ANDREW Roberts is a man on a mission.

With a background playing rugby and cricket, the 42-year-old now has his sights set on using sport to get more youngsters involved with his church.

As a youth worker at St John’s Church Centre, Nelson, he is spearheading a new youth club which he hopes will capture the imagination of children in the area with a more fun approach to religion.

Mr Roberts, who played for Preston Grasshoppers RFC and Colne CC, believes getting to know children on a personal level first is the best way to get them involved in Christianity.

He said: “I do assemblies at Castercliffe Community and St Philip’s CE primary school and run after-school classes called Kids’ Church.

“I also do a session called Sporty Church with parents on Saturdays. It brings people together to play sports and then at the end we have a short talk on the Bible.

“We want to get involved with Pendle Vale College a bit more too. At the club, we’ll have some games like table football, we play music and we’ve got a big screen to watch as well.”

The youth club, which is for youngsters aged 10 and over, takes place every Friday night at the church centre in Barkerhouse Road, which was built in 2000.

Mr Roberts said: “First and foremost, for me, it’s great just to get to know the kids because I’m relatively new to the job. The first few meetings have been really promising. Obviously it’s early days and we’re looking to build the numbers up but the feedback from those who have attended has been positive. We’re building it up slowly.”

Mr Roberts points to ‘notable’ levels of deprivation in the wider Pendle area as a reason for the church starting up the club.

He said: “It’s certainly something which we feel is needed and we’re trying to tailor it to the needs of the community we serve. There is a lot of poverty and deprivation in Nelson and Brierfield and it’s the church’s role to do what it can to address that.

“We want to give these children a purpose in life and give them hope and aspirations. There are a lot of clever kids with talent and if we can help them realise that potential, then great. That’s what I want to do.”

The youth club is held from 6.30pm to 8.30pm every Friday. St John’s will also hold a Messy Church session, which teaches arts and crafts, from 4pm on July 20.