3 Things Better Than A Youth Worker

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So you’re Eldership board have finally let you spend some money on a youth worker – fab! Great news. I’m full on behind you. But let’s take a lean back for a second and look up at the giant 22nd Century looming before us… is a youth leader really what you need?

I’ve got to be careful here or I’ll render myself unemployable, but I’d like to argue that there are three roles other than a youth leader a Church could spend some money on and might even be more effective long term.

So first off, why not a youth leader. Well we’re flaky, generally restless, and don’t stick around all that long. Sometimes we add young people to the church, but usually in a polarizing way. We’re also a little naive and grumpy, and we’ll probably break a lot of windows and leave a mess in the office. There’s also great Charities that employ area youth workers and interns that you could plug in to (YFC, Urban Saints, SU, YWAM, YoungLife, TFG, Oasis etc).

So where else could you put your money? Well here’s three options. If you can – get all three; they’ll make a great team!

1. A School’s Worker

This could be part-time and even better, could be shared among several churches – ‘winner!’ says the treasurer.

Any church based youth ministry that isn’t fed from schools work in 10 years time will simply not exist. School is where the action is and more importantly it’s where the young people are! All after-school clubs (church youth groups definitely included) are falling in popularity, and when they’re not they tend to be inward focused rather than feeder groups.

An effective school’s worker will be able to connect with young people, parents, teachers, and the community in one swoop. A school’s worker needs to add quality content to the life and curriculum of the school and creatively engage with any opportunity they afford.

There’s nothing stopping a school’s worker running an after school club too y’know!

2. A Family’s Worker

This role takes seriously integration, mentoring, all-age worship, and community. All Churches need to thrive off these things!

An effective family’s worker will simply help community happen. They will oversee Children’s and youth activities, engage with parents, coordinate all-age services, and have the umph and perspective to grow these things together. They will help with parenting courses, church socials, trips away, and regular visiting. They are also the ideal people to set up peer-mentoring programs.

A Family’s worker could also have a youth cell group! Why not, eh?

3. A Social Worker

A church based social worker will help families and individuals engage properly and healthily with their circumstances. This can also be part-time.

Trained social workers are just what the church need today; they are people-centered, wise, discerning, personally motivated, and well educated in how the world works. They can offer family mediation, grief counseling, debt advice, benefits consultation, homework help, careers direction, home-bound visits and all sorts of other real-human-life-type help.

A great social worker can also train and release people to work more like the Body of Christ by helping people love and serve each other more effectively.

Hey, they could even do some one-to-ones with teenagers!

Blog Shoutouts!

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Nine years of blogging, and the 100th post on this ‘new’ blog! Exciting times. 🙂

I’m celebrating by buying a new domain name (www.puddlelump.com), updating a few bits n’ pieces, and giving a shoutout to some amazing and edifying blogs that I read.

These all encourage my life and my work – hopefully they will encourage yours too!

Ultracrepidarian – My Wife, Katie Gough’s, blog full of poetry, philosophy, essays, and high quality writing

A New Name – A friend from Bible College, Emma Scrivener, who writes powerful and emotive thoughts on identity and theology in light of our messy human lives.

Adrian on Patheos – Adrian Warnock’s blog is full of great evangelical theology, interviews and discussions. A veteran blogger and very helpful thinker.

Martin Saunders – Great practical thoughts on the Youth Work world from the former editor of Youthwork Magazine. Very current and very helpful.

Chris Kidd – A helpful blog approaching Youth Work from a theological and practical perspective.

Dave Walker Cartoons – Just a fun and satirical collection of hand-drawn Church cartoons and comics

Youthwork Magazine – Good blog that has a mix of practical ideas for youth leaders and teachable teenager-safe posts on living as a Christian

Desiring God – Great thoughts from John Piper & Co. on life, ministry, the universe, and everything.

Ministry Nuts and Bolts – A lecturer from my Bible College, Chris Green’s insightful and gospel focused thoughts on Christian ministry and theology.

Jonny Baker – A fun blog exploring art, worship, faith, and ministry.

Lounge – A Scottish Scripture Union CU blog on youth work, faith, theology, and schools based ministry. Great stuff.

Enjoying God – Sam Storms, a great evangelical and charismatic pastor-theologian giving brilliant insights into theology Church history and ministry.

Cross Means Yes – Powerful blog from Jessica Buntin-Smith, my best man’s wife. Blogging on family life, pregnancy and working through Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in light of the Gospel.

Can Demons Cause Sin? (Questions Teenagers Ask 2.)

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Part two of my series on Questions Teenagers Ask. All posts in this series are responses to questions I’ve had from young people written in the style I answered them.

Question: Can Demons Cause Sin?  // Is It Demons Fault When I Sin?

Answer:

Hmmm… great question. I think my answer is:

No, not directly – but they flippin don’t help!

Sin comes from us, pure and simple. We were made in the image of God under His authority and rule. We then decided that we knew better, disobeyed His commands, rebelled against Him and then rejected Him. Sin is the behaviour altering cancer that results.

It goes beyond just rebellion and disobedience. Sin is like a genetic disease, it gets passed down from that original mess-up to every human on the planet. Romans 3:10 says ‘there is no one righteous, not even one.” And we know it don’t we? How many times have we rejected God today? Have we today fallen short of showing Him the proper love & respect? Even the Apostle Paul himself struggled daily with sin: “I try to do good but sin is right there with me” (read Romans 7).

This is why it’s so important to get the virgin Birth right isn’t it? Jesus didn’t have a human father and so He didn’t inherit Sin the same way we do. He then did what those first humans (and us!) just couldn’t do – He lived obeying God. He also went that extra, massive and substitutionary step by dying in our place taking the punishment that we deserve for rejecting God.

But anyway I’m off topic… demons… hmmm. They are not sin themselves and they are not what makes us sin – but like I said they do not help at all! What do they do then? I think they whisper lies to us. They poke and taunt. They tell us all sorts of tempting falsities like, ‘God’s not listening,’ ‘This will be more fun,’ ‘You’re too sinful,’ ‘You’ve got to work harder to get God to like you,’ ‘Its better to be popular,’ ‘You smell bad,’ ‘Live a little’… etc.

Demons are also good at mimicking and playing pretend – they like to pretend to be God, or pretend to be the voice of reason, or our conscience, or the voice of an Angel. They are non of these things. We must continually pray that God’s voice will be clear to us and demon’s voices will be numb to us. We must train ourselves in relationship with God to hear His voice more acutely.

Demons are really not very helpful, but they don’t directly cause us to sin. They do however, use the sin in our own lives against us. We have the loaded gun in our hands; demons try to taunt us into using it.

Sin is always self-destructive and demons love destruction – particularly of those who love God. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis offers some great, tragic, and hillarious fictional insight into this.

This is probably the best way I can put it: Sin is the heavy weight pushing down on us – and demons are the ones jumping up & down on it, tickling us under the armpits. Little blighters.

Best defense: Keep praying, keep reading God’s Word so you know how to recognize His voice, worship Go every day, and enjoy the delights of being His!

 

More In The Series, ‘Questions Teens Ask’:

Part 1. Is Self Harm A Sin?
Part 3. Will Jesus Always Be Called ‘Jesus’?
Part 4. Are There People In Heaven & Hell Right Now?

Is Self Harm A Sin? (Questions Teenagers Ask 1.)

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Part one of my series on Questions Teenagers Ask. All posts in this series are responses to questions I’ve had from young people written in the style I answered them.

Question: Is Self Harm A Sin?
We’ll start with self harm because, well, it hurts! And we must look at it!

Answer:

This is a difficult one isn’t it? I want to look at this in a clear and reasonably frank way. There sometimes just isn’t time to dance around the edges of such pertinent problems. Hopefully that doesn’t make this read too dispassionately though!

So, is self harm a sin?

If you’re just talking about hurting yourself for the sake of damaging your body then 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  So at simply at the level of ‘damaging your body’ it might be – but then using this logic so is playing rugby… so what’s the issue really?

I’ve known a few people – personal friends and youth group members – who have gone through self harm in one way or another. Self harm includes everything from fixating on negative thoughts, to dieting on coke and curly-wurleys, to passive or active self-inflicted injury, to suicide. It’s not pretty, its not simple and its not fun.

Lets just do some myth-busting to start with:

  • Self harm or injury is rarely attention seeking – a lot of the time no-one hears about it, sometimes the person themselves aren’t even aware that’s what it it
  • Self harm is not a sign of ‘demon possession’ (although it can be)
  • Self harm is not limited to the mentally ill

Some facts:

  • Self harm is really common among 15-19 year olds, and most obviously girls (although lads experience it in different and possibly more ‘acceptable’ ways)
  • Self harm tends to be a way of coping with a deeper problem/issue
  • Self harm can be habitual and deeply addictive. It can even train your body into releasing endorphins – thus continues after the underlying problem is solved

In my experience self harm tends to be motivated by one of two main things:

  1. It distracts away from emotional / mental / situational pain and confusion
  2. It appeases the idea of ‘I deserve to be punished’

Self harm can be accompanied by intense emotional feelings like anger, despair, guilt – or – can be accompanied by a total emotional detachment; feeling like you’re outside your body looking down on yourself. It often follows a serious personal trauma, but can also simply be a progressive response to a whole range of more ‘mundane’ things.

Therefore – It just ain’t one simple thing!

From a Christian perspective I’d say that the things that cause self harm, the depression that accompanies self harm, and the choices we make that lead to self harm will not be in heaven. This means they come – in some way – from sinful nature.

Now sinful nature is not the same as actively ‘sinning.’ The sinful nature is the disease within us we inherited from the fall that disconnects us from God. Sinning is acting on that nature. So because there is a level of choice involved in self harm, it can contain sin, and it does come from a sinful place. I wouldn’t however simply say that ‘self harm is a sin.’ It’s just not that simple! I’d rather say it’s a tragedy that needs God’s grace!

Self harm is obviously not God’s goal for the development of your life. Depression and despair, although definitely part of life, should not consume your life indefinitely. It’s not where God wants you to ultimately dwell. If this is something you or a friend struggles with then you should know that God has a plan for you; ‘for good and not for evil, to prosper and not to harm you’ (Jeremiah 29:11). God passionately loves you and He wants to see you set free from the ties that bind that lead you to harm yourself.

Therefore, what I would say is if you or a friend is struggling with self harm in any form or at any level there are three things you can do.

1st – Spend time with these following truths;
– God loves you unconditionally! You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
– When you trust in Jesus you are totally and completely not guilty – you are innocent, white, pure, & clean!
– God thinks you are beautiful.
– God has a plan to make you even more beautiful.
– It’s ok to feel despair and depression – and it’s ok to tell God all about it!

2nd – Read through the Psalms. Hear how many of them lament, and mourn, and rant, and pour out pain to God. Use them as your prayers to God. Don’t be afraid or feel guilty to tell God exactly how you feel. Let Him heal you through them.

3rd – Get some help. Like I said, this is more common than you think! There is no shame in admitting to an adult, teacher or counselor that self harm is part of your life. I strongly urge you to do this. Particularly if it has become habitual or addictive and you have no other outlet to deal with your underlying feelings. Please see someone!

Extras – go for long walks, write lots of stuff down, walk-rant-pray, take sharp objects out of your alone spaces, find a good book, watch a good movie, run places, eat lots of veg & drink lots of teas, go to coffee shops to read, spend more time with teddy bears, take up a random sport or language for a week, cut down on sugar, plan for the times you are most at risk of self harming and put something else in it’s place – like freerunning, or coffeeshopping… etc.

Hope this makes some sense.

*If you want to, contact me and I will put you in touch with a local counselor in your area. However please understand that I can’t ‘keep secrets’ and will recommend strongly that you see someone, and may get them to contact you.

 

More In The Series, ‘Questions Teens Ask’:

Part 2. Can Demon’s Cause Sin?
Part 3. Will Jesus Always Be Called ‘Jesus’?
Part 4. Are There People In Heaven & Hell Right Now?

Flat Packed Worship

A really interesting ‘parody(?)’ of contemporary worship events and services.

This brings up some very interesting points. Is there anything necessarily wrong in this video? No – but I believe worship services and events should flow out of value conversations and content talks, not be constructed flat packed from Ikea-styled copycat methods. This is how the world does it: start with the flash and work your way down to the content. We must start from needs and content and drive the style from what we find.

The flat pack may have worked over the last couple of decades where the church just started getting enough umpth to compete with secular market styles. Young people today however, are searching for authenticity – not flash. They can smell a rat. They can see right through the flash, and anything we give them like this can be gotten from a million other places.

I have no problem at all with services or events that look like this, I’ve run a fair few! As long as they follow on naturally from the values, aims, and authentic needs of the people they are serving.

I’ve got another post on this somewhere – will post the link when I find it.