Monday, October 29, 2007

MAD 9...

Just Back from MAD 9! For those of you out of the PCI loop (like me until i started this job!), the MAD weekend is a youth weekend for 11-17's run by the PCI Youth and Children's Dept and this was the 9th year of it. The weekend is held at University of Ulster, Coleraine and the 800 young people that go each year sleep in local church halls. This was my first MAD experience and we decided to take our Fusion age (11-14) to it. 19 of us went including leaders and it was an excellent weekend all round - the young people had a ball! It was great fun for them and on top of that i believe they all experienced God and got to know Him a bit better.

I was so encouraged over the weekend to see our young people really engage with the God stuff. Andy Flannagan was leading the worship and did a fantastic job in getting the young people excited about worshiping God. It was loud and high energy and our guys loved it! Mark Oestricher from Youth Specialties was the speaker and he was excellent. With our guys being very young i wasn't expecting them to enjoy the talks too much but they loved Marko because he was dynamic, funny, had good stories, had a simple message and he never spoke for longer than 20 mins. The theme for the weekend was 'One Life' and all of our young people were challenged in some way about their relationship with God and making the most of their lives.

Our young people really amazed me over the weekend! I think because i had no interest in God until i was 17, i have little expectations of their interest in God or faith until they get a little older. God really challenged me about this over MAD 9 and not just because the young people loved the worship and teaching. On the Friday night as i was getting ready for bed (at 2.30am might i add!), one of our youngest guys was using his mobile phone as a torch to read his Bible! Speaking to him the next day i found out he tries to do this most days, usually in the mornings! Also, at the very end myself and the other male leaders got all our boys together to have a time of prayer. Again, i wouldn't have been surprised if none of them had prayed but every single one of them prayed, and they prayed really personal prayers to their personal God - it was awesome!

One of my favourite verses is 1 Tim 4:12 as it informs us to 'set an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity'. I've been reminded this weekend by my own young people that there is a first half to this verse too:

12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Exciting news for the future...

Haven't blogged in a wee while, no real excuse for that except busyness! Got some exciting news to share though, although many of you will have already heard! I work with young people in the community who have no interest in church. This started about 18 months ago with detached youth work and then we progressed into the Basement of Cafe Rigmarole in December 2006. Since then we have been open 3 afternoons and 2 evenings per week. We have contact with 40 young people and have approximately 270 users each month, facilitated by a team of 6 volunteers and myself. However, the Basement is tiny which really restricts the amount of young people we can engage with and what we can offer them in terms of facilities.

So what do we do with them? The work is primarily relational - hanging out with the young people and getting to know them and what is going on in their lives. We also have engaged in group work and ran a Youth Alpha course which was a great success.

Has there been progress? Yes i believe there has been! There seems to be less evidence of anti-social behaviour in the village as supported by the Neighbourhood Watch and the PSNI. As leaders, we
have seen HUGE changes in the young people over recent months. At times relationships have been very frustrating with young people showing little or no respect or appreciation towards leaders or the facility. However, recently that has certainly not been the case and we have seen a much more settled atmosphere in the Basement with significant progress in relationships. Through this ministry i have had the opportunity to talk to young people aboutmany of their struggles:
    • struggles at home.
    • struggles with a sick relative.
    • struggles with their sexual activity.
    • struggles about life being rubbish.
    • struggles with whether God is real or not.
    • struggles with a parent who has left home.
In all these conversations, myself and the rest of the leaders are able to give God answers.

So what about the FUTURE? Well that is the exciting news! We have been offered use of the Village Inn as a community facility for the next 2 years until it is ready for development. The VI is a huge facility and will allow us to do grow and expand the work with the young people as well as develop work with other people groups in the community.

My vision for the youth work in the community raises some challenging questions for the people in our church family:
    • why not think bigger?
    • why not contact with 80 young people?
    • why not open 7 nights per week?
    • why not a team of 30 volunteers?
It's not everyday that you are given a pub! God is doing something in this community and it's exciting to be part of it! In fact, at the moment i am struggling to keep up with what God is doing but it's a great place to be!