I’ve just finished publishing the latest Youth Ministry Update newsletter. Click below to view it online, or download it in PDF format. Whilst it’s great to hear the news of new and existing projects, please pay special attention to the final section about how to support us – this is what makes the projects possible. Thank you…
Last Saturday the second Youthwork Summit took place in Manchester. I attended along with about about 750 other youth workers/ministers, paid & volunteer, full & part time, along with 20+ speakers, the Rend Collective Experiment, Mark Yaconelli, and the amazing team who put the event together and served us on the day. It will take a while to properly reflect on and process all that was said, all that happened, and the conversations which took place. I met some amazing people – some I’ve been chatting with on Twitter for some time and felt I knew them, but met them in person at #yws11, others I met for the first time.
I spent Friday with 150 other youth workers/ministers on a Retreat day led by Mark Yaconelli – that too will take a great deal of processing and putting into practice what was learned.
At the end of the conference we shared the following powerful liturgy which written during the day by one of the attendees, and is shared here with permission:
It all comes from here*
From an extraordinary God,
capable of ALL things.
From His unfailing love
for ALL that we are.
From a purpose and calling
that He placed on our lives.
From a passion and desire
to change young lives.
We give our time, our energy,
We share our ideas, our lives,
We offer our teaching, our advice.
But we give, we share, we offer
Because we do not love alone,
but with the help of God’s heart.
Because we do not stand alone,
but with the strength of God’s Spirit.
Because we do not fight alone,
but with the power of God’s will.
From a God who loves
all which He has created,
From a God who guides
all who seek His face,
From a God who welcomes
all who come in His name.
It all comes from here*
Tonight I had the privilege of taking a group from my Church to lead worship at Oakhill Secure Training Centre. It was our second visit to lead their Chapel service, and I was looking forward to it. I’ve heard some great things about what the Lord has been doing at Oakhill over the last 12-18 months.
This morning I asked the Church to pray for us during the time we’d be at the Centre; specifically that we’d provide a good witness, that the Lord would continue to move and that His Spirit would be powerfully present during the service. I reminded them of the story in Acts 12 where the Apostle Peter has been imprisoned for being a follower of Christ, and the Church were outraged and prayed hard, and an Angel of the Lord came and broke Peter out of jail. I didn’t want to be personally responsible for a break-out at the STC, but we prayed that there would be a breakout of the Spirit in the Centre.
We led the trainees through a number of songs, prayers & scripture readings before Andrew Gale, the Chaplain, preached on ‘who is Jesus?’, and we then shared communion together. Whilst the outward audience participation in the service is not great, with some muttering and sniggering from time to time, there was a powerful sense of the Spirit’s presence. But for me the most inspiring part of the evening was when the service was over and we had a chance to chat with the trainees. I spoke to each of the young men and I found that many were slightly uncomfortable and awkward, but that a number of them couldn’t wait to talk about how they’re following Jesus, the difference he’s making in their lives, how they pray and read their Bible every day. I was able to take in a box of Bibles which had been donated, and Andrew handed them out almost indiscriminately among the trainees, and they were immediately cherished (they couldn’t wait to have the ‘presented to…’ page filled in); one trainee was quoting Scripture within two minutes of receiving his Bible – another took great delight in telling me how he has three Bibles that he’s reading.
I had a great conversation with one trainee who I’ll call ‘B’ who shared how he’d come to faith in Jesus & been baptised whilst ‘inside’ and how he now had something to live for. He told me that when he’s released in 18 months he’d like to be a ‘mercenary’ (I suggested he might mean ‘missionary’ and he agreed). Please pray that God would continue to transform him, and equip him for the Lord’s service on his release.
Pray also for ‘J’, a young man who told us that he loves Jesus, reads his Bible and prays everyday, but that he ‘isn’t quite ready’ to sing in front of his fellow trainees; I pray he’ll be set free from his inhibitions and go all out for God in the months ahead.
Please pray for Andrew Gale as he continues his ministry among the young trainees at Oakhill; ask God to bless his efforts as he seeks to call the young men to Christ and disciple them in the short time he has with them (in most cases).
As I drove to Oakhill the weather was pretty miserable, with constant drizzle removing any sense of pleasure from the drive. But I turned a corner to be greeted by the sun bursting into my eyes and painting the most beautiful sunset across the sky. As I turned the next corner away from the sun, there was a rainbow in the sky. Whilst being a sign of God’s great promise, I rarely look twice at rainbows. But what struck me about this one was the fact that at the end of the rainbow was the Oakhill Secure Training Centre, and I had a sense that the Lord was re-iterating a message He’d set in my heart that wanted be to bring to the Staff and trainees: that no matter what the public perception of the Centre was, it was absolutely full of promise and potential, and that there was still work for Him to do there. As we ended the service my prayer for the Trainees and Staff was as follows:
I pray that the Lord will bless in ways you don’t expect,
– and in ways you cannot explain…
I pray that you would have peace which only He can bring
– and that you would know His unconditional love
and I pray in the powerful & merciful name of Jesus Christ – AMEN
I praise God for the opportunity to serve Him at Oakhill every few months!
‘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.
- 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?
- Connecting through schools – breakfast clubs, sports events, football academies
- Football service – start with whistle, half time, oranges
- Connect with millions
- Community with 10s of thousands
- Church/disciple thousands
- Connect and thing about how to lead them on a journey of faith
- Bring hope
- Transform lives
- From church attendance to kingdom participation…
[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
- gone through a divorce
- 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
- children have to grow up quicker
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- 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’
*depending on how desperate your life is!
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.
- Purpose: what are we here for?
- everything else should be measured up against this
- Values: what is important to us?
- values are often not what you make up, but are what you observe about yourselves and the way you do things…
- Vision: where are we going?
- vision should be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focussed, flexible and communicable
- Strategy: how will we get there?
- plans to make it work – reality is shown up when you think about strategy
- Goals: what will we do and by when?
- goals help you to make a start
Strategy and goals are likely to change as you travel along the journey – they are contextual – and change because they are based on the latest information – as you learn lessons and build up knowledge your strategy and goals are likely to change.
Excerpt from an article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled “A legless artist documents the world in 32,000 stares“:
A 3-foot-1-inch tall man with no legs propelling himself along by his hands on a skateboard tends to warrant a fair share of attention.
Sometimes they ask questions. Sometimes they make up stories on their own.
Montana State University film student Kevin Connolly relates a story: In a Bozeman grocery store, a young girl the same height as him asked, “Why are you on a skateboard?” Mr. Connolly replied, “Because I have no legs.”
“She just stared at me and had the best question I’ve ever gotten,” he says. “‘Is it a trick?'”
Connolly assures that it is no trick. He was born without legs.
His online exhibition is interesting in itself, but a great way into a discussion with Young People about appearance & perception, disability, or even the concept of ‘story’:
1 year ago I was asked by a little boy in Christchurch, New Zealand if I had been eaten by a shark.
2 months ago I was asked by an elderly woman in Sighisoara, Romania if I had lost my legs in a car accident.
6 weeks ago I was asked by a bar patron in Helena, Montana if I still wore my dog tags from Iraq.
Everyone tries to create a story in their heads to explain the things that baffle them.
I love his counter-cultural approach to getting around too:
Connolly rarely uses his wheelchair, preferring his skateboard. And a pair of jeans-clad prosthetic legs stand in his apartment as a party novelty, unused since age 12.
“People are wanting effectively to put you in stilts,” he says. “Why?”
Connolly feels he’s just as able-bodied as anyone.”
Yesterday I lad the Brigade Service at Church on the theme of “A Different Christmas”. We had a quiz based around the following Christmas statistics (source) and then reflected on them and what they say about how we ‘celebrate’ Christmas:
- £600 million – spent on decorations annually
- 2 million metres – of fairy lights put up each year
- 15 hours – average time spent Christmas shopping (presents only, not food)
- 8000 tonnes – of wrapping paper discarded (enough to wrap island of Guernsey)
- 46 million – toys thrown away each year
- £1.2 billion – value of unwanted gifts each year
- 64% of over 45s said – they felt Christmas had ‘lost its magic’
- 50% of teachers said – their school would be incorporating a non-Christian Christmas celebration
I mentioned that I’ve had two conversations since Christmas with young people whose excitement about presents was bursting out of them – and they weren’t typical gifts. One was bought an alternative gift by her mum which fed a donkey for a month, and the other had bought a gift for her mum which would provide dinner for 100 school children. We talked about the benefits of different ‘alternative’ gift catalogues such as Living Gifts from Tearfund, Great Gifts from World Vision, Unwrapped from Oxfam and Present Aid from Christian Aid, before moving on to consider the needs of those around us. We then spent about 10-15 minutes in small groups considering the question:
How can we live differently and meet the practical needs of our neighbours next Christmas?
Next we discussed the thoughts of the groups, making notes as we went. The Amicus members will be considering the feedback in September, and we’ll seek to encourage everyone in the Church to put the ideas into practice at the end of the year with the intention of enjoying a different Christmas. We’ll revisit the topic in our October Parade Service and kick things off.
[Welcome to anyone visiting from MK Vineyard Church – please introduce yourself in the comments section below…]
This morning, along with my Minster, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to the MK Vineyard Church about our new Youth Project for Central Bletchley & Fenny Stratford, and inviting them to become partners in the project. We were made very welcome, and we were delighted with the response. The Leadership Team will be considering the financial contribution they feel able to make, and we’ve had offers from five people to volunteer as Staff members and we’re looking forward to getting to know them.
The project will be run under the supervision of the Crosslinks Centre, in partnership with Spurgeon Baptist Church, MK Youth Service & MK Vineyard Church with anticipated support from Bletchley & Fenny Stratford Town Council. I’m involved in setting up the project as part of my Degree course in Youth & Community Work & Applied Theology at the Centre for Youth Ministry [Oxford], but the plan is to create an ongoing and completely sustainable Youth Project.
If you have any questions about the project please let me know.