Youth leaders and practitioners from across the West Midlands recently came together to network, collaborate and discuss youth ministry at a special Cohesion Network Roundtable event in Birmingham, organised by Youth for Christ. Tim Adams describes what happened…

I arrived at Birmingham City Church on a bright August morning, not knowing what to expect, but soon felt the sense of unity and shared purpose amongst the delegates. YFC’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Darren Richards opened with a prayer that the Holy Spirit would govern and direct conversations.

The Importance of Love

Val Taylor, Youth Leader at New Jerusalem Apostolic Church, began the day with a short reflection. She reminded us that the key thing underpinning what Jesus commands us to do is: love. Looking at the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy, Val emphasised the need to pursue love. “Whatever it is that we plan, whatever we decide today, the love of God has to show through it.”

With such a powerful foundation established, Birmingham City Church Youth Pastor Jordan Christian built on it as he spoke about his work. “BCC is a big, multi-cultural Urban Church. City Youth is made up of about 20 nationalities but all are urban because they come from a city centre”. Jordan insisted it’s about young people coming into contact with Jesus, finding their purpose and living it out in all its fullness. “Our primary goals for young people are believe, grow and inspire” he declared. “That’s young people believing the Bible wholeheartedly, growing in their faith and inspiring the world around them through their growth.”

Developing Young Leaders

This desire to develop young Christians to be all that God wants them to be was echoed by Pastor Ryan Miller. He is the Youth Leader at Nechelles Outreach Centre and regional Youth Director for the Church of God of Prophecy in the West Midlands. Ryan leads programmes for teenagers and young adults in his church. He also provides strategic oversight for 16 youth groups across the West Midlands. Reinvesting in young leaders, he maintained, is a major priority. “We need to have mid-teens to late twenties in pastoral positions so they can influence the culture of church and bring direction for the generation to come.”

Experiencing abundant Life

Ryan also runs an events ministry called ‘Life’. It brings young people from different backgrounds together to experience abundant life in Jesus. Ryan told everyone about his new initiative, Edge Leadership. It will bring 100 youth leaders together in October to network, hear from Mike Pilavachi. For Ryan, ‘”These challenges are really opportunities to develop young people and see them live out the holistic life they have in Jesus”.

Reaching into the Community

Nathan Dennis then expanded on the issues facing young people today. Nathan is the Deputy Youth Leader at New Jerusalem Apostolic Church. He’s also the Director of youth and community engagement company, First Class Legacy. He showed a YouTube music video of a 21 year old rapping about a shooting he had carried out. According to Nathan, it’s “just one of thousands online glorifying violence and influencing young people”.  He then challenged the group to “bring the love of Jesus into communities”.

Tackling Youth Issues

That’s why Nathan set up his #yourlifematters outreach project in hard-to-reach communities, plagued by youth violence. At the roundtable, he called for a wider dialogue to tackle the issues affecting young people. He then shared an example of this – the #yourlifematters Youth Summit. The Birmingham event run by Nathan consulted, challenged and empowered young people. It also exposed them to opportunities around jobs, volunteering, further education, training and apprenticeships.

Other valuable contributions came from Jill Appleton from The Feast, Douglas Sembuuze from St Christopher’s Church, Emma Mowatt from New Testament Church, George Street and Naomi Moyo from All Nations Church in Wolverhampton.

Kingdom Reality

As our time together drew to a close, Colin Marsh from Churches Together in Birmingham summed up the morning. He acknowledged all were “united in the belief that what is uncomfortable and on the margins is often at the centre of God’s kingdom”. Thanks were offered to God, connections established and further collaboration planned. Delegates left encouraged, challenged and inspired to reach more young people with the love of Jesus.