Matt Summerfield remembers their history

Matt Summerfield
Matt Summerfield

When it comes to influencing literally generation after generation after generation of young people in our nation, arguably no other youth organisation comes close to the effectiveness, consistency and impact of Crusaders. This year sees the one hundredth anniversary of this amazing organisation who manage to keep re-inventing themselves for each changing face of youth culture. So we felt this was the perfect time to look back on those 100 years. Cross Rhythms got in touch with the top dog at Crusaders, Matt Summerfield, to give us a snap shot on a fantastic innings thus far:

In the spring of 1900, a missionary called Albert Kestin was walking through North London on a Sunday afternoon. As he walked, he prayed for the young people he saw; young people who were bored; young people who had lost interest in Sunday School, but who didn't have anywhere else to go. Albert saw that there was a great need for something new and, as a missionary, he knew that he had to take action himself.

Encouraged by friends, Albert started meetings (called classes in those days) for these young people (all boys at that time) at 71 Crouch Hill in Crouch End, North London, where he was temporarily living with friends. All boys were welcome, whichever church they attended, and especially if they didn't go to church at all. Albert coined the name "Crusaders" for his Bible class, after seeing a picture of a medieval Crusader with the caption "Be Strong".

From that first meeting, on 1st April 1900, the work started to grow, and over the next few years a number of similar classes were started, mainly in the London area. Albert's friend Herbert Bevington moved to Brighton in 1904, and started the first class outside the capital. By 1906, there were eleven independent groups, and it became clear that they would be more effective at spreading the Good News if they all kept in touch with each other, which they achieved by means of a weekly "returns sheet" showing attendances at each group, together with news and prayer requests.

By 1906, with some 600 boys regularly attending Crusader classes, it was decided to form a "Union" of all these classes into one organisation, and The Crusaders' Union was formed on 29th March that year. Its aim was simply to teach the whole Bible in a creative and relevant way to the young people but at the same time, working with, not against, the local churches.

Over the last 100 years Crusaders has been reaching out to young people, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them, and challenging them to live out God's great adventure for their lives. Two World Wars were unable to shift the unquenchable passion of this movement to reach out to the nation's young people. The backbone of the work has been Crusaders local youth and children's Groups, led faithfully by thousands of leaders and helpers across the United Kingdom. Every week, approximately 20,000 young people have an opportunity to hear the exciting Christian message through these groups. Many thousands more attend a wide range of events, residentials, short-term service and mentoring programmes.

The true heroes of the Crusaders movement are the many thousands of volunteers who faithfully reach out to this generation - every day, every week, every month, every year!

To put it bluntly - without volunteers, Crusaders would not exist. The volunteers are the movement's primary team players. Supported by an employed team, they are the ones who are working at the sharp end, engaged with this generation.

Yet with 96% of the nation's youth and children still without an understanding of what the Christian faith is all about there has never been a more important time for people to commit themselves to this critical mission. Perhaps people like you?

Through faithful obedience to Jesus Christ, Crusaders passionately believe that the effective working together of the family of God will achieve a God-honouring vision for the youth of this nation.

"To release an army of radical young people who are committed to taking the gospel to the generations that don't know Jesus Christ"

For more information or to contact Crusaders, visit their website CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.