The Grove Is On Fire

Podcast: Being Above Board In Our Evangelism

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

If you are an avid listener to podcasts or if –like me– you occasionally think to download a few then forget about them for months, this Podcast on evangelism with people you have power over, specifically young people and children is well worth listening to, particularly if you've ever struggled with sneaking in a God slot at the end of a youth club that the young people are semi-forced to listen to.

Athanasius on Virginity

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Here's a two line comment Athanasius (297ish - 373 AD) makes in On The Incarnation when giving evidence on how Christ's coming has transformed the world.

Again, who among men, either after his death or while yet living, taught about virginity and did not account this virtue impossible for human beings. But Christ our Saviour and King of all has so prevailed with his teaching on this subject that even children not yet of lawful age promise their virginity which transcends the law.

Athansius' point is this; no-one else has come into the world, taught that virginity is a good thing, and found their teaching obeyed. In fact, no-one's really even tried because they know it's impossible. But Christ comes and teaches that virginity is good and it happens. In fact, even children are going above and beyond the law of no sex outside of marriage, but giving up sex entirely for the rest of their lives. Athanasius himself is one of these people, having given up sex for the sake of the gospel. This is an extraordinary, miraculous thing.

Virginity is not a normal thing for the world. Most try and get out of it as fast as possible. It's the practice of people all over the world to disdain it. So, when teaching young people about sex outside of marriage and virginity and all the rest of it, don't treat it as a minor thing. Teach it as the abnormal major thing that is, a thing only possible because Christ has come, died, rose again, and promises a better life eternally. Your young people (and young adults and older people) will get abuse because they hold on to it, where instead they should be given great honour. This abuse though, is part of their witness that Christ Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe.

Dead Book Society: On The Incarnation

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

It's that time of the month where I review a book by a dead Christian that's relevant for youth workers. This month it's On the Incarnation by Athanasius. You should read it. His book that is, not my review. Though if you need persuading to read it, read my review. I stole some of Athanasius' thoughts from this book for an article I wrote last Easter about why Jesus had to die in the manner that he did

Look At the Book

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

This is neat; John Piper goes through a verse in ten minutes, with the camera entirely focused on the verse and his notes. Alright, that maybe doesn't sound neat, but it's one of those things that once you see, you realise is a brilliant idea. Watch Piper speak and write on Luke 12:32 for ten minutes and see for yourself.

Soulnet: New To Youth Ministry Day

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Soulsurvivor's Soulnet are hosting a new to youth ministry day this Friday. The lineup of people leading sessions is good as are the topics. It's a £10, and it's from 10am-4pm. Sadly it is in Watford, but it's an easy walk from the train station.

9 Things You Should Know About Male Body Image Issues

Friday, 8 August 2014

This is a good read on male body issues.

Body image issues are often treated as if they were only a problem for women. But men suffer from many of the same debilitating problems caused by skewed perceptions of their bodies. Here are nine things you should know about male body image issues:

We've got a multi-gym at work, and if some of the things the guys said about trying to look muscular were said by girls trying to look thin, then you'd be finding out what health services you could refer them to straight away.

3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church

Friday, 8 August 2014

What is common among young people who stay in the church after they leave to go to university?

(In one sense, it's cute to see America catch up with us on this, everyone over there seems to be speaking about 'post-Christendom' kids, things we've had for years. In another sense it's doubly sad. Sad because the American Church hasn't learnt from our mistakes and is seeing the same loss we are, and sad because we haven't learnt from our mistakes yet and things like this are still relevant to us. The first point the author makes in this article, we still often miss by a country mile.)

Why Your Child Protection Policy Should Permit Physical Contact

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

I touched on this briefly when I linked to the piece about physical contact in the church, but I thought it was worth expanding on. Occasionally you hear about child protection policies that blanket ban all physical contact between leaders and under-18's. I'm sure there are youth work contexts where this is the correct decision, but I honestly can't think of any. There are two reasons why allowing physical touch is a good thing.

First; physical touch is a generally welcomed by people for a reason. Humans like contact. I can't do the job of explaining this than the article than inspired this; so read that if you haven't and come back. To miss out on this because someone could use touch as an abuse or because we're afraid of being falsely accused is excessive.

Second; banning physical touch outright is unenforceable. Inevitably you'll have to touch a child at some point. Maybe you'll have to pick up a crying child, or a young person will go in for a high-five, or you'll be playing basketball with them and they'll push into you. And either you write up every single case and tell off your staff for doing it or your just ignore it as an allowable exception. But then the rules are a bit nebulous. You can't touch a young person. Ever. Except in some ill-defined situations we give you a pass.

What's a better solution than an outright banning? Have a sensible policy on physical contact. Ours reads something like this; "All physical contact should be thought through. It should always be in public, appropriate to the young person and setting, and with a clear beneficial purpose." Here are some examples of how that works;

  • You're in a youth club setting and a young person comes in, you shake their hand. This is public; presumably there are other youth workers and young people in the youth club and other people can walk in. This is appropriate; welcoming someone with a handshake is a normal thing to do, even at a youth club. This has a clear purpose; by shaking their hand you're deliberating showing them that they're welcome and you're treating them as an equal.
  • You're helping in a creche and a toddler falls over, bruises their knee, and starts crying. You pick them up and give them a hug. This is public; assuming you have other leaders like you need to. This is appropriate; picking up a crying toddler and physically comforting when they've bashed their knee is appropriate. This has a clear purpose; by doing this you're hoping to calm them down and deal with their pain.
  • You're playing football with your young people, one of them deliberately tackles you badly so next time they are near you you shove them over. This is public; you're on a football pitch with other people. This is appropriate; clearly not. This is of benefit to the young person; I know some people reckon giving a taste of your own medicine is a valid pedagogical approach, these people are wrong. So no. It's not of benefit to the young person. This fails the checks. Don't do this.

Just to be really clear we have a couple of other lines too, things like "physical contact should never be used while discipling a child", "physical contact should never be able to be misconstrued as violent or sexual", and "extra care should always be taken when you are the one to initiate contact".

More than allowing you on the fly to work out whether physical touch is appropriate, these three categories allow us to look at activities ahead of time and decide what level of physical contact is appropriate. So you're planning on taking young people swimming and while the pool is obviously public, and it may give the young person great joy to allow them to fight other young people on your shoulders and so give them benefit, you decide it's not appropriate given the context. So before you go, you've established that sitting on shoulder water-wrestling is not going to happen. Or with smaller children they're changing and while it may be a public changing room with other staff, and it might be appropriate to give them a hand getting dressed, if the children are old enough to do it themselves then there is no benefit to them, so you decide in advance not to do it unless they get stuck in their t-shirt. You can even write this stuff up to give you an extra level of security if something does goes wrong. Yes, it's more work, but it allows you to work better with your young people and children. And that's the aim. You want to love and care and work with the children you have as best as you can. That means you're going to have to use physical contact. And so you should, safely and sensibly.

Dead Book Society: Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices

Monday, 4 August 2014

It's the monthly review of a great book for youth workers by a Christian who's deader than C.S. Lewis. Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices is great, you should read that review, then read it. Or just read the book. It's better than the review.

I do have one caveat to add to that review, the "where can you get this from footnote" states:

Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices by Thomas Brooks is published by Banner of Truth in their Puritan Paperback series. (You can get it in other places, but if you buy it in this series, and buy some other ones, then all the book spines will line up beautifully on your bookcase.)

This is nearly entirely accurate. The spines are mostly a beautiful thing. BUT... They don't entirely line-up. In fact, very annoyingly they're all slightly out from each other. If they were all consistently different, it would probably be less annoying. But instead, they're all just a little bit wrong. See below:

puritans.jpg

See! The tops don't even line up sometimes.

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

Saturday, 2 August 2014

This wonderful article could also be entitled we don't touch each other enough in churches. And she's totally right. Real tangible implications for your youth and children's work. For what it's worth, it's this kind of reasoning that means our child protection policy doesn't say "don't touch children"1 but instead says something like "all contact must be public, appropriate, and with a clear purpose that benefits the child".

1 Another reason is you can't not touch children when working with them. The youngest child needs picking up when they fall over, the ten year old needs to be high-rived when they finally score a basketball, the oldest teen need pushing over when you're jostling in football (alright, maybe don't need, but you get the point). If you blanket ban touch, and your leader shows a young person how to hold a table tennis bat properly, do you discipline the leader? Policies have to be enforceable.

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