Laura Hancock believes your investment in children and young people will not be wasted, whatever the size of church or youth group 


I’ve grown up through church and my amazing parents have always been passionate followers of Jesus, both in very different ways. My mum is a brilliant businesswoman and I remember every time I had a problem as a teenager her first response would be to say, “let’s pray about it.” I learnt a lot from that simple act about what it meant for Jesus to be so close to my heart that He is my first response in anything. I’m 37 now and this is still a lesson I carry, come back to daily.

I was brought up with my dad staying at home, which was unusual at the time. I noticed that he talked to everyone; people who walked past the end of the drive, parents at school, people at the post office, and if they would speak with him long enough, he’d invite them to church. I saw that modelled and assumed that’s just what people did, so that’s what I started to do too.

We lived in a village and our church was very small, which I now see as a such a gift. I was there until I was 18, and sometimes there could be twelve people in the congregation, whilst other seasons there could be 35. When I started secondary school there was me and two other children in the church, so my mum started a Sunday school, whilst my dad rounded up a few other unsuspecting adults and started a youth group on a Friday night. I had no idea at the time what that would have cost such a small church, but what the church was prepared to pour into our lives changed my future. The church created a space, so we set to work inviting our friends and before we all knew it the youth group was thriving.

Preaching at 14

The older adults in church were so kind and encouraging, and at aged 14, they let me give my first sermon. It was awful! When I was 16 - they were still letting me preach - I decided to fill the church with rubbish as a ‘creative illustration’. Despite the pungent odour in this small room, not one person complained - they just encouraged me and cheered me on. Because the older adults in that small church were willing to give me a shot and sit amongst dirty baked bean cans or whatever other ‘creative idea’ I’d come up with, I am now able to do what I do today, standing on stages in churches and at festivals sharing Jesus with young people. Whatever the size of your church, tiny or mega, if you’re willing to notice, champion, and take a chance on a young person, your investment will never be wasted… no matter the crazy things they might do.

Prayed for daily

One of the people I must mention is Harry. Harry went to church and he was not cool and he seemed very old. He didn’t actively help with youth group, but from when I first got to know him until the day he died, he prayed for me every single day. Each week after the service finished, I’d be determined on getting to the best biscuits first. However, I wouldn’t quite get there before Harry approached me very slowly (because he was very old) and ask me how I was and what he could pray for. Each time I walked past his bungalow and I saw him outside, he would call me over for a chat. When I needed to raise money for gap years or some sponsored event, he would give the small amount that he could. Occasionally my mum would take me to call on Harry to deliver something, or check he was okay, and that was as much interaction as we had. But every day I knew that he prayed for me, and that changed my world.

I remember attending Harry’s funeral as a young adult, and being overwhelmed by the grief that I’d never told him what his prayers had meant to me. In that moment, I silently prayed, ‘Jesus, put in me some of what Harry had; let my prayers fill the gap for someone else’. To be honest, I am nowhere near as faithful or diligent as he was, but I do know the difference one prayer warrior can make.

Listened to

There are other people I could mention who impacted me as a young Christian more than they will ever know. Take Ruth, a youth leader who I saw twice a year. I deeply looked forward to those moments because she listened to me, encouraged me and modelled to me what it is to passionately follow Jesus with all her heart. Ruth is still somewhere being amazing, and now I have the utter joy of seeing her daughter once a year at events I’m speaking at. She comes over to say “hi”, and I am stunned by the beauty of the full circle of faith, from generation to generation.

You might not feel like you have a lot to offer a young person, or even your own child. But whatever investment you are prepared to make will in some way change the trajectory of their lives. As an adult I give as much of my time as I can, working or voluntary, to sharing Jesus with young people in whatever way I can think of. I do that because my life was transformed when my parents, my small church, an old man or a far-off youth worker shared the best of themselves with me. This means that I give my time to sharing Jesus, the best part of me, with any young person who will give me the time to listen. You make a difference.