Bring the Christmas Story Alive

Introducing the Natwivity (Twitter Nativity)

This Christmas, parents and grandparents will attend their childrens’ schools to watch their miniature shepherds, angels and inn keepers perform the Nativity story. This traditional retelling remains a huge part of Christmas in the UK and, for many, will be the only time they hear the Christmas message.

But many others – particularly those in their teens, 20s and 30s who are yet to have children – won’t have this opportunity. This is the internet generation, and although they are unlikely to cross the threshold of a school, they do spend a considerable amount of their time online.

The Natwivity (the Twitter Nativity) takes advantage of social media’s unparalleled capacity to engage people as they go about their everyday life to re-tell the Christmas story in a fresh, personal way. Available on Twitter and Facebook, people will be able to pick up the ‘tweets’ online in their homes, in the high street using their phones and at work.

The Natwivity will give this famous story an immediate, real-life feel, transforming them from people 2,000 years ago to friends of the user, who are going through the drama now. Followers will be able to read Mary’s angst as she tries to come to terms with the birth of her child, and hear from the stunned shepherds after their encounter with an angel.

Each 140-character entry will be a thought or comment from Mary, Joseph, collective wisemen and shepherds, with further entries from Herod, an Inn Keeper (and his wife) and friends of Mary and Joseph.

The project aims to…

  • Reinforce the story of Christmas
  • Allow the 21st century audience to engage with the story in a new way
  • Create a space for Christians during a cluttered time of the year to remember the story
  • Create a way for Christians to engage their friends with the story in a thought-provoking, yet fun way

What Now?

Letter to the Editor

The following is a letter I’ve written to the Editor of the MK Citizen in response to a recent article regarding concerns at Oakhill Secure Training Centre:

I read with interest your article last week regarding ‘possible abuse’ at Oakhill STC. I am an occasional visitor to Oakhill and have always found it to be an incredibly positive and supportive environment with excellent relationships between trainees and officers.

Your article seems to suggest that an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted and an increase in physical restraint incidents must be mutually exclusive. I’d like to suggest that perhaps they are complementary.

We must remember that the staff at Oakhill are acutely aware of the reason the trainees are there and what they are capable of. I’m sure that physical restraint is absolutely the last resort. I wonder how many cases of physical harm (to staff & inmates) have been avoided by these physical restraint incidents.

I do not condone physical abuse of trainees and as an allegation has been made it should of course be investigated, but we must not allow the allegation to detract from the outstanding work being done by the Centre as a whole.

Rev. Ricky Rew
Bletchley

Youthwork Summit – Notes

On Saturday 23rd October I spent the day in London in the presence of 592 youth workers/leaders/ministers/etc and at least 20 speakers at the first Youthwork Summit:

‘a new kind of youth work event… breaking down old ways of doing things, and finding new ones; listening to a wider range of voices than ever before, from parts of the church – and the world outside it – that normally we wouldn’t stop to engage with.’


Each speaker had just 10 minutes to speak on their specific topic, which meant there was little time for waffle, and just enough time to get across their main message.  It was an intense and amazing day – not just because of the free Starbucks coffee and snacks.  Below are my notes from each of the sessions as I managed to capture them, when I wasn’t joining in the Twitter conversation which was being broadcast on the main screen.

As time allows I’ll be reflecting on each of the sessions further. If time allows, I may note my thoughts here too.

Watch the video which opened the event, complete with genuine X-Factor man voiceover!

Opening Worship led by Rend Collective Experiment – a group I’d heard of in relation to their fantastic iPhone worship video, but hadn’t listened to their music.  They led worship brilliantly, but I was particularly impacted when they shared the Methodist Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Matt King – Kick London
  • Background:
    • Church attendance down among YP
    • Average church age rising
    • Church is failing to attract: men, poor, YP, Christians
      • Any place for a poor male carpenter?
  • only 15% of the UK population in church on Sunday
    • do they/we care about those not in church?
  • Great commission
    • But how for young people?
  • How many young people are around my church?
    • I have a responsibility for them
    • How can I connect with them
    • Every single young person every week…
  • What a job to do, but we’ve been called to it
  • Need to engage relevantly
    • they won’t be coming into church for a look
  • First, need to meet them on their territory and with their agenda!
    • The things they love are not the things we do in church on Sunday morning
  • Then perhaps, engage them on our territory but with their agenda
    • Not the things we do, but their things
    • Not worshipping through songs or offering
  • Only then can we attempt to meet then on our territory and with our agenda
    • But why must we always bring them into our territory?
    • Can we not attempt to grow Church organically with the young people?
  • Ideas:
    • Connecting through schools – breakfast clubs, sports events, football academies
    • Football service – start with whistle, half time, oranges
  • Model:
    • Connect with millions
    • Community with 10s of thousands
    • Church/disciple thousands
    • Connect and thing about how to lead them on a journey of faith
  • Fundamentals:
    • Bring hope
    • Transform lives
    • From church attendance to kingdom participation…
Andrew Smith – Youth Encounter

[I didn’t take many notes as I’d heard Andrew speak on this previously]

  • Faithful followers of Isa
    • Isa is the name by which Muslim’s know Jesus
  • When did you last go to an interfaith meeting?
  • YP are attending them – every day and every week
    • RE lessons
    • and in the playground, on the street
  • Do we have a mission to young people of other faiths?
  • need to remember that young people don’t live in a secular society…
  • we need to train/educate young people to explain their faith in a positive way with gentleness and respect to Muslims

Bob Mayo – The Faith of Generation Y

  • Young people aren’t reacting against/hostile to the church or Christian faith
    • because they don’t know enough about it
  • Positive: because you don’t have to fight against it
  • Negative: because they just don’t care
  • referred to as the ‘benign indifference of young people’
  • We can talk about our faith much quicker, because if this – mention Jesus sooner
    • Need to put the name of Jesus on what we’re doing
  • Family situations:
    • gone through a divorce
      • children have to grow up quicker
      • when parents use them as a negotiating tool
  • friendship parenting – my mum/dad is my best friend
    • children have to grow up quicker
      • forces children into an adult ‘space’
      • dealing with adult issues with fewer resources
  • Heading into a shame generation – not a guilt generation (as previously)
    • Guilt needs challenging
    • Shame needs affirming(?)
  • Authenticity has replaced authority

Leanne Sedin & Mixed Opinions – XLP Tower Hamlets

  • Urban youth work – it’s not as bad as people make out
  • We shouldn’t speak up for those who can speak up for themselves
    • disempowering
  • Instead, enable them to speak up for themselves
  • Mixed Opinions – group of young people performed their song: Child of War
    • ‘people are dying over postcodes’
    • ‘fallen Angela from up above’
    • ‘we’re not all bad’
    • ‘I’d only you knew what I’ve been through’
    • ‘full of hatred that once was love’
    • ‘I’m a child if war’
  • [you can view a very rough early version on YouTube…]

Half-baked Idea – Andy Burns

  • Incarnational ministry online?

Christopher Pilkington – TV Executive for Children’s TV at Endemol

  • Talking about the role of story in the lives of children
  • Need to captivate young people
  • How can we do it?
    • Need to take them on a journey
    • Need to actively engage them
  • ‘I’m talking theory, you put it into practice’
  • The narrative arc holds everything together
    • structure and character
  • Setup, Conflict, Resolution
  • Deal or no deal
    • an explanation of the three elements
  • ‘true character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure’ – Robert McGee
  • Need to know your audience
    • be aware of their world
    • they are frequently the underdog
      • in the family, at school
      • told what to do and when to do it
      • they desire freedom and want to triumph
  • Use media to help captivate young people
    • these are their references
  • If there is no surprise, why will they take the journey?
  • In what way is Jesus a triumph of the underdog?
    • His choices taken under such pressure
    • that’s what will captivate young people
  • The answer is Jesus

Fr Dermott Donnelly – Catholic Youth Ministry Federation

  • spoke briefly about the Diocesan Youth Village recently opened in the North East
  • I figured out, eventually, that he’s Declan Donnelly‘s brother

Rachel Welch – SelfHarm.co.uk

  • Affects 10% of young people
    • that’s probably a conservative estimate
  • Self harm is not about attention seeking
    • it’s a coping mechanism
  • How will you cope *when* it happens in your group?
  • Showed a couple of powerful videos
    • more will be available on the website, made from different perspectives

Pete Jeffry – Urban Saints

  • We have a problem – teenagers are leaving the Church in large numbers, primarily led by boys
  • Boys and girls are created differently
  • Does mixed youth work appropriately meet the needs of the young people?
  • Needs:
    • balanced boy-centric programme
    • active, messy, competition, creative
  • Idea: reflective writing of sins on their hands then get them to wash it off
  • Invite them to simply listen to God
    • what is God saying? Share what they hear together
  • Rites of passage
    • iron ball(!), numbers game,
    • they hear about it and want to join in
  • Residentials
    • build community and healthy gangs
  • Encourage them to share
  • Good role models, leaders
  • Create space in mixed groups for single-sex work

Andrea Boden – Romance Academy

  • Can celibacy be a realistic option for young people?
    • ‘celibacy is a massive pair of iron knickers and a big lock which only your church leader has access too’
  • Culture says: ‘everyone is doing it’
    • ‘a one-off sex talk is not going to cut it’
  • It’s about a journey together
  • It’s about intelligent choices
    • – responsible
    • – rational
    • – relational
  • ‘intelligent choice not an informed choice
  • ‘it’s worth sticking it out rather than sticking it in’

Toni Coulton – ?

  • The story of Job in triptychs – Si Smith
  • Sorry – really didn’t engage me at all

Andy Flannagan – Christian Socialist Movement

  • ‘Dad asked me to help him wash the car’
    • ‘because he wanted me to be where he was, doing what he was doing’
    • he didn’t need my help, but he wanted it
  • Our Heavenly Father
    • – same applies
  • Helping the poor, healing the sick, etc
    • – He doesn’t need us, but he wants us there with him
    • – shared tasks
  • Easy to be the good Samaritan
    • harder thing is to return the Jericho Road and trying to stop those bad things from happening
  • Need to get young people involved in political solutions to problems
  • ‘we should encourage young people to help bring about heaven on earth, rather than selling them an escape ticket to heaven’
  • read a powerful piece: his vision of what 2020 could be like if we act now
  • see Susa.info for resources

Nate Morgan Lock – All Souls Clubhouse

  • Trying to impress upon us the importance of Scripture in youthwork
  • I didn’t get it – perhaps I was distracted…
    • was it just me?

Half-Baked Idea – Matt Summerfield

  • Churches struggle to find enough volunteers
  • What do you do when young people get too old for one group and have to move to another?
  • Should have movable age groups in church
    • cohort moves on and grows up together
    • volunteers stay with the same cohort
    • grow up through church with your young people

Rachel Warwick – Breathe

  • Young people can experience God
  • Introduced the Breathe resource:
  • It’s personal:
    • don’t have to worry about what others are doing, or share it
  • It’s simple:
    • uses simple tools to explore deeper things
  • It’s open:
    • doesn’t force young people to believe anything
  • It’s structured:
    • giving young people a way to respond to whatever they experience
  • we were introduced to one of the tools:
    • Play-doh as a tool to worship God

Kenny Wilson – International Christian College

  • Discipleship as adventure:
    • have we lost the spirit of Jesus’ radical call?
  • Discipleship is a way of forming Christian character
  • The focus has shifted to: Programme, event & mission
  • Discipleship was an adventure for early Christians
    • It should be a daily adventure, of bringing love to those around us
  • Jesus through the holy Spirit is still with us and working through us, but we’ve changed what discipleship is:
    • ‘We’ve emphasised the great commission over the great commandments’
  • We should refocus on the great commandments
  • Young disciple – strong desire to tell others how great it is, but not wanting to push it on them too soon – but what could I do in the meantime? Love others…
  • Loving your neighbours as you love yourself
    • secret discipleship
    • ‘stealing’ bikes and making them new
    • signed ‘the nice’
  • We need to re-empower our young Christians to live discipleship as adventure

Loyd Harp – Rudgwick Youth

  • used to work for a megachurch in the US
    • 90% of the his time was spent within the church
  • Is this why the attendance among YP is on the decline? Almost certainly
  • ‘Jesus: friend of sinners’
  • I would love to hear that ‘the problem with Loyd is that he is friends with sinners’
  • ‘How can you encourage YP to share their faith with non-Christian friends, if we don’t have friendships with sinners’
    • we don’t have the right!
  • ‘as we follow Christ and pursue discipleship we *must* associate with sinners’

Yanah Nightingale – Onelife

  • Could you be overlooking leadership potential in your youth group?
  • Simon Peter was asked ‘do you love me?’ by Jesus
  • He’s then asked ‘do you know Jesus?’ – he denies it
  • Jesus asks him again
    • everything rests of Peter’s reply
  • This is about his character and not his skills and abilities
    • – his suitability for leadership depends on it
  • Answering ‘yes’ will lead to change within you
    • obedience, listening, submission
  • The same question should be asked of anyone wishing to serve in the Kingdom of God
  • The same question should be asked of our young people who wish to lead
  • Leadership as influence, in any context

Mark Russell – Church Army

  • delivered the final commissioning address:
  • ‘the call to youth ministry takes up so much time that our relationship with God suffers…’
  • ‘horror stories are everywhere – I know, I’m an Anglican’
  • The Lord’s Prayer
    • your Kingdom come
    • your will be done
    • on earth as in heaven
  • Matt 9:35 – ministry of words and action
    • Jesus spoke the values of the kingdom
    • Jesus also lived the kingdom
  • ‘The spirit of the lord has anointed me to…’
    • reach those on the margins
  • Jesus went to the broken…
    • …and brings the kingdom in
  • ‘Youthwork is not a strategy to shore up a crumbling institution, but because young people need Jesus’
    • – those on the margins won’t fit in to our church services or youth groups
  • The cute fluffy lambs don’t run away – the angry ones do.
  • Go after them, because Jesus is already there.
  • Challenge the church to model the kingdom
  • If the church is boring, it’s not following Jesus
    • ‘it takes serious talent to make Christianity seem boring – but we’re doing it’
  • Have confidence to expect miracles – because the kingdom is here
  • We will have opposition from the devil because the kingdom is not fully here
  • Let’s demonstrate and speak the kingdom
  • ‘which is more important: words or actions?’
  • ‘breathing in or out’?
    • – whichever one you didn’t do last
    • – do the other this time
  • Challenge to model the kingdom
  • How many non-Christian friends do we have?
  • ‘The more time you spend with Christians the more you’ll spend talking about church; the more time you spend with non-Christians the more you’ll talk about Jesus’
  • They need Jesus, want hope, but don’t want to come to church.
  • We need to model kingdom values: evangelism, etc.
  • Keep company with sinners and with Jesus
  • Trust in a god of miracles
  • Modelling Kingdom changes lives
  • – the story of the hippo and the tortoise
  • Christ met and touched people where they were
  • young people need to find a place to be loved in our churches and communities
  • ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it us in heaven’

Thanks for reading this far. As a special treat* you can now download the notes above in handy PDF format. Thanks to Kieran Murphy [@king_kieran] of Phase-Hitchin

*depending on how desperate your life is!

Young People & The Media

It’s great to see on the Editors Blog that the BBC are trying to redress the balance of negative journalism towards young people by involving 250 schools in a “massive journalism deployment” involving 10,000 young people aged 11-14.

Stories that have already been filed include items on social networking, mobile phones, living with cancer, and campaigning on Darfur. Other school reporters have covered battery farming, what makes them happy and media images of teenagers.

Other students are reporting on News 24, Radio Five Live and 40 local radio stations – as well as at outside broadcasts in Belfast, Aberdeen and Snowdonia. And there are web-based radio and TV “channels” for the day being streamed live on the website.

Look out for the reports across the BBC this Thursday (13th March), and check out the School Report website to see the fruits of their efforts.