Youth Work and the Novelty Trap

Today I spent a good twenty minutes choosing a doorbell tone from a selection of sixty-five different tunes. Some were famous hits by Abba and the Carpenters (two of my least favourite bands), and an uncomfortable amount were Christmas songs. Asking for a basic doorbell tone seemed to be far too much to hope for.

Choice can be a killer. Multiple options for innocuous decisions can take significant mental energy and time out of a day. Forget doorbells, you should see me trying to pick a movie on NowTV! The problem is that there are just so many shiny, sparkly things and I’m a sucker for novelty.

Youth Ministry: The Novel Approach

I think this holds true in youth ministry. The fires of novelty among young people are stoked so high, that we keep having to invent things to keep that blaze growing. It doesn’t always occur to us to let the fire cool down. We are always looking for fresh and new activities, and we place an enormously high premium on innovation.

It’s not that new or innovative is bad. I also spent some time today designing an event around Radio Controlled cars! Fun and excitement are an important building block in what we do. The issue comes, however, when novelty takes over as the foundation.

When our projects are driven by the conviction that we should be constantly in flux and changing the shape and content of our work (all in the name of being relevant and up to date), then there’s little hope of building any lasting structure on them.

A few years ago a board game developer decided that he wanted to improve the classic tower game, Jenga. He did this by adding a randomly exploding dynamite platform underneath the bricks. Bless him! At this point the ideal of building a tower is just futile.

If you want your youth ministry to thrive, then you need to build it on a solid foundation. Goes without saying right? However, I think we emotionally bully ourselves into constantly changing things becuase we think novelty is the key to attraction.

Instead, our foundation should allows us to grow upwards from Bible-driven values and long-haul aims. You can build in fun and excitement for sure, but that should never push or drive the direction you want to take.

Novelty is fine in the right doses, but it should never pressure us into reshaping our projects every few weeks. Young people get bombarded by change, inconsistency, and novelty every day. How about we be the one sure place of consistency that they can trust?

Just a thought.

Photo by Braydon Anderson on Unsplash

 

*Cheeky plug: My book comes out tomorrow! Grab a copy from here: https://ivpbooks.com/rebooted-525

Youth Work and the Gravity of the Bible

When I was growing up, my brother was big into mountain biking. He made his own bikes, had all the right gear, and wore ‘biker’ clothing. One of his t-shirts had a picture of an upsidedown guy who had just fallen off his bike with the caption: ‘GRAVITY. I fought the law, but the law won.’

You just can’t fight gravity! Think about the amount of money NASA spends on rockets, fuel and propulsion systems to fight gravity. Gravity is incredible. It’s a powerful force that draws things together, keeps things sound and solid, and it helps things move healthily. If gravity was suddenly just a little different on Earth, then we’d lose the integrity in our joints and bones and even basic movement would become painful. Gravity is a big deal. The Bible has its own gravity: it draws everything together, keeps you on the right track, and holds your ministry accountable. We need to surrender to its pull (it is God speaking after all) and let everything we do be shaped by it.

When we teach young people, we don’t need to be afraid of actually opening and digging into the Bible. Over the past few years I have opened the Bible in every style of youth project I’ve done and – when I properly let them engage with it rather than just spoon-feeding it to them – it is always amazing.

I’d summarise what Peter was doing back in Acts 2 (and the Apostles throughout the rest of the story) as gravitating towards to the Word. They opened it up at every possible opportunity. They used object lessons, full-on speeches, little chats, supernatural miracles – everything they could think of – to illustrate what the Word is saying. These things always accompanied their speaking of the Gospel; they never watered it down or replaced it.

If in doubt, gravitate towards the Bible and use all your considerable creative talents to bring what it actually says alive relevantly. It really works, and I guarantee you that if you can say something well – God can say it better. Remember, it’s His mission.

 

This was a sneaky-cheeky excerpt from my upcoming book Rebooted. Pre-order a copy from IVP here.

 

It’s publication month for Rebooted!

This last year has been a dizzying ride, however it’s finally coming – the publication month for my book Rebooted: Reclaiming Youth Ministry For The Long Haul – A Biblical Framework.

 

Thank You!

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been involved. Without the loving support of my friends and family, there would be no book – just a Tim left on the floor in the foetal position muttering vaguely about ‘youth today.’

I’m grateful for my prayer team, who have faithfully walked this journey with me and responded to babbled emails with solid encouragements. I’m grateful to my trustees and team at Llandudno Youth For Christ for allowing me the time to write this. I’m grateful for the passionate people at IVP, especially Eleanor my editor, who greeted the project with understanding and enthusiasm.

I’m grateful for the amazing leaders who have contributed this book and elevated it. To Dr. Samantha Richards, Mark Oestreicher, Rachel Turner, Andy De Feu, and Neil O’Boyle. And to
Glen Scrivener for providing a clear foreword.

I’m especially grateful to my readers – Pastor Rob Beamish, Ali Campbell, John Hawksworth, and Andy De Feu – who read drafts, offered incredible insights, and weren’t afraid to challenge me.

I’m grateful to my wife, Katie, who sat with me through tears, and grounded me during pride. She read every draft, making more than 3500 comments! This book wouldn’t be the shape it is without her.

I’m grateful to God for this opportunity – and for walking with me on this youth work journey for over a decade. This book is testimony to all the mistakes I’ve made, and all the grace He’s shown.

 

Can you help me?

I’d love to get this book into the hands of as many church pastors and youth workers as possible. Can you help me to do that?

Book a speaking date.
Throughout the year I’ll be touring the UK speaking at various venues (including Bible Colleges, conferences, and CUs). If you have an event or a group that you think could benefit from a couple of hours talking about the Bible and young people – get in touch.

Buy a copy.
So this might be an obvious thing to say, but please buy a copy and give it a read. Maybe pass it on to your pastor, youth worker, postman, or dog. You can pre-order from here.

Come to the launch.
It would be great to get as many friendly faces as possible to the launch event. 22nd September, 5-7pm, at Gloddaeth Church, Llandudno, LL30 2SY. They’ll be food, readings, a Q&A, and a fab mesage by Andy Hughes, Impact Team Leader Wales & Celtic Nations Team Leader for Urban Saints.

Pray like crazy!
I want this to be God’s venture though and through. Please pray for the sucess of the book, but also please pray for the shape of my heart throughout.

Thanks everybody!

 

What are people saying.

Rebooted strips back Christian youth work back to its roots (maybe it should be called “re-rooted”?) in the tried and tested pages of Scripture. Tim stays clear of gimmicks and the “gospel” of self-help, offering a fresh take on old themes. Essential reading for every Christian youth worker

Andy du Feu, Director of Youth and Community Work and Acting Vice Principal, Moorlands College.

 

This is exactly the kind of book I needed when I started out in Youth Ministry, it places Youth Work within the context of a biblical narrative and a wide variety of practical out workings. Tim writes really well, he is encouraging, constructive, challenging and provocative in part, and what’s more he combines both theology and years of youth work experience in a well-rounded manner. This is a must read, it will captivate and stretch you!

Neil O’Boyle, National Director, Youth for Christ, UK.

 

Tim’s passion to ensure that the Bible shapes – rather than just informs – our work, is both admirable and infectious.    In this book he presents a compelling model for youth ministry which doesn’t feel tenuously extrapolated from Scripture, but completely faithful to the entire narrative arc of the Bible. It turns out that every page of the Good Book – from Genesis to Revelation – has something vital to say to us about the way we work with young people.

Martin Saunders, Deputy Chief Executive, Youthscape. Author, Youthwork from Scratch. Previous Editor, Youthwork Magazine.

 

I’m so proud to see a book of this calibre coming from a Youth for Christ staff worker. I learned so much! It addresses a key reason why youth ministries are failing to nurture vibrant, mature adults who will devote themselves to serving God in church and society. If we follow this approach to life and ministry we will nurture people who are equipped with a worldview that will help them withstand the challenges that come to their Christian life. May this book contribute to the revival of biblical youth ministry that we so need in the church today.

Ajith Fernando, Teaching Director, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka. Author, Jesus Driven Ministry (IVP). 

 

You’re a youth leader? Or you will be soon? Or you want to support the youth ministry in your church? This book will be a huge help. It’s a good read, an easy read, an important read, and it will be worth reading it for the sake of your young people. So…. do read it! And then pray for help putting it into practice tomorrow evening.

Phil Moon, Vicar of Bishop Hannington Church and Co-Author of Christian Youth Work.

 

Tim’s book reminds us that the old story of God’s people in the Bible has plenty to say to help direct and shape our discipleship of young people today. Calling youth workers to be facilitators of ministry among young people, Tim shows us how youth ministry is essentially about living out the biblical story with young people.

Graham Stanton, Lecturer in Practical Theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia & a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (IASYM).

 

Tim loves young people, loves Jesus, and works hard to help more young people love Jesus.  This excellent new book is the fruit of years of experience, and he argues powerfully why we need young people to love God and love His word.

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of Church Army.

 

As someone who publishes youth ministry books, and has written many also, I can truthfully write that the vast majority of books about youth work are in one way or another a restatement of ideas or approaches that have been written about previously. What struck me most about this excellent and compelling book is two-fold: it’s 100% fresh, and it shouldn’t be. Read it, and you’ll see what I mean!

Mark Oestreicher, Partner in The Youth Cartel, author of many youth ministry books

 

This is such an important subject and Tim combines a vast knowledge of the Bible and youth ministry with an easy to read and witty style.

 Ruth Jackson, Editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work Magazine.