Youth Work Works session from Youthwork Conference 2014

Today I had exactly 5 mins to share about the community of practice I belong to. In order to do that justice (they are all amazing) I wrote this to share with the crowd at Youthwork Conference (thats a Christian Youth Worker Conference) 

As an Evangelical Youth Worker I am passionate about seeing young people encounter the fullness of life offered by Jesus. But my heart’s desire is not just merely to see young people survive but to enable them to thrive. However for many young people standing on the margins, surviving seems like a reoccurring nightmare and thriving is so often a dream many dare not to dream.

Space is a dynamic dance that happens when people, places and relationships meet. A place is somewhere you arrive but a space is somewhere to explore and grow. StreetSpace is a project birthing new forms of church with young people on the edges of society. We are now a national community with 57 branches.

In StreetSpace we call the walls to dust. This is not about meeting young people and inviting them to join our established congregations. We want to move beyond the old notions of centre and edge, for us there is no longer in and out, us and them, christian and non christian, sacred and secular. Friends the walls have been up for too long, its time to call them to dust.

We follow the missio dei but recognise that the God we know cannot be God, for she is always much much more.

The challenge for us all is to go and mutually discover God, WITH our communities in OUR contexts.

This will and does look different in each of the contexts our Streetspace projects are based.
Our places, people and relationships are different so our spaces are all gloriously unique and yet as a community of practice we are one.

Streetspace is not a one size fits all off the peg project. Friends you cannot buy a Streetspace Hoodie!

I am the co founder of Streetspace Bournemouth. Bournemouth is my place. 

Like most Streetspace projects we have made a conscious decision to get involved in a community on the margins.

Bournemouth is home to the 5th largest gay community in the UK within it there is much diversity and life, there is a multi million pound library, a Church of England Primary school, heaps of cafes, pubs and clubs, some sex shops, a games workshop and even a Starbucks.

Places where people gather.

This is our place and these are our people.

We’ve built our relationships with cake, lots of cake. You name it we baked for it!
Its very hard to ignore someone who is offering you a free cupcake!

Our team have infiltrated key places, two of our team work in the local primary school, two volunteer for the leading secular youth project. We all belong to the local library and use the local gym.

Come to Bournemouth and it is in our place that I will take you for dinner.

What we do emerges from our specific combination of place, people and relationships. Its unique, evolving and beautifully messy but lots of people want a piece of our space:

  • The council like to own the positive change stories.
  • The institutional church like to own the good news stories, but we refuse to pimp out the lived experience of young people.

Like any project we could tell you stories about young people that break your hearts and bring you to tears but we wont.

I will tell you about our space though:
In the spring we undertake detached youth work, meeting young people where they are at in their places.
In the summer we apologise to the gay pride participants for how the church has treated them.
In the Autumn we host a weekly craftivist group.
Next week we will hold a candle light vigil as we remember those who have died at the hands of anti transgender violence.
Winter sees our community World Aids Day Service and Cocktails and Carols events.
All year round We feed people who are hungry.

We are distinctively worshiping Christ but we do not invite our friends to a service in an institutional church. In this space, in our space we are already church.

So here we are, learning to follow Christ from the living texts all around us, calling on the relationships we have made with people in our place. Together we are journeying to that space on old maps that simply says Here Be Dragons

However I am no longer a lone explorer, rather I am part of a national community of 57 Streetspace projects spread far and wide. Together we are seeking to press onwards calling ourselves to consistently seek to go to the margins and find the new treasures. 

The big question today is whether you will be number 58?