As you may have been aware, this weekend was to have been the annual Sonning Deanery Youth Residential Weekend, Moving On. However, about a month ago, we took the decision to cancel, as we just weren’t getting the level of applications we needed, and were heading towards a sizeable loss for the whole weekend.
However, although we cancelled the residential weekend, Mike Buckland at Wargrave decided to still bring the Exalt team down, and to organise a youth day at Wargrave, with two free sessions during the day, and a free performance in the evening. Unfortunately from a St James point of view, although we had the largest contingent of young people from all the Churches booked to go on the weekend, that didn’t translate into interest in the youth day. Indeed we suffered a bit from the classic ‘group think’ problem when working with young people, that if one or two key people decide not to do something, everybody else decides not to come along too. The young people were able to come to as many or as few of the sessions as they liked, and looking at the list we had about 25 people through the doors during the day, with a number coming to all three sessions. In terms of St James, there was no official contingent, however we did have one person who came along with friends from school who attended one of the other Churches.
Although we didn’t need to go along to look after our youth group, we decided to go along to the evening session, which as always was a good show, and also a chance for us to catch up with the other youth leaders from around the deanery.
Exalt have been through another evolution in terms of their structure, so whereas the last time we saw them back in 2004 they were a five member group, they now work under two names – as the three member Exalt Ministries when doing Youth Work, and as a duo called Redefined when performing. In terms of the team, the only face from the previous team is Holly, a singer and dancer, and she is joined by Deano a rapper and break dancer for Redefined, and a professional Youth Worker, Colleen, all the way from Nova Scotia, for the Exalt Ministries sessions.
The actual session was fairly similar to previous years, with games, discussion and workshops, and then the songs. Certainly they seemed to go down just as well as in previous years, and as before many of the young people were around chatting to the team for a long while after the end of the performance. However what was interesting is that many of the people who came today, weren’t booked on the weekend, and yet many of the people who were booked on the weekend, such as those at St James, didn’t come today. From what we’ve heard, what we had today were more generally the older young people who had attended Moving On weekends before, who were essentially fans of Exalt, and the younger young people were booked on the weekend primarily because it was a sleep-over. What we seem to have lost is the momentum – the older ones who keep coming back to see Exalt, and the younger ones who initially come for the sleep-over aspect, and then keep coming back. So in general the day was well recieved from those who attended, it’s more a question of getting the interest from others in order to get the kind of numbers we need to make these things viable, and more especially the interest from adults in the Churches who are willing to put in the time to help out.
After the problems this year, and the abortive attempt to organise a weekend in 2005 (the 2006 weekend was largely put together as a response to young people upset that we didn’t do a weekend in 2005 – and yet many of them didn’t sign up) we are looking to have a proper ‘Where do we go from here’ type meeting with both the youth leaders, and the Deanery Synod who stump up the money, so hopefully this won’t have been a swan song for Deanery Youth events.