Good times

Stuff is pretty hectic at the moment which means I haven’t had a chance to go over more of my notes from the Youthwork Conference and then post up some of my thoughts. Hopefully I will be able to grab some time to do that at the start of next week.

At the moment I am involved in teaching lots of lessons about the true meaning of Christmas at some a local school on top of the normal schools work, and the YFriday gig is on Saturday and so there is lots of behind the scenes stuff for that.

We got good news over the weekend. We have been given extra funding from the Challenge 2000 and Children’s Fund so instead of the £4,334 we had been told we had been given we have actually been given £6,000. This is great news because it means we can buy everything that the young people had applied for, bar the laptop and table tennis table. However, there is the Youth Opportunity Fund & Youth Capital Fund to apply for in the next few weeks – just need to think through what we want to apply for – at the moment one of our suggestions is a sheltered bike rack as some of the young people cycle to youth club and we have to put all their bikes in my office to keep them safe. Do write a comment if you have any good thoughts on what we could apply for.

Main session 4: One life at a Time (Luke 15:1-7)

This session was an okay session, but not the normal inspiring end of conference round up that you normally got. Danielle Strickland was preaching and spent a lot of time on personal stories from her life and how they illustrate how we get alongside people. They were helpful stories and anecdotes but I would have been interested to see more linkage with the Bible passage – maybe I am just getting old-fashioned!

One of her main points was that we are most like the Pharisees – we concentrate on looking good on the outside, we bend scriptures to suit us, change our strategy, we box people, and we judge others.

The other key point is that a individual should motivate us in our work – and the key question is ‘What will you do with the King of Israel?’. It was a good talk, but not one I will remember, and maybe that isn’t really Danielle’s fault – the combination of the Early Day and the first two main sessions – Rob Bell and Andy Hickford – meant that we had already heard some amazing preaching – stuff that normally would have been at the end of the conference.

Models of Mission: Preaching relevantly

This was a good seminar, by Gavin Calver, from Youth for Christ, especially in the context of what Rob Bell had said on Friday at the early day (I will post more about that later).

Gav obviously believes that preaching is still highly relevant but that it should only be done by those with a calling to it, there are too many people who are doing it who aren’t called to do it. Preaching is a difficult calling – we are called to practice what we preach, or in other terms, could you preach what you live without being X-rated or embarrassed. We should be a communicator (Gav believes Tony Blair is the best in the UK, even though he disagrees with his politics!) but we also desperately need that anointing of the Holy Spirit.

With regard to whether preaching is relevant – we examined statistics that show that we remember 12% of what we hear, 56% of what we watch, but you can gain a further 50% depending on how the preacher uses their voice, and body etc., i.e. preaching can be better than watching a film.

He highlighted the importance of the Spurgeon Ideology – Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other. We must have the balance of culture and Bible. He spent much of the rest of the session highlighting practical ways in which we communicate, for example, tone of voice, breathing techniques, choosing your shirts based on how much you sweat etc. He put a strong call on people to remain true to their personality – especially given that people always need a variety of styles so don’t worry if you aren’t like your church leader or other local youth workers.

It was a good session and although it didn’t teach me anything new it was great to hear a summary of what we should be doing. My challenge now is to ensure I file my sermons, and possible illustrations in a helpful way so as to be able to use them more clearly in planning new talks.

Schools work: 5 key principles for successful schools work

This session was led by Chris Curtis, from LCET, who always writes very well in Youthwork magazine so I was looking forward to this session. In many ways he didn’t really say anything that new or exciting, but in other ways he made some quite big suggestions in the way we do schools ministry. He started by spending some time on his background, and the work of the LCET.

We started by looking at assemblies. He suggested that we need to see a shift in change from been seen as preachers to worship leaders when we lead an assembly. We should be leading, but not the centre of attention, to spark something and then step back. In more detail he suggested that we needed to:

Create some kind of space – controversially silence he believes is the best!
Create questions – don’t give them the whole gospel – allow young people to go away thinking.
High levels of interaction

For both assemblies and lessons he highlighted the need to use educational terminology not church terminology. He believes we can say very ‘Christian’ things if we put them in educationally spiritualist terms rather than traditional Christian langue and imagery. Chris also put a strong emphasis on ensuring that we fulfil the curriculum when we teach a lesson – that we know what the LEA policy is. He explained how they were trialling a project called ‘Breathe’ following on from Greenbelt which sounded amazing – the gist of it is there is a massive parachute with 12 sections, each on an aspect of Christian belief. A class watches a video, then each individual is given an iPod and goes through the sections doing something at each, guided by the audio script.

This was a great seminar – the only disadvantage was that because it was youthwork conference it didn’t really touch on primary schools work, and the opportunity for linkage between the two age groups. I hope that the Children’s Ministry Conference has similarly high quality sessions on schools work.

Main session 3: Understanding our World (Luke 12:54-59)

This main session was fairly different. The preacher was Pete Greig and he felt a strong calling to move away from what he had planned to speak on and instead raise up on the importance of the Stop the Traffik campaign. He encouraged us to:

Read the signs – he highlighted the importance of what John Stott terms “double reading”. We must read both the Bible and culture. At the moment there are so many issues in the world we must be aware of this. Stop the Traffik should be a priority for us, and he challenged us to commit to a vigil of prayer on Sat 24th March 2007. He highlighted that in Chinese the word dangerous literally means ‘dangerous opportunities’. Let us make the most of the opportunities.

Recognise the Son – we must make the effort to find Jesus in one another – in our differences and difficult times. He highlighted the costly nature of it, but the power of it, through the example of the Amish community in USA following the mass shooting in their community.

Recognise yourself – we need to reconcile ourselves – now, not later. He quoted Robert McCheyne “my peoples greatest need is my personal holiness”, not preaching, programmes or strategy.

Faith Development: From Unchurched to Churched

This session was run by Pete Brierley, Danielle Strickland, and Jim Partridge. The gist of the session was to look at two modes of doing youthwork: the attractional mode and the incarnational mode.

As a church our youth work has always been fairly attractional – it is based around clubs and activities that we invite young people to. From there we hope to develop our relationship with them, and as we journey together, to share something of who Jesus is. This is okay, particularly in a middle-class suburb where that is how ‘entertainment’ is done – people go out to events. However it can lack the deep relationships and the fluidity of the incarnational approach.

Danielle Strickland was advocating the incarnational model from her experience of work in Canada – she made some good points but was so focussed on this as a model that it rather put me off some of her points – she couldn’t see any positives from the attractional model. Both Jim Partridge, and to a lesser degree, Pete Brierley are more where we are – the attractional model is at least their church’s starting point in meeting with young people. There is certainly a challenge for us to be more incarnational – to be more fluid and flexible in our approaches to ministering with young people.

The biggest challenge – which wasn’t properly discussed was how do you use a two track ministry (mid-week open youth groups, and Sunday churched groups) – our groups being so open in the middle of the week means a lot of young people link up with the church, but many of them would not want to come on a Sunday to the groups then.

Youthwork the Conference

I have been away at Youthwork Conference so did not blog over the weekend. What a great conference it was – I know some people say that it isn’t their cup of tea but I found it a real encouragement – a great time to receive teaching, reflect on what we have been doing, think about ideas for the future, catch up with old friends and meet others. I have lent some of my notes out to a fellow youth worker so I will post my experience of Saturday lunchtime onwards for the minute.

It was great to see so many people at the Early Day who had been there last year – especially big shout out to James Bell who I got to know better this year and who now based in Chelmsford is just down the road from us. This year was slightly different, in that because Rob Bell was leading, it had gone from 40 people together in the basement of a hotel, to 200 people in a large conference room. The Early Day is such a good concept – a chance to receive teaching (which I never normally get), a chance to catch up with old friends, and generally just relax. I hope that it continues in the same vein as it has done.

Throughout the weekend it was great to spend time with James Edwards, the Youth Associate from Sawyers Church. I have known James for a while and it was great to spend time bouncing ideas and sharing our thoughts from the sessions. James also gave me a lift home – which turned into quite a long trek given all the road works etc., but I made it back in time for our evening session at church.

I spent a reasonable amount of time, being in the same lovely hotel, with Mark Massey, from Rayleigh Baptist Church, and Gary Bott, from Billericay Baptist Church and some of their volunteers. I first met Mark last year at the conference and we kept in touch and met up every couple of months and it is a relationship that I value, the chance to tap into his wisdom and experience. I also spent a bit of time with Simeon Whiting, the 11-14s co-ordinator for YFC. Simeon and I grew up in the same youth group when we young and we use some of his resources so it was great to spend some time catching up and it gave me an opportunity to watch Match of the Day with a whole load of football mad guys.

All in all a great weekend.

Delegating to others

The last couple of days various members of the church have found other funding opportunities that might be available to us. I am really excited that people are beginning to see that there are ways of developing our work by getting alongside other groups in the community. However, I am now looking to see if I can find one or two church members to help do applications etc., and do some policy updates for us. I think this is a great opportunity to involve those who wouldn’t be keen to do face-to-face work with young people but are really keen to use their gifts and talents to support the work.

A whirl around the world wide web …

I love this time of year for the thoughts that appear on blogs and that are expressed verbally as so much training happens and youth workers take time to step back for 30 seconds and reflect on their ministry.

So I thought I would give a quick map of some great thoughts and/or discussions that are going on around the youth ministry blog world:

Johnny has posted about some thoughts from the Youth Specialties convention in Anaheim on how we captivate young people, how we always moan that they don’t want to pay attention to the Bible lesson but as soon as you give them a games console or a sports ball they are fine for hours on end.

Kurt has got a great post thinking about how do we do ‘mission trips’. It is a really interesting is mission work becoming too business like – are we actually doing much benefit – “Could we not come up with other ways to expose students to the needs of the world while actually solving some of them at the same time?” Certainly a great question – and as I begin to think how do we encourage our students to be involved in missional work both locally, nationally, and internationally something to chew over.

Josh has a helpful post on how we link with the parents in our ministry. It is always something we can improve on – we often focus on the young people and then the volunteer leaders that the parents get our left overs – but without them we would have no young people to work with – they give up their time and money to get their child to and from the events and pay from them etc. we should ensure we support and minister to them as best as we can. Something we managed to do in our summer holiday club at the church, was one of the older ladies in the congregation stood by the front door and greeted all the parents as they came to pick up their children. As an ex local teacher she had taught many of the parents and formed some great conversations. Not sure how to reproduce that at all the weekly events.

And for something different youthblog has another view on the youth workers office!

I would love to hear if anyone has got any thoughts of the stuff I’ve mentioned.

Funding awards evening

Tonight is the night – tonight is the local presentation evening for the Childrens Fund and the Challenge 2000 Project funding. We have been told that we have got some money but they don’t tell us till tonight how much we get. We have applied for £8,500 – let’s hope we get a good chunk of it as the young people came up with some great ideas on how to use it.

I will try and post later tonight or tomorrow with an update.