Youthworks was formed in 1998 when the Anglican Youth Department and its heritage camping ministry was merged with the Anglican Education Commission’s responsibility for Special Religious Education in NSW public schools.
You can learn more about Youthworks’ history of supporting churches and schools in effective ministry to youth and children by clicking a decade below.
Laying the foundations
Australia had been at war for three years when, in 1942, Archbishop Howard Mowll turned his attention to the youth of Sydney.
Youth ministry at the time was often led by the young people themselves, which created obvious problems as more men and women entered active military service.
Archbishop Mowll, concerned for the young people of Sydney and for what they would come back to after the war, took the step of appointing Rev Graham Delbridge as the first Chaplain for Youth in 1942.
The challenge for Graham was enormous, and under God, he laid the foundations that would forever change the landscape of youth ministry in Sydney. Sites were purchased along the Port Hacking River: ‘Le Meuse’, used for youth camps, was renamed Chaldercot in 1944, while Rathane was used for welfare and spiritual work with returned service men and women, until it too was handed over for youth work in 1946.
That same year, a building was purchased in the City, named the Church of England National Emergency Fund (CENEF) Memorial Youth Centre, which became a centre for ministry, housing Church of England Boys Society (CEBS), Girls Friendly Society (GFS), Crusaders, the Anglican Board of Education and Church of England Fellowship Diocese of Sydney (CEFDOS).
In 1950, the Youth Department was officially established with Graham as its first Director. That same year, Rev Alan Langdon was also made Director for the Church of England Board of Education—a significant appointment for the future of Special Religious Education in NSW public schools.
You can read more about the history of the work of the Anglican Youth Department in the 1940s and 50s in The Delbridge Years.
Start of camping ministry
Following Graham Delbridge’s resignation in 1952 and the Rev Arthur Dean’s four year tenure as Director, Archbishop Mowll appointed the Rev Neville Bathgate as Director of the Youth Department in 1956.
Neville had travelled extensively throughout North America, studying camping ministry and outdoor education for young people. He was greatly impressed by Camp Pioneer in Canada, and upon his return was keen to establish a similar program at Port Hacking.
The hugely popular Camp Howard began in 1957 with the first camps being run by Neville and Deaconess Joan Ash at Chaldercot. Under Neville’s leadership, and later directors, the Anglican Youth Department saw significant expansion of its sites and camping ministry.
In 1958, Blue Gum Lodge in the Blue Mountains was purchased, and the construction of Deer Park was also begun by volunteer labour, opening 18 months later. The Southern Cross Ski Chalet was added in 1963. Telford, the property between Rathane and Chaldercot, was acquired in 1969 through a lease arrangement with the National Park. Blue Gum Lodge was rebuilt in 1969-70 after bushfires in 1968. Camira Conference Centre at Gerroa was added later.
This was an incredible period of ministry growth. Together with new offsite camps and special interest camps, these new campsites allowed for thousands more young people to visit for church camps, leadership training and weekend retreats, with many encountering Christ for the first time.
The 1970s and 80s saw significant growth in the number and nature of the programs offered by the Anglican Youth Department.
Under director Terry Dein, the first disability, country and mid-week school camps were introduced. Later, Challenge camps were launched providing outdoor learning experiences for at-risk youth. The Anglican Youth Workers course, the first of its kind in Australia, was also started a short time later.
When John Cross was appointed director in 1981, he brought a renewed focus on maximising the weekday ministry potential of the sites. Previously, the boatsheds and other resources remained locked during the week and Camp Howard existed only during the holidays. In 1983, after much discussion and prayer, the sheds were opened for mid-week groups, and Howard Education Camps (now known as Horizon) started in 1984 with Trinity Grammar and SCEGGS Redlands the very first schools.
As the new educational camping program became popular with schools, it was necessary to develop young, well-trained leaders who would view Christian outdoor education as a long-term vocational choice. After 40 years of use it had also become clear that in order to continue attracting schools, a major upgrade of the properties was required. Thanks to a large gift by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation in the late 1980s, Rathane, Chaldercot and Deer Park were redeveloped, with 25,000 young people attending Anglican Youth Department camps in 1990.
The push for SRE
The Rev Canon Alan Langdon, appointed Director of the Church of England Board of Education in 1950, had been tasked by the Diocese with reinvigorating Special Religious Education (SRE) in NSW public schools.
Before this, little money had been spent on SRE and clergy battled to teach huge classes with no teaching materials or training.
Alan introduced the ‘Penny per child’ program, and was able to convince multiple Synods and thousands of donors of the need for a professional organisation devoted to SRE and the ministry of Sunday schools—a cause he remained dedicated to for the rest of his life.
Perhaps Alan and the Board’s greatest achievement was to enshrine SRE in the 1990 NSW Education Act. Opposition to SRE began to grow in the 1960s, building through the 1970s and 80s, with SRE being abolished in several states and many churches choosing to abandon it. In NSW, the Board worked alongside other denominations and religious groups, delivering to the government a report that provided the groundwork on which the provision of SRE was eventually incorporated into NSW legislation.
Under the Act, the rights of minority groups and families were respected and the doctrinal integrity of each participating denomination was safeguarded in its own teaching program, as well as in all forms of consultation and cooperation.
A new era
By the mid-90s there was a growing conviction that the future of youth and children’s ministry lay in amalgamating the Anglican Youth Department and the Anglican Education Commission (AEC), combining their resources for more effective ministry to young people across the Diocese.
The AEC, under CEO Laurie Davies, was busy developing resources and training materials for children’s ministry, adults and SRE. As more SRE curriculum was developed, a stronger emphasis on educational components emerged.
In contrast, the Anglican Youth Department’s main focus was on camping ministry, managing the Anglican campsites and training youth workers. Despite devastating bushfires in 1994 and the need to rebuild, Camp Howard Holiday camps continued to flourish and Horizon mid-week camps for schools were growing in popularity. At the forefront of the ministry to schools were the Leaders in Training camps that were run for some of the Christian and GPS schools.
Anglican Youthworks was formed in 1998 out of a desire to see ministry to young people strengthened and duplication of resources decreased. Youthworks was governed by a Council, consisting of the Archbishop and 11 other members, including the CEO.
Lindsay Stoddart was appointed as the first CEO with a charge to create an integrated organisation which could make a greater gospel impact on Sydney and beyond.
The planning process began within each of the ministry arms of the new organisation: Camping, the Church Resource Unit (including SRE) and Publishing. Further thinking about how to improve the training of ministry to children and youth led to the inception of Youthworks College with the appointment of Graham Stanton as inaugural Dean.
Oriented for life
The story of Youthworks is one of God bringing gifted people with different ministry strengths together into one organisation with a shared vision and heart to see young people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 2000, Youthworks College was established at Loftus as a specialised training centre to equip people for youth and children’s ministry. Over 400 students have now graduated with many going into full-time youth and children’s ministry.
Youthworks began to expand its programs and ministry influence reaching beyond the Diocese. Developments have included the launch of the Year 13 gap year program; SRE Accreditation training for volunteer teachers; and the establishment of Youthworks Shoalhaven Conference Centres. Over 40,000 guests now stay at Youthworks sites annually.
Christian Education Publications has created and published hundreds of biblical resources which help children, youth and families live for Christ every day.
Under God, we pray that the marvellous legacy of the past will continue to bear fruit for the future as we continually seek new ways to orient young people for life in Jesus.