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More to Learn August 14, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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The other day I spent some time with the Faiths Act Fellows . This is a group of 30 young leaders spending a year with The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. They came from the UK, the USA and Canada and included Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Athiests and Bhuddists. Whilst I was providing some training for them on dialogue with young people it also gave me some great insights into the diversity one encounters when working on a wider scale. They raised issues of concern to their communities and in their situations. Some of the guys from the States and Canada brought up concerns that I haven’t encountered here in the UK.

I have to say that they were a group of enthusiastic, passionate young people committed to doing something towards building peace and understanding. And in doing so taught me, once again, that however much I might think I know there’s always plenty more to learn.

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The Youth of Today July 20, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people, Youth Work.
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Just got back from a  great weekend. We took 4 Christian and 4 Muslim lads off to The Quinta Centre in Shropshire and had the rather wonderful guys from Adventure Plus running acivities for us.

Just been looking at the feedback forms and to my astonishment several of the lads have requested more soap in the bathrooms! What are young people coming to, we never washed on weekends away when I were a lad.

War and Young People July 13, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people, Youth Work.
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There’s been lots in the news over the last couple of days about the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan. What makes the stories of these, and other soldier’s, deaths seem so poignant is how young many of the soldiers are – 18 or 19 quite often. Now I happen to think that the death of others of all ages on both sides is just as tragic, but I happened to be speaking to a Brigadier from the British army last week and he was telling me about what it’s like in Afghanistan. One of the things that stuck with me as he talked was the situations that young soldiers are being put in on a regular basis. Having to make snap life or death situations in incredibly stressful situations.

For those of us doing youth work here in the UK at the moment the chances are we are working with young people of that age currently making all sort of choices. Perhaps it would be a good moment to pause and pray for their peers currently fighting in Afghanistan. Whether you think the war is justified or not,  the ages of these soldiers seems to me something for us as youth workers to reflect on.

What makes your blood boil? June 30, 2009

Posted by Richard in Justice, Youth Work.
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My favourite sporting event is nearly over, in fact it is as good as finished. I have the shirt, I have watched nearly all the matches even having to sneak off to watch some of them. I am now going to have to wait 4 years for it to come around again.

When the final whistle blew on Saturday I was furious and I can feel this emotion rising upeverytime some one wants to talk to me about it. Lions lose series in last gasp penalty explains why. Of course losing hurts and missed tackles and giving away stupid penalties in the dying seconds is deeply irritating. But it is more than that. Since when was eye-gouging part of any sport. To only get a yellow card, then only an 8 week suspension and have a coach who initially was totally unapologetic makes me angry… it makes me more than angry. To hear certain ex-players say rugby is ‘a mans sport’ does not help my blood pressure either. Men do not insert fingers into other people’s eyes

Not wishing to sound like a child but it is not fair and justice seems to be lacking. As I begin to calm down I still make no apologies for caring about sport and being angry. However I wonder if this sense of injustice is matched in other areas of my life. Does noticing injustice motivate me in my life and faith? Does it affect the places I choose to go and young people I choose to work with? Are we just too interested in being comfortable?

Ethical Evangelism? June 29, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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I saw this article on the Metro News website about a Muslim Evangelist converting (or ‘reverting’ as Muslims call it) a young lad on the streets of Birmingham. According to the article Ibrahim Mogra described the action as ‘unethical’. Was it? Do we ever get young children to say, pray or say things that they might not really believe or understand?

This news came at an interesting time. I was with Ibrahim last week for the launch of the Christian-Muslim forum’s ethical guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness. We wrote them to help both Christians and Muslims think about the way they do evangelism, and we would describe the sort practice as described in the news article as unethical.

The guidelines mark a significant moment in Christian-Muslim relations in the UK. For the first time Christians and Muslims are discussing publicly not whether we should do evnagelism amongst people of different faiths, but how can we do it ethicaly. You can download the guidelines from the Youth Encounter section of the SU website. Take a look do they affirm what you do or raise some questions?

Transforming Preaching June 25, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible, Youth Work.
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I have always enjoyed the stuff that Jonny Baker writes about Alternative Worship. I had been doing stuff with teenagers for 10 years before I discovereed a label for it. Others have also picked up on this and Scripture Union have a whole series of books in their Multi-Sensory… series

But I have also had two parallel feelings about the movement.

a) It’s come out of dissatisfaction  with the current practices of church. I would feel more comfortable if it was driven by a clear missiology

b) It has focussed on individuals or small groups rather than transforming existing practices (hence the term alternative).

So it was interesting to receive the latest Grove booklet from Jonny on preaching. It does seem as if most of the book is not about preaching at all. There are great examples of interactive activities and worship gatherings and a few nuggets for sermons. Perhaps what is missing at the start is a definition of preaching since most of the time we hear preaching and think sermons/talks. This is all hinted at in the book without being explicit.

The key feature for me is that our goal is surely that we want people to have space to encounter the living God. It is that encounter that transforms not our clever activities. But choosing activities that allow the space for that encounter is a significant tool. That’s where the grove booklet hits the nail on the head. I have recently been involved with two books focussed on that from a ‘Using the Bible’ perspective – check them out

toptips 1toptips 2

So this weekend where will our youth work allow the space for life transforming encounters with God? Worth reflecting on that as we sit down to plan.

Lack of contentment June 21, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media, Youth Work.
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I’ve had a busy week and there are a number of items that I’ve read but haven’t had time to post about sio will spread them out over the next few days.

On Tuesday the Times reported on the fact that we are better off than we have ever been, but we have lost any sense of contentment. The reason? The Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that this is because the institutions of the past – including family and church – provided ‘commitment devices’ that stopped us thinking only of our own interests. We lose things because of the rampant march to individualism. This is all part of their publication ‘Contemporary Social Evils’.

As I think about youth work I am left wondering if we are pampering to societies norms rather than offering alternatives that enable young people to think differently about the world?

East West June 18, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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Had a great time at Sanctuary on Sunday. This is a service run by East West that seeks to bring a fusion of Western and Asian culture into Christian worship. They’ve got some really creative ideas that would enhance worship in a variety of situations not just those with British Asian Christians.

Redeem the Chains June 15, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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At the recent Scripture Union conference the Bible readings were from Philipians. The Speaker, Colin Sinclair, highlighted the part in chapter one where Paul comments that being chained in prison was actually advancing the Gospel. Colin used the phrase that Paul didn’t moan about his chains or protest his innocence rather he redeemed his chains. He saw then as a way of advancing the Gospel with the Palace Guard.

It would have been so easy to have seen God’s plans being hindered by his chains. Paul could have urged people to pray for release, for more opportunities and resources to spread the Gospel. He could have said ‘If only we had more freedom / money / people then we could do more’.

I’ve sat in so many meetings with Christian organisations where we have bemoaned the chains that limit our work. The chains of not enough money usually or not enough people or space or time. I’ve rarely, if ever, been in meetings where we’ve redeemed the chains and seen those things as actually advancing the Gospel. With the recession continuing I’m sure I’ll be in meetings like that again soon. Next time I’m going to try and see the chains differently.chains

Youth Work in a digital world June 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Education, Media, Youth Work.
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I noticed an interesting article in the Times on Wednesday about the governor of California getting rid of textbooks and replacing them with digital versions. Of course his motivation is saving money.

It did make me wonder about the Bible. With the growth of the digital world and e-books will the next generation be likely to read on-line and what does that do to Bible Study and understanding

Shane HippsI need to read Shane Hipps book ‘The Hidden Power of the Electronic Media’ again but also think about the digital age. Social networking is a massive area for today’s community building. What difference might it make to learning in the future? How is involvement in the digital world affecting the way that faith develops and grows?