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Youth Stats September 1, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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The BBC has got an interesting report by the OECD which finds that 15 year old girls in the UK are more likely to get drunk than in any other developed country and more so than 15 year old lads in the UK. This makes for a good shock headline for the article, and whilst it is a serious issue that youth workers need to be aware of, right at the end however are a couple of sentences to celebrate some of the good work going on here in the UK.

It states that ‘children in the UK enjoy a high quality of school life and enjoy school much more than many of their international counterparts. Also bullying is less frequent and teenage suicides are less common in the UK than in most other industrialised countries’.

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Makes you think August 4, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Young people.
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There was an interesting contrasting piece in the Times on Friday. Two articles – one reporting on Camp Quest – an atheist camp helped financially by Richard Dawkins (Britain’s first atheist camp) and a CPAS Venture Christian holiday (helping children keep the faith). The two articles offer an interesting contrast especially for someone devoting two weeks to running such events this summer. Ruth Gledhill sums up the two articles quite well on her blog here

I have long felt that there is nothing particularly Christian or even spiritual about the residential experiencs. The former Soviet Union used Pioneer Camps as part of their strategy for training youngsters in their ideology. But there is something about the what happens when you put a group of young people together. However in that atmosphere we can create space for open honest questioning and investigation – that is what I experienced most last week.

Of course – I believe God was at work but i counted it a real privilege to be with such a great group of people on holiday with God as a natural part of all we did. I was again struck by the relevance of the Bible for all time.

Is it Just me? August 4, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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There is, what I think is, a rather worrying report on the BBC website today about the increasing numbers of teenagers ‘sexting’. Sending intimate or sexually explicit images by ‘phone. The report highlights the dangers of this and in the middle of it there is this quote from Helen Penn from CEOP The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which I’m sure is an excellent organisation. However, she says “We can completely understand why young people want to post these images to each other.” Perhaps it’s just me being prudish or old fashioned but given all the inherent dangers or problems associated with this … I can’t.

Real Friends? August 3, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Media, Young people.
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There’s been 3 items about social networking that have caught my attention in the past few days

The first was the report written by 15 year old Matthew Robson claiming that few of his friends ued Twitter and wanted stuff for free off the internet. It seems to challenge some of the previously held views about the way teenagers use the internet

Second was Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflections that over use of soical networking leads to young people not being able to form authentic friendships

Finally was Thought for the Day by Giles Fraser that argued that too often church was only interested in ‘thick communities’ ie the traditional close knit community. Whereas for young people who were different, either through ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, fashion or whatever then the ‘thin community’ on-line provided a place for them to find genuine community.

Different views, different ages. No real conclusions but a discussion that youthworkers need to keep up with in the coming years / months / weeks depending on how fast all this changes!

Youth of Today 2 July 23, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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Best quote from the feedback form

Something you’ve done for the first time on this holiday…
‘Crossed an international boundary on foot’.
(We walked from England to Wales – and back)

Genius

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.

Addicted to shops July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Consumerism, Media.
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Interesting article in the Times on Saturday. A review of two new studies on the psyschology of shopping. Nothing very startling really – but useful reminders.

all consumingNeal Lawson writing in ‘All consuming’ suggests that a consumer society can’t allow us to stop shopping and be content because then the whole system would die. This ‘turbo-consumerism fosters a ‘new selfishness’. (I’m not sure what was wrong with the old selfishness and wonder if the biblical word for it all is still sin!)

Interestingly he suggests that young people are sidestepping consumerism by using social networking sites – relying on their own (or perhaps their created) personalities and wit.

I need to read the book but it seems to me that the social networking sites are fuelled by this same narcisstic consumerism and financed by those who want the world to remain consumerist. What would it really mean to challenge our addiction and to help young people to do the same?

Torchwood – the impact of story July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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torchwoodI have just finished catching up with Torchwood this week – a highle enjoyable series for sci-fi fans. It was fascinating to see some really interesting issues being raised through the programme. In many ways this is how issues are raised in contemporary society

Some particular issues were

1. Live forever – Capt. Jack Harkness can’t die and comes back to life. In the end this ability means that he sees hundreds of lifetimes and in the end he can’t cope with what he sees

2. Worth – when requested to give up 10% of the world’s children, the UK chooses its 10% by taking the bottom 10% schools from the league tables. So do we think that children who are more academic are worth more than those who don’t achieve in this way. Even if we don’t think that do we treat them differently?

3. Sacrifice – the government have to choose between sacrificing millions of children or the whole human race. Jack has to choose between the death of his own grandson and the death of the children. It seems that one being sacrificed for the manyis a theme in contemporary story. Of course we have the ultimate example of that in the death of Jesus

But these themes (and others including friendship, family etc) are raised in these stories. How do we help young people develop the tools to think critically about these issues and engage biblically? If we don’t then they will remain passive consumers of the entertainment industry and their lives will be shaped by those many stories

Making an Impact July 3, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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michael jacksonI have not really known what to make of the news relating to the death of Michael Jackson this week. Given that we are almost the same age he (or at least his music) was part of the soundtrack of my life when I was growing up. I’m not sure I would call myself a fan but I have been very aware of the impact of his work through his iconic albums like Thriller. In recent times I have found myself saddened by the stories about his relationships with children. Sad to see his life seemingly in such a mess. The child who wasn’t allowed to be a child when growing up, simply seemed to revert to childhood when he became an adult.

But this morning footage of some of his rehearsals for his forthcoming tour have been released and watching them I was struck by how well he looked and reminded of his talent. This week his music sales have shot through the roof and it looks like he will be more succesful in death (good thing given his debt) than Elvis or Lennon.

That set me thinking – as someone who believes that the good news of the kingdom of God is the most significant news in the world, what do I need to do to allow that good news to make a similar impact on the lives of children and young people today. I realise that the entertainment indistry is superficial and commercial but here is someone who used their talents to make an impact. How do I live my life for God so as to make an impact on those I am called to serve? Makes me think!