Tag Archives: youth work summit

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Subversion

A few weeks ago I got out my soapbox.

I take it everywhere I go and on occasion have been known to put it down, stand on it and shout.

The first reason was the video below:

The second was the fact that a recent christian youth work event had starbucks serving coffee.

I’ll let you in on a little secret before I go any further.

I’m a hypocrite. I was getting annoyed at Christians supposedly getting into bed with the ’empire’ (using iphones for worship and getting coffee from starbucks) even tho I have an iphone and I frequent that particular coffee chain (and enjoy it). I think of myself as fairly progressive but still I was getting annoyed by this.

So I got on my soap box.

I ranted about how christians should not partner with empires. Empires that corrupt and abuse.

Then someone spoke to me about subversion and it got me thinking.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

A famous statement by Peter when he spoke to the Sanhedrin.

What’s interesting is that this quote was used by the Caesars as part of the emperor cult. Except when they said it, it referred to Caesar. Salvation was found in no one else (but Caesar).

Peter took this statement from the Empire and subverted it in the name of Jesus.

The gospel of mark begins:

“the beginning of the gospel about Jesus the Messiah”

The term gospel was used to announce the arrival of a new Caesar. This was a term owned by the Roman Empire. The writer of Mark’s gospel took that term and subverted it.

The band, ‘The Rend Collective Experiment’  took a symbol of the empire, the iphone and subverted it. They took a symbol of consumerism and greed and used it for the glory of God.

Now, I’m not saying there is anything fundamentally wrong or evil about the iphone. I have one after all. But it is a symbol of apple. A symbol of consumerism.

I’m also not saying that the iphone needs ‘redeemed’ in some way as that would suggest that it’s evil or ‘fallen’.

In the same way the youth event took the image of ‘starbucks’ and used it for the glory of God.

I find all of this incredibly interesting and exciting and leaves me with a couple of questions.

What other ways are christians subverting imperial images?

Are there any images that couldn’t be subverted?