Revd Danny Driver is the vicar at Christ the Redeemer in Barnwell, a small suburb of Cambridge which falls within England’s top 20 most deprived areas.
While he was a curate in Cambridge, Danny gathered with a group from within his church family to pray about church planting and try to discern together where God might be leading them to begin. Danny remembered, “We laid before us a map of Cambridge and without any prompting from me, the sense that Barnwell was the place quickly became obvious around the table. There was this special energy among the group and from that point on, we began to have initial conversations with the then vicar in Barnwell to discuss the possibilities of a church plant in the area.”
They spent time finding out more about the community and the needs of the people there and as the previous vicar was retiring, the timing was perfect for Danny to take up the reins and become the parish vicar at Christ the Redeemer, Barnwell. Several of the people who felt called to serve alongside Danny even moved house to settle and integrate into the Barnwell community.
By simply talking to people locally, Danny identified ways in which bridge-building could be made between the church and the community, especially with younger generations. Sport and school were identified and also happened to be areas which Danny had a particular interest in and a heart for. He began to establish good links with the local primary school and prayed before meeting with the Head. He said, “I asked God to open the door there for church involvement. Not only did the Head welcome the offer of support, she asked for support from the church community in all sorts of ways that I’d not thought of and I left thinking God had not only opened the door, He’d blown off the hinges!”
Christ the Redeemer was awarded Innovation Funding from the Archbishop’s Council. This is now funding a full-time youth and children’s worker, two trainee sport and faith ministers, it’s also paid for lots of sports equipment to bolster the sports ministry element.
“As we have got to work building on what was already here before whilst setting up new sporting groups for kids and working with the school, we have started to see change and growth. The congregation prior to our arrival was at around eight to ten adults with nine children. There are now 56 people including children. It’s wonderful to see such an eclectic mix which includes a cleaner, a doctor, a vet, single mums, unemployed people, working professionals, charity sector workers, some students and many children and teenagers all worshipping together. It’s a joy to see the togetherness of such different people.” Sports ministry makes huge connections with young people and improves so many things about their lives – physical, social and spiritual.
Danny believes it’s imperative to be bold with invitations. Some follow-up is required to keep people’s interest going, which Danny says in a local tight-knit community is easy, “Out and about, in the chippy/shops etc, you always see someone you know. All follow-up has been face to face, just chatting to people as we meet them, catching up, simply asking ‘how are things’ and inviting them again to try something the church is offering. If they’re already involved, we ask if there’s someone they’d like bring along who might enjoy it. These kinds of conversations are the beauty of being the local church – making the most of natural connections on the inside.”
You can read the full version of this article on Church Support Hub as well as some other great articles about the value of sports ministry and why you might want to consider how it could be used in your church.