Main session 1: Going to New Places (Luke 4:14-44)

Rob Bell spoke on imagery from Ephesus – we didn’t seem to do that much with the Luke passage! The idea that there may only be a few Christians in an area and that the rest of the area is quite non-Christian. Paul just hikes in and does it – no budgets, no film clips, no fancy advertising. Paul manages to cause a riot, and Gaius and Aristarchus (probably aged 15-20) end up standing in a theatre of 25,000 people shouting for their death. Yet Paul wants to appear before the crowd! Paul has a story he is dying to say – what is our theatre, our Ephesus.

As soon as the riot is over Paul moves on. He leaves because his disciples have been trained – they handled a riot of 25,000 people. Who are our disciples, who are we giving some ministry responsibility to?

The leaders of the province worship Artemis but they want to protect Paul! Who are those in our area who are our friends but hate our faith. Paul must have held his tongue on certain things, e.g. statues, to build a friendship that is incredibly important in the long run.

Early day session 3

The third session started with Martin Saunders, from Youthwork magazine, interviewing Rob for the next edition – look out for it.

The rest of the session was an expansion of that and the discussion from the previous sessions with various questions from us being answered. Points included:

  • That the Christian community should always be progressive – probably small steps rather than big leaps.
  • Use background reading to really understand the culture and the context.
  • “Your calling is where your passion meets the world’s biggest need”
  • We are invited to be a Eucharist (good gift) for the world. However, you can’t be a Eucharist endlessly. It is why there must be rest and an opportunity to be refilled.

Early day session 2

The second session was slightly more random in direction but very helpful.

We started by looking at how Jesus had priorities – his was to get to Jerusalem – and because of that he was able to say no to people. He stared people in the face with real needs and still said no. What is your Jerusalem – you can’t meet the needs of every child and leader. If you think you can then you are using your ministry to hide an arrogant ego.

From this we had a great period of time on the need for Sabbath and how that should look. We looked at the importance of 1 day of rest in 6 – to book periods in the diary – to know that all you are going to do is to go for a walk and then sit and look out of the window – but the rest and refreshment gained from that is more important than productivity.

The key to it all is sustainability – he gave the example of a pastor who when interviewing for a youth worker said he didn’t want someone to give 110% for 2 years but 85% for 35 years. Can you do it for 20 years plus?

We then jumped across to examine preaching and teaching. Rob suggests that we need a shift from the emergency of trying to get a session sorted for a couple of days time to allowing God to give us something to say. He does this through a long process which might easily take 10 months. Starting with just a random thought Rob will try and develop it in to a sermon or series of sermons – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But if you aren’t desperately searching for a sermon for a couple of days time then it doesn’t matter if they don’t all work out.

Early day session 1

Rob started off the Early Day with a two hour non-stop whirlwind tour of the Bible. He started off spending an hour looking at Jerusalem v Lystra. He showed the context of Jewish faith as based on Exodus 3 and then on into Acts 14 looking at how Paul shares faith with those who don’t have the same background. They knew nothing of the Jewish culture so Paul has to do some serious work in culture shifting. However, the Jewish headquarters of Christianity weren’t so happy about the culture shift and encouraged the Christians in Lystra to hold to the Jewish traditions.

We concluded this section by thinking about how for many youth workers we work in Lystra but receive our pay cheque from Jerusalem and so the key question is how much of Jerusalem do the Lystra folks have to follow?

The second half was spent looking at four locations in the Bible:

Egypt (Exodus 3) – God hears the cry of the oppressed – both at the individual and corporate level.

Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) – the formation of a new kingdom – it is also the only time in the history of religions, according to Rob, that God speaks to a group of people. Redemption occurs through a community – the taking care of others, e.g. foreigner, fatherless, and the widow.

Jerusalem (1 Kings 9) – they forget the story and so it all goes wrong. The oppressed are now the oppressors. The blessing God bestowed on Solomon he used for himself – similarly we can get so focussed on ourselves that we put all our resources into preserving our church empire – keeping numbers, being careful not to offend a certain family with truth etc.

Babylon (2 Chronicles 36) – they remember the story and they remember Egypt. They begin to cry out to the Lord and so the cycle starts again.

Jesus repeats the cycle for us:
1. Let’s leave – “come and follow me” (Jesus is the new Moses).
2. The new kingdom is happening.
3. Unlike the previous Son of David this one gets it right.
4. The need to go home – he welcomes us as the prodigal son on a return from exile.

YFriday

The YFriday gig on Saturday night was great. We had just under 350 people at the gig. The bands were great – the music was really eclectic – punk rock, hip hop, and pop rock combined with worship – something for everyone.

Lindz from LZ7 did a mini gospel talk which went down really well with the young people – just under 50 came out of the gig to be prayed for.

All in all, a great night. Big thanks to the large team who worked really hard to put in on.

Secondary school CUs

Today has been filled with secondary schools work – a couple of lessons on the true meaning of Christmas and two lunchtime CUs. One of the CUs has had an increase in older pupils attending and so is becoming more self-sufficient – they are keen to run their own sessions and we are there as back-up. But the other group is full of year 8 (12-13 year old) girls – some of whom are Christians, but many of whom aren’t.

It was started last term and following a few random sessions we used YFC’s RS2 introductory pack. This term we have been using Simply Junior High’s small groups stuff on the Fruits of the Spirit – but I am not sure what to do next. We want to keep high energy and participation, but make sure we do open the Bible up (often the only time they are quiet is when they are reading the scriptures out loud) and also something that isn’t too expensive.

Any thoughts – shall I just continue with the Simply Junior High small group stuff or is there something else you recommend?

Goings on from around the world

It seems that Marko’s seminars at the Youth Specialities conference are prone to being at bit more random than at the Youthwork conference. In this post in his blog he recounts how “three belly-dancers came into the back of our room and started belly-dancing up the main aisle” and “all 200 or 250 of us gather up by the little door in the airwall, then screaming and waving our arms, streamed into chap’s room, running around the entire room and back into ours”! Check out the post to read more of the antics that go on at the YS conference.

Justin Taylor has got a great post based on the remix of Michael Jackson’s “I’m Bad” with John Piper and Piper’s comments on the spoof. It certainly made me laugh.

seaninthemiddle has a great discussion starter on why do we blog – I know for myself that in the run up to Christmas as I get busier and busier I find it harder to make postings on my thoughts. But I find it so helpful when I do – it is good to have a space to splurge my thoughts out on and to then take the time to reflect on them.

Josh Griffin managed to get taken out during an inter-church football game. But even more funny is that he is so committed to the podcast that he records it before going to get himself stitched up!

Lastly, check out my mate James Edwards’ blog that he has recently started up on myspace. Some great thoughts coming out on it already.

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.

Yesterday

Yesterday I really didn’t do much – it was my day off, but it is not great for Hannah, my wife, but I needed the break. I slept in all morning – and I still feel tired – I get the feeling I need to get more sleep. In the afternoon I did some tidying up of the house, cleaned various bits and cooked a dinner. I then went up to church to try and get some phone calls made before youth groups.

In the evening both our youth groups went to the Brentwood Park Driving Range out a Warley Gap, Brentwood and it was a great evening. They loved just standing around, chatting and smacking golf balls. It was an easy trip to organise as it is so local that all the parents can drop and pick up their children from the driving range so no need for minibus and lots of cars, and as there is no need to book in advance there were no money issues to sort out. The staff were really helpful as well, even when one of my young people managed to hit the head off his driver! David came and took a whole load of photos which they will have a look at next week, and possibly there are one or two that could go up on the church website and the notice-boards. It is certainly something we will be repeating next term.

Just got to sort out the Christmas meals for them next week!

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.