Tag Archives: christian

Losing My Identity

I watched the film ‘Humpday‘ this afternoon and it got me thinking.

“Humpday” is about two guys, who, high on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, decide to take part in an erotic art project and have sex with each other.

It’s a sweet indie film about friendship, marriage and the need to grow up. (I know it doesn’t sound like it)

As I said, I watched it this afternoon and it got me thinking.

The married guy tries to explain to his wife why this is a good idea. He tells her that there are many sides to him and that he doesn’t want marriage (and the prospect of being a dad) to flatten him into one personae. He’s scared about losing who he is.

I’ve been there.

I got married when I was 21. As the big day got closer, I went through a crisis of identity. I was worried that I wouldn’t be ‘me’ anymore. That I’d be known simply as a ‘husband’. That I would have to be with my wife 24/7 and I would lose my identity. I’m glad my (now) wife stuck by me and didn’t walk away from that insecure boy.

Eight years into marriage and I can look back and laugh at that naive boy. I haven’t lost who I am rather, I have added to that identity. I am now also  a husband and a father (although I did go through a smaller version of that crisis when our son was born).

That’s what committing to someone is about. It’s not about losing a part of you, it’s about gaining something else.

I am the man I am today because of my marriage. I think I am a better man for it.

I just wanted to share that.

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The Hunger Games VS The Cabin in the Woods Part 1

It’s holy week. It is the time of the year when Christians enter into the story of Jesus’ last days. It is the time of year when Christians think about sacrifice.

It’s funny then that in the space of 24 hours, I watched two films at the cinema that both deal with the theme of sacrifice: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ and ‘The Hunger Games‘.

I have already written a post detailing my initial thoughts of “cabin’ here but Ill summarise the plot here: (spoilers)

The film follows five college students who spend the weekend at a cabin and are killed off one by one. What soon becomes clear to the survivors is that they are part of a worldwide sacrificial system to appease the Gods who live underneath the ground.

For many the story of ‘Hunger Games’ is more familiar but here is a quick summary courtesy of IMDB:

Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.

The Hunger Games, the annual event where the young people kill each other, was established after some of the inhabitants staged an uprising. The Games are a reminder of what the people did and why they should never try it again. In some way the fighters are living sacrifices, killed to appease the President.

Both films deal with a worldwide sacrificial system, involving young people, that is set up to appease and entertain. In “cabin’ the young people do not know that they are part of it, whereas in ‘Games’ they do. Both films also end with the survivors choosing to turn against the system.

But there are key differences that mark out the films.

In ‘Cabin’ the Gods are angry. They want death and destruction and so the sacrificial system is set up to entertain them and take their minds off of killing everyone. It is a barter system. If they do not get their sacrifices, their will be bloodshed on a colossal level. Millions will die. What the film seems to suggest is that this is a continuation of the sacrificial system that has taken place since before the Old Testament was written and their are glimpses of Old Testament scenes in the opening credits. To sum it up, this systems primary function is to appease the God’s wrath.

In ‘Games’ the primary function of the sacrificial system is to remind the people of their guilt and through that, subdue them. It is not about appeasing a God or Gods but instead, it is a symbol of oppressive power and authority.

As I reflect on these movies and there sacrificial structures I see some similarities between them and the atonement (the crucifixion of Jesus) as well as some key differences.

In the next post I’ll explore this a little further.

We Should be Talking About the Woman in Black

 

I finally got around to seeing Daniel Radcliffes’ Hammer Horror this week.

I watched it in part because I was so fed up with ‘The Hunger Games’ bandwagon that many Christians have jumped on. That’s something that really annoys me. That’s not to say that there aren’t some incredible resources that are worth using (Tearfund being one of them) but I find the fact that almost every Christian youth work blogger is writing something about it a little tiring.

Hey, I understand why they (we) do it. It’s a big film. Lots of young people are going to go watch it. There are lots of issues to discuss about it. It’s worth talking about.

But it’s not the only film worth talking about. It’s not the only film with something to say.

Take the “woman in black’ for example. It has grossed more than £20 million at the UK box office and has become the most successful British horror film of all time. At least 60% of my youth group has seen it but a search online to find discussion resources for it yields no matches.

And why is that? I suspect because many Christians do not think it’s a ‘safe’ film. It’s not safe because it’s a horror movie that is created to scare you. For those people who would argue that point but would happily talk about ‘the hunger games’, I would ask whether a film about young people killing each other for the entertainment of adults is ‘safe’ but that would be disingenuous.

We need to be talking about all sorts of films with young people because young people watch all sorts of films. Not talking about films like the ‘woman in black’ or telling young people not to watch it does not help. They will still watch it. Promoting only certain films like ‘the hunger games’ does not help either.

Now I get that I some people don’t want to watch horror because it will scare them or give them nightmares. That’s understandable. But get someone else to see it then and tell you about it. Or check out the resources I’ll put up here and at the reel faith site shortly.

Do you agree with me?

 

45 Reasons Why You Should Come to the Youthwork Summit in May

The Youthwork summit isn’t for everyone. We know that. But it is for some people. Check out our list of the sorts of people who should come to the 2012 summit – and see if any of these categories include you…
1. Employed youth workers –because you’re going to hear more than 30 people share big ideas, dreams and visions about the future of youth ministry.

2. Volunteer youth leaders –because we’ve got some practical talks to help you build your youth work toolkit – from using film to understanding mental health issues.

3. Church leaders– because we’re passionate about whole-church youth ministry and good line management. We’ve got Andy Hickford coming to talk about exactly that.

4. Parents– because you’ll hear the truth about what’s really going on in your teenager’s lives – from the proliferation of adult content, to the positive and negative effects of music.

5. Christians in statutory youth work– because our talks aren’t only relevant to those of us working in church contexts – for instance we’ll help you understand the teenage brain, think through the influence of youth language, and explore your own creativity.

6. Comedy fans– because we’ve got Tim Vine coming. And don’t worry – he’s coming to tell jokes. A lot of them.

7. Arty creative types – because Jamie Treadwell is going to help you to unleash your God-given creativity in every area of your life and work.

8. Tired people – because we’ve asked 40-year youth ministry veteran Les Comee to talk to you about how ‘letting go’ can help you rediscover the energy you’ve lost.

9. Big Picture strategists – because we’re bringing youth ministry consultant and coach Mark Oestreicher over a day early to help you think about the vision behind your youth ministry.

10. Evangelicals – because many of the speakers are.

11. Non-Evangelicals – because many of the speakers are.

12. Bad singers –because we’re going to be bringing together many of the youth work community’s ‘finest’ crooners for our early-day ‘Curryoke’ event.

13. Curry fanatics – because ‘Curryoke’ wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

14. Wannabe beat poets – becausewe’ve got the reigning European Poetry Slam champion, Harry Baker, performing live.

15. People who like coffee – because our incredibly generous friends at Starbucks are again providing free coffee all day for everyone!

16. People who don’t like coffee– because there’s also tea.

17. Schools workers– because we’ll be filling you in on the new ‘School Pastors’ scheme, exploring how mentoring makes a difference, and looking in depth at the culture your young people live in.

18. People with ears– because our House Band – the incredible Rend Collective Experiment are back, and bigger than ever before, with London youth choir Walk da Walk in tow.

19. Youth ministry teams – because you will hear so many new ideas – you’ll want to implement some of them. Come and listen together – then use the breaks to figure out how this stuff is going to work in practice.

20. Young leaders– because they’ll love the pace of the day, the focus on big ideas, and the fact that many of our speakers are young leaders themselves.

21. Hip Hop connoisseurs – becausewe’ve got the MOBO-winning Guvna B performing live, and explaining how gospel music can reach young people.

22. People who owned ‘Powerpack’ – becauseBob Moffett, author of the first youth ministry resource known to man, will be taking part in our early evening session.

23. Southerners – because frankly this year, you’ve got no excuse

24. Northerners – because last year all the Southerners came up your way.

25. Midlanders – because you simply can’t wait until May 18th 2013.

26. Theology buffs – because we’ve got Dr Conrad Gempf and his planet-sized brain, delivering massive revelations in bite sized chunks.

27. Student workers – because Miriam Swaffield is going to fire you up about making the transition from youth group to university life without losing faith.

28. Students – because you’ll hear big ideas at the cutting edge of youth ministry – and get more great essay quotes than you could ever need.

29. Manga fans – because ‘Manga Bible’ creator Siku will be on-hand to tell us about his groundbreaking new project.

30. Babies – because for the first time, we’re going to run a parent and baby room with a video relay.

31. Church treasurers – because you should see how well your £30 has been spent.

32. People stuck in a rut – because hearing scores of new ideas will jolt your ministry into a whole new lease of life.

33.Youthwork magazine readers – becauseyou’ll hear some of the best-loved contributors from 21 years of the magazine, from John Allan and Pip Wilson to the founding father himself, John Buckeridge.

34. PCC and church committee members – because you’ll gain priceless insight into why your youth workers are so passionate – and why they desperately need your support.

35. People who feel isolated – because you’ll get an amazing opportunity to meet over a thousand youth workers who share your passion for God and for young people, as we’ll give you purpose-built opportunities to network with them.

36. Activists – because you’ll hear from world-changers like Patrick Regan and Emad, an Egyptian youth worker who has ministered to teenagers through the Arab Spring.

37. Contemplators – becausewe’ve asked Catholic pioneer Avril Baigent to help you to practically explore the Spiritual Disciplines with young people.

38. Film nuts – because Steven Mitchell and Marc Williamson are going to present the best five movies to help you talk to young people about the Kingdom of God.

39. Future speakers – because at least six of this year’s contributors have previously attended the Summit as a delegate.

40. Fans of The Blobs – because Blob tree creator Pip Wilson will be in the house, which from previous experience means anything could happen.

41. People who care – becauseyou’ll hear first hand the story of Layla, a teenager who’s life in the care system has been hugely impacted for the better by the influence Christian youth workers.

42. People who are feeling old – becausewe’ve gathered together a wise ‘council of the elders’ to look both forwards and back, dreaming together about how youth ministry might learn the lessons of the
last three decades.

43. Tech-heads – becausenot only will Twitter again be awash with live summit micro-blogging, you’ll also get an incredible demonstration of new technology previously only seen within the boundaries of NASA.

44. Happy Campers – because if you’re staying overnight at London School of Theology, you can take advantage of our super-cheap accomodation option.

45. Belgians* – because YWS welcomes delegates from beyond this Sceptred Isle. Last year we had visitors from Brazil, Japan and Germany. Who’s coming in 2012?

*Other nationalities also very welcome

How to get your kids through church without them hating God: Part 3

On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here

In the final session of the evening, Rob spoke about the three disappointments that we need to prepare young people for in order that they don’t give up on their faith and walk away from God.

1) with others

2) with themselves

3) with God

the first two are self explanatory. sometimes we can be guilty of painting a false and idealistic picture of Christianity. None of us are perfect. People will let us down and we will let ourselves down. we won’t always get it right as following Christ is not easy. We need to help young people be ready for when the inevitable happens: when other Christians hurt them. Talk about grace. Talk about God’s grace for us and the grace we need to show others.

The 3rd one is more tricky. I compared a Q&A session with our youth fellowship earlier this year. The young people had the opportunity to ask a panel of ‘mature’ christians (2 of the YF leadership and 2 deacons) a series of awkward questions about faith. One of the questions was, “does God always answer prayer?”. Without hesitation, they all answered “yes” with “but sometimes not in the way we want”.

But that doesn’t cut it for me. And clearly it doesn’t for Rob Parsons either. When I prayed that my gran wouldn’t die of cancer, God didn’t deliver. How ever you wrap that up, the prayer wasn’t successful. God will disappoint young people.

Yes we can say, “well it wasn’t God’s will” or we can talk about “sin” and “spiritual forces” but at the end of the day young people will be disappointed when they pray for something and it doesn’t happen. Rob calls these the “what if not?” moments.

“What if they don’t get healed?”

“What if this never happens?”

I know I’m guilty of not preparing young people for this (and myself if I’m honest). Too often we paint a rose tinted picture of Christianity and its this that mostly destroys the faith of our young people.

It was a great night and it left me with so much to think about? What about you? Has any of these thoughts struck you/ challenged you?

How to get your kids through church without them hating God part 2

On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.

Read part 1 here

In part 2, Rob Parsons shared, what he considered to be, the five killers of young people’s faith.

1) over busyness

I remember trying to organise a meeting about a drama service that would be happening in the church in a few months time. Half the battle was trying to find a date that everyone could make. Each possible date was shot down because someone either had house groups or music practices, or women’s meetings or prayer groups or youth clubs or deacons meetings or…well you get the picture.

The same is true for our young people. each week they can attend church services, youth fellowship, badminton clubs, running clubs, house groups and music practices. How  they manage to fit in socialising and school into that packed timetable is anyone’s guess.

And there in lies the problem. The church is too busy. There are too many meetings and activities that people can attend. Do we really need them all? Is that what being a Christian is about? Meetings.

Instead of spending our week going out to our neighbours and friends, we spend our time coming to things inside the church. The great commission tell us to go, not come. We want to fill up our young peoples nights with all sorts of church activities so that they aren’t out mixing with questionable young people. But that’s the point. I know a number of young people who have left the church youth work because they just can’t be bothered feeling guilty about not being able to make all the meetings.

I overheard a conversation between two parents complaining that other members of the church let their children go to football on a Sunday morning rather than come to church. What they didn’t mention is that these boys still come to youth fellowship on a sunday evening and house group on a wednesday evening! Let’s stop forcing our young people to attend every meeting in the church just because that’s what we do.

Being busy isn’t always a good thing.

2) hypocrisy (public holiness)

Jesus called a group of religious leaders ‘white washed tombs’. nice and clean and white on the outside but rotting and decaying on the inside. Harsh words eh? But true.

On one occasion whilst having dinner at a Pharisee’s house, he talked about cups and bowls. He spoke about how they (the jewish people) have all these rituals for washing that gives the appearance of cleanliness but on the inside, it’s a different story.

How do our young people see us? Do we put on ‘holiness’ when we go to church? Are we simply actors in a play? And then when we get home we remove the costumes and become ourselves again.

The church needs authenticity. I need authenticity. Young people need to see people who are authentic. Following Jesus isn’t about pretending everything is okay and that you are really holy. It’s about bringing what you have (your doubts, your pain, yourself) to the table before God.

3) Judgementalism

I attended the Scottish Baptist Assembly a few weeks ago (i’ll hopefully get around to blogging about it before the next one) and was struck by what one of the speakers said. As Christians we spend too much time attending ‘anti’ protest rallies when we should be spending more time at ‘pro’ rallies.

Too often Christians are known by what they disagree with rather than what they agree with. We speak out frequently about the things we think are wrong instead of things things we think are right.

We should be a ‘pro’ people. Let us celebrate rather than condemn. Let’s spend more time talking to our young people about what we love rather than what we hate.

4) Cynicism

I can be a very cynical person. I’ll be honest about that. I try not to be but it’s hard. Cynicism is all around us. It’s talked about in our families, our friends, our churches, the media and our workplace.

“they’ll never change”.

“what’s the point in doing anything, this is just how it is”.

“there’s nothing new under the sun”.

Now I’m not naive. I know life can, and often is, harsh and cruel. And that should be embraced. We should not run away from that. But that should not mean that our lives are governed by those understandings.

I want hope. I want to believe that people can change. I want to believe that we are all created in the image of God and are not born corrupt. I want to believe that new things are waiting to be created. I want to believe that we can change things and I want to believe that God is a universalist.

Christianity is catergorised by hope but it looks like we’ve lost it. Let’s stop being cynical. Let’s believe in something better. Let’s believe in hope, faith and love.

5) Familiarity

“have we taken holy things for granted? Have we lost the wonder?”

This was tough and challenging to here.

I was recently told of an older member of the congregation, when on entering the church, complained that she doesn’t know what to expect when she comes in because we keep doing things differently. Isn’t that a good thing? Why is is that our default position is that of rigid routines and traditions?

Shouldn’t we be amazed when we come to church? Shouldn’t we expect God to show up?

I think we’ve misunderstood the concept that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. That doesn’t mean that God is static and unchanging. God changes his mind. God shakes things up. God changes. And so should we. So should our services. But not just for the sake of it.

The biggest question for me when session 2 finished was how to we shape our services (and our youth work) to allow space for wonder without becoming too familiar?

What do you think?

How to Get Your Kids Through Church Without Them Hating God: Part 1

On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.

It was an excellent evening with lots of thought-provoking ideas. As an aside, one thing I really enjoyed what that they encouraged people to tweet comments using #GYKTC tag and it was great to interact with others in attendance and hear what they were being challenged with. A few of the older people I was with glanced at me a couple of times because I was typing away on my phone. They probably thought I was being rude but I was REALLY interacting with the talks through twitter.

I’d love to see my speakers in church using twitter to allow people to comment or ask questions during their sermons. Although, I have to wonder, how many of the church congregation i am part of have ever heard of twitter.

Anyway, let me get one with actually discussing the event.

The evening was split into three sections and each section consisted of a short video, drama and then a talk by Rob Parsons. Phatfish already provided worship at the start and the end of the evening. In this blog, I will explore section 1.

Section 1

Rob explained the four steps of faith for ‘churched’ young people:

1) experienced faith (what they see from their parents)

2) affiliated faith (from their church and peer group)

3) searching faith (where they graps the ability to question their faith and ask difficult questions)

4) owned faith (a faith they accept and own for themselves)

Rob said an interesting thing in that although we don’t think our children/ young people are listening to us, they are in fact hearing everything we have to say. A simple yet profound misunderstanding.

I wonder if you’re anything like me and you’re standing talking to a group of young people about an event coming up or something you’re asking them to do and then a few minutes later they have completely forgotten. It’s like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.  In many cases it is clear to me that they are not listening to me. By listening, I mean taking in the facts that I am presenting to them. But what they are doing is ‘hearing’ how I’m saying things. They pick up on the aggression and the frustration. They pick up on the times I am gossiping or slagging someone off and this will have a profound impact on their faith. As leaders, we need to be aware that young people are always ‘hearing’ even when they’re not listening and how we interact with them and others will shape what they think of Christianity.

Something else, he said, that struck me is that we sometimes confuse “spirituality with personality“. We assume that a christian looks and sounds like ‘this or that’. We have a fixed ‘jelly mould’ that we expect Christians to be like and when they don’t fit that mould we assume their faith isn’t growing/ isn’t strong/ isn’t there. In fact what we are looking at is their personality. All Christians are not and should not be the same and we need to get rid of the ‘christian young people’ moulds that we have in our heads. Just because a young person isn’t acting how we think a christian should does not mean they are not a christian.

This idea has profound implications for how we measure ‘christian growth’. How do we know the young people we work with are becoming more like Jesus? More Christ-like? I know I have been guilty of thinking that only those who are actively engaging at youth house groups or are volunteering to be upfront at the youth services are the ones who are ‘spiritually’ growing. But that’s just not the case!

Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ discipleship measuring tool, we need to look at each young person individually and see how each one is changing. We may see that a young person is smoking (and drinking) and think that the are not becoming more like Jesus when in actual fact they are out helping people and praying loads. We cannot measure all young people’s spiritual growth in the same way.

What do you think?

 

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 3: Deepening Faith 1

On Saturday, 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

After a lunch hour that consisted of mostly wandering around aimlessly trying to find somewhere we could buy a sandwich, finding said shop, buying a sandwich (and eating it…obviously) we took our seats for what I hoped would be an inspiring and challenging set of talks.

I wasn’t wrong.

First up was Steve Griffiths who wanted to bring back “hit and run youth ministry”. Griffiths spoke of his frustration with how people used the term ‘incarnational’. He believes that most people who use this term do not use it correctly and do not base their work on the style of Christ. He said that hanging out with young people so that we earn the right to speak to them is a load of rubbish and we need to get back to how Jesus operated.

I agree with his frustrations, but for different reasons.

Youth work is so much more than hanging around with young people. It is this kind of thinking that shames our work and makes us look like a bunch of people who have nothing better to do and have no aims or objectives. Secondly, I hate this kind of manipulative agenda that we sometimes carry as Christians. The idea that we befriend and get to know people so that we can build a bridge that allows us to share the gospel with them. Jesus didn’t do that and neither should we. He helped people, met their needs, talked with them, stood up for them, fought for them. I don’t start friendships with people so that I can change them in some way. that’s not authentic. That’s what salespeople do and that’s not what we are.

After outlining his frustrations he went on to talk about two greek understandings of time that were used in the New Testament.

1) Chronos– Time that can be measured.. quantitative in assessment. seconds, minutes, hours, days etc.

2)Kairos– time that is qualitative in assessment. It’s about how you feel. “That hour felt like two”. It is time that is measured in eternity.

Griffiths shared how he felt that youth workers focused on chronos time on Kairos. He spoke of how we think we need to spend loads of time with young people but that results in us feeling guilty because we don’t think we spend enough time with young people. Thinking about it, that might also be connected with how we feel about the times we spend praying, reading the bible etc (but that’s another post).

Griffiths urged us to move away from Chronos and focus on Kairos time. We need to be people who live in Kairos time to help young people encounter eternity through our conversations. This all sounds good and throwing in some greek words makes you think that what you’re hearing is right but I think this approach is fundamentally flawed.

H said that we feel guilty about how much time we spend with young people. Is it ever enough? But that wouldn’t change with focusing on kairos time. we would still feel guilty but it would be a different type of guilt. we would feel guilty about whether or not our conversations were meaningful or not. it won’t change anything. What we should be is intentional. Intentional about our work and intentional in our relationships. We should be ready to have those conversations with young people at any point if they ask. not just when we feel we’ve spent enough time with them.

And anyway, can you have kairos time without chronos time? surely they go hand in hand.

Up next were lucy bannister & sid williams talked on “sharing your life with young people”. The exact opposite of what Steve Griffiths was suggesting. Brilliant stuff.

They shared personal stories about how getting to know young people and being ‘present’ in their lives was a better way of understanding incarnational youth ministry. It is about being there for young people without having an agenda. It’s about sharing in their story and, at times, if appropriate, demonstrating how they are part of God’s big story. I enjoyed what they had to say but the one thing I found unhelpful was when they said, “love first then professionalism.” (or something to that extent).

In the context of their talk I understood what they meant but I think that kind of quote can be taken the wrong way and can lead to all sorts of trouble. We should be professional in our youth work. We should take it seriously. We should have polices and procedures in place to make sure people are protected. If we don’t, out work can be become sloppy and we leave vulnerable young people open to risk.

Still, food for thought.

Krish Kandiah then took to the stage to argue with himself on the subject of “tell young people about love before you tell them about judgement/ tell young people about judgement before you tell them about hell

I’ve not always agreed with Kandiah’s views on certain theological issues But I listened to his talk with an open mind and was surprised that I agreed almost entirely with it. Kandiahs main point was that when Jesus spoke about judgement it was to those who were the “in” crowd (ie the religious crowd who believed that they were safe). To everyone who was in the “out” crowd, he spoke love. His point was that the context you find yourself in will determine the message you bring. To some you may need to preach judgement whilst to others you will need to preach love.

As an introduction to the subject, I thought this was clear and concise and Krish came across humble and honest.

It does leave me with some questions however.

1) Using the gospel of Luke to make his point is fair enough because Luke talks a great deal about insiders and outsiders but what of the other gospels? Do they make the same point or would they offer an alternative view?

2) What do you actually mean by ‘judgement’? I would suggest that this will be where Krish and I disagree. I realise there wasn’t time to go into that and ir wasn’t the place to do so but it’s an important question.

In my next post I’ll speak about the remaining talks in the “deepening faith” stream.

Thoughts/ comments? do you have similar comments or would you completely disagree with what I have said?

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 2: Inspiring Ideas

on Saturday, 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

With stream 1 finished, we had some time to relax, get some much needed coffee, and for me, spot a number of #ywchat folks that I was too introverted to go and talk to ( @dancrouch, @beccadean, @GabriellaRusso and @easyrew).

After that, we were thrown into session 2: inspiring ideas (another mixed bag).

First up was Jason Royce and the “survival school” initiative. It’s an incredible piece of youth work and it was great to learn more about it. There were two challenges that I took from this talk.

1) what do I do with the young people that I hope WON’T turn up to my youth group.

2) Am I too nice? Have I compromised my boundaries because I want young people to like me?

Challenging stuff.

Up next was a full blown assault by Lyn Edwards as she reflected on “lesson from rural youth work”. With a toilet brush in hand, she spouted forth that no dream is impossible with God and that good youth work breaks all the rules.

As Martin Saunders quipped afterwards, she truly reminded me of  OT prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah with just a hint of John the Baptist about her. On reflection, I think she could be a very difficult person to work alongside but there is no doubt God is doing powerful stuff through her.

Like a tornado she entered and like a tornado she left, leaving the Rend Collective to orchestrate some kazoo worship. As Loyd Harp quipped on twitter:

“Just to clarify . . . “kazoo worship” is not the worship OF kazoos, but worship via kazoos.”

It was then the job of Lat Blaylock to bring us back to reality with his mild mannered talk on “God is missing and is missed here” (the schools work imperative). I was familiar with much of what Blaylock presented as I’ve been to ‘prayer spaces in schools’ workshop and am the proud owner of schoolswork.co.uk art cards but it was still great to hear.

We were challenged to join with God in a divine game of hide and seek in school. Brilliant stuff.

Up next was 90 year old youth worker John Langdon sharing why “youthwork needs grand parents”. From the yws11 hashtag on twitter, it was a clear there was a large number of the audience who wanted to adopt him as their grandpa.He talked about the work he does and the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone.

It was fitting that what followed the oldest youth worker in the UK (probably) was a discussion of the biggest youth event in the UK as Andy Croft shared “Soul Survivor: what we get right and what we got wrong”. Glancing again at the yws11 hashtag on twitter, I couldn’t help but smirk (and feel a little inadequate) as most of the tweets referred to Crofts’ physique. I half expected someone to shout out ‘Get your kit off!”

What Croft managed to do was to turn the question round to us. What do we get right and what do we get wrong in our youth work? Too often church youth workers, including myself, can be guilty of not critically reflecting on their own practice and I think this is essential if we are to keep on course with Gods vision.

Croft also stated that “being attractive and being biblical are not always the same thing” and this is a huge challenge. We need to be continually reflecting on our work and aligning ourselves with what Gods big idea for our work is.

To finish off the second set of seminars, Patsy McKie spoke about “what comes from gangs and guns”. There is no doubt her story is a powerful and dramatic one but honestly I felt this talk was a missed opportunity. Personally I would either liked to have heard more about her story and how she overcame the death of her son or what she actually does.

I felt we got neither of those. disappointing. But again,  from speaking to others, I know some people were really challenged and inspired by what she said.

And with that it was time for lunch. Again the session met its aims with a varied mix of talks and there was definitely something for everyone. In my next post I’ll talk about session 3. The most challenging and controversial stream.

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 1: Exploring Culture

on Saturday, 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.

Coming on like a Jesus-centred Mumford and Sons, ‘The Rend Collective Experiment’ blew me away and allowed me to enter into one of the most freeing and worshipful ‘worship times’ I have had in quite sometime. For once my identity wasn’t found in being the church youth worker and the time allowed me to drop my cynical walls and sing and cry to my Creator. I am still reeling from it.

After that blistering worship time, and the introductions were done and dusted, we started in the first stream of talks. The day was split into four of these ‘streams’ and in each, a handful of youth workery types were given between 5 and 15 minutes to ‘wow’ us, challenge us and make us think. The structure was similar to that of the TED events that take place around the world. The first stream of talks centred around the theme of exploring culture.

The first talk had the title “The Messiah wears Prada'”given by Dr Katie Edwards and looked at how advertisers use the biblical images of Jesus and Adam and Eve. Now, I know from speaking to others, that many people took a lot from this talk but throughout the various adverts I was left asking, “so what?”. For me, there was a lot of theory and very little application. I know advertisers use these images but I didn’t really see what I could do with any of the info. Maybe in the comments section people could let me know how they are going to use what was said in their youth work contexts.

Up next was Mark Roques talking about “James Bond and Rat Worship“. After around ten minutes of nonsense, Roques finally got to his point, which was the four responses that people will have to the faith:

1) it’s not scientific so bin it

2) believe what you like

3)believe and worship

4) ignore it and follow Jesus

He then discussed how and why we should help young people engage and be critical of culture. Now, I liked what Roques was saying but felt he could have missed out the james bond and rat stuff and focused more time on the last few points but that’s just me. Again, feel free to disagree in the comments section.

Nathan Shepherd then got up and explored how “facebook is killing youth ministry

I agree with Shepherds point that those who are part of facebook (and I included myself in that) may be suffering from hyper-connectivity. We have too many friends and want to keep constantly up-to-date with what’s happening which can result in us not being ‘present’ with people in the offline world. I know I am guilty of that. I’ll be sitting with family or friends and I hear a little voice in my head saying,

“just think about all the funny things people might be saying in their status updates. if you don’t log on now you’ll miss the chance to comment and so people won’t get to ‘like’ the next witty thing that you say.”

As I said, I liked what Shepherd said but felt he only covered one side of the argument. What about those who ‘do’ youth work on facebook? Yes, there are downsides to facebook as it pulls us away from ‘eye to eye’ contact but is that any less important than the ‘screen to screen’ contact? Some of the most profound and honest conversations I have had with young people has been online. I feel Shepherd missed a trick there. Nevermind.

As funny as Jo Davenports sale pitch for “i-merging church” was (and for the first few minutes I was sat thinking, “surely this a joke”) I felt the time could have been better spent looking at the issue of facebook and online youth work in more detail.

Next up was “the imagined self in a digital world” with Andrew Graystone. Now, this was more like it! I loved what Graystone was discussing here and his use of the demon possessed man ‘Legion’ in Mark’s gospel was eye opening and engaging. It challenged me on the various avatars that I project online: whether it be twitter, facebook, or this blog and whether they are true representations of my offline self. I think it’s a great challenge for us and the young people we work with.

It also gave me a way of communicating the trinity to young people by speaking of the different avatars of God. I know it may not be theologically robust or entirely orthodox but it’s definitely a good way of introducing young people to the theology of the “3 yet one” God that we serve. fascinating stuff.

Finally, Helen Gatenby gave the impassioned and highly subversive speech, “what are we to make of the riots”. It was a talk that stirred me up inside. She spoke of the injustice of an MP who spent 1000s on expenses such as TVs (yet no action was take against him) in comparison to the teenager who stole an ice cream during the riots and was imprisoned for 16 months!!!

What do we expect of our young people when they see the so-called ‘elite’ stealing and lying?

How can we model a better way? A stirring and challenging way to end the first stream of talks I’m sure you’ll agree.

So it was a mixed bag. There were some talks that inspired me and provoked me and some that simply passed me by. But I think that’s what makes the summit great. Every speaker and topic is not going to engage me. For every talk that bores me someone else will find it compelling. I’d rather spend 90 minutes watching 8 different talks that just one or two.

My next post will focus on the 2nd stream: “inspiring ideas” which was just as mixed as the first stream.