Let me give you a bit of context.
Up until January, my placement church ran a youth club on a Thursday night for 13-16 year olds. Due to a lack of volunteer leaders, it became apparent over Christmas that we may have to stop it. We just didn’t have enough volunteers. It was become less about youth work and more about babysitting.
In January, we decided that it could no longer run weekly but we would try it monthly. Personally, I wanted to stop it completely as a monthly youth club makes no sense to me. But we tried it. Tonight was the pilot.
Four young people turned up.
At first I was disappointed. Two of the volunteer leaders didn’t show up but thankfully there were only four young people. At that point I decided that enough was enough. The youth club wouldn’t run again.
God decided to surprise me.
Myself and the other leader spent the first half hour playing football and basketball with them. Once we were all too knackered for that, we sat around and started talking. About actual stuff that mattered. About alcohol. about their weekend habits. about their families. There was a connection. Before, the deepest we had ever gone in conversation was, “How’s your week been?”.
But something was different tonight. Connections were being made. These guys are in need. To most, their behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, but hearing their stories, it’s no surprise they are out getting wrecked on a Friday and Saturday night. And these guys are 13/14 years old.
I came away from the night inspired. This was youth work. Building connections. Listening to them. Maybe we’re the only potive adult role models these boys will ever have.
But I also came away frustrated. What next? Do we run the youth club again? What happens if loads of people turn up? Can we exclude other young people and just focus on these four boys? Would they even want that?
Is street work the answer? Going out and talking to them on the street rather than in the church halls. But how would that work? Who would help me? Is it ethical to go and hang out with these 13 year olds when they are drinking? Am I willing to be vulnerable like that?
Too many questions buzzing around my head.
But something needs to be done.