Could the 16 year old me survive today?

I wept this morning. I cried for young people who have been have been vicitimised, marginalised and oppressed by the governments response to the recession of cutting services, I cried with the young people who will continue to be the ones who suffer most as we enter economic recovery which the government wants to promote with further cuts. The latest government proposals on young people, demonstrate a society that has lost its way, a society of selfishness, greed and power.

I wept this morning as friends responded to my post on facebook about my own situation as a NEET (not in employment, education or training) 16 year old. I left home, not willingly, not out of choice but out of necessity after my father who had been sober for 5 years started to drink again. My sister helped, the state helped, I was not stigmatized, I had time to get my head together, I had time to start to find out who I really was, out of the shadow of my father, I survived, I flourished. As I write the tears start again for the young people I met this week on the streets who do not have the same opportunity I had, I see them in my minds eye and I am simply distraught at what the future holds if current government plans continue.

Out of the shadows of my childhood, I began to explore my vocation, and pathway into youthwork. Unsurprisingly I left school with no O’levels but at 17 I was accepted to do a further education City and Guilds course in Leisure and Recreation. A course I started late because it took a while to see if I could get a grant and benefit to live and study. I moved onto to do Social Care and an A level, with a student grant and working nights in a printers and the fabulous support of my sisters family who let me live in the caravan in the garden, I began to mature and come to terms with who I was. At 19 I thought I was ready, but quickly realized I needed to go to Uni if I was going to do the youth work stuff properly, and that meant I needed more grant support. At that time automatic vocational grants (the first to go) had been cut and I remember sitting around an appeals table in County Hall in Exeter explaining my case to a panel of 15 adults, and making a simple promise to come back to the county for at least a year once graduated to help other young people.

Two years later, JNC youthwork qualification in hand, I returned to my sisters garden to live in her shed (the caravan was rusted away) and make good the promise I made in County Hall. At 21 I established my first detached youth work project in Devon, I worked part time and received housing benefit that helped make ends meet. I remember the young people I worked with 23 years ago, I remember them coming to the shed (my house) to plan how to establish a youth centre for the area, I recall the youth centre that was built on the basis of these proposals, and I still hear occasional stories from my sister about the work in the town. For those of you who know me, you will be familiar with the rest of my story, my long history with Frontier Youth Trust. My first paid post working and living on a difficult estate in the Midlands as part of YFC,(which incidentally encouraged my dad to shake my hand before I left Devon as he thought I had a proper job!) It was on this estate where I met real need first hand in my neighbors and began to learn what it means to be real community from them. Leaving to work for Worth Unlimited, with a job brief to make it work or close it down, but who now do an amazing job under a great CEO in Tim Evans in so many difficult areas across the country. Then more recently into StreetSpace who now meet over 8000 young people a month on the edge a month. I recall these stories, not to say look at me but to simply ask would the 16 year old me survive today. Asking this simple question causes the tears to return again as I know the answer would be no. Tears of gratefulness to my sister’s family and to the state without who I would not have survived. So the tears of thanks turn to a weeping that flows freely for the 1000s of young people I still hear about as youth worker, who share elements of my story, or far worse circumstances, growing up in a society that has lost its way…

The arch-bishop, the gruffalo and StreetSpace links

Today the Arch bishop of Canterbury is visiting Coventry, where StreetSpace has linked with Urban Hope Coventry as an Alongside project. Yesterday I went to meet with Greg and the team to discuss them, increasing their involvment with us and becoming a partner with StreetSpace so we can offer a bit more support and structural help to the youthwork at Bardsley House and detached in the city centre.

UH is a great emerging expression of church who set up Coffee Tots. The work Greg and the team do is excellent, and has gone through various stages starting with detached work, drop in, through goth church to Coffee Tots and Urban Hope as an expression of church that has about 50 people linked in. I asked Greg if they organised around mission and the answer was yes and I think it has to be one of the nest examples of a missional church in the UK. Missional church is a church that defines and organises its life around its real purpose as an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organising principle is mission. Therefore when the church is in mission, it is the true church. The church itself is not only the product of that mission but it is obligated and destined destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. Hirsh “The Forgotten Ways” Brazos 2007 p238

gruff
I have know Greg for years and I love the parallels of the story of Urban Hope and the Gruffalo which the Arch-Bishop will be reading to the children at Coffee Tots today as part of his scheduled visit today. In the gruffalo story, a mouse is on a journey and on the way meets various creatures (a fox, a snake and an owl) that want to eat him, so he imagines the gruffalo to help him escape their hungry tummies, and with each encounter the mouses imagination grows as does the picture of the gruffalo in his head. At times for Greg and the team they were breaking new ground, and trying to explain to the powers that be what was happening and imagining the way head as they went. This future hope was powerful, it drove them on and enabled others to give them the space that was needed to the mouselike groups emerging.
When the mouse actually encounters the Gruffalo there is a point when it all seems about to go horribly wrong, but the journey has given him a confidence and robustness to bluff his way out, and it actually turns out the Gruffalo is much more fragile than first thought. Greg and team will encounter the Gruffalo today in the form of the arch bishop and all that he represents as the leader of the Anglican union and Rowan is so right for the role not only with beard and voice, but also with the humility and fragility that will read a story to bunch of children of parents who would never come near the established institution he represents, without the courageous journey of the mouselike Rev Greg Bartlem, who I am pleased and privileged to know and gives more to StreetSpace than I feel able to return.

Spiritual Development – fit for purpose?

As you may be aware the powers that be are proposing removing Spiritual Development from the new National Occupational Standards for Youth Work and including the notion in a new standard ‘Values and Beliefs’.

Given Frontier Youth Trust’s long-standing interest in this subject matter our staff team and Directors met this week and issued the following statement:

‘We consider that the National Occupational Standards for Youth Work should retain ‘Spiritual Development’ as a stand alone Youth Work Standard in order to best serve: young people, youth workers, employers and maintain a holistic and inclusive approach to human development. The proposed ‘Values and Beliefs’ Standard does not achieve these objectives and runs the risk of not being fit for purpose.’

FYT are happy to share this with you in case you felt able to use it (or something similar) and/or pass onto other colleagues and/or post on your blogs, web sites and facebook/twitter communications.

leave the 1 to be with the 99

It is strange how things pop up again and again, and during the podcast I did with Youthwork Magazine yesterday the story came up of the lost sheep. I have been reflecting for a few days on the story of the good Shepherd after reading it to my daughter who said it makes no sense. The beauty of the upside down kingdom is that shes right, and that is why when did some YW researchof church based youth workers, we found the majority did not feel they were being released into mission.
In the post christian story we find ourselves in, we need to realise that those in churches are working with the minority and it is now not a case of leaving the 99 to go after the one lost sheep, but leaving the one to go and be with 99, and to stay there and be and grow church in the new context.

Does Christianity have a future in a new shape?

After the programme does Christianity have a future? see iplayer here (our bit is around 37 mins in) I wanted to start a discussion about what I thought the programmes was going to be about which was more about the emerging shape of Christianity and how the values of Gen Y influence and change the way we do church. Ann Widecombe seemed to have an agenda around traditional approaches to faith, and how much she was involved in shifting the focus of the programme i am unsure. Dave Wiles summed it up nicely “Dear old Anne playing with red herrings”

SO am asking the question does christianity have a future in a new shape and what does that shape look like?

Heres one colour that I think the new picture will be painted with to get you started – it will be apologectic free, people will not bother about arguements like did God create the world in seven days, and whilst people may ask those sort of questions, answers will not be about justifying a defence but explaining that it doesnt matter and only giving their view as one of the options about what the truth may be.

FaSt TV Dinner with a difference or Now that’s what I call a fresh expression of church

The BBC were filming Streetspace/Church on the edge yesterday. The programme is due to go out on Easter week probably Easter Sunday. The shift had changed from Gen Y and it is now presented by Ann Widecombe (wish they had told me that before!) and is a follow up to the series she did last year but looking at the future of Christianity. This was was interesting and slightly problematic as they used more christian language than I would ever use, as I talk about spirituality a lot rather than christian words which can be loaded. So they asked some the young people what they thought when I when I told them I was a christian, (which I don’t think I ever have in that way) but I explain the project is about personal social and spiritual development before we get to stage 5 with groups. So it will be interesting to see the results.

As well as filming the skate park and interviews they filmed M and M’s and we used the new version of the FaSt game with three groups running at the same time, which worked brilliantly. We worked through the prodigal son and young people shared some really deep issues about difficulties with father figures particularly. It was really interesting to watch the yp share some really heart felt stuff openly but when it came to miming a bit from the story to look around and check they weren’t being filmed first.

At the end of the game you have a choose an action to put into practice based on the theme, and one yp had “someone in the room” so having identified the theme as acceptance he got up and walked down the room to give another lad (the one who gets on everyones nerves) a hug, it was a classic God moment, as he received the hug with a tear in his eye. The fact I never see the lads do anything so demonstrative was surprise enough but the act was courageous and real and blew me away, So I don’t really care about what the camera puts out in the edit, as it was worth it.

Scotland

Here are my plans for next weeks trip to Scotland I still have a bit of time Monday PM and Wednesday late afternoon if anyone else wants to hook up

Monday 10th Jan
AM-  Glasgow – Meet up with Laura Hopkins in Bishopsbriggs 
PM – Drive to Aberdeen

Tuesday 11th Jan
AM – meet up with Dan Robertson and Blue Horizon in Aberdeen
PM -Meet up with Hot Choc people in Dundee

Wednesday 12th Jan
AM – Meet up with James and Sidewalk in Perth 
PM – Drive to Glasgow
EVE – Glasgow Pub Theology and Pulse Rate research (TBC)

Thursday 13th Jan
Early flight home

Smarter working

I wanted to try and work a bit smarter with traveling etc for StreetSpace/FYT and catch up on several projects at once

So here are few dates I will be traveling if you are in the area or and hour or so away and want to hook up give me a ring or email me.

27/28 Sept London
1st Oct Salisbury
4/5 Oct Oxford/Reading
11-15 Oct South west
18-22 North
27-29 Oct Birmingham/Midlands
1st Nov Bristol
10-12 Nov North east of London, Cambridge, Colchester
also wondering about Scotland sometime around last week Nov/fist week dec

Dave Wiles has finished the book that he started writing 3 years ago!! It is called ‘Stories from the Edge’ – the book is an attempt to challenge, inspire and encourage people who work with other people (especially youth and community workers). It contains some of his own story and lots of the stories of people who are active in youth and community work.

More detail about the book below with some endorsements – To order a copy (£10 plus £2 p&p) please phone 0121 687 3505 or e-mail: frontier@fyt.org.uk … or you can purchase via the FYT website.

STORIES FROM THE EDGE – Over 50 encounters with young people at risk: A practical resource for youth workers

By: Dave Wiles, CEO, Frontier Youth Trust

Foreword by: Adrian and Bridget Plass

These true stories are instructive, inspiring, arresting and shocking. Meet the 16-year-old on probation, who is on suicide watch; mediate between a rebellious youngster and his too-strict dad; listen to a 21-year-old girl, with two children in care, who works the street to pay for the heroin her father deals. Each chapter follows a particular theme, such as ‘Dads and Lads’ or ‘Youth Culture and Gangs’, and ends with points for discussion.

“Stories from the Edge shows us where God’s Kingdom can truly be found …This is invaluable for those who are engaged in ‘frontier’ youth work.” – Nick Shepherd, Centre for Youth Ministry

“Thank God for Dave Wiles, a bruised human being who understands through troubles in his own life and through his involvement in the battered lives of others, that Christianity is a messy business.” – Adrian and Bridget Plass, in their foreword

“Dave not only practises what he talks about, his own story shows the impact that can be made. A moving, challenging and motivating read.” – Tim Evans, Worth Unlimited

“Be warned – this book doesn’t hold back; it is not a gentle read! Instead, it is full of tough stories and the reality of the lives of young people on the edge. The brilliance of the book is in the questions – challenging the assumptions we have when working with young people and encouraging us to be people of grace and hope.” – Jill Rowe, Oasis

“An amazing collection of stories … A refreshingly honest and down to earth read for anyone who shares Jesus’ heart for people on the margins.” – Gavin Calver, Youth for Christ

“Everyone loves a good story and this book is packed with them – stories that challenge, inspire, shock and pull the rug from under your feet. It had me gripped.” – Jonny Baker, Church Mission Society

Illustrated by Jon Birch, www. asbojesus.wordpress.com