John Platt, BCM’s Youth Work Co-ordinator, reveals how after the challenges of the early years his team is now making a significant contribution to Christian youth work in the city.
When I came to BCM 9 years ago, there had been no youth work for a year or two, so I was starting from scratch. It was an exciting opportunity, though. A strategy had to be developed, connections with churches and schools re-established, with much prayer needed.
Making a start
I was asked to (1) develop a schools ministry offering RE lessons, assemblies, extra-curricular clubs; (2) support local churches in youth ministry; (3) run BCM’s annual camp; and (4) start a regular central event where church youth groups would hear the gospel. The whole remit excited me hugely and still does – there’s nothing like sharing the best news in the world with people! I’d only worked with rural young people before, white, working/middle class teenagers. I had to learn quickly about urban young people from diverse backgrounds!
After spending time in prayer seeking God, consulting others, reading youth work books, I put together a plan and strategy; produced publicity; and contacted schools and churches with a view to making bookings and creating opportunities to share the gospel.
Mostly, things opened up naturally and smoothly. Several schools were keen to make bookings; others contacted me before I contacted them! Relationships with churches developed through visits to youth groups; and my knowledge of urban Christian youth work grew quickly over coffees with youth workers and through visits to various organisations. Before long the diary was filling up: lessons, assemblies, clubs, speaking at youth groups. I did my first camp the summer I joined, and in my second full term we launched a youth event called ‘Fulfil’.
A new team
Within two or three years I was becoming quite stretched, having to limit bookings and work at recruiting more volunteers. Before long it was clear that we needed prayerfully to look at recruiting paid people to form a ‘youth team’.
Laura Williams (a ‘BCM Intern’ in the 1980s!) contacted Wes to offer voluntary support. She began volunteering with the youth work in May 2013. From October she was paid part-time, with Matthew Loader coming on board five months later. Matt and Laura’s teaching/youth work training and experience enhanced our relational and discipleship work, tightened up admin and provided a wider skills set to offer schools and churches. When Laura and Matt joined, we were in about 20 schools; now it is nearly 50. ‘Fulfil’ has grown from 100 young people attending to 250. Clearly God led Laura and Matt to BCM at just the right time.
There have been many unforgettable moments! A girl writing: “I’ll never forget the things I learned at club.” Before moving away (into care), another girl said, “The thing I’ll miss most about Brum is youth camp.” Leading young people to Christ at camp; having the privilege of supporting others in prayer. Seeing ‘Fulfil’ encourage smaller church youth groups in their faith; partnering with churches in local schools work; pupils gaining insight and support through GSUS Live; students who now pray and read the Bible; Muslim students realising what the Bible says about who Jesus is. It’s not just about the big numbers; it’s also about the ones and twos.
And the future? We want to pursue relentlessly the mission God has given us: sharing and showing Jesus to the young people of our city. 95% of UK young people have no contact with church. We need constant reviews in order to keep in step with God’s leading and engage effectively with today’s urban youth. We are prayerfully considering starting exciting new initiatives and we are looking forward to sharing the good news and bringing hope to many more young people over coming years. We will see what God does!
Pray this summer for the GSUS Live trailer in Birmingham visiting six secondary schools.
4-8 June: The Streetly Academy
11-15 June: Arena Academy
18-22 June: Grace Academy, Solihull
25-29 June: Stockland Green School
2-6 July: Selly Park Technology College
9-13 July: Park Hall Academy