Spirituality and Young People

Ok here goes, Youthblog’s take on the Spirituality day put on by CTE and the inimitable JBB!
The key parts of the day were presentations by Bob Mayo and by Phil Rankin who were reporting on two seperate pieces of research, the first connected with the Nazarene College in Manchester, the latter at Sarum College in Salisbury.
Bob was reporting on the Nazareth project which is seeking to explore “The gap between the reality and expectation of Christian Youth Work” and working with young people who have a connection with some sort of faith based work. I’m afraid I was not able to get down all the questions that formed this work but Bob identified three types of Spiritual response in those questioned:
1. Entertainment (ghosts, scares, talking points)
2. Significance (family, friends connections, an idea of life being lived to the full)
3. Transcendence (a sense of “other” an acknowledgment of God)
As a work in progress Bob and team also postulated two types of Spirituality:
FORMATIVE (concerned with the human condition, making meaning, value sensing)
TRANSFORMATIVE (conscious attempt to touch a deeper reality)
They also noted how many of their respondents prayed but were often unclear about to whom they prayed and why ….. but prayer was part of who they were!
Phil Rankins work was based around conversations with young people (aged 14-25) in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The conversations happened wherever he found people and was as random as is possible. His research was around two questions and the ensuing conversation. He used no tapes or notebook (in order that the discussion would flow) but wrote up detailed accounts immediately afterwards. The two questions were:
1. Do you perceive yourself as spiritual
2. What do you understand by spirituality
Candle2.gif I’m really looking forward to this report being published as this open conversation prompted some extrodinary stuff. What emerged was young people would often struggle to consider themselves spiritual BUT as the conversation went on spiritual stuff emerged.
Phil discovered that young people really appreciated the opportunity to talk about this subject and their experiences. They were really happy to talk about “spirituality” when someone was actually listening not telling them.
Phil discovered that Young People pray a lot.
He also discovered that Young People think they have sufficient information to reject christianity when in fact they have very little understanding of the christian faith. His experience also bore out that Young people long to be genuinely part of REAL community.
It was clear from all aspects of the conference that a unifying definition of spirituality eludes us. Probably the most helpful one came from someone in Phil’s research who referred to it as,
“Stuff concerned with life and death”
Great day, I hope it’ll form the basis for lots more discussion, experimentation and theological reflection.
Key thing so far for me (and a regular line of mine):
(PS CTE are considering repeating the day in the Midlands sometime in the Autumn, if you’re interested let them know as they are keen to see if there’s a demand, JBB via [email protected])

I Spy book of Bloggers

Fantastic day yesterday at the “Spirituality and Young People” conference in London. It’s triggered ton(nes) of thought, both the sessions and the conversations. I’m not going to blog about it until tomorrow as I’m still distilling some of the stuff and working out what is helpfully blogable and what needs to wait for the research to be published.
It was a great day for networking though and even more importantly the chance to complete some more of my I-Spy book of Bloggers. I managed to spot Diana and that’s worth 30 points!
I spy.jpg

Are you still on about Preaching?

whitefield.jpg Maybe “preaching” is too loaded a word (thanks Sarah, Richard et al) but I do believe in communication. I do believe that when we move our emphasis from “teaching” to “learning” then great things can happen, including dialogue, media and engagement with more than just the sense of hearing. I believe these things can exist within what I call the preach! Although having read Richards comments this is probably not the correct starting place. I will attempt not to mention preaching tomorrow but look at some communication stuff in relation to young people.
Before I get off preaching though I recall that some American Churches a few years back had asked a Madison Avenue Company to do a piece of consultation work. The Churches had comissioned a study around how to more effectively use the “sermon slot”
If my recollection is correct then the summary revolved around three points:
1. Know your people
2. Involve your people
3. Be/use the visual
I also recall that there was a book around entitled “Why nobody learns much of anything in Church!”

Preaching continued

I enjoyed the comments on the preach/sermon divide that I flagged up (thanks) and the call for another catergory of “talk!” I however like the dynamic of the word “preach” and am going to run with it for the moment.
I find it much easier, in one way, preaching to groups of young people, you get so much more feedback and reaction; it’s easy to read when you are connecting and when you’ve lost the plot. (This also makes it harder too) By comparison adult congregations are really draining as it’s difficult to get a reaction you can read …. also adults are much better at masking what they’re thinking, so you can just “sermonize” without knowing when you are irrelevant. I believe this makes the sermon, in many ways, too easy! The sermon slot exists and it will be filled/tolerated!
Weirdly the law is totally on the side of the sermon. The 1861 “Offences against the person” act makes it illegal to interupt any part of the service including the sermon. I think a healthy dose of heckling or at the least a well timed,
What are you talking about?” would be enormously productive!
preacher small.GIF
The trouble is the sermon begats the sermon and failure to develop just replicates a style of communication that is totally alien to young people!

The Sermon is dead, long live the preach

There seems to have been a thread of thought developing recently among the youthwork quadrant of blogdom regarding preaching and it’s role. Tim asked
Is the tool of preaching irrelevant to this generation?”
Good question!
Communication, teaching/learning, preaching and the like has long interested me, both from a theoretical and practical point of view. So, *warning* I can see a few days being devoted to the subject so if it doesn’t light your fire then have the rest of the week off!
For what it’s worth I’d say the “Sermon” is irrelevant (in it’s typical form) to this generation however preaching isn’t and can’t be! Stay with me on this one I’m not just playing with words, I want to explore a contrast between the sermon slot by right and the preach by intention. How can preaching be irrelevant? It’s about the practical challenge and teaching of Christian truth and experience in a way that connects with and challenges the recipients. I have a high regard for preachers who’ve learnt their art learning how to communicate to people who don’t think they wanted to be communicated with (youth groups/assemblies etc)! Forgive the deliberate polarisation but I thought it might be interesting to explore what the sermon has become with what a good preach could/should be:

The Sermon

A Preach

Automatic ‘right’

Earned through respect/relationship

Emphasis on Teaching

Emphasis on Learning


More of a ‘dialogue’ in terms of response,
involvement and example

Examples from the life of the preacher

Examples from the life of the hearer

Delivered by people who’ve learnt to do sermons

Delivered by people who’ve learnt to communicate

Delivered by people who’ve practiced in the pulpit

Delivered by people who’ve honed their art in all sorts of places

A Discipline

A Passion

Intellectual response required

Heart/Lifestyle response required

Words only

Wider range of senses/media

Why, God Why?

Phil and I seem to be on a blog “cultural” exchange today, He’s got something from my site and I’m lifting from his site too. He managed to unearth an “Alanis Morisette” song generator which made me laugh. I asked for a song about Legalism! I’m impressed with the result:
Killjoys, Rules, Restrictions
Why God, Why?
Rules, Frustrations, Legalism
Why God, Why?
What have I done to deserve this Green horror?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of Legalism
Like a Wordsworth character, I’m wordy and alone
Why God, Why?
Defeats, Killjoys, impossibilities
Why God, Why?
Legalism, impossibilities, Restrictions
Why God, Why?
What have I done to deserve this Green disaster that is my life?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of Legalism
Like a Wordsworth character, I’m wordy and alone
Why God, Why?
What have I done to deserve this Green misery?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of Legalism
Like a Wordsworth character, I’m wordy and alone
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?

Spiritual Development Project

I’m really pleased to hear that FYT have secured funding for another year of the Connect (Spiritual Development) Project! (Nigel will be at the Youth Spirituality day in London on Wednesday)
FYT are offering a new stream of training, “Responding to Challenging behaviour!” If any Diocesan readers would like us to host a session then leave a yes type comment.
Oh and while I’m doing a News type summary then it might be worth listening to a prog on Radio 2 on Tuesday at 20:30 called “God in the Music Machine” about Christian Music!

If such a site existed

If there existed a site where you could enter a word and then the site would create a “flash” animation of that word made entirely of books that have your word in the title, how would that be useful?
I merely ask because there is such a site! (thanks Jesus tribe)
Actually having thought that this was fairly pointless exercise I’ve found they are fantastic for Title slides on powerpoint. The one I used for a talk on “Sex” makes quite an impact.