33 under 33
By the time Jesus reached the age of 33, his ministry was almost complete. Young Christian leaders can, and do, make a significant impact not only within the UK Church but also across our society. We celebrate the work of 33 people aged 33 or less who are doing just that.
David was probably only a teenager when he slayed Goliath. Ruth, Samuel and Joseph were also surprisingly fresh-faced when God called them. It’s easy to forget that when Jesus walked the earth, making history as he did so, he too was young.
With this in mind, we are profiling 33 Christian leaders in today’s UK Church who are under the age of 33. From reverends to sportsmen, passionate evangelists to social entrepreneurs, we were inundated with nominations for this feature. Our intention was never to compile a definitive list; there is no hierarchy within the kingdom of God. Neither are the names ranked in any form of order.
In the previous issue of this magazine, Nicky Gumbel said that a ‘hidden revival’ is taking place in the UK Church. If he’s right, part of this revival will surely come about as young (and older) Christian leaders seek to follow God in the diverse areas in which he has placed them. So this list features young Christians influencing the arts, music, media, business, sport, politics and more.
In publishing our round-up of ‘33 under 33’, we want to recognise people who, for the most part, do not have their successes and achievements publicised by the media. We also want to encourage you. Some people claim the Church is dying, but this list proves otherwise. Because for each young leader we’ve profiled, there are hundreds of others doing similarly great work. And we think that’s worth celebrating.
Norwich City fan Ollie Baines is cofounder of Cross the Line, a website that combines a love for Jesus with a passion for football. Baines and the rest of the team write informative news articles about the sport, the aim being to ‘channel these two passions into making Jesus’ name known’.
David Barclay’s ancestors were Quakers, who had deep moral convictions and were involved in setting up Barclays Bank. But David believes a widespread abdication of these ethics has since taken place within the financial system. He works with the Centre for Theology and Community in taking forward the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘war on Wonga’.
Keep on keeping on, or ‘koko’, is the award-winning brainchild of Meg Cannon. The blog for teenage girls, backed by Girls’ Brigade Ministries, is full of short films tackling difficult subjects including identity, gossip, self-harm, depression and bereavement.
Thomas Creedy works for Krish Kandiah as PA to the president at the London School of Theology. He studied theology at the University of Nottingham and St Johns College, Nottingham, and holds a master’s in Theology. Theologically, he is fascinated by what is to be human, and what that means for the Church in the world. Creedy is also a popular blogger.
Caitlin, 26, is a community organiser for Citizens UK. She is involved in energising churches in Hackney to work for social justice as well as developing younger leaders and helping churches tell their stories. She also works for the Centre for Theology and Community and is committed to developing a politics that is rooted in God and a theology that is rooted in neighbourhoods.
Ryan J Bruce
Ryan J Bruce is a graduate of London’s Music Business School, and a voting academy judge for the BET Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards. He is MD of Glocal World Entertainment, a music management firm. He has featured in Music Week’s list of Britain’s most influential under-30 music executives.
Alice Boyle, 26, is the founder of East London’s Luminary Bakery. The social enterprise is designed to offer opportunities for disadvantaged women to build a future for themselves and their families. Baking is used as a ‘tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship, equipping them with practical and transferable skills for the working world’. The aim is to ‘break the generational cycles of abuse, prostitution, criminal activity and poverty, which currently hold these women back from reaching their potential’. The bakery was awarded £12,000 by the Evening Standard last year to help finance the group’s training scheme. Alice has previously worked in youth work, marketing and supporting women to exit prostitution in Bangkok, Thailand, and East London.
During her time at Moorlands Bible College, Caris Deller travelled to work in a refugee camp on the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi border. She says that, during the past few years, God has ‘broken my heart over and over again for the lost, he has shown me his power, love and glory in the most incredible ways…both in some of the world’s most beautiful places and in some of the most desolate and dangerous places’.
Photographer Igor Demba was born in Portugal but now considers England home. He travels around the world photographing a broad range of special occasions, including weddings. Igor is also part of the worship team at KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough and says he ‘lives and breathes music’.
Jessie Faerber, 19, is studying for a BSc in Theology and Youth Ministry at St Mellitus College. She is also the founder of Belle, a Christian ministry that works with schools to tackle issues surrounding self-esteem. Belle aims to help girls discover their true value, identity and purpose.
Singer-songwriter, musician and producer Dave ‘Griff’ Griffiths, 31, learned his craft with boyhood band BOSH (1996–2011). He went on to form the critically acclaimed Chaos Curb Collaboration, who have been praised for producing ‘groundbreaking’ modern worship projects. Both their 2012 debut album and 2014 followup received rare 10/10 reviews from Cross Rhythms.
‘[Jesus] was a man’s man. He was a carpenter. He worked every day, he went out and spread the word of God and wasn’t afraid of dying.’ These are the words of the unbeaten 26-year-old British and EBU heavyweight champion boxer, Tyson Fury. ‘God has given me a talent to box, so I’m going to fulfil it with all my potential and just keep going as far as God will allow me,’ he says. Tyson, who was named after Mike Tyson, was born into Irish Traveller heritage. His blunt and foul mouth has often landed him in trouble, and some might consider the boxer to be a controversial choice for this list. He is as much known for his hot head as his Christian faith. But as Tyson himself points out: ‘I could [reach] more people in one evening than a million churches around the world. God is using me to talk to everyone and tell them the good news. I’m evangelising to everyone.’
Guvna B’s most recent album Odd 1 Out shot into the Official Christian & Gospel Albums Chart at number one. As well as appearing on BBC One’s Big Questions and meeting David Cameron, the rapper has won a host of awards, including Best Gospel Artist. He is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust.
Charlotte Hendy, 23, studied theology at Oxford University and was vice-president for welfare and equal opportunities at the Student Union. She now lives in Sheffield, where she works with Girls’ Brigade Ministries, heading up its initiative, The Esther Collective, a 9-month leadership programme for women aged 18 to 30.
Editor, journalist, writer and self-describing ‘busybody’ Chine Mbubaegbu is the Evangelical Alliance’s first ever black female director and one of the youngest members of its leadership team. Having studied theology at Cambridge University, Chine has written for a number of media outlets and penned a book, Am I Beautiful? (Authentic Media). Chine is of Nigerian descent and has a passion for reporting religion’s impact on society, as well as writing and speaking about faith, race and gender. She played a key part in launching the Evangelical Alliance’s award-winning Threads, an online collective of people in their 20s and 30s exploring faith and life. She is a trustee of Sophia Network, Church and Media Network, and the Christian Enquiry Agency.
Matt Huckle qualified from Moorlands College in Christchurch in 2012, and shortly after became associate pastor at Testwood Baptist Church in Totton, near Southampton. He has a heart for the hurting in his community and leads a small discipleship group called Belong, whose doors are open to drug addicts, the homeless, those with learning difficulties and any person who simply wants to belong.
During the last general election, Kenny Imafidon produced the awardwinning ‘Kenny Report’ blogs, which were designed to raise awareness and articulate the challenges faced by young people and disadvantaged communities. The trustee of the British Youth Council says his faith in God is ‘all important’.
While studying Buying and Merchandising at London College of Fashion, Charlotte created the first sustainability society and volunteered on income-generation projects in Tanzania and in Zaatari camp with Syrian refugees. She founded the Ethical Fashion Collective and has raised more than £8,000 for charity through ethical fashion shows.
Rev Michael Mair
In January 2014, a 25-year-old Rev Michael Mair became the youngest ordained minister in the Church of Scotland. Rev Michael, who is based in Broomhouse, also works as a chaplain at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. He believes the Church needs more young people to serve in ministry.
Rachael started ThinkTwice at the age of 20 while she was studying for her undergraduate degree at the London School of Theology. After personally experiencing mental illness and shadowing mental health chaplains as a part of her course, she was struck by the need for hope within mental health units, and to see a change in the way the Church engages with these issues. What began as a Facebook page has escalated over the past five years to become an organisation delivering suicide prevention and mental health awareness courses to local churches across the country. After her undergraduate degree, Rachael completed a research master’s entitled ‘Towards a Pastoral Theology of Clinical Depression’. Since then, she has worked as a mental health chaplain and coordinated the training programme for a national project. She is passionate about the Church reaching out to those affected by mental illness with compassion and understanding. Alongside ThinkTwice she also writes for Christian magazines and websites.
Max Manners founded Resco with the belief that business holds the key to dismantling poverty. Working with people who have experienced offending, homelessness and addiction, Resco runs a 16-week employment programme that gives them the tools and confidence they need to break the cycle of unemployment. Within one year, 65% of Resco’s graduates find employment.
Convinced that ‘God wants us to think’, Christian philosopher Calum Miller has written extensively and given presentations on numerous topics including human rights, evolution and the resurrection. Miller has been awarded various prizes including the Andrew Markus Medical Ethics Prize and Joseph and Nancy Burton Prize for his work.
Joel is a youth minister and worship leader based in Bristol. He is the coordinator of Youth Ministry Management, a website that encourages other youth leaders with their gifts in leadership, team management and administration. Joel is a regular speaker on leadership, team management and productivity in a ministry context.
Megan is the founder of Re-stored, a charity that combats human trafficking by empowering individuals to make informed decisions about how they spend their money. Megan became interested in ethical trading after helping her mum run a Fairtrade event when she was 13.
Gavin Shuker MP
As a 33-year-old, Gavin Shuker MP only just makes this list. His journey into politics began after studying social and political science at Cambridge University. As he was preparing to move back to his home town of Luton to help lead a church there, Gavin decided to join the Labour Party. His experiences up to this point had led him to believe it was important for Christians to be involved in politics. At the time he had no intention of becoming an MP. However, when the opportunity arose to stand, he took it. In 2010 he was elected as MP for Luton South. Gavin says: ‘I’ve had amazing opportunities in my role as shadow international development minister to make a difference to the poorest people in the poorest parts in the world. Also, through my work on trafficking and prostitution, to raise the stories of people whose voices aren’t heard in society right now. That’s the call of Christian discipleship: to go to those with the least and try and be good news.’ Gavin is also the vice chair of Christians in Parliament.
Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs
Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs founded Beulah London, an ethical luxury fashion label that employs former human trafficking victims in India to make its signature all-silk dresses. Lady Natasha is friends with Prince William, and the Duchess of Cambridge has previously worn Beulah outfits.
While studying at London School of Theology part-time, Adrian is youth pastor at Comberton Baptist Church, where he also leads yearly mission trips to Romania. Adrian is the director of Awakening, a ministry for students and young adults.
Worship leader Tom Smith is based at Holy Trinity Church (HTB) London, and is part of the Worship Central team. He recently released his debut EP Sound of Heaven. Tom’s best-known songs include ‘Let It Be Known’, ‘Dry Bones’ and ‘Awesome Is He’.
Miriam Swaffield is student mission developer at Fusion, tasked with equipping students to share Jesus with their friends wherever they are: ‘in the pub, the rowing boat, the lecture hall and the 3am toastie times’. She is the author of Living Mission, co-written with Fusion colleague Rich Wilson.
England and Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge revealed in an interview with The Guardian last year that he always wears glow-in-the-dark rosary beads. He frequently speaks of his Christian faith to his 3.2 million Facebook followers.
Gemma Brown manages Northern Irish anti-trafficking NGO, No More Traffik. Alongside her charity role, Gemma speaks and writes about re-injecting a sense of human value into culture.
Grace Tween, 23, has led Youth for Christ’s (YFC) street dance crew Stance for the past three years. She aims to share the gospel in creative ways with thousands of young people in schools, youth groups and churches throughout the UK. She was recently appointed national evangelist at YFC.
Catholic and pro-life activist Robert Colquhoun’s goal is to ‘end abortion in the local community’. The author, husband and father-of-one serves as international outreach director at 40 Days for Life, an organisation that peacefully campaigns against abortion. He was instrumental in the closure of a BPAS abortion facility during its first England-based campaign.
Do you know someone who is doing great work with young people? Nominate them in the Christian Youth Work Awards 2015