Posts Tagged ‘niddrie’

I found this little clip of the social history of Niddrie and Craigmillar online. I have also discovered that the urban regeneration that has been going on here for the last 10 years is not the first time the government has tried to ‘clean up’ the area in the last 100 years. Indeed, Niddrie & Craigmillar have both received many facelifts over that time. It is heartening to think that a place which once had a thriving Christian witness is slowly, but surely, coming to embrace the church here as a real centre point for community life.

Keep praying for us.


By Andy Constable

We have been much in thought recently about how we are going to raise truly indigenous, disciplined young men as the future leaders of Niddrie Community Church. We need to have a long-term plan in place. Our aim is to try to grow men through a structured, football based outreach beginning at 5-6 years old and building an academy through their late teens and into manhood. Our aim is not to produce professional footballers (although that may happen) but to grow committed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, this week we ran a 3-day football academy for young children on the scheme. We ran it in partnership with a charity called “Kids in the Street” managed by a local man. The coaches all came from a Christian organisation called “90+ Ministries” based in Liverpool. It was a great success and 32 children, mainly from non-Christian families, completed the camp.

On the last day we had an awards ceremony at the church and invited the parents/carers to come. Over 100 people turned up and we were able to give a short gospel talk. Lots of people who live in the area came into the building for the first time and heard the gospel! We were so thankful to the Lord.

Looking to the future we are planning to begin our football school in September. Please pray for us as we go forward with this endeavour. Here is a short video showing what we got up to!

This is an emotive issue for many on our scheme. Much of the old housing and tenements have now gone from what was, historically, regarded as ‘old’ Niddrie. In its place are green fields, building sites, new flats, houses and a variety of government agencies and voluntary services. Almost everything feels new and shiny. The school, the doctor’s surgery, the new library being built, the mini Asda and even our church building. Even the blocks of flats near us are being given a facelift. The council is busy digging up the local burn (river) and putting in a road system leading to the new children’s hospital. It’s all looking good. Regeneration, at this level, is our friend. And then..

It appears that ‘community life’ has now been pushed to the fringes. For instance, real ‘Niddrons’ congregate at the local miners club and socialise together. The new, young, up and coming middle class, on the other hand, would not be seen dead in there. But, then again, you do have to be recommended By a ‘local!’ The local community centre runs the odd club for the young and the old but not that much for the hundreds of unemployed in between nor for the new working/middle class. The immigrants just lock their doors and keep their heads down at night. In all the building work there doesn’t seem to be much thought given as to how we bring all these new social groups together. The indigenous locals have a strong sense of ‘community’, the arriving middle class have brought a strong sense of materialistic individualism and the immigrants have imported their commitment to maintaining cultural identity. Even early on, tribalism is evident.

Sociologists talk up regeneration as an opportunity to ‘reinvest’ in communities. But reinvest what? Building firms are getting rich, certainly. Grants are being handed out to every social issue pressure group you can think of – so they are doing very well for themselves. There are many here who work in our community but are not in any sense a part of it. Niddrie, in many ways, has become a giant socio-economic experiment and a sort of proving ground for progressive urban policies. Refurbish the place, build some decent(ish) homes, attract young, first time buyers, hand out a bit of social housing and ensure a place for the city’s growing immigrants/emmigrant populace. Generally, all of this at the expense of the poorest. Where are they going? That’s my question. All of our social issues are not being resolved by regeneration here in Niddrie. They are just being diluted and, like chess pieces, problem people are being moved around the board that is Edinburgh City.

For instance, many of the ‘new community’ meetings I have attended have been run by outsiders. Likewise, many of the ‘old community’ meetings I have attended are attended only by cultural insiders. There does not seem to be a real consensus nor a merging of the two worlds the powers that be have foisted on one another. Positively, the drug problem has abated somewhat (although it is still very much prevalent). The streets do seem safer, certainly cleaner (in parts) at least. On the other hand, the poorest are being removed from homes they have lived in for generations. Many are running scared by forces outside of their control that are telling them to either keep up or get out. For many of the residents it feels like they are merely hedgehogs in the face of the massive steamroller of social change. Bob Lupton agrees:

Resisting gentrification is like trying to hold back the rising ocean tide. It is surely coming, relentlessly, with power and growing momentum. Young professionals as well as empty nesters are flooding into our cities, buying up lofts and condos and dilapidated historic residences, opening avant-garde artist studios and gourmet eateries. If market forces alone are allowed to rule the day, the poor will be gradually, silently displaced, for the market has no conscience. But those who do understand God’s heart for the poor have a historic challenge to infuse the values of compassion and justice into the process. But it will require altogether new paradigms of ministry.

Granted, he is talking out of an American context but I still think his point travels. In all of the council’s concern for urban regeneration and the ‘betterment’ of our scheme, this does not extend to any spiritual element whatsoever. Better buildings and facilities won’t make a jot of ‘real’ difference to the lives of many here if the middle classes see community investment in purely (and only) financial terms. If, then, they won’t invest wholeheartedly in the community, we Christians need to. We need to do more than just move in to these areas. Indeed, moving lock, stock and barrel into the community has to be more than about some vague, incarnational idealism and more about investing into our community in a comprehensive manner. What could that look like?

  1. Christians should seek to join community committees and boards (schools, neighbourhood watch, community festival etc). We should have a stake in local discussions and decisions. Within this we should be living by the justice principles of the Bible in seeking to speak up for those who perhaps cannot speak for themselves or find trouble communicating effectively. I sit on some boards and people trust me to speak up for them because I live in Niddrie, and I love the people and my community.
  2. We could offer night classes for training and development. Do you have a particular skill you could pass on? We should be passing whatever skill set we have on to those around us and looking at ways at which we can share this within the community for the benefit of all.
  3. We should be innovative in how we do our personal outreach. Of course, the gospel and the local church must remain at the core of this. We should be feeding our members a good, biblical diet, but encouraging this broader community mindedness. Of course, the church must not get caught up in social action for the sake of social action. Our mission is much more eternal than that. But, we must not use the mistakes of the past to justify an intellectual ‘Word only’ approach to our community living. The gospel primarily, the Word centrally, and mission constantly should be our motto.
  4. Christians must work harder at trying to build a rich and authentic community, that starts with us. We must be the catalysts for bringing people of all stripes together. We must model it in our fellowships and we must beat the drum in our communities. People will only buy into that which they see in action first. Look for ways in which your church can do this.

For all the talk of ‘missional intentionality’ in church planting circles, we must be intentionally biblical and gospel focused as we work out how to respond to these issues which, for us, though painful, are not going away.

By Andy Constable

Last week we started by looking at some of the things we need to know when we are discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ and are rebuilding their lives. We looked at some of the things that you the discipler will need to look out for. This week I want to look at some of the things we need to teach our new converts. What do they need to know from God’s Word? What do they need to learn quickly? This is key in our discipleship because what we teach can really give them a foundation to walk with the Lord.

The first thing we need to teach former drug addicts are the tools to say ‘no’ to temptation and the reminder to run to God’s forgiveness when they mess up. Every Christian is faced with temptation and a drug addict’s temptation is very prevalent with drug friends and dealers all over the place. We need to be teaching that they can say ‘no’ to these temptations because the Holy Spirit is now living in them. The good news for a drug addict is that Jesus Christ liberates them from bondage to sin. He gives them a new heart and desire to love God more than anything else. This is a great encouragement to someone who has come to Christ and has been heavily addicted to drugs for a long time. Jesus Christ sets us free and gives us the tools to keep us free from slavery to sin.

Alongside this, we need to teach our disciples a deep thankfulness for the grace of God when they do mess up. This is inevitable because we all fall, but the problem is that we often don’t teach people how to come back to God after a slip up.  We teach our new Christians that the bar is high for every Christian as God calls for total devotion and obedience to him. He says ‘be perfect as I am perfect’. But, we also teach that when we mess up to run to the grace of God. We teach them not to hide sin with religious works and language but to flee to the forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to give our disciples the doctrines that lead to godliness. One of the things that we find in housing scheme ministry is that people working in these areas often ignore teaching people the doctrines of God’s Word. They say: “just give them Jesus not all that dusty theology stuff.”  When Paul is leaving his church in Ephesus he says this to the Elders that: “he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Paul didn’t just teach them the bits of the Bible he enjoyed or thought they could grasp but he taught them the whole counsel of God. Sometimes there can be a presumption that people in housing schemes are not bright enough to learn the doctrines of God, but that is not the case at all. I find that it’s often the s0-called ‘mature’ Christians who don’t really understand the doctrines very well and so can’t explain them properly to new believers. We should not shrink back from teaching the whole counsel of God to people. New Christians are thirsty for the truth.

The main reason for teaching doctrine is that Paul says in his letter to Timothy that it leads to godliness. The knowledge of the truth of the Bible empowered by the Spirit helps us to grow. For example, if we are teaching about the need to be selfless then we can teach them about the Trinity. We can show our new Christians how that selflessness is rooted in the very being of God. We can teach them how Father, Son and Holy Spirit selflessly serve each other and bring glory to one another. It’s a doctrine that leads to godliness. We want to give them as good a foundation from God’s Word as we can!

Thirdly, we need to teach our disciples that we are there for them. One of the things that new Christians find in schemes is the lack of community. Many churches meet on a Sunday and then on a Wednesday. This is not enough community for a person who has a lot of time on his/her hands. Many former addicts find it difficult leaving their drug addict pals behind because they were constantly there for them. The drug community often do community better than Christians. They look after each other, they listen to each other, they are eager to help and spend much of their lives together. When we are discipling former drug addicts it’s going to be important to give them care, support, and friendship. Not once a week, but regularly. In Niddrie we try to have regular meet ups and have lots of community events centred on food. This gives a natural arena for new people to come into and get to know their new Christian family.

Let me end with a challenge from Paul. He says this in Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Pray for us as we continue to minister amongst drug addicts on the scheme. It is a joy to see them saved and leave their lives of addictions behind. But, remember in your ministry, to teach them the tools to say no to temptation and run back to Jesus when they get in trouble, to teach them the doctrine’s that lead to godliness and to be there for them in constant loving community.

I live in a scheme which is blighted by drugs. Children as young as 7 and 8 years old are smoking Cannabis regularly (I smoked my first joint at 12). Heroin is as easy to get as a pint of milk from the local store. Crack, Coke, E’s, LSD, you name it and it can be delivered to your doorstep in minutes. That’s just the illegal stuff. Prescription drugs are even more problematic. Valium is pretty much the accepted currency in these parts. Uppers, downers, anti-psychotics, painkillers, Morphine, Methadone – you name it, there is a market for it. We are in the grip of a prescribed drug epidemic in Niddrie (indeed, our nation) and very few people seem to either (1) notice, or (2) care.

The results are here for all to see. Young men and women selling their bodies for sex, robbing their parents, grandparents and neighbours for a quick fix. Children as young as 5 used as drug mules, violent crime and intimidation part of the norm, muggings, suicide, chronic depression and a whole host of mental health issues, and – not the least – murder. To many the drugs war is lost and government policy should be about ‘containment’. Cannabis is, apparently, ‘medicinal’ now – an argument I have laughably heard used by every user I know on this scheme. Apparently, according to some ‘experts’, there is little or no evidence to suggest it is a ‘gateway’ drug (a way in to harder drugs) and yet, every single user I know, without exception, started off their drug habit by experimenting with Cannabis. So, I am not sure who is responsible for all the so-called statistics on this stuff – but let me tell you they have never spent more than 5 minutes in a housing scheme!

The government’s current formula for dealing with heroin addiction is to treat it with some form of a combination of Valium, Methadone, sleeping pills, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. Let me be clear: Methadone is not medicinal. In my opinion both Methadone and Valium are far more addictive and have far-ranging long-term health problems than many so-called illicit drugs. So, why do people do it? Any number of reasons:

    • Social pressure,
    • Boredom,
    • Curiosity,
    • A desire for a new experience,
    • A better sex life,
    • To gain wisdom & intelligence (really!),
    • To escape pain, worry, responsibility, tension, etc.
    • Because they are hopelessly addicted

The scare tactics of yesteryear (‘Just say “NO!”‘) hold no sway over this generation. Drug taking in the early years can be hugely enjoyable (and we should stop pretending that it isn’t) and it can have some pleasant benefits, including:

  1. The sensation of having great insight, intuition, & knowledge;
  2. A monistic or pantheistic perception of the universe;
  3. The experience of godhood by sensing that one is infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, indestructible, and eternal;
  4. The sense of being possessed, overpowered, or carried along by some force greater than oneself;
  5. A heightened perception of sounds sights, and colours;
  6. A heightened sensual experience of sex, touch, and taste;
  7. A confusion of the senses in which one may see music and hear colours;
  8. The ability to live in the present without any care or concern for the past or future;
  9. The ability to be released from all responsibility and restraint and to do whatever one feels like doing;
  10. A mystical or religious experience

The problems appear, over time, with long-term abuse and can lead to all sorts of issues, including:

  1. The loss of the ability to rationally understand things;
  2. The loss of contact with the normal world and sense perception;
  3. The loss of any accurate perception of the size, shape, or colour of objects;
  4. The inability to perceive differences between objects;
  5. The loss of sense of self and its identity;
  6. The loss of the awareness of time;
  7. The loss of consciousness of the past and its importance;
  8. The loss of consciousness of the future and its goals;
  9. The inability to give sustained attention;
  10. The inability to communicate intelligently.

The social consequences can be massively devastating, including:

  1. The death of family and friends
  2. Committing crime to pay for a habit
  3. Stealing from family members and friends
  4. The loss of children from the Social Services
  5. A lack of parental responsibility
  6. Sexually transmitted diseases
  7. diseases through sharing needles
  8. Being shunned by family, friends and neighbours

Of course, there are far more consequences than just these. As a rule, drug addicts are inveterate liars, manipulators and cheats. That is a fact almost without exception. Middle class Christians, particularly, hate it when I say that but then they are open to all sorts of abuse from some of the characters around here who will turn on the water works if it means they get a quick score. Churches and Christians are ‘soft targets’ for drug users. They quickly learn how to get with the ‘lingo‘, what to say and when to say it and many Christians, in their naive desperation to do ‘ministry’ often lap up all this stuff and get taken for a gigantic ride.

So ,what do we do with chronic drug addicts and liars? What does the Bible have to say on these matters? How do we deal with a guy who has been injecting for 15 years, has robbed every member of his family, is blacklisted by every shop in town and turns up on our doorstep in floods of tears?

Tune in for part 2.

Gentrification is a phenomenon that is occurring in schemes all over Scotland (indeed the UK). It is a word that has been in use for many centuries but was brought to the fore in the early sixties by a sociologist who observed how middle class people moving into traditional working class areas, often displaced the very poor. Regardless of opinion, it always signifies a change in the makeup of a local community when low-income housing is ether demolished and/or refurbished and wealthier people begin to move into the neighbourhood. Usually, what occurs (at least in schemes) is that poor income families (and “problem” ones) are relocated to make way for the middle (sometime called “educated”) classes. There is often widespread building work and community regeneration of shops, businesses and parks. All of the above is happening and has happened to Niddrie over the last decade. Of course, there is much more to say on this – but this is the bottom line (I want to write a few posts on the topic in the coming months).

I am left in little doubt that the vast majority of working class people, small business owners and the local authorities view the process as a good and healthy thing. It is often associated with “weeding out” the inherent social problems and “lifting up” the area in which it occurs. Much can be said about this topic (and I will blog more on this – I promise) but I just wanted to point out a few good and bad points to the gentrification of our housing schemes.

1. Good. If you own your own home and your housing prices go up as the area improves.

2. Bad. If you don’t own your own home and you have to move out of a place you have lived for generations to make way for developers. It appears that gentrification might just make the poor poorer! (surprise surprise)

3. Good. If you are a local business because new people and redevelopment attract new consumers.

4. Good. If you are involved in the building industry (for obvious reasons).

5. Good. If you have been plagued by “problem people” and “drug houses” which are being removed from the area.

6. Bad. If it means that the new middle class bring with them their individualism and personal materialism.

7. Bad. If you are a church (like ours) that saw huge swathes of local children in their Sunday schools diminish to nothing as people are relocated.

8. Good. Skills and a growing work ethic return to the community.

9. Bad. The community is destroyed by those who move in as first time buyers and have no communal interest other than securing their foot on the property ladder and moving on and “up” as soon as possible.

10. Bad. for those who would like to own their own home but can’t because of ridiculously high property prices (and rentals).

11.Good. If you are a landlord for the reasons stated above.

So, is this process good or bad for Niddrie? Well, at this stage it is difficult to tell. Niddrie is certainly a quieter place than it once was. A safer place? Not particularly. The new people moving in are suspicious of the locals and vice-versa. It has enhanced a divide that has always been there but now it is on their doorstep. A guy watching a young family move into a £200K house on the site of where his pals used to live is not best pleased about it. Of course, the wealthy move in and are huddled together, marked out by their shiny new homes and a target for many. On the other hand, there is a renewed sense of pride about the place. The arts are going strong and there is still a good community vibe. There have been a couple of locals who have started businesses and are doing well for themselves thanks to community grants but this is an experiment in social engineering that will be measured in another 10 years. At the moment the “indigenous” community (those that are left) are going along with it (they have to) and new people are tentatively moving in. How (and if) we move toward communal synergism will be the interesting thing.

What can we as a local church do about it? A discussion for another day. Blessings. All (serious) comments will be appreciated.

Incarnational Living | Church Planting | Urban Youth Ministry | Missional Community| Urban Church

Proximity 2012 is a conference happening this May (25th-26th) in Salford, hosted by the Eden Network. It aims to bring these five streams above together in one place for two days of vision, conversation, inspiration and celebration. If you’re a leader or practitioner in any of these five overlapping areas of ministry Proximity could be of interest to you. Our tickets are being booked this week.

Proximity will be light-hearted and yet intelligent; fast-paced and yet reflective; boundary-pushing and yet affirming.

For more information, you can download the programme here. Or visit

by Mike Stark (Children’s, Youth & Community Worker)

Historically, we haven’t had many ‘Christian’ young people in Niddrie Community Church. We have a vibrant and active work among children and youth in the community, yet this is almost exclusively evangelistic, rather than discipling. So, with a few exceptions, there’s a bit of a disconnect between a Sunday morning service, and the work we’re doing the rest of the week.

As we move forward as a church, with the long-term goal (10-20 years) of growing future indigenous leaders, we’re looking to focus on the children’s and youth work, and invest heavily in these ministries in the hope that God will bless us with young people coming to faith. Recently, we’ve signs of promise:

  • A small group of girls from our Youth Café are meeting up in our flat with my wife and another leader to go through the Soul DVD series and to talk about Christianity. One of these girl’s has been coming regularly on a Sunday morning.
  • One young person from the school, who is extremely keen, has been coming to Sunday services faithfully every opportunity he gets for a couple of weeks now.
  • Another school-leaver has been coming with me to the morning prayer meetings and studying the Bible with me afterward every day for over 2 weeks.
  • In addition to the one-2-one’s I’m doing with some of the young men, another group will be meeting up for the first time this Friday afternoon to go through the Soul DVD series.

Of course, we don’t measure success on the basis of young bums in seats on Sunday mornings; that’s not the way to gauge the spiritual temperature of young people. However, bearing in mind our context and the relative absence of Christian young people – the fact that the spiritual temperature of our average young person is… well dead – we’ve got to be encouraged by seeing young people coming to Sunday services and engaging in things like Bible studies and prayer meetings. Exciting things are happening and it’s apparent that God is at work in our children and youth ministry in Niddrie and we seem to be on the brink of at least a few young people coming to faith

The question is: are we ready for them?

God, in His grace, has stirred a bit of interest in the Gospel specifically, and spiritual things generally, in the hearts and minds of our young people. In anticipation of His goodness, and as we wait expectantly for young people to be saved, we need to be thinking about the next step. What are our plans for the nurture and discipleship of these young believers? Are we ready? I think, at the moment, the honest answer is no. As we’ve seen glimmers of hope with different individuals over the last 6 months, Mez has said to me a few times that perhaps growth is slow because the Lord is being gracious and patient with us. Knowing our limitations, He’s giving us no more than we can bear, yet stretching us and challenging us, leading us on in the way He will have us go.

Here are a few short thoughts I have, in no particular order, on how we can ready ourselves for the coming years.

1) Invest in the Children’s and Youth Ministry Team

Investment can take a number of forms. Leaders need to be trained to fulfill their tasks well, and communicated to, so that they understand why we are doing certain things and be made aware of different needs. I have plans in hand for training leaders and for stimulating growth in their different areas of responsibility.

As young people come to faith, like any baby, they’ll need constant support and attention. I simply don’t have the time/energy to provide that for every young person that comes to faith, all the while investing in new relationships with unbelievers in the community and running a number of key ministries. I will need leaders who are equipped and encouraged to do this alongside me. Initially, I’ll need to model this to them, but, eventually, they’ll need to actually follow my example and invest in young people. They will need to see me doing it, and follow suit themselves. So I  need to be inviting leaders to join me in doing some of the stuff I do with young people so that they ‘see me’ doing it.

2) Plan a ‘curriculum’ for Christian growth

Where do we go from the Soul DVD series? In the past, the church has used resources like Stranger On The Road To Emmaus, and The Cross: Finding Life In Jesus’ Death with some of our new believers. How appropriate are these for our young people? The Stranger series has a DVD companion, but it’s really cheesy! And I’ve ordered a copy of their youth version, so look out for a review soon… I’m also open to other suggestions if you have any.

The advantage for us is that, with a small number of Christian young people (on their way, we pray), we will be able to tailor material to suit the individual. Traditional Christian youth groups will not have this luxury and will normally decide on material to suit the collective as a whole. As our ‘collective’ grows, we will probably look to carve out a suitable time in the week where they can meet to grow together and encourage each other in their faith.

Eventually we WILL want to be encouraging each of them to come along to services on Sunday mornings because that’s where the bulk of our teaching is done. It’s important for them to engage with other members of the church, appreciate the diversity of Christian experience in the church and to realise how much they can learn things from other church members that they wouldn’t otherwise learn from their youth leader/mentor. Conversely, we mustn’t underestimate all that they’ll contribute to the wider church, initially in terms of encouragement of other believers seeing them engage and grow, but later in terms of their spiritual gifting and opportunities to serve and lead.

3) Start thinking 3 steps ahead

Unless we are looking to the future and asking ourselves: ‘Where’s this going? What next?’  then we’ll run the risk of idling as we slip into maintenance mode. To avoid stagnation, we need to be constantly thinking 3 steps ahead.

Take, for example, the work at our local High School. We have a really exciting work going on up there, but what happens if the rug is pulled from beneath our feet and the school is closed (as has been discussed!) – where are we then? What other schools are we investing in, or are all our eggs in the one basket?

We need your prayers as we move forward into this exciting new phase. Please pray for our many young people, that their eyes would be opened to the reality of the Gospel and their hearts transformed under the Lordship of Christ. Pray for us too, for wisdom, vision and foresight. And thank God for his patience with us!

by Mike Stark (Youth & School’s Worker for NCC)

I recently attended “Deep Impact”, Scotland’s National Christian Youth Work Conference in Aviemore. I came back refreshed, inspired and excited about all the work ahead. I’ve got a lot to reflect on over the next couple of weeks: the people I met, the things I learned, and truths I just needed to digest. Since I got back last Sunday, whenever possible, I’ve been re-reading my notes and musing, thinking about how to apply some of these things to our Youth and Children’s work in Niddrie.

Gavin Calver, YFC

The whole theme of the conference was to ‘Boldly go…‘ encouraging Youth and Children’s workers to be bold in their lives and ministries for Jesus. The main speaker for the weekend was Gavin Calver, head of Youth For Christ in the UK, who seems to be a bit of a ‘have-a-go hero’ in evangelism – the kind of man normal people don’t want to sit next to on a long haul flight. During one of the seminars, Gavin talked about the Three Stories model of evangelism as a particularly good way to engage post modern people in a biblical way.

Three Story Evangelism is about connecting stories… three of them as you have probably guessed: me and my story, Christ and His story, and finally them and their story. The idea is to find connections between you and them, therefore connecting an unbeliever’s life and story to Christ and His story.

Image: Long Green Baptist Church

The more these stories and lives connect and the more we have in common, the better. This model also stresses the importance of nurturing our ‘connection‘ with Christ in evangelism even more than we would look to nurture our ‘connection’ with a lost world. So, our relationship with Jesus is of first importance in evangelism.

I confess I’m not always the boldest in my evangelism. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that because I’m not a gifted evangelist, I can leave the evangelism to others. Ellis is, on the other hand, a gifted evangelist – he’s bold as brass when it comes to sharing his faith – and so his gifts are complimentary to my own. However, that aside, every Christian has a role in evangelism, in sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost and dying world, and the three stories model is a very simple approach to use. In fact, most of us have probably used it without even thinking about it because it’s an approach that Jesus used in the Bible.

In John chapter 4, we read the extraordinary story of the woman at the well. Here, I’m taking for granted Christ’s ‘connection’ with his Father, and we will look at how he engages with the woman and her story. Jesus is tired, his disciples have gone into town to buy food, and he says to the woman “Will you give me a drink?”

What does Jesus have in common with this Samaritan woman? Well, they’re in the same place at the same time: Jesus needs a drink and the woman is equipped to draw water. And so Jesus throws social conventions (v.9) out the window to establish a relationship with this lost individual. From a very simple conversation starter, Jesus goes on to share some very profound truths with this woman. He cuts to the core of the woman’s idolatries (men, relationships, sex and intimacy) and brings the gospel to bear in her life. She is so profoundly changed that she forgets her shame (v.6-7), returns to her community and shares the good news there (v.28-30).

I was up at the gym last week with Mez and Andy. As I sat in the sauna thinking about all this, I decided I’d give it a go, so I asked the man next to me a question about the gym (seeing as I was in on a guest pass). This developed into, admittedly, a relatively superficial conversation ranging from golf, TV packages, and the recession, on to my job as a church youth worker. OK, he didn’t repent of his sins and put his trust in Jesus, but it was a little conversation that could have gone anywhere. And it’s important to recognise that it could have gone nowhere: if people don’t want to talk (as most in a sauna won’t!) pursuing conversation isn’t going to do us any favours.

How does all this relate to evangelism among young people in a housing scheme in Niddrie? Nearly every single Gospel opportunity I’ve had in the past 4 years has come because I’m in relationship with a young person. Although I still get opportunities, especially through my chaplain role at the high school, to stand in front of a class, house, or an entire year group and share the Gospel, but the only conversation I can remember off the back of one of these was a little chat with a girl about bullying. Yet, when I’m involved in a young persons life, as they see me day after day, and hear little bits of my story, that’s where the majority of my Gospel conversations come – it’s at these moments that I’m striking gold.

There are some really exciting things happening in the youth work at NCC just now. There are lots of little pockets of young people interested in finding out more about Christianity because of conversations they’ve had with us. We have a little group of girls going through the Christianity Explored ‘Soul’ DVD series, one of whom’s been coming to church every week for about 3 months and it’s really cool seeing her understanding of the Gospel grow. I’m doing ‘Soul‘ with 2 young men in our one-2-ones. The Chaplaincy Room isn’t even officially open yet, but already we’ve had numerous conversations with a little group of boys who have been really keen to take away and read Gideon’s bibles – and not just to use as skins (for rolling joints)! In fact, it looks like a little group of boys up at the school will be doing ‘Soul‘ with us too. I feel as though, very soon, we’re going to have a little group of Christian young people to disciple. So we’re in the thick of planning beyond ‘Soul’ what we can do with these young people.

In all of this, the greatest lesson for me has been to stay close to Jesus. He’s the difference young people notice in our lives. He’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. And He’s the one who has power to turn the hardest of hearts towards Him in repentance and faith. If everyone involved in our Children’s and Youth work are walking hand in hand with our Saviour in prayer and through His Word, if we’re living in dependence on God, in step with His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then we’re in the right place to be of use to others in evangelism.

“I’d die if I didn’t have my BlackBerry.”

Recent comment from young person

According to the news, a UK survey shows that TV is being pushed aside by mobile internet devices in the lives of young people.

Among 7-16 year olds, 61% have a mobile phone with internet access, and use that phone for an average of 1.6 hours a day. Before and after school, young people are now more likely to play with their mobiles than watch TV. On the topic of social media, here’s a short, very well made, and interesting video I though would be worth embedding…

If you do any work with young people, you don’t need me or the BBC to break this news to you – I’m sure you’re already perfectly aware of how significant mobile phones and social media are in the lives of young people today. The above quote would be fairly normal in my youth work experience and I’ve become quite accustomed to having conversations with young people who are simultaneously holding umpteen other conversations with friends via BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), or Facebook.

I’m all for engaging with young people and communicating in ways with which they’re comfortable: I’m happy to accept Friend Requests on Facebook (so long as I actually KNOW the individual), and I’m comfortable having mobile numbers and texting young people.

In fact, there are lots of ways I could go with this post: we could talk about how, with 600+ Facebook/BBM friends, our young people are growing up with a more diluted concept of what friendship is; we could talk about the trend of sexting (sending revealing or explicit photos and/or video to others, sometimes with the goal of meeting for sex) and how, according to research, 80% of 16-24 year olds have used either a smartphone or the web for some form of sexual contact; or we could talk about some of the practicalities of using social media and the need for transparency and appropriate safeguards. As is often the case, it’s real life situations that lie behind these posts, and one of the reasons why I noticed this particular news article was down to the fact that for the past 2 hours, I’ve been having a text message conversation with one young person who’s in real need of pastoral support.

Though useful for certain things, BBM, texts and Facebook are simply no substitute for face to face contact. There’s no depth to the conversations you have through typing – even something simple like the tone of what’s being said is very tricky to read, and something intended to be clear and innocent can be easily misinterpreted. Even phone conversations are no substitute for face to face – although the conversation can flow more freely than through text, you’re fundamentally unable to ‘listen’ to what the person is not saying: in their body language and such like.

I’d much rather sit down with the young person I’ve been texting this afternoon and just listen to what they have to say. But for now, they feel most comfortable with text messages, and that’s fine. In the past I’ve had long email conversations with young people in need of pastoral guidance and advice, and often these emails have been the precursor to deeper, more fruitful face to face conversations about their situation and where the gospel speaks into that situation. It’s my hope and prayer that this will be the case here, and that this individual will get the support they need.