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Trekkers - An ‘outside-the-box’ ministry

Boy with glasses smiling sat in boxTwenty years ago Alison Elson of St Saviours church, Guildford saw a need. She saw how difficult it was for children with additional needs and their families and carers to come to church.

Her vision led to the creation of a ministry for this isolated group, now called Trekkers. 

For the last five years Joanne Gillard has been the Additional Needs Pastor at the church, following a career as a youth worker in the local County Council.

Girl with additional needs holding fish and shell paper craft“We believe that everybody, whatever their level of ability, is an important and vital part of our Big Family, and is able to know and encounter the love of God, “ says Joanne.

“We recognise that for some people, accessing church and events can be challenging. The church seeks to provide a welcoming, safe and accessible programme for all,” she says. “Thanks to an amazing team of volunteers we are able to run three groups for children with additional needs and one for adults.”

These coincide with St Saviours' main Sunday morning and evening services. The sessions involve fun, activity-based bible themes with craft, drama and individual prayer. 

Thirty families regularly come to Trekkers. And it’s not just the children who benefit. The sessions offer the parents a break from constant caring and gives them time and enables them to come to church, sometimes for the first time in years. There are groups for children, young people and adults. “It’s a very precious time,” says Joanne.

Teenage girl holding up boy with additional needs playing with digger“St Saviours has been amazing with this ministry, supporting it with volunteers, many of whom have trained in special care needs and given an insight into Autism,” says Joanne. The church also supports young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards, who train alongside the Trekkers volunteers.

“It’s not like traditional children’s ministry. It’s much more emotive,” says Joanne. “What families need is a safe, non-judgmental environment. It has to be a caring ministry. An ‘outside-the-box’ ministry. You have to be aware of the needs of the whole family.”  

“It’s a very rewarding ministry and it’s very rewarding to let the family have a little bit of Church and community environment,” she says.

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