On Saturday 20th October, I attended the youthwork summit in Manchester: An incredible thought provoking, God soaked, challenging and inspiring day.
Over the next few days, I hope to explore what I thought worked well (as well as what didn’t), what inspired and challenged me, what I disagreed with and what, frankly, bored me. sadly I couldn’t make the retreat or the other activities on the Friday so my posts will focus solely on the Saturday event.
So let’s dive in.
read part 1 here
read part 2 here
read part 3a here
Krish Kandiah left the stage and we were then greated by Tim Plyming who talked about “the unmissable olympic opportunity” for youth groups. Now if you manage to find someone less enthusiastic about sport than me, you’ve done well. Saying that, I was incredibly challenged and inspired by what Plyming had to say and I’m already trying to think of ways that we could use these events for our young people as many of them are huge sport fans.
An aside note. During his presentation, did he unwittingly reveal the location for next years Radio 1’s Big Weekend?
That’s quite a scoop!
Next up was Hannah Delaney with her presentation on “why are we scared of the supernatural in youth work?” At the risk of offending a few (and some of my previous comments on the summit have seemingly offended some) I felt sorry for Delaney, as early in to her talk, she appeared to be drowning.
What I mean by that is that the talks before, and after her, were informed by deep theology. they gave you concepts to wrestle with. I felt Delaney’s talk had none of this and I feel her talk would have worked better had it been in the “inspiring ideas” session rather than in session 3.
Don’t get me wrong. I think what she had to say was important. Do we rely on the spirit enough in our youth work? what makes us distinct? Let’s not be afraid of praying for the sick! But her talked lacked the theological depth of the other talks in this session and it showed in her presentation. There is not doubt that Delaney is doing an incredible work and God is moving mightily in it but she really was out of her depth in this session.
Up next was the Summit’s first (so-called) debate with Pete Wynter and Rich Atkinson on the subject of “Grow don’t grow?”. I call it a (so-called) debate because although they started off disagreeing with each other on whether we should reach lots of young people or focus on a few, they ended up agreeing with each other by the end. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that but don’t call it a debate if they actually agree with each other deep down.
The scriptural basis for their debate came from Jesus’ mission call at the end of the gospel of Matthew: “go into all the world and make disciples”. And I guess they are right to agree. We have a call to reach everyone but the key word in the passage is disciples.
It is very hard for one youth group to reach thousands and make sure that they become disciples. Because discipleship is costly. Discipleship takes time and commitment. And in youth work we normally see one of the other. We either see a church with loads of young people (and little discipleship) or a church with a few young people and no vision to reach the thousands.
How do you do both?
The answer coming from them is that there needs to many ‘discipleship families’. Groups of seven or eight young people meeting together and being discipleship. I think this is a great vision but practically it’s a big ask. Because at the head of each ‘family’ you need a ‘parent’ who is going to lead that discipleship.
How do we go about recruiting ‘discipleship parents’ who will lead these groups and give so much of themselves?
That’s a great question to end on.
Finally, up stepped Ben Cooley with his passionate (and loud) call to “growing a wilberforce generation“. I loved this guy! Yes he was loud (which put a lot of people off) but this passion is often missing in the local church. He was infectious! He challenged us to take risks in our youth work and to stand up for justice and freedom. He spoke of the story of Gideon and how it doesn’t matter how many people we have standing with us because with God on our side, nothing is impossible.
I’m still reeling from it!