The Shalom Youth Project (known as Shal) was established in 1972 through the initiative of St John and St Stephen’s Church in Grimsby.

It is committed to the children and young people of Grimsby’s most deprived ward – the East Marsh. Its ethos is to focus on character building and developing young people within the community. It achieves this by establishing a long-term relationship with them to enable them to become functioning adults.

There are separate groups for children of different ages - Juniors for younger children, Inters for those aged 11-14 and Seniors for young people aged 14-18.  Shal welcomes more than 100 people on an average evening. To date it has helped around 5,000. 

During the pandemic, outreach work has continued to help prevent local children from being drawn into the county lines drug trade. 

“If the Church doesn’t make a difference, what’s it there for?” said founder Canon John Ellis.  Shal, he says, has become “a place of belonging, a place of safety” for generations of children. 

One of them is 48-year-old Kayla, now Shal’s Operations Manager, who joined as a five-year-old child. “It has made a massive difference to my life,” she said.

“They have supported me through a lot of things and a lot of traumas.

“Our dad was a drinker. It was awful.” 

Shal, Kayla said, “made me believe in myself."

Another is 44-year-old Sarah. She started attending Shal when she was six or seven, drifting away as a young adult. But during the pandemic, she said she “felt God tugging at me” and began attending the Cyber Church run by the Shal team. 

Sarah is one of more than 200 people who attend the online services. 

“When I started going back to church, I didn’t have any faith”, Sarah explained.

“But this has been drip-feeding my faith. It has given me hope. 

“It’s quite a deprived area. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s a bit of a light in the community.”

More information: 

The Church of England's Vision and Strategy for the 2020s is helping us to be a Church which proclaims and lives out the Good News of Jesus Christ afresh in every generation.

This item was published on Friday 8th May 2021 and was edited from a piece published by the national Church of England.