When will we stop talking about adding to our youth groups?

It is an interesting phenomena that so much of youth work or youth ministry or even youth discipleship talks about adding to our particular group that is currently taking place. Why is it that we feel the need to add rather than doing something different? Why do we continuously think that different young people from so many different backgrounds, with so many different issues in their lives, are going to be able to form one particular group? And why do we still call them groups in the first place?

Maybe the start point is to remove the title of group!! That way we remove the idea of people entering into a particular closed gathering of people, which is what a group usually is. So rather than a group, could, or should, we start referring to the gathering of young people as a community? Community gives the impression of ownership by all and for all, where a group is usually something put on by some for the participation of others. Community also gives the value of shared lives and the giving of each other to the benefit of the whole community. So community is certainly a good place to start, and more can be explored around this in a short booklet on the resource page on this website called the P’s and C’s of Youth Work. But we do need to explore much more the reason why we feel it is important or necessary to add to our gathering of young people, or whether there is actually a better way forward.

Adding to a number only means an increase in numbers, and where there is an increase in numbers usually someone or some people will get missed or left out, simply due to a large number of people being there. It becomes a difficulty to enable depth or growth in terms of discipleship, and it ignores largely what God is doing in individuals that are there. So, there is a need to move away from the language of adding to the gathering of young people.

This is not to say that we don’t want other young people to become disciples – of course we do, but there has to be a better way, surely. And there has to be a way, surely, that does not just assume that by gathering young people in one place, they are safe,  will learn best there, or even be able to go and make a difference where they live. So surely the better way, rather than adding, is to multiply?

The multiplication of gathered communities of young people will make it easier for young people to access something near to them, whether geographically or in terms of relationships.  It also gives more scope for  neighbourhoods to be transformed as young people begin to gather in the  same communities where they live and go to school. In turn, young people are then able to really be part of their communities  as growing disciples, seeing a difference made in their local context.

Multiplication shows movement, and the kingdom of God is a movement, surely. Movement shows that the kingdom of God doesn’t just exist or happen in one particular place or in one particular area; it is everywhere – a movement in individual and community lives, and everyone is invited into it.

So if we are serious about seeing young people growing into all that God has for them, we need to change our language and stop talking about adding to youth groups. We need to look to the movement of multiplying youth communities. This way, we will also see the release and development of more leaders and remove a centralised formula of leadership.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see more people being released as leaders, taking part in all that God is doing and feeling that sense of call and release? Not only that, but by seeing the multiplication of communities, we are giving away what we have and removing ourselves from the centre, giving space for God in God’s rightful place. What a vision it is to give away leadership, seeing others grow in that and multiplying communities of young people who are able to reach out to others and see them encounter the living God.

This vision is very much at the heart of HYMN, Harrogate Youth Mission Network, where we are seeking to release leaders and see the multiplication of communities of young disciples impacting their culture, their community, and seeing the kingdom of God transforming all around them. It means we have to move away from the usual, the predictable, the what always has been, and explore the new – the what could be, and take that risk in releasing others and believing for the multiplication of impact.

Will you share our prayers and vision to see this happen?

Releasing the Reapers

In a recent time of prayer, there was a focus on Matthew 9.36-38, where Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion on them all. He tells the disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I was drawn to the 3 letters, RTR, which obviously stand for RollTheRock, but I felt there was more, and over a little time, God gave me a new sense of these initials – that they stood for Releasing the reapers.

Jesus tells the disciples that the harvest is plentiful, a large harvest, if you like, to be reaped. We shouldn’t underestimate all that it is that God wants to do and the lives he wants to draw close to himself. How often do we sell ourselves short, or God short, because we haven’t grabbed hold of the vastness of all that it is that he wants to do.

But then Jesus says that the workers are few. If this is the case, do we need to shift our position to be more releasing? If the harvest is that vast, then it will take more workers to harvest it. It is more than possible that there are people ready to reap, but they are waiting to be released, sent, by others in leadership. The workers may be few partly because people haven’t stepped up to the call of God on their lives, but it also might be because they haven’t felt that release and sending by those in leadership over them. If the harvest is to be truly reaped, then more people need to be sent and more need to respond to the call of God to be sent.

Reaping is an outward activity; the crops don’t come to a farmer, the farmer has to go to them to reap. So why do we think that people are going to come to church gatherings, when we know that they aren’t? The reality is that we are going to need to go to where they are, so that reaping can properly take place. So we need to stop the hoarding and be a lot more releasing of people if we are to see the harvest being reaped.

The harvest may well be vast, but so is the need to send the reapers, which is why we need to be church that releases the reapers.

Where does grace show itself in our lives?

You might remember the old acronym of GRACE, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. The thing about this is that grace is about us receiving God’s riches! Do we actually put ourselves in a place of receiving his riches? Do we even believe that we deserve to receive them?

Very often I have heard in churches, people speaking about receiving gifts from God and how they are not worthy of receiving those gifts. They focus much more, if not totally, on the unworthiness to receive, rather than on the fact that God, our Father, wants to give us gifts in the first place.

We speak so much about what God has for people when we talk to others, yet they may find themselves in a church community or environment where we put ourselves down so much that it creates an atmosphere where they will put themselves down as well. This can get in the way of them receiving any gift that God might want to give them.

This is not to put us at the centre, because God is always at the centre. Nor is it about building our egos or anything like that. What it is about is realising that God wants to give us gifts and those gifts are good gifts. The more we put ourselves down, the more we put ourselves in a place of not receiving all the gifts that God has for us.

In Genesis, God talks about how mankind is made in his image. Therefore, if we are truly made in God’s image, why wouldn’t he want to give us gifts? – he sees something of himself in us, the people whom he has created. And maybe if we started putting ourselves in a place of receiving God’s gifts, the rest of the world might get to understand more about what it means to receive God’s gifts. How can others know the God who loves, the God who gives, if they don’t see it in the people who are meant to live their lives as though they know him and receive from him?

So, let’s change our posture, our positioning, and place ourselves in that place of receiving from God, being open to his riches. And out of receiving, let’s enable ourselves to be even more giving people, so that others also receive all that God has to give to them.

Do we enable people to feel chosen or rejected

Many of us will have memories of our school days, the PE lessons, and two people picked as captains, and then they have to choose who they want on their team! those days of knowing that you were going to be last, and only end up on someones team because the other person didn’t choose you. This process of team picking often leads to people thinking that they aren’t worth much, or valuable to others, and they can start to feel rejected.

Not being chosen often leads to that feeling of being rejected. And we see it so much in our society today, where people are overlooked because according to those doing the choosing, they don’t quite fit. But, really, what does it actually mean to fit?

many at times have overlooked me, because I am blind. they make their assumptions about what I can do, what I am worth to a team, and my ability to do things, without talking to me, asking me, or especially pushing past the blindness, to seeing the person, not just the blindness. It is a challenge to all of us, that we don’t allow the church to become that place of rejection for people, but the place not just of acceptance, but chosenness.

But maybe the fact that much of society doesn’t feel chosen, and feel chosen by the church, is because we ourselves, haven’t got to grips with what it really means for us, as Gods people to be chosen. If we haven’t got to grips with being chosen ourselves, how can we expect others to feel chosen? We won’t demonstrate what it means to be chosen if we aren’t receiving gods choosing in the first place. it is time that we really started to embrace the fact that we are chosen people, so that we can live lives, that enable others to feel chosen as well.

the difference between the kingdom of God and the school PE lessons, is that everyone is chosen, everyone has the invitation to join in, nobody is excluded, but people can choose themselves, to be excluded. how much do we actually extend the invitation, and enable people to feel chosen, rather than them feeling rejection, excluded, or simply just not wanted.

In our work with young people, we should always have that invitation at the heart of what we do, and who we are, there should never be any sense of rejection. But many young people have felt that rejection, because of us puting behaviour before the ability or invitation to belong. Jesus invited people to follow him, and he would show them the way, and offer to guide them, they would know that they are chosen, and it was down to them whether they accepted his choosing or they decided to reject it. Jesus was inclusive of his invitation, and enabling people to feel chosen, but people would often reject this for various reasons.

Maybe it is time for us to start living those chosen lives, so that we can truly extend the invitation to others, and enable them to feel chosen, and that way, bring gods love, value, worth to people, and they no longer feel rejection, or exclusion from all that God has for them.

1: What does it mean for you to live a life knowing that you are chosen?
2: How can you ensure that others around you are invited, and not rejected?