Archive for the 'Youth Work' Category


Remember your creator

I was recently asked to speak at a school leavers service. An audience comprising 17/18 year olds at the end of their school career and their parents and staff at the school. There were clearly people there with a range of understandings of faith. What I said was warmly received and as I have reflected on it, I feel sure that I pitched it right. The text of what I said is below. Since there were no visuals available I have just reproduced the text. Enjoy!

They came on boats of all shapes and sizes, leaving behind most of their possessions they had set off with their hearts full of hope. For many it was a difficult journey, cramped conditions, lack of food stormy seas. But they knew they were nearly there when they saw the statue in the harbour entrance of the river. That statue, a present from France symbolised a new world of great opportunity, and as they disembarked at Ellis island they knew that their adventure was only just beginning.

In January I spent a few days with the family in New York on holiday and visited the Statue of Liberty and the immigration centre at Ellis island. I was surprised at how small they were. But of course it was not their size that mattered – it was what they represented to those who had crossed the ocean for this amazing new world.

In many ways I am speaking today to a group of leavers who in a similar position. A new world of opportunity lies in front of you. Just like those who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, you are about to enter a new world. What will you do with that opportunity?

Today we have had two readings from the Bible
The first is an old man looking back on his life
He has had everything you could dream of – success, fame, women, stuff. In his day he had it all. What does he say?

‘Remember your creator, fear God and keep his commandments.’
‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth’

King Solomon had everything and yet he realised that it was all nothing compared to knowing his creator.

The second is a young man at the peak of his popularity. Crowds follow him everywhere he goes. They hang on his every word and follow him e everywhere . What does he say?

‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?’

This man, Jesus ultimately died penniless and as a criminal but had more impact on the world than anyone who ever lived.

What will you do with the choices you have before you?
It may not seem like it but over the next few months you will have the opportunity to make choices that will potentially shape your whole future.
Who you are friends with? What you do with your leisure time?
These two pieces of wisdom are really significant pieces of advice to take account of?
Take time to consider the idea of a creator, take time to consider what is beyond the here and now

So as I have been given the chance to speak to you now what would I say?

1. Be yourself
Steve Jobs said . ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’
It’s so easy to waste time trying to emulate someone else when what you really need to be is you. After all when there is only one of something it’s precious, and only you can be you so that makes you valuable. God made you to be you – don’t waste time trying to be someone else.

2. Remember God
The world we live in is amazing. But it’s easy to rush by and miss what it has to offer. No-one ever says I wish I had spent more time at the office. So savour life and live it to the full.
Jesus said ‘I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10).
Fullness of life comes when you remember your creator that’s what Solomon realised.

3. Make a difference
It was 31 August 1997. My youngest son came up to tell me because there was no children’s TV on that morning because Princess Diana has died in a car crash. A nation mourned publicly and retold and relived her life. It was a story of tragedy and pain – of someone who never really came to terms with herself, her status and how to make a difference in the world. On the same day someone else died. On any other day this would have made headlines but because of Diana, it went by almost unnoticed and I think that she would have been quite pleased at that. Mother Theresa spent most of her life living and working in the slums of Calcutta with those that nobody else thought mattered. Here we are 15 years after her death and the work she started continues and grows with over 4000 people working in the charitable order she began. She knew that it was worth investing in making a difference in the world.

So what will you do? Will you be yourself? Will you remember God? Will you make a difference?

I want to end with some words that have been credited to Mother Theresa. They were either on the wall of the orphanage she ran in Calcutta or on the wall of simple room where she lived in that same orphanage. They sum up what I would suggest is an alternative way to live that will mean you do those things I have mentioned.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
f you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway


Fast plane to Cairo – reflections on Egypt part 1: Driving

I have just returned from a trip to Egypt working with the High School Youth Committee on training writers and leaders. There is a lot to think about so in between moving house I will take some time to post some thoughts.

The first impression of Egypt as we were transported from the airport was how crazy the driving is. White lines ignored, regular use of the horn and driving very close. On one trip someone in the car said – ‘this is a one way street’ to which the reply was, ‘this is Egypt’. Additionally it seems that to cross the road you set off and just keep walking , staring the driver down who comes towards you. Driving a bus means one hand to steer and one to sound the horn every 5-10 seconds. You need to watch out for the cars driving at high speed flashing their lights and sounding the horn – not police cars just people who won’t stop. Amazingly we saw no accidents – but there are clearly many. A newspaper as we were leaving said that the statistics are 8000 people die and 32,000 are injured every year On the roads of Egypt.

Maybe the driving test – taken on a bare piece of land where you have to show your ability to drive around comes is part of the answer. If you hit them you fail – miss them you pass!

So having arrived home safely I am grateful to those who drove us – Nader, Adel, Lucy & Mary. I wouldn’t even want to try and am grateful that they kept us safe.


When posh met poor


Really interesting article in the Daily Mail this saturday about a channel 4 programme to be broadcast on Nov 13 – ‘Rich Kid, Poor kid’.
The article offers a fascinating insight into the significant influence of parents and also the sheltered existence of many upper middle class youngsters.
Alice (posh); ‘Mummy said that most of the people on the estate live on benefits and that I might get stabbed’
Natalie (poor); Alice was not as close to her mum as I am to mine… If that’s what having more money does to a family, I don’t want it’.
Read the full story here

Thinking aloud

For some time I have been wondering about writing a blog. There have been a number of questions buzzing around in my head about the value of blogs for sharing ideas, connecting with others etc, etc and I find myself amazed that people find the time.

But as I approach the end of my 20th year on the Scripture Union staff I wonder if there might be some value in dialoguing with others about the issues of life and faith and the way that they interact and intersect.

So here I am – thinking aloud about what comes my way.

But there are some parameters too

1. Mission

I am passionately concerned about how we connect the good news of the Christian gospel with those who would never even consider entering a church. In recent years I have been challenged about whether or not my comfortable midle class existence has led me to accomodate and even compromise the gospel so it fits me. Last summer I began under the prompting of God to explore what that really means in practice by getting involved in mission activity on a local estate. This involved leaving my evangelical anglican church which I had attended for over 25 years and getting to know Christians who have a concern for the same estate. The challenge finally came to a head through listening to Rob Bell speak on Acts 19 at Youthwork the conference in 2006.

2. Young people

For most of the last 30 years I have been involved in relating to teenagers – as a secondary school teacher, schools worker, volunteer youth leader. Investing in the next generation is key to the future and I love seeing young people grow and become the people God made them to be. That is why I continue to be involved in youth work even now.

3. The Bible

I believe that God’s story of redemption contained in the Bible is the adventure of life that we have all been called to be part of. We need to join in with what God is doing in the world and help people to engage with the Bible. The decline in Biblical Literacy is not just that people don’t know Bible stories, it is that the story of the Bible is no longer the or even one of the framing stories for their lives.

It is with those three areas in mind that I have begun a D Min in theology this week
Exploring the practical implications of the decline in Biblical Literacy for the practice of Christian Youth Work

Watch this space for developments in all three areas

In the Alps

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