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.
- Moving On (smoorns.wordpress.com)
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 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
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.
(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?
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.
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.
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.
- Youth Work Summit Talk (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 1 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
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.
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?
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?
- Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 2 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Practical ways of using film in youth work: Part 1 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- The Story of Film (smoorns.wordpress.com)
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.
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?