Any gospel witness amongst Yorkshire youth? Enter Yorkshire Camps!

Andrew and Hannah Peace

Andrew and Hannah Peace

Each Monday evening, for the last 12 months or a so, a small group has come together to pray.

They were praying for the provision of a centre which could provide a strategic base for gospel witness amongst young people in Yorkshire and beyond. On 24 February God answered their prayers in a remarkable way. To understand the story we have to roll back around three years.

While working at The Oakes Holiday Centre, a Christian camp centre in Sheffield, Andy and Hannah Peace started to pray that God might open the door to start a similar work further north. It was a big idea. With no team around them, or money to get them started, it seemed unlikely.

But God stepped in. He supplied the people and finances to get started and in faith they ran their first camp in Easter 2013. Spurred on by a great time and delighted parents, Yorkshire Camps was up and running.

Yorkshire is quite spiritually barren. Less than 1% of the population have contact with a church. Most churches have small or struggling youth groups, which makes it difficult. However, to bring groups together not only makes it possible for Christian young people to be encouraged, but allows non-Christians to be reached for Christ.

Bigger vision

Since that first venture, Yorkshire Camps has run over 16, hiring centres in West and North Yorkshire. Most have been full and some young people have professed faith. Older campers have returned to help out younger campers. Over the past two New Years, two groups of teens came together for three days. Reflecting on these Andy said: ‘Watching young people see in a New Year with their Bibles open, hearts soft and minds attentive to what God was teaching them, was thrilling!’

As good as these were, however, Andy and Hannah’s vision was for something much greater:… (click here to read more)

Yorkshire Camps

This article was first published in the May issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: A different race


(view original article here)

I was visiting an older couple who had come along to one or two church events.

They told me a little of their own life in business and their travels. I can’t quite remember how the conversation turned, but suddenly the wife said something which took me aback but was very heartening. ‘The people at your church’ she said, ‘are like a different race – they are all so kind’. I quickly assured them it was the Lord’s church, not mine, and that despite God’s goodness to us we are far from perfect. But here a couple of outsiders had sensed something wonderful among us and as soon as I was able I related this comment to the church for folk’s encouragement.

Holiday at home

Where did this comment originate? This couple had first come along to a three-day ‘Holiday at Home’ hosted in the church during the summer. They had been thrilled by the fun and the love they had enjoyed. In particular they had been struck by the fact that during the school holidays many of our teenagers had been happy to get involved with older people and serve as waiters and waitresses. This had affected this couple so much that at the close of things, with tears in his eyes, the husband had got up and said how much they had both enjoyed themselves and that the way our society is going he had come to think that such young people had ceased to exist – but here they were. ‘I don’t understand why you do it’ he said, but then, probably with the short lunchtime messages he had heard about God’s love in mind, he concluded, ‘but perhaps I think I do’.

Hearing these comments about loving Christians seeming like a new breed of human beings, we are reminded of our new birth and Peter’s words: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation… Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God’ (1 Peter 2.9,10). And even hardened atheists and agnostics sometimes have to admit that there is something different about God’s people when they encounter Christian love.

George Eliot

In her Scenes of Clerical Life, the great doubter George Eliot grudgingly highlights this, concerning evangelicalism: ‘No man can begin to mould himself on a faith or an idea without rising to a higher order of experience: a principle of subordination, of self-mastery, has been introduced into his nature; he is no longer a mere bundle of impressions, desires and impulses. Whatever might be the weaknesses of the ladies who pruned the luxuriance of their lace and ribbons, cut out garments for the poor, distributed tracts, quoted Scripture, and defined the true gospel, they had learned this – that there was a divine work to be done in life, a rule of goodness higher than the opinion of their neighbours… that fitness for heaven consisted in purity of heart, in Christ-like compassion, in the subduing of selfish desires… Miss Rebecca Linnet, in quiet attire, with a somewhat excessive solemnity of countenance, teaching at the Sunday-school, visiting the poor, and striving after a standard of purity and goodness, had surely more moral loveliness than in those flaunting peony-days, when she had no other model than the costumes of the heroines in the circulating library’.

Often, so aware of the sins with which we battle and the missed marks which attend our lives, Christians can fail to appreciate who we really are by God’s grace. And sometimes outsiders can perceive more clearly than ourselves our true identity.

John Benton

Last month’s commentary mentioned the editor’s poorly mother. She went to be with Lord, peacefully, on 7 November.

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit our website or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Young people trashed by sex

Young People Trashed By Sex

You may well find this article unpleasant to read.

The following scenario is created from observing kids over the years, and illustrates the kinds of challenges which need to be addressed in the church.

Mid-teen Tessa tells her parents that her friend Clare is going off the rails. From an intact family and active in a lively evangelical youth programme, Clare starts to become sexually active. Neither Tessa nor her parents know what to say. They share their concern with me. I approach Clare’s youth leaders, not mentioning her by name but highlighting the fact that at least some youngsters in their care are being ‘got at’. They deny it — they know better! Clare slowly drifts away, yet one more evangelical casualty.

This illustrates at least three crucial points which keep getting overlooked.

What is missing?

Teenagers in our church youth groups are capitulating to the lure of sex and abandoning their faith. ‘The world, the flesh and the devil’, plus inadequate input or traumatic personal or family problems, leave them vulnerable. Of course, it is never too late, but kids like Clare have been hardened and now react against the teaching they received in the past. The situation has been aggravated by the fact that she believes she ‘tried God’ but that ‘it didn’t work’.

Tessa, her parents and the church youth leaders may have used the wrong methods to engage most effectively with Clare. They may have played the ‘God’, the ‘Morality’ and the ‘You May Regret It’ cards, but to no avail. These arguments on their own do not penetrate her defences. It’s all very well to say ‘no sex before marriage’, but young people need help in understanding how and why. And where are Clare’s parents? Did they have any inkling that she was being defeated on the moral/sexual battleground? Probably not.

Most seriously, many churches are simply not addressing the sex issue at all — often because of naivetŽ, ignorance, embarrassment and denial, demonstrated by Clare’s youth leaders. Some youth leaders’ understanding of youth culture was formed years ago, so their mentality and awareness levels (both of what was going on and how best to respond) is a good decade out of date. Of course, there is no magic bullet, but certain approaches are far more effective than others and address the pressing issues (for some) of youth sex culture in 2013.

In my view, too many good evangelical youngsters are being damaged, body, mind and soul, by either being given unhelpful guidance or no guidance. There are excellent non-religious as well as faith-based reasons for kids to steer clear of all kinds of sexual activity, which takes their virginity but more importantly sabotages their moral compass and destroys their faith. But because they stop coming and, because youth leaders tend not to follow-up ‘the dropouts’, they remain clueless as to what went wrong.

Because the culture has changed so perniciously, because adults often see their youngsters’ present through their own past (and kids do not disabuse them), they fail to realise the current state of play. A little bit of ‘naughty fun’ or ‘Oh well, kids will be kids…’ can prove to be a serious, or even life-shattering, business. While the church continues to think that ‘prayer and preaching the gospel’ will sort things while ducking these issues, the truth is that they won’t. It is time to engage with 2013’s challenges.

Subtle routes into bad sex

There are various routes into sex being sold to youngsters these days. One of them is the sexual ‘health’ sites which the NHS and other mainstream organisations endorse; some groups are present in schools now.1 Do you even know what kind of ‘advice’ your youngsters or those in your church’s youth group are being given by the so-called sexual ‘health’ authorities or in school SRE lessons? If kids attend to the tacit encouragement to ‘when you’re ready, explore your sexuality!’ such advice drives a coach and horses through a traditional Christian sexual ethic. Has anyone even noticed? And, if so, why is there no outcry?

I appreciate that some aspects of this ‘advice’ are accurate, wise and thoroughly commendable; however, in my view, this actually compounds the problem. It gives a false impression of reliability and soundness across the board, for youngsters think: ‘Any group which nags me about Eating 5 A Day and not smoking would surely warn me against behaviours which are potentially even more risky’. But such is not the case.

The pornography gateway

Here again we find that many of us have an outdated understanding of pornography, conjuring up a Page Three image with the word. Sadly, Page Three is benign by comparison.

A recent Daily Mail article2 is a must-read for those who think: ‘But our kids would never do such things!’ Three aspects to note:

First, youngsters from solid stable families, and both sexes, are involved, and at a young age (13-14 years old). Secondly, their parents were oblivious of their involvement. Thirdly, interest in more ‘alternative’ kinds of sex was on the rise through this modelling, tutoring and permission-giving; so, anal sex, violence, Sado Masochism, horror and even bestiality, are now on the increase.

Because of the immaturity of the teen brain, youngsters are even more disadvantaged than adults. As the Daily Mail article notes: ‘The brain’s reward centre is fully developed by the time we’re teenagers, but the part of the brain that regulates our urges — the pre-frontal cortex — isn’t fully developed until our mid-20s. The brains of teenagers are not wired to say “stop”, they are wired to want more’. This helps to explain how porn can become so addictive.

Porn’s virtual reality is being acted out in real life and in real relationships, and girls especially are paying for it. ‘When you interview young women about their experiences of sex, you see an increased level of rough, violent sex. That is directly because of porn, as young boys are getting their sexual cues from men in porn films who are acting as if they’re sexual psychopaths.’ It is touching the youngsters in your life and mine. And even if they are able to remain immune, can they explain to their mates why they do not do ‘that kind of stuff’?

What can we do?

* Update yourself on what is happening in your kids’ lives. A useful way of getting them to open up is to ask them what ‘their friends’ are up to; and when they tell you, keep calm. If you blow up, they will shut down.

* Update yourself on reasons why youngsters and sex of all types is toxic. Some good websites are: (download)

* Update yourself on why porn is pernicious. See, for example: /Resources/

* Bring groups in to speak to your youth group, such as Lovewise, Evaluate or Challenge Team. I also do a ‘Sex-Proofing your Kids’ seminar, which covers mainstream sexual matters.

Something I once read stuck with me and points to where I believe the church has got things wrongs: ‘Everything interesting in life is illegal, immoral or fattening’. Though we know this is not true, there are strands within our culture, and especially youth culture, which affirm and live by it. Indeed, who wants to be seen as boringly good? Not many, and not our youngsters! So we must show them a better way.

You can contact Dr. Lisa Nolland on

1. and &
2. Experiment-convinced-online-porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Who are all these people?

Who are all the peopleAs Britain’s population is changing, what are the implications for the ministry of our churches?

According to the 2011 census, published in December, the population of England and Wales was 56.1 million, the UK total being around 63 million.

Other sources expect that roughly two million will be added to the population of England each five years up to 2031. But who are these people? Who will make up our congregations in coming years? Who will be the people we are to evangelise for Christ?

Elderly people

The number of people aged 65 and over in the population has increased by 14.4% since 2001. One in six people are of retirement age. Numbers of elderly people are set to grow even more because the post-war baby boomers are about to enter retirement age. Other sources say, the numbers aged 85 plus will grow as well, almost entirely due to reductions in mortality.

This provides us with a number of pastoral challenges. We will need to grow ministry to older people. With more families caring for elderly relatives, we will need to care for the carers. With the breakdown of family life in society generally, will churches be involved in providing care to the elderly in the neighbourhood? Churches may need to look to have ‘age workers’ as well as ‘youth workers’.

Alongside this, we may well see an increase in the numbers of active, healthy and able people in the church who have retired. Yes, many will be involved in looking after grandchildren and aging parents, but others may wish to be useful to the church. How can we train and release these folk into some kind of ministry (Titus 2.14; 3.8)?

Immigrant people

International migration has been much higher in the last ten years than in the previous decade. The 2011 census found that seven and a half million people living in England and Wales were born outside Britain, an increase from 4.6 million a decade earlier. White British people are now a minority in London. Migrant inflow is dominated, currently, by those coming to study. Some migrants have a Christian background. Many other migrants are from other faiths. Often people from overseas seem far more open to the gospel than indigenous Anglo-Saxons. Pastorally, this means that there are increased opportunities for friendship and evangelism towards internationals.

Three million people live in households where no adult speaks English as their first language. We need to recognise and use the folk in our congregations who are able to speak foreign languages — often Spanish, French, Arabic or Polish are very helpful. Migrants can be helped by the church running an ‘English conversation’ group which aids their knowledge of English and perhaps can help them more generally with filling in forms and being alongside them in the ups and downs of immigrant life — dealing with landlords, employers, etc. Can we use Christianity Explored in its simpler English format?

Young people

The birth rate increased in 2008, but by 2011 had fallen back slightly. It seems that much of that increased birth rate is among people from overseas. Many migrants have tended to keep to the traditional structure of the family with husband working and wives at home with the children. They tend towards larger families. Of the population more generally, one in three children lives with a single parent or step-parent.

The white indigenous population has shied away from marriage and, if they are married, often both husband and wife work and have smaller numbers of children. How this will affect our traditional ‘youth works’ is yet to be seen. If, for example, the bulk of young people in future are from a Muslim background, how accessible will they be to the churches? The facts are that child populations are expected to grow fastest in cities (in particular, Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester and London).

Single people

In 2011, a quarter of people living in England and Wales were single (in some way — never married, divorced, widowed). This amounts to 11 million people and reflects the growing number choosing not to marry. In church the estimate is that there are three single women to every one single male.

This is a time bomb for the churches, because, whatever your take is on single folk, most single people feel at best awkward and at worst unwanted in church. Singles believe church is aimed at families and they don’t fit. Many leave the church due to this. But, if trends continue, the future is much more single than married.

In a recent survey on the dating site Christian Connection, 80% said that their church did not put on anything for single people, or did not recognise them or affirm them. 46% said that their church leaders’ advice was unhelpful, unrealistic, impersonal or simply lacking.

A friend who runs a singles group says candidly that singles are very sensitive and often over-react, as they feel marginalised. About two-thirds of single people would prefer to be in a relationship.

Let me lift the lid a little on the singles’ world. Those who have never been married tend to grieve or be angry that God has not answered their prayers and provided a spouse and children. This is not recognised in most churches. Many singles feel worthless because they are not in a relationship or have a family. They are rarely in church leadership. Singles may have personal issues, problems, which make them awkward and not ready for a relationship. Divorcees frequently carry guilt over the break-up of marriage. Single parents shoulder huge burdens of raising a family alone. Widowed people often idolise their deceased partner and find it hard to accept anyone else. Most singles feel isolated and lonely. Singleness is on the increase and is not something churches can afford to leave on the sidelines any more.

Poorer people

In future, we are likely to be less well off. The current recession and accompanying austerity will be very difficult to climb out of and is expected to continue until 2018. We are likely to see many more redundant people in our congregations who need our help. Without work people tend to feel worthless and can fall into depressive or dependent life styles.

With the economic uncertainties, there will be more couples where both work to fund housing and family life. The 2011 census indicated that the number of people in private, rented accommodation has almost doubled, while homeowners with mortgages fell significantly. This may also go along with greater mobility, as people move more frequently to get work. Will this mean it will be harder to retain younger and middle-aged people in a local church and give stability to the work? During the recession of the 1980s, one pastor said it was like preaching to a procession rather than a congregation.

Religious people

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of people identifying themselves as Christian fell from 71.7% to 59.3%. Meanwhile, those who say they have no religion increased from 14.8% to 25.1%. The number of Muslims increased from 3% to 4.8%.

Tweeters, bloggers, etc.

Our times have seen the dawn of the Information Technology age. With websites and emails and Twitter and podcasts and Facebook, there is lots more information available and the people of a church are and seemingly will be exposed to many more ‘voices’ and opinions than ever before.

One result is that our people have access to a lot more ‘Christian’ resources. To put it bluntly, they might listen to their pastor perhaps twice a week. But they may well be listening to five or six of John Piper’s sermons on podcast each week. Well, praise the Lord for that. But who is their pastor? If their pastor is not up to JP’s standard, how well do they listen to him?

And what happens when it’s not John Piper they are listening to, but some cowboy on ‘the God Channel’? How do church leaderships get to grips with this? There’s a lot of good teaching out there, but also a lot of false teaching. How do leaderships guard their people?

Many things remain the same in church life, but here are some changes to consider as we face the future at the beginning of a new year.

John Benton
Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford, Surrey


(This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057)

Young, Christian and Unashamed! A look behind the scenes at last year’s ‘Sorted’ youth event.

On November 10, 2012, 1,200 young people aged 14-18 and their leaders descended on central London. Not to watch the Lord Mayor’s show. Nor to take part in any of the protests in the capital. But to head to Westminster Chapel to learn about Jesus Christ at the one-day event ‘Sorted’.

This annual feature of the youth work calendar, dedicated to encouraging and supporting Bible-centred youth work throughout London and beyond, has now been running for over ten years. Shortly after the 2011 event, Helen Thorne caught up with chair of the planning team, Nathan Howard to find out for EN what went on last year and why events like Sorted are so important.

HT: Sorted seems to defy all the stereotypes people have about teenage Christian gatherings. It is full of Bible teaching and packed to the rafters! What’s going on?

NH: Some people find it surprising but the reality is teenagers generally love good Bible teaching! God’s word is not boring, but living and active. And something special takes place when God’s word is read and preached.

As a team we find it very exciting to see so many teenagers listening attentively and being transformed by God through the three Bible talks we have. The feedback forms tell us that many find the teaching the top highlight of the day.

HT: Does that mean that the young people who come are all committed Christians who are used to digging deep into the Scriptures?

NH: Not at all. The event isn’t just for the keenies in our youth groups, but also for those who don’t yet believe in Jesus. It has been really exciting over the years to hear stories of how Sorted has been the day when quite a few young people have come to faith.

And not all the teenagers are those who find reading and Bible study easy. Last year, one of the guys who did a book review for us started by saying it was the first book he’d ever read from beginning to end!

HT: Why focus on Romans 1 this time?

NH: This year’s Sorted was entitled ‘Not Ashamed’. We asked Mike Tindall (the pastor from Manchester, not the rugby player!) to preach from Romans 1.

Many of our Christian teenagers face huge pressure to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus at school and at home. Our prayerful aim this year was that they would leave Sorted saying with Paul, ‘I am not ashamed’.

You see, Paul had a huge view of the gospel. He knew it to be God’s truth about his Son who saves people. That’s why Paul wasn’t ashamed of it. We picked Romans 1 because it was our desire to encourage teenagers to share that big view and live it out in every aspect of their lives.

HT: And this was all reinforced with a rap?

NH: As well as up-front preaching, we use a range of activities to help the young people remember and apply the teaching. One thing we did for the first time this year was have an interview panel where we questioned a range of Christians about what it’s really like to stand up for Jesus at college, in the workplace, at home and in full-time Christian ministry.

One of the people who came to be part of the interview panel was a great guy called Rob. He has spent many years writing Christian rap and using it as a means to make the message of Jesus known. He wrote a rap summarising Romans 1 especially for us. It was awesome — the teenagers loved it!

HT: What else happens at Sorted?

NH: Throughout the day plenty of other good things take place. We have lots of singing led by our great band. We play some crazy games, including our world-renowned text challenge where the young people speed-text a memory verse. We review books — this year True by Sarah Bradley. We spend some time praying together. And at lunchtime we run optional seminars — this year the subjects were evangelism, personal holiness and how to run a youth band. And, of course, we have our normal lunchtime Pick ’n Mix too.

HT: You give out cheap sweets?!

NH: Not exactly! Pick ’n Mix is a lunchtime freshers’-fair-style event to which we invite along loads of Christian organisations. Our desire is to connect teenagers with others who will help and support them serve Jesus in their different walks of life. We invite mission organisations, summer camps, Christians in Sport, and groups like Festive and CrossTeach who can encourage those involved with Christian Unions at their schools. The young people get the opportunity to chat to mature Christians who are massively experienced in their various fields. It’s all part of our strategy to help the young people apply what they have been learning and get serving.

HT: Today’s youth events often include an extensive range of merchandise for sale. Is that the experience of those going to Sorted?

NH: Young people love branded clothing. And at Sorted we do have Sorted hoodies on sale. But we sell them with a twist! Rather than just selling hoodies we have our awesome book and hoody deal.

This year, when the young people bought a hoody, they also got an evangelism pack: a Mark’s Gospel, a tract and a copy of If You Could Ask God One Question from the Christianity Explored team. Our policy is to let them enjoy their ‘not ashamed’ hoody while at the same time giving them some products to help them show that they are ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ among their peers.

HT: Why do you think it is so important to have events like this each year?

NH: Oh, there are so many different answers to that question! We think it’s important because it spurs on youth leaders in their own work back in their home churches. In all we do, we try to model a style of teaching that can be replicated in the local church context and, in doing that, we hope that it encourages youth leaders to get excited about the sufficiency of Scripture rather than getting side-tracked elsewhere.

It’s important because it encourages teenagers and youth leaders who are part of small and maybe isolated groups. The day gives them an opportunity to be part of something bigger, and reminds them they are not alone and there are lots of Christian teenagers going through the same battles.

The day also connects young people with each other. It provides a place for friendships made over summer camps to be strengthened and a place for new friendships to be made. That’s all part of encouraging young Christians to spur one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10).

Finally there is simply something very special and exciting and unique about getting such a large group of teenagers together to praise, worship, and listen to Jesus!

HT: So what next?

NH: Sorted is run by the charity Capital Youthworks, whose work is much wider than just Sorted. That means there are lots of things going on in the future!

We plan to run Sorted for the 14-18s again [this] November. And in the spring there will be our annual half-day event, Sorted Nano for 11-14s. Some church groups who come to Sorted (and who live in the same geographical area) like to meet together once a term at local Sorted events for singing, games and Bible teaching. And we run youth worker lunches once a term aimed at encouraging and supporting those who lead youth groups.

All the events are run by volunteers, so please do pray for us as we do these things alongside our normal day jobs!
For more information on Capital Youthworks or Sorted, please visit or email

(This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.) 0845 225 0057)