Regular readers of my articles, friends and colleagues might like to know how things are going on with developing pioneer & detached youthwork in the North East with Frontier Youth Trust.
The Background to the work is 2/3 funding bids about 3-4 years ago that Frontier Youth Trust obtained, so that new projects and initiatives could start, and as well a centre to be established in an area of the North East. A steering group was set up , and the agreement was that 6 areas in the Durham Diocese and 6 in the Newcastle Diocese would benefit from funding, which would include supporting a group or church with starting to connect with a local community area, either a community profile, detached youthwork training or support, supervision suitable to the needs. In the first instance I, within the steering group began to make some connections and links to make some of these happen. And at the same time, a hub was designated in Middlesbrough.
Fast forward 18 months. From being ‘self employed’ trying to fit in doing this development work around my other job, I am now working 3 days a week to develop these centres and projects in the North east, and be connected with the FYT national team. I cant believe I have been in the job one whole month already!
When i first arrived back in the North East, 3 1/2 years ago, there were just 2 projects that were connected to FYT/Streetspace. Including a project in Leeds (is Leeds the north east?) – There are now 7, with 5 additional ones being developed. These include 5 in the Durham diocese;
So, in Hartlepool theres a small steering group made up of volunteers from three churches, and a team who head out onto Headland/Central estate on a fortnightly basis.
In a small village to the east of Durham, a small team of people undertook the detached youthwork training, and as they headed out onto the streets met a group and started an afterschool drop-in craft club, at this groups request. Taken from the Durham Diocese website they said:
“Initially with JB from FYT and a team of volunteers they stepped out in faith, opened up the church to the young people on a tuesday afternoon to see who would come along, with up to a dozen young people coming along, they do crafts say prayers and light a candle at the end of each session” When i met with this team recently there was so much more, but its not for here. Nevertheless, its great to be helping small initiatives in small places get off the ground. This group are still hoping to do detached as well… (sometimes its this kind of enthusiasm that needs to be bottled and kept!)
Theres 2 other areas in the Durham Diocese who are currently undertaking training for detached, and in Spennymoor theres an established youthwork project who are linking with FYT to access resources, training and support for their detached and drop in club, which again is full of a team of enthusiastic volunteers. Along with these areas, theres been a few enquiries to be followed up soon.
In Newcastle Diocese, currently we have 2 live links, in Tweedmouth, who originally requested a community audit, and then who I help to support their paid pioneer youthworker through a local steering group, and theres a parish not far from Newcastle who I am also just completing a community audit in order that the church can consider whet they do first or next in developing work with young people in their local area. It means that there are still 4 ‘places’ left in the Newcastle Diocese. On Monday i am hosting along with Judith, the DYO, a seminar in the Newcastle Diocese on Discipleship & Drop-ins, in which clergy, one of the Bishops and others may be present, and this could encourage further conversations about developing detached/pioneer work in that diocese.
In the course of the month I have had a few other enquiries about visiting groups, clubs and initiatives in the North East, and so, it feels like theres a shift being undertaken where churches are thinking about ‘young people they dont know’ but also about how this is a kind of work that needs thinking about creatively and professionally, giving people training, policies and resources for it to happen.
Like every role, and ministry, not everything is smooth, difficult decisions might have to be made, and many occur week by week in some projects. Where I sit now, it has been over 4 months since I left Durham YFC, and that was a difficult first 6 months to this year, a long time of undergoing the closing down and clearing up of a 10 year old youth ministry charity, and as i speak there are challenging situations in a number of projects, even in the north east to do with similar issues, especially funding and governance. Life is never smooth!
However, it has to be said, that despite some challenges, there are some real positives and developments in the North East, there are groups who are starting a really counter cultural process that is long term, open ended and is seeking to invest time and compassion with young people outside of their church, and this is to be commended, as it flies in the face of ‘quick-win’ mission initiatives and the numbers game, willing to get their hands dirty in a number of ways. My role includes meeting up for coffee and doing alonsides/supervision with projects, workers and volunteers and its great hearing how they’re being challenged by young people, their faith and how they maintain connecting in challenging circumstances, to meeting young people in their chosen space, value young people in their groups and spend time listening and learning. Not an easy thing, but puts them in a place where their vulnerability and risk taking becomes part of their discipleship and faith. So – the north east – the barren place for pioneering? or the start of something new…
Please do continue to pray for all these groups, some ive mentioned, others i havent, for the new Frontier Youth Trust team and myself as these developments continue. Any ongoing support and donations to FYT are always welcome and you can do this here: http://www.fyt.org.uk. Im not going to do a write up every months, but I thought, given that this website is about ‘developing youthwork in the North East’ then thought you might like to hear a little of it.