Ch-Ch-Changes!

Riding in swiftly on the back of the Bible Centred Youth Work conference I have decided to make some changes to the way my week is timetabled.

The first thing to change is my day off. I had been having Saturday as my day off but I’ve decided to switch this to a Monday. The thought behind this is to allow me to schedule in more face to face time with the kids. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet people for breakfast/coffee on Saturday mornings whilst using the afternoon or evening for more social type things with the whole group. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly ground breaking, even just watching some films or playing table tennis but hopefully we’ll also get out on some trips to some places a bit further afield. This may also present some chances to meet some of their friends in a non-threatening environment.

Other changes have been afoot amid our 11-14’s group. The group currently meets twice a week; on a Friday and also on a Sunday morning during the morning service. Up until now both groups have been heavily Bible focused, which of course is a great thing, but I began to realise that we had perhaps gone too far in our emphasis on biblical teaching and so were neglecting the relationships side of things. The emphasis on teaching had also served to alienate our fringe members, leaving us with a committed core but not much else. So I’ve taken the decision to change Fridays format to a much more social occasion. The previous format had us meeting for an hour of Bible study, albeit done a bit more creatively, followed by us eating a meal together. This has been tough as a number (read the majority) of kids just weren’t in the right mindset for an intensive bible study on a Friday after a week at school. So the plan from now on is to do 40-45 minutes of activities followed by a 15-20 minute Bible study and then to eat together. The activities will be a whole variety of things from dark games, talent shows, messy games, pizza making, egg drop challenges and movie night type things. The plan is that Friday will primarily be our shop window with Sunday remaining our time of really focused teaching. Hopefully the changes on a Friday will make the group more accesible to the non-Christian friends of our kids and we hope that in the long term they will begin to invite more people along. I’m keen that we keep 15-20 minutes of Bible time though as it’s important that our priorities as a group are still clearly in view  and so I’d be reticent to cut down the Bible time to anything shorter than that.

As I said, Sundays will remain our main teaching time but I’ve made the decision to make the move to using ready made resources for our programme. Up until now,  I and my leaders have done pretty much everything from scratch, both with the 11-14’s and 14-18’s. This obviously creates a huge amount of preparation time, especially when you have 4 groups all looking at the Bible each week and you’re low on leaders. The reason for doing everything from scratch has quite simply been because I’ve felt the pressure too. It’s probably more self imposed than external but I had always shied away from using ready made resources as I thought others might think I wasn’t really doing my job probably, like I was cutting corners. Like I’ve said before, it’s easy to fear man and not God. But now I’ve had a change of heart. It’s not a cop out to use ready made resources as long as you prepare them well and adapt them to your group. There are pretty much no Christian resources which are usable “out of the box” without you adapting them. This still takes time but obviously not as much. Having resources also makes it easier for inexperienced leaders to try their hand at planning and running sessions without feeling like they don’t know where to start. That’s why I feel this is the way forward. I’ve got so bogged down in prep that I don’t have time to meet people, which really defeats the object of what I’m here to do. So with our 11-14’s our Sunday material will nearly all come from outside resources. We’ll also start to use more resources with our 14-18’s group although there will still be a good chunk of our programme running from scratch in terms of preparation.

I’ve also decided that it needs to be a priority for me to take on some more One2Ones, or rather One2Twos. We’ve had a real struggle with leaders recently and so I feel meeting as a triplet is the way forward, at least for now, although I can see benefits to doing that in the long term. The changes to the format of our 11-14’s group means that I will now have more time in my week to get face to face with people, as opposed to being stuck behind a desk prepping. I’m absolutely convinced of the value of reading the bible together one2one or one2two and the more of this we can do with our young people, the better. It gives great opportunities to really look in depth at what the Bible says and the relationships built within those partnerships ultimately allow the time looking at the Bible to be more fruitful as people feel more able to open up and be honest about their Christian walk.

If all these things fall into place, I’m confident that not only will my work be more enjoyable, but more importantly it will be more fruitful. The move to resources will take a lot of pressure off of me and the change of format will hopefully encourage some of our fringe membership back as well as being more accesible to the outsider. Some people might not think it’s a big deal if we lose fringe members of our group whilst a committed core are built up, but I do. Whilst it’s making disciples, not a large group that is important, I’m also aware that “God’s Word is never wasted” to quote one of my lecturers. That’s why we shouldn’t underestimate the value of a large number of people hearing the word even if they don’t appear to be responding to it. After all, who knows whether we may be sowing seeds for someone else to water in the future and for God to give the growth to. That’s why I want to make it as easy as possible for young people to come and hear the word. Couple this with the possibility of building better relationships with my young people and the chance to read the bible with more kids, and the future is actually looking pretty exciting.

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Minibuses and Maltesers

It’s simply down to my own bad diary management that I booked an 11-14’s weekend away for the weekend immediately following 4 days away on conference. Definitely a facepalm moment! However, having now ridden out the storm I can honestly say that it was great fun and I don’t really know what I was worrying about.

I think youth weekends away are possibly one of the most important times for a church youth group. Not only do they help to cement relationships between the group itself, but as leaders we get to spend far more time with our young people than we would like to…I mean than we normally do! And on top of that they can often be a time when you can really spend some good one2one time with your young people chatting over the material they’ve been looking at during the spiritual programme for the weekend.

We had three sessions across the weekend looking at Romans, led by one of our associates. Quite frankly it was great stuff and clearly laid out the choice that we all have to make between choosing life or choosing death. This allowed us to have some really good conversations with our kids about what they were learning and I was really encouraged to have some chats with two of our boys, one of whom has aspergers and one who has a little bit of everything really. They can sometimes be difficult to handle in a group but one2one they’re fantastic and I felt I really connected with them. Probably helps that we all love Dr Who just a little bit as well. Prayer of the weekend though goes to one of our 12 year old girls. “Dear Lord, please help us to accept you…when we’re older!” Kids eh!

But apart from some interesting prayers, things went bizarrely smoothly. There was however, one rather disconcerting moment on the Saturday afternoon as I drove the kids to laser quest in the church minibus. It dawned on me that as I was driving a minibus I must really be grown up now. This is very worrying and highly disturbing. Still I feel I learnt a lot that afternoon, mostly about how not to let out a stream of expletives in front of the whole group as the bus refused to find third gear yet again, as well as how to manoeuvre a 5 metre vehicle into a parking space seemingly designed for something you find in a Scalectrix box. But the kids had a great time at laser quest and frankly so did we all. It’ll definitely be a place that we’ll be bookmarking for future reference I feel.

We also had messy games and a shiver still runs down my spine every time I think of them. The first one was fine. Simply move as many Maltesers from one end of the room to the other by dunking your face in a bowl of chocolate sauce, then into a bowl of Maltesers and then running back. But the second game was the old ‘hunt the Chewit in the bowl of flour’ game, basically just using your face. Needless to say, one child, who will remain nameless, proceeded to backwash most of the flour he was sifting through back into the bowl along with a healthy dose of his own saliva. I don’t think I need to tell you who was next in line. When Phil Moon said that youth workers today don’t sacrifice as much as they used to, he clearly hadn’t experienced this game. Nothing can quite crown that glorious moment when you announce that you’ve found a Chewit, only to be informed that it’s not a Chewit you’re holding between your lips, merely a clump of solidified flour and saliva.

I love youth work!