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?
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

What would Buffy do?

Now there’s a question!
“What would Buffy Do?” is a recently published book written by Jana Reiss (Ph.D in religion no less) and subtitled, “The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide.”
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Yep I know, it sounds soooooo cheesy and when I picked it up in Waterstones it was with a kind of derisive amusement but actually its fantastic. (Stay with me on this one).
Reiss maintains “Buffy is a classic medieval morality play — only with skimpier clothes, wittier dialogue, and cutting-edge alternative music,” and goes on to look at Spirituality, Community, Humour and Life’s journey as experienced in and through the seven series of Buffy. Obviously in the course of that it’s a valuable insight into the resonance it has with so many fans and their own spiritual search and struggles. One of the things thats great about Buffy (and hence the way the book unpacks it) is that Spirituality is explored in the context of a friendship group and also in the midst of real struggles, not the vampires as such but very real struggles of doubt, self worth and depression. The mixture of community and real issues is profound. Spirituality that a post-christian culture can relate to and embrace.
“What would Buffy do?” is therefore a great book to read and an interesting question to ask if you want to look at Spirituality in our post modern culture!
Worth putting up with the contemptuous look from the Cashier in Waterstones who assumed (wrongly) that this was a deeply sad self-help book!

Continue reading “What would Buffy do?”

Caught in posession of a hoody!

Residentials are never without incident(s) …. a youthwork truism!
One of the more bizarre incidents on this trip was a school who were also staying on the Osmington Bay site who took exception to the young people we had brought. Now I know we had some challenging young people but there wasn’t really any substance to the complaint at all. When the school were allowed opportunity to voice their concerns quite a bit of it seemed to be around what “our” young people were wearing!!!!! I’m not sure that being in posession of a hoody, or wearing one with intent (to stay warm) is a crime. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, it seems that young people are automatically a threat if they are not expensively kitted out in smart designer gear. Found myself quite annoyed about this whole incident! It seems that discrimination is something that is wrong in the areas of race and disability but not in the areas of wealth or background.
I’m sure that the school involved consciously teaches “citizenship,” I wonder what, through this complaint, their pupils learnt about citizenship?
“Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart!” The Bible
Am writing this wearing a hoody ….. are you a sure you should be reading such a subversive and yobbish Blog!

That was the weekend that was!

Just got in from the OYMS residential at Osmington Bay in Weymouth. Its been a crazy weekend with some wonderful and sometimes, challenging young people and with a great bunch of Mentors.
Can’t believe we’ve done so much:
In 48 hours or so we’ve eaten together, talked, laughed, got annoyed, played, negotiated and even got some sleep. We have done a scavenger hunt, paddled the rafts we built on the sea, stood on top of telegraph poles 30 feet in the air in a rainy windy gale (it’s called a high ropes scare , I mean high ropes course!), we’ve mountain biked, night hiked (mud, mud, mud) and quad biked in some welcome sunshine.
It’s been awesome to see the teens face some big challenges and meet them, it’s been great to see a little bit of what makes them tick.
Bloggable bit: Part of my role was to talk to the teens about how they saw the mentoring scheme. One of the things I was interested in was what they thought a mentor should be like. I was well impresed that the answers that came back weren’t about being young, trendy or cool! A mentor, in their opinion, needed to be kind, considerate, to be able to listen and treat them with respect … oh and be reasonably chilled!
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Not sure I was quite so chilled on the high ropes, I got “Elvis legs” (technical climbing term) BIG TIME on the balance wire.

“You must be mad!”

“You must be mad” is the normal response when people here that I’m heading off on a residential event with a bunch of teenagers! They’re probably partially right but residentials are enormous fun albeit lacking in sleep.
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It terms of youth work, going away as a group is absolute dynamite. Time, shared experience, great learning opportunity and making lifelong memories … either planned, or very often …. utterly spontaneous.
If you’ve taken a group away before you can probably think of so many great stories that, like mine, just wouldn’t translate. You can probably think too of young people for whom the event was a pivotal moment in their lives! If you’ve not taken your group away …. I highly recommend it.
It’s interesting that in the Bible in the book of John when he is talking about Jesus he says: “The word became human and lived among us” … the idea of living amongst us (in the Greek) is expressed with the notion of “He pitched his tent” among us. How cool is that? When Jesus wanted people to learn, understand and grow that’s what he did!
You can’t get a better mandate for a residential than that.
I’ve just been scribbling on a piece of paper and worked out that I have clocked up the equivelent of 6 months on residentials as either a young person (a while back!) or as a leader. I’m heading out the door now for a weekend away with a team and bunch of young people from the “Oxford Youth Mentoring Scheme” ….. I’ll blog when I get back but may be a little bit sleepy.


I wonder if you can do youth work without ending up at McDonalds?
Was out with one of the teens from the Mentoring scheme yesterday and, fairly inevitably, ended up in McDonalds.
I’m not sure I like McDonalds but it’s got a lot going for it as a youth work venue! Teenagers are welcome (very unusual), It’s cheap (good for the budget), no one gets annoyed if you’re noisy (everybody is) and the food has the requisite massive fat, sugar and Salt contents! Problem is the order-eat-leave process seems to be so rapid that you don”t get much of a conversation. Mind you I did win some Kudos for being able to eat a McFlurry the fastest!
One of my youthworks greatest McDonalds moments was on the way back from a residential. We discovered that the Walkie Talkies we were using to keep the convoy of minibuses and cars in touch with each other were also being used by the Drive-thru to speed up ordering/cooking. One of the teens took great delight in impersonating the dive-thru operator and placing an urgent order for 120 cheeseburgers. (Belated apologies to the drive-thru just off the Gloucester ring-road)
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Life moves pretty Fast!

“Life Moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while ….. you could miss it!”
Download file
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Ferris Buellers day off” has to be my all time favourite “teen” movie, alongside “Gregory’s Girl” and dare I admit it? “10 things I hate about you” It’s hard to believe that its 18 years since Ferris Bueller was released ….. Life, does indeed, move pretty fast!
Back to Ferris:
“I don’t care if you’re fifty five
or seven, everybody needs a day off
now and then. It’s a beautiful day.
How can I be expected to handle
high school?”

And tomorrow, I have a day off! YES!

Dangerous Wonder

Still much taken with the art of being
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Jesus
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One of the things that really winds me up is when people say to me (or anyone else with a playful zest for life) “You’re just a big Kid!”
Is the idea that adults don’t play? Bizarre. Our society seems to have a really bizarre view of maturation, that is, becoming mature equals becoming boring! Maturing is about handling responsibility, growing in wisdom and developing empathy NOT losing a sense of wonder and play. (People often fail to make the distinction between Childish and Childlike). Maybe its the striving to “do” that squeezes out fun. Maybe the fun of being a youth worker is time spent with young people … just being.
Mike Yaconelli (one of my youth work heroes) wrote a fab book called Dangerous Wonder. In it he explore the attributes of a Childlike faith:
Dangerous Wonder
Risky Curiosity
Wild Abandon
Daring Playfulness
Wide-eyed listening
Irresponsible Passion
Happy Terror
Naive Grace
Childlike Faith

and a final thought:

“Mistaking the active life of faith for an institutionally backed and culturally bound belief system is similar to reducing the Mona Lisa to paint-by-numbers”
Dan Taylor

Human Be-ings not Human Do-ings

I think it was reading some Pip Wilson where I first came across a challenge to be a Human Be-ing not a Human Do-ing. For us to be be more fully the people we are, the people God made us to be!
Soul Shaper has some great stuff to say on this in it’s entry on Silence and Solitude (p53):
“For we find our true selves when we’re swallowed up in God. We discover our true identity, not as do-ers but as be-ers. Our tasks in this life boil down to “Be still and know that I am God.” indeed this is why many of us avoid silence and solitude, because our self-identities are bound up in our busy-ness” ……. the section goes on to quote Richard Foster,
“the fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is a new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts”
Could silence make us better Youth Workers?