Riverside Academy is a gap-year for 18-30yr olds who want to give a year to grow and discover God’s purpose for their lives. It is a life-changing year to grow in faith, character & grace, and explore what life serving God in a church is really like

Nathanael’s Story:


Riverside Academy is the name for the year-out scheme at Riverside Church in Birmingham. It is a gap-year for 18-30 year olds who want to give a year to grow and discover God’s purpose for their lives. You’ll have a life-changing year to grow in faith, character and grace, and explore what life serving God in a church is really like


Riverside Academy’s year-out programme runs from September to July each year and participants will be expected to commit to a full-time work schedule during this time.

During the year, you will have the opportunity to be linked to one of our specialised tracks. The Performing Arts track is linked with Riverside Performing Arts, the church’s full-time professional theatre company, while the other tracks operate under supervision from relevant church ministry departments.

Currently, we offer training and development within the following tracks:

Partnering with Riverside Performing Arts, Academy participants on this track will be trained in a wide-range of theatrical and performance techniques, including acting, singing and dancing. Using these, they will have opportunities to create and perform to audiences in numerous community, theatre and church locations. Riverside Performing Arts specialises in relevant issue-based theatre and has been working in the local community amongst schools and other community groups for more than 20 years.

Riverside Church has a large and varied musical worship team, led by our staff Worship Director. Joining the worship track at Riverside Academy will give you the opportunity to develop your musical skills and receive teaching on the theology and place of worship in the Christian life. Participants can also focus on developing skills in sound engineering and PA operation if this is preferred.

To be an effective presence in the local community, Riverside Church depends on every person feeling included, welcomed and looked-after. In order for this to happen, we depend on the smooth running of numerous administrative systems across the different ministry teams. Being part of the Riverside Academy administration track will allow you to hone skills in effective communication, team management and strategic planning. We’re looking for detail-focussed minds who thrive in environments where systems are in place to make sure every person in our church is valued, noticed and given the chance to grow.

How we communicate is key to how effective church is within our local community. Riverside Academy’s media track is particularly suited for creative participants keen to engage in relevant media to help us communicate who Jesus is. Being part of this track will give you opportunity to creatively think how the church can communicate more effectively, while also being a creative environment to encourage the production of high-quality, effective communication materials using both online and offline media.

Offering young people an exciting and dynamic place to explore and develop their faith is a vital part of what defines Riverside Church. Academy participants who choose to join our youth track will be given the chance to get to know our large group of young people, helping them to get to know Jesus in a relevant and life-changing way. The church runs youth groups during the week for ages ranging from 11-18 and operates residential weekends during the year where Academy participants will also be able to get involved.

We consider children to be the church of today as well as the church of tomorrow. Riverside has many families with children, and there are numerous opportunities for Academy participants to get involved in supporting and growing the children’s ministry. From Sunday teaching to mid-week small groups, helping children aged 0-10 to get to know Jesus for themselves in a creative and energetic way will be a wonderful and faith-building experience.

Become a nationally-qualified debt adviser with our Money Advice team and serve amidst our busy team who deliver over 800 client-interactions each year. Our food pantry serves 50 weekly shoppers, taking stock direct from supermarkets and providing a subsidised shop for customers, effectively multiplying a £5 spend to over £20 worth of goods. Weekly Stay & Plays and Sunday Open Lunch provide connections with all sorts of local people, discovering how our church community puts its faith into action to meet the practical needs for support, help and a listening ear. This dynamic “hands-on” track of the Academy will open your eyes to a wide vista of cultures, poverty, practical needs, and challenge your perspective on God’s design for what church should do.


It will be a creative mixture of classroom teaching, one-to-one mentoring, dynamic experiences and simply using your gifts & skills in life at Riverside Church. Each Academy cohort will learn together, and then you will be involved in different ministry settings for the rest of the week.


For the duration of the year with us, you will be linked to one specific ministry setting. For example, someone could be part of youth outreach or worship ministry, or work alongside Riverside Performing Arts.

All of this will develop some key characteristics of what it means to live thriving lives for God. We hope that you grow in your faith and also develop leadership skills and a sense of God’s calling on your life.


We all learn in different ways. In the Bible, Paul gave a glimpse into how he taught the early church, ‘Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice’ (Philippians 4:9). In a similar way, we will give you an opportunity to learn in a more formal classroom environment and put your learning into practice alongside some one-to-one coaching.


The Academy programme costs £1500 for the year, which covers costs for all training, teaching materials and administration costs. The fees can be paid in one lump-sum at the start of the year, or payments can be spread over your time at Riverside as agreed with us. We want to encourage anyone to apply though, so if this cost makes things difficult, please contact us and we’ll do what we can to help.

During the year, participants will work the equivalent of five days a week, including time spent serving within church on a Sunday as part of the programme. Each participant will have a standard holiday allowance, with time off being agreed with relevant programme leaders.

Riverside Academy doesn’t provide accommodation to participants, but would be able to assist with finding suitable lodging for participants should this be needed.

Further information about the programme, please contact us on academy@riverside-church.org.uk 0121 442 4484

We are now taking applications for 2024-25 academic year.

Getting to know Jesus | Getting to know yourself | Getting to know your calling

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