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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’.

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.

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.

Britain ‘knows little about the Bible’ July 1, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible.
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Thats a surprising headline- NOT!

An initial note about a report that I have some connection with. The Biblical Literacy Survey has been exploring the extent of the Bible knowledge in Britain today. It is reported in the Independent here. Some of its headlines are

  • Figures such as Abraham and Joseph were a source of puzzlement and it was rare to find anyone who could name the Ten Commandments
  • 57 per cent of people knew nothing about Joseph or his brothers despite the hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
  • 60 per cent were ignorant of the story of the Good Samaritan.

David Wilkinson comments ‘a good grounding in the stories and characters of the Bible was essential to understanding history and culture because so much of art, music and literature was bound up with religious themes’

It’s an idea very close to my heart as I believe that our practice in children’s and youthwork is largely based on calling children and young people back to a faith they already know about. Since this pool is getting smaller we will have to explore again what it means to be involved in evangelism and discipleship with those who have little or no previous Bible knowledge or experience of Christianity. (They are what mission shaped church refer to as ‘unchurched’ – a term I find perjorative!)

So are we content to work with those who already know and use approaches that call them to appropraite faith or will we go on the long journey to discover new ways to share the good news. I wonder who is doing that already and can share lessons for the rest of us?

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.

What are we building? June 11, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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I recently had the joy of flying from terminal 5 at Heathrow. I have to say it was pleasant experience (and no my luggage didn’t get lost!). Now I’m one of those people who take notice of my surroundings. So whilst I was witing for my flight I looked at the building and rembered seeing various news items about what a large and radical design the building is, and it is very big and impressive. But as I looked at my fellow passengers it seemed that they were far more interested in buying food, magazines, shortbread, caviar and expensive watches than noticing what sort of the building they were in. (What is it about shops at airports by the way? Is there really that much of a market for posh watches and oysters?) Anyway it did make me wonder whether the architects and designers couldn’t have saved money by building something much simpler with lots of shops in.

So what do we build in our youthwork? Do we build impressive progammes, structures or presentations that young people aren’t very impressed by or interested in because they are so focussed on what it is they come for?

Have we ever taken the time to find out?

What are we aiming for? June 7, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people, Youth Work.
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As a child I was a regular member of Miss Kerr’s Bible Class. Miss Jean Kerr was a faithful and godly woman who ran the Bible class at St. Richard’s church for many years. Each week we had all the usual stuff – Bible stories illustrated in glorious flannelgraph, CSSM choruses, a promise box, sword drill (it was to do with the Bible – I’m not THAT old) and stories of missionaries from round the world. If any of those things mean nothing to you then

a) you are probably under 40
b) go check them out to see what cutting edge childen’s work looked like in the 1970’s.

However, I’m very grateful to Miss Kerr for at least 3 things

a) She instilled in me a discipline of Bible study
b) She encouraged us in small acts of leadership that engaged us and stretched us
c) She would constantly say things like, ‘And perhaps one day you too will travel the world telling people of Jesus’.

Miss Kerr brought us up with high expectations of what God might want us to do. Becoming archbishop or translating the Bible into previously unwritten langauges seemed only a step away. I might not have achieved those – yet. But I’m regularly reminded of her words, and her expectation that God would use us for great things.

What are our expectations for what God will do with the young people we work with? How often do we sew the seeds of ideas of achieving great things for God?

Thanks Miss Kerr.

Christian Lad Culture June 5, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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I’ve just got back from the SU Conference and was struck by something one of the speakers said. He commented that he is noticing a trend of laddishness and laddetteness amonst some Christians. In their attempt to be genuinely human they were neglecting the challenge to ‘Be Holy’. It’s a trend that I’ve noticed and find quite concerning. Perhaps it’s a sign of old age that I disaprove of what young people (in their 20’s) are doing, or perhaps it’s a warning from one generation to the next.