” 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.

Have we made youth ministry too safe and too much about the individual?

Somewhere along the way, there appears to be a youth ministry shift that has put the person, rather than Jesus, at the centre a lot of the time. Somehow it has become all about the “me” and my relationship with Jesus – a personal thing that doesn’t need to be shared or put out there in any place. We have removed an element of vulnerability and faith and moved towards being a safe person in a safe place.

Jesus never offered the Disciples safety, nor did he ever seem to offer them comfort; but he did offer adventure, risk, journey and a relationship which wasn’t necessarily to be held alone but rather something to be shared. So have we made youth ministry too safe? It’s a question that probably needs to be re-explored soon if we are truly to see a generation of disciples making disciples.

Have we taken up the culture that discipleship is all about me and my relationship with God? And have we abandoned the fact that the relationship that is offered by God is indeed one for us but also one for all? Out of our relationship with God, others are meant to be drawn into relationship with God as well.

We will never see a generation released to be all that they are meant to be if we continually focus inward. An outward focus should never be an add-on and it should be something that comes later –  it is an integral part of the who we are meant to be, and we serve young people a disservice in their discipleship the longer we continue to make it about them, rather than what it is truly meant to be about.

Maybe rather than youth ministry and youth ministers, the reality is that we have turned it all into youth work, and thus we are all youth workers. I am not sure about the word ministry, but there is a need to have the distinction between the feel good stuff that a lot of youth work brings and the life-journeying, relationship sharing that Jesus seemed to call us into when he left with the words Go and Make Disciples. He did not leave people with the thought that they are the only disciples and that is it; they had to go and make new disciples.

There is something risky and challenging about Jesus, but we have become so risk-averse that the adventure that we are all invited into is removed and avoided by so much of today’s work with young people.

Maybe we would do well to reimagine what it really means to raise a generation of missional disciples who are truly life and community changers for the Kingdom of God.

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?