Shell Perris was planning a different event at a different venue, when God provided an alternative

praise party-tall

Premier NexGen: This was clearly a phenomenal event, how did it come about?

Shell Perris: A little background for context, and we go back to my husband Tim and I setting up ‘Imagine Ministry’ in 2018 with a vision to do massive events and provide resources and media for children and families to worship God together, to get to know Jesus more. (Access more about them here.)

I’ve been involved in events for 20 years and I’ve seen how events can create those moments of encounter with God that you never forget. We have four children between the ages of twelve and seven, and when they were younger, and we thought, actually, there’s not really that much around for kids and families: that’s where our vision for imagine ministries came from.

We started off by doing three big events at the Worcester Arena over the course of a year, where we saw hundreds of children and families all coming together in a concert style event, where they would worship Jesus together. It was for people who already knew Jesus and people who didn’t know Jesus. I think it was about 150 kids and adults gave their lives to Jesus.

Then COVID hit, and we couldn’t do events anymore.

And so we started to build the media and resources arm of Imagine ministries. And to cut a long story short, we experimented with some different things over COVID. And it led me to ask him this question, “What if we created a kind of Blue Peter style faith based TV programme that children and families can worship, watch together in the home and feel equipped and encouraged to worship Jesus together?”

Fast forward to April 2023 and we were able to film a pilot programme called ‘The Faith Hub’ with God TV. This will be available to 314 million homes around the world and eventually we aim to generate funding to do a whole series.

With this background of events for children we have been explored running another one at the CBS Arena in Coventry, (formerly Ricoh Arena). It’s a 32,000-seater stadium and we pencilled in some dates, started putting the feelers out, arranged some fundraising meetings over a period of around nine months. But it didn’t come together and we had to make the really difficult decision that that wasn’t it wasn’t going to work at that time. But the Bishop of Coventry (Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth), had been involved a little and had involved the Director of Education for Coventry diocese. They thought it would be amazing if we could run a praise party for all of the kids in the Church of England schools in Coventry diocese to remind them that they’re part of something that’s much bigger than just the local school that they’re in. So the Bishop, knowing what we had tried to do, brought us together and the Diocese agreed to underwrite the event. So the 76 Church of England Primary schools in the Coventry diocese ended up attending the Praise Party as a ‘school trip’. It was a total God thing.

In the end, it was the Coventry diocesan Board of Education, in partnership with Imagine ministries and Feed the Hungry, and we all kind of came together in unity, and God commanded this awesome blessing. We ended up with 9,000 people (8,000 kids, 1000 adults) over the course of four events over two days at Stoneleigh Showground, just having the most amazing time worshipping God.


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PNG: How were the events run?

SP: It was very Invitational: we work to the Church of England collective Worship Guidelines so there was no sense of children being ‘forced’ to do anything. It was for children aged seven to eleven and we filmed the event so Key Stage one children could watch themselves back at school.

Each event was an hour and a quarter, involved lively worship and a talk. And then we had a mass picnic in the middle. Day One we had 5000, Day Two 4000 and the talk was about Jesus feeding the 5000!

PNG: Do you think this event could be replicated elsewhere?

SP: From the word go, I felt like, I was seeing this blueprint being created before my eyes, and I had the privilege of  event managing it. I wouldn’t say we were pushing it, but we are starting conversations about what could this look like if we did it in lots of different diocese across the country: say once every four years in any given diocese so that all Stage 2 children could experience it once.

I always liken it to Jesus who had four different sizes of groups of people he worked with: Jesus, and the three (Peter, James and John), Jesus and the 12, Jesus and the 72, and Jesus and the masses.

Local church typically caters for the first three groups, but are rarely big enough to hold big events: that’s where we could come in.

There was one lady who said she didn’t expect to see what she would see at a Coldplay concert! I replied that it’s probably not quite on that scale yet. But in the same way we aim to do things excellently and really high quality, and hopefully, it’s created a moment that these kids and these teachers will, will never forget.

PNG: Will you do one next year?

SP: I think time will tell. I think there’s lots of people who have seen it, and they believe there’s something in this. And there’s lots of conversations I think being had in the background, probably not many that I’m aware of, but I know there’s a real buzz about it. I know Coventry diocese are thinking about doing it in four years’ time, so maybe other diocese will be interested in the meantime? Maybe the smaller diocese could join together to do something?