Children’s Society research paper

Too old too young

The Children’s Society have recently published a very helpful paper on Too old, too young?: Theology on the ambiguity of adolescence and the impact of neglect’.

As the foreword by Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester says:

In order to deal with the practical issues around how to protect and nurture children and young people as they grow, we need a better understanding and a fuller vision of what it means to be a teenager. Furthermore, it is vital for the church to wrestle theologically with the issues of what it means to be a young person in relation to family life, community membership and participation in wider society. Thus, this collection of essays is both timely and important.

The first section takes a fresh look at what the issues are including new analysis of how young people are neglected within the home. The second looks at these issues through a theological lens with a reflection on what Scripture might tell us, and the final section takes on the urgent task of how we might constructively act within families, communities and at the legislative level. These essays aim to provoke both hearts and minds and is a prophetic call to respond.

Youth Ministry – the most meaningful job in the world

Forbes tells us what we all already knew – youth ministry is the best job in the world!  Check out this snippet:

It’s been said that money can’t buy you happiness. It turns out it has similarly little affect on whether an employee feels their work makes a positive change in the world.
Each year, Forbes reports on PayScale‘s list of the most meaningful jobs that also pay well. But when the caveat of income is removed, medical professionals, criminal justice workers, and youth ministers still find their way to the top of the list, while some highly-paid jobs are found to provide little meaning to those that hold them.
Youth minister, the third party in this tie for first, pays the least by far–an annual median $35,000–but 100% of respondents still find strong meaning in the role.

Top 6 ways to get the most out of Youthwork the conference


As I sit writing this we’re halfway through this year’s Youthwork the conference.  You’ll have heard lots of great things from speakers, stayed up too late last night, and rushed around trying to grab lunch.  This conference is so important – not because the conference is the best, or the speakers are the biggest names, but because for one weekend we get to take off our mantle of responsibility and leadership, and become participants and receivers.

So here are 6 ways to help you get the most out of the next 24 hours of Youthwork the conference:

1: Take a Seminar You Don’t Agree With: My favourite thing is to hang out with people who agree with me and like all my ideas, my model of youth ministry.  Yet most of the opposing views aren’t ridiculous, and are held by equally passionate Christians who are committed to seeing young people come to lasting faith.  Being challenged in your theology and practice will actually sharpen you and cause genuine growth.  Because we are all at the same conference, chances are you already agree on the big stuff, so let the small stuff sharpen and refine you.

2: Don’t Go to Everything: We don’t want you to do everything – there’s main sessions, seminars, keynotes, after hours, networking meetings.  We can only cope with so much, so don’t do everything.  Find the ones that are most interesting and helpful, go to those and ditch the rest. This conference is our one time a year to get recharged. If we cram our brains with too much information, we will get worn out before we even get home. Hit the beach, take a nap, read a book, meet up with friends.

3: Find 3 Practical Take-A-Ways: There is so much to learn at a conference.  Everyone has a good idea that will revolutionise your ministry.  Remember though that you have a very specific context in which you do ministry.  You know your young people the best.  Find 3 practical things you can add to your current ministry to tweak it and improve it.  Once you have your three, stop – trust what God has been doing in your ministry already.

4: Wrestle With One New Concept: You will be challenged to adopt all sorts of new ministry models, curriculum, and causes.  While I think it is silly to chuck what you have been doing because of some great marketing, it is important to be open to new things that God has for you and your ministry.  Use the conference experience for God to begin or confirm a new work in you and in your ministry.

5: Connect, Connect, Connect:  Our journey in ministry is hard, we need fellow youth workers who understand young people, what it means to work with the church.  This conference gives you an opportunity to connect with other youth workers.  Make new friends, nurture old ones, just connect and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through this unique community in this unique setting.

6: Be Expectant: At the end of the day, our attitude 100% shapes what we take a way from any conference experience.  God has all sorts of work to do on our souls and in our ministries.  God wants nothing more than to encourage us in our faith and in our calling.  Let us cut away the parts of our hearts that are hard, cold, judgmental, self-righteous, and rude, and ask God to give us his eyes, his ears, his heart as we lean into all that God has for us.

May God use every single thing while we are away to restore our weary souls. Every session, every speaker, every conversation to fill up our cups to overflowing so that we can go back to our ministry context and live fully into the woman or man that God called us to be.  Let us soak up this mountain top experience so we can enter back into the valley with clear vision and purpose.  And may all of it be to the glory of God.  Blessings!

Youthwork Conference 2013: Main Session 1


The first live blog will be our first main session where we will be hearing from Chris Russell, who is the Advisor for Evangelism and Witness at Lambeth Palace.  As this is a live blog please excuse typos and spelling mistakes!

We’re loving DJ Steve Leach’s tunes that are pumping out from the speakers (check out his sound cloud page for more tunes), alongside all your tweets on the big screen, do’t forget to use #YC13 to join the conversation and banter.

We’re loving the beats and rapping from Guvna B that are kicking us off tonight, lots of youth workers making some noise!

Damian Wharton and Dot Tyler are welcoming everyone to Youthwork the conference 2013.  Challenging people to reflect on what they want to get from the conference – is it inspiration, times of worship, new ideas, encouragement – people were invited to lift them to God.

Now over to Pete James and his band, kicking off a time of worship.

Damian introduces Doug Ross, who runs Spilt Milk, shares the vision for their organisations as they work with Compassion, Tearfund, Hope for Justice using artists such as Guvna B, Rend Collective, Ben Cantelon, Philippa Hannah etc.

Dot tells us about The Hub, with the exhibition space, prayer space, The Bistro with Youthwork Live with banter from Hollin and Dan Preston, and the Info Point – it’s all happening there.

Andy du Feu, Senior Lecturer at Moorlands shares about the coffee mugs and more from Moorlands College with an interview of Ben, one of their students.

We’re taking a moment to reflect on the huge disaster in the Philippines, we moan about the cold in Eastbourne but this is a whole different issue.  Encouraging people to give £5 by texting “Tearfund Help” to 70444 which will provide vital food for a family for 2 weeks.  It is easy to be overwhelmed, but that £5 is something that is big enough for families to receive something that makes a difference.

Here as youth workers who believe in changing a generation, seeing mighty things that will happen in the world, watching a video thinking about how God is doing mighty things with this generation.

Moving into another time of worship led by Pete and the band.  He shares “I do what I do now because of someone who modelled Christ like living to me” – youth work matters.  We’ve been encouraged to take a moment and to reflect on how God has been faithful, working in the lives of those young people we thought would never get it.

Chris is introduced in his new role by Damian as Advisor for Evangelism and Witness to the Archbishop of Canterbury, helping to implement the Archbishop’s priority of the re-evangelisation of England.  He’s also vicar of St. Laurence in Reading where they have a special focus on mission amongst young people.

About 30 years ago a guy in America asked the question, why is it when you look at the lives of most Christians it looks like the lives of celebrities who are endorsing products that they don’t really use.

People long for authenticity.  St. Laurence’s was given a town building that was built in 1196 and given a mandate to reach out to young people.  Relevancy wasn’t the challenge, it wasn’t needed, authenticity wasn’t needed.  They couldn’t keep up with change, or have the budget.  Authenticity and genuine is what matters.

Marketing is always a couple of steps ahead, Coke’s pure genius to market something with our name on it as though they genuinely care that I have a coke, Starbucks have done the same.  Was asked by a colleague, what is your Starbucks name?  Probably use Chris.  They ask his colleague and he says Randy.  Sit down as far as possible, and then poor Barista having to shout who is randy?!?!?

Got three daughters, Hope who is 12, Chessie on 10 and Dora who is 72 and runs the country.  They have grown up where the biggest ethical question is how can I be true to myself.  That’s what the focus is on in children’s TV programmes.  Shane Claiborne said “the poor have always got names, do you know their names?”.  Have young people at the forefront of your mind, in striving to be authentic we know the young people who mean so much to us, and long for that.

Who has a fish sticker on your car?  Only two people.  Why not the others?  Don’t drive, drive badly!  Time to reclaim the fish sticker – not just a stupid silver sticker but a real live fish on the car – imagine Gav Calver with a fish on his bumper.  Everyone at Spring Harvest do it!

Amazed and privileged to work with Archbishop Justin – took a selfie – asked what it was and would it go public.  People like that he is a normal guy – he is kind of!  We want the genuine authentic faith – living out in what we do, what we say, what we buy, what we wear.  Look in your clothes and tell your friend what it is made of.  Got polyester, wool, cotton, acrylic, suede, 100% Italian Marino wool!  Lots of you should be grateful there is no naked flames, and we won’t insist on Leviticus 19:19: “You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.”

Why does God care?  The thing behind the thing is that he wants true authenticity, not different things woven together to make things up, not compromising, living a unified life to our very fibre.  We want this, we want to live genuinely and authentically.  Long to live a life like this, hope and pray for children to live a life of faith, to not say that I’m a hypocrite.  Girl who got kicked out of home and lived with them said I will be fascinated to see if you’re the same at home as at church.  We feel incapable of doing it.

What we are good at doing is faking it.  What is the point of it all?  One of the hardest things in leading a church is that I know myself, I know what an idiot I am.  I don’t know if anyone else does things and wonder why did I just do that.  Leaving a party in Reading, a couple had put the coats on the beds upstairs, went upstairs and thought I’ll write a message on their mirror in their eyeliner!  Saw they had photos by their bed of each other, got Kelly’s photo of Nathan and drew a Mexican moustache, and as eyeliner came off, he realised there was no glass on the frame!  Then thought get it off using spit and polish, it came off, but so did the whole of Nathan’s face!  3 options: put it back; go and tell them what I’ve done or hide the photo – so hid the photo with the shoes under the bed and left the house!  Went back and explained to them what he did!

We don’t know what the fashions were in the first century, we know what Jesus wore, see John 19:23: 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.  24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”  This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

Seamless robes were expensive, two pieces of material frayed at the edge and then sewn together.  Jesus doesn’t live a patchwork life like ours, but he lives a seamless life.  He practices what he preaches.  When he says turn the cheek he does it, when he says pray for your enemies he does it, he does exactly what he says to do.

He lives freely because he doesn’t care what people think about him.  Isn’t this why we’re drawn to him.  The reason we’re drawn to him is because he is so different from us.  Jesus lived what he spoke – there were no different parts of his life, no contradictions.  He lived beautifully and wonderfully, God had 100% of his life, struggle to do that, partly because we say that we would be a Christian if we were living under different circumstances – if had more sleep, didn’t work with muppets, if I had more money.

The gospel works where we are.  This is great news for us, and for the young people we work with.  Lives our so complex and so dysfunctional, sometimes just disastrous.  Sometimes when we say follow Jesus just feel like adding another burden, but it is always the best thing anyone can do, and it is possible to do and must be done in the complexity of our lives.  Of course we must work out what might they look like for young people, it isn’t just like what we had when we grew up, it has to look different.

£100k budget a year, £25k Parish Share, £15k Gas and Electricity – everything else on youth work.  Many of you having budgets cut, you must insist that it is more important than video projectors, new microhopones, the resources for discipline young people is central.  Jesus lived in unideal circumstances and lived 100% for God so why can’t it be for us.

It doesn’t show us how to live genuinely as a human but also what God is genuinely like, when we see Jesus’ tears, those are GOd’s tears, when Jesus has compassion that s God’s compassion, drops of blood in the garden are God’s, the anguish on the cross was God’s.  We see it might be human to save your life, it is a godly thing to give your life away.  As he is stripped naked and put on the cross it shines a light on who God is for us.

What does it do to be loved like this by God?

We must give up the games: The soldiers at the most profound moment in history are playing games.  Let us quit playing games at the foot of the cross.  If you know you are compromised in some situation call time on it.  Stuff needs to stop, if you have a mismatch – a contradiction in your life give it up.

What does Jesus do to our “filthy rags” (Isa. 64): it seems so desperate that when everything is taken from him, even his inner clothing when he was on his own.  It is taken to be crucified but also to give it to you and me.  He takes all our lack of authenticity, our contradictions, our faking it, our pretending, our patched up lives, our fig leaves to hide our shame, and absorbs them and a great exchange takes place – he gives us his seamless robe, being a child of God.  Hear the Gospel tonight, you are not loved by God tonight because of your success, how much have you grown the youth group, because you’re a hero or impressive, but because you are lost entirely on your own, on your own you have filthy rags, it is the love of Jesus Christ to face you and love you entirely.  It is beyond our wildest dreams and a gift we cannot fathom.  It is a gift that is put on our shoulders.  We have lots of things on our shoulders – expectation of the church, expectations of the boss, expectations set by a predecessor, expectations of ourself – take them off – the only thing we need to wear is His seamless robe.  He gives us what we can’t have on our own.  Everyday I can come clean, ask for help.

No instant mix, no short cuts, there is simply death:  This is the way for everybody.  Discipleship isn’t just a life long exercise to make us feel better about ourselves, but because it is about helping the world to see to die for yourselves, to stop being so obsessed about yourselves and to die for yourselves.  The Coke marketing is a formula and not what we most need, Jesus gives us what we most need, he knows us, he lvoes us.  The robe is tailor made although feels a size too big, something a little daunting.  If fewer people come with us thenso be it, if as for us we will follow Jesus, we will wear the clothes he gives us to wear, as if his life depends on it.


Damian shares how God wants to do business, God is speaking deep into people’s hearts, how we can come to the cross.  We’re invited to be real afresh with God, to share how we’re sick of playing games, messing around, living under someone else’s agenda, it’s time to come afresh to you.