In 2008 my wife and I joined Freedom Church, formerly known as City Church Leeds, situated in North Leeds. The church has a real heart for city-wide and regional connections, but also sees the value of being involved in a local community and growing relationships that are deep enough so we can speak openly and honestly into people’s lives.
In March 2015, after many months of prayer and seeking God as a church family, the leadership felt God wanted us to position Freedom Church amongst the housing estate of East End Park, where me and my family live. We formed a connection with the local primary school which my son attends, and where we now meet every Sunday.
As we work more closely with the school, they have asked us to pray regularly with the teachers and staff, as well as having the wonderful privilege to be asked to join their morning assembly rota. When the church moved to the estate, we had no real notion of working so closely with a local school and having this as a focus of our attention. But God is so good and is always going ahead of us. To be so closely linked with this school has meant we are slowly becoming a part of the heartbeat of the community.
Just over nineteen months after moving to the estate, we have formed, and are forming, some good relationships within the school. We have met the parents, children and staff in a variety of settings and this has given us the platform to consider how we can better resource the local area with youth and children’s provision. We have a small youth and children’s ministry and we’ve drawn our young people into conversation, about how we could connect better and engage with more young people in the school and on the estate. Within the last 2 years, we have seen a start-up of the following groups:
- Weekly Stay and Play
- Weekly after-school club
- Weekly Youth Group
- Messy Church
- A number of seasonal open-air activities, such as a live nativity in Christmas 2016.
One of the advantages of praying for the teachers in the school on a regular basis is that we can listen to the needs of both the school and the teachers. This helps us to fine-tune how we as a local church can better connect with local people. An avenue of support we have decided to take on is to ‘adopt’ the school in a semi-formal sense. We hope this will help them with any pastoral needs that arise and for them to contact us for additional support and investment. As part of our adoption of the school, two members of Freedom Church now sit on the board of Governors.
One of the highlights of being a member of the community and a dad whose son goes to this school is that the students see me dropping my son off, and they are telling their parents that I go in and share Jesus in a fun and interactive way in their assemblies. This then becomes an opportunity to say hello to parents and continue sharing the message we shared with their children.
My hope in the years to come is that children will recognise us when we visit, teachers will still seek us out for prayer, and that over time, parents and the wider community of East End Park will come to know the accepting love of Jesus and living in relationship with Him.