During our third Big Room session we will hear from Dr. Kate Middleton, who is a psychologist working with a church in Hitchin, and is also one of the team behind ‘Mind and Soul’.  Her passion is applying psychology and faith to real life, enabling people to reach their full potential.  She speaks widely on a variety of topics and is author of several books.  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 kicking off with worship from Pete James and his band.

Awesome video from our friends at Alpha course.  Damian is now introducing Ronny from Compassion, who is the oldest of 6 children, at the beginning of 1989 he had an accident, and so all the spare money went on 3 months of hospital bills.  In Year 3 he took the test three times, ended up 5th out of 47 children, but he realised he couldn’t go to school as his father couldn’t afford to send him to school.  See the people who used to copy his homework as they go to school but Ronny couldn’t go.  Compassion met with him, and he was able to go to school.  For the first time he was asked what do you want to do when you grow up, he chose to be a civil engineer, not because he knew what that was, but because the guys who went to that university department were always the coolest.  In 2004 he graduated as a Civil Engineer!  Five and a half years ago came to Peckham on a gap year scheme, as young people were told they wouldn’t amount to anything to show them it’s a lie, look at my life.  Five and a half years later he is still here!  Compassion have brought with them 30 children who need someone to come alongside them and sponsor them, £21 a month, 70p a day.

We have three people with us who won their tickets this weekend.  You should get in your diary Youthwork the conference 2014 it is £60, nearly as cheap as chips!  Two After Hours Options a late night discussion about being a long-termer in youth work, or Folk On a great comedy folk band.

Becca from XLP introducing Steven and Tsote sharing what impact the mentoring programme had had on their lives.  Steven taking on Patrick Regan’s role of interviewing ask questions of Tsote, sharing how she gained confidence, she became Head Girl, she helped to run the youth summer scheme for her church, she got 2A* and 6As!  Steven, Tsote and Becca then sung for us – so special and inspiring seeing young people take the lead and leaders singing backing.

Poor Pete James is given the worst links by Damian Wharton  – out of tune Happy Birthday for a youth worker into Phil Wickham’s Cannons!

Want people to know that she doesn’t have any grey hair, .  Psychologist, working with a church in Hitchin, whilst living in Paris!  Want to talk about life – what is your life story – what does it look like?  Want to think a bit about the experience of our young people.  Whilst playing an Alpha video, 3 teams making the tallest house of cards!

Wonder what your experience of life is?  And how does it compare with what your dreams and thoughts were when you were younger.  Life is like the challenge of getting a boat across the ocean.  Sailing when the sea is calm looks very appealing, but life doesn’t always look like that.

John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” – you can have life but you can have something extra, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.  Isn’t it what your dream of for your young people, mates and those you love?  We want their lives to look like a calm sea, but often it is stormy water.

Chatted to a bunch of people on social networks asking what did life throw at you that you didn’t expect: parenting, life challenges, failing, depression, falling in and out of love, losing a baby, supporting a friend through terminal illness.  You will be really unusual if you get through life without having a stormy day.  “There is nothing in my life that has given me faith to deal with this” a woman, a strong mature Christian, reflecting on losing her baby.

The Bible says in John 16:33 we will have challenges – the question is how do we equip people to deal with the challenges.  Suddenly you sail into a storm, your boat starts leaking, and for teenagers this is a real issue.  Put your hand up if some of the children you work with have hit stormy times in life.  Emotional health, a boom profession at the moment, wave your hand if you’re supporting someone with emotional health problems.  These are massive, massive problems.

John 10:10 Jesus compares what he offers with what someone else offers – there is someone coming to steal and to kill.  If you run a youth group you are on a battle ground, there is a battle for those children’s souls and minds.  We see young people who are amazing and think they are nothing, children from amazing families and still the child hits a massive storm and they have no idea how to get through it.

At school there was a swing that had posts that reached the sky!  You had to queue to get on the swing, once it got going you soared – it was like flying!  Jesus came so that we and the young people could soar through life.  But the enemy comes to steal and kill – that’s when someone has twisted the swing or made the chains really short so it can’t get going. We want our children to soar.

Work with some who are ill, but also see so many people whose life is limited, they aren’t soaring.  The impact of stress, storms limits what we can achieve.  God isn’t happy with that, he wants the best, he wants us and the young people to soar.

We want them to keep going.  It’s not like when they leave it is job done, we want them to have faith for a lifetime. Check out what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29:

23-27 I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

28-29 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.

What a great advert for the church.  But what’s amazing about Paul is 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” and Philippians 4:11-13: I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

If we could give them the recipe, protect them from storms, keep them on an even keel that would be awesome.  Talking about emotional resilience.  Life will throw them tricky things and we need to teach them how to get through the other side.  Lovely quote: “A resilient person many bend but does not break.”

Long-term stats suggest that over half of young Christians will lose their faith.  How do we help the young people we’re supporting to have a faith that will last them through all this stuff, so they can come through the other side.

Living in a Google generation – 8 year old daughter knows everything as Google knows everything.  She’s used to knowing all the answers, but the essence of faith is that we don’t have all the answers.  We have to make sure we don’t overload them.

The card game at the start, Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27:

24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

We want to give young people a faith that survives.  Discipleship is an amazing privilege and opportunity but a massive responsibility.  You’re trying to equip them for a life that will have rough stuff in it, 1 Peter 1:7-9 and 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.

We have an opportunity to equip a generation with what they need to stay on course against what the world throws at them.  Want to look at four things that both as a Christian from a spiritual place but also as a psychologist young people need:


1 Corinthians 3:10-14 – Jesus has to be our foundation.  Who do we get our value from, don’t know who you are but know you were made unique, in God’s image, that God sent his son for you.  “Who Am I?” is so important for young people, part of the brain development where the concept of who you are as a person comes together in adolescence.  Sometimes we need to push ourselves: “I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a Big God beside me, and live in fear” John Ortberg.  If you take God out of the equation the challenges could be too much, but doing it from a solid base of being loved it is possible.

If we build without a strong foundation it all crumbles, we all know young people for whom they were given so much but their foundation crumbled – and it is the same for us.  The experience is everything, John 8:32 “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” or “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”  Too many Christians can outgun people in a Bible memorisation game but haven’t experienced God in that deep way.  If you have deep roots you can cope with much more.

Your identity is in Christ, you have nothing to prove!  Every where in this world you have to prove, get grades, the right friends, make the right jokes – be it teenagers or us.  When you go out of your comfort zone it is fine, you are doing it for God and your value does not depend on it – so important for emotional and spiritual health.

Know your emotions

If you’re building on this foundation what tools or skills are we giving young people.  How often do we think of emotions as a heavenly after-thought, we think we want rational thinkers who don’t let silly emotions get in the way.  President Bill Clinton admitted that for 2 weeks he had lost the nuclear codes which were attached to his credit card with an elastic band.  We don’t want our leaders to do that!  There is heaps of research that people who lose their emotions it messes their life up, they cannot make decisions or communicate.

Emotions should bring physical changes and analytical thoughts helping you decide to make an action or no action – that thought is like a match, it burns, dies out and is gone.  It is like a smoke alarm gone off – normally don’t ring fire brigade every time they go off.  Emotions aren’t sinful, they are part of the creator’s design.  They sometimes lead us astray, sometimes not the most thought through action.  Mother had a panic about bees, discovered there was a bee in the car so got out on a roundabout!  Sometimes emotions lead us to behaviours and addictions that aren’t helpful.

Emotions are like trying to get an angry cat in a box.  When a toddler decides the supermarket is the time to have a tantrum – you can’t suppress them.  Even worse is when you then let them out.  “Every hurt, every argument, every aggravation, critical comment or rejection … will simply accumulate one on top of the other .. culminating in an experience like a boiling cauldron of emotional pain” (Roger Baker).

We need to become emotionally literate.  We need to give young people ways to express their emotions.  Constructive ways to handle their emotions.  “If it isn’t a good idea to drink the whole bottle or vodka what do you suggest I do”  We need to support them as some of our young people are carrying great weights, that will trigger lots of emotions.  If you put yourself under pressure you need to deal with your emotions.  Know many more people who don’t soar because of their emotions rather than their ability.

Know your mind

Mindfulness is everywhere in psychology at the moment.  It gets a dodgy press in Christianity because of its links to Eastern traditions but it is in the Bible, Psalm 8:3-4.  It is about what you choose to focus your mind on.  We need to find new ways to think to help us.  Romans 12:1 talks about changing the way we think, Philippians 4:8 “think about those things”.  Your mind has a bias to thinking about negative things.  How often do you spend worrying and how often do you think about good things.  That is what mindfulness is about.

It is important as when matches are struck there are patterns of behaviour leading to an emotional bonfire, no idea why something so small made you feel so bad.  It lasts so long, it smoulders.  People will often struggle to understand them, if you’re more aware of what is going on in your mind is what a fire extinguisher is like.  DOn’t step out of your comfort zone if you don’t know how to control your emotions.

Never build a lone tower

Get children and young people to build a tower using skinny blocks, then build with several together which can be built higher together.  “It is not good for humans to be alone”.  But we work in a very disconnected society.  If you think of the model of a typical nuclear family 77% women / 65% men in 1960 but 46% women / 31% men now.

People are sold the Disney myth about relationships of happily ever after with no work.  Children see the reality as nothing lasts forever, marriage doesn’t last forever.  It is vital that we teach them to make intentional relationships.  To work at and value their relationships.  To get into secure relationships where they can talk the tough stuff.  There is great stuff around with mentoring, the Live Life 123 and much more.

Jesus prayer for his disciples is ours: 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.

But for some us too, our prayer is that God will have given you that experience too – maybe you struggle with emotions, stress, God wants to change that.

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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