November 2010 Archives

Unanswerable questions

jeeves unanswer.jpg

This could make a good discussion. The web site Ask Jeeves ran a competition to answer their top ten questions that they consider 'unanswerable' (in the sense of being able to point to THE answer). These are the questions:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Is there a God?
  • Do blondes have more fun?
  • What is the best diet?
  • Is there anybody out there?
  • Who is the most famous person in the world?
  • What is love?
  • What is the secret to happiness?
  • Did Tony Soprano die?
  • How long will I live?

I was also fascinated at the submitted answers to question 1, so many of which came down to a popular interpretation or wording of existential philosophy.

Wiv da Yoof

I was out and about at a couple of youth groups over the weekend.

boltn penny.jpgOn Friday night I was leading a session somewhere in the middle of rural Buckinghamshire out beyond street lamps and phone signals.

We looked a bit at 'Advent' and 'hope' which provoked some interesting discussion. I showed the opening few minutes of Bolt, where the dog is unaware that it's superhero identity and capabilities are in fact a film engineered fantasy. We then talked about Advent and Christmas being the reverse, in the midst of the mundane the season is a pointer to a greater reality, pivoted around the history-changing arrival of one child.

We had a real laugh making models of things that inspired or were a hope out of Playdoh! (Sobering moment too talking about the impact of university tuition fees which the thirteen and fourteen year olds were very aware of the impact for them.)

On Sunday night I was hanging out with the craziest bunch of older teens it's my privilege to know. I wasn't leading the session so was kicking back and observing a session on 'But there isn't time,' which I enjoyed. The youth worker used a Snow Patrol track/video, 'Chocolate' which was a powerful piece on the clarity of a particular moment in time (if I understand the song correctly).

A weekend framed by time with young people, fab!


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This is jaw-droppingly insane, and brilliant in equal measures. Ht to Chris for inspirational feed-good adrenalin rush by proxy of the month.

Practical ecclesiology

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The national children's adviser flagged up this blog today, "The Owl and the Angels" and specifically a wonderful post entitled, "ah the Church"

The author has some advice to the church on engaging with young people. I thought it was a really useful challenge/critique:

"1. Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.

2. Stop pretending you have a rock band.

3. Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.

4. Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

5. Stop looking for the "objective truth" in Scripture.

6. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.

7. Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it's pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don't worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.

8. Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.

9. Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By "extraordinary music" I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have a uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.

10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

11. Learn how to sit with people who are dying.

12. Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.

13. Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.

14. Be vulnerable.

15. Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn't going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.

16. Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.

17. Remind yourself that you don't have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.

18. Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.

19. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

20. Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions"

Please don't link to, or quote this post but link through to the author

Generation Y


Excellent session with Dr Graeme Codrington last night on generational characteristics which I'll write up later. Ahead of that though I wanted to point to his theory that 'Generation Y' were not named this necessarily as a sequential label to follow Gen X, but there may be another reason.

Wedding Announcement

Pip Wilson made me laugh via Twitter with this Royal Wedding headline:

Pips wedding announce.jpg

Mind the Gap


Am wending my way South this afternoon for the 'Mind the Gap' seminar in Portsmouth that bills itself thusly:

"Mind the Gap, Thursday 25 November, Portsmouth
Hosted by the Diocese of Portsmouth, Mind the Gap is a day with Graeme Codrington a future trends analyst and a Christian recommended by Tim Waldron, chair of YMCA England. He is a good speaker and will give a multimedia presentation and talk about the different expectations, ideas, and values of different generations of people, and how those different values inform their choices about what they are prepared to put their allegiance to, and support/attend/give to and why"

Graeme Codrington sounds like a cool guy

See you there?

Advent Ideas



Jacob and Brian have posted some Advent ideas and links, too good not to point to!

Ooh, and while we are talking about Advent, check out Damaris too and their resources:

Formative formal fellows


Today on the blog, a rare foray into the world of Formal Education. Ricky is asking for stories of teachers that made a lasting and positive impression on us (particularly from secondary school) for a conference he is organising.

ricky blog pic2.jpg

Ricky suggests these as examples of the stories he is looking for:

"perhaps you can think of a member of staff who has had a lasting impact on you: a teacher, dinner lady, secretary, caretaker, or librarian...
maybe there's a specific incident you can recall from your school day where you were inspired by an individual...
or have you kept in contact with one of your former teachers, and become friends over time..."

I'm casting my mind back to the Darwinian struggle to retain some sort of identity and self worth that was called secondary school ..... and want to salute Miss Archer who was an inspiration.

Anyway: Your stories can be left here at this blog, over at Ricky's blog or e-mailed to him.

Almost Christian


AlmostChristian_1.jpgAm going to attempt to review Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean, partly because I promised the publisher but much more because it is an important book.

Kenda helpfully opens the book by laying out the gist of it for the reader, she says,

"American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith--but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we're responsible."

In the book Kenda is working from the NSYR survey of 2003-2005 that coined the phrase, "therapeutic moralistic deism" to summarise the prevalent 'faith' of American young people, as well as uncovering that this was often a reflection of the faith of their parents.

In "Almost Christian" she reflects further on this neutered version* of Christianity that she calls the 'cult of nice' and then explores it via the metaphor of a symbiote that has taken resident in the host church co-opting, devouring and replacing the historical and living christian faith with itself, i.e therapeutic moralistic deism. In this she makes the point that the faith of the young people reflects that of the parents BUT this in turn is a reflection of the faith of the church,

It would be easy for us in the UK to dismiss both the survey and the subsequent reflection as belonging firmly in the States. I believe however it has a massive amount to say to the UK context and this is borne out by the Mayos recent work where the indifference to faith mirrors the 'Benign Whateverism' discovered in the American study, and the 'Happy Midi Narrative' that Mayo coined is echoed in the values and priorities of the American teenagers.

The chief importance of 'Almost Christian' though is that the vast majority of the book is geared towards exploring a missional and discipleship response that will engage and ground young people in a living and transformational faith. The response is both deeply reflective and accessibly practical ... and well well worth reading.

I found the 'Missional Imagination' chapter particularly useful and will be using this chart that brings the 'missionary principles' of indigenizing' and 'pilgrim' together.

table 5.1.jpg

I also want to use this framework on 'translating faith' with/for young people:

1. The best translators are people not programmes
2. The best translators are bilingual
3. The best translators invoke imagination
4. Translators can threaten the people in charge.

I recommend this book as an important read for exploring ecclesiology and mission in relation to young people and beyond.

* 'neutered version' is actually a quote from 'Practising Passion' not 'Almost Christian'

The importance of Christianity

"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important"

CS Lewis

Snow team

I'm speaking on a ski trip in January for the rather wonderful Gold Hill Holidays. This weekend was the team gathering and training event and so a great chance to catch up with drivers, ski instructors, cooks, holiday leaders and fellow 'ministers' ahead of the season. It was great catching up with old friends and especially several of the instructors who I first met when they came on the youth trip as teenagers a goodly number of years ago and are now qualified instructors and on team, fab!

On Saturday afternoon we trucked over to Hemel Hempstead to the Snow Centre. Skiing indoors is a REALLY odd experience but kinda cool too. Not a patch on the Alps (duh!) but a million miles better than the barabaric and dangerous dry ski slopes that were previously the only option.

snow centre pic.jpg

I'm really really excited about the trip (Can't wait to see the Eiger again). There's a few spaces on my trip (LMJ11) or others if you want to hit the slopes proper. If not, see you at Hemel!


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disturbing?, cultural insight?, non parenting? normal?
A modern 14 year old?

Taylor Swift unplugs classic Coldplay

This is SO good and I'm obsessively re-replaying it:

ht to the BBC and especially Radio 2 which it seems to me is really driving, celebrating and creatively enabling live music!

Vampirical shenanigans

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It's turning into a bit of a video week on the blog, but vampires at an Alpha course was too good to ignore:

Milk with the West Factor

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This is literally ... kind of cheesy but could be the novelty Christmas number one! If this happens there is a serious irony in an X factor hosted advert keeping the X factor winner off the number one spot. It's a strange old world but it does bring a different kind of culture to yoghurt, and a song with Massey Ferguesson in is bound to a tractor lot of attention!

(I'd love to hear it with more of a West country accent though .... I reckon that would have been way way cooler)




I'm giving new browser on the block, Rockmelt a go and seeing if it offers significant advantages. So far so good! It's Chrome fast and brings together Twitter, Facebook and feeds together really well into one tidy portal.
(Anyone know what the privacy/security implications are?)

I'll let you know how it goes, shout if you want an invite
ht to Andrew

Woolhope Cockshoot

So Ian, What's the news from the 'Woolhope Cockshoot' residential centre (the cool venue with the weird name) that you are "always going on about*"?

Well: There is now a Fire Door between the Kitchen and Lounges (responding to a full safety review we did at the trustees meeting) and the entrance lobby is freshly painted. I'll post some photos when I visit in December.

We now have a new booking contact and number, see flyer for details.
Woolhope leaflet 2010

On the Geekery front: We are on the verge of having a dedicated web site for the centre so it won't be piggybacking onto Youthblog as much, and Woolhope is now tweeting!! thus allowing you to get updates, availabilities and news via @woolhopecentre

woolhope side view web 300.jpg

*direct quote from Richard Passmore (he has a point)

Youth Club games equipment

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I've had a friendly e-mail from a Director of Liberty games regarding Youth Club Games equipment and I thought I'd flag it up. So if you're in the Market for Pool, Air hockey or the like .... have a look!

(I wonder though! Given that the LibCon Gov't are making massive cuts to Youth funding and provision I'm not sure Liberty's use of Cameron is going to be the most successful piece of advertising to the Youth work world)

Buried Spirituality


In training on young people, spirituality and culture I refer often to Phil Rankins work on young people's spirituality that Sarum published as, "Buried Spirituality" The trouble with this is that copies of this document are now rarer than hens teeth and I have to use Securicor to transport my copy to and from training. You think I exagerate!!! (me?) well have a look at the price its up for on Amazon:

buried spirituality preowned.jpg

£76! Unbelievable. Well the first thing to note is that I'm not tied to the harsh commercial world of online retailers being the grace fuelled Disciple that I am .... and I would be prepared to let you have my copy for a measly £74 ono :-)

If however you are genuinely doing some writing/research then I have contacts in the murky underbelly of Christian publishing and could probably secure you a copy of the report.

Torturous recalls

Loving this cartoon from Dave, or at least loving the painful accuracy of it. Thankfully I seem to be providing less incidents for 'the library' these days but right up into thirties I used to have flashbacks to embarrassing and/or cringe-worthy things I had done during my adolescence. I've never found a term for this emotional post traumatic stress disorder but maybe the cartoon will help in part to define the experience.


Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

PS: There is help available! Tetris therapy

PPS: I have friends from my teenage years who read this blog from time to time. I'd just like to clarify that you are forbidden from posting examples of said traumas, especially you Stuart Hunnenheizungmeister!!!

Life imitates art

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Our family televisual humourous viewing of choice at the moment is "Home Improvement", with the half hour gathering around the laptop becoming a real fixture of the evenings I am at home.

workshop grinder.jpg

I'm currently sitting in Shed numero uno (the Workshop) where I now have a bench grinder on the desk (oh yeah) and wondering whether my love of Home Improvment is because it's (for me) a bit of art imitating life, or if my sheddiness is life imitating art. Either way, Tool Time Tim is genius and the source of much collective humour in our house.

home improvement.jpgI particularly enjoy Wilson, the vendor of philosophical wisdom from the other side of the fence .... and the confused re-telling that Tim then produces. For example: Wilson explaining that opposites attracting is a Paradox which is in itself not a bad thing, which Tim reproduces in a conversation with his wife as, "we are a pair of ducks ... and that's not a bad thing!"

I have concluded though that I am, in part at least, Tool Time Tim! (which is making me a little nervous about an imminent trip onto the roof of the Workshop to resolve a leak)

BA Mission and Young People


sm_ripon_quad.jpgGreetings fellow sojourners at Holy Hogwarts this week! As promised the Powerpoint:

Microsoft PowerPoint - Mission and Young people BA residential.pdf

Here also is a Powerpoint that outlines some of Richard Passmores' thinking (as per the case study) and you'll find his blog here.

The Slides from Yvonne can be downloaded here: Microsoft PowerPoint - BA Mission Mind the Gap.pdf
The Book List can be downloaded here: Booklist.doc

(Oh and the essay apparently should be [quote] "about 3000 words if it is covering everything")

Formule Nouvelle

The wonderful line drawn musing of Dave Walker looking at the Emerging models in 'French Expressions' of Church. Genuis! Made me chuckle, or as Bill Bailey puts it, "ROFLWSST"*

Frencsh Expression.jpg

* Rolling on Floor laughing whilst strangely still typing

Missiological Quote

No idea where I came across this, but it is a quite brilliant piece of deliberate misquoting

"Without vision the people Parish"

Tweenagers in Guildford

tweens guildford.jpgIf you are calling in to the blog as a result of the training day in Guildford on Saturday, Welcome! (and thanks for making it such a fun time). As promised some links and reminders of what we covered:

A pdf of the Powerpoint slides is available for Download: Microsoft PowerPoint - tween powerpoint 2010 for Guildford.pdf

For a fuller explanation of what I was presenting though you'll need to read the booklet I demi-authored :-)

Among the things recommended were:

Throw and tell Balls: Available from your local Christian bookshop
The Energize resource from Urban Saints

Suggested Homework

Watch School of Rock with the following questions in mind:
1. Where is our approach like the school, where is it like Dewey's (Mr Schneebly)?
2. How does Dewey engage and enable the young people?
3. How does Dewey share his passion and allow others to experience and participate in this?
4. What from the film would you critique and what would you absorb for your approach?

We also talked quite a bit about discussion and here is a link to some methods which may give you some methodologies to play with.

Hope you have fun working with your tweens, remember it's a B.L.A.S.T :-)

Any other questions that you have please e-mail me (address on the right hand column), leave a question in the comments or type a key word into the 'Search' (also to the right)


I think the Advertising Standards Authority must be having their annual week off. I passed a lorry bearing an ad' for a Van this week that stated

"Breakfast in Bedford
Dinner in Dijon
Tea in Toronto"

This is quite a claim. A 6am start and a constant 94mph with no check in time for the Ferry (and no hold ups) would make lunch just about possible. However the next leg in 6 hours (or I'll graciously allow 11 hours as the time is 5 hours behind ours) would be really testing the capabilities of the van given that it's a few hundred miles to a major Atlantic port, a 3000 mile ocean crossing and then another 550 miles from New York in time for tea in Toronto.

I'm also amused by this advert that I came across today for a Radio controlled toy tank that claims to 'fires real bullets' although I think the presence of an exclamation mark is meant to signify 'not really'

tank bullets.jpg

Masterchef Mash up, ups Mash

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The Youtube clip which is 'literally' a mash up of the TV prog final, re-introduces simple food and made me laugh.

Youthwork Update

youth work update snap oct10.jpgThe latest Youthwork Update has been sent to the highways, byways and cluttered clergy desks of the Diocese.

If by any chance you would like to see it then you can click here and I'll drop a copy into the internet (we have drilled a hole into it from here ) and it should appear on your screen.

It's mostly stuff that has appeared on the blog so you'll probably experience Deja vu (again!) if you read it.

Social Networking policies

Trying to track down a Tweet feed for MT but in the meantime here's the latest 140 characters from this particular twit! (@youthblogoxford)

About to go out to meeting on developing social network (et al) policy within youth work. Grateful to

The Sheffield Consultation

I have been invited to take part in this event in Sheffield next year. I'm delighted to be attending as I agree with Mark Russell about young people being the most pressing issue for the church .... and furthermore this conversation is very much in keeping with the strategic work I have been asked to do within the Oxford Diocese.

"On March 3, 2011, Church Army - working alongside the Archbishop of York's Youth Trust - will host a major gathering of young people and Bishops in Sheffield. The event will provide a unique opportunity for our Bishops to hear directly from young people and youth leaders. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have given the event their full support and have confirmed they will attend"

The day after the weekend before

in the Church Times article last week I'm quoted as saying, "You are never too old for Youth work ..... it just takes longer to recover!" I am the embodiment of that quote today, it was a FANTASTIC youth residential at Legge House but man am I tired.

I was there as a volunteer member of the team and chiefly in the role as Minibus Pilot (THE nicest minibus I have EVER driven and that's saying something as my Minibus finding algorithm has yielded some nice machines in the past). Other than driving I also lead a session on 'Story' and spend a very happy chunk of Saturday afternoon hiding in a wood as part of a 'Wide Game' and distributing swords in exchange for certain pieces of information. As ever though it was just hanging out with the young people that was the best bit, it was a real privilege to spend time with them.

excalibar tree.jpg


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This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2010 is the previous archive.

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