Tees Valley Youth for Christ (TVYFC) is the local UK Christian mission organization that UK-USA Ministries partners with to host gap year volunteers in England. Youth for Christ is an international missions organization founded in the 1940s by Billy Graham and currently supports branches in over 100 countries. Tees Valley YFC is the local branch in North East England and has been running for over 10 years. All visas are acquired through TVYFC and all work in the Tees Valley is done under the banner of TVYFC. Think of UK-USA Ministries as a funnel that collects volunteers across the entire United States and channels them to the Tees Valley where TVYFC works.
We are located in the North East of England, around a 5 hour drive from London. Teesside is named for the river Tees, which runs all the way through the valley. It is a great place to experience the varied aspects of English culture, and is surrounded by beautiful coastal areas and countryside. The Tees Valley is also home to some of the most deprived areas in the country and there is enormous need, both physical and spiritual. A number of social/economic problems mean that many of the young people and families who we see every week are living in circumstances that are far from ideal. With only 3% of the UK claiming to have a Christian faith, there is a real need for people to get to know the God who created and loves them. Britain is a post-Christian society with at least two generations are basically missing from the church. We are praying desperately for revival, and believe that we will see one in the Lord’s timing. We know that He can bring healing and restoration unlike any other to the Tees Valley and the rest of the UK!
In UK public schools, religious education (RE) is a mandatory subject taken by all students. This provides opportunities for youth workers and ministers to go into their local schools to contribute to teaching the RE curriculum by presenting a Christian perspective on a range of topics. During these assemblies and lessons, young people get to hear aspects of the Christian message as part of their school day.Many of our workers also lead lunch time or after school clubs that combine Christian teaching with games, crafts, and other activities.
While the opportunity to speak about Christ with young people in school is incredible, we believe that relationships are also key to seeing young people come to know Jesus. Going into schools creates opportunities to build relationships with young people in their own environment, and for this reason we aim to seek out every opportunity possible to interact with students during the school day. Many of our workers regularly volunteer to help with additional subjects like music, drama, or PE. They also lead mentoring sessions, school-based community service projects, and sports clubs.
Every time we walk through the doors of a school, we have an incredible chance to show young people and school staff what Jesus looks like through how we treat them in the small, everyday encounters. We are constantly praying that occasions to invite them to events like café church or a youth club will come up, so that we can build on the foundations that are being built in school.
Yes, the majority of our gap year workers live with English host families from the church where they are based. A small number of workers live together in houses or flats provided by their host church.
Our hosts are typically families or married couples. Some are older and some are younger, but all of them are Christians from the local churches we partner with. We like our gap year workers to live with hosts because it provides you with an extra level of support to get you through the year. Living in a host home gives the feeling of being part of a family, and that can be very valuable when you are far from home.
We do our very best to house our gap year workers as close as possible to the communities they’ll be working in, because incarnational mission is something we feel passionately about. Firstly, it creates greater opportunities to get to know young people when you run into them in the supermarket or out in the town. But it also sends a powerful message to young people and their families that you value where they live enough to become a part of their community.
Some host families are able to commit to hosting a gap year worker for the whole year, but others are only able to commit to shorter periods of time like 3-6 months. You may end up living with 2 or 3 families from your church over the course of the year, depending on circumstances.
When possible, we will put gap year workers in touch with their hosts before they get here. We can’t say that this will always be the case- so we may be working out the details of your accommodation until just before you arrive.
Yes, we ask that all of our hosts have space for the gap year worker to have a room to themselves.
No, these will be provided by your hosts. Save the space in your suitcase for something else!
We expect you to treat your hosts as part of your mission for the year, and to have a servant heart when it comes to how you treat them. This means helping around the house without having to be asked, keeping your room clean, helping with the dishes, and generally being considerate!
The closest airports to us are Durham Tees Valley and Newcastle. Manchester and London have the biggest UK airports, so it may be easier to find flights there that suit your needs. From Manchester and London, the train will bring you up to the North East. Trains from Manchester to Teesside are generally less expensive than trains from London.
As the price of flights changes so regularly, it would be difficult to say exactly how much they would cost. Also, we want to give you the choice as to whether you visit home at Christmas or whether you stay in the UK through the whole year. We also know that for some people their family members work for airlines, or have frequent flyer miles to use, and we don’t want to build in costs when you could save some money.
We strongly advise that you wait until your visa application has been approved before you book a flight. We don’t want you to have to pay extra fees to make changes if your visa hasn’t arrived before you planned to fly.
The public transportation system is excellent, and you can typically get a bus or train to anywhere you need to be. Occasionally our team members who drive will be able to help with rides, but we do expect our gap year workers to learn to get themselves around. You will probably walk more during your gap year than you ever have before!
Yes, you will get two weeks off during the Christmas holidays, with an additional 11 days plus bank holidays to take throughout the year. You will need to arrange your times off with your church placement before you decide to travel anywhere.
Each one of our teams looks a little different when it comes to their weekly schedule and the types of work they do. The basic structure is:
- Monday mornings: meet with the TVYFC team for worship and prayer
- Weekdays: schools and community work with your team
- Evenings and weekends: help to lead youth and children’s activities at your host church
Some of our teams spend the whole week in a single school, while other teams go into 3-4 schools per week. This is usually a combination of primary and secondary schools. They might be teaching lessons, leading assemblies, providing classroom support, leading lunch time/after school clubs, delivering mentoring sessions, coaching sports teams, or doing anything else we can use as a way to engage with young people in a school setting. If you have a particular skill or hobby, you might be able to use it to start a new club or get involved with activities that are already going on in the school.
We believe that relationships are key to seeing young people come to know Jesus. Going into the schools creates opportunities to build relationships with young people in their own environment. Whether your team ends up leading a lesson or simply being around at break time, we have an incredible chance to show young people what Jesus looks like through how we treat them. Many of the young people you will meet in schools come from difficult home situations, and you might be the only person who asks them how they’re doing that day. We want our workers to be salt and light in every school they walk into, and so much of this comes down to small, everyday encounters with students and staff. Hopefully occasions to invite them to events like café church or a youth club will organically come up, so that you can build on the foundations established in school.
You will need to look professional to go into schools as a representative of TVYFC and your host church. How the school perceives us as youth workers can make an impact on what we are allowed to do in the schools. All UK schools have uniforms, and many of the schools locally have adopted blazers and ties in the past couple of years. It would be inappropriate for you to turn up in jeans and a t-shirt when the students are dressed so smartly.
Some of our teams spend time reaching out into the wider community beyond their work with young people. They serve at food banks and community meals, outreach events like coffee mornings, and drop in sessions for asylum seekers. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the parents of young people you may meet in school, other church members, and people from the community.
Your host church will be where you worship on Sundays and your primary church community while you are here. The majority of the churches we work with have a youth worker on staff, and you will be working with them to run youth and children’s activities. This will probably be a mix of activities for young people who attend the church, and outreach events for those who live in the community. Some of the churches we work with don’t have a youth worker, and your role would be focused more on developing youth activities for the church. We tend to place older, more experienced gap year workers in these type of placements.
Yes! We are so excited to see churches working in unity to reach their towns and villages for Christ. Groups of youth workers from different churches who work in similar areas and schools have teamed up to work together to make an even bigger impact on their young people. Also, a number of ministers locally meet to support and pray with each other every week.
Café Church meets in coffee shops across Teesside in different locations each week. It’s an informal setting to invite young people to where they will get to experience elements of worship and testimony in a non-church setting. TVYFC works with local churches to run Café Church, and we encourage our gap year workers to get involved by leading worship, sharing their stories, or simply being around to talk to people.
At the moment, we have 10 teams based across Teesside, as well as our sports team, AXIOM. As our relationships with churches and schools develop, we have been launching new teams to meet the need for more youth workers locally.
We spend a lot of time prayerfully considering where to place each gap year worker. We think through personality, gifts, experience, age/gender, the needs and work of the churches, and the overall dynamics of each team.
Sometimes friends will choose to apply to the gap year program at the same time. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that you will be placed on the same team or in towns that are near to each other.
Similarly, if you have been on a mission trip to Teesside in the past, we may or may not place you in the same church/town that you have visited.
Ideally, every team should have at least two gap year workers on it, although there may be a few months of the year where this is not the case if we are waiting on additional workers to join us at the next intake. Our bigger teams have 4-5 members; it depends on how many churches in an area choose to host gap year workers that year.
We begin the year with two weeks of training as a whole team, and specifically focus on getting ourselves ready for the year ahead. Every morning we start with worship and a Bible study, and then spend the rest of the day in different seminars. This past year, our training covered:
- The basics of UK youth work
- Practical workshops- how to plan and lead lessons, assemblies, after school clubs, and individual talks
- Youth work contexts- working in schools, churches, communities, and mentoring situations
- Team dynamics
We have a year-long curriculum that includes recommended reading and a theme for each month. At our Monday morning meetings, we worship and pray together, and also hear from a different local minister or youth worker who speaks on that month’s theme.
During the first week of the school term in January, all of the YFC centers from across the UK come together for a time of worship and teaching. It’s exciting to get to see how Tees Valley fits into the wider picture of the YFC movement, and is an excellent time to recharge and spend some quality time with God and the team before diving back into work. There are usually services in the morning and evening, and the opportunity to attend different seminars during the day.
Yes, we actually try to provide you with two: one from your host church, who will meet with you on a regular basis, and one from YFC who will meet with you throughout the year to check on how things are going.
The majority of our workers bring their US cell phones with them, and have them unlocked in the US. This way you can insert a sim card from a UK mobile phone company. Alternatively, you can buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you get here. You will need to use a pay-as-you-go plan because you won’t have a UK bank account or proof of address to set up a contract. There are some great deals around, where you might pay £10-15 per month for unlimited texts, etc.
The cost will vary depending on housing arrangements – living with a host family or living with other Volunteer Youth Workers in a house or flat.
Yes, a number of our current gap year workers have monthly supporters. We suggest that this goes towards your £3,000 that covers in-country costs/monthly expenses. If for any reason you depart early from the UK all funds raised through UK-USA Ministries will remain with the charity.
Our treasurer, John Belmont, can help with any questions about finances. His email address is email@example.com
Yes, depending on the length of time you commit to serving with us, you will need either a Tier 5 charity worker or Tier 5 religious worker visa.
Yes, when the time comes to apply for your visa we will send you detailed information about how to go through each step of the process, and we can help to answer any questions you may have.
The first thing we’ll do is issue a certificate of sponsorship that basically just says you’re coming to work for TVYFC and what you’ll be doing with us. You’ll then complete a visa application online, and at the end you’ll be asked to make a biometrics appointment. This is an appointment to have your fingerprints and photos taken. Once you’ve been for your appointment, your completed visa application gets mailed off and the wait begins!