It is with both sadness and excitement that I find myself writing. As you may or may not be aware, over the last 8 months we have been praying as a youth team and staff team, alongside parents and other church members into the future of Friday Night Club. There are several factors that have led to us reflecting on the effectiveness of Friday Night Club.
In January we saw a steep drop in numbers from 70-80 a week to just 30-40 and then after Easter this dropped to 10-15 a week. Whilst we have seen numbers go up and down over the last few years, this drop has been far steeper and quicker than any before. We have spent time reflecting and praying over what might have caused these low numbers. We have asked young people and parents for their feedback and nothing significant has come back. The lack of attendees has a huge impact on the atmosphere and buzz at Friday Night Club, especially in a facility as large as the Blue Coat Sports Centre. Further considerations have been that due to the size of the space we continue to need a significant number of adult volunteers, to ensure the club can run and all spaces are covered, for a relatively small number of young people. There are also financial implications and whilst numbers and finance should not be and are not the driving factors it is important to take them into account.
Consequently, at May half term we made the decision to cancel our bookings at Blue Coat School and move into the Church building as we continued to pray about the future of Friday Night Club. Over the summer holidays this process has continued with the Friday Night Club Team meeting to pray and listen to where God may be taking us.
Two pictures we have had during this time are:
• A picture of a dried-up riverbed with just a trickle of water still running down it. However, as the image zoomed out it became clear that the river hadn’t completely run dry, instead it had changed course. The sense was that even though the current riverbed is dry, there are still plenty of young people open to the gospel to be reached, we just need to find the new channel where the water is flowing.
• The second picture we had was of a kaleidoscope. The sense was that we have all the right pieces however, they now need to be re-arranged into a new formation, as a kaleidoscope turns to create new images out of the same components.
Friday Night Club has always been about reaching young people outside of the church. But, youth culture is always evolving, and it seems the way we have been running things for the last few years is no longer as effective. We don’t want to simply keep going with a ministry that is not working or bearing the fruit we long to see. Neither do we want to rush into launching something new without really knowing whether it is God’s heart or whether it will work. Our heart remains the same to reach young people in our community with the love of Jesus and give them a safe space to connect and build relationships. Now, we believe that God wants to do this in a new way. A way which will hopefully help us reach many more young people with the gospel. We just don’t know what that looks like yet.
To discover what this new missional youth venture looks like we have a strong sense that we need to keep praying, discerning and waiting on God. To do this we need time. Blue Coat School no longer have booking availability on a Friday night and continuing to run Club every week either at church or Blue Coat does not leave any time to wait on God and pursue Him together as a team for what comes next. Therefore, Friday Night Club in its current format is being closed. But, we don’t want to stop doing anything.
Consequently, we plan to run monthly social events at St John’s for the time being. These will have specific themes for each one, i.e.: film night, board games night, manicure night etc. We would love to see all the Friday Night Club young people at these, as well as more young people from small groups bringing their friends along. The advantage of running monthly events means we also have time to keep meeting regularly as a team as we continue to seek God for the future.
Change is always difficult, and whilst I understand that the closure of Friday Night Club will rightly bring a sense of sadness to many it is also a time to celebrate all that has been achieved through Friday Night Club in the last 12 or so years. The hundreds of young people who have had a safe place to meet friends, have fun, be told they are valuable and hear the gospel. We thank God for all He has done through the faithful ministry of so many over the years and look forward to what God has in store for us next as we long to see many young people in our community reached with the love of Jesus.
Mark & The Youth Team