Punching above our weight!

FYT don’t often talk about what we do or ask for money. However I thought I would post a copy of this appeal letter, for all those people who always ask “what do you do?” It is not that long but well worth a read.

Frontier Youth Trust – Punching above our weight!

Dear Friend
I usually write this annual letter to give you a brief update on FYT and to thank you for your support and interest. As ever I write with a sense of gratitude to God and His people for enabling us to continue making our small contribution in ensuring that young people who are at risk are not forgotten and can join us in His upside down Kingdom! Even though Frontier Youth Trust is a relatively small movement it has to be said that our activities endorse the popular view that we ‘punch above our weight’! The many examples in Scripture of God’s ability to multiply things (the widow’s pot of oil, loaves and fish etc) rings so true for FYT! As I reflect on recent months I am thrilled to be able to let you know about some of the exciting initiatives that we are praying will be a rich blessing to young people and youth workers.

We continue to work hard to realise our first objective – “initiate, develop and resource direct work with young people at riskâ€?. We are directly involved on a regular basis in at least 25 youth work projects or conferences where we have a significant amount of responsibility. The Jacob Project is a good example of FYT doing something practical for young people who are leaving Young Offenders units, which seeks to enable them to break the vicious cycle that so often traps them in a world of repeated offending. Our ‘Church at the Edge project’ is actively working with young people to explore and create fresh expressions of church with young people who would normally steer clear of traditional church. You can read more about these two projects in the last edition of FYT News. Our work with young people has brought us into direct contact with over 6,200 young people in the last year!

We are about to give away £1000 of money that we have raised from a special trust to youth groups! We are asking young people to use this funding to raise more funding (parable of the talents!) to establish a Trust fund that will be used exclusively by young people to act on their own concerns, with supported from FYT. We have also developed a web site where young people are expressing their views about the things that matter to them www.ypap.org.uk – ‘Young People as Prophets’. Both of these activities are contributing to make our objective of “Giving a voice to local young people and their communities, enabling them to change those structures and systems that do not promote justice, equality and communityâ€? into a reality.

Our final objective is to “develop research, training, resources and advice based on our direct work� and I am both thrilled and astounded to tell you that in the last year FYT has had face to face contact with nearly 6,000 youth workers and over 2000 youth work managers! This represents hundreds of youth work projects, training events, conferences and festivals and our regular features in publications, as well as several published books in the last year, ensure that we are being effective in sharing what we are learning with others in keeping young people at risk on the agenda.

All of this is made possible by your financial support and prayer and we are so very grateful for this. As ever I would invite you to review your support of FYT, or perhaps to consider supporting us for the first time. Please consider doing this by completing the attached reply slip Death Ride aka Haunted Highway film and returning it using our freepost address. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and again, thank you for your interest and support.

Shalom – Dave Wiles

The Two Prerequisites for Love (?)

What God wants of us is for us to reflect his love. What do we need to do this all encompassing thing?

Well, one thing we need to show love is God himself:
1 John 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

What else do we need to love?


Without time we cannot love, as love is something that we do, something that takes time. All that we do needs to be out of love – we even look after ourselves and provide for our own needs out of love, enabling us to look outward and love others. However, sometimes we spend our time outside of love, we sometimes busy ourselves providing for our selfish desires.

Sometimes I think that perhaps we spend too much time making money, and sometimes we justify that by pointing to the good we can do with the money. However, I don’t think that God is short of a bob or two, but I do think that God would like more people to do His works of love. The one thing that we have that God doesn’t, unless we give it to Him, is our time.

Acts 3:6
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

The love that God gives us is much more precious than silver and gold. I’m trying to focus more on giving my time. To do that I’m trying to reduce my requirement for money and therefore reduce my need to work for money. I’m trying to live more economically and not be so caught up in our materialist culture, but I’m not forgetting that we do need material provision – as with most things it is a balance.

Why are boys holding onto themselves?

If you work with young people or observe young people in the public you may have noticed that boys seem to be holding onto themselves. Boys wearing tracksuit bottoms can be observed with their hands down their trousers holding onto their manhood, caressing their testicles or keeping there penis warm. I’m not really sure what they are doing, I haven’t examined them that closely!! My immediate reactions to this act has sometimes been one of disgust or of accusing them of being immature. But I have been wondering if this is a physical demonstration of an emotional neediness. I thought I would test out some of my reflections on you unsuspecting people.

Firstly I believe that boys in our culture are in trouble. They often appear lost left to their own devices with few boundaries. Fathers are often physically absent and nearly always emotionally absent and many boys have lacked any appropriate fathering. They haven’t experienced appropriate affection from a male, hardly any encouragement, little direction, and generally lacked any appropriate physical touch by another male. This has left the boys and men out of touch with their bodies and emotions.

Teenagers are struggling to know what it is to be a boy yet they are desperate to be seen as a man and yet the males in their lives even though they are adults are often still boys psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. In our present society I believe boys are lost and have few bearings and when this happens one can return to infantile instincts. One of theses instincts is to play with the body. I have two little boys and they love fiddling with their willy, pulling it, bending it and generally playing with it – it is great fun – although I get a little worried sometimes !! Children are experts at putting their fingers up their noses and will often comfort themselves by putting their fingers/ thumbs in their mouth.

Boys are finding it tough to grow up. Moving away from mum and the motherly instincts is hard but at some stage they have to make this move in order to define their maleness. If no appropriate male is present then emotionally boys can struggle for identity trying to define who they are in the midst of a vacumn.

If a man is not there to model manhood or to tell teenage boys who they are then perhaps the boys have to literally remind themselves who they are. The boys will literally physically and emotionally be holding onto themselves. With few emotional or physical boundaries they see no shame or embarrassment about this public act.

I believe it is quite common for boys / men when they are feeling low or down to start playing with their penis moving to masturbation and the exhilaration of the climax. The penis is a symbol for power and reminds us that even when things are going wrong we can still summon up some manly power and release an energetic life-force.

However I don’t think boys with their hands down their trousers are seeking to exhibit their power or perform an intimate act but I think they are actually comforting themselves. The testicles are the most vulnerable part of the man, and whilst the penis may speak of power and energy the testicles speak of tenderness, almost the feminine physical part of man, the part that we protect, perhaps emotionally reminding us of our inner neediness.

Perhaps boys are holding onto themselves to remind them of their masculinity, to help them feel more secure in who they are as a person and as a male. Perhaps this self-comforting is a physical cry for attention…..

Physical Violence and Mental Coercion: What is Pacifism?

As someone with pacifist tendencies I’m asking myself “is physical violence different to other forms of coercion”?

Physical violence, or the threat of it (usually a combination of both), is often used as a way of control – getting someone to do what you want them to do. However, there are many other forms of coercive control, for example, withholding of privileges, refusal to trade, lending, mental torture, etc., etc.

In an escalation of attempts to control, physical violence is the ultimate weapon as it is physical violence which can control physical outcomes which are usually the purpose of coercion. Whilst the withholding of privileges may not force someone to do something, physical violence can. If we look at society and culture we see that physical violence is used when other forms of coercion are inadequate – hence the ultimate fallback of war.

Physical violence is often the last resort after other attempts at control have been tried. However, this isn’t always the case, sometimes physical force or violence is a first choice for some.

So are my pacifist tendencies to do with exercising non-violence or are they to do with choosing not to control?

Well, personally speaking, I’m not sure that there is much to separate violent from non violent coercion. The physical pain of violence isn’t necessarily much different to the mental factors we apply during other forms of coercion. In fact, as a child I often preferred physical punishment (bear in mind that this is within limits, within a loving relationship and with many other positive factors) to other forms of punishment – particularly ones that were more drawn out. Really my preference of punishment was simply a cost benefit analysis of what was available, with physical punishment, where pain was experienced, being a valid alternative to other punishments.

If we look at punishments of different societies, or through history, we see a correlation between increased civilisation (as we define it) and reduced physically violent punishments. Many societies still practice physical punishments, whilst we have moved on to detention and removal of rights and privileges (admittedly backed by the force of violence – one cannot simply walk out of prison after all!).

Why is it that physical violence is seen as being worse than other forms of punishment and coercion?

I imagine that part of the reason is that the ultimate physical violence is killing, which is a rather permanent state of affairs for the recipient. Also, many other forms of physical violence are permanent and might be regretted after the fact, whereas there is always the idea that non-physical punishment is temporary and can be put behind one. However, many forms of physical violence are more temporary than many forms of non-physical coercion – what implications does that have?

Here we can read an argument about ‘what is coercion’, where Hayek believes it is wider than simply physical violence, but Rothbard saying that coercion is limited to violence.

After having had a look at this I tend to side more with Hayek, but I would go on to say that whether something is coercion or not must depend on the intent of the person who may be exercising control. I come to this conclusion by looking at trade: If I choose not to trade with someone (this refusal could be construed as coercion if you take the broad definition), I would say it is only coercion if I am doing it in an attempt to control the behaviour of that person. There may be other reasons for refusal to trade, for example I might consider the other person in the trade to have immorally acquired the thing that he wishes to trade – so I refuse to trade, not to try and get him to change his behaviour, but because I don’t want to get caught up in the problem. Hayek pointed out that, should a great artist refuse to paint a portrait of Hayek for Hayek then this is not coercion – I would have to conclude that it is the perceived motive that makes this act, by the artist, something that is not coercion.

So, my conclusion is that the pacifism I tend towards is not so much violence versus non-violence, but is rather a choice to avoid controlling others. My pacifism is actually, when I peel back the layers, a choice towards non-coercive behaviour on my part.

Personally I see little merit in drawing a line between violence and non-violence, but rather I see great merit in making a distinction between a motive to control and a choice to not control.

Emerging (verb) Fresh Expression (noun)

I know it may be semantics BUT I have this nagging doubt about the language of Fresh Expressions and it’s link to institutional church. I have almost posted this on several occasions but a conversation with a minister within the institutional church, this week, finally prompted me – thanks Ian.

You see the wording of Emerging Church is a great VERB, and it is one that has grown through the process of dialogue and practice and has come to express an approach to church that is traveling, on a pilgrimage, developing, growing, struggling. As a phrase it has begun to take root in people’s consciousness, and as a concept that has verb as part of it’s definition, it cannot be easily fixed or described and it continues to grow as is moves. There is something very right in the theological DNA of this type approach to being church.

However since the Mission shaped Church report was published and the link to Fresh Expressions made, I cant help feeling a slight loss of momentum. It seems that Fresh Expressions are more noun, more static, more shaped, more copyable. Please note I am not criticising individual fresh expressions of church, but wondering if the institutional link of emerging church through mission shaped church to fresh expressions is really a divergence from the missiological imperative of church to be more fluid, and to continually to contextualise particularly in the post modern west. The noun like wording makes it easier for institutional church to define, and then roll out examples to copy (and some would say control). BUT those that copy will miss all the hard work that these fresh expressions had to do as they emerged all the traveling, the pilgrimage, developing, growing, the struggling.

I think it maybe a backward step, and the consumer mentality of looking for models and the latest thing is so rampant, that if new fresh expressions don’t do the hard work of emerging, we will risk losing the stories and dialogue with people who are struggling to reconfigure what church is in their context, particularly if the structures continue to mirror consumer branding (which I think Fresh Expressions is rapidly becoming) of Fresh Expressions and they let people buy into fresh expressions as the latest thing too easily. History from missiology teaches us to be aware of copying what worked in one area, in another, and the loss this was to the church. Yes by all means learn from one another, but do the hard work of contextualising, maintain the right DNA, otherwise we will fail to grow in understanding of what church is.

This brings me to my final point, which is the sense of arrival that Fresh Expression as the noun has. This is incredibly unhelpful as potentially it can move people to think they have arrived, limit experiments, and certainly has the potential to subdue thinking and redefinition about what church in post modernity is. If we have arrived why do we need to continue to journey!!

USA: The Religious Right and the Liberal Christian Left

I really don’t get it!

This week, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, is discussing politics with an ex-leader of the ‘Religious Right’ Ralph Reed. Jim seems disappointed that Ralph seems to prioritise working against legal abortion and homosexual marriage. Ralph claims that the ‘Conservative Coalition’ et al don’t just focus on those two issues but work on many (which is the ground that Jim wants to claim).

What I don’t get is why they both want to impose their moral views on the USA. They both think that the US needs moral guidance from the top and that it needs to be legislated for. It’s as if they want to usher in a Holy Kingdom of America.

Whilst a great set of laws does seem to create a lovely society to live in, I can’t get my head round the idea that we, as Christians want to impose our morality on people who don’t want it. I mean, it’s not like it makes people better at the level of their relationship with God. It might seem, from a human point of view, that it is a good thing, but the only good thing is to have a relationship with God and to do his will – that is the only good in our world, everything else is a cheap imitation that doesn’t really bring life at all.

Jesus lived in a country that was occupied by foreign forces. Did he bother himself with that? No, he knew that freedom wasn’t in the laws of the land, but could only be found in a relationship with God. Did he try to control people by imposing laws? No, he came to make the law (and indeed laws) obsolete – to bring God into our hearts. He worked from the bottom up, not the top down. He aligned himself with the downtrodden. Even when he did get to talk to the most powerful men in Israel, he didn’t try to get them to alter their laws, he stood quietly, a testimony to the new Kingdom that he was ushering in, a Kingdom that stood in contrast to their kingdom.

Have a look in the ‘Government’ category of this blog for more on this topic.

Talent – Young People in Action

Dave Wiles (FYT The Haunted World of El Superbeasto download ) and Tim Evans (Worth Unlimited) are walking/hitching between, Bristol and Birmingham, and then heading north with only £10 in their pockets, collecting stories of hope from young people, once back they aim to release the stories to the media to counteract the predominance of negative coverage that young people seem to attract. They are in part lauching a new youth initative fund, that is to be raised by young people for young people. We are giving away £1000 to youth groups in £10 notes with the challenge to turn it into £100 by Christmas to fund the trust, if you want your youth group to get involved contact Nigel Pimlott. If you want to hear from Dave and Tim they are being interviewed tomorrow on Radio 5 Live (medium wave 693 and 909) between 10am and 10-30am

Extract from the Project Outline

Talent Young People in Action

Introduction: Frontier Youth Trust (FYT) and Worth Unlimited are two organisations that work with and for young people on the margins of society. We have joined forces to create a trust fund that will be controlled by young people – for young people and which will enable them to act on their own concerns. We are tired of the negative stereotypes of young people and want to enable them to demonstrate that they are a positive force for change in society.

Creating the trust: In order to create the Young People in Action Trust fund we are giving away £1000 in £10 notes! We are offering 10 to any of the youth projects/groups that we link with and are asking them to take 3 months to turn this into as much as they can. As Christian organisations we see this as related to the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14) however we are quite happy about the double meaning in that we believe in young people and want to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their talent. We want to end the 3 months of talent multiplication by December 2006 as a symbolic gesture to celebrate Christmas. Just imagine if each group raises 100 with their 10 this would launch our youth led trust at the start of 2007 with £10,000! We also intend to continue fund raising to enable the trust to grow.

Young People in Action: We hope that the youth projects that FYT and Worth involve, in partnership with local youth workers, will catch the vision and show off their entrepreneurial skills. We will provide an ideas pack and guidelines for youth groups to use as they seek to invest their talents, but some of the ideas that have already emerged include:

Creating and selling hand made Christmas cards

Running a fare trade caf in a local hall

Selling hand made jewellery

A cake stall

Make over stall

Creating and selling a book of youth poetry

Organising a fashion show using charity shop clothes!

What we hope is that young people will invest their time and energy in some kind of action that will be fun and which will raise awareness of their potential as well as funds!

To launch the initiative the two directors of FYT and Worth Unlimited will be given £10 to go on the road for a week in order to collect 100 stories of hope about young people as a sponsored activity. During this time they will travel to Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow with no resources or arrangements other than contact with several local youth work projects, radio stations and their £10! Tim and Dave see this as an alternative model for Christian leaders to promote their ideas a substitute for large scale Christian conferences! The book with the stories of hope will be on sale during October.

The best youth work event in the world (probably)

The planning for the next Occasion is well underway. It is shaping up to be a truly excellent event again. If you are involved in youthwork anywhere from Gloucestershire down to Cornwall, or Dorest etc this is the event for you. The feedback last year was outstanding and this year with opportunities for young leaders, extra time volunteers, and full timers it has to be the place to be. The event truly does create a sense of Occasion last year the training was great and the lunch was memorable (taking everyone out to lunch for a great all you can eat Chinese). Follow the link to book a place BUT HURRY!