London City Mission's Body and Soul Gym in Bermondsey has created a spirit-filled space where young people are free to be themselves, says Tim Fielder.
We advertise as ‘Free gym training sessions and Bible study’. Young guys come through the door and they get a Bible study, talk about the gospel and are prayed for on day one.
The beauty is that they’re coming into an environment where the Holy Spirit is present.
The atmosphere is different to what they’re expecting.
The gym is good on a lot of levels, because you can encourage people, and it can also humble people.
In the gym boys will be put in a situation where they would normally be put down. If you are lifting a weight and can’t manage it, their expectation is that other people would mock them.
But here, we help them and support them, and they take note that we’ve seen them vulnerable, but have not mocked them.
At Body and Soul they can relax a little from the pressure of trying to impress others. You can come alongside them, like the father figure.
After the workout we’ve got these cards that are just conversation starters, and you just take one: “Have ever been to a funeral?” or, “What’s something you’ve never told anyone?”
If you asked somebody those questions out of the blue, it would be a bit weird, but the cards do the heavy lifting in opening up meaningful conversations. It works well.
Sometimes we ask deep questions they might never have considered before in their lives.
We invite them, if they want to, to write a prayer on the prayer wall as well.
The idea is that it’s habitual. We hope they will come in between three and five times a week. But it doesn’t always work like that.
What young guys need is someone who is constant in their life. Someone who can rebuke and challenge them, but not leave them.
We want to bring good news, not just good advice. These young guys, the only men that they’ve had in their lives are people that tell them what to do or what not to do, like police or teachers. We can help them realise who they are, not just what they should do.
One of the studies looks at Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. It begins by showing that Jesus knew that God had put all things into his hands.
So we can say, this guy has incredible power: he could smash everyone if he chose to. But what does he use that power for?
He’s the perfect man. He doesn’t try to prove himself, he shows his power by serving others and washing their feet. If you want to prove that you are strong, the way you do it is by how you treat those who are weaker than you.
And we see that in the way boys go from mocking each other to helping them. Just by understanding that the culture in Body and Soul is different. They fall into line with what they are seeing. It happens naturally.