Suzanne Lees-Smith is celebrating her 25th year working with children and young families in the Pryford near Woking.
“It’s fantastic to be creatively able to pass on a faith,” say the parish’s Children’s and Family minister. “And over the years learning from your own family life has informed my ministry,” she says.
She joined the parish team back in 1994 as a ‘Time for God’ volunteer and went on to qualify as a Youth and Children’s worker.
Over the quarter of a century Suzanne has seen many changes:
“Originally we put most of your effort into Sundays. But now as 95% of children have no relationship with Church, so we have to think outside the box.”
Suzanne and the team at Pryford are using some of the new resources produced for young people ministry, many of which Suzanne describes as “thought provoking”.
Open the Book, a project which shares Bible stories in primary school, is Suzanne’s biggest event. With it she reaches 480 children at the local Church Primary School.
Despite describing herself as a “raging extrovert” Suzanne acknowledges times in her career where she’s suffered from burn out and becoming stale:
“It’s important that you allow other people to bring their stuff into your ministry to come through the other side.
“The Church in the 21st century needs to be inter-generational,” says Suzanne. “God is pointing us to learn from our children. That means maturity is not an age thing. We must recognise everyone’s value and from whom we can learn.”
Her long service is hugely important to the parish and ministry team. “Suzanne's energy, enthusiasm and commitment comes through everything she’s done,” says the Revd Nick Aiken, Rector of Wisley with Pryford. “And her love for Jesus shines through everything she does.”
Asked about passing her enthusiasm on to others, she says that work with this age group offers the most “fun-ness” it’s possible to have in church. “Things never go to plan in a family service but it’s also a place of great joy and forgiveness,” says this long-service servant.