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.

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: (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.


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.


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."
" 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?

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