Podcast Episode 4.
Interview with Pastor Steve Houghton of i61 Church, North Wales about the fundraising, community venture: The £10 Challenge.
Interview with Pastor Steve Houghton of i61 Church, North Wales about the fundraising, community venture: The £10 Challenge.
Starting genuine conversations in a youth group can be a nightmare! Keeping them rolling while staying on track doubly so. Small group conversations tend to oscillate between pulling teeth and taming out of control petrol fires.
One of the best ways to engage different personalities and create real dynamic conversation is to use tactile (hands-on) activities. These can also be useful or easily adapted if your group contains young people with additional learning needs.
Here are some easy activities that create conversation on spiritual topics with an element of hands-on fun.
1. Story Cubes.
A brilliant invention that encourages you to make up your own rules. You start by group members choosing a cube and creating a story based off what’s on those cubes. You can get more specific by introducing a particular theme or topic for them to keep to.
This works best when you break into the story to ask the golden questions: who, what, when, where, why and how to get the group to elaborate and clarify the story they are telling.
2. Question Jenga
Find a cheap Jenga set and, using a sharpie, write simple questions on each brick. Take turns to pull out a brick and ask a question to the group.
The questions can be as simple as ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ or as controversial as ‘can gay people go to heaven?’.
3. Collage Clips
Cut out quotes, words, colours, pictures and textures from a bunch of different magazines. Make sure you have lots and lots. Display them by tacking then to the wall or laying them out on the floor or a table.
Set the group the challenge to find a picture each and to explain to the group why they picked that picture.
You could ask them just pick one they like, or one that explains how their day went, or one that best describes who God is to them.
Another option is to use art postcards that you buy from galleries, artcards on specific God and ethics ideas from Youthscape or perspective cards available to buy from Agape.
4. Values Pyramid
Create 10 values on a theme or a topic and have the group rank them from most important at the top of the pyramid to least important on the bottom row. If you have enough people have several sets of this around and brake the group up.
Once you’ve done this ask the golden questions again (who, what, when, where, why, how) to challenge their answers. Compare the different pyramids and give people the opportunity to remove a row and re-rank the remaining.
Once finished you can give them a white piece of paper each and encourage them to add or replace a value with one of their own. Two sets available for free to download below. Just cut them out and if you want, laminate them.
5. Values Washing Line
This effectively works the same way as the values pyramid however instead of moving around a hierarchical triangle you have a washing line stretched across the room with the values pegged to it.
Get a group to rank them most to least important left-to-right and explain why. Keep moving and dropping some off.
Free Download: Relationship Stages Washing Line. Enlarge, Print, Laminate & add Peggs!
6. playing cards
You can use them just like regular playing cards, however each card comes with its own unique discussion question.
These are also easy enough to make your own.
6 Youth Group Tactile Discussion Activities
Still happily embedded in my study week, enjoying dissertations from the best young academic-theological minds in the youth work world in Britain – moving on to my highlights from and thoughts on another Youth Ministry Thesis:
“Can Some Aspects of Emerging Church Culture Result in De-Emphasising The Bible In Contemporary Youth And Children’s Work?” by Philippa Ruth Wehrle. 2013.
Emerging Church? A preliminary thought.
It’s worth saying that this massively helpful critique of the ripples of the emerging church in youth work is really only based on the Brian McLaren aspect of the emerging movement. Although in many ways McLaren is the figure head of much of the emerging church and specifically emergent village, he is certainly not representative of all of it.
Philippa says “Whist emerging church proponents will slightly differ on their scriptural stance…” however my experience is emerging church proponents differ massively and wildly in their approach to scripture. Worth keeping in mind methinks.
The Reclassification of The Bible
Philippa begins by walking us through the reclassification of Scripture by McLaren as a Library rather than a Constitution. Another way of putting this might be useful and informative, but not authoritative and instructional. McLaren therefore treats scripture as an ongoing conversation which we are invited into but doesn’t hold the weight of sola scripture evangelicals classically have with it.
There are many beautiful things to learn from such an approach – mainly not allowing ourselves to read our own presuppositions into it. However as Philippa points out, taking this approach can also mean that the bottom drops out of the Word and our anchors and foundations start to disappear. The Word no longer has authority over believers and we need no longer to place ourselves under its instruction.
“The authority Word of God is inseparable from the authority of the Person of God.”
I might find myself being more open to and favorable of much of McLaren’s approach than perhaps Philippa is, especially the conversational reading of God’s Word as timeless and relational. However I share her thoughts on the danger of ambiguity and downplaying of the authority present in the Word of God.
In a later section, Philippa shows how the authority Word of God is inseparable from the authority of the Person of God – to reject one is to reject the other. My suspicion though is if we find place for living authority in McLaren’s conversational approach to scripture we would learn boat loads!
Straw Men and False Antitheses
Very importantly Philippia critiques McLaren’s ethically questionable approach to argument and discussion. She lists off some of his false conclusions drawn from questionable arguments and identifies straw men opponents made in much the same way.
This is absolutely vital as McLaren’s foundational belief is in conversational theology, but his own approach to conversation and discussion is far more manipulative and dogmatic than can comfortably sit with this.
Much of his opponents are people or positions that he has either misunderstood or unfairly represented, but in his characteristically playful style he judges and demonizes whole schools of thought without proper discussion.
Having downplayed the authority of the Bible, and downplayed further intelligent defense of this authority we are led “into an ambiguous Christianity that tends to be idolatrous and autonomous.”
The Effect on Youth and Children’s Work
McLaren’s approach to scripture, says Philippa “means [young people’s] lives needn’t be challenged by biblical propositions which are often countercultural in today’s society; when the world and the Bible disagree, they needn’t choose between them, because the emerging church approach appears to offer both.”
She raises two important questions:
1st. “Is the emerging church approach and it’s de-emphasis of the Bible going to attract young people to Christianity?”
2nd. “Is it going to transform young people’s lives so that they become committed and mature followers of the true God who seek to serve him with their whole lives?”
“Personal faith in Christ, for it to be genuine and saving must have propositional content.”
To answer these Philippa points out the obvious important point which is that the world already offers them this form of ‘Christianity’; warm, simple, and compromising communities. Further she points out that ambiguity and uncertainty are not helpful for young people in this culture – they need structure, guidance and authority, especially now when the rest of the world is giving them less and less of this.
“Young people cannot be genuine believers simply because they are involved in social action, or have a vague notion of who God is: “personal faith in Christ, for it to be genuine and saving must have propositional content” says Philippa (quoting also DeYoung and Kluck, Why we’re not emergent, 74).
Young people need both ‘heart’ and ‘brain’ religion concludes Philippa. The Bible must be understood as the “true self-revelation of God to his people, though which the essential gospel truths are revealed, and by which Christians are authoritatively taught and corrected.”
The Bible is our way to understand Jesus and how we have salvation – so it must be protected as authoritative and taught as such.
My Final Thoughts
There is lots to admire about Philippa’s thesis. The Bible is certainly God’s own revelation; beautiful, true and authoritative. It is creative and life giving and communicates to us the very heart of God.
Further, her passion to teach the Bible wholly and counter-culturally to young people is excellent and needs to be mimicked across the youth work spectrum if we are to see young people be fully cross-carrying, God-exalting Christians.
However, there is some agitation I have at lack of engagement with the Bible as an organic book with relational, timeless, conversational aspects that are new and newly creative every morning. The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a book – simple as and no more. Dead and molting. But when the Spirit of God shines through the pages and meets with us then theology and Christianity comes to life.
In short the Bible is big enough to be subject to our humanity and God is big enough to protect His words through the grandest of scrutiny and the softest of liberal engagement.
The Bible does not save – God does. And He has a whole tool-belt to do that with. God has spoken yes – but God also speaks. The Bible is received, yes – but God is organic and takes all the time and space he wants to open and not close our perceptions of him. The more we nail down, the less we know God.
This is a straight forward ‘say what you see’ youth Bible Study on Acts 2:42-47. It’s designed to open up discussion on the nature of the Church contrasting our ideas with the Bible’s.
Obviously add your own intro/ice-breakers yarda yarda!
Download here: Acts 2.42-47 bible study
Video in the same theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly_qKAbBjCQ
Here beginneth the rant…
Teenagers are not:
Here endeth the rant.
(N.b. – Before you read mine, I’ve found someone who say’s it better! Mark Grithiths, here: http://tahilla.typepad.com/children_matter/2010/02/one-generation-from-extinction-1.html)
‘You can’t run a youth event in the church building because the kids won’t come!’
Something you’ve heard before? I’ve heard it too! In PCC meetings, planning sessions, prayer meetings, training days, and from a whole bunch of different people; older generations who genuinely believe it, and younger generations who have heard it so many times that they just assume that it’s true.
Everywhere I go the prevailing belief is held that young people are afraid to come into a church building.
So begins the era of neutral venues: gymnasiums, school halls, coffee-shops etc. – which often cost more time, money, energy and drives the segregation wedge between ‘young people and church’ even deeper.
But where did this belief even come from, and does the same issue exist today? Are our kids really so anti-church?
The Last Of The Baby-Boomers
Three generations ago during our grandparent’s childhood, (speaking from a twenty-something’s viewpoint) going to church was an expected Sunday activity. You went, because you were supposed to go. No questions asked.
The dregs of this time can be seen on the brass plaques of Sunday School registers around the halls with old forgotten offices like ‘Sunday School Superintendent.’ The rooms were full, the youth work ‘thriving’ because of course, young people were supposed to be there.
Enter then the generation of rebellion: generation X. This is the culture that gave us glam rock, the punk movement and incredibly dodgy haircuts. This believe it or not, is our parents generation. Go ahead, ask them to recall their ‘rebellion’ era, or to show you some snapshots of their ill-spent youth. Remember though, once you’ve heard the tails and seen the pictures you can’t just delete them out of your head, they’re going to haunt you forever! I still can’t believe the length of my dad’s hair, or the cheesiness of my mum’s flares. Gah.
‘Generation X’ were a ‘post‘ generation. They were post-war, and tired of the high profile political scandals that we’re surfacing as a result. They we’re post-baby boomer, and tired of the rigorous logic and cold analytical appetites of modernism. They were therefore the first post-moderns. They we’re also post-religion and stopped attending church once they we’re old enough to make that decision. They didn’t send their kids to church either. Sunday mornings became family time, football practice, or Big Breakfast telly-time.
Then of course came ‘generation Y,’ my generation of mainly twenty-and thirty-somethings. We are genX’s kids and, like it said above, we were mostly not sent to church. Part of genXs rebellion was bringing up kids free from perceived tyrannies like religion and church going.
GenY, however, were bought up with their parent’s stories of how awful church was, how irrelevant, boring, painful, false, and out-of-touch. GenY believed their parents stories (why wouldn’t they?), but had no experience of it themselves.
GenY’s kids, ‘generation Z’ aka gen Zzzzzzzzz came next; the young people that we work with today. They have no relationship to church. Their parents didn’t go and didn’t have stories to tell. GenZ have next to no experience, no context, no stories and no relationship at all with churches.
Gen Z is three generations behind the core of the problem.
Our young people today do not have the same cultural phobia or institutional memory of earlier generations. They might see church to be relics of a bygone era, but no more so than the old post-office building or a town hall. They are three generations behind the root of the issue and have little or no personal stake in connection to churches.
I’m speaking in sweeping generalizations of course. Most of the young people in the UK that we work with today however, will still be three generations behind the personal problem of church phobia:
Baby-boomers (grandparents) were ‘you’re supposed to go to church.’
Generation X (parents) ‘went until they didn’t have to anymore.’
Generation Y (20/30-somethings) went to to church to be ‘baptized, married, an
Generation Z (today’s teens) have little or no ‘church relationship’
There simply isn’t the same cultural problem with church-going today for many of the young people that we work with. Many youth workers and youth ministries however, borrow from history’s issues. Because we’re not aware of the dramatic cultural shifts with young people and church going we’re stretching out a non-existent issue from previous generations without even realizing it.
By boycotting Church buildings we’re possibly trying to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist – therefore creating a new one!!
I have definitely met young people who don’t want to go to church, but most of that is based on new misunderstanding rather than historical cultural experience. I’ve also met youth clubs who think there’s a problem simply because their youth leaders have tried so hard to fix one.
Just food for thought then. Are our teenagers scared of entering a church building really? If they’re made comfortable and welcome, is the church hall really a ‘no go.’ Think about your young people, are they really so shallow to have taken on a passionate, stubborn, life-phobia from their parents, parents, parents?
In a future post I will argue for the benefits of using Church buildings for groups and events on the basis that young people are looking for something ancient, spiritual, deep, and mystical to belong to.
I also hope to discuss some genuine reasons outside this generational misunderstood phobia that may lead us to boycott eh church building and contradict everything I’m saying here. Such is the liberty of a blogger!
But for now – lets all put the option back on the table! Thanks. 😀
Youth Work Culture