Tag Archives: youth

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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How Successful have I been?

I wrote a whole post answering whether I felt the youth work I have been involved in over the last two years has been successful. I got to the end of the post, read it back and deleted it.

Something didn’t seem right about it.

And the truth is, I’m not sure how to evaluate Christian youth work. Yes we can use the questions I proposed in the last post and (kind of) measure if the young people we are working with are developing, moving on, making christ-like decisions but I’m not sure that’s the point.

I guess it depends on the type of work you’re involved in. When I think about our youth fellowship and our house groups, it is hard to evaluate them.

I look at the work that Jesus was involved in. He got to the end of his two/ three years (there’s debate as to how long it actually was) and what had he achieved? If we evaluate the work, what had he really done? The twelve he had worked with had mostly deserted him. On the face of it, that looks pretty poor. If in two months, when I move on from the church, there are no young people there to say goodbye, no young people left in the church, I’ll feel like I’ve failed.

I wonder what Jesus thought as he hung there on the cross. I wonder what he thought of his work?

I worry about the work I’m leaving behind. I worry about the young people. I worry about the church.

But at some point, I just have to trust. I have to trust that God is not finished with him. I have to tell myself that “I’m not Jesus”. I’m not their saviour. I guess that’s why I started writing about evaluation in the first place. I was scared that maybe I’d achieved nothing. That everything I’d done had been for nothing.

And without God, it would all be for nothing.

But there’s God. And I need to trust in that.

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.

Our Youthwork Summit Talk: The Responses

As I said yesterday,  Marc Williamson and I spoke at a national youth work event, “The Youthwork Summit” in London on Saturday around the issue of film and youthwork. You can read the transcript here.

The feedback from our talk has been brilliant and I have had the opportunity to engage with people through twitter and face-to-face about some of the concerns or issues they have surrounding it.

What I’d like to do now is to respond to some of the general queries people have had about what we said so that dialogue can continue. That is the main reason we want to explore films. We want to engage in conversation and I am only too happy to talk to those who agree or disagree with what we have to say.

Foreword

Let me say first of all that we were not endorsing any of the films that we spoke about. I do not agree that we should be endorsing any film over another regardless of what we think of it. Rather, I am keen to see dialogue with films that young people are watching. We may disagree with what they watch, and there are times when we should say that, but what I want to see more of is youth workers talking about those films with their young people. There were a couple of people who said they didn’t pick up on that aspect so I wanted to state that before I go any further.

Where are the other themes?

We only had ten minutes to try and communicate kingdom themes in five films. Everyone has a different opinion of what the Kingdom is and its values. But we had a limited time to speak of what we say as the overarching narratives: return from exile, reconciliation, incarnation, identity and sacrifice. There are many more and a longer presentation would have allowed us to tease out more of these concepts.

We shouldn’t be encouraging young people to watch horrible films

One of the films we discussed during the talk was “Saw 3D”. I knew that picking this film would cause an issue.  Some others also disagreed with our choices of “Twilight” and “Bridesmaids”. I understand that. People have very strong opinions to films; whether it be ones they like or dislike. There are many reasons why we may dislike certain films. We may find them offensive or sick or whatever but we have to be aware of our own preferences and not try to push them them on to others.

I understand that many people will consider “Saw” and other horror films sinful and corrupt and that we should not be encouraging our young people to watch them. I have no issue with that. But in my experience simply telling young people not to watch something often results in them watching it. What I’d rather see is that if you’re young people are watching films like this, rather than simply ignore it or give them a lecture, engage with them. That doesn’t mean you need to watch the film but find out about its theme so that you can discuss it. Talk to them about the good and the bad things about it and help the young people make informative choices.

You won’t be able to work with them all their lives and it is better to give them the tools to critically watch all kinds of films so that they will do this long after they’ve left the youth group.

Suitability of films

This sort of ties in with the last point but I think its slightly nuanced. What are suitable movies? That’s a good question. Those that had issue with some of the films we talked about said that they weren’t ‘suitable’. Either because of violence, or the oppression of women etc. Again, I understand that. But again I ask, what is suitable? If our young people are all over 18, can we not show them an 18 rated film just because it has violence and sex? Is it wrong to show them these kinds of film? Who decides that?

My problem is that in most christian films discussion resources, the only films that are used are ‘safe’ films. Ones that have positive themes and are rated for children. But is this healthy? What is that telling our young people? Now I’m not saying that just because a horror film is really big at the time, that we show that to them. But if they have all seen it then it might be worth discussing it. We too easily put culture into good and bad categories. But that’s not good practice.

I hope this has been helpful and please feel free to comment and keep the discussion going.

 

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.

The Marginalisation of Young People in “The Cabin in the Woods”

SPOILERS

I was listening to the empire “cabin in the woods spoiler” podcast and the co-writer/ director Drew Goddard shared a point that I found really thought provoking.

In the film, each of the five teenagers who head to the cabin become the horror movie archetypes: geek, slut, jock, nerd and dope-head. That is not who they really are but they are manipulated by the directors (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) into becoming these characters.

Goddard, in the podcast, shared that it was the objectification and stereotyping of young people that he wanted to address in the film and I think it’s a great way of showing the injustice.

In the media, young people are being stereotyped all the time. The coverage of the riots last Summer demonstrated this point. What the film is trying to show is that young people are far more complicated and multi-faceted than we believe and we have to subvert the system that attempts to pigeonhole them.

I think the film is a great way of opening up a conversation about stereotypes and judgement calls.

Where do we make judgements about people and how does that affect what we ‘do’ with them?

What can we do to subvert this system?

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?

 

Why Do We Encourage Our Young People to Pray Out Loud?

 

Traditions fascinate me.

For many of us, we do things without really thinking why. It’s just the way we’ve always done it.

In church, traditions are even more apparent.

But I want to know why. Why is it that we do things a certain way?

Take prayer for example. As a teenage I was encouraged to pray out loud. That this was some kind of ‘badge of honour’ that showed  you were a real christian.

In my current place of work, I also try to encourage young people to pray out loud.

But why?

It seems to me that asking young people to pray out loud really has nothing to do with prayer at all. If it really was to do with prayer then we wouldn’t ask our young people to pray out loud. Why should we pray out loud? Does it make a difference? Doesn’t God hear it anyway?

Praying out loud is more about affirmation. Affirmation for the prayer(er) and affirmation for the hearer.

We affirm the one praying is doing a good job and we affirm the listener because more than likely they have asked for a prayer request.

Corpororate ‘out loud’ prayer then is more about us than God.

Would you agree? And is that necessarily a bad thing?

 

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