A look back at 40 years of Norwich Youth for Christ
‘It was visionary’... ‘It felt edgy’. Former directors of Norwich Youth for Christ reminisce over 40 years of transforming young lives. Helen Baldry reports
Supporters, young people, staff and volunteers gathered at Witard Road Baptist Church on September 15 to celebrate 40 years of the local Christian Norwich Youth for Christ.
The charity goes into schools, runs youth groups, produces YouTube videos using the Tracks mobile recording studio and are starting alternative provision for young people who have been excluded from school. The aim of Norwich YFC is – and always has been – to transform the lives of young people through the power of Jesus.
Current director of Norwich Youth for Christ Nick Blanch interviewed some of the previous directors, starting with Geoff Lawton, who was involved in the 1970s. Geoff explained how things started through a move of the Spirit when two people were given dreams from God. Geoff said, “We longed to see young people won for Jesus Christ in our city. We longed to see our city change.”
Paul Cracknell spoke about some of the projects that Norwich Youth for Christ set up, including Fusion and youth night Fridays. He recalled amazing times of God’s provision – when cash appeared when wages needed to be paid. During his leadership, he worked on making the organisation professional and credible. He said, “How do you find a voice as an organisation when there was cynicism around motives?”
YFC has always pioneered new technology – they were early adopters of using the internet to reach young people and created an online discussion forum before social media took hold. There are stories of people who became Christians through this channel.
Mark Tuma spoke of his motivation for getting involved with the charity – first as a volunteer and later as a staff member and director. He said, “You get a glimpse of the lives that are all around us that don’t know that God loves them because they are on all sorts of destructive pathways and we need to do something about that.”
The Life Begins book was published this year and features powerful stories of people whose lives have been changed through contact with the charity.
Neil O’Boyle is director of national YFC, with 70 centres around Britain, together reaching 250,000 young people very month. He spoke about the challenges and opportunities of sharing the gospel in a country where God is simply not on the agenda. Sometimes opportunity is blocked by adults concerned about religious extremism.
He said, “The climate may change in this country but the gospel does not change. We will take every opportunity that comes our way because we know light penetrates the darkness.”
Bishop Graham has been patron of Norwich Youth For Christ for 19 years. He remarked how times have changed and now we need much greater imagination to reach young people. However, he said, “What’s changed most is not the technological stuff in our pockets. It’s the uncertainty about our identity... The crucial part of my identity is that I live in Christ. You discover who you are as a result of who Jesus Christ wants you to be.”
“The means in which we communication may change but Jesus Christ does not change.”
The worship band on the night comprised musicians from the 40 year history of the charity. Photographs of the people and work over the past four decades were shared as well as an enormous birthday cake. Norwich Youth for Christ is committed to continuing their work with young people, and for this to succeed they need three things:
People committed to volunteering
People committed to pray
People to financially support the charity
For information on how to get involved visit https://norwichyfc.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org