#church, the people not the building

Its old hat I know, but still true, that the church is its people, not the building we meet in.

So how come so much time is spent acting like that isn’t so? We spend lots of time doing and less time being with each other.

I read this article on pastoral care today and it reminded me that no one ever came to Jesus because of a program. Instead it was the personality of Jesus that drew true discipleship.

Paul says that God is using us as ambassadors,  as though God were making his appeal through us (2Corinthians 5:20). Note, us, not our buildings or our doughnuts or our super-duper worship/speaking/toddler group.

Paul goes further. He said he became nothing so that people wouldn’t get tangled up in the programme and miss the personality of Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

And yet all around me I see the church both traditional and modern getting tangled up in… Stuff.

You know, we could meet in a porta-cabin with a battered old CD player and a packet of rich tea biscuits, as long as we had love. That is, after all how Jesus said people would know we were his disciples  (John 13:34-35).
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Photo via http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2011/3/28/1301326990499/Rich-Tea-biscuits-007.jpg

I find the lack of love I sometimes see particularly painful when it comes to young people. We are called by Jesus to love our neighbour as ourselves, and yet again and again I see adults putting what they want at gatherings of Christians before what young people might want or need.

And that’s Christian young people, never mind non Christian folk.

So my prayer for myself and others is that we might truly see and hear the people around us and love them more than our (church) stuff.

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#Arttherapy, the colour of #happiness and a #journal page

I am busy planning next term’s youth cafe activities for work. As part of this I am using Soul Pancake’s Art Therapy Experiment. The young people will grade how happy they feel (1-10) before and after they do the exercise and it will give me an opportunity as a youth worker for some meaningful conversations in the middle.

Afterwards we will give them this journal page to take home.

the colour of happiness

As we are a Christian organisation we are ever linking everything we do to the Bible, helping young people see how God has a monopoly on the truth, and hopefully brining a bit of joy and fun en route.

I have to say, I am looking forward to doing this for myself, and certainly Soul pancake’s video is aimed at any age.

You can get my journal page here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B–jM8Hqcbx3YXI5RHRYMVNqV2lMNEhqZzc0V29wY0JqeW5z/view?usp=sharing

And the art therapy and happiness video from Soul pancake here: https://youtu.be/BN2rTaFUlxs

Its #timetotalk young people and the #mentalhealth train wreck

Today is time to talk day. I thought about talking about my own journey of learning to deal with depression, but I realized there is something far more pressing.
At this point, I would like to say, what follows is my personal point of view.

I’m a youth worker, and have been full time for 15 years. Mental wellbeing always was a challenge though the teenage years, it’s the time when we wrestle with who we are, stepping out from the cocoon of childhood and into the identity of our adulthood.

But its so much harder now than it ever was. The 24-7 pressure of media, expectations, austerity and the like has become a poisonous cocktail for many young people.

EVERY DAY I come into contact with young people either with diagnosed mental illnesses or simply weighed down with anxiety, worries and fear.

The other day I was helping a young person with techniques to deal with anxiety. They are not diagnosed, just suffering. In the same hour another young person expressed their stress at being in a class detention. They were worried it would have a long term affect on their career.
Sounds foolish doesn’t it, but that’s what society is doing to young people.

Don’t get me started on the young people I know who self harm or have depression or just simply need someone outside family and friends to talk to.

There is no money to support young people and what services are available are stretched beyond breaking point.

I would sound the warning siren for the train wreck of young peoples lives.

But it is already here.

As a youth worker, part of my job is helping young people out if the wreckage.

So I have a request. If you know ANYONE between the ages of eleven and twenty, take time not only to talk..

But to listen.

Without judgment, and with compassion. Please, take time to listen to young people. Let them know they really matter, that they are visible, valuable and wanted.

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Eagles and smurf names #YFCconf14

I started my new job with IntegrateyYFC back in August and I feel now as I did then, that I have returned to my youth work roots as a schools and youth worker. This week I am at the annual Youth for Christ conference.

Right now I feel a bit steam rollered. Not because of anything bad, but because as the loudest introvert in the room, I need time alone to process all I have seen and heard.

How fabulous it is to listen to people with vision, passion and humility. The latter being the sign of their authenticity.

I have heard the deep need to remain with young people for the long term, how we as with young people need to check the “smurf names” (labels) we have allowed to be attached to ourselves. I have considered where on the Eagle/eaglet relationship I am (Deuteronomy 32:11) and what it means to communicate the love of God to a generation of young people with a white hot desire to belong.

I am both encouraged and overwhelmed. Thank God that he has his hand on the rudder even when the storm of our culture looks like it will overturn the boat.

And I am so utterly thankful that we do not journey alone. That as we press on in seeking Jesus and showing Jesus, he is as ever the vine and we the branches.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
John 15:4

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Yesterdays peace and quiet

It was a busy day yesterday, in a good way. I am still meeting new groups of young people as I work my way round all the work we do at IntegrateYFC as part of my ongoing induction.  Yesterday I met a brilliant lot in one of the schools we work in and then it was off to another village where I have taken over running an after school club. It’s all boys and they love to be outdoors and active (who wouldn’t) so after the usual few rounds of “kick the bucket” we then played egg catch… does what it says on the tin, the winning pair are the ones who can throw and catch their egg without it smashing 🙂

In the mix of it all I get to hear about their lives, the good and the difficult and we endeavour to help them negotiate things in a healthy way, all the time doing all we can to express the tangible love of God to them. It was a good evening.

Having washed the egg of the church path and put the Xbox and everything else away, I paused in the evening light and was treated top a moment of peace and joy… it really is good doing what you were made to do.

 
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some weekend inspiration from Rachel Held Evans

There are lots of interesting, heart warming and challenging things to read here:

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/sunday-superlatives-8-25-13

But my favourite is this, which although I don’t have children, reminded me very much of being a youth worker:

Michael Gerson at The Washington Post with “Saying Goodbye to My Child, the Youngster” 

“Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough.”

The extroverted introvert

There is an article by Anya Briggs in September’s youth work magazine about being introverted or extroverted in youth ministry, it’s a good and balanced piece.

The problem is, i find it a complicated topic.

If you ask people who know me, they will tell you I am an out and out extrovert. I do display some of the traits of an extrovert mentioned in the article – I process thoughts out loud, words come quickly to me (a nice way of saying I talk lots) and I make decisions quickly.

But i have learnt to my cost, that I am also introverted. Unsurprisingly when I did the questionnaire at the end of the article I came out… Bang in the middle.

I really appreciated the honesty of Briggs as in the past I too have done too much and burnt out. I have finally learnt to pay attention to the introverted side of my nature. The need for time out to order the million thoughts in my head, the need for spending time alone in order to recharge my batteries, and making time for creativity and learning though study.

Suddenly the love of preaching, drawing alongside and chatting to young people, book reading, art and craft, love of silence and solitude stuff all make sense.

I am an extroverted introvert.

No wonder Jesus has been telling me to pay attention to the things which grow my soul, in particular those things which would be classed as introverted.

So what about you? Have you read the youth work magazine article? Are you introverted or extroverted or both? And what stuff in your life is Jesus calling you to pay attention to?