Thank you Billy Graham.

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out all right.”
[Billy Graham]

When I was 14 I first heard of the work of Billy Graham. I couldn’t believe the size of the crowds that he drew, or the authority of his voice. Could Christians really have that kind of impact?

By the time I reached 18 I knew I wanted to do exactly what he did. I wanted to speak to as many people as possible about Jesus. I packed up for Bible College and started to train. During my time there I read two biographies of Billy. These told of the lengths he would go to speak the gospel to small groups of people. I was inspired by how he kept ‘the main thing’ the main thing, and how clearly he made worship of the the Jesus of the cross his central focus.

Billy was the first Youth for Christ staff worker, a charity that I’m proud to be a part of today. He was a fabulous youth worker in his way, a bold preacher, a warm counsellor, and a wise leader. It was always in my heart to one day meet him and say thank you for inspiring me.

Today, at 99 years old, Billy passed away in his home. He is with the Jesus that he loved so dearly and made known so consistently.

Billy had spoken to over 200 million people since becoming ordained just as WW2 broke out. He gave his life to Jesus at 16, and followed him faithfully every since. He grew into a wise and solid figure and I’m always going to be grateful for the seed of inspiration he gave to me when I was so young.

Thank you Rev. Billy. Still can’t wait to meet you.

What makes a ‘rubbish’ youth group work?

I sometimes wonder about our standards for what constitutes ‘good’ youth groups.

If young people are as varied as humanity itself (which they are), and a leader’s love for them can express itself in many different ways (which it can) – then who are we to decide if it’s quality youth work?

I get to visit lots of different youth clubs as part of my job – and one of the things I’m supposed to do is say what’s not working and how to fix it. A few years ago I visited a ‘rubbish’ youth club.

The Group

It met in the evening; too late to be an after school group and too early to be an evening out. It was right around dinner time, so the kids were missing food and missing family time.

The meeting – which was a completely random mix of young children and teenagers – gathered round a few nasty looking go-pack tables, sharing over-diluted orange squash, and too-soft biscuits that had been stored in cling-film.

There were no games, and a completely incomprehensible craft. The materials they used were both too young for most of the group, and too dated to have been considered relevant for any of them; the weirdest bit though – was the youth leader.

The Leader

She was about 85 years old, wearing every manor of doily, and smelling faintly like old spice and fish. She sat a the end of the table and ruled the room like a quietly spoken drill master. I sat in the corner making a long mental list of everything wrong with how she ran the group.

At the end of the session, this leader broke the news to the young people that, because of her diminishing health, she would have to step down from being their leader. I was totally unprepared for the response.

Tears. Everywhere. From the youngest children to the hardened 16 year old boys. There were quiet sobs, many hugs, and a real brokenness in the group. She then proceeded to talk to every single person around the table one by one to tell them what she loved about them, and what her favourite memory was of each of them.

She had remembered everything! And – as was clear from her examples – she had spent decades opening up her whole life to these young people. She had taught many of them to bake; she was a math tutor to several more; she had provided a home for some who had lost parents, or had run away. She had looked after their parents, and she had been there for many of them, literally, since birth.

I had never seen anything like it!

They were committed to coming to this ‘terrible’ youth group, because she had committed to loving them.

I had never seen love like that.

The Love

These were healthy, holistic, cared for, supported, nurtured, discipled young people – in the worst looking youth club I’d ever seen – technically speaking.

Let’s get our youth clubs right, of course! Let’s be clear, fun, relevant, engaging, and accessible. But – so much more than that – let’s love.

If we get nothing else right – let’s get that right. Let’s love these young people. It’s that which holds everything together, it’s that that makes the pieces work, and it’s that which changes young lives.

Love transforms everything – genuinely. Whether or not you can afford the latest gadgets, or coolest paint scheme is irrelevant if you don’t love first.

1 Cor. 13

Photo by Kev Seto on Unsplash

How to read people’s faces during a talk

Bottom line – don’t do it.

It’s very easy to be unnerved by a twitching lip, a quirky grin, a shaking head, or a deadpan stare. I’ve had people fall asleep during my talks and yesterday I gave a talk with a disabled gentleman blowing loud raspberries at me. Awesome! It’s easy to get distracted – or even change what you’re saying – because you pop-psychoanalysed the audience and decided they were going to assassinate you by your conclusion.

Again – don’t do it. It’s not worth it!

Looks of furry, boredom, confusion, sadness, or even ‘a look of particular theological disagreement’ mean nothing. Genuinely. Why?

First, we are not Freudian psychiatrists with internal crystal balls that tell us exactly what individual facial expressions mean.
Second, people make all kinds of ugly looks for no discernible reason at all.
Third, facial expressions may have nothing to do with you! Maybe their cat died that morning, or they’re worried how they’ll get out of their parking space. Maybe they just broke wind.
Forth, it just won’t help you.
Fifth, it really won’t help you. Even if you’re right about what you see!

It’s important to stay discerning, and to know the people you’re speaking too; and it’s even important to make on-the-fly changes in reaction to what you think the Holy Spirit might be saying. That’s the key though – you make changes because God tells you to, not because people’s faces freaked you out. No mid-talk change should be prompted by fear – which is what were left with by trying to read people’s quirk-expressions.

Don’t give in to the temptation. Trust the words God has given you, and trust His knowledge of each person in the room.

Read peoples faces? Just don’t.

Why study with the Institute for Children Youth and Mission (CYM)? – By Sally Nash

This is the first in a new youthworkhacks series called ‘why study…’ Inspired by this – each post will be written by an experienced youth ministry trainer who will us you their thoughts while sharing about their particular institution.

Rev Dr Sally Nash is the director of Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission (CYM), the director for Undergraduate Studies Institute for CYM and Chaplaincy Centre Researcher for Paediatric Spiritual Care.

 

Watch this – learning to be me by Ria Taylor a CYM student

Ria Taylor – Learning to be me…

My first response to this question which Tim asked me is to say talk to our students! That is why there is a five-minute video to watch, a piece of spoken word from Ria one of our students.  It was part of her final assessment at the end of a three-year full time undergraduate degree in Youth and Community Work and Practical Theology with a nationally recognized JNC professional youth work qualification.

CYM – a partnership organization

I was one of a team of people who helped to set up CYM back in the 1990s and the word team is important. We have always been a partnership organization wanting to show how youth work and academic organizations can work together to deliver good training rooted in great practice.  I was working for Youth for Christ at the time and joined with colleagues from Frontier Youth Trust and Oxford Youth Works, national denominational leaders and others to create a new sort of opportunity for people with a passion for ministry who wanted to become even better in their role.  CYM offers training at Further Education levels 1, 2 and 3 across England and at undergraduate level in Nottingham and Belfast and postgraduate level study blocks are in Nottingham and Belfast.  We can also deliver specialist continuing professional development training validated at levels 4 or 7 in a wide variety of topics which come with a University Certificate of Credit.

Why train?

I believe that training is vital for everyone who works with young people. I can think of no other field where people would be allowed to do this without the appropriate training first. As Ria says in the film, she has a qualification which gives her equal status to other people who work with young people – social workers, teachers etc. She doesn’t have to go into an encounter in an apologetic way, she is there by right of having a professional role in a young person’s life.

One of the key decisions you need to make in terms of training to work with young people is if you want this JNC professional qualification as part of it. It gives you a wider range of options post-graduation as it is recognized by people like the NHS as an appropriate qualification for work in a hospital, for example. You still get to study theology and include theological reflection in all your academic work but you also get the opportunity to do a significant alternative placement in a secular context as well as a community focused one alongside your main placement. You get to explore and test out vocational choices as you go along.

What’s involved?

On the undergraduate course with CYM in England you live in the area your placement is and travel fortnightly to St John’s College Nottingham for a two-day teaching block in term time (In Ireland you travel weekly to Belfast).  You do 14 hours a week in your placement and the rest of the time is for study.  If you want to do our postgraduate JNC option you would travel to two 3-4 day study blocks and some optional study days.  If you are looking at a career change then the postgraduate option could be for you and you can study that part time if you are doing at least 2 sessions a week of youth work so you can train alongside a job.

We have a wide range of students studying with us, our undergraduates range from 18 to 50 something and are from all sorts of different backgrounds and church traditions.  Some may have 3 good A levels, others will not have studied formally for 20 or more years.  For everyone that joins us we are committed to helping you fulfil your potential.  Every student has a personal tutor they relate to and become part of a supportive community who learn, worship and have fun together!

Both our undergraduate and postgraduate courses are eligible for student loans (undergraduate fees are £6000 a year and postgraduate £6000 for the whole Masters degree) and some placements will offer financial support too.

We also specialize in running chaplaincy courses and you can join us for anything between a week and a three-year undergraduate or postgraduate degree!  We recently published a Grove Youth Series booklet on Chaplaincy with Children and Young People and have set up a Centre to support work in that area – see www. Stjohns-nottm.ac.uk for more details.

If you want a more ministry focused degree then we offer a BA in contextual ministry where you can choose placements that support you learning in that context.  We also offer a very flexible postgraduate course where we work with you 1-1 to help you put together options which enhance your professional development as well as some core modules.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more check out our website www.cym.ac.uk or book in for an open day.

If you are interested in reading something on our approach to youth work and youth ministry read Christian Youth Work in Theory and Practice edited by Sally Nash and Jo Whitehead published by SCM (You can order one from mcym@stjohns-nottm.ac.uk for £15 including postage quoting youthworkhacks to get this price – cheaper than Amazon!).  We also established the Grove Youth Series at MCYM and can recommend those for an accessible introduction to a wide range of topics!  https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/youth

 

Rev Dr Sally Nash

Director, Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission

Director for Undergraduate Studies Institute for Children, Youth and Mission

Researcher in Chaplaincy Centre for Paediatric Spiritual Care

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Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash