A YOUTH club run by a Hereford church has been warned by police after its leaders gathered outside school gates and handed out sweets to children.

But Josh Snowzell, who runs Hereford Freedom Church, said the youth leaders who gave out free Smarties to year seven and eight students outside Whitecross High School last Thursday (October 18) were promoting the youth club, not encouraging young teenagers to join the church that has previously courted controversy.

The Freedom Church has been accused of encouraging its younger members to seek relationship advice from church leaders instead of parents and is home to a Barbarian group for men “relentless in their desire to be God’s best”.

Last week, Police were called to Whitecross School in Three Elms Road after receiving a call that adults were giving chocolates to children.

Speaking to the Hereford Times, Mr Snowzell said four young adults who volunteer for the church’s youth club were handing out leaflets with sweets attached to promote a youth club.

They were joined by pupils from Whitecross who attend Freedom Church.

The school, however, received calls and emails from parents worried that uninvited strangers had given sweets to children.

“It is not something we would encourage,” said Whitecross headteacher Denise Strutt. “I think it was a naive decision by the people who run the church.

Handing out sweets to schoolchildren is in complete contradiction to everything we teach our children.

“We are not for or against the Freedom Church. I am aware that we have a number of students who attend churches in the city, including Freedom Church.”

Police spokesman Chris Ammonds said: “We don’t think it was responsible behaviour. Freedom Church has agreed to speak to its youth leaders to ensure they conduct themselves in a manner that doesn’t cause concern in future.”

Mr Snowzell, who leads the Hereford church with his wife Rose, said leafleting outside the school was a promotion for the youth club and claimed nightclubs do the same. He said: “Freedom Church is a local, registered charity, that has been doing youth work in Herefordshire for 20 years.

“Our youthwork volunteers are CRB checked and passionate about serving our city. We are more than aware that there are not a lot of things for the young people of Hereford to do, and one of the things that we provide is a youth club for years seven to eights.

“It is a great provision, that we are very proud of.

“The young people who attend really love it, and have a lot of fun. We wanted to make it available to more young people and let them know about the opportunity.

“One of the students at Whitecross told us that they get flyered by nightclubs for teen club nights right outside the school.

“So we thought we would send some of our charity volunteers, so that we could promote the youth club that we run as a positive provision for the youth of our city.”