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.


Conference Day 2

Another challenging day at the conference with lots of food for thought, some of which I’ll jot down now with a mind to expand on them a bit when I get home.
Some thoughts from Phil Moon & Dave Fenton on how youth work has changed since they started out. Conclusions:
More work, less progress.
More focus, less sacrifice.
More training, less practice.

I’ll expand on those later. There was also a lot of talk about how our focus on the word has been to the detriment of relationships with our young people. We’ve got two things to do: preach the word and care for the flock but often one slips in favour of the other.
Definitely got me thinking.