Chris was deeply traumatised by his parents’ separation when he was just 14. His behaviour deteriorated to such an extent that he was regularly excluded from school for weeks at a time. With nothing else to fill his days, he started hanging around with a gang in a local park, began to drink heavily and eventually got involved in solvent abuse – his life was spiralling downwards out of control.
By the time he was old enough to leave school officially, Chris was unemployable. So, in order to make ends meet and support his own growing drug habit, he became involved in dealing Ecstasy in local nightclubs. Inevitably this led to his arrest one night with 15 tablets in his coat pocket – but ironically it was this brush with the law that proved to be the turning point in his troubled life.
The local youth offending service decided to refer Chris’s case to Enthusiasm, a local charity with Christian roots that works with young people, with whom he had had a little contact in the past. Through the process of intensive mentoring which Enthusiasm offered him, he slowly began to get his life back on track. Over time he stopped using drugs and his involvement with his old drug-using friends fell away. But Chris’s personal revolution was still not complete. He went on to become a volunteer with Enthusiasm and, as he spent time working with the charity, began to discover a passion for youth work. A couple of years on Chris, now 19, is working full-time for Enthusiasm, has earned a level two certificate in youth and community development and is responsible for running the charity’s largest youth club.
Enthusiasm’s vision is simple: to help young people fulfil their true potential in life through a threefold strategy.
- To divert them away from crime.
- To build their self esteem.
- To raise their aspirations.
The Derby based charity works with literally hundreds of young people each year in its efforts to achieve these goals and offers a wide range of programmes to the young people it serves: from mentoring to life skills courses, sports clubs to employment training, school holiday clubs to counselling, and much more besides.
Enthusiasm has formed partnerships with a number of organisations including Connexions (a new arm of central government’s youth service) and Derby City Council (particularly the Community Safety Partnership).
So why is it that, while many Christian charities complain about the difficulty of gaining partnership and getting funding from local government, Enthusiasm is so well thought of and supported by both national and local government as well as a wide spectrum of other agencies in the city? The answer is simple. Enthusiasm’s aims and objectives for young people tie in with those of local government and other important agencies in Derby. The goals of the charity’s work are directly in line with the city’s ‘Community Strategy’. Enthusiasm has a two-tiered recipe for success – it attracts partnership, support and funding from local government because it works to fulfil the Community Strategy, and it attracts young people from across the city because it offers them security, identity and belonging. And the result – Enthusiasm changes lives.
Faithworks exists to resource and equip churches, Christian projects and individuals as they play their full part at the hub of their local communities as well as actively liaising with central, regional and local government. The Faithworks Movement is a partnership between various Christian organisations.
Chalke and Change Jargon Buster
We live in a world addicted to jargon. Computer nerds, businessmen, the military, politicians, Christians – all have their own specialist language. P.D.As, C.P.As, R.P.Gs, L.S.Ps and L.E.Ps; pdf. files, low-hanging fruit, collateral damage, early day motions and ministry times – society is littered with abbreviations and ‘in crowd’ terminology. The problem comes when one group or tribe wants to communicate with another. If the Church is going to talk to the government, other voluntary agencies, social services, the NHS etc. we are going to have to become bilingual. Each month Chalke and Change unpacks one key phrase of community development language and explores how it can be useful to churches. This month what is a ‘Community Strategy’?
The year 2000 witnessed a revolution in the way local government works, turning over 100 years of tradition upside-down. In a nutshell, whereas local councils used to do things for the communities they governed, the Local Government Act 2000 dictated that, from then on, councils must do things with their communities.
More than that, in order to accurately assess and meet the needs of their community, each local council was required to develop an annual Community Strategy – though it might be known by a ‘friendlier’ name such as ‘Towards Tomorrow – Bloggstown’s Future’ etc. This document’s task is to highlight all areas of need facing local people, set targets for change and lay out the measures by which progress will be evaluated. Each local council is required not only to consult with local voluntary agencies and organisations in order to put this grand plan together, but then to work alongside them to deliver it.
A Community Strategy provides an excellent guidebook for any church or group of churches looking to develop their role as social welfare providers. Not only does it highlight the needs of the community, but also outlines the opportunities to work in partnership with local government, other voluntary agencies and the business sector.
For the local churches this both opens a door of opportunity and creates an exciting challenge. Any church that really wants to make a difference to the lives of those in its surrounding community will get a huge head start simply by reading their Community Strategy and then committing to work towards meeting one or more of its targets, either through existing projects or by beginning new areas of work. And the best news – your Community
Strategy is available from your local council simply by ringing their offices.
If you would like further information about Enthusiasm, ‘Community Strategy’ or to debate the issues it raises, visit www.faithworks. info. If you would like further information about Enthusiasm, ‘Community Strategy’ or to debate the issues it raises, visit www.faithworks.info.