Youth Welfare Concept “The Mall” Ministers to Street Kids in Rotterdam

Just as God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), so also Youth for Christ believes we are called to “make our dwelling” among the young people to whom we’re called to bring the gospel. For Youth for Christ in the Netherlands, this means working with young people on the street, as well as at school and church.

Youth for Christ has a long tradition in reaching local youth in the Netherlands. In the ’60s and ’70s, coffee shops and residential units were the norm. Today, they are using other methods such as street ministry and youth centers.

Youth for Christ has organized in over thirty places to minister to Dutch young people. Fifteen of these sites in ten cities work with the youth welfare concept “The Mall.”

The Mall is a concept for youth welfare that was founded in Rotterdam in 1999. The objective is to provide appealing, high quality and relevant services to disadvantaged areas of medium and large cities for young people between 10 and 23 years of age. The Mall seeks to offer youth a safe place where they feel at home, building relationships with young people and inspiring and motivating them to achieve their full potential.

The Mall offers a youth center at which youth of the neighborhood are welcome to participate in activities that appeal to them. Additionally, young people have specific roles and responsibilities at the youth center as they are given part ownership of the center. Youth for Christ in the Netherlands has found that this co-ownership has helped reduce many undesirable behaviors as the young people want to keep “their center” a safe place that looks good. It not only prevents theft and rioting, but also ensures strong involvement of visitors. The house rules are drawn up with the help of the young people, and are therefore clear and strictly enforced.

Activities of various street ministries and youth centers like The Mall vary, as Youth for Christ is about meeting young people where they are. Decentralized is a word that fits well with Youth for Christ. Activities are organized for young people that suit their own local youth. For Antillean youth in Rotterdam, this means that their sense of music and rhythm can be put to use in a brass band.

Beyond just organizing activities, The Mall connects mature Christian youth workers and volunteers with young people who desperately need good role models. The youth workers at The Mall are always proactively addressing needs they encounter in their relationships with the young people who attend, living out the gospel in addition to preaching it. Staff have a heart for youth and a heart for God.

The concept also enables Youth for Christ to collaborate with various local government agencies, churches, schools and social organizations, making use of the (inter)national knowledge network, and building lasting partnerships that ensure maximum impact on the community.