Hull Youth For Christ
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Déjà vu

In February we began a new club with some of the boys aged 9-11 from Breakfast Club. We hoped it would create another opportunity for us to spend time with the group who have, mostly, struggled with our after-school clubs; Zone 3 and Godly Play - lads who are quite high energy, not so keen on structure and altogether a little more challenging.

The new club brings a distinct feeling of déjà vu. 7 years ago I began a practically identical youth club with the same aim, for the same type of lads and even at around the same time of the week. The first club still runs with the same core lads who are now 18 and 19. Excitingly, three of them help me lead the new club which runs just before theirs. This is a surprising fruit because these lads have been a little bit of a handful over the years. They’ve been in trouble with the Police, expelled from school and I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve personally banned them for fighting. The club is nothing fancy; we simply meet up, kick a ball around and have a bit of space to chat and yet 7 years on, they’re still turning up every week. But something has changed in these lads and not only in their behaviour and maturity; we are now blessed to see them want to give up their own time for others and patiently spend time with these younger boys. Although they might not phrase it like that, we are seeing in them hallmarks of the Kingdom; they have been changed by it and, I believe, they are now a part of furthering that same Kingdom.

We can over-complicate what it takes to make an impact in some of these challenging young people’s lives. We can spend too much time coming up with ever grander interventions when really what all these kids want is someone to take a bit of interest in their lives and show some care. Most of them are used to men coming into their lives for a bit then disappearing and that leaves its mark; it hardens them. Time is definitely the magic ingredient – the regular and long term gift of our time is the price that is required for them to drop the defenses, allowing the conversations that really matter to start to take place.

The youngest lad from the group that began 7 years ago turned 18 in March. This is a young person who has had it tougher than many growing up and he carries those burdens around with him. He had grown accustomed to pushing his feelings deep and putting on a show of bravado and aggression just to feel a bit more control. Not only does he now help me run the new club, but he helps most mornings at Breakfast Club. We were all invited to his 18th birthday party where we felt privileged to celebrate with him amongst a small group of his close family. We wouldn’t be in the right place to help and support him if it wasn’t for those years of kicking a ball around, chatting about nonsense and patiently hanging in there when he could no longer keep it all bottled up.

In honesty, I’ve already mulled over closing the new club. They’ve already exhausted me with fighting, moaning, mucking around and I’m fairly sure one of them is stealing tuck. But when I step back and think about the longer term picture of the déjà vu, and how far God has brought those young people now, I get the energy to keep going a little longer. And I think with the help of these new volunteers there’s now an even greater chance of history repeating itself.