The Grove Is On Fire

How To Make An Even More Perfect Rice Pudding

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The recipe I use for rice pudding is this one from the Guardian's 'how to make perfect' series. It's a pretty wonderful recipe (and a pretty great series) but it's not perfect. It's got one minor problem. The problem is that you want to fry your rice in the butter and sugar before you add your liquid to give it a more nutty taste, but if you fry your rice in butter and sugar before you add the liquid you cause the starch to breakdown and it'll loose some of it's creaminess. So you're left with a vicious choice; bring out the creaminess and loose the nuttiness, or enhance the nuttiness and lose some of the creaminess.

Of course, I'm not actually a food scientist. I just copy other people's work. So I only know this because someone else has done lots of work on risotto and what is rice pudding but dessert risotto? So stealing that method of fixing risotto, we can fix rice pudding. Pour the uncooked rice pudding into the milk you're going to use and stir it for a few minutes. Then drain the rice and let it dry out, keeping the milk. You'll now have starchy-milk and dry-ish rice. Then just melt the butter and sugar in a pan and tip the rice into it and follow the Guardian recipe the rest of the way. Now you should have extra nutty and extra creamy rice pudding. Even more perfect rice pudding.

This still though, isn't the best rice pudding to make. The best rice pudding has different flavours to this one. Cardamon and orange instead of bay-leaf and lemon. So here's the recipe I use for special occasions. Warning; it's a slightly ridiculous amount of effort for making what should be a simple dish, but like I said, special occasions.

Orange and Cardamon Rice Pudding with Candied Orange Peel

Serves 8 because why make it in smaller quantities?

  • 100g unsalted-butter
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 200g pudding rice
  • 2 litre full-fat milk
  • 10 whole green cardamons, bashed so they're slightly open and the seeds can fall out
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 300ml double cream
  • An orange, with two strips removed with a sharp potato peeler, the rest of the skin zested
  • 2 tablespoons castor sugar

Note; You should use the widest pan you have that can hold around 3 litres of liquid, the more surface area your pan has the easier it is to fry the rice. If you have a big Le Crueset style cast-iron casserole dish you can do the entire process in one pan.

Rice Pudding

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 140°c /120°c fan
  2. Pour the milk and rice into a bowl or measuring jug. Stir with your hands or a spoon to make sure the rice is thoroughly coated. Pour the milk through a sieve into the widest pan you have (that can comfortably hold 3 litres of liquid) and let the rice dry in the sieve. (at least 5 minutes, giving it a good shake every now and again)
  3. Place the pan full of milk on the stove and add the 10 green cardamons. Turn on the heat to medium-low and stir. Don't let the pan simmer. Leave for at least 5 minutes no more than 151. Taste the pan and see if it's absorbed enough cardamon flavour.
  4. Dump the milk back into the bowl or measuring jug through a sieve to remove the cardamon.
  5. Wipe out the pan and place the butter and sugar in it. Turn up the heat to medium. Keep stirring till the butter has melted and is a smooth mixture.
  6. Pour in the rice and fry for around 5 minutes till the rice swells a bit.
  7. Pour in the milk, the cinnamon, nutmeg, the orange zest, and the cream. Stir to make sure it all mixes properly.
  8. Empty the mixture into an roasting tin or casserole dish and place in the oven for 1 ½ hours. If you're using a cast-iron casserole dish, just place that straight in the oven. The mixture should look ridiculously milky, like it's a handful of rice floating in milk. That's fine. The rice will expand.
  9. Check on it fairly regularly. It's easy to dry out or over-cook the rice and as it keeps well warm and reheats fine, it's better to take it out sooner rather than later.
  10. If you don't want skin, cover the tin with foil after 30 minutes or so.

Candied Orange Peel

  1. Take the two strips of orange peel and with a very sharp knife cut them into long thin strips like match sticks. You want them to be about 2 or 3 mm thick at most. Their length is less important.
  2. Place them in a non-stick sauce-pan and cover with a very small amount of boiling water and leave them to sit for a few minutes (straight from the kettle, you don't need to boil the water in the pan)
  3. Drain the peel and repeat the process.
  4. Drain the peel again, this time add the same amount of boiling water and the 50g of castor sugar. Turn on the heat to medium-hot and let the water start to bubble and boil. Stir them every now and again and allow the water to start to boil off.
  5. When the water's nearly boiled off remove then pan from the heat and taste one to see if they're sweet and edible. If they're still a bit hard, put some more water in and continue the simmering down process
  6. Remove the peel and place it on some kitchen roll to dry.


Serve a lump of rice pudding (it won't look pretty) with some of the candied orange peel on top.

If you do decide to reheat it in the oven, you might want to stir in some more milk or cream before you put it back into the oven.

If you don't like the skin and have the energy, you can make the entire rice pudding on the hob. When you add the milk and other ingredients, turn up the heat till the pan starts to simmer then stir it regularly. It'll cook through like a risotto this way in 20-30 minutes. It needs careful attention to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan or drying out though.

1 I don't know enough about extracting flavour from cardamons to make a good judgment here on how long you should leave it for. The longer you leave it the more flavour you'll get out of, but if they're anything like other spices and seeds you run the risk of pulling out bitter flavours if you leave it too long. If you want it more cardamon-ny I recommend added more caradmon but not increasing the length of time too much. If someone wants to send me a massive bag of cardamons, 6 litres of milk, and 12 hours, I'll do the science on it and come back to you.

Review: The Jesus Gap - Jen Bradbury

Friday, 22 May 2015

I was given a copy of The Jesus Gap by Jen Bradbury to review for Youthwork Magazine. It's a really good book, so I'm reposting a slightly longer review here (free from the benevolent dictatorship of word counts) as well as some extended quotes from the book.

There's been a lot of research into what teenagers think about god in the last decade. But Christians don't believe in "god", they believe in the triune God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. So youth minister and academic Jen Bradbury's "The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus" is a very exciting (to this reviewer at least) proposition.

Based primarily out of Bradbury's masters research the question she wants answered is; what do American church-going teenagers think about Jesus? Sadly, the research shows they don't know much about him, and what they do is often confused. Bradbury shows again and again how teenagers aren't grasping who Christ is. The book isn't dry academic research typed up though. Each chapter has thoughts on why a particular false view of Jesus affects our young people, and what we as youth workers and church members can do to help our young people know him better.

This is a really good book. If you have an interest in teaching your young people clearly about the God we know in Jesus Christ (and as you're reading Youthwork Magazine, you surely do) then you want to pick up a copy.

Here's a ridiculously long quote to show you how good the book is

As youth workers, our job is not to create a thriving youth ministry that will ensure the continuation of our congregations; it's to create followers of Jesus. If the majority of our youth don't believe or don't know Jesus is God, then we're failing at our primary calling as youth workers.

The good news is we don't have to continue failing. Instead, there are practical ways through which we can help young people understand the difficult reality that Jesus is both simultaneously God and human.

To begin, don't just talk about God. Instead, talk specifically about Jesus. Now, before you say, "I already do!" consider this. During my visits to various congregations, I asked youth workers: How frequently do you talk about Jesus and not just God in your youth ministry?
Inevitably, youth workers would enthusiastically respond, "All the time." Then I'd attend their youth ministry program. When I did, do you know what I heard? Generic God-talk, not Jesus-talk. Often this phenomenon wasn't limited to just youth ministry gatherings; it was also prevalent in the larger communities of faith.

At one congregation I visited, I attended the church's Sunday morning worship service. During the service, the senior pastor preached on John 6:25-59, the passage in which Jesus declares himself to be the Bread of Life. While I lost track of how many times this pastor referred to God in his sermon, I can tell you exactly how many times he said the name of Jesus--aside from reading the word Jesus in the passage itself: none. Instead of talking about Jesus, this pastor took a Gospel story that was unequivocally about Jesus and made it about God.
Regrettably, I can't tell you exactly why this was. What I can tell you is that after observing this phenomenon in multiple congregations, I finally asked a youth worker about
it. Michelle, one of the youth workers I interviewed, said, "Talking frankly about Jesus can make kids uncomfortable. It's perceived as preachy. So it becomes really easy to talk vaguely about God and faith."

As Michelle said, talking vaguely about God is easy. I'd even argue it's safer than talking about Jesus. God is ambiguous enough that people can interpret him as they please. One person's God may differ from that of the person sitting next to them. Not so with Jesus. Jesus is specific. He's an actual person who said and did certain things that not everyone likes or agrees with. When we talk about Jesus, we therefore run the risk of offending and excluding people. Knowing this, we sometimes retreat, willingly settling for God instead of Jesus. If that's the case for church workers, then how much scarier must it be for adolescents to talk specifically about Jesus?

No wonder their responses mirrored those of their youth workers. When I asked teenagers how frequently they talked about Jesus in their youth ministries, like their youth workers, they enthusiastically said, "All the time." However, when I observed them in their youth ministries, that's not what I heard. Often the teenagers would start off talking about Jesus, but before long, their language would shift from Jesus-talk to generic God-talk.

The truth is God-talk simply does not impact the Christian faith formation of young people in the same way that Jesus-talk does. According to Kenda Creasy Dean in Almost Christian, "Conversational Christianity requires Jesus-talk, not just God-talk ... Jesus is simply not an optional category for Christians." (P.42-44)

And here are a couple of shorter quotes that struck me:

Interestingly, the stronger an adolescent's Christology, the less frequently his responses fell into the self-help category. (P.113)

To this end, hold teens accountable to the commitments they make to Jesus, their faith community, and their community at large. When teens agree to be somewhere, don't let them off the hook if and when something better comes their way. When teens agree to do something, take away their safety nets and let them know you're counting on them to actually deliver. (And when, not if, they occasionally fail, practice grace.) Doing so combats narcissism. It takes the spotlight off teens' wants and desires and puts it back on the person whom their faith actually revolves around: Jesus. (P.139)

Do I have quibbles with the book? Yes, there were a couple of times I thought that her applications to youth ministry weren't the best approach. But they're such minor quibbles that I don't think it's even worth articulating them. It's a good book. Buy it.

Running a Bible Study With Young People

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I wrote some stuff for my diocese (London [the best diocese]) on my top five tips for starting a bible study group with young people. It's one of my favourite short things I've written.

Like Forgetting How To Ride A Bike

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Watch as Destin Sandlin of Smarter Everyday tries to learn to how to ride a bike, with the handle bars reversed.

There are two learning points from this video.
First, doesn't riding that bike seem easy? Just turn the wrong way! Yet clearly it isn't remotely easy. We know how to do it but as Destin says, knowledge is not the same as understanding. We learnt how to ride a bike at a young age and spent years reinforcing that behaviour, and now to change that habit and let it sink down into our actions is really really hard. If this is true for riding a bike how much more is it true for the sinful patterns and thoughts we engage in. If we grow up thinking we're lord of our own life and then come to know that Jesus is lord, our actions will take time to catch up. We'll need to repeatedly be reminded again and again that Jesus is lord and train ourselves to live out that truth. It'll take a long time.

Second, check out the guys enthusiasm about stuff. You want to watch more of his videos and learn because he's so enthusiastic it makes you enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. So if you're teaching stuff you're not enthusiastic about, or listening to young people who you aren't enthusiastic about it, it's going to show through.

Good News: The Church Is in Good Hands

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Tim Challies watched the individual testimony of a 100 Christian teens.

Very Little Was Ever Fixed By Making It Smarter

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Do you like stupid technological ideas that don't fix anything pretending to be the next iPhone? Then We Put A Chip In It is a hilarious joy. You can make any stupid device smart by putting a chip in it and wirelessly connecting it to the internet. Smart mugs! Smart Socks! Smart chopping boards! I literally have no idea which of these are real products and which (if any) are parodies.

These stupid smart products are a natural outworking of today's hyper-rational culture. The intellect is the supreme authority, and so any problem can be fixed by making the process smarter. Washing not being done? Put a chip in your laundry basket! Can't be bothered to cook dinner? Write an API for your chopping board! Not spending enough time with your wife? Connect her wedding ring to the internet!

The real problem with you failing to go for a run is not going to be solved by bluetooth enabled sweatbands, because the problem isn't not knowing you need to go for a run, but knowing you need to go for a run and not wanting to. The reason you don't cook healthy when you get home and instead want to order pizza is not due to a lack of knowledge and ability, it's because you can't be bothered. You want pizza. Buying a chopping board that talks back is just going to make you feel guilty when it tells you the calories of the pizza grease you just spilt on it. Where we used to build shrines to the god of the sea and wonder why the boats still didn't come home, so now we put bluetooth chips in our shoes and wonder why we still aren't losing weight.

The problem with people isn't that they're not smart enough, the problem is we don't want the right thing. It's not that we don't know too much chocolate is bad for us, it's that we want to eat it anyway. Or for a more serious example, it's not that we don't know loosing our temper and yelling at someone's a bad idea, it's that right now we really really want to yell at someone. We don't need smarter thinking, we need different desires. Or in more biblical language, we need a new heart.

Thanks, then, be to Christ, who turns up and says he will wipe away our sins and give us a new heart. One that slowly will start to desire what is right and good and that one day in heaven will only desire what is good all the time. One freed from dumb decisions you made because at the time you wanted something. The Lord says "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you." (Ezekiel 36:26)

Being an Iceberg Pastor

Friday, 17 April 2015

A good word for pastors but perhaps more so for youth workers. If you've ever been asked the question "but what do you do all day?" and struggle with that yourself, this is a good read. I sort of wrote something related about what we think youth ministry involves about a year ago

David and Jonathan

Thursday, 16 April 2015

David and Jonathan is the biblical go-to story for closet homosexuality. This has reportedly come up again at Oasis' Open Church event, but I've heard the passages on their relationship preached in a conservative evangelical church where it was made very clear that it wasn't a text about closet homosexuality. So abundantly repeatedly clear that you felt the preacher did protest too much. (It didn't help that he claimed the application of this non-sexual text was about marriage. ) Of course, that's not what is happening in 1 Samuel 18, 1 Samuel 20, or 2 Samuel 1:26, the three texts people argue this from. David and Jonathan's sexual desire for each other is less a case of careful biblical exegesis and more a case of seeing what you want to see in the text. This is instead what's going on.

As soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:1-4, all quotes ESV)

That first line of chapter 18 is key to understanding David and Jonathan relationship. Jonathan's just seen David do what no-one else was brave enough to do. He's just seen him slay Goliath and liberate all of Israel from under the hand of the Philistines. But that's not what causes Jonathan's soul to be knitted to David. Jonathan's soul is knitted to David when he hears what David has to say to Saul. And what did David say to Saul? " 'I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.' " (1 Samuel 17:58). That's hardly the thing to say to make a grown man go weak at the knees is it? In the history of great speeches that have caused people to fall in love with them this one doesn't even make the shortlist. So what is it about what David says that makes Jonathan love him? To understand that you need to understand some of the history of the monarchy of Israel.

For a while upon entering the land God had promised the Israelites, God's people had no king. Or rather, God was their king ruling directly through the priesthood and the law and after a bit various judges. The judges were sent by God when Israel sinned and consequentially fell into the hands of other nations. The judges rescued Israel from the other nations, at least for a while until Israel fell back into sin. After some time of this the Israelites decided the problem wasn't with their sinfulness, but rather with their lack of a human king on earth ruling over them like all the other nations. With grave warnings about the consequences of having a king like all the other nations, God gave them a king. Saul, Jonathan's dad, was anointed king of Israel with great fanfare. He was a king like all the other nations. He was the biggest, the strongest, the tallest of all the Israelites. He was a man who looked like he should be king. And he was a failure as king. He doesn't faithfully obey God's commands. He swings between mad arrogance when he thinks he can do something and self-centred false humility when he realises he can't. In one particularly memorable incident he is angry with his son because of his son's righteous acts and wants to put him to death, but the people come along and appease his anger. When the people have to ransom the righteous son from the father's displeasure (1 Samuel 14:45), you know Saul hasn't grasped the whole Christ-like leadership thing.

So Saul's rejected as king by God. The prophet Samuel tells Saul "For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel" (1 Samuel 15:26). He's not alone when he's rejected either, so if Jonathan's not there he's going to hear about it.

The burden of the future crown must weight heavy on him. His dad is the guy he's meant to follow? But his dad is a terrible person! Does he want to be a king like that? And his country has been at war his entire life, with no end in sight. Does he want to be a king of a kingdom like that? And now the kingdom's been taken from his father? Does that mean he's not going to be king anyway? Maybe that's sweet relief. But if that means he's going to die or that Israel will collapse that's no better.

With Saul rejected, what does God do with the monarchy? Eliminate it as a failed idea? No, he shows the people something better. What you need is a not an end to the monarchy but a king after God's own heart. Someone who trusts and obeys God to death. Ultimately that is Christ, but for now David's going to be that clear picture of him. And so David, a man without the appearance of majesty that we should look at him, is anointed as king in secret. And David as the Lord's anointed one heads out and walks down into the valley of death where he fights against the devilish figure of Goliath who holds God's people in fear and captivity. He takes out Goliath and turns his own weapon against him, killing him and leads God's people in a triumphal procession of victory. He's grasped the whole Christ-like leadership thing.

But that's not why Jonathan falls in love with David remember? It's "as soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." So let's finally work out why those words do his job. Jonathan must know his bible, because he's a righteous upright Israelite who grew up with the priesthood around him. And because he knows his bible and because he grew up heir to the throne, he's going to have paid attention to those few verses about ruling authority. And so as he's read the blessings to Israel's sons in Genesis 49, he'll have wondered -isn't the king meant to come from the tribe of Judah? After all, to the tribe of Judah is promised "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet" (Genesis 49:10). So why, Jonathan must wonder, is my dad from the tribe of Benjamin? (1 Chronicles 8).

So when David is brought before Saul and Jonathan is standing there and Saul says "where are you from?" and David replies "I'm from Bethlehem" that's massive. Jonathan knows Bethlehem is in the tribe of Judah (the same way you know San Francisco is in California or Edinburgh is in Scotland). And Jonathan hears this and of course he falls in love and his soul is knit to David! Here is someone who not only acts like a king should, but comes from the family where the king should come from. Here's the person who's going to be king instead of Jonathan! Praise the Lord. Here's someone who can take the heavy crown off Jonathan's head and carry it for him. Here's the guy who Jonathan can fall behind. No more will he have to carry the burden of the people. Instead this king will stand up and defend the people. What sweet relief! Of course Jonathan is delighted to give him his robe, his sword, his armour, and his bow. All his signs of his authority and power he hands over to David. Let this man the man who God has chosen be king and let me follow after him.

So too for us. We think we must rule and master our own life, we must lead the way in the world. But we soon realise deep down we're a terrible king of our own soul. We make poor decisions, we ruin relationships, we lie, we worry and panic about how we will cope in life and self-medicate with wine and internet. How much better to throw down our pitiful attempts at running things at the feet of Jesus and allow him to carry the burden. How good is it to have a king who'll fight for us. What relief to be a citizen of the kingdom of the King who has already conquered everything.

It's not sexual love between Jonathan and David that's praised in the Bible, it's the same love as the Christian towards Jesus. That's what's going on with David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18 and what's going on later in 1 Samuel 20 and 2 Samuel 1:26. Not star-crossed lovers, but the deep profound love as we should have for Christ. This is a picture of how we should love Christ. We should cling to Jesus and kiss him like Jonathan does to David (1 Samuel 20:41). For us guys, that might not be manly in our Western world, but it's the response we're taught in the bible. We say with David about Christ "your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women." (2 Samuel 1:27).

Here's my horse in this race, why this annoys me and why it's relevant to my ministry. If I ask a large number of the young people I work with "do you love your friend?" the response will be "no, I'm not gay." (maybe not quite as politely stated.) That's because they've grown up being taught and so believe that love is sexual. You feel affection towards your friend and like spending time with them? Well that means you probably fancy them. You can maybe love your mum or your sister in a non-sexual way, but even that is seen as a weird abnormality. This is of course, massively damaging to a person. These young guys don't develop deep intimacy with their male peers because they're worried this is somehow gay and they only develop deep intimacy with their female peers because they fancy them. Part of the solution is to work against homophobia, but more than it's to show that deep, fulfilling non-sexual relationships between the same gender are possible. People need to hear that non-sexual relationships are good and proper. You can have mates and enjoy their company. When you go to the cinema to watch a film with someone of the same sex, you don't have to say "no homo" afterwards.

This sexualised interpretation of David and Jonathan is exactly what some of my young people are taught by their culture week on week. Of course they're closet gay. Of course that level of intimacy means they want to jump into bed with each other but are fighting it back. Enough! Can we fight for non-sexual relationships? Can we teach that intimacy is possible between people without rolling round under the covers?

I guess I have another horse in the race. As a guy, I need to have David and Jonathan's example of an intimate, close, relationship with other guys. I need them to show me what my relationships could be like with my friends but also to show me what my love and intimacy for Jesus should be like. David and Jonathan's love for each other can show me how I can love Jesus with all my heart and affection, and enjoy sweet intimacy with him. I need that.

The Old-Fashioned Revolution

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wrote this for Youthwork Magazine a while ago but forgot to link to it; An old-fashioned revolution. I basically argue teaching kids that Jesus is Lord is central to youth ministry that works. Hopefully, that's not too surprising.

How To Run A Residential On The Cheap

Thursday, 2 April 2015

So you want to take your young people away but don't have much money to spend on it. Great! Because this article was written for you. Here is how you can slash your budget on your residential (or in the language of today's government; make efficiency savings on your residential).


A classy residential centre can easily be £100 for a weekend per person. Sure you get nice beds and decent food for that price but that's a lot of money. You know where else you can stay for a weekend? A church hall, a friend's house (it's amazing how many young people can fit in a house) or a field (tents required). This very evening there is a youth group staying over in our building and it's not costing them anything.

If you do stay somewhere like this, you need to check there's enough room to cook and eat with your young people and you need to make sure there's space to hang out, either inside or outside. You'll need to also make sure there's enough sleeping bags and roll mats, and sort out risk assessments and fire regulations.


If you're not going to a big centre, you're probably going to have to self-cater and that can be costly (especially if you have to take away extra leaders to cook) and a hassle. I work off £2.50 a meal a person for a reasonably generous figure. You can drive it down quite a bit if you're willing to take time and be clever. You can save money and a lot of effort on the weekend by bringing pre-cooked food with you on the Friday night, like a lasagne or pasta bake, and just shoving it in the oven when you arrive. That's no effort cooking (at least not on the weekend) and can be made cheaply. It maybe that someone at your church can do that for you before you go off.

Also, see if someone will invite you round to lunch on Sunday. On the last weekend away we did we went to a local church on Sunday and friends had us all round for sausage rolls.

Finally, if you're feeling lazy and can stretch to it, consider going to the chip ship on Saturday night. Sausage and chips from a chip shop is one of the cheapest take-away meals around and fills you up. And the washing up involves shoving everything in a bin and hoping the church hall won't still smell of chips by the time of the Sunday service.


Travelling places costs money. And unless you decide to do a stay at home residential you've got to go somewhere. If you can get hold of a minibus and have someone who can legally drive the bus then these are really efficient once you get over eight or nine people. Back of the paper maths from the last few weekends away we've done and you're talking £50 to take a 17 seater bus 300 odd miles. Just make sure if you borrow a bus from another organisation they're allowed to lend it to other people (on our standard insurance, we've had to pay slightly more so we can lend our bus to other charities).

If you can't get hold of a bus or can't find a driver (or coaches cost too much) consider a train. This won't work on a Friday night, but if you can travel in the day time in half-terms or school holidays you can often get quite good deals. Of course, managing all your stuff and young people on a train's not so easy.

Finally, consider asking the young people to get themselves to the residential centre. If parents can drop off young people at your residential site, that's something you're not paying for.


Don't do any that cost anything is the obvious answer. Running round in the woods and playing capture the flag is free. Going on a scavenger hunt is free. Playing ridiculous long games of Mafia is free. Getting the young people to bring their nerf guns and playing Nerf Gun capture the flag is free (if they have Nerf guns). Watching films (if you have a way of making that happen) is free. Uno, board games, card games, Lego, all things that don't cost money if you have the equipment already. Making sandcastles at the beach, taking long walks, playing sports are also free.

You could also considering challenging a local youth group to a sport or activity if you need to boost numbers for some games. We've challenged other young people to football matches, to capture the flag, to dinner (alright, that wasn't a competition). Makes for more excitement, with out any extra cost.

There are also cheap activities that you can do if you want something more elaborate. Local leisure centres are often quite cheap if you're near one and want to go swimming or hire a sports hall. We took our boys to watch a football match between two clubs in the East Midlands Counties League (level ten in the English football system, only a decade of back-to-back promotions and they're in the Premier League!). It was one the of the most enjoyable games of football I've ever seen and cost £25 for 8 of us to watch it.

Staffing, Administration, and Overheads

You might well not think of this as a cost, after all, you're probably not getting paid more money to do a weekend away. Neither is your administrator getting a bonus for sorting out all the reciepts for the weekend away. Likewise, you've got to pay for the M.O.T. for your minibus whether you go away on a weekend or not. But these are costs of doing a weekend away, and the money's got to come from somewhere. If you are applying to a charitable fund for money to cover the costs of a residential, consider including these costs as well. This is called full cost recovery and something most charitable funders will and should expect.

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The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. - Psalm 24:1