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!

the lies that motivate to destroy

We are selling lies! We are destroying lives!

We are peddling myths to the society in which we live with a sound-byte culture of hope and promise that gets knocked down and destroyed with ease and regularity.  For so long we have promised people, especially our younger generations, that we will “unlock their potential” or help them “realise their potential” and when they do…….it is not good enough, we knock them down and kick them too!

Not everyone can be the winner – in sport there is just the one gold medal, the one trophy, the one championship leader, yet many more will take part. Does this mean that the person in 3rd place is a loser? What if they ‘maximised their potential’?  If they achieved their potential and finished in 4th place, is this success?

If we are to be genuine, we must learn to celebrate when people realise their potential, even if they do not take top spot.  When England reach the Quarter finals and lose, we should be happy if they have performed their best.  This mentality should be spread to all things and all people.  Our maxim should revolve around people giving it their best, doing their utmost and wherever they land, being satisfied in a job well done.

We do not all have the same opportunities but we all have one ability open to us – to give our best to the task at hand.  We must refrain from false promises of motivation and be more realistic.  Let us stop peddling lies to motivate individuals and then destroying them when they do not become ‘top dog’!

mend the gap – jason gardner

mend the gapJust finished reading Mend The Gap from Jason Gardner.  It was a well researched book that I did not want to put down.  Whilst it looks at bridging the gap of the generations across churches, it does this from a youth perspective and provides some good insights to the changes in society, people and the wider world.

The book is written in 3 parts that deal with ‘youth culture and consumption’, ‘generational tensions and the church’ and ‘being God’s kingdom community’.  Jason brings a strong insight into both the positive aspects and problems of youth culture and relates this well into the way the church handles young people.  The end of the book has a variety of possibilities/solutions  and opportunities for churches to bridge the gap between the generations whilst there is also recognition that this will be a costly or sacrificial exercise – but doing nothing could mean a greater cost!

It is certainly a book that youth workers will enjoy and talk about, church leaders will accept but struggle to apply and the wider congregation shout a loud amen to and then probably ignore.  However, my hope would be that people would read this and respond – the gap can be bridged but it requires we all play our part, it is not an easy road.

My favourite line from the book (it stung me and has hung with me since) was: “In short, youth work empowers young people, listens to them, plays to their wants, but adult church is then perceived to rob them of their power.” p.83

I would recommend this book and if we apply some of its workings we may empower the young people throughout their lives and not just in their teenage years.