We aim to comfort rather than convert

SADLY, your article "O come all ye faithful" (TES, June 14) has missed one of the key reasons Christian groups visit schools. Schools are required by law to provide a daily act of collective worship for pupils. Often, teachers have been unable or unwilling to do this, so organisations such as Youth for Christ and Agape are invited in to fulfil this responsibility.

But that is by no means the full extent of their involvement. Swindon youth service, in association with the local authority, recently carried out a survey which revealed that nearly two-thirds of young people have no one they can talk to about their problems.

So when a young adult from a Christian organisation appears in a school they are often greeted with open arms by children with literally no one else. In addition to leading "worship", youth workers are on hand to answer tough questions on issues such as teenage pregnancy, sexuality, drugs, identity and self-esteem.

Backing has come from various agencies including the Home Office, local authorities and the Church of England, a further vindication of our approach to give young people time and space to be heard, valued and make informed choices.

Potential "disciples" among pupils? Possibly. But more often than not Christian youth workers find themselves most in demand as a shoulder to lean or cry on, a sympathetic ear, a compassionate friend.

It is time to give more credit where it is undoubtedly due.

Roy Crowne National director Youth for Christ Phil Jackman Communications director Agape

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