Bethel Baptist Church Pontyclun (Sept 2007)
Gweini Press Release 09/07
STREET youth work and a church-run drop-in centre have combined forces to become a powerful and effective tool drawing bored youngsters off the streets in Pontyclun.
Bethel Baptist church has been involved with detached youth work for a number of years, supporting young people in the community and forging relationships.
The church also had another youth service running parallel to the detached work, and up until recently both ministries operated separately.
But church leaders recently decided to try merging these important works together, introducing youngsters on the street to the drop-in.
This move has injected the cafe with a new lease of life, as young people are being drawn off the streets and into a secure and caring environment.
Neil Shearman, head of the youth ministry at Pontyclun Bethel Baptist said the relationships the detached youth workers had forged with groups on the streets was key in giving the young people the confidence to try out the drop in cafe at the church, which is now receiving about 70 youngsters every Friday night.
He said: "We were running church small groups for young people from the church for a long time, but we weren't dealing with the problem of youngsters on the streets having nothing to do - they wouldn't have mixed with the bible study groups.
"So we started a drop-in cafe bar with music, chill out zones, snacks, hot drinks, places to chat, activities like air hockey and a Playstation 2.
"Church members had been running street detached youth work for about two years by this time, building relationships with young people in the community, it wouldn't have happened so well if it wasn't for that."
"We have found there are just so many different groups of young people out there, and they're not always friends with each other.
"We ran summer barbecues and other events and started to see a core group of young people coming along.
"We now have about 40 young people on average come along to the drop in, whether to just sit and chat and drink hot chocolate, or get some basketball tutoring or play football and hockey."
He added the church is hoping to set up further groups to provide life guidance and practical help and advice for the young people.
"We've also been linking up with similar groups in the Valleys to run football tournaments and musical concerts," he added, "We hope to develop more practical life guidance small groups for the youngsters to keep them off the streets and give them good hope for the future."