News and Stories

Inspiring stories of young lives changed, news about SUNZ projects and ministries, and information about how you can get involved.

Lives of children and young people are changed as they are given the opportunity to discover Jesus and grow in faith. Check out the stories below to read about the young lives impacted through SUNZ ministries.

Last year was a strange and difficult one for all of us. Full of uncertainty and plans being ruined. And whilst there was a sense of hope about the future and about ‘things getting back to normal’ there was, and is, still much trepidation when it comes to planning big events. So when the time came to plan our WAY2GO children’s ministry training we spent a lot of time praying and considering the best way forward.

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WAY2GO is an annual event that usually takes place across three locations in NZ (Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin), attracting around 600 participants in total. Trusting in God’s guidance we felt the best approach this year would be to ‘go to the regions’ – running a series of smaller, regionally based conferences. This would allow for greater flexibility considering the ever-changing circumstances, as well as providing a localised approach that would benefit our attendees.

This year WAY2GO focuses on the theme of ‘First Things First’, asking the question ‘what do we need to focus on to help a child's connection with God?’ As part of this we explore the four big topics for children’s ministry in New Zealand:
• connect to God
• connect to God’s story
• connect to family/whanau
• connect to others

13 events have been scheduled and we’re currently about halfway through these. Liz Eichler, our Children and Families Ministry Leader, shares how it’s going:

‘So far, we have been really encouraged by the response. These events are smaller in number, more relational in nature, helped by all staying together for the day (rather than breaking off into separate workshops) and thinking through the four main topics together. The ‘regions’ have really appreciated us coming to them, rather than us expecting them to come to us. Smaller numbers have been great, people have been connecting really well and the topics have been hitting the mark. It’s been a lot of work for us as a team, especially given we are a small, stretched team, but it has totally been worth it! It's been great working with local people on these events and we are very appreciative of all their help. Ongoing, prayer would be appreciated as we head towards 2023 and wonder where and what God wants us to be doing.’

We are so grateful for God’s guidance and to see him work through this different way of doing WAY2GO. God has used the challenge brought about by COVID to push us to think outside the box and our usual way of doing things, and as always, God has been abundant in his provision:

‘I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed WAY2GO on Saturday and that my team loved it – each of them has contacted me afterwards to say how worthwhile it was. One of them messaged our whole team on the group chat and said they should have all come and to make sure they’re there next year! I actually found, that from a team perspective, it was better doing the whole day together rather than splitting into different workshops – so good all hearing the same thing and hearing the same vision cast! The topics were all so good, such important foundational stuff.’

‘Watching Annette and Andrew bring life to this ministry was so refreshing. I came for inspiration and it was delivered in bucketfuls.’

‘I enjoyed the fact that it was much smaller in numbers than usual as this allowed me to make better connections with the speakers and other attendees. All of the speakers were great and the topics very relevant.’

Thanks be to God!

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The word ‘experience’ often invokes a reflection or opinion about what happened. But what does it mean to move beyond that? What could it look like for young leaders to think bigger and to move further?

Beyond Experience (BE) is our leadership development programme and it aims to equip and prepare young Christians to be the future leaders of Aotearoa—in business, arts, medicine, politics, education, sports, the Church, and more. Our dream is to have life-changing, faith-forming ministries go on to shape the future landscape of our society. Having people who are followers of Jesus shaping the very fabric of our nation.

BE begins annually with a kick-off retreat which is typically held in July. The retreat consists of different workshops, seminars, games, and discussions, with the aim of learning through experience. We dive into the life and example of the ultimate experiential educator—Jesus Christ. During the weekend, BE participants are partnered with a kaiārahi (guide) for the year. They meet monthly after the retreat.

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This year’s retreat is taking place 1st-3rd July and we’ll be focusing on these words. ‘Christianity did not begin with a confession. It began with an invitation into friendship, into creating a new community, into forming relationships based on love and service.’ Diana Butler-Bass.

During the retreat there will be 4 different sessions of Bible engagement. Each session will have a different expression, but all will involve the idea of ‘how Jesus encompasses invitation’. We wanted to give you a sneak peek of what our BE’ers will be getting up to:
Friday night – framed around eating together in community, using a multisensory approach.
Saturday morning – a more conventional Bible engagement session with speakers, time for reflection and work in small groups.
Saturday afternoon – focusing on silence and solitude. Materials provided to help facilitate time spent alone with God, taking advantage of the sunset.
Sunday morning – Rev Robin Humphreys will lead participants through communion.


Praying for the BE retreat

Paul Humphreys, our National Leadership Facilitator, says: ‘As we draw closer to the BE Retreat, I am wanting to ramp up the prayer.’ So, please join with us in praying:

• For the workshop leaders, that their messages will be led by the Holy Spirit.
• That the workshops won’t be the end of the conversation but will prompt discussions and encourage participants to dive deeper into faith and leadership.
• That the topics & subject matter will resonate with this generation.
• That BE’ers will hear more than anything else, that we are all children of God and part of God’s big story.

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20 boys, 9 leaders, 1 island and whole lot of can only be SUNZ Pōnui Island Fishing Adventure!

This SUNZ Easter holiday camp returned for its fourth year. Pōnui Island Fishing Adventure aims to engage boys in school years 8-13 in practical activities, helping them to learn new skills, build friendships and explore the Christian faith.

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Many of the boys come from tough backgrounds and this camp provides the opportunity for them to connect with positive Christian role models and to build life skills. Some had returned for a second year of camp, and it was great to reconnect with them and input further into their lives.

Each day a leader would tell a ‘Reel’ story – sharing how God has worked in their lives. This was followed by an opportunity for the boys to discuss each story and talk about what parts resonated with them, and how they connect to God’s story. Each session gave the boys a chance to think and to ask questions that many had never had the chance, or even a reason, to ask before.

SUNZ Youth Consultant and Pōnui Island Fishing Adventure Team Leader, Andy Banks, shares:

‘It is an environment for the boys (some for the first time) to spend the first part of each day in reflection and to open the Bible to read a verse or passage that was followed by a few questions and related to the Reel story that day. One of the mornings was the story of Jesus cooking the fish on the beach and feeding it to the disciples and so we re-enacted it! We let the boys eat some of the cooked fish before as we read out the story on the beach and then they headed off for their reflection times. It was such a joy to see the boys engage with the stories told, dive into the Bible and to openly and honestly ask questions.’

The boys enjoyed bait fishing, boat fishing, kayak fishing, land-based fishing off the point and beaches, and fishing off the farm barge. They caught record breaking numbers of fish this year, including the camp’s first ever legal king fish! The boys also learned the skills of filleting and cooking up/smoking their own fish. They got involved in lots of other activities: archery, air rifle target shooting, multi-sports team games, team challenges, barge jumping, a burma trail, team challenge games night, movie night and an overnighter survivor challenge in which they had to build their own shelters for the night and cook their food on fires. What an adventure!

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When asked what they had learnt on camp this is what some of the boys had to say:

‘I learnt how to study a passage in the Bible and now I will do that with every passage I read in the Bible.’

‘I learnt to be patient.’

‘To put all my trust in God for the hard decisions.’

And whilst we haven’t heard back from all the boys, so far one who is not already involved with a church, has let us know that he would like help to connect with a youth group or Christian community. We praise God for all the seeds sown during this camp and pray for much fruit to grow out of it.

Wild Wāhine is a part of a plan to diversify our camps and to look at different camp formats. Our hope is that these new camps reach new audiences, bringing in young people who haven’t previously been involved in SUNZ camps.

Wild Wāhine is a long-weekend, pilgrimage-style camp for girls. New resources have been developed for this camp, which involve creating space when climbing to the summit, to reflect, be present, and look ahead, inviting God to be part of the journey.

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Natalie Duchesne, our North Island Camps Facilitator and Team Leader of Wild Wāhine shared her thoughts on this year’s camp which took place in April:

‘After stormy weather thwarted our efforts to reach the summit last year, we were grateful this year that a mix of blue sky and rainless cloud allowed us to journey up the entire Pinnacles trail in The Coromandel. We participated in seven ‘stations’ of pilgrimage together as we made our way to the summit. Each station gave the girls an opportunity to hear testimonies from the leaders, explore parts of Romans 12 and reflect on all they had heard.

From the very first conversation we had as a group forming our ‘covenant’ or group culture, it was evident that this group of girls were seeking conversation of depth and exploration. This proved to be true throughout the journey as they wrestled with the stations, asked questions, and had in-depth discussions with one another and with the leaders. We noted that particularly on the seventh station, just before we arrived back at the carpark, the girls were all deeply engaged with their time of silence and solitude, all writing extensive responses to the prompts. How encouraging to have these teenagers connect with our relational God in such rich ways.’

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A gift to SUNZ could change the life of a young person as they discover Jesus and grow in faith!

We asked SUNZ supporter Sally...Did SUNZ feature in your childhood?

Yes, at High School I was a Crusader and used SU notes.

Why do you choose to donate to SUNZ?

I choose to give to SUNZ because I think it is so important for children and young people to get into the habit of reading the Bible and of course to grow in their relationship with the God of the Bible. I want to support your leaders and the work they do, especially camps, which are a great way of engaging with youngsters.

What do you value about SUNZ?

The teenagers I know are more likely to use their devices than paper resources and I trust SUNZ to be creative in their outreach. Whatever the medium, we want the scriptures to be read and SUNZ is doing a great job in pursuing that goal.

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