to the full. We decided to stay and incredibly, we’ve not missed a pay day yet and through the generous support of funders, supporters, donors, friends and family, the staff team is now bigger than ever.
Whilst this was happening we felt challenged to to trim all that we were doing and make it about the main thing; building safe communities that allow young people to explore their life choices and their faith supported by leaders that genuinely care for them and will walk their life with them. As we trimmed back all that we were doing and said goodbye to projects and people it hurt, in the end we had cut the number of young people were working with by about 60%!
Forge Youth keeps changing and developing! We are constantly amazed by all that is happening across the city and the number of young people’s lives that are being transformed. We developed the project to also work with children and families, with a real focus on areas of deprivation. With a commitment to working in partnership with other churches, charities and organisations to see Jesus make a tangible difference in children and young peoples lives. Today we are working in 9 areas across Sheffield, regularly engaging with 550 child and young people seeing hope and good news brought into their lives.
Thanks for visiting forgeyouth.com, why not have a look around and see some of the things that are happening!