Video Bible Talks – An incredible new free resource coming soon!

An old college buddy of mine, Alan, is creating an epic digital video resource that will massively equip the church and serve our youth groups. I’m very excited for this resource, here’s Alan explaining it in his own words:

Hi, I’m Alan Witchalls and I’ve been serving in youth ministry in one way or another for over 20 years, pretty much ever since I became a Christian aged 16 years old, and I have had the joy of serving in a full-time capacity since 2007. At present, I am involved in setting up and producing a new ministry called Video Bible Talks.

Video Bible Talks is a Bible teaching ministry that is intended to equip, resource and support church leaders with faithful Bible teaching using the medium of digital video.

The idea for Video Bible Talks came about through speaking with volunteer leaders serving in church youth groups in the UK and in other parts of the world. Many churches are simply not in a position to have a full-time member of staff for the youth and children’s ministry groups. In these churches, volunteer leaders with full-time ‘day’ jobs and families of their own have either precious little time available, or feel they lack the skills and experience to adequately prepare Bible talks for their groups (maybe even both). The leaders I spoke with often expressed how under resourced they felt. While there are a number of Bible study resources available, and a number of evangelistic video courses available, there is not much by way of book-by-book, passage-by-passage Bible teaching resources out there.

That’s why we started making Video Bible Talks. The idea is that we can provide Bible teaching via digital video, while the youth group leaders can focus on what only they can do best: the personal work of applying God’s word to the young people’s hearts and minds and lives.

Below is a video introducing you to Video Bible Talks, and at the bottom you’ll find the full press release. I’d really urge you to get on board, and help support Alan and the team to make Video Bible Talks a reality.

 

 

An open letter to Nitin Passi, CEO of Missguided reg. their ‘Send Me Nudes’ sign

Below is an open letter to the CEO of Missguided regarding a reckless sign put up in their Bluewater store.

Kudos to Rachel Gardner for finding this and bringing it to the youthwork community’s attention. Credit also to Rachel for starting this petition online. Please sign and share!

Please consider writing / tweeting to them yourselves. This is not a small issue, and it needs a big response!

On to the letter…

 

An open letter to Nitin Passi CEO of ‘Missguided’

Missguided HQ
Missguided Ltd,
75 Trafford Wharf Rd,
Trafford Park,
Manchester
M17 1ES
@Missguided
@Missguided_help

 

06 Aug. 2017

Dear Nitin Passo, CEO

I am a youth worker with over a decades’ professional experience working with teenagers and vulnerable young people.

I was horrified to learn that your brand store in Bluewater Shopping Centre, Kent, has a large neon sign reading ‘Send me nudes X.’ It may be that you’re ignorant to either the sexual pressures of young people, or the law regarding sexting culture.

Young people are under enormous pressure to produce and send sexually explicit pictures of themselves via the internet and on their smart devices. Childline, the NSPCC, and the The UK Home Office classify pressuring young people to ‘send nudes’ as abuse.

Legally, asking a young person to ‘send nudes’ is asking them to engage in the creation and distribution of child pornography. Your sign, thus your brand, is complicit in that.

Legality aside; if you had spent any real time with a sixteen year old consumer who had followed your advice to ‘send nudes’, then you would witness first-hand the destruction that such a simple act creates. You would see the wake of broken relationships, emotional havoc, and intense bullying. You would learn about moved schools, social service involvement, police case numbers, and court hearings.

You would see childhood robbed in a moment of poor decision making. Your sign, thus your brand, is complicit in that.

As a brand marketing to the 16-35 year old female consumer bracket, having such a sign on your wall is simply shameful and reckless. You have a responsibility to liberate the girls to which you sell your clothing, helping them to feel empowered and stand against the abusive peer pressure they increasingly face.

Please. Remove this sign, and consider the awesome influence you have on the lives of young people.

In the meantime, I will continue to work with the young people you are treating so cavalierly, helping to pick up the pieces. I will also use my own influence to encourage young people to boycott your brand and affiliates.

Tim Gough

How to use your Bible in youth meetings – Comics by Chloe

A new set by our In House Comic,
Chloe Perrin. Check out her work
at chloescomics.wordpress.com

 

 

I’m doing Britian’s Largest Bungee Jump!

Dear Everybody

In just a couple of days I’ll be doing Britain’s Largest Bungee Jump. This means falling 400ft, in 5.3seconds, reaching just over 90mph. Check out the video below.

Heights generally freak me out – as does being out of control.

I’m doing this to raise money for Llandudno Youth For Christ, which is the youth charity that I run in North Wales, UK. We do amazing work but are always struggling for funds.

Please pray, watch, like, share and consider giving to support this important work!

Give here!

Thank you!

Young People and Porn… Dialing back on the Pop-Psychology

Porn addiction is a serious thing, and the very last thing I want to do on here is to minimise or trivialise it. It genuinely messes up minds, and mangles marriages. Addiction (rather than just habit or compulsion) rearranges your neurological pathways and replaces your body’s natural abilities to release chemicals like dopamine. It is a big deal.

However…

You don’t need to have had a massive childhood trauma to want to watch porn. You don’t have to be from a poor background, have messed up parents, have been abused, or be a closet sexual deviant. There’s not always ‘a deeper reason’ beyond that fact that porn is just easily accessible, rarely challenged, and it really feels good.

Can we just let that sink in?

Porn is readily accessible, growingly acceptable, and it feels good.

I’m sorry for the condescending tone but I recently asked a huge group of professional, career youth workers about their strategies for helping young people through porn habits, and it was like I’d turned on the pop-psychology button.

“There must be a deeper reason behind it.”
“Something must be missing from their life, can you find out what it is?”
“They’re probably clinically depressed.”
“Do you know what it is they’re trying to escape from?”
“Maybe they’re homosexual, and are looking for an identity outlet.”

That last one might have been my favourite.

Now all these things could be, can be, might be true. But first off, what are we doing diagnosing clinical disorders and conditions? Secondly, what if we are missing something much much simpler because we’re too busy searching for the obviously buried deep and dark reason. It’s actually pretty easy to convince young people that there’s a deeper reason through this kind of insistence – then you’ve created all sorts of problems.

Sometimes we should seek out reasons behind the reasons, and we should always be alert to the potential for hidden issues. Sometimes, however, porn is just accessible, acceptable, and feels good. Does that make it ok? No, of course not! But the way of addressing it is entirely different than going totally Dr. Phil on them.

Addiction is a big word. It’s a medical word. So is depression btw. Let’s be careful with our throwaway comments and start by looking at what is right in front of us.

Even just 15 years ago (when most of us youth workers were young people), accessing porn as a teenager was hard work, you had to really make an effort for it. If you were going to go to so much trouble to do so then the likely chance was that there was a deeper reason.

Today? Not so much.

Porn is no trivial thing. We must work together to see it less accessible and acceptable, and point young people to things that both feel good and genuinely are good for them. But let’s dial back the Dr. Phil a little ok? My kids are getting sick of it.

Thanks! 😛

What actually makes us relevant?

Relevancy is a word we throw around, and rightly so! It’s essential, as effective youth workers, to be relevant to young people. What we mean by this, however, dramatically varies depending on who you talk to.

Immersion – Being Just Like Them

For some, being relevant means being just like them. So the youth worker will immerse themselves in the TV shows, the music, the books, the clothes, the slang, the hangout slots, and all the latest crazes of youth culture.

A problem with this, of course, is there’s no such thing as generic youth culture. Young people are people and as people they are a varied mix of genres, personalities, and subcultures. It’s more likely that the immersive youth worker is just getting clued up on one type of youth culture; which will inevitably make them outsiders or even hostile to others. This form of relevancy makes you inevitably irrelevant to many others.

Another problem is the rapid pace of products and entertainment aimed at young people. A friend of mine who is a youth worker in China recently told me that they were among the very first to be hit by the ‘fidget spinner’ craze. This lasted a few short weeks before the schools cracked down and they were no longer cool, yet all the youth work resources were still writing about them. Youth culture immersion gives your relevancy a shelf life.

The biggest problem with this, of course, is the creepy factor. It’s fine to like a few things aimed at younger ages (I adore The Minions and Lego!), but immersing yourself in that world as if you were still a 14 year old girl, when you’re actually a 36 year old man is actually a bit weird. The novelty will quickly turn to distrust, and it probably should.

Is there another way?

There are supracultral truths about the state of humanity in general, and young people in particular that are always true. Human beings are

  1. Made in God’s image
  2. Damaged by the fall
  3. In need of a saviour
  4. Longing to give and receive love
  5. Built for relationship
  6. Want opportunities to change the world
  7. Need to be heard and understood
  8. Fighting with identify and character
  9. Have an eternal destiny
  10. Are afraid of lots of stuff

The list goes on. What else can you add to it?

Being relevant starts with treating young people like people, not as some social experiment that you can tune into if you read the right books and watch the right youtube channels. Although it is a great idea to know what’s happening in their world and be able to point back to it ‘relevantly’ in your conversations and teaching, that will only go so deep or last so long. There are other ways to be relevant and lasting.

  • Active listeners are relevant
  • Honest and transparent storytellers are relevant
  • Humble people are relevant
  • Compassionate and interested adults are relevant
  • Those who give time are relevant
  • People who create situations for voices to be heard are relevant
  • Those who ask good questions, yet don’t have all the answers are relevant
  • Those who talk clearly from the Bible are relevant (after all, it was written to every generation)
  • Those who constantly mention Jesus; his life, death, and resurrection are relevant

Trying to understand culture without the things above will leave you as a desperate square peg, jaming yourself into a round hole. Lets know whats going on in ‘youth culture(s)’ for sure – but even more than that, let’s actually try and be genuinely relevant to young people as people.

Can you be a Christian and watch Game of Thrones? 5 Better Questions to Ask.

I’ve had a lot of these ‘can you be a Christian and…’ questions recently. Although they usually come less in the form of the genuine and curious, and more in the form of the judgemental and arrogant, thus ‘how can someone possibly be a Christian and…’

So lets’ break this down. Can you be a Christian and…

  • Watch Game of Thrones
  • Watch Deadpool
  • Read Harry Potter
  • Read Twilight
  • Like Rob Bell
  • Listen to Iron Maiden
  • Smoke
  • Swear
  • Not go to church
  • Have ginger hair
  • Support Blackpool Football Club?

Yes. Yes you can. The only action that can actually and effectually make you ‘not a Christian’ is denying Christ. We are saved by grace through faith, not by any other peripheral actions that we might or might not do.

Paul was a murderer who was saved by grace. David was a murder and a rapist, and saved by grace. I’m an ass – saved by grace.

So yes – it’s possible to ‘be’ a Christian and do all kinds of things. So let’s think about some other ways of considering the question:

1. Could it eventually steal your salvation?

Well, without getting into the ‘once-saved-always-saved’ debates, it’s worth noting that the Bible does distinguish salvation (coming into relationship with God) and sanctification (growing in that relationship with God).

In the same way that the wedding it not the marriage, and your partner might still marry you after knowing your darkest issues… she might reject you eventually if you make no effort to change them and grow once married.

Being addicted to pornography, for instance, can steadily pollute and corrupt a relationship, first through secrecy, then by objectifying your partner, and finally through rejecting their comforts in favour of the internet abstract. Thus the intimacy and commitment of marriage breaks down.

Indulging in areas that pollute your relationship with God can do exactly the same thing; leading you to know Him less, and eventually either reimagining Him into something He is not, or just rejecting Him altogether.

Does Game of Thrones do that? After reading the parents guide on imdb, I decided it would not serve my personal relationship with God, so I decided not to watch it.

2. Is it helpful?

Twice in 1 Corinthians Paul says that all things are permissible (saved by Grace right?), but not all things are helpful.

‘“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.’ (1 Cor. 6:12, ESV)

‘“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.’ (1 Cor. 10:23, ESV)

Both of these appear in the context of honouring God and not giving over to idolatry – including sexual immorality (ch. 6).

In the first verse Paul hints at becoming mastered, or under compulsion, or even addicted to something. There’s a lot of stuff that we indulge in that places us under compulsion and easily leads to addiction. This list includes porn, drugs, and gratuitous violence to be sure, but it also includes simple and mostly innocent things like sugar, exercise, food, cartoons, and action films. Anything that gives us a isolating comfort or an unnatural spike of dopamine in our systems can become addictive – and needs to be held accountable to our worship of God. Does Game of Thrones do this for you? It might – it might not. But it’s a good question to ask.

Another way of putting it might be like this: if it seems that giving something up for a while (fasting) would be a really hard, then you might be under its compulsion and possibly might need to be without it for a while.

In the second verse, Paul opens the net wider, pulling in the community in which we live and serve. Our passion, he said, should be to love and serve the world around us and support our neighbours. If watching or reading something subtly shifts our priorities consistently away from serving others to serving ourselves then it needs to be pulled back on.

I think you can add this to serving your partner too. Does my wife want me to be entertained by another woman simulating passionate sex acts? Is she served by me spending time enjoying the intimacy of private relationships with someone that is not her? Does this serve her or serve our marriage in any legitimate way? For us – I don’t think it would.

3. Can you honour and worship God with it?

Staying in 1 Cor. 10, Paul says that everything we decide to do should honour God as an act of worship:  ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (v.31, ESV). This idea is again repeated in Colossians; ‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Col. 3:17, ESV).

So, crux time should be asking yourself whether or not you are able to engage with God at the levels of honour, worship, and self-sacrifice, for the building up of His glory, as you engage with something.

Again, I decided that I wasn’t able to do this by watching Game of Thrones. However, I also decided that it was doable for me reading Harry Potter. What do you think?

4. What if I’m just a ‘stronger brother’?

This comes from 1 Cor. 8, which is one of the more woefully mismanaged and misapplied verses in the Bible.

Paul is saying that those of you who have accepted grace enough to understand what food will and won’t effect your salvation should eat away – but not if it causes others still working through that process to struggle. The focus is not on you, but on your ability to love, serve, and help those who are working through different issues than you.

Frankly, its not for us to decide what we can get away with based on how ‘strong’ we think we are in comparison to others. The focus of that passage is on serving others. Deciding how much your faith can ‘tolerate’ before it corrupts is just a spiritual car crash waiting to happen.

5. What is I’m just trying to be relevant?

There’ll be a longer post on what actually makes us relevant coming soon, so watch this space. For now I’ll just say that the peripheral things that we think make us relevant actually give our relevancy a shelf life. Things that make us genuinely relevant don’t require us to expose ourselves to corruption, but more to the Holy Spirit.

So what?

We shouldn’t ever chose to do something because we can ‘get away with it’ – we should choose it because it draws us closer to God, builds up others, and helps us honour Him.

This, honestly, might include Game of Thrones for you. I, personally, cannot imagine how it could; but I know myself and not you.

Sometimes sacrificing something we enjoy is just the right thing to do if it means giving God that extra devotion, love, worship, and time. The question should never be ‘can I watch/do/read…’ but should always be ‘will this help me worship Him…’

Food for thought.

Why Fivefold Ministry matters to youth ministry – Guest Post by Jonny Price

Another quality and thoughtful piece by guest blogger, Jonny Price. Jonny is an experienced youth worker with keen insights and clear vision for the future of Christian youth work in the UK.

‘Fivefold Ministry’ is a concept that can be found in Ephesians 4:11. In it Paul outlines five roles Jesus has given the Body of Christ to help it to mature, these are:

  • Apostles – Pioneers of new work
  • Evangelists – Fresh communicators of the gospel
  • Prophets – Those who speak out about spirituality and the realities of life
  • Pastors – Nurturers, carers and protectors of the people
  • Teachers – Communicators of the wisdom of God

Each of these roles are responsible for a different aspect of the growth of the Body of Christ. Often this idea is applied to leadership of our Churches, but rarely are those same principles carried across to our youth ministry. I believe that they should be, and that if they are, they can have a great impact upon our work.

Here are four important lessons for youth workers to take from the ‘Fivefold Ministry’ concept.

1. It reminds us that not all youth ministry is evangelism.

Often, the stereotypical youth worker’s gifts are primarily the same as an evangelist, with a lesser emphasis on the pastor role. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the ministry these youth workers build is not based solely on their gifts alone.

A youth ministry based on evangelism may be great for reaching out, but how do we then build up the faith of the young people we work with beyond their initial commitment to Jesus? A youth ministry based on teaching may be great for developing faith, and teaching the Bible, but how do we then make sure that our young people are being taken care of?

If we build a team of people with a variety of gifts, then our ministries will be able to evangelise, develop faith, care for young people, and equip them to do likewise all at the same time.

2. It helps stop our ministries becoming stagnant.

If we have a team of people who all have the same gifts, play the same role, or place their emphasis and passions in the same place, then it won’t be long until that ministry becomes stagnant, relative and misweighted.

If, however, we have a balanced team made up of different roles and gifts, then there will be a constant, healthy tension between the different emphases of the ministry. This means that the team will always be pushing towards new ideas, exploring blind spots, and growing deeper in what they are doing.

3. It opens the door to new types of youth worker

If we build our teams of people who think and act the same as us, then how are we showing the diversity of the Body of Christ? We risk inadvertently closing the ministry door to people who don’t act the same way as us, or who see things a bit differently.

If we are able to show the diversity inherent in Fivefold Ministry, then we will demonstrate a far more holistic ministry to our young people, and allow them to step into it themselves.

4. It allows our young people to take ownership.

One of the common misunderstandings about Fivefold Ministry is that it only applies to leaders. If instead we approach it as being applicable to the whole Body of Christ, then we will allow our young people to take ownership of our ministry too, and of their own faith development. We will start talking about faith more, inviting our young people to be a part of it. As a result, this will help them to see how they can live out different aspects of faith, because they will see these different aspects in us.

This is exciting! Imagine a youth ministry where you don’t need to meet up with young people week in and week out to see how they are doing because you know that through the relationships they have with each other, they are being taken care of. Or imagine that you know that the teaching you give at youth group is less essential because they are teaching each other from the Bible.

Bringing it all together

Yes, the Fivefold Ministry comes with problems, like all good and new concepts do. Working with people who have different visions of ministry to us causes conflict and strain. But with proper communication, even the conflict can be an amazing tool for development.

Let’s diversify our leaders and volunteers, so that they represent the diversity of the Body of Christ, and so through that diversity, our young people can experience and know more of the love of God, and the plan that He has for their lives. Surely this is the point of everything we do.

 

Jonny Price is the Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader for a Clifton Parish Churches in the North of beautiful York, where he lives with his wife, Carly, and son, Ethan.

When time allows he can be found cycling, either road or mountain, cooking or reading.

He holds a BA (Hons) in Mission and Ministry with a specialism in Youth from Cliff College, and is currently studying for an MA.

He loves Jesus and the Church, and wants to see the Church work to help young people live transformed lives by experiencing the redeeming love of Jesus.

That time when the youth pastor tired to cast demons out of a young person… and went too far.

A few years back I received a message at 4am from a young person totally freaked out. His youth group and two full-time youth workers tried to cast ‘demons of legalism’ out of him by screaming at him as he lay on the floor for an hour.

The young lad had come from a conservative Anglican background, which meant he was quite different to others in the youth club. His questions and worship style was apparently symptomatic of legalistic demon activity!

So cold, dark and rejected he was yelled at ‘in the name of Jesus’ while on the floor for an hour.

As much as I totally believe in deliverance ministry, this experience was just insane. The fear, exposure and humiliation of such an event was quite simply wrong. This was a black-and-white case of spiritual and institutional abuse. A safeguarding nightmare and totally inappropriate.

It’s hard to think of a clearer example of how poor theology leads to poor practice.

It’s not like his church was known for being a particularly hyper-charismatic church; but the youth leaders had a very selective church exposure and even narrower training. That young lad is now an adult, those two youth pastors have moved away, and the youth club has been all but decimated – who knows with what kind of baggage. They have not been able to rebuild a working youth ministry.

I spent some years working with him after this terrifying experience, but I imagine that it will be with him for the rest of his life. It will colour his experience of Jesus, and will probably come out in social situations through anxiety, fear and rejection.

Youth ministry is never a game, and it’s never a power-trip. We are curators of an enormous amount of influence. We rely, of course, on the grace and mercy of Jesus; but lets do all we can to temper raw spirituality with considered theology. Let’s do this in a carefully cultivated community – a safe, compassionate, diverse, tolerant and open environment for young people to meet with their Father in heaven, who abundantly exudes all of these traits.

Seven helpful ANCIENT books for youth ministry.

So here’s an odd post! In the youth ministry world we’re always looking for new, fresh ideas – things straight out of the packet with a long expiration date. However, there is nothing new under the sun, and sometimes the older ways say it best.

Here are a few relatively straightforward and massively helpful books on theology and practice that have genuinely and seriously informed how I approach my work with young people. Some are older than others, and none of them actually tell you how to do youth work. They do, however, tell you how to relate to God and how that should be expressed among his people.

I think they’re all pretty readable too, although granted they’re not necessary Dan-Brown-styled page-turners! Some are just sections – but well worth it!

(nb. I’ve included links, but most of them are available for free as pdfs online.)

Have an ancient(ish) blast

  1. St. Athanasius, On The Incarnation
  2. Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections
  3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. I (Book one, Chs. 1, 2, 6, 12, 13; Book two, Chs. 9, 8, 12-17)
  4. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man
  5. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity
  6. Thomas a’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
  7. The Bible – Cheesy ending to the list but genuinely the ‘timeless’ classic! Read it over and over and over again! I try and spend twice as much time in the Bible as any other book – hard, but oh so worth it. … … Go Bible!