It’s the small encouragments

I took one of the lads from the mentoring project to McDonalds (his choice) last night. He’s a great lad, but not without a few challenges. The Youth Offending Team thought it would be a good idea for him to have a mentor, yours truly.
I’ve been working with him for a few months and progress has been slow. He won’t do anything that involves excercise and various other venues are off limits because he’s banned from them, so McDonalds AGAIN!
Always fun working out what behaviour to challenge on our trips.
Decided not to worry too much about Eminem at full volume with the windows down! Even though passers by glared at me!
Decided that throwing stuff out of the car window and any gestures at pedestrians needed challenging!
Mcdonalds logo.jpg We had a reasonable chat in McDonalds finding we had something in common, we both couldn’t believe what the other was eating, “How can you eat that stuff?” was levelled at my Salad and I felt pretty much the same about his Burger and large fries! Discovered that he was in a whole heap of trouble again (I’ll spare you the details) and I was very concerned about him.
Anyway, here’s the encouragment. When I dropped him off and said, “Watch that anger Mate, I don’t want to see you in even more trouble” …. He didn’t look dismissive. Actually feel quite encouraged and wonder if this small step may lead somewhere? as well as to McDonalds again.

The Storms of Adolescence

The transition from Childhood to Adulthood is always messy, the “adolescent storm” as one writer called it. A chunk of time where you are finding out who you are, learning/unlearning a whole bunch of stuff while simultaneously having to deal with hormones, sexuality, tension with bewildered parent(s), relationships, growing like crazy and often feeling tired/moody. That is going to be messy!
One of my favourite quotes is this one, alegedly, from Socrates (but certainly of a similar age):
“Youth today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people, and talk nonsense when they should work. Young people do not stand up any longer when adults enter the room. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table and tyrannize their elders”
There’s also this bizzarre verse from the Bible:
“From there Elishah went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road some youths came out of the town and jeered at him, “Go on up you baldhead!” they said, “Go on up you baldhead!”
Adolescence is nothing new then. The funny thing is I’ve spoken to quite a few people about their teenage years and I have discovered lots of them have forgotten what it was like. They remember the music, where they lived, friends etc but not, it seems, being on top of the world one moment and feeling utterly crushed shortly after, the sense of uncertainty,struggling with self-worth, moments of embarrasment and all that jazz.
I still remember, painfully, what it was like to be a teenager and up until I was 30 I was still having flash backs to any of a numbers of monumentially embarrassing moments. Still, the advantage of spending my adolescense as “Bozo the Wonder Nerd” does give me quite a level of sympathy with all people teenage.
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I’m often surprised at the lack of tolerance there is for teenagers, but if people have forgotten/blanked out their adolescent storm, maybe that’s why!
All the more need for Youth work/ministry.

I don’t know ….. Young People today!

I was rather amused by an article in the Times yesterday about a 9 year old and 13 year old, a brother and sister, who by all accounts are a bit of a whizz at Ball-room dancing. They’ve been going along to Tea-Dances, near where they live, in Bournemouth, to get some practice amongst the more elderly dancers.
All well and good you may think! However the speed and agility has not impressed the other dancers and they have been banned from four venues! Dancing too enthusiastically is one of the charges levelled at this dancing-duo.
Bloggable bit: I wondered if this could be bad news for the future of tea-dancing! If they fail to engage with a new generation of dancers because young people do things a little bit differently, a bit faster and may not realise that enthusiasm has no place at the Tea-Dance, then it might lead to Tea-Dance halls closing down, losing their place in the community!
I also wondered if there was a moral to apply …….. but coudn’t think of one!?
Getting the old and the “young” to co-exist can be complicated. I spotted this half timbered historic building in Oxford this morning sporting the Nokia logo and not looking Quite as bad as you’d have thought it would! 16th Century Mobile Phone anyone?
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JNC and the Kingdom of God

I’ve got a pretty good handle on what we mean by youth work and some good definitions. However when we get into talking about Christian youth work and where that fits into what we then mean by youth ministry,
simpsons lovejoy.jpg it gets a little more confusing. Churches are increasingly looking for JNC qualified youthworkers (which is great) but we need to be clear on the role that they are being asked to do. Quite a few of them are trained in youthwork and with some theology but not neccessarily ministry. In what way is ministry the focus and it what way is it youth work? How much of an overlap is there?
Youthpastor.com has a list of definitions of youth ministry, some of which I agree with, many of which are good starting points for reflection. Interstingly Infed have also put a page up with the question.
Sudders threw this into the mix this morning as “a work in progress”
1) You can study theology and not be a christian
2) You can be a christian and study theology
3) Or you can study theology and be called to ministry
i.e
1) I am a youthworker, i do youth work, the focus of my work is youth
2) I am a christian youth worker I do youth work in both a christian
and secular setting and the focus of my work is young people and their
needs, this will include an aspect of spirituality
3) I am a youth minister, the focus of my work is God who calls me into ministry with young people

I guess we could look at it from a number of areas: Basis, calling, practice or focus. Over to you, your thoughts please ….

Passing the Baton

O my people, listen to my teaching.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past–
stories we have heard and know,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children
but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds
of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty
miracles he did. Psalm 78

I remember watching the Commonwealth Games a few years back and specifically one of the Relay races. One of the runners had got distracted by the big screen in the stadium showing the triple Jump that was taking place at the same time as his race. Instead of being ready for the rapidly approaching (and leading) runner, he was engrossed in a different event. He suddenly became aware but too late and the change over just didn’t happen properly at all.
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Speaking tonight on young people and the Church, how we messed up passing the baton of faith to a new generation. It’s a big challenge but we’re not running completely from behind. The stats for 2002 have actually shown an increase in the number of young people engaged with Church. Youth ministry is making a difference! I just hope and pray that the young people who are living their faith are given the chance to lead ….. even though that may mean Church being a very different shape/size/expression/colour!
(That reminds me, anyone else going to “The Shaping of things to come” in London on October 4th?)

Check-in Check it out

I Spent some time “virtually” yesterday at the Habbo hotel. It doesn’t actually exist in a bricks and mortar sense but only on-line. Its a whole hotel in perfect details with areas to socialise in and the ability to have your own room for conferences or just for chilling out for a while.
weeme.JPG You create a WeeMe of yourself (I managed to add some grey hair but I still look way too young!) and have a wander around chatting to people. You’ll have to see it to believe it! I went to a meeting “there” yesterday with some of my Youth Adviser colleagues (Raising the hand of Irony in Salute to you all!) and had a few chats in the hotel corridor and at the Pizza cafe with folk. I’ve set up a room and equpped it with much nicer furniture than I can ever get from a Church budget.
Anyway now for tri-bloggable nature of this post:
1. If you’re working with young people you need to check out Habbo!
2. I’m quite excited about the possibility of virtual detached work, how cool is that? I might have a chat with Habbo and see what they reckon! It would be easy to run a youth drop-in at the hotel!
youthblog room.JPG 3. The room I have set up is called Youthblog forum (see the picture) and the plan is to host some on-line discussions. If you’re up for it e-mail me and I’ll set a date/pasword via this blog. I’m also very interested in using the room for a youth-forum, it would be great if young people had more of a say into youth thinking and strategy in the diocese, if you’ve got any young people who would be interested in virtually being at an on-line discussion …. again, let me know.

Death before Decaf

Here’s a funny thing. Youthworkers generally think that addiction is a bad thing! Yes? Second question, can you imagine doing a residential without coffee? I can’t. Actually I drink too much coffee most days but can’t quite kick the habbit …. partly because I like it too much.
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Not in the mood for a serious blog today so I’ll just say
Thank you Lord for giving us coffee! and dedicate all things bloggable today to coffee and its vital role in youth work!
Caffeine is my shepherd; I shall not doze.
It maketh me to wake in green pastures:
It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses.
It restoreth my buzz:
It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of addiction,
I will fear nothing
For thou art with me; thy cream and thy sugar they comfort me.
Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of The Starbucks:
Thou anointest my day with pep; my mug runneth over.
Surely richness and taste shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the House of Mocha forever.

Oh do Grow up!

The National Occupational standards for youth work say:
“The Key purpose of youth work is to work with young people to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, and enable them to gain a voice, influence and place in society in a period of their transition from dependence to independence”
Now I broadly agree with this, altough I’d want to throw in spiritual development too. But what do we mean by independent? Are we talking about growing into adulthood and responsibility?
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If you drive past a Renault garage at the moment you’ll see a large slogan proclaiming,
Grow up, why bother?
and I think this quote from Robert Elms has a lot of truth:
“Nobody is a teenager anymore, because everyone is”
I once heard it said that there are only three ways to teach, example, example and example! Young people get a hard time for being the teenagers they are, while society isn’t really modelling an alternative! Discuss