January 2012 Archives

I was playing with a way of exploring 'adolescence' and 'perceptions of teenagers' as part of a piece of training t'other day. As I mused it struck me that a famous ship might be a good metaphor to frame the discussion ...... and not just any ship though!

Stay with me as I think this works!!!

The Mary Celeste!
Is the story of the Mary Celeste fact or fiction?

I'm going to have to push you for an answer here!


Well, the answer is in fact 'both!' There really was a ship called the Mary Celeste that was found abandoned, but the eerily strange legend around 'places laid, meals uneaten and the like is fabrication from a fictional story woven around the truth by Conan Doyle.

So here's why this is interesting:

Stuff that people perceive to be true of adolescence and in fact of teenagers themselves are often based in truth BUT they can easily hold the fictional embellishment, not the actual truth.

For example stuff around teens being Lazy. The truth is that a change to their internal body clock and the scale of change occuring at adolesence produces not just fatigue but a change that renders evening and late nights a time of energy, whilst mornings become a challenging time indeed. So their lie-ins (when possible) and times of lethargy are a reality that is extrapolated to make a more negative, and fictional perceived tru-ism.

Teens are self-centred. They are actually a hugely alltruistic bunch and involved in lots of 'making a difference' stuff. It is true though that the adolescent brain is going through a piece of development that does in actual fact make empathy harder, and mean some of their thinking/behaviour is trapped more easily in ego-centricity.

Young People are dangerous criminal Yobs (I'm including this one for readers of the Daily Mail). Again a small piece of truth extrapolated to a principal. There is a small proportion of young people whose life experience has produced anger, alienation and emotional pain who can be a problem. The truth is that the vast vast majority by a LONG LONG way are not. Young people are far more often the victims of crime than the perpetrators. When they hang around in groups it is more often than not because there is nowhere to go, and being together is both social .... AND safer.

I could go on but I thought the Mary Celeste was a useful way to look at how a small element of truth becomes woven into a universal and negatively skued story.

Supplemental: Available for a short while, article: What's wrong with the teenage brain?

Engaging Adults in Youth Volunteering

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Report from the DFE that I'll flag up here: Engaging Adults in Youth Volunteering

Nihil Fumas

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Was at a Church building recently where, rather bizarrely I thought, ancient Romans and Oxbridge Classics scholars were prohibited from smoking?

You, faith and teens training day

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Thoroughly enjoyed the Mend the Gap follow up day on 'engaging with teens' we had at Stony Stratford on Saturday. Thanks to the lovely folk who engaged with and contributed so much to the journey, and to Sam Richards of CYM for co-leading. As promised here are some of the links.


As promised: I'm uploading the powerpoint slides: Microsoft PowerPoint - Mend the Gap teenage follow up day Bucks.pdf

I also wanted to flag up some of the key links. This is a really useful rendering of the Frank Lake Acceptance Cycle. The two key books we were referring to were Contemplative Youth Ministry and Practicing Passion.

If there is other stuff you are after, the chances are that you can type the subject into the search (top of the right hand column) and I'll have scribbled something .... or just ask.

You, faith and engaging with teens 4


faith you and engaging.jpg

It's the last of the 4 days around engaging with teens tomorrow and I'm up in t'North of Diocese at Stony Stratford. We'll be looking at what it means for our churches to be good news for young people, we'll also be de-mythologising Youth work and teenagers. I'm looking forward to it ..... although not the leaving the house at 07:00, ug!

On Sunday I'm running some young leader training over in Berkshire, not sure yet whether I'll be using "The Key," or "CPAS Growing Leaders" or retreiving stuff from the collected corners of my brain and the laptop.

A good weekend me-thinks, a little lacking in R&R but hey it's only a week until Soulnet

Orthodox shed building

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See, I'm not the only person who lives at the intersection of faith and sheds! Church in a shed!


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Soul Net

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Last time I went to Soul Net I was Norman-no-mates, at least at the beginning of the event. So, this time ..... cunning plan. I booked in with the Guildford crew so we could share chalets, catering and general conviviality.

Good Plan, huh? (Even to the extent of me co-cooking Sunday lunch for the Guildford Crew)

Slight fly in the ointment is that I am way way way the opposite site of Chaletdom to the Guildfordians and hence, Norman-no-mates once more. Hey ho :-)

If anyone would like to adopt a Diocesan Youth Adviser, apply below ...

National changes to Youth and Childrens' Posts

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Sensible concerns voiced well on the blog of James Townsend


Supplemental: There is now an online petition :

A diminishing pool of resources


YB dive.jpg

The cutbacks are going to hit Yellow Braces Camp this year ...... no swimming pool. Oxford local authority cuts mean no money for keep the pool open, a bitter blow (although completely trivial in comparison to those who have lost jobs, support, facilities or funding).

I hold two Lifeguard qualifications and own the T shirt (though not the Baywatch physique). Sadly however no pool at which to ply my trade.

Yellow Braces without the pool is a bit like Chips without Ketchup!
(Alternative Ideas for Pool levels of fun are welcomed)

Media fusion

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A recordable CD that looks like a vinyl single!!!! Come on, what's not to LOVE! Fab

Count the Cost

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Ran a session for a Church youth group last night as part of a series on Discipleship. I'm flagging it up here in case parts of it are useful for anyone else.

Introduced the session by playing a game. Everyone was given £290 of fake currency and then I pulled random life aims, such as "Fame and celebrity," from a bag and offered them up for auction. (List and money here: money printout and cost questions.pdf)

We then talked about things having a cost, sometimes a cost we know about, sometimes not. We explored for example people pursuing wealth or celebrity only to find it has cost them their relationships.

Read Luke 14: 25-33 Exploring 'counting the cost' and a bit about living a bit of the christian faith being 'enough salvation to be miserable.' Jesus calls us to follow him completely ... and the huge challenge that is.

We looked at a clip from "Cool Runnings" (one of the best films off all time IMHO), specifically where Derice has persuaded Irving to present what Bobsledding is to a roomful of Olympic hopefuls. He explains the sport, the challenge and the implications .... and thus when the lights go back on there are only three people remaining.


The young people then split into groups to discuss and make two lists, one of the benefits of being a Christian and one on the difficulties or costs.

Back together for discussion. (Really great time on this with some things in both columns, also produced a great chat around the who arena of sex).

We then read John 6:68 "Where else would we go?"

Finished with prayer and the commission/challenge from the end of the Communion service:

Almighty God,
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be living sacrifice.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit
to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.

QR usefulness

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Cutting Youth and Childrens Officers posts


The Church Times have picked up some of the debate this week about the proposed cutting of the national youth adviser and national children's adviser posts and the subsequent creation of a "Going for Growth" post (plus consultancy work). I attach the article if you would like to read it and are unable to get a copy of the Church Times.

Some of the argument has centred on this being not in fact a cut .... as it is a worker plus consultancy work which will equal the previous two posts. I'm not sure this argument coheres well, even less so given that examples of potential consultancy work include 'data collection' and 'regional conferences' that would seem to be more efficiently done by regional youth advisers in post.

church Times article re cuts.bmp

Here is a Youtube take on how strongly the feeling on this is:

Play, Creativity and Spirituality

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Just got back from co-leading a retreat at Douai Abbey themed around play, creativity and spirituality. It's been a brilliant time of exploration with a wonderful group of church youth, family and/or children's workers.

Ever since though, I keep hearing (in all sorts of places) a song by the Brilliant things ~ Dance. These lyrics, which kind of resonate with some of our discussions around playfulness, keep jumping out at me (I also love the energy of the song).

brilliant things.jpg"I feel alive but I've been dead so many times
Lost in the device of life

If you fall you can handle it
Deal with it
But there's nothing like the heart

Dance if you want to sing
Like you're nothing to lose
You'll have the time of your life
Not caring who is watching you"

Good news for Youth Workers

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Youth workers, feel affirmed. Many of us obviously have great clarity of thought.

Foot Jenga is here to stay

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Had a really great evening at a youth group out beyond the street lights in rural Buckinghamshire. I introduced them to the delights of Foot-Jenga (see previous post if confused) and a cracking game ensued. The genius of Foot-Jenga was that it produced great tension and hilarity simultaneously. As you can see the pile can get quite high!

As you can also see from this picture (cruelly posted on FB by one of the leaders), as a sport it is a little ungainly :-)


Talking of mad sports, I came across Roller Derby for the first time at the weekend! In the hall adjacent to a V-dub Camper event there was a major roller-meet happening. I have no idea what the rules were but it made Haddon laugh like a drain.

(Are there any other third wave feminist sports I should know about?)


QR Creator



I was at a youth event on Saturday night where they used QR codes as links to particular Bible themes and I thought, that's a bit clever! On my return I went looking for the web site .... and thus am now happily QR-ing on the blog. I commend the idea.

There must be a million creative ways of using this ........... am doing some QR musing.
Examples or ideas from others, very welcome :-)
(Apologies if I am way behind the curve on this one)

The ultimate 'beauty' product

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If you are doing a session on self image then this video is absolutely fantastic. The FS beauty regime. Brilliant brilliant brilliant. Ht to KT The Whelk Detective.


Friday and beyond

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Warning: Geekily narrative blog post ....

Friday morning and I'm still feeling nauseous from kayak Rolling training last night! There are only so many times you can go upside down and round in chlorinated water, it seems, before your brain and stomach go *ENOUGH* (BTW, still haven't got the hang of the roll without some assistance #reallyfrustrated)

I'm in Newbury to pick up a giant Jenga set that I'll be using at a Youth group in Buckinghamshire tonight (looking forward to this). I have any idea about exploring foundations and the stuff we build our lives on. Up to the office then before heading on to Youth Group up in t'north of Diocese.


Tomorrow will see me being part of a team alongside mission colleagues and the Education Department exploring with key people, "Enabling all our churches to be Good News for young people!" Note to self: Finish the prep for this one!!!!

Sunday though I am off! H and I are heading up to a one day V-dub event in Telford.
Road trip and a day chatting all things VW .... and then calling in to see long term friend and blog heckler 'Herr Autostuhlmeister' on the way back :-) Fab

Next week is the DEPTH 5 retreat for Diocesan Childrens workers and Youth Workers at the deeply wonderful Douai Abbey.

Go Kart plus

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The battle to find a Go-Kart drive from my disabled son, and his subsequent development as a Go-Kart pilot has attracted the most conversation outside of the blog (with the exception of sheds!), so I felt an update was in order!

driving lesson.jpg

Driving continues to be a big theme in Haddons life, mainly on the X box but occasionally too in his Aunts car when the opportunity presents itself. (On private land I should add).

In December Haddon turned 17
Last night he applied for his provisional driving licence.
Will let you know if he gets it :-)


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Press release from the Childrens Society today. 'Choice and Family' two most important factors for a good childhood. Press Release

The report also flags up that half a million young people are unhappy. Saddening news.

Advertising is increasingly targetted

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Not Happy

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Plans afoot to lose National Children's adviser role and National Youth Adviser role and combine into one post around the 'Going for Growth' strategy. Not good!

There is a need for us to champion, encourage and enable work with young people.
We need, as a church, to be advocates for young people
We musn't lose our credibility as a body that puts a high priority on young people
We musn't be short term
We need to not mirror provision and priority cutting, but to be a counter cultural body

Archbishop Rowan asked in his new years address, "What kind of society is it that lets down so many of its young people?"



(On a related matter, Richard Passmore is adopting an Old Testament like protest about the inequality of cuts across the country marginalising the poor)

Missional Imagination

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"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
~Antoine de Saint Exupery


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Saturday evening in our household is always a discussion and negotiation about Church the next day. Not a simple are we/aren't we discussion, but a complex negotiation of who is going to where for what service with whom.

This weeks was slightly less fraught as I wasn't driving off to somewhere else in the Diocese.

So my youngest, Sam, says he will only go to the 11am (the family service) so I say 'right, we'll got to the 11am). My wife, who is in charge of the coffee rotas, says that someone who was supposed to be doing coffee for the 9:15 service can't make it, so she will have to go to the 09:15 and go early in order to set up. Meanwhile my daughter says that actually she wants to go to the evening service after youth group. (At this point my eldest, H says he is happy to go to the 11am and then later to youth group ... but he needs to be at a different church after that as he is on 'Powerpoint duty' for a small local service).

So, Jo heads off to the 09:15
I sit down with a cup of coffee ahead of making some breakfast for H, in order for us to head down to the 11am later (except we'll need to be there for 10:30 for Pathfinders for Sam!!)

All sorted.

Except that at 4 minutes to 09:00 my wife rings from church to say, "Get down here quick, we are reading this morning!"
So abandon coffee, dash down to church, digest reading ... deliver the gospel reading, then sneak out and get home to breakfast rest of the family and get three of us back to church.

'Taxi service' in the evening to youth group and two different evening services was relatively simple :-)

Net result = 5 people attending an average of 1.3 services (of the 4 services attended) at 2 different churches. It's the simplicity of Sundays that I particularly enjoy!


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Flagging this article/book up here so I can find it again. 'We never marry the right person', is such a great line!

Storing this up for a whole bunch of thinking on the overly romantic and idealized/egocentric views of community and of marriage that are possibility limiting and damaging.

Urgent requests


If there are any questions, topic or debates that you'd like some intelligent blog discourse on then you have approximately 5 weeks left to request it!

Scum of the Earth Church

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scum church.jpg

Really excited to hear that Mike Sares of Scum of the Earth Church is coming to England in May. This is an early heads up as I have no venues yet, only that he is in the UK for about a week from 19th May onwards. I'm looking forward to hearing about their work and approach.

(I wonder if we do an anglican version it'll have to be called "Saint Scum of the Earth")

A bit about them here:

It doesn't sound like a church name ... on purpose. We really want to connect with people who have no interest in "church" by society's definition. There are plenty of churches for "normal people" and we think we have a unique calling to reach out to our otherwise unreached friends. Our name is integral to that process. Whether outcast by society (e.g., punks, skaters, ravers, homeless people...) or by the church itself, many who come can identify with the name "Scum of the Earth" since they have been previously treated as such.
More important to us, however, the name implies that being people of faith does not mean we are better than anyone else. We know many non-Christians who think Christians are out to cast judgment on them. Our name makes it clear that we aren't about that. We are just aware of our need for God, as Scum of the Earth. Fortunately, God never sees us like that! But the name is humble and we like that"

Traffic Karma

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drive safely.jpg

The Genesis of Church seating



In the beginning man created the churches and the chapels. Now the Church was pewless and vast. Worshipers stood around the nave, and the legs of the faithful were much tested. (But the sermons had to be short and people saw that standing was good)
And then christian communities said, "Let there be pews," and there was sitting. Vicars saw that the sermons could be longer and declared the advent of pews a fine day.
And then later, seats were introduced for to allow the provision of flexible seating and to separate the services from other possible community usages. The traditionalists were separated from their pews .... and there was mourning.

So man created individual seats,
in the like of Ikea he created them;
wood and plastic he created them.

And the church saw them stacked neatly, and it was very good. There was flexibility and creativity for services .... and it was a new day


My intention was just to flag up a competition to design a new generation of church chairs but having started playing with Genesis, I couldn't stop. But there genuinely is a chance to design the next chapter in the world of ecclesiastical furniture:
Don't take a pew, have a look!



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Last night I watched the film, Inception. Or at least ... I think I did?

Happy New Year

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Wishing you all a great start to 2012, a year that is likely to be a challenge and an adventure.

It's a year where youth work needs to be a massive focus for church, community and society at large. I'm encouraged that the Archbishop of Canterbury is kicking off the year in this vein. Archbishop warns against hostility.

There's a few issues to do battle with: demonisation of young people, youth unemployment, cuts in all areas (provision, services and support) and cost of further education/training! (To name a few).

Very proud to be part of the faith community who are working creatively to make a difference, serve communities and champion justice.


PS Just found Johnny Baker's new year post and challenge: Have a read


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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