How To Help Your Young People Eat The Bible!

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“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” [Jeremiah 15:16]

We gotta get our young people eating the Word – lapping it up like a McD Big Tasty with extra special sauce!

Here are six important posts that tackle this head on:

  1. – Video cast on an easy interpretation & exegesis tool
  2. – Nailing the first question every time
  3. – 6 killer ways to help them read it themselves
  4. – Easy study techniques that make awesome studies that are out of the box
  5. – Getting their hearts to burn for The Word
  6. – Great quote to end!


A Cantankerous Old Man’s Guide To Youth Work

When I was 15 one of my best friends was a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, called Cliff.

Being paralysed from the waist down after a bad car accident, Cliff hadn’t left his flat in 10 years. He was old, he was moody, he was racist, he smoked like a chimney (not just tobacco!), he swore like a sailor and drunk like a very thirsty fish.

Why on earth was this cantankerous old man one of my best friends? 2 reasons:

1. He just liked having me around!

Cliff took a genuine interest in the things I cared about. He would just sit and listen to me talk about guitars and computer games. He even bought me a large power kite one day after hearing me rave about them. He didn’t try to be like me, or pretend to be ‘one of the guys,’ he just genuinely cared about me and really did like spending time with me.

When I had major surgery, he got Iceland Home Delivery to send six large crates of junk food to my hospital bed (which fed all three Children’s wards in Blackpool Victoria Hospital). When I turned 16, he paid a taxi driver to bring a magnum bottle of champagne to my front door. What a freaking legend!

2. He gave me responsibility.

Cliff allowed me to rebuild his computers, cook him meals and do his shopping. I would tidy his house, sort his mail and charge the batteries in his wheelchair. I never had any doubt that I was valuable to him.

By the end of his life Social Services would no longer work with him. He would rage and throw things at them. I had the keys to his flat, became his next of kin and his sole carer. When Cliff died I organised his funeral – at 17. His estranged family didn’t come.

Short Safeguarding Note: For those of you with Spidey senses tingling (rightly so), my parents kept up a relationship with Cliff themselves and kept a closer eye than I was aware of.


Cliff’s Guide to Youth Work

In terms of healthy boundaries, this might not be the ideal job description for a youth worker. It does however, give us two very clear principles for youth work:

1. Show young people that you genuinely value your time with them.

Don’t fake it, don’t milk it and don’t try to be one of them. Just like them, and like hanging out with them. Show them extravagant acts of love. Don’t know how – here’s 55 ideas!

2. Give them clear genuine responsibility.

Young people don’t want to be consumers, they are wired for producing. Simple entertainment-driven youth work is now going to way of the dodo – and good riddance to bad sugar-fueld nonsense!

Get them to run things, to work on things, to lead things, to learn things, to research things, to design their own programs, to tell you what they want to learn about and to help teach each other. Let them know that they’re valuable because they are valuable, not because they boost your youth group numbers.

Let’s learn from Cliff and take the words value, extravagance and genuineness to their youth work ideals.

Thank you Cliff.

8 easy tips for small group dynamics

8 easy tips for small group dynamics

Part 3 of a 3 part podcast on ‘Small Group Dynamics.’


You can find part 1 here:

& Part 2 here:

You can find a transcript and sources on my blog here:

My Youth Work Survival Kit!

 Ever had to do a last minute session on the fly? Me too – and it can be a real knock to your youth work ego and savvy when you’re fumbling around trying to make a point from a can of tinned carrots and run a game using your own rolled up sock!

Therefore I keep in my car at all times a ‘youth work survival kit.’ This includes a few Bibles (obvs!) but a few other things as well:

– Deck of cards
– A set of story cubes
– Gaffer tape
– Pens & Paper
– A ball of string
– Pegs
– Post It Notes
– Mini frisbee
– A copy of ‘name your top three’
– An inflatable beach ball / ice-breaker ball
– Blu Tac
– A power extension lead
– A bluetooth speaker
– A ping pong ball
– A packet of straws
– A couple of tealights & matches

This all fits in a shoe box under my driver seat – right next to my first aid kit! – and it has saved my youthy bacon on several occasions!

I’d love to know what you keep in yours, so post a comment and let me know!

The £10 Challenge: Connecting With The Community Through Fundraising.


Podcast Episode 4.

Interview with Pastor Steve Houghton of i61 Church, North Wales about the fundraising, community venture: The £10 Challenge.

Youth Work Management. eBook.

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After a few weeks of compiling, editing and formatting ‘Random Thoughts On Youth Work Management‘ is finally a reality.

This is available from the iBooks / iTunes store.

Thank you to Katie Gough of Idiolalia for lots of help editing and to Joel Preston of Youth Ministry Management for writing a quality forward.


Random Thoughts On Youth Work Management is just that – a set of random blog posts that fits the bid. It is a short collection of thoughts on delivering quality youth work management in Christian settings. Specifically you will find ways to manage your team and develop good leaders; ways to manage yourself, developing personally and professionally; and ways to manage the tricky relationship between youth worker and youth work employer.


On the iTunes / iBook store – click here.

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How To Be The Ideal Youth Worker

What makes an ideal youth worker ideal? What ingredients do you need to add to the mix? What specific traits and skills should we be developing to fill holes in our youth worker template?

This was a brilliant question posed to me in a training session this morning. I’m going to attempt to summarise my answer here.

There are several tiers to an ‘ideal’ youth worker starting with the nonnegotiable and working down to specific specialised skills. All of these should be developing, growing and organic.

We all love diagrams right? Here’s one I made earlier.


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There are no ideal youth workers, we all know this, and every youthworker will be different depending on context. However I feel these principles are mostly transferable. They are the basis for what I expect from myself and my teams. They also form the framework of my interview process.

Love For God & Young People

At the top of the pyramid are the most important: a love for God and a love for young people – and a keen flow between these two. If you don’t have these you’re following the wrong trail.


Second we see the key traits of longevity; faithfulness, a commitment to God, people, projects and ministry life; availability, a – within safe boundaries(!) – accessibility to people and projects; and teachability – a proactive willingness to learn and grow that is accountable and open. Full post on this here.

Commitment to …

This tier contains the essential faith-driven lifestyle commitments: An ever growing passion for reading the bible, prayer and worship personally and within community.

Development of…

Here we see specific skills that will be useful regularly in all kinds of youth work. Listening skills are always valuable, as is the ability to think and problem solve creatively. A growing theological understanding is also important, alongside learning different ways to communicate this understanding. Finally it’s key that every youth leader is trained in best safeguarding practice.

Specialising in…

The final tier includes the main areas where a youth leader should think about specialising. Not all of these will be essential to every youth worker.

Relational practice can be developed in many ways, but comes down to forming lasting, impressionable bonds with young people. Activity basis is taking specific gifts, talents and passions that you have and developing them in ministry contexts, for instance sport, music, drama, debate or knitting.

Inclusivity is always important but will rely on your context. This may include working alongside various ages, social and health difficulties, specific cultures or members of the LGBT community. Similar to this is working with those with different learning styles; key if you are doing lots of communication work and schools projects.

Parental support is particularly valuable if you’re doing church-based ministry as family worship is always the end goal. Finally management is vital if you’re overseeing projects and people.

This last tier is always the least important and is always the area that changes most throughout your youth work experience.

How to apply this in team management

These five tiers should form the basis of in house growth and training.

You should have the top two tiers sown solidly into the regular fabric of your projects, ministry and recruitment process.

The third tier is checked up on through community involvement (generally) and through regular individual supervision sessions (specifically). I try to do individual supervision in various ways once every 6 months, and team supervision annually.

The last two tiers should form the basis of group training that you run and attend. The top of these should be three-line-whip sessions for the whole team with regular annual repeats, and training for the last should be made available to those who want it.



A Youthworker and a Bible Walk Into A Bar…

Culture and the Bible. These are the two indisputable pillars of effective youthwork. If you don’t get the former you can’t communicate the latter, if you can’t apply the latter you will make no difference to the former.

“There are two fundamental necessities in Christian Communication. One is that we take the world we live in seriously; and the other is that we take God’s revelation to us in the Bible seriously. If either is missing, the communication will be ineffective.” [Christian Youth Work, Mark Ashton & Phil Moon]

There is a youthwork culture in the UK that is really starting to push the envelop, dig deep and get innovative in cultural relevancy. This is absolutely fantastic! I fully embrace and stand by this.

I fear, however, that the Bible is taking more and more of a back seat.

The Famine of God’s Word in Youthwork Culture

I’ve been to almost every major, mainstream Christian youthwork gathering in the UK this year. These were amazing events with great people, and mostly solid, encouraging teaching. Most of all they were a showcase of good ideas to learn from! However they were also symptomatic of a serious famine of the Word of God.

I can count on one hand how many talks I’ve heard at Youthwork gatherings this year that genuinely opened up the Bible.

“Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths.”

This spills over to published materials too. Bible reading resources are driving further down the lane of ‘prooftext with reflection’ often without any discernible link between the passage and the attached thoughts.

If we don’t open up the Bible we lose perspective, focus, authority and foundations. What are we playing at?

We Don’t Know How To Open Up The Bible

Let me clarify what I mean by ‘opening up’ the Bible. Just reading a standalone verse and paraphrasing it a few different, interesting ways is not opening up the Bible. Reading a verse, picking a word from it and giving a talk on that word is also not opening up the Bible.

Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths. It means exegesis, context, study and clarity. It means bringing a passage to life by using the passage itself!

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that we don’t know how to do this.

My wife, an editor, is currently trying to re-write someones Bible Study that is trying to teach that David defeated Goliath because of his own prodigious experience and skill; not because he trusted in God despite his lack of experience and skill. How could we get a passage so dramatically wrong?

The Bible Makes Our Hearts Burn Within Us

Read Luke 24:13-35

How did Jesus reveal himself to the two followers walking to Emmaus? “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” v.27.

And how did they respond? They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” v.32.

“If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them!”

If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them! Yes, please be culturally relevant, but if you’re not going to bring God’s Word with you, you’re better off just staying at home!

If you want to communicate God’s heart, use His own words! There’s nothing wrong with the material – we must teach it until it burns within the hearts of this generation.

“However, if we have to err on one side or the other, we must not lose our hold on Christian truth. The simple message of God’s love for sinful humanity and of his forgiveness of our sins for the sake of his son has extraordinary and immense power: our incompetence as communicators is not able to destroy its ability to reach non-Christian young people.” [Christian Youthwork, Ashton & Moon]

Also See…

6 Ways to Train Teenagers to Read Their Bibles

Great Resource to Start Doing This…

  Dindexig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s World by
Andrew Sach & Nigel Beynon

A Youthworker and a Bible Walk Into A Bar…

Dear Youth Leader: Stop Trying To Be Hot!


I understand that most of the people who you hang out with on any given day are young people. I understand that it’s important to be relevant and accessible. But please be an adult and don’t take your fashion cues from youth culture.

Far be it from me to be the fashion police (I look like my Granddad!) but clothing does speak volumes about culture, and how you dress sends clear signals.

“When you wear skin-tights, low-cuts, short-shorts, slips-with-slits and see-thrus, you’re setting the standard.”

I’ve been at a bunch of youth work conferences this year and I have been continually shocked by some of the things that male and female youth leaders are wearing – and the apparent obliviousness that led them there.

When you wear skin-tights, low-cuts, short-shorts, slips-with-slits and see-thrus, you’re setting the standard and communicating availability. This goes for lads and lasses.

One of my first youth leaders was a 21 year old girl on a gap year. She rocked up one day with a skin tight shirt with a picture of two watermelons and the tagline, ‘hands off my melons.’ I remember her being pretty put out when the Youth Pastor told her that wasn’t appropriate. As a 14 year old though, I was on her side; I remember the ‘shirt’ vividly.

A couple of months back we hired a mission group and one of the lads in the troop wore skinny jeans about a mile below the waistline and a v-neck pajama top that was so low you could almost see belly button. You didn’t know where to look! He was oblivious to every girl in the room that was making eyes at him.

I don’t want to go an a Victorian dress rampage. It’s important to take pride in how you look and enjoy creatively looking your best. Go for it – enjoy it.

Please remember though that you set the standards for what’s appropriate and modest.

If you are older, in a leadership position and confident then you have immediate attraction value to a young person. Wrap that in revealing clothes and you’re just begging for trouble.

Dear Youth Leader: Stop Trying To Be Hot! Be a grown up. Dress like one!

Here endeth another rant.