Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

‘The Shed’ ministry turns 25

The Greymouth Churches Community Youth Project, commonly known as ‘The Shed’ celebrates 25 years in 2023, making it one of the longest running youth programmes begun by an Anglican parish in Aotearoa New Zealand. Julanne Clarke-Morris asked The Shed’s founders Nicky Mora and Archdeacon Tim Mora how it all happened.
• Hear "Shed' testimonies from Nelson Anglicans

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  09 Oct 2023  |

When Nicky and Archdeacon Tim Mora arrived in Greymouth 25 years ago, they expected they’d stay for year, but today the weekly youth group they started at Holy Trinity Anglican Church has expanded across the West Coast town’s churches and community and welcomed a total of more than 1200 young people into its programmes.

Tim and Nicky Mora arrived on the West Coast in 1998, for Tim to serve his curacy with Reverend Robin Kingston at Holy Trinity Greymouth, while Nicky stepped into the part-time role of parish youth worker.

The two began a weekly youth group in the lounge of their parish-rented house, but as the teenagers invited their friends, that group jumped quickly from 15 to 50 – outgrowing their home and soon the church lounge too. Seizing that momentum, Holy Trinity took out a mortgage and purchased the old joinery factory adjacent to Tim and Nicky’s Greymouth home to serve as a permanent youth space.

Today that same building, ‘The Shed,’ hosts the ‘Greymouth Churches Community Youth Project’ which welcomes young people between 12-18 for its weekly youth programme in the purpose-refitted hang-out space on Fridays 7-9.30pm. The Shed is now filled with second-hand couches, music equipment, a pool table, mini-gym, (outdoor) basketball and sports field, table tennis gear, a handful of Xbox consoles, gym equipment and shelves of arts and crafts materials, as well as around 35-45 young people each week. 

During school terms, The Shed’s youth-designed programme offers space for fun and friendship supported by adult mentors (all ‘SafeHere’ trained and Police checked) from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, New Life and Elim churches.

While often up to 95% of the young people come from non-churchgoing homes, many parents value the skills, care, safety and experience their children gain at ‘The Shed’. That, plus growing recognition from Government and community services (including Oranga Tamariki, the Police, local counsellors and high schools) means The Shed’s good reputation goes before it, and expands the number of funders keen to sustain its work.

Setting off on only 10 hours a week, Nicky Mora – who trained as a youth worker with Youth for Christ in her twenties – has been the fulltime paid anchor of The Shed since 2000. 

So where does the faith element come in? Tim and Nicky say The Shed is definitely evangelical, but the Good News is mostly found in the relationship of Christ-like love and acceptance that the young people experience. The Shed operates with a 1:6 ratio of young people to grown-up helpers, which enables significant and influential adult-youth relationships to form.

All of the adult mentors are Christians and they’re there to offer open-hearted friendship to young people, as well as guide them to practice inclusiveness and respect amongst their peers. 

Nicky Mora is renowned for her love and care amongst the young people who have been through The Shed, but some may have also met her limits, 

“If anyone does anything that challenges the core values (of compassion, kindness, respect, and love), then they hit the rock wall.” 

While youth work can be a tough job, for Nicky Mora, making safe spaces for young people to be themselves is a vocation.

“When I was their age, life at home was hell, and life at school was hell. I was a real introvert.”

“Then I went to a youth preteen church group... and when I walked into that space I realised that they loved me and wouldn’t be mean to me. For me that was transformative, it let me know that what everybody else was saying about me wasn’t true.”

Over the years Nicky has revelled in signs of that same liberation taking shape for others. Some youths arrive with real hurdles to get over: anxieties, autism or other challenges, trouble at home or bullying at school, while others come for the social element missing in their one-child whānau or home school. But most of them are there for the fun – and they find that along the way they gain something more. 

“Because kids know that they can come and be themselves, you watch them grow into what they can be. As they transform in their confidence, it’s the most amazing thing to watch.” says Nicky.

The Shed leaders also offer teens the chance to find out what lies at the heart of all that unreserved care and attention they receive. Kids who are keen to learn more about faith – or who just want to be together and don’t mind if God’s part of that – can come back to The Shed on Sundays at 4.30pm for fish and chips and hangout, followed by a chance to explore faith and ask their curly questions.

Recently appointed Dean of Christchurch, the Rev Ben Truman says he learnt to pray at The Shed, but he also learnt about living in Christian community.

“Tim and Nicki's faithfulness in ministry, their deep love of those entrusted to them, their reliance on the goodness of God, their trust in young leaders, their mentoring of people, their pastoral care, and their modelling of a life lived in obedience to the way of Jesus was instrumental to my faith.” 

As The Shed has gone on, cycles of young people have gone through, changing its focus and the age range that’s on board. Sometimes there are hardly any Christians and at other times a room full of church kids go on a Shed journey from their 'family faith' into a faith they can own for themselves. 

“It truly is a community effort,” says Archdeacon Tim, “but like all successful ministries it needed a driver – and that driver was Nicki (supported by me). She is the heart of The Shed, embodying its values in her person. Inspired by her love of God and passionately caring for the young people under her care. It would not have happened without her.”

Graduate of The Shed, Nelson youth ministry lead Brad Wood is one of the movers and shakers behind the Diocese of Nelson’s youth ministry video training series Discipleship Pathway which teaches many of the youth ministry lessons learnt at The Shed, free of charge.

For some more of the youth mentoring know-how at play in the The Shed team, look up the articles and resources at The Parenting Place.