Word of Life NZ’s Youth Reachout typically takes place in Fiji and Samoa. It’s a three week trip focusing on evangelism and personal development in a cross-cultural context. But with COVID-19 putting a stop to overseas travel in 2021, it became Youth Reachout Roadtrip.
During the July school holidays a team of 20 people (Word of Life staff, their families, and young people) traveled around New Zealand to partner with different churches in hosting evangelistic community events. “It was really special for us to be in New Zealand,” says Word of Life’s Field Coordinator Dave Gow:
“For us, it made sense to use this opportunity partner with local churches to evangelise and disciple local youth. With 50 percent of the churches we visited we were supporting work they were already doing in the local community—what we were able to offer was an exciting and new event. The remaining 50 percent of churches wanted our help to support them in stepping out in new ways into their community. In both cases we were able to provide logistical support to run a community event, people trained to share the gospel with kids, and practical experience in reaching out”.
Manawarū Bible Chapel is based in a rural farming town in Waikato, pastor Justin Thompson says that partnering with Word of Life on the event was an exciting opportunity to grow connection with their local community:
“A small, rural community like ours can often lack the resources to host a large evangelistic event like this one. Sharing pictures of the bouncy castles and activities was great for advertising and bringing the community in. We had people come from Te Aroha and Matamata, and lots of kids who were staying with grandparents for the school holidays. It was great to have the support of the Word of Life team in set up, sort out the food, supervise games and activities and share the gospel”.
Manawarū used the opportunity to bless their local primary school, building on relationships they had already established: “We’ve got a really good relationship with the school, so when I chatted with the principal about using the event as a fundraising opportunity for the school, they were very supportive,” says Justin, “the key benefit of the event was making more connections with families we’ve never met before. More than half of the kids who attended were unknown. We had people asking about youth group, kids ministries, and other ways they could connect with what our church is already doing in the community”.
Rutland Street Church in Christchurch was keen to use the Youth Reachout Roadtrip as an opportunity to try a new way of connecting with families in their local community. Youth Director and NZ Rally Facilitator Tony Foster says he was keen to see how a holiday program might encourage connection with the Rutland Street Rally:
“We had 38 children and 15 of them were ‘newbies’. There were a few mums, dads, grandparents and an aunty who unexpectedly stayed for the event which brought us a great opportunity to connect with them too. We were very encouraged by it all”. Tony says their experience revealed how important it is for church families to be developing relationships with community families, “The majority of the new children came because friends invited them. It confirmed to me that friends being invited is a great avenue to reach into our communities”.
Youth Reachout Roadtrip also plays an important role in encouraging the faith of the teens and young people who take part in the trip. They spend time training in how to share testimonies, and work on skits and gospel presentations together.
Sharing the gospel with kids was a highlight for Aimee Clemow, “They are so open and loving so it was a real joy to be able to share the good news with them”. Aimee also found the spiritual development aspect of the roadtrip really beneficial:
“In my own life God really highlighted things I didn’t even know were an issue. I realised how I need to surrender everything to God and it was an amazing time of restoration and a fresh start. I have definitely seen a difference in my quiet times and the areas I was challenged in”.
Youth Reachout Roadtrip is back on again in 2022, around New Zealand during the Easter School Holidays 10–29 April.
Visit www.wol.org.nz/youth-reachout/ for more info.