25 years…sees quality drop! WHAT?

“The best ever…..” titles can sell music albums, provoke debate and allow for wide differences of opinion. Some things are near impossible to determine – which team was better, the Liverpool team of the late 70s or the Manchester United team of the late 90s? It is all subjective and there are so many variables that comparison is nigh on impossible.

When Mike Pilavachi says that “the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically”, you would be wise to listen and reflect but let’s take a moment…what are the markers? What are the reference points? Mike follows by saying that many of the best youth leaders are moving on to ordination and so there is a wider context to this statement that we must consider; the ‘quality pool’ maybe more shallow because of other extenuating circumstances.

Martin Saunders, another highly credible voice, responded to Mike’s original interview with an article that sought to support and clarify what Mike was saying. This article was more troubling for me. As someone who was a salaried youth leaders from circa 25 years ago, and currently a volunteer leader, it is important that we do not compare the incomparable and we must not look back with rose tinted spectacles of the reality of those years. Some things back then were exceptional, some things not – it is no different today – some things are exceptional, some are not. The references to ‘average youth leader’ in the differing generations are unhelpful, inaccurate (even allowing for artistic licence) and prevents proper engagement with the meat of the discussion

In every generation, the same struggles exist for us all – living as Children of Light. The context of todays culture is different but the struggles are the same. If the issues of holiness, bible reading, devotional life etc. are the issues at stake (and I agree that we may need to look at this more consistently) then this is not something that should be placed upon youth leaders alone but every ministry of the Church. Discipleship is a whole Church responsibility.

In the bigger picture of life, this storm will pass. However, I hope that the heart of both Mike and Martin continue to inspire us all – they are such important figures in championing youth ministry and I value them both. I also hope that others involved in youth ministry do not feel undervalued or discouraged as they serve – you are loved, valued and are appreciated.

Thank you to everyone who engages in youth ministry – you are AMAZING!

God is up to something in the neighbourhoods

“God is up to something in neighborhoods, on the ground in real places. The church, in all its diversity, needs to figure out how to join in. We think God is putting forth a dare that, if practiced, could both revitalize church traditions, and develop a growing unity among members of various denominational expressions in the parish. More than that, it could help the church learn to give itself away in love to the world around it.”

Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, Dwight J. Friesen

“Am I Missing Something?” – Ruth Roberts (book review)

Reading the book Am I Missing Something which is also subtitled “Christianity through the eyes of a new believer” was quite fun. As someone who has been a Christian for a number of years, it is very easy to forget what a challenge our faith and it’s practices can be like for those who are new to its strange ways. Ruth Roberts, a journalist, has an easy style of writing and in a wonderfully conversational way deals with the “Christianity that seems constantly at war with itself” whilst having made “a commitment to God…..to try to find Jesus and keep my eyes fixed on him”.
The book is simple, yet effective, in reminding us how ‘odd’ our church practices and beliefs can seem to those who are not familiar and it resonates with how many of my friends feel at my church and my beliefs. Ruth does not give theological answers but shares her own experiences and how she overcame some of the tensions. My favourite story was when Ruth was challenging herself to be more proactive in her witness, felt guilty for not being as upfront as she felt she ought but saw a great response as she sat silently with someone and their response was “thank you for noticing me”, a precious moment.
I was given this book by Ruth in a twitter giveaway, not a book that I would necessarily have chosen but one that prompted me to think differently, I enjoyed it as a refreshing reminder as we look to disciple new believers in the church. Ruth’s honesty and openness was appreciated and I imagine her thoughts and feelings would be shared by many who have begun their new life in Christ.
As a collection of shorter articles for Christianity magazine, this book is the completed selection.