As long as most of us remember, Andy Pettman has been involved in youth work: in his church, during his Gap year in Honduras many years ago, and in his local Sword of the Spirit community in London. Two things have always motivated him: sharing the good news with those who have not come to personal faith yet, and helping those who believe make that faith real by reaching out to their friends. He had also seen how especially some “community kids,” i.e., young people who have grown up in intentional community, can find it hard to step up and get excited about their faith: some suppose they have seen it all their life and at times have learned to walk the path of least resistance.
In 1998 Andy started a meeting for the oldest youth of
two Anglican Sunday school groups in West London. The group grew and started to incorporate teenagers from Antioch, the local Sword of the Spirit community, and today anywhere from 40 to 60 youth meet every other Friday for a time of worship, spiritual input and fun together. The mixture of church youth, community kids, and their friends of has been deeply dynamic, each group bringing their own strengths and calling each other on. Youth:link, as it is now called, has also added another event for the off-weeks – for the younger and newer participants.
Andy passed on the leadership a number of years ago, but he is still closely involved in supervising the work. Over the years many of the younger Servants of the Word in the London household have been serving on Youth:link’s staff. “Their life as brothers is different and radical enough that it calls the youth on to live more wholeheartedly as disciples,” Andy says. In turn serving with teenagers often provides a more visible impact than university mission. “It is very rewarding to pass on skills to an age group which is very eager to learn and constantly asking for input.”
Of course the service is not without its challenges: London is a busy place and many of the youth live full lives. Some spend two hours a day commuting to and from school, and most of them are involved in extra-curricular activities, so time is at a premium. Most of the staff are volunteers, so they also juggle many different responsibilities, and sometimes it is not easy to accommodate the various expectations of parents. But on the whole it is not hard to recruit staff for Youth:link.