Ballysillan Youth for Christ, known locally as the “BlueHouses” is the leading provider of informal youth work provision in Ballysillan, an area characterised by disadvantage, poverty and deprivation. The Bluehouses is a God-centred hub of support, loving relationships and community that has brought hope and transformation to the surrounding community since 1993. It is undeniably unique, not in terms of the programmes and projects it offers and develops, as these will be found in other youth centres and charities around the UK, it is unique in that it has always offered and continues to offer love and support through a God-orientated community where everyone is accepted, celebrated and encouraged. This approach is as important if not more so than the range of programmes and activities that we carry out. Our work would be nothing without this core ideology of God orientated authentic relationship and community.
In short the BlueHouses is dedicated to meeting the spiritual, social, emotional, physical and educational needs (met with a Christian faith outworking) of children and young people from all backgrounds and abilities, and with this holistic “wraparound” approach fulfilment is found and potential achieved in all aspects of their life. The dynamic team of staff and volunteers “walk alongside” children, young people and young adults, and through availability and connection provide the advice, love, support, prayer and spiritual guidance to enable them to understand and realise the unique person God has made them to be. The programmes the charity provides help young people to overcome a legacy of violence, paramilitary feuds (cultural/political gang warfare) and the frustrations and limitations of living in an area of social deprivation. Through these programmes young people gain a greater belief in themselves, higher self esteem and greater motivation. They begin to dream, having greater hope and expectation for the future, that they can achieve something. They begin to understand more of their identity, that they aren’t alone, but their life has worth and purpose, that they too can make a difference and live an extraordinary life knowing the love of an extraordinary God.
Since 1993 the organisation has built up an excellent reputation within the community and great relationships with the people who live in it. In that time the work itself has slowly grown, moving from a centre run by a few volunteers to now having four full time staff and a team of 25 volunteers, each giving up a night per week to help run the centre’s programmes. The programmes themselves have also grown and expanded in both variety and innovation and are run in response to the needs of the area and the young people attending the centre. This holistic approach to young people’s development shapes our present activities which are geared for those aged 7-25 and includes: junior & senior drop-in sessions & faith workshops; one to one & small group mentoring and discipleship; leadership development; gender specific group work & faith workshops (both junior & senior); joint boys/girls educational/issue based project; community relations programmes; bible study group; social action and serving the community; schools work (R.E. lessons); inter-generational work; detached street work; football coaching (schools & evening); counselling; Gathering worship & prayer events; community breakfasts; summer programme; partnership work with statutory organisations like the Youth Justice Agency and Probation Board; volunteer development and training.
- That the centre and those that work and volunteer there would be filled with God’s spirit
- “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” – there is so much required to enable the work here, from all the “charitable requirements” to face to face engagement with young people. We need people on board with us with a wide variety of skill sets who are passionate about the work. There is so much need in the community we are only scratching the surface of what can be done.
- That we “seek first His kingdom” – that everything we do here is simply joining God where he is moving
- That the centre would become a full “community hub” not just for young people but for all generations – for God’s guidance as we move more into “family” ministry
- Begin to see breakthrough in the generational dysfunction – hurt, pain, brokenness and deep underlying issues are being transferred from one generation to the next, hence the need to work closer with the whole family and not just the young people
- Breakthrough in societal issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, poor mental health, lack of hope, lack of aspirations, lack of meaning
- For people to take down their “masks”, be more vulnerable, overcome fear, shame, guilt
- For freedom
- Raising up of people from within the community to be incredible leaders, both young and old, who will be catalysts for change, for change and transformation
- For growing a people of prayer – this is all meaningless unless it is soaked and saturated in prayer