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Youth Work Summit Musings Part 4: Final Thoughts

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 

read part 3b here

So we finally reach the end.

Session 4 brought us a powerful and thought provoking drama from ‘in yer face’ theatre company and then an extended time of worship with the brilliant Rend Collective Experiment. It was freeing and God soaked but then…they advertised their new album right in the middle of it. That put me off a little. Not enough to stop listening to them, but I think it was a mistake. They brought it back though with a final play of “we are the church”. an incredible song.

Then out came Mark Yaconelli to bring everything to a close. I really enjoyed his talk. It was inspiring and uplifting and I want to talk about it a little but let me talk about it first from an objective point of view. Yaconelli’s talk seemed to be a closing of the retreat day, not the summit. Does that make sense? He spoke about slowing down and spiritual disciplines. I couldn’t make it to the Friday but I sensed that this was wrapping up what he talked about then. It was a great talk, but I think it should have ended the Friday, not the Saturday. But that’s a small gripe and didn’t detract from what he had to say. Plus his sermon ended in the best way possible (with a dance) and my heart has swept slightly at the end of every sermon I have listened to since because they didn’t end in the same way.

I could see Jesus getting down with his bad-self at the end of the ‘the sermon on the mount’. Could you?

So, let’s discuss the talk a little.

Yaconelli spoke about the soul and how it knows God in three ways: through wonder, through suffering, and through joy.

We get caught up in the busyness of life and miss our soul shouting out to us “slow down!” Yaconelli told the story of his son’s ‘slow club’ and how one day he joined it after his son invited him.

God invites each of us into this club each day and most of the time we ignore it. Every so often we need to stop and remember we are created to live. it’s an obvious statement but one I know I forget a lot. Recently I had forgotten it all together and had been working completely out my own strength and skills. And I was getting quite burnt out by it all. This was a timely remember to ‘chill the **** out’ and embrace more of life. To spend more time with God and with my family. I won’t always get it right, but I’m trying.

And then Yaconelli danced. Have I already mentioned that he danced?

Final Thoughts

So how do I finish this series of blogs? How do I sum up that incredible, challenging, inspiring, thought provoking day?

I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts as it’s helped me to digest what was said during the day and implement some of it. I hope its been helpful to some of you. If it has, please encourage me. I’m an insecure guy sometimes.

Thanks to everyone who put so much hard work into the event. May you know how much it has blessed me and others (i noticed martin saunders also slipped a ‘rob bell-ism’ during his presenting)

i’m slightly disappointed that i won’t be going to the summit next year as london is too far (and expensive) to travel for one day but look forward to hopefully going in 2013.

Thanks again.

the world does not end because of an increase in knowledge but because of a lack of wonder…” (Mark Yaconelli)


Youth Work Summit Musings Part 1: Exploring Culture

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.

Coming on like a Jesus-centred Mumford and Sons, ‘The Rend Collective Experiment’ blew me away and allowed me to enter into one of the most freeing and worshipful ‘worship times’ I have had in quite sometime. For once my identity wasn’t found in being the church youth worker and the time allowed me to drop my cynical walls and sing and cry to my Creator. I am still reeling from it.

After that blistering worship time, and the introductions were done and dusted, we started in the first stream of talks. The day was split into four of these ‘streams’ and in each, a handful of youth workery types were given between 5 and 15 minutes to ‘wow’ us, challenge us and make us think. The structure was similar to that of the TED events that take place around the world. The first stream of talks centred around the theme of exploring culture.

The first talk had the title “The Messiah wears Prada'”given by Dr Katie Edwards and looked at how advertisers use the biblical images of Jesus and Adam and Eve. Now, I know from speaking to others, that many people took a lot from this talk but throughout the various adverts I was left asking, “so what?”. For me, there was a lot of theory and very little application. I know advertisers use these images but I didn’t really see what I could do with any of the info. Maybe in the comments section people could let me know how they are going to use what was said in their youth work contexts.

Up next was Mark Roques talking about “James Bond and Rat Worship“. After around ten minutes of nonsense, Roques finally got to his point, which was the four responses that people will have to the faith:

1) it’s not scientific so bin it

2) believe what you like

3)believe and worship

4) ignore it and follow Jesus

He then discussed how and why we should help young people engage and be critical of culture. Now, I liked what Roques was saying but felt he could have missed out the james bond and rat stuff and focused more time on the last few points but that’s just me. Again, feel free to disagree in the comments section.

Nathan Shepherd then got up and explored how “facebook is killing youth ministry

I agree with Shepherds point that those who are part of facebook (and I included myself in that) may be suffering from hyper-connectivity. We have too many friends and want to keep constantly up-to-date with what’s happening which can result in us not being ‘present’ with people in the offline world. I know I am guilty of that. I’ll be sitting with family or friends and I hear a little voice in my head saying,

“just think about all the funny things people might be saying in their status updates. if you don’t log on now you’ll miss the chance to comment and so people won’t get to ‘like’ the next witty thing that you say.”

As I said, I liked what Shepherd said but felt he only covered one side of the argument. What about those who ‘do’ youth work on facebook? Yes, there are downsides to facebook as it pulls us away from ‘eye to eye’ contact but is that any less important than the ‘screen to screen’ contact? Some of the most profound and honest conversations I have had with young people has been online. I feel Shepherd missed a trick there. Nevermind.

As funny as Jo Davenports sale pitch for “i-merging church” was (and for the first few minutes I was sat thinking, “surely this a joke”) I felt the time could have been better spent looking at the issue of facebook and online youth work in more detail.

Next up was “the imagined self in a digital world” with Andrew Graystone. Now, this was more like it! I loved what Graystone was discussing here and his use of the demon possessed man ‘Legion’ in Mark’s gospel was eye opening and engaging. It challenged me on the various avatars that I project online: whether it be twitter, facebook, or this blog and whether they are true representations of my offline self. I think it’s a great challenge for us and the young people we work with.

It also gave me a way of communicating the trinity to young people by speaking of the different avatars of God. I know it may not be theologically robust or entirely orthodox but it’s definitely a good way of introducing young people to the theology of the “3 yet one” God that we serve. fascinating stuff.

Finally, Helen Gatenby gave the impassioned and highly subversive speech, “what are we to make of the riots”. It was a talk that stirred me up inside. She spoke of the injustice of an MP who spent 1000s on expenses such as TVs (yet no action was take against him) in comparison to the teenager who stole an ice cream during the riots and was imprisoned for 16 months!!!

What do we expect of our young people when they see the so-called ‘elite’ stealing and lying?

How can we model a better way? A stirring and challenging way to end the first stream of talks I’m sure you’ll agree.

So it was a mixed bag. There were some talks that inspired me and provoked me and some that simply passed me by. But I think that’s what makes the summit great. Every speaker and topic is not going to engage me. For every talk that bores me someone else will find it compelling. I’d rather spend 90 minutes watching 8 different talks that just one or two.

My next post will focus on the 2nd stream: “inspiring ideas” which was just as mixed as the first stream.