The cost of being a volunteer

Tim Schmoyer had a fantastic post on the cost of being a volunteer. He outlines how when preparing a trip he builds in the cost of his leaders going on the event to the cost he gives to his young people. It is something we often fail to sort out but it makes such a difference. It is so important that we remove the barriers that can stop people helping lead in the youth team. If you regularly do trips out and that costs them then over the course of a year they could easily spend £100 on being a volunteer, and that’s before there are any leaders conferences or socials. We need to show the value of the leaders, and as Tim so clearly wrote, without the leaders there is no trip.

Residential venues

As part of our recent funding from the council we are looking into taking two of our youth groups away for residentials. Does anyone have any recommendations of places not too far (upto 60 or so minutes drive away) from Brentwood, Essex, ie Junction 28 of the M25. Both are fairly small groups, 10-15 young people and upto 5 leaders. One group (13-15 year olds) would want a fairly active time but the other group (17-18 year olds) are fairly happy not doing too much. Any recommendations much appreciated.

My beautiful office

My new office is nearly finished and looks amazing. I am absolutely thrilled with my new working environment. The gentleman in the church who has been doing a lot of the work on it finished this morning on the shelving and got my noticeboard, and whiteboard up. I look forward to many a happy hour in it!

Great blog

While my blog has been lacking in recent weeks I have been really into Tim Schmoyer’s blog – Life in student ministry. He has got some great posts on what is going on in his ministry and the changes at the moment as he moves across the country. On Friday’s he often gives away a freebie of his own material – the latest being a whole load of training resources for small groups which was excellent. A post that has been highlighted by a few people recently is his post on How I will crash and burn (out) in minstry – it should be compulsory reading for all Children’s and Youth Workers. Go check it out.

Long term thinking & office move

With half-term started I am spending some of the holiday looking a little bit further ahead then what we will be doing this in our groups this week. Today I spent a bit of time looking at what we might do for the holiday club that we plan to run in the last week of August. We are thinking about using Pyramid Rock by Scripture Union. I would love to hear from anyone who has run that club or any other material that people would recommend.

Tomorrow I am spending some time thinking about how, as a church, we provide for those families who are on the edge of the church family. Thinking about how we can engage and support them more at their level. Hopefully it will be a fruitful time.

I am also in the middle of moving offices which is really exciting – the room has now all been painted and I managed to get a whole load of books moved and sorted on Friday afternoon and am doing the rest of it on Monday.

Exciting times!

The child through the eyes of society: Matt Summerfield

The last session is always a difficult session I think for a speaker. They have to bring together to variety and busyness of the weekend into one message to inspire and encourage 1500 people. No small challenge then! But Matt was brilliant.

He started by showing a home video clip of his son on a rollercoaster. He went on to say that Ronan Keating was correct when he sang that Life is a Rollercoaster. Life is a rollercoaster for children.

How does society view children?
In one sense they have never had it so good: money, activities, technology etc. But on the other hand it is all wrong. He linked to ‘Toxic Childhood’ by Sue Palmer and how things are going downhill.

Is society a paranoid schizophrenic?
Children are vulnerable and need protection, e.g. CRB, risk assessments, which are good things but go to far in banning conker and snow fights etc., and a media that panics us in giving them no freedom of going down the park etc.

Children are dangerous and we need protecting. The media is set on demonising young people, a recent MORI poll shows that 41% of articles about children are highly negative. It is so often out of the overflow of brokenness comes the behaviour. Children have a story; they are the product of our society.
Children are easily influenced and need to be nurtured. Who has responsibility for this – is it parents, schools? The children orientated market, including pester power is worth £30 billion. No wonder brands and marketing is key. The average child in the UK watches 20,000-40,000 adverts.
Children are independent and should be free. They always push the boundaries, e.g. bedtimes. Could it be that our society has put the boundary too far – they eat too many sweets, they don’t do enough activity, they watch TV in their own room, they don’t sleep enough, they don’t talk with their parents.
Proverbs 22:6 forces us to ask is this the way a child should go. We need to care more than just salvation, e.g. Acts 10:36, Ephesians 6:2 talk about ‘shalom’, a wholeness and healing of life. John 10:10 very famously talks about this life – not just pie in the sky but cake as you wait! With that understanding John 14:27 becomes more powerful – only Jesus can bring the healing needed.
We see Jesus grow in wholeness as a child:
Luke 2:40 includes physically, spiritually, wisdom, emotionally, relationally
Luke 2:52 includes emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally.

Breaking down the barriers
We are called to take a stand and make a difference. But we must not view this as the social gospel – there is only 1 gospel and that covers everything. Christians have traditionally led social action, e.g. Sunday schools, the Children’s society, Barnados, etc. Will we have that same passion, commitment and courage. Showing the young people the gospel but also possibly helping them brush their teeth. Be changers.

The call hasn’t changed – the question is who will go. Pray that we will say “me Lord”.

What a great conclusion to a helpful conference – just need to make sure the stuff from it isn’t forgotten but gets registered, reviewed and discussed.

Seeing them through: Ali Campbell

Ali has a great blog and has regularly written in youthwork magazine so I was intrigued to hear him at this session.

Why do we see them through?
Have to – there is nobody else who is prepared to work with the young people are they grow up.
Want to – we love them and want to see them progress in their relationship with God.

Ali argues that a ministry gifting isn’t specific to an age group, e.g. 7-10 year olds, but that we can do it with any age group, we may have a burden for a specific age group. If you’re gifted as a pastor or teacher you should be able to do it with all ages.

Activities v Attention
By age 8 or 9 young people really care who their leaders are – they want someone who they can own. They need detailed care which is more labour intensive.

Programs v Passion
Sometimes the programme is just there for a child to slot into. Young people often leave youth work because they are not stimulated – the focus moves off them as they become the youngest again.

Numbers v Health
Leaders, especially youth workers, can be obsessed with numbers. But health should be more important – things usch as faith nurturing and teaching biblical truth.

Relevance v Relationships
Some people won’t work with young people because they don’t think they are cool enough. But ironically young people always think that grand parents are cool. We must focus on being real, showing them our music etc., and not be a fake.

Attraction v Retention
We often spend a lot of time thinking about how we attract young people but not how we keep them. That needs to be a higher priority in the join with youth work.

Model of ministry v Mystery of God
We need to focus on God. There is a pressure to do the latest thing in youth work, but in children’s work things work because they do – they don’t seem to be as fad orientated.

Talking about God v Talking with God
A shared journey is crucial – we can all learn from it.

Ali then went on to look at some practical areas such as structures, having fuzzy age boundaries, peer leadership and mentoring to name a few. It was a helpful session as someone who is lucky enough to do both children’s and youth work. I am in the fortunate position of being able to completely link our children’s work with our youth work – and Ali certainly gave me a few things to think about and some areas to go back and re-evaluate.

Midweek v Sunday: Andy Saunders

Andy started by outlining the historical setting for church on a Sunday but how there has recently been some thinking to challenge that: then tensions of family life being so busy and Sunday being a time of family activity not church; that clubs during the week are key; and that spirituality is big – parents want young people to have a spiritual and moral base which they can’t give them themselves. He then touched on how the concept of community has changed in the last 20 years – it isn’t local housing but people we are in contact with on the other side of the world.

Theologically it is a challenge. Biblically we are to meet together but it doesn’t have to be on a Sunday. Are we prepared ot take the time to discuss it and seeks God’s desire?

Interesting thoughts and questions included:
They are all God’s children – how is the church committed to reaching them.
The evangelistic imperative – where are the children who don’t come ot church (for example 88% of young people do some form of after school activity or club), who is doing the evangelism, time and place are important, and the methods must be appropriate.
Similar to Paul in Acts 17:16-34 we must take our time to find a hook to share the gospel with these young people.

Practical possibilities include:
– Schools work (including assemblies, RE lessons, lunch clubs)
– Church visits
– Gift books
– Uniformed organisations
– Christingle and carol services
– Drama and music
– Special interest clubs
– Holiday clubs
– Running activities on INSET days

He encouraged us to remember there has never been a revival that hasn’t started with children.

I drew some links from this session with the messy church session by Lucy Moore I attended earlier in the weekend. I was particularly interested in the possibility of using INSET days to provide something for parents. I am heavily involved in local schools and that is something that would be very interesting to explore further.