Hundreds of students and young people will go to Sheffield’s O2 Academy tonight – not for a concert, but for a church service.

The student and young adult arm of Hope City Church, a non-denominational Christian church based at The Megacentre on Bernard Road, will be branching out to the renowned music venue for weekly services every Tuesday, starting tonight.

Jo Willis, 18-30s Pastor at the church and organiser of these services, named YA Tuesdays, said they “chose the O2 Academy because of its iconic place in Sheffield’s history.

Pastor Jo Willis

“Our other services are in a converted tool factory so we certainly aren’t religious about our venues!”

The 29-year-old from Aughton is excited about the launch of YA Tuesdays and believes “that we have the most important message a young adult could hear – that they are loved by Jesus.

“YA Tuesdays will give us a platform to be able to share that message. [It] is a community where people can find Jesus and friendship and meaning within their lives.”

“If you can enjoy a gig there, why not enjoy church there too?”

Until May this year, student and young adult services were held weekly on Friday nights at the Printhouse on North Church Street in the city’s Cathedral Quarter.

Jo said: “It is a big move, but we are getting too big for modest-sized venues. We are expecting an influx of young adults and students this year, so we need somewhere that will house what we are doing.”

Sheffield and Hallam university students, graduates and young adults at an 18-30s conference last November. Left to right: Barbara Agwaziam, 22, Hannah Allward, 22, Nikola Auterska, 24, Steph Mwangiru, 22, Sharna Iona, 21, and Erin Strugnell, 20

He believes it is important that young adults have time set aside in the week, other than the usual Sunday service, to come together and worship.

He then explained that YA Tuesdays will provide the opportunity “to delve into the nitty-gritty of young adult life” and be more specific with the aim and content of the service.

“Plus, we can do things that we don’t normally do in church like have an after-party with comedians and performers,” he continued.

“Church is meant to be a creative place, so why not head to a venue that is known for staging creatives? I think if you can enjoy a gig there, why not enjoy church there too?”

“I think church should be enjoyed, not endured.”

There has been a rise in unconventional Christianity over the last decade, with worldwide churches such as Hillsong – similar in style to Hope City – holding services in West End theatres with professional lighting and a contemporary band.

This has sometimes been criticised as putting on a show and enticing young people into church by trying to make Christianity cool.

But Jo disagrees – he thinks that Hope City are going for “more relevant” rather than cool.

He said: “We believe in creativity and enjoying God which I guess is different to the way a lot of people view church. We don’t use the same methods for teaching in schools and universities now as we did 100 years ago, so why do it in church?

“I think church should be enjoyed – not endured – so we have an absolute blast every week, building God’s church, teaching people about Jesus and honouring God.”

More young adults at last year’s conference: Joshua Chilvers, 23, Matt Sutherland, 20, and Joel Sutcliffe, 24

Hope City has church plants in 12 cities worldwide, including Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt and Accra, with another church opening soon in Brussels.

Yet Jo says they want the people of Sheffield to know “that Jesus loves them and believes in them.

“Hope City Church isn’t traditional in its method, but our roots are established in Jesus in the same way that every Christian church in the city is.”

He thinks that in the “post-Christian society we are supposedly in, people know about God and have ideas about whether or not he exists or whether or not he is good.

“We are doing all we can to give people an opportunity to see for themselves because what we have in Jesus is too good to keep quiet!”

YA Tuesdays at the O2 Academy will be open to all students and young adults in Sheffield every Tuesday in term time from 7pm.

Words by Kimberley John
Image credit: Hope City Church

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