Revd Ruben King, leader of the New Testament Church of God’s Harvest Temple in Wolverhampton speaks about the work of the NPV Football Development initiative in that city.
NPV Football Development (NPVFD) was established in 1998 by former Wolverhampton Wanderers FC midfielder Joe Jackson to specifically address gang issues and youth violence that was prevalent at the time in Wolverhampton. The organisation has been in existence now for 22 years and has throughout that time worked with thousands of young people, using football to not only develop their footballing abilities, but also learn the importance of team ethics, values around working together, trusting each other and believing in each other.
The programme enables parents to be involved as coaches or volunteers undertaking the roles of treasurers, welfare officers, secretaries, first aiders, etc.
NPVFD’s primary target group are aged 4 to 14 years old and it delivers a number of coaching activities to this age group. However, when the players turn 15 years old we prepare them to become coaches as well as remain playing the game. NPVFD has positively turned a number of young people’s lives around using this process and as a result a number of young people are now qualified coaches working within the professional game. Joe states that, “NPVFD has allowed me to use my passion for helping disadvantaged and sometimes troubled youths from tough areas to adopt football as a positive tool for prevention and intervention.”
Joe became a Christian in 2005 and by 2009 was appointed the leaders of the Men’s Ministry at NTCG Harvest Temple. He felt it was necessary for the local churches to work together to address challenges confronting the community. Along with his counterparts in a number of churches from various denominations in Wolverhampton Men 4 Positive Change (M4PC) was formed in 2015. The members of M4PC have all received high risk gang mediation training and regularly patrol hot spots in the city, interacting with young people. They have also delivered a number of roadshows, men’s breakfasts and facilitated meetings with church leaders. In 2017 the group became the organisers of the annual Family BBQ and Sports Day that was held on the August Bank Holiday in Heath Town Park. This involved the churches working together to fundraise, promote and deliver a fantastic event with a wide range of sporting activities (football, netball, go karting, bouncy castles, table tennis, obstacle course), food, exhibitors, entertainment from the main stage, catering for over 1000 people.
Following the sad loss of more lives of a number of young people through gun and knife crime, M4PC organised a Peace Walk on 26th August 2019 and peaceful participants walked from NTCG Harvest Temple to the main stage in Heath Town Park. Two Pathfinder drummers from Seventh Day Adventist Church led the walk, followed by around 10 church leaders, members from local congregations, plus the community. There were large banners at the front and rear of the procession with the slogan ‘A Cry For Peace’. Some were wearing t-shirts with the same message and there were many placards carried by some of the 300 participants. The walk concluded with a short address and prayer for peace in the park, however the theme continued throughout the annual Family BBQ and Sports Day. M4PC has since launched a youth club and are considering how to deliver further initiatives.
On Friday 12th June NTCG Harvest Temple launched an animated video entitled ‘Respect Life’, seeking to warn young people of the dangers of knife crime. Every word in the video is taken directly from the Bible. The resource will be used to educate young people about the dangers of getting involved with knife crime and gangs. In relation to current knife crime issues affecting the community Bishop Ruben King states, “We feel society needs to be awakened to traditional biblical values and the ‘Respect Life’ video and ‘Bad Company Boomerang’ audio are excellent supplementary resources that can be used to help address and challenge issues of youth violence.” NTCG Harvest Temple also has a knife bin where people can anonymously dispose of weapons safely in a bid to get them off the streets.
You can view the Respect Life video here