inclusion, Marginalised, Youth and Children's Work

“Don’t let the local kids in…”

I was doing a youth event and we’d hired a local youth club for it, with lights and smoke and the whole works and a band of young people were leading the worship which was fab. Suddenly a couple of faces appeared at the door, local guys, “Can we come in?” they asked. The rain was pouring down outside, and our incredibly gifted speaker was getting ready to speak.

I wanted to be welcoming, and let them come in, suddenly from 2 or 3, became 5 or 6, and then a couple appeared on their bikes from no where. I tried being all “Ali G” and told them to be respectful of the speaker and stuff, they nodded, one even shook my hand. Deep down I was hoping they’d hear something of the talk and the worship, and be impacted by the Kingdom of God.

They shot into the kitchen and began to eat the left over food, which was okay, most of it had already been eaten by the Church kids. One was in the music booth trying to disrupt the music, but a burly youth worker called Doug’s presence deterred them.

A few went down stairs rather than hear the talk bit, but was trying to watch the kitchen, was trying to make eye contact with someone, as trying to be in two places at once wasn’t easy.

Then heard an alarm go off and ran downstairs, turned out that someone had punched a fire alarm, which caused more problems as we tried to turn it off setting off the burglar alarm too.

“They don’t teach you this at theological college” I thought to myself! Anyway kids soon ran off, and had to sort everything out, including ringing the people in charge of the building, who said “next time, don’t let the local young people in”.

To be honest I can understand the position, yet it feels like this is going against our very ethos of who we are. we are about to start a Church plant here in this part of the parish, using this youth centre, I have always wanted Church to be open to all, I think Jesus has a a particular compassion for disenfranchised young people.

In many ways though we have to respect the wishes of those who own the building, it is part of being a good guest on someone else’s place… when it is your Church hall that gets trashed, it causes hassle -especially from the grumpy blue-rinse brigade- but there is a whole load of other complications when you don’t own the building.

I remember in Poole, we had some feisty nights with the AREA under18’s night club we used to run, and I remember a pretty brutal complaint from a neighbouring Church-goer complaining about the kids behaviour, their thinking was “can’t you just reach nice young people” not those nasty “hoodlum” types. Jesus said “those who are well don’t need a doctor”… “I tell you the truth there is more joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance”.

The truth is that much of the Church think this, sometimes Church is massively judgemental and a little bit snobby too. we have become like the Pharisees.

Jesus never said “just reach out to the nice ones”.

I think Levi the tax collector, or Mary Magdalene who had 6 demons in her, or Simon the Zealot all were people you might not want to sit next too.

These are the people I long to see coming to Church. we have even called the Church movement ‘All Souls’ making the statement that all are welcome here in the house of God.

I know too I’m a bit of an inverted snob, where I have more time for someone with an obvious dysfunctional life than some elderly, affluent daily mail reader who I struggle to love.  So, I need to be careful of not pointing the finger, only to find three pointing back at me.

So, the week after next we are meant to be back in that hall, and are meant to be planting a Church there in that hall… what do I do now that maybe we’re not supposed to let in the local kids? Interestingly been using this hall for a number of years now and this is the first time it happens just before a plant is due to start? -Is this a spiritual attack?

Again, it makes me ask how these young people in Kingswood and Hanham will ever hear about Jesus. we have Churchy young people that simply don’t relate to these guys of the same age-group, they don’t dress the same or even go to the same schools, they are poles apart, have we created a generation more segregated than before making them less effective and fruitful in evangelism to people who could potentially be their peers.

I don’t know what I think, but it reminds me of the hill we have to climb to see this generation hear the gospel of Christ in a way they can understand and respond too, it is a bigger challenge than we think.