out there…

One of the most common questions I get asked when I’m out and about ranting* about youth work in various contexts is “so, where do we start making relationships with unchurched young people?” Usually this comes after I’ve talked about how we’re only reaching somewhere less than 10% of the young people in the UK. This is a pretty scary statistic, and makes you realise that even where we’re doing good Christian youth work we’re not even scratching the surface…

A few weeks ago Kay and I got a chance to visit ‘the venue’ in Tiverton, a youth drop in project which isn’t run by a church, but is run by a group of Christian. There was a very specific need in the town centre – a common one in lots of places – basically, young people hanging out and engaging in what is called nowadays ‘anti-social behaviour’. In my day it was called ‘messing around’ or ‘being young’. However, there were issues about these young people drinking and being threatening, and a realisation that something needed to be offered to ‘get them off the street’. This group decided to do that something, and have set up a great little project in a portacabin type building just off the high street. There you’ll find a couple of nice pool tables, some games consoles, a couple of swish flat-screens and some comfy seating. All in all a really nice little set up. And they’re doing great work – loads of young people who would never normally go to a youth club let alone a church youth club are getting involved.

The reason I mention this today is that I met with one of the volunteers this morning to see how I could support them. Our conversation went around a few areas, but one bit in particular stood out. This is that they had made a conscious choice that this wasn’t going to be an evangelical activity – that there wasn’t going to be a God spot. There was a recognition that these young people were miles away from being able to engage with this, and simply needed somewhere safe to hang out. So these Christians decided that the best way they could serve their community was to do something for these young people. And the exciting thing is that even though there’s no agenda for it, all the young people know that the volunteers are Christians, and there’s been some great conversations (I suppose you’d call it witnessing!). Most of the volunteers are people you wouldn’t expect to find in a youth club – but they realised that they could give young people what they need the most – love and acceptance.

Basically – anyone can set this kind of thing up – including getting all the lovely equipment through various pots of money that are around. And you don’t need to think that you have to ‘force’ God on anyone – simply being open about your faith and creating opportunities for relationship building – conversation will happen.

How you then help young people on their own spiritual journey will be a whole other post!

Just thought I’d share about this project…

*Steve Jones introduced me to this facilitation technique – it’s got something to do with being passionate about what you’re talking about, whilst also taking people along with you and creating space for people to ask questions and answer them themselves…


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