Archive for the ‘Niddrie Church Ministries’ Category

In the UK, there’s a product called Ronseal. It’s a popular varnish/wood stain product available in most hardware stores. Their advertising strap line is really well known: it’s supposed to be simple, straight-forward, and down-to-earth.

“Ronseal: It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

In January, we’re planning on starting a new youth activity in our church, aimed at young people in our community around the ages on 10-15. So far it hasn’t got a name, so I’ve been thinking a bit lately about branding in youth work: can it be helpful or is it just pointless?

Niddrie Community Church has had a history of unimaginative names for youth activities: Tuesday Club, and Thursday Club are classic examples. I have to confess, I would also tend to adopt the ‘Ronseal’ approach to naming our new initiatives. Surely our group names should do exactly what it says on the tin and reflect the nature of the group. Surely young people ought to know what they’re coming to.

When we first had the idea of starting a bike project, after some thought we decided on what was hardly a revolutionary name: The Bike Project. For quite some time, I had been keen to start a youth café. We were able to successfully launch it in March 2010, calling it Youth Café. Up until recently, Ellis and I ran a nice little group for boys on a Friday afternoon. Whatever we come up with for these 10-15 year olds in the new year will be replacing this little group that was known simply as Friday Boys.

Having grown up in the church over the last 20 years, I’ve come across lots of funky youth group names. I’m not sure where this trend came from. They tend to be either (a) onomatopoeic, (b) a clever play on words, (c) make novel use of numerals, (d) be an obscure acronym, or (e) an ethereal noun/verb (such as ‘Ignite’ or ‘Space’). Here’s some of my favourite youth group names…

  1. AWESOME – Assembly of Wesleyan Eternal Sons Of Methodist Evangelicals
  2. SCUM – stands for ‘School Christian Union Meeting’
  3. Girls On Top – … erm, connotations…
  4. Fuel – come and fill up your tank!
  5. Root66 – rooted in the Word of God; that’s right, all 66 books!
  6. Cliffy Cliff and the Funky Bunch – ???
  7. SWITCH – stands for ‘Sundays, Wednesdays In The Church Hall’
  8. tHis – stands for ‘totally His’
  9. Flipside – cause youth ministry’s cool
  10. MYASS – stands for ‘Miguel’s Young Adult Sunday School’ (erm….connotations…)
  11. 3:6Teen – obviously pointing to John 3:16
  12. X-STREAM – stands for ‘X-Sinners Totally Radical Empowering All Mankind’

Branding isn’t just about coming up with the right name though. We should be familiar, at least subconsciously, with the concept of branding in our consumerist society. Corporations and organisations spend millions of pounds on their brand or identity. Branding will include your name, and usually a logo, perhaps even a slogan or strap-line like ‘Because you’re worth it’ or ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin!’ These days, a name can also depend on the availability of the corresponding .com web domain.

The branding must give the ‘consumer’ an idea of what you’re about. So, whatever you decide to call your group, you need to be aware of what the name, logo and slogan will communicate to your young people. One suggestion I picked up from Bible College was that if I want my young people to have more ownership of the group, I should consider allowing them to (re)name the group(s) – let them be the creative ones. Maybe worth a thought…

One of the biggest considerations for us would be what the young people think? Do they even care what it’s called, or is it just the youth workers? Most of the time, our the young people that come to the Youth Café still just call it ‘the club’ or ‘the youth group!’

Would young people be more or less likely to come to a branded activity? Almost all of our youth work is evangelistic, and so we want to reach a broad range of young people in the community with the good news of Jesus Christ. We want them to know that we’re Christians and that our faith is central to all we do. I don’t think they really care what it’s called as long as we’re available to them.

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Image from schoolwork.co.uk

Being the new chaplain on the scene, it falls to me to deliver this year’s Christmas assembly in the local high school next week. The expectation is for me to deliver a short seasonal message to a large group of teenagers (who don’t really want to be there) to help them think more about Christmas. And all this in a way that’s interesting, contextually relevant, light on the cheese, and isn’t going to end up with me being lynched in the playground by angry teachers (although that might be more entertaining and memorable for the pupils). No pressure then!

I’ve always been quite clear that my purpose for being in school is rooted in the gospel. I’m there because I’m a Christian and I have good news to share. I’ve been upfront with the school management and teachers in this: that my faith is the motivating factor for my work in the community. I do what I do because I love young people, I want to serve young people, and I want to introduce them to the man that changed my life: Jesus. Like Spurgeon said, I’m just a beggar telling other beggars where they can find bread.

I don’t always get many opportunities up at the school to say something significant about my faith. Everyone up there knows I’m a Christian, so that in itself presents a good number of low-key, informal opportunities to talk about Christ with staff and students. RME (Religious and Moral Education) classes and assemblies are the formal opportunities – if I’ve been asked to speak, then I’m expected to talk about my faith – so it’s important to take them seriously.

Although the following resources might be a helpful starting point for anyone preparing a Christmas assembly, perhaps helping to get the creative juices flowing, we still need to do a lot of work in terms of contextualising the message for our audiences. Just because an ‘off the shelf’ assembly idea worked in some high school in middle-England doesn’t mean it’s a sure fit for an Edinburgh housing scheme or any other school for that matter. Know your school, know the staff, and be diligent in faithfully representing the Saviour at this significant time of year.

Assembly Ideas (and other bits to connect church and schools) – does what it says on the tin.

ReJesus.co.uk – Christmas articles, stories and illustrations.

Schoolswork.co.uk – resources, inspiration and training for Christian schools workers.

The Brick Testament – if the bible was lego…

One of the things that we notice about the young people in Niddrie is that many of them like bikes, both the pedal kind, and the motor kind. So bikes present us with a great opportunity for contact with many young people and also with other organisations working in the area.

As a church, we want to build bridges and relationships in the community to enable us to share the gospel with the people around us. We have a number of significant partnerships in the community on the youth work side of things. These include Castlebrae Community High School (our local high school), Make It Happen (a Church of Scotland social care project), and The Bike Station (a local cycling charity) to name a few.

These partnerships have either come about, or have benefited from NCC’s interest in bikes. I confess, we wussed out a bit when it came to the idea of motor bikes – health and safety, and insurance concerns probably got the better of us – maybe we could/should have made it work…

Anyway, if you’re not already aware of our Bike Project, have a look at this short promotional video.

 

If you’re involved in community based youth work, I’d encourage you to look at what the young people in your area like doing, and see if there are contact points where you might bridge the gap between the youth and the church. And look at other organisations in your area that you may be able to partner with. Are there ways you can scratch each other’s backs? Here’s a couple of examples from our situation.

E.g. The Bike Station is an Edinburgh charity that takes old, unwanted bicycles and strips them for spare parts or refurbishes them and sells them on. They aim to promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice, and they receive funding from various sources including the National Lottery and the Scottish Government. In addition to the sales, they also run training courses. Through our relationship with The Bike Station, we’re offered places each year for our young people to attend their Build A Bike course. It’s a course that runs for one week, (Monday to Friday) for six young people, they get to build a mountain bike from scratch and keep it when they’re finished. They learn all the mechanical skills along the way, and even get an outing to a Glentress Forest to do some downhill biking on their new bikes. For the past few years, we’ve used this opportunity to help support the local high school, Castlebrae Community High School, and broaden our contacts up there by asking the school’s guidance department to nominate pupils who they feel would benefit most from such a course. Everybody wins.

E.g. Make It Happen is an early intervention initiative designed to identify children and young people that may become at risk and vulnerable, in the east side of Edinburgh (including Niddrie). I can’t remember when I first met Mark, the project worker, but we’ve since developed a very positive working relationship. We regularly meet for coffee up at Starbucks and discuss our work. It helps that Mark is another committed Christian youth worker and has similar aims in his project to me. Mark’s main involvement with us has also been through our Bike Project. Every few months we take Mark and 2 or 3 of his young people for a downhill biking day, again at Glentress Forest. We charge Mark’s project a nominal fee which helps us to make our Bike Project financially sustainable – maintaining our equipment and paying for petrol to Glentress. It also gives us the opportunity to make contact with young people in the community that we don’t have existing relationships with. Mark gets to take his young people mountain biking, and open them up to this new experience at very little cost. Again, everybody wins!

What is it about the Bike Project that makes it a great way of building relationships with other organisations, particularly those who don’t share our faith commitments and values?

It’s probably because there are aspects of the Bike Project that other youth work organisations (both secular and Christian) can buy into, and even benefit from. Schools and other public funded agencies are under intense pressure to demonstrate that they’re collaborating with others in their fields. If there is no outright statutory requirement for this, there will almost certainly be funding limitations imposed by grant making bodies on organisations who are not engaged in partnership work. No partnering, no funding!

The church doesn’t have these same limitations – there is certainly no statutory requirement to engage in collaborative work with others. If churches are applying to similar grant making bodies to fund particular projects, they may be subject to similar restrictions; though I think the majority of churches generally fund their activities in the same way they always have: through the wallets and purses of the individuals in their congregations.

In all this talk of partnerships however, we must be careful to maintain our distinctions as a church. The church isn’t the same as other organisations, agencies or institutions in the community, it’s a life-and-love entity built around the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. We have a unique identity and purpose as God’s people on earth. We do what we do in community because of the gospel – it’s our desire to see young people transformed under the Lordship of Christ. And we need to be up-front and clear cut about this, otherwise young people will get confused and our message, witness and impact will be diluted.

If any professional ever had a claim to the title ‘Jack of all trades’, it would surely be the church Youth Worker. What other profession can boast such diversity in roles as: counsellor, entertainer, artist, cleaner, cinematographer, people manager, taxi driver, web developer, teacher, caretaker, DIY expert, technology guru, chef, referee, befriender, musician, theologian, administrator, shepherd and pastor? That’s by no means an exhaustive list, and very few of these roles feature on my job spec. Why is it that Christian Youth Workers will almost certainly have to try their hand at most of these roles (and others we might add) throughout their time in ministry?

Part of living in a community is being aware of the needs around us, having compassion on those in need, and being flexible and prepared to meet the needs of those in our community to the best of our ability. This is community living, and it’s not just limited to the realm of Christian Youth Work. Most of the staff team at NCC will relate to the feeling of being a Jack of all trades too.

What do young people need?

Youth UnemploymentSo the question is: what are the needs of the young people in our community? Let’s first differentiate between perceived needs and actual needs. As bible believing Christians, we know that the actual need – the fundamental need – is to hear the Gospel, to trust in Jesus and be transformed from the inside out, under the lordship of Christ. Obviously, few young people will approach you directly looking for the antidote to their sinful heart condition, and demanding an introduction to the Lord. For the young person, their perceived need will be quite different, though not insignificant. This is where we need to be alert to the perceived needs and flexible enough to work with them. And as we begin to meet these needs, we actually find ourselves with many more opportunities to address that more fundamental need.

For those within the 16-20 year old category in Niddrie, getting a job is one of the biggest perceived needs. In fact, quite a number of the opportunities I’ve had with this age group have come off the back of what you might call careers advice. So we can go ahead and add ‘careers adviser’ to the list above…

Careers advisor?

This week, UK Chancellor George Osbourne outlined plans for a £1bn package to tackle youth unemployment, which has been on the rise since the turn of the millennium, and hit a record high of 1.02 million in the months running up to September this year.

The ‘Youth Contract’ proposed by the coalition government hopes to provide nearly half a million new opportunities for young people, including apprenticeships and work experience placements. Employers are being offered cash incentives to take on apprentices between 18 and 24 years old.

[Read more about the Youth Contact scheme on the BBC: “Clegg: £1bn scheme will ‘provide hope’ to young jobless“]

How does this apply to us? In Niddrie, we have young people who want a job but aren’t motivated enough to find one, as well as young people who are desperate for a job, any job, and will do whatever it takes to get one. It’s the latter group that I seem to find myself working alongside most often.

What I do is help guys put together their CV, help fill in  job applications (web based and written), provide potential employers with character references, and coach young people through interviews – I’ve even loaned out one of my ties. All the while I’m keeping an ear to the ground for any jobs that might be going among employers I know personally, and looking for ways to develop the relationships I have with these young people beyond ‘careers advice’ to genuine friendships where the gospel naturally comes out. It’s a different approach to that of all the other youth organisations and careers agencies (and there are many!) that are working in the community. Not better… just different. The sad reality is that there are loads of employable and motivated young people who still can’t find jobs in the current climate, especially in areas like Niddrie, and that’s disillusioning.

Micro-businesses and apprenticeships

With so few suitable jobs going, what more can we be doing for these young people? Of course we can continue to offer advice, polish their CV’s and point them in the direction of suitable vacancies, but is there a way in which we can actually provide gainful employment ourselves? Can the church be that vacancy? As I read these articles about youth unemployment and the government’s Youth Contract proposals, different individuals and situations were brought to mind and I couldn’t help but dream of the possibilities.

Some of the ideas we’ve had in the past have been focused on training; for example, young people working alongside Christian tradesmen, learning new skills and being exposed to the gospel. This would be a more accessible, manageable step towards an actual trade apprenticeship.

Lately, we’ve been thinking about helping young people establish micro-businesses: 1 or 2 person businesses with little overhead costs and a reasonable profit-margin. These might include: gardening, cleaning, pet-sitting, selling crafts, or anything we can imagine. I know of a guy who makes bracelets in his spare time out of high-tensile parachute chord which can be undone in such a way as to provide a length of chord of several feet for use in emergencies. He makes them while watching TV each evening and sells them on eBay to Jack Bauer wannabe’s and makes a fortune!

Might we offer Christian young people church-based apprenticeships, covering the gambit of work we do as a church? Maybe training them in adventure activities and outdoor education, giving them experience of work with the elderly, serving in the café, or in the schools? Wouldn’t it be great if, in the not so distant future, the church could plug into initiatives like the government’s £1bn Youth Contract scheme, and actually offer young people short term employment and training opportunities ourselves?

Nick Clegg says that the £1bn scheme will ‘provide hope’ to the young jobless. It would certainly be great to see more and more young people finding work, but at the end of the day we’re not careers officers. We know that the real need of our community goes beyond jobs and financial security, important though these things are. So we, through whatever means, seek to share that real, deep-seated, lasting hope that we have through the gospel.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Pray for us as we think these things through.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about our decision to invest more heavily in the children’s work at NCC. As a ‘youth’ worker, I’ve always been a bit reticent about doing children’s work – I don’t really enjoy it, though I recognise the need for it!

Dr Helen Wright, head teacher of St Mary’s Calne, Wiltshire and President of the Girls’ School Association was quoted this week by the BBC, concerned by what she describes as the:

“Seeming erosion of the innocence of childhood.”

Dr Wright has picked up on one reason why, in Niddrie at least, we’re seeking to invest more specifically in children’s work. Namely, the traditional distinctions between ‘child’ and ‘young person’ are becoming increasingly blurred.

Read the article here.

Dr Wright regularly speaks out about issues related to young people and education, including the dangers of the early sexualisation of girls, the focus of this particular BBC article. In it she mentions a number of worrying examples of this kind of sexualisation that we’ve probably read about or heard of in the news: the sexy outfits, the make-up, the pole dancing classes.

From my vantage point as a youth worker in Niddrie, I agree with much of what Dr Wright has to say. In Niddrie we see:

  1. The glamorisation of violence, with the latest neighbourhood fights uploaded direct from mobile phone to the internet.
  2. The children for whom dealing and drug use are just part of normal home life.
  3. The hoards of young girls, all glammed up, bussing into the city centre to do whatever it is they do there – usually trying to persuade well meaning adults to buy them booze so that they can stumble up the streets, giggling and screaming, hoping that someone is paying attention to them.

It’s no surprise to us that we are living in a “moral abyss” – that’s been the human experience since the Fall. Even innocent children are not truly innocent. (If you disagree with me on this point, you may be interested to read this article by Paul Tripp). The Bible teaches that we are all born sinners (Psalm 51:5). On top of that, sinful children copy what they see other sinful children and sinful adults doing.

Dr Wright puts her hope for salvation in education to “break the cycle”, where she seeks to enlist the help of parents and schools in the battle. But what exactly does that education entail? What is our strategy for helping the lost, confused, and rebellious kids we see all around us?

This week, I’ve been reminded of the fact that no amount of sound logic, clever reasoning or education will change the heart of a sinner. You can put forward all the facts and figures you like, you can explain all the potential consequences, and fill young people (and adults) with all the knowledge they need to make good choices, but none of these things touch the heart of the human problem, which is the problem with the human heart. We’re slaves to sin, until we find freedom in our slavery to Christ (John 8:34, Romans 6:20-23).

I’ve been really convicted to pray earnestly for the children and young people I know – pray that God, in his great mercy, would change HEARTS and minds, through the gospel as we live it out and speak it out. Our vision in the children’s and youth work in Niddrie is: ‘to see young lives transformed under the Lordship of Christ’. I’d certainly argue that living out the gospel in community is a form of education transformation, even if that isn’t what Dr Wright had in mind. We’re always educating, whether we’re aware of it or not, we can’t help but teach.

by Mike Stark

“This is a compelling, gripping, heart-wrenching, you-can’t-put-it-down story of sin and grace. Read this and thank God that, as Psalm 136 says, ‘His love endures forever.'” (Mark Dever) ~ Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

The updated edition of Mez’s autobiography Is There Anybody Out There? (with an extra chapter on the work in Niddrie) has recently been republished. You can buy your own copy direct from the church via our website for only £7 (+ £1 P&P to the UK*).

For the staff and members of Niddrie Community Church, the book is a fantastic resource for us to give away to people in the community. For example, many teachers and pupils up at the local High School have got a copy of the book, read and been challenged by it. In fact, I’d like to be able to gift a number of these books to the libraries of all the local schools very soon. More about that later…

Over the past couple of years we’ve given away loads of books, but we can’t really afford to keep this going, so now you can help us give these books away for free. For every copy of Is There Anybody Out There? bought directly from the church (via our online Marketplace), we can donate another book to someone else in the community.

Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can opt to simply donate 2, 3, or 10 copies of the book by choosing from the drop down options on the online Marketplace. With 5 local schools, and maybe 2 copies per school, 10 copies ought to sort me out!

* International orders – please contact mike at niddrie dot org if you’re not in the UK to discuss international postage rates.

Thanks so much for supporting the work of NCC in this way!

With independence on the horizon for NCC, we’ve been spending a lot of time as a Ministry Team thinking about our vision and direction for the future. If our church members are to be on board with our ideas, they need to know where we’re going. The leadership of the church has decided that one of the biggest priorities will be children’s and youth work.

Brent Foulke of www.churchplanting.com says: “children are the future of the church… If a person decides to follow Christ, it will most likely be a decision made before age 18.” [Read more…] This should remind us of the Teacher’s exhortation to:

“Remember your creator in the days of your youth” (Ecc 12:1).

Our society is changing – children are increasingly being forced to mature quicker. We need to recognise, particularly in estates like Niddrie, that by the time children reach high school, they’re already being exposed to things like crime, violence and sex (issues we would normally associate with older teenagers). Furthermore, from a surprisingly young age, children can be carrying the burden of looking after not only themselves (in the absence of appropriate parenting), but also siblings, and other family members too.

There is a real danger that by the time our children become ‘young people’ they’re already becoming more hardened to the church and to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, I wouldn’t want to make salvation into a formulaic system that depends upon man’s evangelistic efforts, (thereby doubting the Gospel’s power to bring even the hardest heart to salvation) but, if we’re wanting to be strategic and effective in the role that God calls us to fulfil, we should recognise the importance of getting involved in children’s lives early.

I know that many youth workers scoff at the idea of being a ‘children’s AND youth worker’, and would steer well clear of pursuing employment in a church advertising such a post. It is a very broad remit, too broad really. But, more and more, I’m coming to the realisation that I’m going to need to take more of an interest in these younger children’s lives.

I was interested during a recent church clean up to have a read through the old Niddrie Mill Primary School Scripture Union group register. As I scanned down the lists of names on the pages, it was striking how many young people we still have some degree of significant contact with today. Many we know through the schools work at Castlebrae High School, some come to the Youth Café, others have involvement in the Bike Project, while others are just significant ‘street contacts’.

If we want to have significant relationships with ‘young people’ in 10 years time, surely we need to be investing more time and effort in the ‘children’s work’ side of things now, even if that means wiping a snotty nose or 2.

I’m still convinced that doing all the children’s and youth work in a church is too much work for one person, that’s where the importance of a good team comes in. I’m fortunate to have Ellis (full time trainee youth worker) and a team of committed volunteers to help me in this work. Hopefully in the next little while, others will join our full-time staff with a burning enthusiasm and a passion for the younger children. But, in the meantime, I’m committed to overseeing and taking more of an interest in children.

It’s a big encouragement that the church is wanting to put such an emphasis on children’s and youth work as we move forward; often it’s the adults that are the focus of church planting because it’s the adults that bring in money. On the other hand, it’s also a daunting responsibility, so I’d appreciate your prayer as we put plans together for the future, to shore up the work in this critical area.

It’s been nearly 3 years since I first got into the local high school. Since those early days, my job as Niddrie Community Church’s youth worker has involved an increasing amount of time and energy spent there.

Last month, I was invited to consider becoming the school’s chaplain, an official position within the school community that would give Ellis and I a whole new range of exciting opportunities for ministry. Naturally, I accepted and today I was officially introduced to the pupils and staff at an assembly. I spoke about what chaplaincy is, and what we’ll be doing, and Ellis was able to share his testimony, explaining a little about how the Gospel has transformed his life.

Being made school chaplain is a great encouragement, and affirms us in the work we’re doing in the school. It’s particularly good considering that chaplains in Edinburgh City Council schools are generally required to be ordained Church of Scotland ministers (Ellis and I are neither ordained, nor part of the Church of Scotland!)

Initially, our chaplaincy role is going to include the following:

  • Fulfilling the school’s statutory requirements in religious observance, for example doing assemblies at Christmas, Easter, and on other occasions throughout the school year.
  • Supporting the RME (Religious and Moral Education) curriculum, including teaching different classes (we’ve already been doing this for a year or so).
  • Providing pastoral care for pupils and their families, meeting up with young people on a one-2-one basis or with their families for support/guidance.
  • Being available at community events (we’re already doing this to a certain extent).
  • Providing support for the school and for pupils in times of difficulty.

We’ve also been given a classroom, next to the RME classroom, to be our ‘Chaplaincy Base’. Having a space of our own up at the school has been a great leap forward. We’re free to kit it out as we see fit, using spare furniture from the school, and stuff of our own, maybe a fridge, kettle, etc. We’ll open it up for people to come in and have lunch with us, perhaps even use the space for after school clubs and such like.

As you can tell, there are a whole host of new opportunities opening up in the high school, and ways in which we can develop and grow the existing work there. We’re really thankful for the continuing favour we have with the school senior management team, and for all God’s doing in and through us.

There’s no telling how long this season of good favour will last, but the intention is to make the most of it while we have it. With more and more public sector cut-backs, people are looking increasingly to the voluntary sector, and particularly to the church to fill the gaps in youth work provision. Less money for schools like ours, and greater competition for funding among other local agencies working with young people, present the church with really exciting opportunities to serve our communities and bring the gospel to bear in people’s lives.

We’re excited about the future of the work in the local high school. And as we have meetings next week with the head teacher at the local primary school about potential for involvement with this younger age bracket of children, we’re praying for God’s guidance. And as the work in the school’s grows, so too will my need for a team of Godly and committed volunteers to get involved.

Pray with us.

by Mike Stark

This past week we’ve had another team over from Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. This is the second team we’ve had over from the US this year. Its always a great encouragement to us as a church, as the Americans inject a bit of money, man-power, and enthusiasm to the work in Niddrie.

On Saturday night we had an X-Factor style talent night for the whole community, with hundreds of children, young people and adults from the area turning up. The event was a great success and a big encouragement, but more encouraging for me was the number of people from the community that turned up for church that Sunday morning – in particular, one of the young people in the area we’ve known for years. I couldn’t work out how or why he walked through our doors for the first time (well, for a church service, anyway!) but he was there, and I was encouraged!

Afterwards I got a chance to speak with him. He’s not much of a talker, and we haven’t had many one to one gospel conversations, but I know he listens and takes things in. As we talked, I found out he came simply because some of the Americans had invited him the night before at the X-Factor. We do a lot of ‘going’ in our church. This is the really the opposite of the invitational model of evangelism common in many churches (for more information about the difference between missional and invitational models, see this short post and video…) The Great Commission says: “GO and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). And so we rightly go: we go into the schools, to the streets, to young peoples homes and families, to their football matches, and to where they hang out. We spend time with them, we love them, we listen to them, we serve them, we share our testimonies with them, and discuss the gospel with them. Yet this is really the first time a young person from the community had come to church on a Sunday morning under his or her own steam.
So it turns out this guy’s reason for being there was quite simply an invitation. It’s amazing what a simple invitation can do. Everyone likes to be invited to something, it communicates acceptance, value, and worth. Statistics from the States tell an interesting story; 10k people were asked why they were at church – here’s what they said:
  • 2% had “a special need”
  • 3% just walked in
  • 6% liked the minister
  • 1% visited here
  • 5% liked the Sunday school
  • 1/2% attended a gospel meeting
  • 3% liked the programs
  • 79% Came because a friend or relative invited them. 
The guy’s not a believer, but this simple invitation gave us another opportunity to share the gospel and sow seeds of the Word. There are loads of accounts of invitations in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament where people invited their friends and family to meet Jesus ( e.g. Andrew in John 1:40-42; Philip in John 1:43-46; the Samaritan woman in John 4:28-30; Levi in Luke 5:27-29; and Cornelius in Acts 10:24, 33).
Of course we need to be careful that we’re not encouraging the misconception that church attendance equates to salvation. Most ‘religious’ people in Niddrie believe in works based salvation, yet we know that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8). And we need to remember that we don’t need young people to come to church on a Sunday to hear the gospel. Gospel opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, throughout the week. We should be inviting people to meet Jesus, and if that’s going to be at church on a Sunday morning, praise the Lord.
And yet, I can’t help but be encouraged at seeing a young person from the community taking such a bold and courageous step as coming into such an unfamiliar environment as a church service for a couple of hours on a Sunday simply because he was invited. Makes me wonder what Christ is doing in this young guy’s life.
Needless to say, I’ll keep on inviting him, and praying for him in the hope that sooner or later the Lord will open his eyes to see, his ears to hear, and his heart to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

by Mike Stark

One of my overall strategies for the future of the youth ministry at Niddrie Community Church is to have youth work shared between a team of committed leaders.

One of the things I have become increasingly aware of in Niddrie over the past 2 years is that I’m incapable of having a significant impact in the lives of young people in Niddrie by myself. A one-man ministry may be possible in a context where young people are happy to be discipled as part of a youth group, with mature young people who are also involved in the leadership of the group, but that’s not where we are at here. Young people in Niddrie demand a massive investment over a long period of time.

A significant step towards the goal of having a thriving youth ministry shared between a team of committed leaders at Niddrie was the appointment of Ellis as Community and Youth Intern (or in other words, trainee youth worker). Although there has been, and continues to be a significant time investment in managing and training Ellis, I have been really encouraged by his progress, and I believe that what we have been able to achieve together is greater than the sum of our efforts alone.

A team adds synergy and diversity to the ministry, different skills, interests, and gifting add to the overall effort. So part of my overall strategy is to continue building a team around me. Another significant step towards this goal of a committed youth work team was the establishing of the Youth Café in March 2011. The success of the Youth Café has been by no small part because of the leaders we’re blessed with. They can and should be seen as unpaid members of my youth work team. How do I encourage, and equip this group of people for more effective service?

For quite some time now, the greatest need we’ve had for the development of the youth and children’s work at NCC is the appointment of a female youth worker to join Ellis and I as full time youth work staff. There’s a huge number of girls in the area, with whom Ellis and I can have next to no impact – which is a real shame. So please pray for us, that our little team will continue to grow and that, very soon, we’d be able to have a significant impact in the lives of young women in the area.