Leading a Generational Change: The Continuing Legacy of the Riverside Club

The Riverside Club is an outreach of Tāmaki Community Church (TCC) in Auckland. It started in 1991 after Russell and Dorothy Burt and Geoff and Joy Liddle had shifted into the largest Decile 1A, Māori and Pasifika state housing community in Aotearoa.

The two couples lived next door to each other on Riverside Ave and responded to a cry from the community at a public meeting held in the Glen Innes Pub in July 1991: “We heard that the reason for all the junior gangs and trouble on the streets was that our young people did not have enough to do,” says Russell Burt. The Riverside Club began in August 1991 on a Wednesday afternoon, after school, in the Scout Hall on the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Dunkirk Rd, and it has continued ever since.

What happens at The Riverside Club?

The Riverside Club is attended by children from Y4—Y8, weekly, on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30—5:00 p.m.

The program is held in Pt England School Hall and consists of games (some of them wild), afternoon tea, and a korero— what used to be called a ‘talk’ in the days of Rally. So really, The Riverside Club is a rally, held in a School Hall, without the badges or hobbies. Approximately 80 kids attend, with parent permission, almost all of them Māori and Pasifika. We hold termly outings to places like Mission Bay or Pt England Beach, and annual camps, now held at Willow Park Christian Camp in the school holidays.

The fruit of The Riverside Club

“Our camp leaders are members of the TCC Youth Group, and others who made commitments at The Riverside Club in the past. Typically, we have 65 Riversiders and 25 ex- Riversiders who are now the leaders and are also our Youth,” says Russell, “this is an extremely fruitful generational outreach, with camp being a magnificent annual harvest opportunity. It is normal for us to have in excess of 75% of our total stay come back after one of the seven sessions and pray with others, recommit their lives to Christ, or ask for help with some problem or challenge they are experiencing. It is also typical for us to have 25% of our number make first time commitments to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.”

“It’s always a wonderful moment for us when a ‘Riversider’ who has been a kid, then a leader, and is now a parent supports their whānau at Riverside Camp or brings their whole whānau to our church camp, or better still, joins our church.”

An outreach supported by a movement

The Riverside Club has been supported and developed by our movement over the years, and is a real example of collaboration for the gospel:

“We are deeply grateful to those who have supported this outreach over the years.” Says Russell, “For many years we were supported by Totara Springs, more latterly by Willow Park. Both camps have been extremely generous in helping us to make this outreach affordable and both have enabled us to juxtapose our Riverside Camps with affordable Family Camps that kids could bring their whānau to; and we have then seen adult and family lives changed. We are exceedingly grateful to Hillview Trust, who have helped us keep these wonderful experiences affordable over many years and to our own Tāmaki Community Church who have contributed putea in the form of people as well as finance. A grateful shout-out also goes to the Pt England Board of Trustees who have graciously allowed us to use the school facilities and sports gear on a weekly basis since 1998.”

The Riverside Club is an example of God’s faithfulness and provision, “it runs on prayer and the sniff of an oily rag.” Says Russell, “Afternoon tea is in the form of left-over product from a local bakery. The weekly cost total, (for prizes), is $16.” An adult ‘Riversider’, a teacher, some youth, and the school principal run the program. “All putea received from the organisations above supports either our termly trips or subsidises our camps.” 

It’s relatively cheap to run The Riverside Club—the real cost is in time. It’s simple, no frills. It’s reliable—always on. It’s remarkably effective and the results are generational:“‘The fields are white unto harvest’, we’re praying the Lord of the harvest will raise his workers in this and many other fields,” says Russell.

Story by Russell Burt and Sophia Sinclair.


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