Get your Kids through Church

Am on the way home from Cambridge after an evening with Care for the Family and Rob Parsons. It was a good night and worth the trek from London. I thought that I would use the journey home to write a blogpost on the iPod.

I have to confess that my initial thoughts were that I would not like it and be rather cynical. The first few minutes supported this theory as the sound was not great and the ott adverts are not my thing but it would have been fine for the mainly white middle class attendees (well it is Cambridge!!)

My cynicism was ready to overflow until phatfish led us in some worship and my heart melted somewhat. As always, they were excellent and they overcame deficiencies in the sound with seeming effortlessness.

Rob Parsons spoke with a proliferation of stories and sound bytes that hit the nail on the head – for many youthworkers there was little that we have not said before but Robs voice is heard and people will likely act – it needed to be said. Without doubt he won me over – children need our time, every word counts, invest in youth etc.

I probably would not rush back but there are many for whom this would be important. For that I am thankful and grateful. My cynicism was crushed beneath a banner of hope. Thank God for people speaking truth in our churches.

As a footnote, some video clips of youthworkers made me smile – they spoke of time with young people, would love them to listen to Steve Griffiths at ywc11 – may challenge them 😉

these are rushed thoughts written on an iPod in the immediate aftermath of a busy day so may make little sense. Hope that they read ok

salaried or volunteer youthworker?

For the last few years, I have ceased to be a full time salaried youthworker/minister/whatever.  Thankfully, the role for which I now draw a salary has some engagement with young people but it is no longer the primary role.  This means that much of my contribution in the youth work world is done as a volunteer and after over 15 years in salried roles, this has been quite a change.

The advantages of being a volunteer in youth work and ministry?

1) The politics of organisation can be more readily avoided (not ignored though!)

2)People in authority often treat you better

3) It is easier to avoid the red herrings to effective work

4) Influence on behalf of the youth team is expanded

These were my top four – it has to be said that I miss aspects of that salaried role but nevertheless, love the things I am doing now.  Neither is better, or worse, its just different.  A little like the Starbucks logo change……hmmmmmmm.


handing on old dreams

A few years back I took on a private mentoring project – the organisation that employed me felt it was not financially viable even though the project fit in with its aims and objectives.  It was something that excited me and so took on the idea to run with it.

I met with lots of people, became rather excited, put lots down on paper and mentored a group of young people one-to-one.   That side worked well and was a real encouragement.  However, the most important development never quite progressed in the way it was intended.  It was a course for training adults to have confidence in mentoring young people from different types of background – the course outlines and practical engagement were fine but somehow it did not click.  Some people registered for “the course” but they had no desire to be good youth mentors, their intent was a piece of paper to say they had done some mentoring.  Two years later and it still niggles me that we never quite completed what was started or envisaged – you feel as if you failed and let people down and that still wrangles with me.  To those who supported the idea, thank you for believing in me, sorry that we never quite delivered.

Should I let go of the dream?  No!  That is not an option – today all my material is handed to someone else and trust that it is useful to set them up to ‘finish the race’ and complete what was started.  Today the old dreams are handed on and my part is finished.

coming home to youthwork
jigsaw envy

Once in a while things fall naturally into place – when those moments come it is exciting and liberating.  Usually though, life is full of head scratching moments that have us searching in our quest for appropriate decisions.

My passion for youth work has never waned, for many years is was my employment status but for the last little while my employment has been in a different sphere, whilst having smaller influence in the youth world.  It has not always been easy, yet now things are different.  In a few days time the journey takes me back into youthwork as a volunteer – needless to say, I am stoked.  The adrenaline is pumping, the excitement is at fever pitch levels and part of me realises that “I AM COMING HOME!”

It is a brand new group/idea and there are just 2 of us getting ready to roll but the roller coaster ride of success and failure is about to begin again.  Time to think and dream, time to sit in the stairwell of the young people, time to weep and rejoice, time to be liberated to the call of God.

In writing this, I am aware that some will not understand – guess what?  I don’t care!  I am Home!

redundancy – time for change

Seems as if news of redundancy is everywhere at the moment, both known and those about to hit – taking various forms and done in different ways – yet the result remains the same, pain, hurt, mixed emotions, hope, promise and change.  In the world of youthwork and ministry we are seeing significant losses as a result of finance, restructuring and new circumstances.  We should not be surprised as there are limits to the financial pots that remain, cuts have to be made somewhere and although we care passionately and will shout for our friends there are often the forgotten people….the friends and colleagues who remain.  They also have emotions to deal with and have to develop new ways of working, new systems and strategies – let’s not forget them.

However, there is another thing on my mind…..change.  In my 20 years in youth related activity, the ones who usually shout the loudest for change have been the youth bods, they deal with it everyday and have to respond quickly and efficiently.  Yet, our responses to the redundancies, and proposed redundancies, seek to maintain the status quo.  Why is that?  What if we looked at the changes thrown at us in a different light?  What if the changes being thrown at many in the youthwork world were the beginnings of a new way of working?  What if the redundancies, that we are becoming aware of, are just the start of something stronger, something more able to accommodate the needs, aspirations and dreams of young people?  We have ridden a wave these last years, maybe the bubble has burst, just maybe something better is around the corner.  I may just be dreaming but there has to be hope, there has to be something we can cling to.  Surely?  Please?

Don’t get me wrong, I am hurting for those who have received letters and meetings.  I have been on both sides of this fence in these last 12 months and the pain is very real but I am beginning to question whether the systems/models we have created in youthwork and ministry are the appropriate ones.  If the current financial meltdown is anything to go by, we have created a way of working that is not altogether sustainable in financial terms for the cycles of boom and bust or, at the very least, a model that the financiers are not seeing as priority when credit is at a premium.  I think we need to face some changes in the way we operate and the way we finance youth work and ministry in the coming years – there has to be a better way and in my belief there are no better people than youthworkers to begin to make those changes.

So what is a/the solution?  That is something that I am thinking through.  We are seeing networks beginning to develop into partnerships more than has happened before, just maybe this is the firstfruits of something special.  I hope so.


death of a youthworker?

end of the road The last 9 months have been an interesting journey.  My change in jobs has meant that I am no longer considered a “youth” worker/minister/pastor.  For some, this is not an issue but for others it is – and for me it has been a time of reflection.  20 years in youthwork has been fun, exhausting and the best ride of my life.  However, I still consider myself part of the youthworker club (couldn’t think of a better name – youthdom??!!) and still engage with youth – the difference is that it is as a volunteer and no longer as a salaried role.

Over the years my priorities changed, my ways of working altered and my views on success changed radically.  With so many years experience people view you as some kind of authority and whilst the experience counts for a great deal, even those of us with significant years under our belts can make mistakes.  My job role may have changed but I still consider myself a youthworker and will always fight the youthwork corner in any debate – this youthworker has not died.

So, as a volunteer and as a vocal supporter of  youthdom in my salaried role, I have found the same struggles, joys and exhaustion as before.  Even last night my sleep was restless as I pondered the youthwork of my local church – my desire is still the best, my passion still for the young and my heart beats with the same old drum.  Is this the death of a youthworker?  Not a chance – here’s to another 20 years!

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.