Work with Children and Young People has always been central to God's heart – Let the Children come to me – and over the past 2-300 years at least, the Church has played a leading role in this country's work amongst its Children and Young People. Think of all the leading Children's Charities you can name, and I bet they've got a strong Christian heritage; Children's Society, YMCA, Barnardo's, Girls Brigade, Boys Brigade, the Scouting Movement...and that's before you think of the Sunday School Movement and the countless Youth and Children's Groups run by local Churches up and down the country.
Even Thomas Cook, the Travel Agent, was set up originally by a Christian – a guy called Thomas Cook, surprisingly – who wanted to provide affordable holidays for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
At the bedrock of this movement of Youth and Children's Work up and down the country has predominately been volunteers. Yes, Churches have had their paid specialists, especially in the past 20-30 years; yet the majority work, even – if not especially – in Churches with paid workers, has been carried out by volunteers.
It was in this context, and with this knowledge, that Aurora was created. It was the brainchild of Jonathan Buckley and Mike North, in their roles at the time with YMCA White Rose and Sheffield Diocese, who recognised that there was a lack of high-quality training for volunteers. Yes, there were – and are – some fantastic Degree courses out there run by some great organisations (Cliff College, CYM, Reign Ministries and the Nazarene College to name but a few); but who is going to spend thousands in tuition fees when they're committed to their local Church and Community mid-week youth group, and don't want to make it a career?
And so in September 2013 we ran the first Aurora Youth and Children's Ministry Courses, with over 20 students between the two courses. The first 4-5 years the courses were accredited by Cliff College; since 2018, they've been accredited by St Peter's College within Sheffield Diocese. The courses cover a whole range of topics from:
Over the past 8 years we've had around 200 students access the course. The most exciting part of the course each year is the privilege of reading and marking students' assignments; because that's the chance we get to see where the theory and conversations that we share in class is having a real-life impact on the students Youth and Children's Work.
It's not just 200 students who have been through Aurora.
It's 200 youth and children's groups literally up and down the country which have been inspired, shaped and grown by the learning on the course.
It's 2000* children and young people who have been impacted by that learning environment. *very conservative guess...based on an average of 10 children / young people attending the groups run by the 200 students...in reality, it's probably nearer 5000+....
Lu Hunt, who completed the course when volunteering at Brents Green Methodist Church said: "Aurora has given me a fantastic opportunity to refresh my previous training, and has reignited my passion for youth and children's ministry. It's given me a chance to think about and look at the Bible and children's work, and improve upon the ministry we offer. It's been challenging and hard work, but I have been inspired by my learning and I know the ministry I am involved in is better because of Aurora. It's been fantastic connecting with others in ministry, and I have a brilliant network of new friends."
With students attending the course from Poole, Newcastle, York, Luton, Cheshire (and elsewhere) alongside students from across South Yorkshire, this one course is helping to shape the future of Youth and Children's Work up and down the country.
The course has now been running in Ireland for 3 years, Yorkshire North East District this past year and is starting in London in January (and potentially elsewhere in the country over the coming 12-18 months). If you'd like to find out more about the course, either attending as a student or potentially running the course in your area, do visit our website at www.joinedupconference.com.