Sunday, December 02, 2007

Changes coming

Some major changes are coming to the YOUTH VANGUARD. Stay tuned...

If you're reading this - can you leave a comment?

Did you come here
1) via RSS,
2) stumble here or
3) do you keep checking for content?

Dave.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Preaching Christ Crucified

The National Youth Ministry Convention 07 was lots of fun! I met some great people, was reminded of some incredible truths and have been challenged to trust in God and not myself. There were just under 500 people at the convention and it was exciting to meet so many who are passionately proclaiming Jesus in their context.

The convention closed with a time of communion. The organiser, Stephen Parker, closed with a clear reminder of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was an encouraging time - however the cross of Christ was not given the centre stage throughout the whole conference as it ought. I think that it is helpful to get speakers from different backgrounds, but there were some who share a different gospel and ought not be part of this conference if it runs again in the future.

I said it elsewhere, but what was missing most from the conference was the gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection for sins. A pastors conference ought not be an evangelistic rally, but as the troops are brought in from the battlefront, they need to be equipped and reminded of what really matters. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul outlines that which is of first importance:
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
Australian Youth Ministry needs leaders who will preach Christ Crucified to a dying generation.

NYMC Live Blog Summary:
Did you go? I'd love to hear your reflections...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NYMC07 - Live Blogging

I'm at the National Youth Ministry Convention 2007. As the only 'youth vanguard' representative here I'll be doing some live blogging over at my blog.

(Click here for some live blogging I did at a youth convention at the start of the year)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ultimate Reality - an evangelistic night at Crossfire.

Last Friday night, Crossfire had its first evangelistic night - "Ultimate Reality". It was part of Annandale Community Church's 'Start the Ultimate Relationship' week, and was a great night.

Here's how we planned what we did on our night:

1. First step was choosing the Bible passage for the evening. Although we had a groovy name for the event, a funky theme (Reality TV) plus great games and decoration - first up was working out what we wanted to teach from the Bible. So often, youth (and even church) events are planned the other way around. A theme is proposed and then the Bible is made to squeeze around an inflexible program, and so the 'big idea' that the kids take home is fashioned before the Bible is even opened.
We decided that more than anything, we wanted to take these kids through Luke 15, to show them that God loves them. He loves them and goes out looking for his lost children like the woman does with the coin, like the shepherd does with his lost sheep, and like the father does with his lost son. We decided that we would focus primarily on this last story - the prodigal Son.

2. With the Bible passage chosen, the rest of the night could flow from there. Next question was: What overall shape should the whole night take? As we read through the passage, it was clear that the story of the lost Son could easily be re-created into a reality TV show. There were a few other suggestions - but reality TV is something that youth get - and it looked like it could be a lot of fun.

3. We wrote a script for a TV show in 3 pre-recorded segments, which would be supplemented on the night with live interviews on a 'rove' style set. The TV show was about a son 'Nick' who was challenged by the producers of the show to demand his inheritance from his parents and leave home in order to win his freedom. Like reality TV shows, our video contained pre-recorded interviews with (fictitious) friends and family, and reflections from the protagonist on his actions - they'll be up on youtube soon.

4. These segments were broken up with games and activities and challenges - some loosely tying in with the theme, others not. We wanted to have time to meet and relate with newcomers as well as teach them about God. These were delegated to be organised and run on the night by a leader who was not required to be part of the 'TV' part of the night.

5. The video was filmed, edited and put on DVD with automated stops at the right places - to keep things technically smooth on the night.

6. The room decoration was delegated to someone who had read the script and understood what was happening. They brought in a lighting kit, big screen, couch, coffee table and posters and P.A.

7. We wrote the text for invite/postcard ad and then sent it to our graphic designer who came up with the final piece. This was letterbox dropped to the entire suburb along with the other mission advertising, as well as given to regular memebers to invite friends. We had more guests from personal invites than we had from the letterbox drop.

That was pretty much it. Any questions or comments?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Evangelism Strategy Part 1

CCECYOUTH has a 5 pronged evangelism strategy. I'm currently re-working some of our strategy material. But at the moment, here's a quick sketch of the gear:
  • 1) FRIENDSHIP EVANGELISM - We want our teenagers to know the gospel, seek to live the gospel and share the gospel with their friends in whatever way they can. We equip them in at least 3 ways: Two Ways to Live, The Jesus Bridge, Telling your Jesus Story. The first two tools are more about understanding the gospel than how to share the gospel. The 3rd is about giving your testimony.
  • 2) FRIDAY'S ARE FRIENDLY - We want any week of youth group to be a good week to bring a friend. We recognise that outsiders are present each week - we want to present the good news of Jesus every week. We also don't want to use insider language and jokes all the time - we want to speak about Jesus often and clearly and in a way that's not boring. Friday's should be fun!
  • 3) DOUBLE UP ONCE A TERM - While any week is a good week to bring a friend - one night a term we have a night where the talk is specifically geared toward someone who doesn't know Jesus. The aim is to double our numbers on this night. We haven't yet done that, but this year there have been many non-Christian teens come on those nights.
  • 4) FOLLOW-UP SMALL GROUP - We've got 2 follow-up courses called simplyJESUS. The junior youth material is similar to Tim Hawkin's Discovering Jesus (God, Man, Jesus, Jesus' death, Our response). The senior youth material is based around the two ways to live structure.
  • 5) WEEK LONG MISSION - Currently we run a week long program in January - this is a heightened period of bringing friends along to events that we put on for juniors and seniors. The juniors program runs closely with our family mission in the mornings. Seniors runs a bit more independently in the evenings at a local hip youth centre (very cool space!).
What do you think? Would love to hear some feedback as I rework all this stuff.

In the end - we want our teenagers captured by Jesus. That honours him. And they are going to be far more effective at evangelising their peers than I can be by handing out flyers in the local high schools. (Note to self - get rid of Christian school so there are more Christians in gov't schools!)

If you don't know what I mean by the gospel... check out this.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Invitation

Below is some info about a conference we are hosting this coming weekend. You are more that welcome to attend! coast youth REVOLUTION is all about living radically in response to the good news of Jesus.

You don't have to be from the Central Coast to attend! If you're planning on coming - come! If you're bringing a group that needs somewhere to sleep on the Friday (and Saturday if need be) contact ccecyouth@gmail.com and we'll organise billets.

Monday, August 27, 2007

coast youth REVOLUTION* conference 2007

conference

coast youth REVOLUTION* radically changed by the goodnews of JESUS
3 great speakers | 2 great bands | 1 incredible GOD

coast youth REVOLUTION* conference
Friday Sept 7 - Saturday Sept 8 AD2007

Erina Centre (next door to library @ erina fair)

conference

SPEAKERS: Andrew Heard, Paul Dale & Dave Miers

BANDS: Running Home & Revive

Workshops

When you understand the cross of Jesus… it radically changes everything. Join us on our first coast youth REVOLUTION conference as we look at JESUS and learn how to... LIVE THE REVOLUTION

PROGRAM
FRI PM: 7-10pm (program @ 8pm)
SAT AM: 830-3pm (program @ 9am)
SAT PM: 3-6pm (activities & hang time)
SAT PM: 6-10pm (dinner 6pm, program 7pm)

Fri 7-10pm & Sat 830am-10pm

COST = $25 (or $10 per session) Bring some $$ for lunch + Arvo activity (Activity price range $0-$15)

BILLETING AVAILABLE
Contact info@cyrevolution.com or
Dave & Row Miers 4322-2107 to arrange

www.cyrevolution.com
myspace.com/cyrevolution

Download flyer for photocopier (100KB). Download postcard (1.8MB)

The Gospel and Teenage Culture

I gave a talk to a bunch of leaders at a mission training day a couple of weeks ago. The aim was to think through how we reach teenage culture without compromising on the timeless gospel of Jesus' death for our sins.

The Gospel and Teenage Culture
(mp3)

How do you preach the unchanging gospel in your context?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Double Up

Hi all, just thought I'd tell you that Liz and I (Tim) had a baby girl last Saturday! Way cool. And, Steve and Penny (Steve is another contributor to the Vanguard) also had a new bub on the very same day! Double way cool.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

National Youth Ministry Convention 07

Hey peeps. I posted about this back in Feb. I'm keen to go - but haven't yet booked. There is a $20 saving per person if 5 people book together. Can I get 4 takers???

National Youth Ministry Convention 07

Steve Morrison Live

Steve's yet to give his first post to the youth vanguard... but he promises that it's coming soon! In the meantime...

STEVE MORRISON - NEW ALBUM LAUNCH
LIVE AT THE BASEMENT - FEATURING JEFF DUFF

Thursday 16th August 2007 8pm start
The Basement, Sydney (29 Reiby Place Circular Quay)
$20 at door plus everyone who comes gets a free copy of the new CD!!

I'm a fan of Steve's last CD - so look forward to hearing this one.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Kids say e-mail is, like, soooo dead

It's American based research, but it's still interesting ...

'E-mail is, like, soooo dead' is the headline at News.com, where a piece looks at youth attitudes towards communication mediums. A group of teenage internet business entrepreneurs confessed that they really only use email to 'talk to adults'. Primarily, these folks are using social networks to communicate. 'More and more, social networks are playing a bigger role on the cell phone. In the last six to nine months, teens in the United States have taken to text messaging in numbers that rival usage in Europe and Asia. According to market research firm JupiterResearch, 80 percent of teens with cell phones regularly use text messaging. Catherine Cook, the 17-year-old founder and president of MyYearbook.com, was the lone teen entrepreneur who said she still uses e-mail regularly to keep up with camp friends or business relationships. Still, that usage pales in comparison to her habit of text messaging. She said she sends a thousand text messages a month.

Article summary taken from slashdot.org.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Youth Leader Training Syllabus

I’ve been thinking more since first posting about training youth leaders. In particular thinking about planning a training strategy. Most of the youth leader training programs I’ve come across so far take a grab-bag of ideas that the trainer perceives as important for leadership and teaches about them. Thus, there may be training topics on the spiritual life of a leader, how to run a small group, or the strategy of youth ministry. Whilst topics such as these are vital to youth leader training, I think it could be helpful to have a broader structure that helps each training topic fit into a whole training strategy. Below are my first thoughts on how this could be done.

I think it would be helpful to have four broad training modules, which would link together as shown in the diagram below. There would be a number of training topics that would make up each module.

Youth leaders do not progress through the modules in order, as if they first gain a complete understanding of the bible and then move on to think about culture. Rather, the arrows show how each module provides foundational material for others. We should aim for youth leaders who are consistently maturing in each of the four areas.

I'll post some thoughts about what topics might be covered under each module over the next week or two.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Parenting Books?

Below is a review of 'The Danger of Raising Nice Kids' by Timothy Smith that I've just finished for the Journal of Youth and Theology. I've given it a mixed review, some good bits some average bits.

Part of caring for young people is encouraging their parents. Are there any good Christian parenting books you would recommend?

And as an added bonus, I'll post a free copy of 'The Danger of Raising Nice Kids' to the first person who asks for it (email to youthatnowrabaptistdotasndotau)


The Danger of Raising Nice Kids
By Smith, Timothy, IVP Books (Downers Grove, Illinois: 2006), 202p. ISBN 0830833757 (pbk).

Timothy Smith, author of The Danger of Raising Nice Kids, has written numerous books to equip parents to raise their children and teenagers. In this book, his underlying assumption is that most parents are not raising their children well, not out of neglect, but simply because ‘they don’t know how’ (p13). Smith takes the role of a parenting expert, promising that his advice will take readers to ‘the next level of parenting’ (p12).

Smith outlines his thesis in the first two chapters, which he summarises as ‘nice is not enough’ (p12). That is, socialising children to have nice exterior behaviour is not an adequate parenting goal. Rather, parenting should be seen as discipling a child (p28). Moreover, parents should aim at moulding the heart and mind of their children. Smith proposes nine virtues, or traits, that ought to be fostered by parents. These nine virtues are vision, authenticity, listening, empathy, compassion, discernment, boundaries, contentment, and passionate love. The majority of the book comprises discussion about these nine virtues, with a chapter devoted to each. In each chapter, Smith shares a number of anecdotal stories about teenagers, interspersed with his own observations and practical tips about how parents might nurture the particular virtue under discussion.

The Danger of Raising Nice Kids displays several strengths. Smith’s central thesis is helpful. I am sure all youth ministry practitioners would agree that ‘nice is not enough’ and also with the goal of fostering virtuous young people. Moreover, Smith’s writing is often warm and easy-going. The range of practical tips he provides is both helpful and empowering to parents. He even includes three appendices with a range of worksheets and activities for families to do together. Personally, I believe that one of the most effective ways youth ministry practitioners can care for young people is to care for their parents. Therefore, resources such as Smith’s book can have a helpful role in building up parents, and consequently strengthening young people also.

Despite the outlined strengths, the Danger of Raising Nice Kids has a significant overarching weakness. Smith has aimed to write a Christian book, and refers God and the Bible at numerous points. However I felt like the central truths that ought to orientate all of the Christian life were missing. Smith has no discussion about how Christ’s death and resurrection, the certain hope of his return, or any other significant Christian truth, should be shaping parental goals for their children. Having proposed that ‘nice is not enough’ Smith moves immediately to a list of virtues. Whilst each of these virtues may be noble, I was left wondering why he chose those virtues in particular, and not others such as humility, patience, or hope. Moreover, I wonder why obvious biblical material such as Paul’s virtue lists go unmentioned. Smith’s list appears to be the nine virtues that came to mind when he was writing the book, rather than a list of virtues self consciously driven by a Christian worldview. Indeed, some of the traits Smith promotes, such as vision and boundaries, appear to be drawn more from fashionable pop-psychology than biblical Christianity.

To be fair, Smith may have done a significant amount of groundwork in deriving his virtue list from Christian doctrine, but if so, left his working out of the book. In its current form, I fear that all The Danger of Raising Nice Kids has succeeded in doing is presenting parents with a better way of achieving nicety in their children. That is, by focusing on virtue rather than external behaviour, parents may encourage children to be nice all the way through, rather than only nice on the exterior. However I don’t think that even ‘nice all the way through’ is enough. In my opinion, if young people are going to become culturally radical disciples of Christ, then they must know why virtue is important, and how virtue is grounded in Christian truth.

Smith’s book may be helpful to the youth ministry practitioner. The practical parenting tips and activities in the appendices are resources that encourage healthy families, and healthy young people. However, Smith leaves too much unsaid for The Danger of Raising Nice Kids to be a solid stand-alone resource.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lost and Found: The Series

Series aim:
1) To see that Jesus came to seek and save the lost
2) To see that without Jesus you are lost
3) To see that only through the death of Jesus can you be found

I'm writing a series of talks and studies on Lost and Found. These aren't talks or studies... just some of my thinking in preparation. Stay tuned for the talks on talkcast.ccecyouth.com
In #1 we see that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Throughout #2-9 we meet a whole bunch of different people - both real and fictional - who were lost. Some realised it. Others didn't. If you aren't a follower of Jesus and you've stumbled onto my blog (or you're a regular reader) - let me encourage you to see yourself clearly: you are lost... and see Jesus clearly: he died and rose so that you could be forgive and have life eternal.

Shout out to James and the peeps at Central Espresso - the Best Coffee in Gosford - it kept me going with all my early starts (6am in Gosford is very early for a night owl!) over the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How To Measure Success?

How do you measure the success of a youth ministry? Should you even try?

I rekon the easiest, but least reliable, way to measure is by counting numbers.

I rekon the most relible, but difficult, way to measure is by the growth of God's kingdom as kids come to Christ and grow in Christ.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Journal of Youth and Theology


I recieved the first JYT for the year a couple of weeks ago. There are four essays in this issue:

  • Beyond a Godless Understanding of Youth: Why Exegesis Matters of Youth Ministry

  • Towards an Adolescent Hermenutic

  • Faith in Networks: Religious Education of Dutch young adults in a 'post-ecclesial' era

  • From ghetto to communitas: Post-Soviet youth ministry and leadership on a pilgrimage to Emmaus


It's an interesting journal, like no other in youth ministry, that helps me think outside the square.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Church Office - Episode 2

What people are doing online

This is a helpful graph from business week (click image to make it bigger). It shows the way in which different generations are using the web. (H/t marko)

The implications for youth ministry in Australia (assuming that the AUS figures are similar to the US figures above) are that we cannot ignore the web. Here's two to start:
  1. We need to teach our teenagers how to be Christian on the Internet. How they can use it for good rather than bad and how they can point people to Jesus.
  2. Our youth ministries need to have an active presence online which will help with number 1 above.
Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Teenagers dealing with parents

Can I commend to you one of the best things to come out of CCECYOUTH this year? It's our latest J-walk magazine. It was all about Parents and how to help teenagers to deal with their families in different circumstances. I'm keen for the material to be spread widely. I already know of a number of youth ministries that have passed this latest issue (as well as the companion podcast) onto teenagers in their groups. Let me encourage you to do likewise!

Check it out. You can download the full magazine in friendly formats, listen to the podcast, and read some of the articles online. Guest Authors include: John Piper, John Dickson and Michael Corbett-Jones. I'd be interested to hear how you go with passing this gear on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Swing into Action 2007

THIS IS A GREAT CAMP!! We are for year 7-11's and we still have room for more campers! It's from July 1-6. Please pray... but also think of youth group kids you can encourage to come along. It's encouraging for Christians - but also a great opportunity for Christians teens to bring their friends along to hear about Jesus.

Check out the Swing into Action MySpace page for all the info (including online rego)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Music in the smaller youth group.

Crossfire currently averages around five or six kids a week. On my mind lately has been the question how to do music/singing with a group this small. Obviously we’re hoping to grow, and music should get easier as we do, but because the group is currently quite small, it makes group singing a little awkward. Does anyone have any tips on how do music well in a small context like this?

Currently we go into morning church (it's on at the same time) for the first 10 minutes – which generally includes a couple of songs, and then we leave with the Sunday School kids during the announcements - but don't do any more singing in our group. I’d eventually like to do it ourselves, and have the kids come straight to crossfire rather than go to church first, but I’d like to have a plan for doing music in a small group before making that step.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

coast youth REVOLUTION

coast youth REVOLUTION is a combined youth event run on the Central Coast involving a number of churches (particularly those involved in FIEC). We had an event last Friday night and a 1.5 day conference on 7-8 Sept 07. We've had some great speakers over the last few years. Check out their talks:
Tim's talk from Friday night has just been upload. There were a lot less teenagers at the event due to the crazy cyclone like storms here on the Central Coast and Hunter Valley... but it was a great night - and one girl prayed to become a Christian... Praise Jesus!

RSS feed: http://cyrevolution.podomatic.com/rss2.xml (go download in iTunes - it's currently ranked 21!!! EDIT: It made it as high as 14!!)

What combined youth group events are you part of? Good? Bad? Ugly?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Week by week leader training

Yesterday I went to a South Coast/Illawarra/Southern Sydney area youth ministry networking day. It was good (thanks to Andy Stevenson and Youthworks for organising it). I suggested an idea I had a while back to a few of the others, and it might just get off the ground. I’d love thoughts and contributions from you.

Fact 1: In the area I minister there are several great intensive leadership training camps and courses aimed at volunteer youth leaders. Things like Leaders in Training (LIT) and Katoomba Youth Leadership Conference (KYLC), as well as a range of smaller regional events.

Fact 2: Whilst intensive leadership training is great, I think it’s important to keep our leaders growing throughout the year. Week to week it can be easy to always be focused on organising the next event, or writing the next talk. My hope is to spend half an hour of the weekly leaders meeting on growing the Christian character, knowledge, and skills of the youth leaders, before we become immersed in week-to-week details. (By the way, half an our a week, for 36 weeks of the year is 18 hours spent developing leaders over the year! It would surely be time well spent.)

Fact 3: At the moment I don’t have enough time and creativity to effectively plan half an hour of leadership training each week.

Fact 4: I don’t know of any published material I can just pick up and use. There are lots of good resources, but many of them are not really formulated to be used in half hour bits, or for training youth leaders.

Therefore…

The plan is to gather a few people and together write one year of youth ministry training material that can be used in half hour blocks at a weekly youth leaders meeting.

So…

What do you think of the idea? If such a resource existed, would you use it?

What areas do you think should be covered the training material?

Or perhaps you have some resources you have already developed that could be contributed?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

So you wanna start a youth group?

My wife Soph and I began a youth group in Annandale in Sydney’s inner west this year. There hasn’t been a youth ministry at our church for probably 40 years. None of the other ministries in our suburb are reaching out to youth – and there are plenty of youth around! So after praying and talking and praying some more, we got underway in March this year.

I’m sure that there people out there who are thinking about starting up a youth group, but might feel like getting on the bike is just too daunting a step. So I thought I’d share some advice that I’ve picked up in my time involved with youth ministry.

The first step is always to pray and commit your plans to God, but what next?

1. Work out your goals

Often youth groups are running a certain way because that’s ‘the way it’s always been’! When you start a new group however, you have a chance to begin with a completely fresh slate. So think about what you’re trying to do. Set some goals and pray that God may use you to meet those goals. If you don’t aim to do anything, it’s pretty likely that you’ll get what you aim for. There’s no guarantee that you’ll achieve your goals either, but it’s far better to be aiming at something, rather than nothing.

No Guts, No Glory published by Matthias Media has a great chapter on setting goals. Read it, set some goals and then work out a plan that will help you to achieve those goals.

2. Make it all about Jesus

Soph and I recently visited a large youth group that was reaching lots of young people, growing, full of excitement and led with enthusiasm, but simply wasn’t about Jesus and his gospel. If your work is going to have any real or lasting impact upon the lives of young people, it will need to be driven by Jesus and his gospel. We are not seeking to just ‘get them through the door’, we are seeking to grow God’s kingdom, and God grows his kingdom through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our programs need to reflect this. We need to think about our activities and ask ourselves: are they focused on Jesus?
Jesus and fun are not incompatible. In fact, if you think that Jesus is the boring bit of youth ministry, then perhaps you should rethink your decision to start up a group!

3. Know your own context

Every youth group is different. What works in one group may not work in another. Some groups need to be on Friday nights, others work better on a Sunday afternoon or morning. Firstly, think about who you are trying to get to come along. Then think about what time to run the group. Think about their parents. Think about your location. Think about your local youth culture. Make your group one that will reach the young people in your local context. Don’t just try to import what some other group does somewhere else.

That being said, you don’t always have to re-invent the wheel. Talk to other youth group leaders. Visit other groups and take notes. There’s no copyright on most youth ministry ideas – only think about whether they will work in your context.

4. Pick the right leaders

Choose faithful, servant hearted, Christ-loving and teachable leaders. Your leaders will do so much of the ministry alongside you, so make sure that they are doing it for the right reasons. Youth leaders need to be of the same standard as any other leader in the church. They need to be committed to Christ, and to living in a godly way (1 Tim 3).

Don’t choose leaders ‘because it will be a good thing to help them get serious about Jesus’. Choose them because they are already serious. Doing youth ministry may well help them grow in many ways, but make sure they are on the right page before you invite them to get involved. Better to have fewer quality leaders, than a large team of leaders who cause you problems or who aren’t committed to what you’re doing.

5. Train for the future

Even as you start up the group, be thinking about the future leadership of the group. This is helpful for a few reasons. Firstly it stops you from building the group to rely upon one person too much. If you have in your mind that you are only overseeing this group until God puts another person in that role to do this work (even if that’s ten years from now), it will stop you from becoming ‘indispensable’. A good question to ask is ‘Who will be in the leadership team in two years from now?” Once you’ve worked that out, it’s time to think about what you’ll do now to equip the leadership team of the future for the task.

Secondly, youth groups can be a fantastic training ground for enthusiastic young leaders to hone their skills in ministry. Even if you stay around long term, by training your leaders, you are equipping them with skills that they will be able to use in many other ministry contexts in their future. So teach your leaders to preach, to pray, to lead, to write bible studies and to think biblically. Think about how you can use your youth group to train up people for gospel ministry beyond the youth group.

Engaging with culture

The dudes over at Marshill are very good at engaging with culture. They are helpful in showing how to discern the messages being preached by culture (this is the whole premise behind film & theology). The main question that they ask is what message is being communicated, and what gospel is being preached (i.e., what is hip hop heaven? What is hip hop hell?)?

Here's a snippet from a good piece on engaging with Hip-Hop culture:
"...Jesus prays for his followers, asking that the Father would leave them in the world and that He would protect them from the evil one. Jesus desires that we remain a part of culture, that we understand it, and that we seek to communicate the gospel in a meaningful way to those who have yet to receive God’s saving grace."
and
"...it is our mission to follow Paul’s lead in loving people of other cultures enough to learn how to communicate with them so that we can tell them about the gospel of Christ. This doesn’t mean that we have to roll on dubs, put on thick chains, and wear FUBU. It does, however, mean that we need to know the values of hip hop culture and be able to explain what the Christian response to these is.... Love them enough to learn how to effectively communicate the gospel to them so that they can come to know Jesus and his gospel."
In response to my posts on Central Coast culture and what it needs - it would be wrong to encourage our youth group members to have nothing to do with their peers who "get sloshed, stoned and sexed" at Erina Fair. But keep thinking through how to understand their friends (while not falling into the same sin) so that they engage their friends with the glorious news of Jesus.

What gospel is your local youth culture proclaiming? (i.e. What is that culture's heaven? Hell?)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What the Central Coast needs

The Central Coast has been in the SMH a bunch of times in the last 2 days: here (pics) on old and young alike wasting time at Erina Fair (see my post here); here on transport; here on gangs; here on a local teenage model; and more here (pics) on Friday nights at Erina Fair.

The article: Bored and isolated teenagers run wild, brought me to tears this morning. Here's a snippet:
Beyond the narrow band of wealth clinging to the coast, where the beach provides a source of entertainment, young people say they have little to do. At worst, these teenagers pass their time drinking, taking drugs and having sex. Children say they start using alcohol at 12 and many have lost their virginity by 13.
Quite often we have teenagers too young to go to clubs, too old to watch cartoons, too poor to go to the movies who walk through/past our youth group venue (not fair from Erina Fair) on a Friday night. We've had numerous eggs thrown at us, we've had significant fights outside on the oval, we've had beer bottles thrown, we've had drunken kids wander into our events, we've had 10 year old boys show their head in the door yell out "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" laugh and then run off... to name a few! (That's not to mention the naked 16 year old Thugby League team that ran through our Junior Youth Church service on the beach last year!)

The exciting thing is that we've had significant conversations with quite a number of these guys (and never had anyone from youth group harmed in any way - it's good to have large male leaders!) and even had them return the following week (sober) to find out more about Jesus. The great tragedy is that these bored teenagers, looking for something to occupy their time, don't realise that youth group and Jesus is where the real action is at!!!

A few months ago I posted some thoughts on what Central Coast teenagers are after:
  • Teenagers want to fit in
  • Teenagers want to be where the action is
They don't know what they're doing... they don't know what they're missing... Central Coast teenagers don't need better public transport, they don't need more services, they don't need more refuge beds, they don't need an education in how to use a condom, they don't need to learn where they ought to safely deposit their used syringes, they don't need to learn safe drinking habits, they don't need more skate parks, they don't need cheaper movie tickets... THEY NEED JESUS!! JESUS IS WHERE THE REAL ACTION IS AT! THEY NEED TO HEAR ABOUT THE REAL LIFE THAT THEY CAN HAVE IN JESUS. JESUS LOVES THEM. JESUS DIED AND ROSE FOR THEM. THEY NEED JESUS TO GIVE THEM A HEART TRANSPLANT!!

There are idiots who claim to be youth ministry gurus who say it is stupid to run youth group on a Friday night. My guess is that one of the reasons they have small youth groups is because all of their "Christian" family kids are getting sloshed, stoned and sexed with their mates from school on a Friday night and are still too hung over to be able to turn up to church on the Sunday!

CCECYOUTH Leaders - keep doing what you're doing! Your labours aren't in vain (1 Cor 15:58)
CCECYOUTH Teenagers - you are legends! Keep praying for your friends!

Is it time for e(mo)vangelism (here and here)?
How do we reach this hope-less culture with the hope of the gospel?
How can we run youth groups that aren't dumb and boring - but keep showing people the real deal JESUS?

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HERE is the testimony of one guy who no longer does stupid things on a Friday night. Pray for more!
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Are you a Central Coast Teenager? Go find out about Jesus here... come to simplyJESUS... come to ccecyouth... be where the REAL action is!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Youth Groups on Myspace

Pulse, the youth group I’m a leader of, has a myspace. A couple of weeks ago I handed responsibility for the Pulse myspace over to one of the youth group kids. However, I also drew up the few guidelines below about the purpose of the Pulse myspace. Does your youth group have a myspace? Why, why not? Has it been a good, bad, or indifferent experience?

Pulse Myspace Guidelines


The Purpose of Pulse Myspace


The Pulse myspace does not exist simply because it is the latest cool thing to do. Pirating music might be cool, but we don’t do that. Rather, the Pulse myspace exists for the specific purpose of supporting and building up Pulse. That is, the purpose of the Pulse myspace is to contribute to the goal of young people from Nowra becoming Christians and growing in Christian maturity. There are at least three ways the Pulse myspace can contribute to this goal.

1. To be an accurate reflection of the face-to-face Pulse community in the online world. Deep community and friendship is formed through relating and spending time with people face-to-face. Communication technologies such as the telephone, email, instant messaging, and the web can support, but not replace face-to- face friendships and community. Thus the Pulse myspace should not be something separate from other things Pulse does. Rather, the Pulse myspace should be an extension of who we are and what we do when we get together in person. A few of examples of what this practically this means are:
  • The Pulse myspace must be easily identified as Christian.

  • Pulse shouldn’t be listed as male or female, because we are not a single sex group. Nor should the myspace look really ‘boyish’ or really ‘girlish’.

  • People who request to be friends, but who are not part of Pulse or the Nowra Baptist Church community should be denied (we are not trying to start a separate online community).

  • If photos, videos, or quotes from Pulse are used, they must be used to build up and encourage, not to tear down or ridicule.

  • Any comments left on the page, which are not appropriate, should be deleted.


2. To direct interested people back to the main Pulse website. The main Pulse website (http://youth.nowrabaptist.asn.au) is the source of all up to date and detailed information about Pulse. The Pulse myspace should not try to duplicate the main Pulse site. Rather than list lots of details, the Pulse myspace should simply tell people what Pulse is, who it is for, and that they can find more info at the main Pulse site.

3. To help those who are part of Pulse and Nowra Baptist Church express their Christian faith online. It’s easy to pretend to be someone you are not online. However, Christians must be truthful and authentic in the online world as much as the offline world. The Pulse myspace hopes to make it easy for those who are part of Pulse, and have their own myspace, to declare their involvement in a Christian group. This may be done through the myspace ‘friends’ system, leaving comments, etc.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

the ninja turtles blog

Check out the boys at the ninja turtles blog. Here's their bio:
the ninja turtles are a group of guys living in sydney who have joined forces to fight against the sin of boring people with Christ.
Good aim... with links to some good resources.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

He's on a musical mission for God - smh

This is in today's Herald. It's an article about Hillsong's youth ministry. The following is part of it:
The program is carefully crafted, says youth pastor Phil Dooley, to fuel spiritual growth while meeting youth's social needs, and the emphasis is on fun.

"It's all about creating a positive and welcoming vibe, that says, 'man, these guys don't need drugs and are not heavy into dating, but they are enjoying life'."

Dooley rejects claims that the church's youth program offers a stripped-down theology.

"Our message doesn't change, it's the power of the cross and what it represents, the life, death the resurrection of Jesus Christ - but how we deliver that in the world of YouTube and iPods and video downloads and Xboxes has to be relatable."
What do you think of the article? What do you think of their youth ministry?

I wonder what "the power of the cross and what it represents" looks like in practise. What is their primary view of the cross? Penal substitution or Christus Victor? I wonder if the power and victory of the cross (which are true) is emphasised more than the work of Jesus in his death for our sins and resurrection for our new life.

Thoughts?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Youth Ministry Podcasting

Dave Mires, fellow author on this blog is featured in this months Southern Cross (Anglican newspaper of the Sydney Diocese). The article has some comments and helpful thoughts from Dave, and a few others about using 'new media' to support evangelical youth ministry. It's worth a read (and I'm looking forward to Dave maybe sharing some more of his thoughts in this area. Hint hint Dave.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Game On!

It's time to start writing on this site! We now have a 3rd writer (a real life rock star!!). And we promise to write more often. Stay tuned... (in the meantime check out Dave's podcast)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

J-Walk Magazine

Earlier this month we launched our own youth group magazine. There has been some great feedback from teenagers and leaders. We are currently getting reading to launch our Easter edition. Click here for our site... click here for J-Walk... click here for J-Walk issue 1... click here or here to download it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why care about Y?

Why care about Y? is a conference on how to reach Generation Y. The brochure says it will be a critically important seminar in understanding how to reach our 12-29 year olds. 9:30am Saturday 31st March 2007 @ Wesley Conference Centre (Pitt St, Sydney). $25. Greg Clarke & Jodie McNeill are speaking. Rego form here... Info here...

I'm thinking about going... are you keen?
(If you've already got ministry to Gen Y nailed - I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jelly

STOP! This isn't actually a good idea. Whilst there may be some water crystal products that are ok for wrestling, the one we used wasn't. Some kids had a mild rash on their legs the next day (not good). If you try something like this please consult the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) first. Even then, be careful (the MSDS for the product we used said it was not a skin irritant!).

This post isn’t some deep analysis of cultural or theological concepts, it’s just jelly – and lots of it.

Last week we had a jelly night, and it worked really well. Jelly relays, jelly wrestling, jelly fights. You can see some photos on the youth group site.

So here’s the secret of a good jelly night: water crystals.

Water crystals are much cheaper than real jelly (I got 2.5kg of crystals off ebay for $38 delivered. That’s enough for 200L of jelly). You don’t need a fridge to set them (just add water a few hours in advance), and they don’t melt when you wrestle in them.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Youth Ministry: On Eternal Weight of Glory

I have 30 posts on youth ministry at eternalweightofglory. I have just updated the list. Check it out here. I would love to hear your comments.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Book Review: Stolen Identity

This is a book review I recently did for the Journal of Youth and Theology (which is a great journal if you don’t already subscribe).
Hopefully it will be published in the November 07 issue of the journal, but that's uncertain. Enjoy.


Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus
By Jones, Peter, Victor (Colorado Springs, Colorado; Paris, Ontario; Eastbourne, England: 2006), 233p. ISBN 0781442079 (pbk).

For some decades, social commentators have noted the emergence of a new spirituality in the West. This new spirituality is a mix of New Age, pagan, Christian and Eastern religions. Peter Jones, the author of Stolen Identity, suggests that this new spirituality be best understood through the thought forms Gnosticism. Jones believes that Gnostic ideas are a growing force in western cultures, promoted by academic groups such as The Jesus Seminar, the popular novel The Da Vinci Code, and media fascination with Gnostic texts, particularly those found at Nag Hammadi. Whilst an earlier book by Jones, Cracking Da Vinci's Code, sought to address Gnostic ideas promoted by the Da Vinci Code novel, his book Stolen Identity broadens his treatment from one novel to Gnosticism in general. Jones believes, like the church fathers who condemned Gnosticism in the third and fourth centuries, that Gnostic concepts are incompatible with biblical ideas. Moreover, Jones argues that the Gnostic ideas lead away from, rather than towards, the living relationship with God that youth ministry practitioners desire for the young people under their care.

In the introduction to Stolen Identity, Jones establishes a contrast between Gnosticism and Biblical Christianity. By Gnosticism, Jones means the philosophical system espoused by ancient Gnostic texts such as The Gospel of Mary and The Gospel of Philip, and also modern Gnostic converts such as Elaine Pagels and Gilles Quispel. By Biblical Christianity, Jones means traditional orthodox Christianity as taught in the Bible and the creeds. Jones proposes that whilst Gnosticism and Biblical Christianity both identify Jesus as their religious hero, each has a radically different conception of who Jesus actually is. Thus, the first nine chapters of the book examine nine different aspects of Jesus’ identity, first from a Gnostic perspective, then from a Biblical Christian perspective. Of these nine chapters, chapters 2 to 7 examine aspects of Jesus’ identity, such as his preaching, humanity, divinity, devotional habits, sexuality, and morality. Whilst these are essential elements for any understanding of Jesus’ identity, they are less pivotal for Jones’ overall argument than chapters 1, 8 and 9.

Chapter 1 covers the concept of God, as taught by Jesus. Jones first outlines the Gnostic understanding of God as the ultimate Father of All, as differentiated from Yahweh who is conceived of as the misguided and evil creator of matter. To contrast, Jones outlines the Biblical Christian understanding of God as Yahweh himself, the good and loving creator of all. Chapters 8 and 9 address Jesus’ death and resurrection, respectively. Firstly, Jones explains the Gnostic idea that Jesus did not physically die, and rose only in a spiritual sense. In contrast, Jones shows that the Biblical Christian Jesus did physically die an atoning death, and physically rose as the first fruits of the new creation. These three differences in Jesus’ identity, in regard to God, death, and resurrection form the foundation for the last two chapters of the book.

The last two chapters compare and critique the Gnostic concept of Jesus against the Biblical description of Jesus. Having given the reader lots of information in chapters 1-9, the final two chapters integrate the data. Chapter 10 is titled ‘Your Choice’. Jones endeavours to move the reader toward rejection of Gnostic ideas and acceptance of the Biblical Christian understanding of Jesus. Jones forcefully argues that the Biblical Jesus and the Gnostic Jesus are incompatible. Furthermore, Jones suggests that Gnosticism and Christianity are actually two separate religions that use some similar vocabulary, but with different meanings. Jones encourages people to make a choice about which Jesus is the true Jesus, dispelling naive notions that it is possible to choose both, or that there is some third impartial stance that can be taken.

Chapter 11 is titled ‘My Choice’. The first half of the chapter is Jones’ own testimony of how he came to reject Gnostic concepts and believe in the Biblical Jesus as his own personal saviour, and the saviour of all creation. The second half of the chapter deals with ancient manuscript evidence and dating. Jones argues that the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas should be dated in the second century or later, whilst the Biblical gospels should be dated in the first century. He also suggests the Gnostic gospels may be factually unreliable, whilst the Biblical gospels are more dependable.

This book achieves its main objective of clearly presenting both Gnosticism and Biblical Christianity, whilst also commending Biblical Christianity to readers. Biblical Christianity is presented in an accurate and uncompromising manner. Moreover, Jones’ background in studying ancient Gnostic manuscripts is exemplified as he succeeds in simplifying Gnostic teaching into nine digestible chunks. His ample quotes from Gnostic texts and Gnostic scholars give credibility to his arguments. Jones also successfully connects ancient Gnosticism with trends in popular thought and culture. However, at times Jones may overstate his case. He gives the impression that the Gnostic and the Biblical understanding of Jesus are the only two possible views. Thus, he tends to absorb all of Buddhism and Hinduism under the heading of Gnosticism, and essentially ignores the cultural influence and ideas of both Islam and secular materialism. Arguably, the book would have been stronger if Jones acknowledged that Gnostics and Biblical Christians are not the only philosophical groups proselytising in the Western world.

As a piece of writing, Stolen Identity appears either rushed, or poorly edited. Occasionally the chapters appear to ramble, or material that has little bearing on the discussion is inserted. At one point Jones mentions that he knew John Lennon at high school for no apparent reason (p56). Likewise, the subtitle of the book, whilst sounding intriguing, is not representative of the book’s content. Neither ‘conspiracy’ nor ‘reinvention’ are ever discussed explicitly in the text. Furthermore, the structure of the book, with nine chapters of data before any significant analysis, may leave readers flagging by chapter 6. As a result, some readers may cease reading before reaching the engaging material in chapters 10 and 11. Unfortunately these style and packaging problems mean the book’s great strengths are harder to appreciate.

The genre of Stolen Identity is that of popular apologetic. As a result, those doing graduate research or teaching in Gnosticism will find other resources, such as those mentioned in Jones’ bibliography, offer more depth on the topic of Gnosticism than this book. Rather, this book may be helpful to youth ministry practitioners in two ways. Firstly, it may be a good book to give to individual Christian or non-Christian youth who are intrigued by concepts in The Da Vinci Code, modern paganism, or Eastern religions. The book may help such teens to differentiate Biblical Christianity from Gnostic ideas that use Christian language, but are divergent from the Bible. Secondly, this book may be helpful for those youth ministry practitioners who perceive ideas from The Da Vinci Code, modern paganism, or Eastern religions to be a challenge to Christian youth in their context. The book may help such practitioners to clearly identify and address incorrect ideas about Jesus. Ultimately, the book’s specific topic of Gnosticism will mean it is relevant for some youth ministry contexts yet not in others.

NYMC 07

I found out this week about the National Youth Ministry Convention on the Gold Coast in September.

The speakers include: Tony Campolo; Randy Edwards; Ross Farley; Steve Forward; Mark Gladman; Josh Griffin; Chris Harding; Tim Hawkins; Tim Hein; Owen Prout; Duffy Robbins; Stephen Said; Mark Sayers; The Skit Guys; Graham Stanton; Ben Thurley; Lynda Wiles and Robyn Wrigley-Carr.

It looks like quite a diverse range of speakers. Diverse in theology and youth ministry practise.

It's a lot cheaper than other conferences that Tim has spoken about on this blog. And a flight from Sydney is relatively cheap too.

Interested?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big Exo Day Part 3: Preparing for 2007

This is the third in a series of three posts about Big Exo Day. Part 1 was an outline of what happened at the Sydney Big Exo Day in 2006. Part 2 was some reflection on the 2006 event. This post will consider what you might do in preparation for taking a group to Big Exo Day 2007.

After my experience of Big Exo Day 2006, I am seriously considering taking my own youth group to Big Exo Day 2007 (September 1st). Obviously if you plan to take a group to Big Exo Day 2007 you’ll need to plan for all the usual things like advertising sufficiently early, transport, notifying parents, and budgeting to make sure you don’t loose money. However these are the three further things I plan to do in order to capitalise upon the Day’s strengths, and mitigate against the day’s weaknesses.
  • Check out the 2007 speaker.

  • Prime the kids before the day.

  • Plan for follow up after the day.

I’m always cautious about allowing youth group kids under my care to be taught by a speaker who I have not heard myself, or received a recommendation about from a person I trust. The speaker for 2007 Big Exo Day in Sydney is Reggie Dabbs. I have not researched who the speakers are in other cities. Reggie Dabbs is an American with many years experience speaking to high school students, and has previously spoken at Youth Alive events in Australia. Searching across the web I was only able to uncover two examples of Reggie’s speaking. The most illuminating was a talk from a youth camp in 2004 (the other example was a podcast from Promise Keepers). The context of the 2004 talk appears to be very similar to Big Exo Day, so is a likely indication of how Reggie will speak at Big Exo Day 2007. If so, Big Exo Day 2007 will probably have similar strengths and weaknesses to Big Exo Day 2006. Reggie is likely to give a talk that creates enthusiasm and interest for Christianity in teenagers. However his use of the bible may only be token, and his communication gospel propositions is likely to be superficial.

As well as considering the speaker, it’s important that you prime the kids before you go to Big Exo Day. That is, the expectations you give them about the day can either help or hinder. It is easy to give kids the expectation that Big Exo Day will simply be lots of fun and entertainment for them to consume. If you do, Big Exo Day may unfortunately foster a selfish and consumeristic attitude that youth groups must be continually fighting against. It is probably more helpful to give kids the expectation that Big Exo Day is an opportunity to love others who they hope to see join the kingdom of Christ. That is, before the event encourage your youth group kids to be excited when their non-Christian friends say yes to coming, and not only excited about the fun they themselves will have on the day. Likewise, with so many different things on a the same time during the daytime, it is easy for kids to be focused on maximising their own fun, and forgetting to care for each other, particularly kids who may feel new or out of place. It may be wise to give kids the expectation that they may have to choose little less fun themselves in order to care for others.

Finally, before you go to Big Exo Day 2007 you must have a follow up plan for those who want to make a commitment on the night, or express further interest in Christianity. The shape of the follow up plan will vary depending on your context. It may be introductory bible study groups, one-on-one meetings, or something else. The important thing is that you have a plan. Those who make a commitment on the day will need lots of care and nurture far beyond what it possible on the actual day.

You may or may not bring kids to Big Exo Day yourself. However, my hope and prayer is that by reflecting on Big Exo Day you may be better able consider how best to use large evangelistic events in our common goal of growing the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Google Searches that have lead here #1

Tim has made a couple of posts recently - I'm warming up ready for some youth vanguard action in February - and we have some new contributors joining us shortly. But in the last couple of weeks the following search terms were used to stumble upon this site:
  • national youth affairs conference
  • vanguard youth
  • emo youth today
  • label/australia registration
  • how youth become mature christians
  • tim young youth pastor vanguard
  • youth as vanguard
  • vanguard evangelism
  • newspaper articles with the word vanguard
  • older emo's
  • the real thingyouthworks
  • youth ministries connecting with god
If you have stumbled here via google - feel free to leave comments...
If you don't know anything about Jesus, check this out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Big Exo Day Part 2: Reflections upon 2006

This is the second in a series of three posts about Big Exo Day. You will find a description of Big Exo Day 2006 in Part 1.

The relationship between Christians and the culture they live in has been a tricky problem for the past 2000 years. Christian groups, such as some monastic orders, have attempted to separate themselves completely from the surrounding world. On the other hand, Christian groups, such as some Protestant Liberals, have integrated so closely with surrounding culture that there is little apparent difference. H. R. Niebuhr did some work categorising the different ways Christians have related to culture. The cultural stance of Big Exo Day most closely fits Niebuhr’s type of ‘Christ Transforming Culture’. The ‘Christ Transforming Culture’ type is characterised by the belief that the cultural world, or youth culture in the case of Big Exo Day, has been created good by God. This belief is justified by the observation that God first created humanity as cultural beings. That is, before the fall Adam and Eve engaged in cultural activities such as relating with one another, using language, working in the garden, and naming the animals. However, the ‘Christ Transforming Culture’ type does not believe culture is perfect now. Similar to the way sin has infected the lives of individuals, so too sin has infected culture. Therefore, the remedy is not to retreat from culture all together, for that is not possible, because we are inherently cultural beings. Rather, the cultural expression of Christians will bear resemblance to the surrounding age, but be transformed by the Lordship of Christ in the lives of believers.

The desire to see contemporary youth culture transformed by the Lordship of Christ is what I saw at Big Exo Day. Thus the song lyrics, the general behaviour of the crowd, and the attitude of the performers had all been clearly transformed by the desire to live with Christ as Lord.

Whilst the type of 'Christ Transforming Culture' is a valid way to relate Christianity and youth culture, the validity of this approach for evangelism must be weighed. On the positive side, a Christ transformed culture is ideally positioned to communicate, rather than simply proclaim the gospel. That is, as Christians we are called not only to proclaim the gospel, but to communicate the gospel in a manner that can be understood by the hearers. For example, Paul and the apostles were not ashamed, and therefore proclaimed the gospel fearlessly. However, they proclaimed in such a way that they communicated with their hearers. That is, the manner of their proclamation varied from audience to audience, be they Jews, Greeks, Corinthians, or Athenians, in order to communicate effectively. Due to their clear communication, some of their hearers responded with mocking, whilst others wanted to hear more, and some became believers. By partially adopting youth culture, the 'Christ Transforming Culture' type provides the language and environment for effective communication.

The weakness of the 'Christ Transforming Culture' type is its propensity to down-play the severity of the transformation Christ desires to work upon culture. That is, there is potential for the distinctiveness of Christ to be lost. Furthermore, the evangelistic call to be a new creation in submission to Christ's Lordship may loose impact. When following Christ appears to have little practical difference from following one’s own desires, pagan youth are right to ask the question, 'Why should I?'

In my opinion Big Exo Day partially succumbed to the weakness of the 'Christ Transforming Culture' approach, and failed to exploit the primary strength. In the end, the day spoke the language of young people, but didn't speak the language of Christ enough. Thus, in my opinion, the day failed to communicate the gospel with clarity.

At this point you may think I’ve written Big Exo Day off, but that’s not the case. There is one significant saving factor for Big Exo Day. No single evangelistic event ever happens in isolation. Before and after Big Exo Day there was a massive web of youth groups, schools, and personal relationships all seeking to communicate the gospel of Christ in partnership with Big Exo Day. Whilst the actual day could have done significantly better communicating the gospel, I am convinced the day did not hamper the growth of the kingdom among young people. Rather, it is my opinion that as a result of Big Exo Day the attitude of many teenagers toward Christianity may have been changed from apathy toward a readiness to listen. That is, Big Exo Day has enhanced opportunities for evangelism among a multiplicity of youth groups, schools and personal relationships since the event. Thus, Big Exo Day can be a helpful element in the broader evangelistic strategy of a youth group.

The third and final post about Big Exo Day will share some thoughts on preparing to take a youth group to Big Exo Day 2007.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Update - National Youth Affairs Conference 2007


I mentioned this conference in a post late last year because I thought it would be great for a few evangelical youth ministers to go. Since then more information about the conference has been released, some of it good news and some of it bad news.

The good news is that there has been lots of interest. Over 250 abstracts have been submitted for presentation. As a result the conference has been extended from two days to three days.

The bad news is that it is insanely expensive. The conference costs $220 per day. Yes you read that right: $220 PER DAY. And that doesn't include any transport or accommodation. Unfortunately it's too expensive for me, so I won't be going myself.

So I want to ask you: what's a reasonable price for a convention?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Big Exo Day Part 1: What was 2006 like?

In August of 2006 I had the privilege of going to the Sydney Big Exo Day for the first time. Big Exo Day’s are large evangelistic events run by Youth Alive once a year in most capital cities. The sheer size of the Sydney event (15 000 people) means it warrants some attention. However, aside from the size, the approach to evangelism taken by those who organised Big Exo Day is worthy of analysis and reflection. This is the first of three posts over three weeks about Big Exo Day. The first is a description of the Sydney Big Exo Day in 2006. The second post will be some reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of Big Exo Day in 2006. The final post will be my thoughts about preparing to take a youth group to Big Exo Day 2007.

Big Exo Day has two parts, daytime from 10am-5pm, and evening from 6pm-9:30pm. The daytime was largely unstructured, whilst the evening kept a rather tight program. During the day the large event area was scattered with many different things to see that could be browsed and experienced at one’s own leisure. There were at least five different stages each featuring a different genre of music, from hip-hop, to acoustic, to metal. Also on display was freestyle bmx and motocross, wake boarding, skateboarding, and streetcars. On the more interactive level, there was open skating and basketball areas, make overs for girls, linked X-boxes, and a variety of carnival style rides and activities. With so much on, there was always something to do, watch, or get excited by.

The character of the evening was quite different from the day. Everyone gathered inside the arena focused on a single central stage. The evening opened with three bands doing short sets, interspersed with various announcements, video clips and advertisements. Then the worship band came on for several songs, enjoying far more crowd participation than any of the prior acts. Collective singing was followed by the keynote speaker, an evangelistic appeal and, a few songs to conclude.

The whole Big Exo Day was clearly highly culturally influenced. The structure of the daytime is obviously modelled on secular youth festivals such as The Big Day Out, or Homebake, with many different activities and bands on at the same time. Likewise, the evening had strong similarities to a secular rock concert, particularly in light, sound, and crowd behaviour. However, despite heavy cultural influence, the whole mood of the day was clearly different from an analogous secular event. The difference was particularly seen by the attitude of those on stage, but also by the attitude of the crowd. The catchphrase for the day was ‘life is excellent’, and was embodied by all the performers I saw. There was no spirit of anger, cynicism, apathy or melancholy that is embodied by some secular acts. Rather, there was a spirit of fun, excitement and joy. The crowd too, whilst energetic, was generally thoughtful and positively enthusiastic. Over the nine hours I was there I didn’t see any evidence of bullying, and everyone in the evening mosh-pit was careful to look after the smaller people in the crowd and make sure on one got hurt.

Whilst the event was clearly different from a secular gathering, I was surprised how little Christ was spoken about for what was labelled an evangelistic event. During the day I didn’t hear God or Jesus talked about at all by any performer. There were a few information stalls set up by mission organisations, but it was hard to tell that proclamation of the gospel was aim of the event. Gospel themes weren’t readily apparent until unmistakably Christian lyrics were projected on the screen when worship band came on in the evening. The talk itself more closely resembled a testimony than a classic gospel presentation. The speaker, Darrell Scott, is the father of Rachel, one of the girls killed in the Columbine High shootings in 1999. Darrell talked about his daughter Rachel, her character, and her faith. The logic of the presentation was along these lines:

  • 1. Rachel was a person with a kind and loving disposition, who cared for the outcast.

  • 2. We see in Rachel character traits that we would like to see in ourselves.

  • 3. Rachel’s character was somehow closely linked with her Christian faith.

  • 4. Therefore, come and take a closer look at the Christian faith.

Some propositional truths of the gospel such as Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, Lordship, and wrath, were mentioned during the talk, but they were not the focus of the presentation. From my perspective, the talk seemed to be highly effective at igniting in many of the teenagers the desire to investigate Christianity further. However, I think most of those who came forward during the appeal would need more time and explanation before they entered God’s kingdom.

For me, Big Exo Day 2006 was a blast. It was tons of fun, and distinctively Christian. However, proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not a strength of the day.

Further analysis of Big Exo Day 2006 will be in Part 2.