Tag Archives: Manchester

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 4: Final Thoughts

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 

read part 3b here

So we finally reach the end.

Session 4 brought us a powerful and thought provoking drama from ‘in yer face’ theatre company and then an extended time of worship with the brilliant Rend Collective Experiment. It was freeing and God soaked but then…they advertised their new album right in the middle of it. That put me off a little. Not enough to stop listening to them, but I think it was a mistake. They brought it back though with a final play of “we are the church”. an incredible song.

Then out came Mark Yaconelli to bring everything to a close. I really enjoyed his talk. It was inspiring and uplifting and I want to talk about it a little but let me talk about it first from an objective point of view. Yaconelli’s talk seemed to be a closing of the retreat day, not the summit. Does that make sense? He spoke about slowing down and spiritual disciplines. I couldn’t make it to the Friday but I sensed that this was wrapping up what he talked about then. It was a great talk, but I think it should have ended the Friday, not the Saturday. But that’s a small gripe and didn’t detract from what he had to say. Plus his sermon ended in the best way possible (with a dance) and my heart has swept slightly at the end of every sermon I have listened to since because they didn’t end in the same way.

I could see Jesus getting down with his bad-self at the end of the ‘the sermon on the mount’. Could you?

So, let’s discuss the talk a little.

Yaconelli spoke about the soul and how it knows God in three ways: through wonder, through suffering, and through joy.

We get caught up in the busyness of life and miss our soul shouting out to us “slow down!” Yaconelli told the story of his son’s ‘slow club’ and how one day he joined it after his son invited him.

God invites each of us into this club each day and most of the time we ignore it. Every so often we need to stop and remember we are created to live. it’s an obvious statement but one I know I forget a lot. Recently I had forgotten it all together and had been working completely out my own strength and skills. And I was getting quite burnt out by it all. This was a timely remember to ‘chill the **** out’ and embrace more of life. To spend more time with God and with my family. I won’t always get it right, but I’m trying.

And then Yaconelli danced. Have I already mentioned that he danced?

Final Thoughts

So how do I finish this series of blogs? How do I sum up that incredible, challenging, inspiring, thought provoking day?

I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts as it’s helped me to digest what was said during the day and implement some of it. I hope its been helpful to some of you. If it has, please encourage me. I’m an insecure guy sometimes.

Thanks to everyone who put so much hard work into the event. May you know how much it has blessed me and others (i noticed martin saunders also slipped a ‘rob bell-ism’ during his presenting)

i’m slightly disappointed that i won’t be going to the summit next year as london is too far (and expensive) to travel for one day but look forward to hopefully going in 2013.

Thanks again.

the world does not end because of an increase in knowledge but because of a lack of wonder…” (Mark Yaconelli)

Advertisements

Youth Work Summit Musings Part 3: Deepening Faith 2

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!

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.

Glasgow Passion Review

On Thursday night, I took our young people to see the “glasgow passion” (a modern retelling of the passion of Jesus set in Glasgow) in George Square, Glasgow and I thought I would share a few thoughts about it. I’ve seen a number of modern retellings, from the South Africa set “Son of Man” to the outdoor passion play in Manchester a few years ago. This production shared more than a passing resemblance to the Manchester play with its use of pop songs and outdoor city centre setting.

Rather than simply saying whether the play was successful or not, I will instead focus on three areas: story, setting and acting.

Story

From experience, I know how hard it it to translate the story of Jesus into a modern setting because the gospel of Jesus is culturally bound. The events and characters in the story are time and culture specific. The issues that Jesus grapples with are the issues of first century palestine. I feel that the writers of the ‘glasgow passion’ did a reasonable job of updating the story.

Herod and (Mc)Caiaphas were recast as politicans campaigning for re-election amidst allegations of corruption. So far, so good. This idea worked well as it gave them a reason for getting rid of Jesus. They wanted the power and so when a new political candidate rises up, they will do anything to stop him.

They also introduce a new terrorism act which works as a plot device to have Jesus arrested and tried. Having Jesus labelled a terrorist works well.

Translating the disciples was always going to be difficult and I think they do an adequate job but as is often the case with these productions, many of the characters aren’t given much to do and disappear into the background. It would have been better to reduce the numbers of disciples to three our four to make them more rounded.

My biggest gripe with the story is the ending. For most of the running time, the writers are keen to show that this is modern day Glasgow. That this is what would happen if Jesus walked around now. But by trying to be faithful to the gospel text, they make a huge mistake. After Jesus is arrested, he is sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That is not modern day Glasgow.

In that one act, the story loses its grip on reality. To add insult, the execution of Jesus is carried out publically. This would not happen.

It would have been better to have Jesus arrested and for Herod or Caiaphas to have paid another inmate to have killed him whilst in prison. Yes, the death wouldn’t have been public but it would have made more sense and would have fit better with the modern day setting.

Setting

An outdoor play, in October, is a difficult thing to pull off. It was very cold on Thursday night and many of our young people lost interest because of this. In order to keep people focused on the story, rather than the temperature, it has to be more engaging and unfortunately the story sagged in the middle.

There were four stages (i think) dotted around George Square and the audience had to turn to keep up with the action (or just watch the giant screens). The problem with this set up is that you waste a minute or so trying to work out where the actors are speaking from. It would have been better to have had the four stages at the front but that is a small gripe.

Acting

The main players: Duncan Rennie, Alan McHugh, Derek Munn and Mike Tibbetts played their parts well and Rennie did a great job of bringing real depth to the character of Jesus. The rest of the cast were a mixed bag and there was some truly terrible and amateur acting that threatened to derail the entire production.

Overall, it was worth seeing and was a good experiment. I think if it were to happen again, some of these issues would need to be looked at if it were to be more successful.