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!
My mind is racing with thoughts, questions and I thought the only way to try and make sense of it all was to put down a blog. I don’t normally do these things. It’s not really for anyone else to see (although if you are reading this then it is). It’s more a way for me to explore my thoughts.
I’m a student youth worker, studying at ICC in Glasgow and working as a youth worker, part time at a Church of Scotland in Mauchline and I have a lot of questions.
How do we communicate to young people that FAITH/ GOD should not be something else that we have to make time for in our life…but that it should be our life. It shouldn’t be another activity we have to do. I have to read the bible, go to church, spend more time praying…Yes these are aspects but that’s not Faith. God is in the time that we spend with our friends, the films we watch, the sports we take part in, the food we eat. faith is the our life.
My wife and I have a picture wall in our hall of all the places we have been, all the people we have met along the way. It covers most of the wall in our hallway. That is ‘the christian faith’. That is life with God. I’m still wrestling with it, sure, but how do I communicate to the young people I work with?
How do we get a balance between information and formation? How do we take the things we learn and let it change our life? I don’t want the young people to leave our groups thinking that they don’t have time for God or enough space for God. He’s in it all anyway.
As God said to Moses, “The ground you stand on is holy”. The ground was always holy because God created the world and saw that it was good. He’s in the dirt, the grass, the sky, the people we walk by every day.
Do you see what I’m getting it. My whole being longs to se my young people ‘get’ this. To see a relationship with God as something completely different from religion. A way from rules and traditions. It is something we opt out of, not opt in on. God is there whether we believe it or not. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to the Father except through me”. Does this mean that the door is now open whether we believe in God or not? That he has already chosen us, loved us?
I don’t know but it’s things I think about.
I found out today that there is no Hebrew word for spiritual. In Jesus’ day no one would ever have asked him how his spiritual life was because to say that means that there has to be a part of your life that is not spiritual. I don’t believe that there this. The whole earth and all of us are saccred beings. The breath of God was blown in to us to allow us to live. There is no sacred and secular. It…is…just…life. I don’t believe some movies are sacred and some are secular. God is in them all and can work through them all. The same with music.
At our youth group last Sunday I talked about the song ‘Run’ by Snow Patrol. I have no idea of what they believe about God or faith or any of that but God is in their music and their lyrics. The chorus goes…
“light up, light up as if you had a choice.
Even if you cannot hear my voice, I’ll be right beside you dear”
I can hear jesus singing that song to me, to us, to the world.
But how do I communicate this to young people who are stressed out by exams, parental pressure, homework, school, college, university?
How do I show them that God is ‘in them’ and ‘through them’. He’s in their good and their bad days.
I shake with excitement, frustration, hope, regret, longing, emptiness.
“Discipleship is not just about the process of studying; sooner or later we have to do it”. Faith and God needs to be more than what we are told, it needs to be who we are and what we do.
How do we show young people their part in God’s story? Since the fall, he has been in the process of restoration. Jesus came to bring restoration to the earth and to our relationship with God. “The rocks cry out” for the day when the earth will be restored to what it originally was when God said, “It was good”.
So often we preach a faith of ‘do nots’ rather than ‘do’s’. Jesus got at the pharisees for loading heavy burdens on believers (Matt 23). jesus wanted the opposite, to lift off burdens. To show them that faith this like the wind (this is what Jesus said to Nicodemus) It blows where it wants, picking people up and dropping them off. Doesn’t that sound like a life you want to get it on?
Join with me as we wrestle with these issues or life, love and God and how we communicate to our young people. Boy, I feel better.