Tag Archives: youth ministry

God is not finished with you yet!

One of my final preaching opportunities at the church I currently work for (I am finishing up as youth worker there on the 19th of August) is on the 22nd of July where I will be speaking at both the morning and evening services.

In the morning I have chosen to speak on “the (re)newed heaven and earth of Revelation 22 as a symbol of hope in a hope-less world; the title being “God is not finished with you yet”.

I want to to tell a number of ‘hopeful’ stories during my sermon. For example, I’m going to share this story which I read in ‘the week’ this morning:

“when barry eastwood fell over on his way out of a bank in manchester, sending £1000 in cash flying off in the wind, he didn’t expect to retrieve it- especially when a crowd of youths began grabbing the £20 notes. the 54-year-old told his son to find what he could, and went to recover in his car. But then a young man came over and thrust a handful of notes through the window. Another followed…By the end, all but £20 of his £1000 had been returned”.

It’s a great story of hope but one with a challenge. This story challenges our view of young people.

Hope challenges our view of how things are. Hope has to be worked out, by us, in reality.

So, here’s where I need some help. I’m looking for other stories to use in the sermon.

Do you have any stories of hope that I can share? Any stories that bring hope but challenge you on your outlook of things?

I’d be most grateful if you did.

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Success in Youth Work

 

How do you measure success in Christian youth work?

It’s a difficult question isn’t it?

I’m finishing up as youth worker for South Beach Baptist Church in two months and so I’ve been reflecting on these questions. Sometimes reflecting on how successful your youth work has been is like reflecting on whether you’re a good parent. ie it’s difficult.

One day things can be going great and the young people seem to be connecting but then the following day they have completely changed. It’s as if the Body snatchers have come and switched them.

The youth work website infed.org is a great source of articles around the practice of youth work. In one article, effective youth work is described in this way:

(youth work) has three main goals. To increase the ability of young people to:

  • identify and develop their capacities- physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social and emotional;
  • identify and accept their responsibilities, as individuals, citizens, group members;
  • evaluate the contexts in which they live and act accordingly.

Success in Christian youth work, I believe, can be measured in this way:

Are your young people becoming more Christ-like? Are they, by their words and actions, reflecting the character of Jesus? And do they own that christ-likeness? Does their faith depend on you being there to teach them?

That in essence, in my opinion, is how success in Christian youth work should be measured.

In my next post I’ll talk about whether I feel I have been successful in my time at the church.

Thoughts? Do you agree or have I missed something vital?

Finding Your Place in the Family

As I’m finishing up my post as youth worker for the church in three months, I’ve been reflecting on the last couple of years there and one of the thoughts I’ve been thinking about is on my place within the church family.

In my last two positions as a church youth worker, I’ve found it had to just ‘be’ me and truly be a part of the family of the church. In this current church post, my family and I moved closer to the church but still I don’t think we ‘fit’. I get on with the young people and the other volunteer leaders but don’t get invited to their social events and I get on with the old members of the congregation but again don’t get invited to their social events. I’m neither one or the other. I’m in the middle.

Part of being a church youth worker is about standing in the gap between the young and the old. And that is often seen as a benefit. But for me, its more of the curse of this line of work. You don’t really fit.

It also has something to do with the fact that I am an employee of the church. I’m not there because I’m drawn to the style of service, or because there’s lots of people my age; i’m there to work with the young people. Now maybe the problem is with that word, ‘work’. What does it mean to work for a church? How do you then become part of the church family when you’re there as an employee? Where do you draw the line between ’employee’ and ‘member’? where does the one begin and the other end?

So, it got me asking the question on twitter, “can you ever become part of the family of the church you work for?” And I’d like to hear some responses. I’d like to hear people’s thoughts because I don’t hear much about this side of the ‘work’. I haven’t seen many articles or training courses on how you integrate yourself into the church.

I realised I’ve asked a lot of questions but I’m keen to hear as many varied responses as possible.

So please…respond.

Moving On

For those interested, I apologize for not blogging over the last couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago, I was offered the position of ‘Youth Minister’ at Hutton Grammar School in Preston, England. We, my wife and 3 year old and myself, currently reside in Saltcoats, south-west Scotland so this is going to be a massive move.

The last fourteen days have been spent telling friends, family, the church and the young people I work with that we are going to be moving on in August.

To quite Vinnie Jones, “It’s been emotional”.

There are a number of things that need to get sorted first (getting things organised in Preston and finishing up things in Saltcoats) and I hope to blog about it over the next few months as we make the transition.

One of the big questions I have right now is “what does it mean to finish well?”. In most other work positions, you hand in your notice, do your time and leave. Christian youth work is different. I’ve spent two years building up relationships with the young people I work with and helping them discover the God that is active in their lives. It’s not as simple as saying “goodbye” and walking away.

I believe the role of the christian youth worker is to get the young people to the stage where they do not need you anymore. To train up disciples who will take the work on. That is something I have been trying to do over the last year and will be more focused on over the next two months.

So what do I want things to look like in 3 months? What is the vision for the youth work?

Plenty to get me thinking.

As always, I hope you will join me on this ride.

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

Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about one way of using film with your youth group. read it here.

Today I want to offer another option.

Character Study

In all the youth work books that I have read that offer film clip discussions, I have never seen any offer character studies. By that I mean looking at a specific character in a film and discussing their journey through it. In many films, characters have an arc that they go through. They start at one place in the beginning and end up somewhere else by the end. It may be that their beliefs have changed or they achieved something but in most cases, a change happens.

An interesting way of using film with your youth group (or church) would be to start this change over a number of weeks and look at the decisions the character is making. You could show the film in the first week of the month (similar to the structure of my last post) and then over the course of the rest of the month, chart the progression of the character or simply look at their worldview concerning different issues.

This could result in a rewarding study that helps young people appreciate the characters in film and discuss whether they would make the same decisions if they were in their shoes.

I’ve put an example below of the George Clooney movie, “The Descendants“.

Week 1:      Watch the movie and have short discussion on the George Clooneys character

Week 2:      What kind of person is the character at the start of the movie? What are his relationships like?

Week 3:      Dealing with grief or shocking revelations

Week 4:      What kind of person is the character at the end of the movie? What has changed?

Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 1

I run a website with fellow ICC graduate Mark Williamson called reel faith which seeks to offer an alternative view on how films should be used in youth work. I taught an open evening lecture on the subject at the international christian college on Thursday 1st March and myself and Mark are speaking about the same issue at the youthwork summit in London on May 19th. I have also written a number of blog posts on the subject of why we should no longer be using two minute clips from films to simply make a theological point. Read them here or here.

As you can see, dialogue between film and faith is incredibly important to me.

At the lecture at ICC I offered a couple of practical ways films could be introduced into your youth work programme and over the next couple of blogs, I want to outline those ideas.

One Month Film Study

Start by showing the film at your group on the first week of the month. Show the film in its entirety and have a discussion using the questions I have suggested previously. What will become obvious is that there will be two or three major themes that the young people highlight from any given film and on that evening you can have a brief discussion about those themes and find out what the young people think about them.

For the three remaining three weeks I would suggest looking at one theme a night. I find this a great way to do youth work as the talks and discussions you will then be giving for the rest of the month have been suggested by the young people. It is issues that they want to wrestle and grapple with and the young people should be more engaged with you because of that. It also means that rather than coming with your own agenda for a particular film, you are letting the film speak for itself and allowing open dialogue to flow out of it.

So in theory you could do two or three films over a year and spend a month looking at each one of them. You are no longer spoon feeding young people about issues within films and instead are giving them the tools to critically engage with film and culture in general themselves.

An example could be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Week 1-      show the film

Week 2-      ‘Going against the flow’

Week 3-      ‘Integrity’

Week 4-      ‘Sacrifice’

Have a go yourselves and put your comments and thoughts up on here or on the reel faith site. We’d love to hear them.

The Bible in Transmedia: A New idea for Youth Ministry?

I was getting my weekly fix of tech news by way of BBC click this morning and I was struck by one of the reports on Transmedia.

Transmedia is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. This concept is not new as I remember when I was in 6th year at school (a good 12 years ago now) signing up to receive e-mails from Patrick Bateman, the serial killer (or is he?) from the brilliant subversive novel ‘American Psycho‘. I had enjoyed the book so much that I had signed up for this extra feature to continue to feed my Bateman fix.

Things have moved on since then and with the rise of augmented reality, apps and social media, transmedia is going from strength to strength with authors now building on the universe of the novel for those interested in going deeper.

As I watched this, I started thinking to myself, could this be the next big thing in christian youth ministry? Could we start creating transmedia bible stories? Now, I know that the natwivity (the nativity story told through twitter) has been running for a couple of years and this gives ‘twitterers’ the opportunity to see the story in a new perspective but I’d like to see things go further. Because the simple truth is, many young people do not engage with the bible.

We started the ‘beautiful disciplines’ series at our youth fellowship last night and, as part of the introduction, you get everyone to fill out a God Audit (or as a I prefer a Godit). One of the questions asks about where you are in your relationship with God and what you would like to improve on. Almost of the young people said they would like to read the bible more.

Why is it that young people are not engaging with it?

There’s a variety of reasons and this isn’t the blog post to go into that. There are far better blogs out there that wrestle with these questions. The question I am more interested in is how do we change that?

I believe transmedia could be an option. Imagine your young people are studying the story of Jonah. They get to the point where he is swallowed up by the fish and then they go on facebook or twitter and add/ follow Jonah and ask him how he felt about that. Whilst they are waiting for his response, they can read his status updates, stream a video journal of Jonah from inside the fish or be directed to his blog that he wrote whilst inside. Once they’ve digested all this info, they can go back to the bible, finish the story and repeat the steps.

Is this a viable option for youth work? Could this help young people engage with the history stories, the letters of Paul, the prophecies of the prophets, better?

I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting idea and one worth exploring.

Reel Faith: A Conversation at ICC

Little old me will be discussing film and youth work at the International Christian College on 1st March at 6.30pm. Come along if you can.

details below or check out the ICC website here

Reel Faith: Film and Youth Ministry in Conversation

Submitted on 13th January 2012

Rell Faith ImageThursday 1 March 2012

6:30pm

More often than not we only use film in our youth work in order to introduce a concept via a 2 minute clip. But film is so much more than that. As a filmmaker and a Christian youth worker, Steven Mitchell believes that film can be used creatively to challenge and inspire young people but we need to rethink how we use it.

Come along and be part of the conversation.

Steven Mitchell completed the BA in Youth Work with Applied Theology graduating in 2010, since then he has worked as youth worker at South Beach Baptist Church in Saltcoats. He is also an award winning filmmaker who has created a number of short films in a range of genres including Prodigal, which explore questions of love, goodness, and forgiveness through the fallen angel Satan and Speed Date, a silent romantic comedy set in the world of speed dating, which premiered at the Loch Ness Film Festival.

 Cost: £5 (including light refreshments)

Where to find us:

View Larger Map

Buchan Bus Station is 10 minutes walk from the college. The nearest railway stations are Queen Street (15 mins walk) and High Street (10 mins walk). Buchanan Street is the nearest Underground Station.

Buses 11, 12, 38, 42, 56 all come along Cathedral Street and stop just a few minutes walk from the college.

Youth Work Media Resource1

Over the years I’ve made a number of little short films.

Many of these I have used with youth groups to spark discussions.

And I wanted to make them available for other groups to use.

Included here is an embed to the short film and some basic discussion questions. If you would like a ‘hard’ copy of the films then please message me and I can get one done for you. The cost would be £5 and all funds would go towards making another short.

Short film #1- “Shore”

A man awakes alone on a beach, haunted by a figure in black.

For me, the film deals with a number of themes including hell and the choices that we make in life. The character in the film commits an act that haunts him for eternity. He becomes trapped in his own personal hell because of the guilt and shame that has built up.

Questions for discussion

1) Have you ever felt the way the man in the film does?

2) Where do you think the man is? Is he in hell? What is hell to you?

2) What kinds of things do you feel guilty about?

3) Do you struggle to forgive yourself for these things? Why/ Why not?

4) Do you think God can forgive you for these things?


“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)


Creative Response

1) Fill a large jar with water and have a number of small soluble tablets. Ask the young people drop the tablets into the water and watch them dissolve, explain to them that this is just like God forgiving the bad things they have done.

or

2) The rocket confessional on proost

an interactive flash confession created by Jon Birch. Type in your confession and watch as it is launched into space and be absolved.