The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Young people need to hear the Gospel says Nick

New Director of Norwich Youth for Christ, Nick Blanch, believes that young people today are more open to the Gospel message than ever, they just need the opportunity to hear it – which is where NYFC come in. Keith Morris reports.

NickBlanch450Nick was appointed to the role of Director in April, following the decision by former director, Mark Tuma, to leave at the end of March. In June, he was commissioned by the charity's Patron, the Bishop of Norwich, at St Andrew's Church in Eaton.
He applied for the role because of his passion for evangelism: "I feel strongly that there is a lot of social action stuff going on but not a lot of word stuff," said Nick. "Not a lot of people are talking about their faith and that is what is really distinctive about NYFC - it is totally independent and therefore can be really overt about what it says and does not have to step away from that," he said.
We talked in the lounge area of the charity's homely top floor offices on St Giles St, where he is based along with a team of three youth workers, an administrator, several student interns and some of the 40 plus volunteers who are vital to the charity.
"The core mission is about evangelism – everything we do is about how do we communicate the message. I feel that that is really important because a lot of young people today do not have the foundations to build anything on. We need to say something otherwise they will not have the opportunity to explore it," said Nick, who was encouraged to apply for the role by a number of people.
"I think we are in a time when most young people have what is termed a memory loss because the Christian foundation is not there any more. Young people do not have any Christian traditions to stand on. That also means that the prejudices are not there either, so they are open and interested in exploring the Gospel message. They are happy to have those Christian conversations.
"We really need to be out there telling  people who Jesus is. And we need people to get behind that vision so that we can get into schools and build more partnerships and be able to take some risks and meet young people who have never heard of Jesus, never been to church, but yet have an opportunity to hear the Gospel and respond to it."
Nick grew up in a non Christian family and at the age of 14 was invited to a Meadow Way Chapel summer camp. "I understood for the first time that God loved me for who I was and I felt called to be part of that family," he said. "I started going to church on a regular basis, but it was not plain sailing – I wanted to be a Christian who played by my own rules and it took a while for me to realise that Jesus wanted to be Lord over my whole life."
Nick got involved in youth work at Meadow Way Chapel and by the age of 24 started to think that maybe he could consider making a career out of it. The first step was a job at YMCA Norfolk as a pastoral care worker at Earlham High School.
"It was a brilliant job, just being available to listen to young people and hear some of their struggles – I felt very privileged to be able to hear their stories and offer a little bit of advice," he explained. "I did that for five years while I studied Youth Work at Anglia Ruskin University and got my degree."
Nick then took on the role of schools work manager at the YMCA, overseeing the schools work and youth work training and National Citizens Service project. Meanwhile, on the personal front, he married Becca, a social worker with Norfolk Children's Services and moved to Oak Grove Chapel, where they both volunteer with the youth work. The couple now have three children, Faith 13, Nathan 11 and Joel 4.
Nick has identified a number of priorities for the future of NYFC, which works with 11 to 25-year-olds, and a core group of 14-19.
"In schools, we currently have concentrated projects in specific areas which give a depth of discipleship. But if we want to reach young people across the city we need to do more schools work, assemblies, RE lessons but also have things that maybe tour around at Christmas and Easter to tell those stories in a relevant and accessible way.
"We have a really successful gospel choir with 70 young people engaged and are hitting a capacity issue. So I want to look to develop that and also some drama stuff," he said.
"I am very keen on partnerships. We do a drop-in for some YMCA hostel residents to talk about things, including faith. We would like to do more of that sort of thing and see word and social action come together," said Nick.
"We also want to be able to offer training and resources to churches that would like to do Christian youth work – being able to support youth workers in prayer for example."
Existing NYFC programmes include Youth Alpha and a Young Leaders course and Nick would like to see a monthly or termly event that draws young Christians together across the city.
NYFC has a broad range of inter-denominational support and relies upon regular donations from both individuals and churches to support its work and keep it independent.
"Funding is a challenge," says Nick. "It is about making sure that people know who we are and what we do, so that people feel they can give with confidence to us.
"We are a missional part of the church who can maybe fish in waters that other can't. I would love to see more people support what we do prayerfully, financially and thereby enable us to do so much more."
Pictured above is new NYFC director, Nick Blanch.

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