Are we persistently acceptant?

Acceptance is one of those things that is regularly spoken about, and probably most regularly in regard to young people. How could we, and even should we be continuously or persistently acceptant?

Are we meant to accept the way they speak?
Are we meant to accept the way they act?
Are we meant to accept the way they do things?
Are we meant to accept the fact that their way of expression will be different to ours?

So many forms of acceptance, and not all listed above, but how can we work out a way of acceptance?

If we are to be acceptant in our approach, then we have to come at it from a foundation, of understanding that recognises that we will not understand things straight away, and things will not necessary change or adjust straight away. Acceptance takes time! time to show! time to receive! Time to believe that it is actually truly given!
Acceptance is often viewed with a lens of suspicion, not believing that people are being true to what they say, or even a level of scepticism because it is often something that a lot of people, and maybe young people more than most, do not experience truly in their lives. We live in a culture where blame, shame, unforgiveness all exist at high levels, but yet we are called to be different, live differently, demonstrate different values, and so live out a culture of persistent acceptance.

when we work with young people, living this out will be a challenge, as parents, church members, and others will all have viewpoints on young people and their behaviour, but as god demonstrated persistent acceptance to us, inviting us into that relationship with him, continuously, persistently, we should aim to live out that which has been demonstrated to us.

so what od we need to do if we are to demonstrate this?

1: Where a young person continues to be around us, never give up on them. Obviously, at some points young people will choose to walk away, but often they will not, so regardless of what is happening, we do not walk away from them.
2: recognise the long hall for us. Acceptance is not going to happen over night, so we need to involve, engage, in a long term process.
3: Keep the invitation open. Even if there are boundaries that you are agreeing with young people, and they need to be stuck by, always ensure that the young person knows the door is open, there is never a permanence to their removal or exclusion. the door is there, open, the invitation is there and remains.
4: ensure the conduct of your team shows this as well. So it isn’t just reliant upon you the leader, but is always part of the whole teams approach to people, situations, the premise of acceptance is at the heart of all that you are about.

god continues to show acceptance to us, so where and how do we show it to others around us?

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.

” would never”

Over the weekend there were a number of marches in America about the gun laws, particularly in response to the recent shooting in Florida. Listening to one of the young people speaking, the phrase she used about all 14 who were killed on that day, was ” Would never”!!! there were a number of things that she listed that the 14 who had been killed would never do again, and it was so powerful.

The reality of “would never”, for each of the people killed is a tough reminder about life, the life we are given, the life we have to live, the life that lies before us. But there was also something powerful about how those people were remembered!

What is it that people would remember us for? What is it that they would say we “would never” again? What is it about how we act, how we speak, how we engage, how we support or criticise?

The things that were listed for many of the young people who had been killed were fun, even dee friendship things, and yes even some funny silly, superficial things, but they all mattered. The person we are matters, the person we are around others, as well as the person in the quiet matters. So how are we around others? How are we likely to be remembered?

This young girl, Emma i believe her name was, aged 17 I believe, i might be wrong, so powerful, so strong. yes in the context of the gun crimes in the States, but also in the memory, the memory of friends, of those who had been killed, the powerful memory of life, the difference that those people around her had made, those people who will not be around her any more.

Jesus may not be present with us, as he was with the Disciples, but his memory lives on! how he was around people, how he was when he spoke and acted. these testimonies live on. the stories that have been told about him, all powerful, in how he has been remembered, and influential in lives since.

people will remember you for all sorts of things. On a number of occasions recently, I have been approached by young people who have seen me in school, heard what I have had to say, and come up and thanked me, they have told me they remember what I said, and the difference it made to them, and their lives. This is an honour, a privilege, and it reminds me of the power of Gods spirit working through us when we are open to him.

to make that lasting difference, that people will remember, in a positive, Godly manner, we need to be open to the spirit, his guidance, and be aware of the doors that god our father opens for us.

I don’t know about you, but when I pass away, if people ever use that phrase, “would never”, about me, I hope it is a positive, encouraging memory, that i have made a difference, positive difference in peoples lives.

Fullness of life without Jesus?

In John 10.10, Jesus said, that a thief comes to steal, but he comes to bring life in all its fullness. So What does a full life look like? Can there be a full life without Jesus? Could it be that something is missing if we do not have, and include what Jesus wants to bring to us? In one of their songs from about 20 Years ago, U2 used the phrase, ” Looking for a fill, that God shaped hole “, from their Pop album. As we are all created in Gods image, do we look to the fullness that Jesus offers that he can give, or do we look to fill that god shaped hole in other ways? And what is it that we offer others around us?

There is so much in our culture today, so many things that people can fill their lives with, but how much do we give room for Jesus and what he wants to bring to our lives.

Valuing young people is vital, important, absolutely right, but where do they get that sense of value from? Us? themselves? people around them? Or do we point them, help them see God who values them even more, and wants to bring ” life in all its fullness”, for them?

resources that bring value, worth, identity are all great, but without all that God has for them, there is still something missing in the resources.

Do we ourselves, know what it means to receive the fullness of life that Jesus was offering to us? Because it is only when we start to get a grip of that, that we have something really worth offering to other people. yes we can find part of that in ourselves, in people around us, but the God shaped hoel, is only filled by what God brings to us, and we have to come to him to receive it. Lets not sell young people short, we need to offer them everything, and that has to include the fullness of life that Jesus offers, without offering that, there will always be that Godshaped hole.