Friday, September 14, 2007

3 great fires...

I have had many great nights with people around a fire. It's something i absolutely love doing with friends or with groups of young people as i always find it a 'memory making moment'. As such, this has been a good week for me with 3 memorable fires. Let me share them with you...

As you know, i work with young people in the local community through a little drop-in centre in the village. These are primarily young people who do not go to church. One of these lads, aged 16 headed off to the army on Sunday so we a had a bit of a farewell night for him last Thursday round at my house. About 25 young people showed up and half a dozen leaders and we had lots of desserts to go round. I had got my hands on a firepit for the back garden so we were able to light a fire and sit round it. I had got a a little farewell gift which i presented and said a few words about how he would be missed but i would be thinking and praying for him. What happened next was amazing because everyone in the circle shared a few words of encouragement for their friend who was leaving. It was a lovely moment to listen to all these nice things being said to this guy, i could tell he was really moved and just didn't know what to say!

Then last
saturday myself and 9 other youth ministry leaders from church headed up to Donegal for an overnight retreat. This had been programmed in for a while as i felt i really wanted to get away and have some quality time with leaders before we launched into another academic year. The purpose of the retreat was to build relationships amongst the leaders, to listen to God's call for us and the ministry for the year ahead, to think about our roles and to engage in some basic planning for the year ahead.

Of course we also had lots of time to just chill out and on the Saturday evening we ventured down to the beach and lit a wee fire and sat round it for a good few hours sharing stories and laughing a lot! I'm excited about our team of leaders and feel privileged and blessed by every one of them. There is a strong group there who give sooooo much to the young people week in and week out and they are deeply committed to it and love it - what more could you want from a group of leaders!

Much of the content for this retreat came from a book i read recently called 'Contemplative Youth Ministry' by Mark Yaconelli. The book is excellent and one of the areas of teaching he focuses on is how we can be 'present' with young people and increase our effectiveness in our relationships with young people. He highlights 5 keys:
  1. Seeing - we need to see young people with the eyes of Jesus. Do young people feel noticed in our ministry?
  2. Hearing - young people remember when they feel genuinely listened to by someone else.
  3. Moved to Compassion - when we see young people with the eyes of Jesus and hear them with the ears of Jesus then we cannot be failed to be moved to compassion by the heart of Jesus.
  4. Acts of kindness - the compassion we feel will move us to small acts of kindness that can bring so much healing to hurting young people.
  5. Delight - we know we are genuinely called to youth ministry when we find ourselves being amazed by young people and therefore a sincere desire to spend time with them.
There is lots more in this book i could share here but i don't want to make this post so long you stop reading! Get the book if you are involved in youth ministry.

Tonight was the launch of our youth ministry programmes, Fusion and 20:20 for the academic year. We did this with a trip to Murlough Beach for a BBQ and, you guessed it, a bonfire! I booked a 57 seater bus last week and was confident we might have 50 young people there. By Wednesday we had 60 signed up and the final numbers for tonight including leaders was 80 people! A fantastic night had by all i believe. We had a bit of a 'moment' at the end of the evening around the fire, with everyone putting an arm round the person beside them as we prayed for the year ahead in Fusion and 20:20.

I'm excited for this year ahead! To see young people grow in faith and maturity is such a privilege and a gift that i am very thankful for!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wild at Heart...

Recently i was at a meeting where this book by John Eldredge was given a very critical review. If you were there and have never read the book you are probably never going to read it. If like me, you were there and have read the book and found it excellent, then you were probably left feeling embarrassed.

I've been thinking about this a bit over the last few days and felt i had to have an outlet somewhere where i could review the book from my perspective to add a little more balance to the argument.

I have read this book probably about 3 times and have given countless copies away as gifts to other men. I have found it to be a great book to read with a few guys as it provokes a lot of positive discussion amongst men who are perhaps not that open and vulnerable but yet they are able to find some truths within the book that they can relate to at the deepest level of their own experience.

I found the book brought me to a greater level of understanding myself, why i am the way i am, and it often reassured me that i am normal! Eldredge spends a lot of time emphasising the importance of parental roles, especially that of a father, in child development and how this can impact our behaviour throughout our adult lives. Parents (or significant adults) have a massive role in affirming their children. Men and women each have a deep question that needs to be answered. How these questions are answered during growing up will affect them for the rest of their lives. The question for men and women is different.

The question for men is ‘Am I really a man? Have I got what it takes?’ A man’s strength, not just physical but also at soul level, is very important to him hence the desire for adventure, climbing trees, wrestling, etc. If this question is unanswered or answered negatively then it makes for weak men in adulthood who lack commitment in relationships and when the going gets tough, they up and leave. The question for young girls is ‘Am I lovely?’. A woman’s beauty is very important to her, not just physical beauty but also her heart. This explains the desire of young girls to dress up as a princess and look beautiful. If this question is not answered positively for a young girl then it can have devastating effects on her self-esteem throughout the rest of her life. Only parents or significant adults can properly answer these questions.

The book, as you would expect, also highlights some of the struggles that are exclusive to men and sets them within a useful context that helps you to understand why certain areas could be weaknesses for men. Eldredge emphasises that we all have a 'battle to fight' as we seek to be more like Christ and presents a helpful strategy for this.

The book of course has criticisms. Firstly, it is American written which presents obvious cultural differences that come through as Eldredge talks about his family life and experiences but i think the discerning reader can look beyond this and find value from his teaching. Secondly, if you are looking for a Bible Study of considerable theological depth then you will be disappointed. That said the book has Scriptural references throughout to support and communicate the views presented in the book.

Personally speaking, i would happily recommend this book to anyone (male or female). I would be interested to hear other opinions of the book in the comments section below to see what the general consensus is!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Youth Week 2007

Youth Week finished over a week ago but i think i'm still recovering! I showed this video of highlights on Sunday morning at church so i thought i would stick it up here too! It was a great week of fun activities with a fantastic group of young people! The video says it all!