The end of the youth group

“what would you like in your community if money, people and space were not issues?” A question that was asked to a group of young people in a school recently where we were involved. Interestingly the response from some came back, saying that they didn’t want youth groups, people puting stuff on for them, they would actually really like their own venue, their own space, their own place to hang out, be, chat, have fun. When exploring this further there was quite a voice that spoke up saying that they would love to be involved in helping set something up, being part of making sure things happened, and being part of making it move forward. Could this kind of idea be the end of the traditional youth group?

A while ago I wrote a booklet, short booklet, which was called the P’s and C’s of youth work, where I argued that the terminology of group needed to change to the idea of community. I wonder whether this is at the heart of what these young people were saying? More community, where they were part of it, and part of the ownership of it, rather than a group, where things were put on for young people, by others, by adults!!

What would discipleship look like in this kind of context? A place where more relationship could grow, where life could be shared, where people are listened too, as well as spoken with. A place where the reality of life could collide with the fullness of life that Jesus offered in John10.10. community also brings in the idea that life can be engaged with more regularly than the 1.5 hours on a friday evening or whenever it might be, and then no engagement in-between times. If we look at how Jesus engaged with the Disciples, he gathered, he did life, he showed, he shared, he enabled, he invited, he released, he involved, he valued. Could it be that some of these values have been missed out, forgotten, ignored from our engagement with young people, or even with the teams that we lead.

Is it time to re-explore our discipleship approach, both with the young people we engage with, but also the teams we lead? Is discipled leadership something worth exploring further so that the phrase, disciples who make disciples is truly lived out? A group settles with what is, a community invites others to be part of what is happening, there is much more to write, but you can read more on some of this at www.rolltherock.org.uk/resources and click on P’s and C’s of youth work. A second part of this will be coming later this year.

The importance of strategic thinking for youth leaders

There has been a lot of thinking re strategy in terms of working wth, engaging with young people recently, particularly due to the nature of the work. Not knowing how many young people you are going to have on a weekly basis, or who is going to stick around post schools nd so on. So the question was posed about strategic thinking, due to its difficulties.

There are some good reasons for strategic thinking, and here are just a few:

1: gathering team: yes this is a lot to do with vision, but it also includes strategy, as a team is vital to see the vision come into fruition. Different people will play different parts along the journey of the strategy, and offer different gifting, some of which, maybe all of which will be useful to help see the vision come into fruition. Team also helps bring the creativity that is definitely required, but the reality is that most people are unlikely to join a team if they don’t see a vision, or a framework of strategy of how the vision will come into fruition. There needs to be a plan of some description for people to see how they can play their part in enabling the strategy to be worked out.

2: direction: linked to the gathering of team, people need to have an idea of direction. strategic thinking can and should bring some direction to where people are heading. In regard to youth discipleship, there are steps to seeing the depth of growth in the discipleship of young people, plus also a growth in the number of young people who are going to be involved. Strategic thinking leads to growth.

3: growth: Often regarded as a bad word in relation to discipleship for some reason. Peoples person growth is important yes, but so is the growth of sphere of influence, impact, and people engaging with what is going on. Strategic thinking should lead to growth, otherwise things remain as they are, and that small grouping remains that small grouping, which is not lined up to a God who is moving in peoples lives, and a kingdom that is at hand for all.

4: people joining in: This is partly linked the gathering team, but it also enables others to get involved, and play their part in what is going on. young people are more likely to join in, invite others to join in, if they know where things are heading, and know that it isn’t just going to stay static. to invite others to be part of something there needs to be an understanding of what it is people are being invited too, and where the journey is heading.

These are just some initial thoughts re strategy and work with young people. there will undoubtedly be more.

On the Move

This is the first of our Advent reflections, and we wanted to reflect on the fact that God is on the move!

But God has always been on the move, and this is so represented in the life of Jesus even when he was a baby. From the point of birth, his family took him on an adventure (even if it was for his own safety). They took him to different places, and he was on the move. Living in different places, engaging with different people in different ways, Jesus was not confined to one place, nor to one people group, and God today is not confined!

God is continually on the move, inviting people to engage with him, opening his arms to receive, going to where people are, not just expecting them to come to him. If Jesus moved around during his life, and God is on the move, shouldn’t we be people who are going to where people are, reaching out to them, engaging with them in their contexts, in their lives and circumstances?

During this season, let’s be open to where God is on the move, but also ask, where is it that we should be on the move also?

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?