Catch up

Well as I have already said it has been a while since I last posted. Christmas busyness really seems to have set in this week or maybe I just did one or two bits of actual work!

Monday and Tuesday were spent sorting and filing. I love the feeling of having tidied stuff and really sorted it out. When I take up my role a year and a bit ago we had cupboards full of stuff but no one was quite sure why we still had it, be it random craft material, useless sports equipment, loads of board games, curriculum dating back to 1989 (when I was 6) etc., etc. I have a volunteer called Tessa who is a retired NHS admin lady who loves nothing better than to sort me out and get everything tidy and in order so that is what we have spent this week doing.

Monday afternoon was cooking Christmas dinner for my Monday Night Chillout group (17-18 year olds) and preparing for the Rock ‘Ard Christmas Party. These were good although numbers were low for the Rock ‘Ard party – we only had 3 out of our 10 young people. Two police community support officers came to chat about the possibility of partnering in some of our work which is really exciting. The longer I work at this place the more there seems to be so little joined up thinking to deal with the various youth issues – I am hoping that the church can be the link point for some of these people and agencies.

Wednesday was the last day of term and I was working in our local primary school. They have 8 classes and I managed to sneak into all their classes for a bit of the parties going on. I was joint winner (with nine pupils aged 7 to 9!) in musical bumps which was a really good result if I do say so myself. We followed this with a trip to the Royal Albert Hall for the BT Christmas Concert which was a really good evening out with some great orchestral pieces, a good concert band and all the fantastic carols. It was a lovely present from the parents of one of our young people for Hannah and my work with their son throughout the year – what a great treat.

Thursday and Friday was a mixture of planning and running events and trying to get preparation for the Christmas services done. Thursday lunchtime was the Lunch Club Christmas meal. I used to spend some time every Tuesday morning with the older ladies in the church but it is something that more recently has dropped off the scale a bit so it was nice to catch up with some of them at lunch, they are always so caring and great prayers. Thursday afternoon and evening was preparing for and then running the Christmas party for our 5-10 year olds, again we had really low numbers, 15 in comparison with the usual 30 or so, but the schools had broken up the day before which may have caused a drop in numbers, as well as the really bad fog putting people off coming out.

Friday was our volunteer leaders social where we had invited everyone who had been involved in Children’s & Youth work in the last year to come to the Manse for drinks and nibbles. We invited just over 50 people and were very surprised to find that we had just over 40 people come for some portion of the evening. It seemed to be a success and well worth doing again next year.

Today I spent sometime with my sister, Jenny, looking at her RS coursework. She is trying to decide between doing a question on abortion or on divorce and remarriage so I was going through my books finding various chapters for her to read up on. It was good to catch up with her. This afternoon we did preparation for the Christmas services, which we followed by watching the final of Strictly Come Dancing and opening our Christmas presents due to the fact that tomorrow will be manic with the Christmas Eve services and a social for our young people, and then we are all going away on Christmas Day after the morning service.

Today I have also joined facebook after various friends kept recommending it to me. So if you have a profile on it give me a shout.

Around the blogsphere

How annoying. I had written a post catching up with some of the best bits around the world and then it was deleted and I couldn’t get it back. How annoying. Anyhow here are some of the best bits, take two!

Kurt has a good post on going off track and allowing your youngsters to lead the way. If they are up for talking on something that is off topic but still has spiritual basis then ditch what you want to talk about and let them lead the way.

Youthblog has a link to a great game killing sprouts.

Simon also has various other links for some Christmas games.

Random ramblings

Christmas is really coming! Friday I spent time doing preparation for our Christmas events for our different youth groups – we are doing a Christmas dinner for the Monday Night Chillout (our 16-18 year olds), an old style Christmas party with all the old games and food for Rock ‘Ard (our 13-16 year old youth group) and then a huge party evening for Junior Club (7-10 year olds) and Take Off (5-7 year olds).

This was followed up with the Christmas Dinner for the schools work organisation I work alongside which was a great dinner – nice to catch up with one or two people, and some great food thrown in for good. After that I went and spent some time with James Edwards talking through different funding opportunities – it was good to catch up with him and share some different thoughts on what you would do if you had £20,000.

The highlight had to be going to a local primary school disco. How much fun! Hannah and I had been invited and it was a great laugh. The DJ who does their discos always stops half-way through to do a mini Strictly Come Dancing. We were proud to say that we made it into the final few but then lost. We knew quickstep, jive, waltz and cha cha cha, but have never done tango which was our downfall. We then went to Tesco’s and did some late night shopping to buy all the food for the youth group socials.

Saturday was spent cleaning the house, which included getting a mop to make it easier to clean the floors, finding all the Christmas decorations and trying to put them up. It was at this point that we discovered that our tree lights that we bought last year had been recalled and so we had returned them, this meant that we had no tree lights so we had great fun running round town trying to find somewhere that stocked some normal white Christmas tree lights.

The afternoon and evening we had a great time with our friends Heather and Rich. We had a great lunch of homemade pizza and then went for a walk down in Thorndon Countryside Park. I really must go there more often on the bike given it isn’t far to get there. And then we ate a huge dinner. Hannah had got hold of a game based of TV news clips over the years and so we had a laugh playing that for a bit.

Yesterday was the first of our big Christmas services up at the church. It didn’t seem that full which was quite disappointing but we did see a number of visitors which is always good. I managed to spend some time talking to a young family who have recently moved into the area – they had a very sweet daughter.

It was followed up with some carol singing around David (who needs to start blogging again) and Margie’s house which was a really good time. Several of the younger church families came along and it was great to spend some time chatting with them over a bowl of warm soup afterwards, and to spend some time just hanging out with some of my young people.

We discovered yesterday that I have mice again in my office so I laid the trap (with galaxy chocolate) and hey presto I had a dead mouse in my office this morning! I think we may try putting some bait down over the Christmas break to try and get rid of them.

Quick catch up

At the moment everything seems so busy that my rhythm of blogging seems to be going down the pan. Much of my time seems to have been spent on the combination of Christmas events and activities and the process of trying to buy a house.
Yesterday I helped to lead the carol service for one of the local primary schools that I am involved in. It is always a great joy to be invited to have some role in these events. Christmas for me can be a busy time so it is great to hear the gospel story presented in so many different ways – often, surprisingly in this suppossedly anti-Christian times, very biblically. Yesterday they had over half a dozen scripture readings alongside various carols – including some great more modern ones.
Today I spent most of the day doing paper work linked to our youth clubs, and preparing for the three clubs that we ran tonight. Our youngest group, ironically called Take Off, still hasn’t really taken off, and seems generally to only get two young boys. Something that definitely needs more prayer and thought – do we stick with it and keep trying to do more advertising, or do we change the way we do clubs for 5-10 year olds. The reason it has so few young people isn’t because we have no 5-7 year olds but because several families will only make bring children to one youth club rather than the two they should be split into. Any thoughts anyone?
The other groups seemed to go well tonight, although it was difficult to try and explain to the Rock Solid group that they are going to be temporarily closed due to a couple of leaders resigning which to some degree is linked to increasing behaviour issues in club.
Anyhow that’s my last couple of days! Hopefully tomorrow I can do a quick catch up of stuff from around the web.

Filing and funding

Wow – yesterday was spent mainly doing filing and admin. It is amazing how quickly it builds up and you then avoid it. I have a volunteer who comes in one morning a week to help with the admin, and she is a legend. For the last few weeks we haven’t been doing the filing as we have needed to do other things but yesterday we started at 10:00 and finished at 4:45. My filing cabinets and folders are all beautifully organised and there is now only about 15cm of filing left to do! We managed to get rid of lots of junk into the recycle bin – two bin bags worth to be precise.

In the evening we had a youth worker from the Council come and talk to the our groups about applying for some more funding. The Youth Opportunities Fund and Youth Capital Fund has £90,000 available in Brentwood. My younger group (13-14 year olds) seem interested but can’t be bothered to create the application. They started last night and have to finish it next week. On the other hand my older youth group (17-18 year olds) have just about finished their bid for about £11,000 of funding for things such as: food processor, digital scales, BBQ, laptop, photo printer, guitar, carpet, tables, subsidies for trips out and training. Just hope they don’t expect too much following their success in the last funding bid.

The weekend

We have spent the last few weeks looking into buying a house and so most of the weekend was spent doing stuff to sort that out. Hopefully we will continue to make progress with this over the next couple of weeks. It is scary how much money is involved but I guess it is better in the long run than renting as at least you get some of the money back.
Other highlights included dinner at Bryn and Marian’s. Bryn is on the diaconate at the church, and is my pastoral deacon and mentor within the church. They are both real legends, always willing to help out, and live just around the corner. It was a great evening of food, wine, and conversation, not forgetting Strictly Come Dancing!
Most of Sunday was spent doing a mixture of bits at church, writing Christmas cards, and trying to finalise ideas for the funding applications for our two older youth groups.

Quantity or quality; and discipline

It’s nice to be noted by Ian for my “prolific” blogging – although I am not sure it is a good thing – surely there are other things I should be doing, and I am reminded of the phrase my PE teacher always used to shout “quality not quantity”. I do try to write something each weekday but more recently I seem to be just linking to other people rather than sparking thoughts or debates. Maybe it is a suggestion that I need to slow down and ensure I spend more time reflecting on the work that has been going on.

Regarding the HTML duel being incredibly un-technical I have no idea what one is so I think you may have won already!

I have had a really mixed last couple of days. Our middle aged groups (7-10 and 10-13) seem to be seeing increasing numbers of children coming but alongside that we seem to have increased issues to do with behaviour. Some of the volunteer leaders aren’t confident in this area, and some of the young people are showing a blatant lack of respect to the leaders which makes it really hard. How do you deal with discipline issues, what is your plan? Any thoughts much appreciated.

Mentos and diet coke

Marko has put up the new mentos and diet coke experiment. I remember first hearing about this when Scott Mills and Chappers did the experiment on the roof of Radio 1 as part of their afternoon show. Looks great fun although these guys obviously have way too much time on their hands:

The speed of change

I am involved in running a CU at two local secondary schools. A couple of months ago one of the groups was really taking off with about 12 young girls (mostly non-Christian) coming along and getting stuck into the bible, while the other group was full of more experience Christians who just weren’t gelling and often not bothering to attend. How quickly things change: today we had only a couple of girls turning up for the ‘successful’ group, and 16 young people at the other group including a whole load of non-Christian friends, with a young person leading the session. It’s amazing but frustrating at the same time how quickly things can change in our work with young people.

Closest Book Meme and other things

Marko has really been on form with his posting recently. Highlights include the hilarious Butt Scan story, and the Closest Book Meme which works as follows:

The rules are:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!

The nearest book on my desk was Youth Ministry Management Tools, that I have borrowed from my friend Steve. Page 123 and the fifth sentence following is:

“That’s the only way you’ll ever get a handle on the ministry finances.

First six months:

  • After understanding, observing, and personally monitoring the budget for at least six months, you can delegate to a staff person or trusted (experienced) volunteer some of the routine procedures. Request weekly or monthly reports from your volunteer so you can monitor any major income or expense (perhaps more than $25 or $100, depending on the size and scope of your ministry).
  • Reevaluate the budget and adjust it according to your ministry needs.”

Helpful book, and one that I am hoping to be able to implement some of its thoughts and suggestions in the next few months.

Internet Explorer 7

The new Internet Explorer 7 has been a pretty good experience for me. I enjoy being able to tab through different sites rather than require lots of windows, however, it has taken quite a bit of using to get used to accessing the favourities. My only bug bear is that, as Lev has mentioned the title header gets cut off in the eblogger. Anyone know, in simple terms, how to adjust it or should I just leave it until eblogger update the templates.