The wheels on the bus (Louise Weller)

Louise WellerLouise Weller tells a story about the wheels on the bus.

The suburb of Rowley, in Christchurch, New Zealand, has always had its challenges, but that did not stop us taking our bus ministry there three years ago. In fact, it was because of the challenges that we went. Since then we have found that families who are struggling – whether financially or in other ways – seem to be much more open and responsive to us and our message.

During the week, the Canterbury Kids Coach moves around the suburb contacting new families, building relationships and breaking down racial barriers. The families were encouraged to come to X-Site on Fridays, but many saw it as a 'kids' thing' and I realised I needed to spend more time getting to know the parents and visiting them in their homes and encouraging them to see that they too could be part of this community of faith.

As soon as two or three parents started to come, others followed. The process of moving from providing a social benefit to becoming a faith community has been bathed in prayer and involves watching for opportunities to show God's love in whatever way we can. Both are necessary and both work hand in hand.

X-Site is an exciting outreach in the centre of this community. It just buzzes with excitement every Friday afternoon, but it has only been in the past four months that parents have started coming regularly. It is so good to see them meeting together and begin to build relationships with each other in an atmosphere that encourages faith. For the families that come, this is church. Together we are learning to serve each other, pray together and grow in faith.

The process of moving from providing a social benefit to becoming a faith community has been bathed in prayer

One of our biggest challenges is the racial disharmony that is so active in this area, even among the children. We are beginning to see some of these walls come down, but we still have a long way to go. We do have a responsibility to address social injustice and the best way to do it is at the coalface. I think that one of the reasons we have been drawn in to the community is because we accept people the way they are. We honour them and help them to see ways they can help others in their area. 

Do we still subconsciously prefer to just reach out to the people like us? I grew up in the same background of those I am working with, so I guess the answer would be yes, but some of our team leaders come from very different backgrounds. At the beginning they found it very hard, but as they have got to know the families and opened their hearts to them, the difficulties evaporated.

Once a month I attend a Community Network Group that meets to look at the social issues that challenge this suburb. School principals, health professionals, social workers, police, government department and council representatives all look at how we can make a difference. Being involved in this group has been a vital link and a way of being able to address many of the problems faced in this area.

X-Site – update May12

Captain Louise Weller, of Church Army New Zealand, tells how the X-site community continues to develop in the wake of natural disaster.

Five years ago we began an outreach into a suburb in Christchurch with high unemployment, many single families and huge needs. We began by taking our bus into the streets and followed that up three years ago by starting an afterschool programme in a local venue with the expectation that parents would come along and become involved as well.

X-Site - groupThis programme, with a strong Christian emphasis, was geared for families and encouraged the building up of the local community in a caring environment. Sadly we have lost touch with some families because of the earthquakes we suffered here in September 2010 and February 2011. Many people left Christchurch as a result and others went because of housing problems.

It was been extremely challenging with many families struggling. There has also been an increase in marriage breakdowns – partly due to the stress of the quakes' ongoing aftershocks.

The good news is that we are becoming a community of faith and it is exciting; it is just not developing at the speed I thought it might. One of the keys to growth has been our visiting programme and our dependence on God in prayer. We know that there will be challenges and this is good because we see these challenges as opportunities to see God at work among us.


X-Site - Louise WellerChurch Army New Zealand runs a successful bus ministry called Canterbury Kids Coach. Captain Louise Weller tells how a new Christian community, X-Site, has developed to work alongside the mobile ministry to reach families in Rowley, a needy suburb of Christchurch.

We began three years ago, running a children's after school programme on board our Canterbury Kids Coach.

Every six months we move to three more locations. Two years ago, we were given the use of a community house so that we could encourage children who had been on our programme to be involved in something more permanent, and provide support and ongoing discipleship. We call this 'X-Site'.

Parents started coming along to 'X-Site' as well and this has now grown to an average attendance of about 30 children and 9 adults each week. We have not 'arrived' yet but we are well on the way.

X-Site - pancakesThe X-Site weekly sessions are from 3pm-5pm every Friday and follow a similar pattern each week. Leaders and other adults from the community arrive from 2.15pm and we stop to pray at 2.45pm. The children arrive from the nearby local school and are given a drink and games to play and we sit around and chat.

At 3.30pm we start our session proper with singing, prayer and a Bible reading. The children themselves lead the prayer and Bible reading while parents are all encouraged to be involved. We then have one of our puppets introduce the theme for the day and then the mums with children of preschool age leave for their own special programme while the others have their separate teaching time. We use lots of different creative ways to encourage the development of faith, including mime, drama, crafts, games with purpose, teaching of puppetry and even learning how to play the ukulele! We usually follow a theme that lasts for 10 weeks.

X-Site - JesusRefreshments are provided and meals arranged at the end of each term. We carry out visits and follow-up work to help meet material needs and address neglect, truancy and abuse. This is much more than just a bus; it is bringing Church to the people.

Our organisation aims to keep the following values at the heart of all our work:

  • fully rely on God;
  • encourage the development of Christian values: sharing, honesty, responsibility, honouring of relationships, serving others, making wise choices and respect;
  • break down the barriers of isolation and racial disharmony;
  • see where the Holy Spirit is working and join in;
  • remain outward focused – seeing the needs in the community and continually looking to 'take new ground'
  • following the example of Jesus, we seek to love and serve each other, and encourage others to do the same.

X-Site - cheerThree team leaders are members of the local Anglican Church and two are from the nearest Baptist Church; teenagers help as junior leaders. Although we are a Church Army initiative, we also have the support and encouragement of our local parish and some families have now started attending services on Sunday.

Our goal is however, to encourage the local people to find faith in Christ and grow to become leaders of their own community. This is beginning. For those that come, this is Church.

We are a registered charity funded from trusts and donations from individuals. To spread the vision about what we’re doing we undertake speaking engagements, networking and sharing stories of good practice through the media and our own publications. We understand the value of working together with other organisations, agencies and community groups and work at discovering what is happening in order to encourage one another. It is important to enable people to network together, learn from one another and exercise responsible oversight.

X-Site - smilingWe want to see lives transformed and communities grow. I didn't have an opportunity as a child to hear about Jesus, so I had to struggle alone during my tough teenage years. Consequently I desperately want others to have opportunities to hear about, experience and grow in the love of Jesus, and be equipped to reach their full potential.

It is our hope that parents will take ownership of this and begin to disciple others. With a group of 10 mums, we recently started to organise midweek morning sessions for parents. We hope that these sessions will be a time to focus on being there for these mums and helping them to grow in faith. We are taking things a step at a time, learning as we go, and listening to the needs of the community and to what God is saying. Watch this space!