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?

Why youth leaders are often to afraid to scatter the seed

This may be true for many Christians, not just youth leaders, but it does strike me that there is often a singular issue that restricts the sowing of the good seed that God has given us. And what is that restriction? The fact that we define what the result has to be!

So many times I have heard youth leaders say that they are reluctant to do anything missional, because they don’t know what the thing will look like in the end! they need to have the totality of the picture in place, so they either engage themselves or encourage their young people to engage. But what would it look like if we didn’t have the complete picture in mind? If we were not so dictative about how things must look once a seed is sown? As Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, as he engaged with others during his journeys, there was no complete picture given, no definable absolute to how things had to be that was shared. There was a journey that was invited into, and life discipleship worked out as the journey was embarked upon. Why is it that we restrict ourselves to defined pictures of how things have to be, rather than enjoying the journey that God invites us on, and seeing where he leads? The farmer scattered the seed, some fell on 4 different types of ground. but it did not restrict him from scattering the seed. He never said to himself, “I have no idea whether this flower will grow into the exact flower, shape, size, colour that i want, so i won’t scatter the seed.” If anything he probably knew the reality that some of the seed would not grow into anything at all, but he still knew that there wold be great stuff out of his sowing, and so he sowed. Could we adopt a similar approach?

Rather than defining what the outcome has to be, could we scatter some seed, and believe, that good things would come from that? Is our reluctance to scatter more about our own lack of belief and trust? Do we hold on to the seed that we have been given because we do not believe that it could grow into anything that God would want? Where do we place our trust?

Isaiah, 55.11 says that the word that goes out will not come back empty. But do we believe that? Do we believe that the word that we speak out from God will not come back empty?

so rather than placing our defined pictures, or personal restrictions upon being missional, sowing the seed, sharing what god has given us, do this in a spirit of trust, belief, and enthusiasm.

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.