Deeper, Wider, Higher: theASCENT

Author: Gemma Wildsmith

Picture: Andy Drozdziak

Deeper, Wider, Higher: theASCENT

theASCENT is changing young people's lives. Gemma Wildsmith explains how the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is at the centre of this exciting discipleship process.       

theASCENT is a three year discipleship process for young people aged 15-18. There are currently three ASCENTs running, one at Sion Community in  Brentwood, one at Cor et Lumen Christi Community in Wigton and one at Worth Abbey in Sussex, which is in partnership with the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

I first got involved with theASCENT in October 2014 at the Sion Community house in Brentwood, Essex. I journeyed with an amazing group of young people for three years until their graduation in July 2017.

Over my time with theASCENT, my main responsibility has been curriculum content, developing and writing sessions and plans for the weekend retreats that the young people experience.

Blowing Up The Curriculum

In November 2017, we started a curriculum review. We thought it would be a simple process of reviewing what we already did, shuffling things around, seeing where the gaps were and writing a few new sessions.

In prayer, the first picture we had was of a detonator. We sensed God asking us what we would do if we blew up the curriculum and started again!

Although a slightly daunting prospect, this approach was actually incredibly freeing. By this time, we knew what theASCENT was about-our vision, values and the culture of discipleship we wanted to create.

We asked ourselves: what fruit do we want to see in the young people’s lives? How can we get there? Two things were turned on their heads as a result.

PODs and Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Firstly, we realised we had always approached the content in terms of what we did on the retreat weekends, packing in as much as possible, and then following it up in PoDs (Pockets of Disciples – online small groups).

So we changed the focus from being weekend-driven to being PoD-driven, looking at the entire journey of the three years in a much more holistic way and hopefully making things easier for PoD leaders.

We changed the timetable of the retreat weekends to make it more relaxed and focused rather than jam-packed and teaching heavy.

Secondly, although we have always been clear that theASCENT is a Network project and involves a number of communities and ministries from across CCR, we were never explicit about Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

We offered prayer ministry, used the gifts of the Sprit in worship and prayer, and taught on aspects of the charisms on all the weekends. However, it was not until the very last weekend of the third year that we talked about the meaning of Baptism in the Spirit.

Starting Point-An Encounter With God's Love

We assumed everyone would have already experienced the love of God and Baptism in the Holy Spirit before starting theASCENT. This was predominantly true for the first group of young people, but is now no longer the case.

We came to the conclusion that, for discipleship to really take root and bear fruit in the young people’s lives, we needed to START with Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Through an encounter with God’s love, and specifically praying for Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the ground of their hearts is prepared for everything else to grow.

Six months in to a two-year implementation phase of the new curriculum, we are already seeing huge fruit. The team and young people are excited to see what the Holy Spirit has in store for them at every weekend and God is really moving people’s hearts in personal transformation.

Please pray for us, as we continue to write and implement the new curriculum and journey alongside the great young people God has placed in our care. We desire to see a generation of radical disciples that will change the face of the Church and of the world.

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