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?

Do we assume too much?

When we engage with others and start a discussion around faith, what is our start point? What are we assuming from the outset when we get into the conversation?

When Paul went and engaged with people, he was asked, “What is this new thing you are talking about?” Acts.17.16-32.

Paul, through his observations and time with people, realised that they were starting from a point of not knowing, not having anything to hold onto in the discussion – that Jesus was something new to these people.

Do we need to move our thinking from the perspective of assuming people have some kind of understanding, some kind of knowledge of what we’re talking about, to recognising that most don’t? Do we need to stop making assumptions about what people know or don’t know and actually spend time engaging, understanding and listening, so we gain that perspective and are able to join with God in bringing revelation to them in a way that makes sense?

What does it mean about our approaches when we make assumptions?
How can we ensure that we stop making assumptions?

Are you at the centre?

How many times have you ever used the phrase, “I don’t want to do that?” Maybe you don’t, but what it does is put us at the centre – our desires, our intentions, and the question is, should we really put ourselves at the centre?

One thing that our nation has seen over these last few weeks is people coming together for the sake of others, putting others first: not themselves, their own wishes, desires, or even their own ambitions, whether that be taxi drivers giving free lifts, doctors and nurses going into work when they weren’t even on the rota, people running into situations, without a thought of themselves but simply for others; all of these things show something of not putting ourselves but others first.

The moment we remove ourselves and place Christ at the centre as well as putting others first, communities transform, lives change, hope is brought, and love exists.

I wonder what it will look like in a couple of months time, in a years time, whether people are still putting others first, putting others before themselves, or whether we will have gone back to thinking of ourselves first?

What does it mean for each of us to remove ourselves from the centre and place Christ there instead?
What are the temptations that lie before us, to put ourselves at the centre?
What will enable us to keep up an attitude, or approach, of keeping ourselves out of the centre, and keeping Christ there?