The Synergy Network believes that “Together we can take on knife crime” and is encouraging churches, Christians organisations and individuals to join in.
Individuals and groups must coordinate to provide a platform from which they can properly liaise with other agencies (civil society groups, local authorities, the police and government). What we do know is that there are no easy answers or quick fixes to end serious youth violence (SYV). However, the problem is not intractable – we can defeat SYV together and churches and Christians have a key role to play in this.
Buildings and volunteers
Churches have tremendous assets in the form of buildings and volunteers. We would like churches in an area to come together (pool their resources) so that one of these buildings is made available during the week for young people to use. The hours between 3-6pm are flashpoints for SYV and these buildings could be safe spaces for young people to congregate. The other churches would put resource into this church(es) in the form of volunteers, equipment, food etc.
Volunteers could work with these young people during this time, helping them with homework or to providing some form advice or counselling to those in need of this assistance. In order for this to work, all volunteers would need the appropriate level of DBS checks for safeguarding. Moreover, volunteers would probably need to undergo various degrees of training to ensure they can properly engage with the young people. (Many volunteers mention that they do not have the confidence or skillset to do this now.)
These buildings would need to be properly equipped with computers as well as recreational equipment as this would create the right balance between work, rest and play.
Another response could be knife bins in areas associated with SYV – hotspots. (Knives and dangerous weapons are left in these receptacles for safe collection/disposal.) Churches in hotspot should consider installing knife bins near to their premises. Equally, those churches not plagued by this issue are encouraged to work with those that are; the knife bins cost several thousands of pounds and these churches would be asked to work together to accrue funding for these containers.
Churches could also prioritise youth work, as more people are needed to carry out this activity, which is deemed a vital intervention in addressing SYV. Equally, those that do, should aim to focus on outreach work among the “hard to reach” in the community – using the Ascension Trust’s 60/40 model, rather than being solely engaged with “youth ministry” – carrying out discipleship activities with the young people at the church. Churches should also seek to ensure that their youth workers are suitably trained and equipped to engage with this generation of young people.
A further aspect of volunteering with young people would be mentoring. Churches have within their structures, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, bankers, social workers and the like. All these professional men and women could use their lived experiences to engage with young people, ensuring they are affirmed, inspired and encouraged to “dream big” – giving them aspirations to make more of their lives.
Finally, or some would argue, firstly, you can pray! Prayer changes things. In the past, Christians often prayed and did nothing else. In the Gospels we see that Jesus was constantly praying. However, his prayers were followed by some activity or event. So, lets us be people of prayer – interceding for our young people, so that their lives will be transformed. But let us not leave it there! As Revd Les Isaac, one of the prime movers within the Synergy Network, points out: ‘God does not want spectators in his Church’.