London and the quest for free Wi-fi

Grand day out in London, will upload some notes from the Young Leaders symposium tomorrow. Also had chance to go to the Natural History Museum which is so cool, didn’t get to see the “Wildlife photographer of the Year” exhibition as that cost extra but there was more than enough to keep me engaged. Hung around for half an hour at South Kensington underground station with the MP3 player on, it was a great place to people watch! It was like one of those fast-forwarded video clips showing you how a day pans out somewhere, except this was in real time but with the same ever changing rapidity and absorbing drama.
South Kensington was a dump but with a gleaming Lamborghini showroom in the middle of it? It did however boast a fantastic Indian Restaurant and I had a sumptuous feast with some good friends, Curry and conviviality!
Then back to Paddington Station and in fact Paddington himself as there’s a good Openzone Wi-fi signal sitting next to him, only on subscription though, Free wi-fi remained as fictional as the famous Bear.

How many Youthworkers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but the light bulb’s got to want to change!
The most discouraging thing about youth work is when you’re working with a young person who seems unreachable. I’m facing exactly that situation at the moment and nothing I say, do, pray, give or challenge is making any discernable difference, there has been some success as I am at least liked and trusted and even treated with respect (especially compared to his abusive relationship with the rest of the world) but nothing that would constitute growth from the young man involved or recognition of any responsibility for his actions. I always come home from one of our meetings feeling heavy hearted and convinced that the next time I see him will be during visiting hour at what ever Young Offenders Institute becomes an enforced home. I’ve known him for a year and we’ve spent quite a bit of time together and I know him quite well considering how little of himself he gives away.

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You don’t have to be an extrovert!

A lots of Churches that I talk to have a very stereotyped idea of what a Youth Worker is. Among their assumptive menu of the qualities required will be Extroversion. It’s uncanny how often this seems to be the case, maybe it stems from how insecure so many people feel with teenagers and therefore assume you’d have to be very extroverted to work with them!
I certainly think the basic requirement of working with young people is to like them, it’d be quite scary if there was a Myers-Briggs set personality type that you had to be! (Can you imagine how naff Youth Work Conferences would be if we were all the same, although probably easier to organise!)
I am quite defintely an extrovert but this has it’s down sides as well. The Myers-Briggs analysis was really useful for me, it made sense of a whole bunch of stuff. Understanding that I get my energy from being with people was really useful, even if I was tired I’d soon be buzzing if people appeared but would crash twice as badly later. I now know that on residentials I need to take some space rather than just seek out people when I’m shattered! I also know how vital it is to have a balanced team of all sorts of personality types.
The point of this preamble was this article I discovered by Jenny Baker which rightly flies the flag for Youth Workers who are naurally more introverted.
It takes all sorts ….. and this includes Youth Work, probably even more so!

Church Minibus

van.jpg After two serious posts on a Friday I should at least do something light hearted. I always wished that I’d had the money to get a really smart Youth Group mini-bus and customize it, never quite worked out what I’d have written
down the side though, suggestions? I guess the whole A-Team Van thing features too much in my creative thinking.
At the moment I hanker after a really funky old black hearse with Youthblog and the Logo on the side, it would be great driving round the Diocese in that, It would also have lots of room in the back for all the Youthwork Malarky I carry with me.
Confession time: My first car had leopard print car covers, a Public Address System and Stick on Bullet holes down one side. By comparison a Youthblog hearse would be positively tasteful!

Margaret Hodge and journalismitus

I blogged a couple of days ago on the less that positive article from the Guardian covering Margaret Hodges Speech and suggested that it may have been some less than helpful journalism. Turns out that this is the case, Howard Williamson in YPN has written about this and provided the link to the full speech which is actually great! I hope that it translates into some real results!
I wish quality newspapers would be a bit more balanced in their attitude to teenagers! A report that all the Newspapers covered this week revealed that a shocking 25% of teenagers had comitted crime! I’m not condoning that but it would be interesting to know what precentage of adults had also comitted a crime such as: Cheating on their Tax, Using a mobile phone when driving, Speeding, Failing to pay for something? Just a thought!

What do we need to remove?

I really like this story from Holland (which I know has attracted some interest on whether it might work in the UK)
Traffic engineer Hans Monderman’s pilot road design scheme in
Friesland, northern Holland, may be radical – no signs or markings,
and no divisions between road and pavement.
But the success of the scheme has now prompted an EU-funded study
in Spain, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Britain. To make communities
safer, Monderman argues, we must remove ‘traffic lights and signs
exhorting drivers to stop, slow down and merge, centre lines separating
lanes, even speed bumps, speed-limit signs, bicycle lanes and
pedestrian crossings…it is only when the road is made more dangerous,
when drivers stop looking at signs and start looking at other people,
that driving becomes safer…’
Monderman’s experiment in ‘shared space’ evolved from conventional
traffic-calming schemes. When, in a small village whose residents
suffered 6,000 speeding cars a day, he took away all signs, lights and sidewalks, ‘within two weeks, speeds on the road had dropped by more than half…’ In fact, he says, there has never been a fatal accident on any of his roads.

But, I hear you ask, What’s that got to do with Youth Ministry?
Well the reason it got me thinking was that I was involved with a really fun training evening at Wokingham last night. As part of that evening we were talking about the need to invest time in building relationships with young people, that this was absolutely foundational. I’m aware that it could be received as,
“Oh No, more stuff we need to do, HELP!”
But it’s this quote from the above road engineer that really struck me,
‘The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there’s a problem with a road, they always try to add something’ Monderman says. ‘To my mind, it’s much better to remove things…’
It maybe that the question is not, “What do we need to add?” but what in our programme driven approach needs to be removed?

Youth Group Names

Searches googling for “Youth group names” and “youth ministry names” are the biggest single source of new hits that Youthblog gets! How Bizarre is that? I am staggered that these far outweigh searches for any other (and more) important avenue of youth ministry! I don’t believe the teenagers will ever think,
Hey that programme has a cool name, I’ll go along and check it out!
I’m still haunted by some of the truly cheesily acronymed names that I stumbled across for a previous blog.I stand by my call for a vision not a name to form the group and then for the young people to run with the creative part. Spent some of my idle thinking time today mentally playing with the Cheesy name thing. Just in case anyone was tempted to go down the Crass Acronym route I decided to think up a few. I thought it might work as a kind of vaccination, that is, in being exposed to a small but active part of the disease it might prevent future contamination!
NERDY: New Encounters, Really Disipling Youth
YUCK: Youth Under Christs Kingdom
IMPACT:Inernational Ministry Promoting Calvinistic Teens
CHEESY: Christs Hotspot, Evangelising Energising Societies Youth
Actually I think that these are not as bad as some actual ones I’ve seen. As ever I took things too far and thought of, Faithfully Urging Christian Learning! (It would have been Christian Knowledge but I chickened out!)

Talking of Tweenagers!

Tweens is a bit of a recurring theme and is the most popular piece of training that I am involved with at the moment. Jenny Hyson and I identified some values that are, in our opininon, critical to working with the changes that have happened with this age group. We talk about being Age Approprate (the need to recognise that Tweens are very different to our experience of being this age), the need for work to revolve around Relationship and not programme, that learning as a focus not teaching at is a priority. We also look at Spirituality as a practice and the need for discussion and learning to relate to the wider world (of which Tweens are very much aware).
None of this is Rocket Science, however for Churches it often requires a Paradigm shift. The important thing in the training is leaders talking about how these values could/should/will shape their work with the Tweenagers.
I thought it would be good to play with some ideas of what a Tween group could be, if you want the Story then you’ll need to click on “Continue Reading”

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