Saturday, 7 December 2013
There's a new website and initiative called Living Out that looks incredibly useful, especially for Christians working with young people who are questioning their sexual identity. Their blurb:
We're a group of Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and we want to share our stories, answer your questions, and recommend resources about Christianity and same-sex attraction.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
We're going through Genesis in youth group this term and after great fun in Genesis 1,2,3 and four, we've got Genesis 5. Genesis 5 is dull right? A list of names and their unreasonably long lives before you get to Noah and Genesis 6 and you're back into the exciting story action. I'm probably not the only person who's looked at it and wondered if it's alright to skip over it. And yet, God says all scripture is profitable for building up his church.
So I was reading John Calvin's commentary on the passage and hoping it'd elucidate it somewhat and he makes a comment on Adam's life span and how he saw his eighth generation born and it made me realise I didn't know even slightly how all the generations overlap. To try and get my head round it I mapped out everyone's ages and when their son was born and when they died and was left with this lovely chart below:
That's pretty and all, but what is it? It's how the generations overlap. The green bars are their length of life (the number at the end their age at death- not the year they die) and the light blue-ish bars are how many years there were before they were born. The blue line labeled flood is the flood, obviously.
With that sitting in front of you, it's much easier to see what's going on in Genesis 5. Here are some observations.
Adam is alive to see his eighth generation. That is his great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild. Lamech is 56 when Adam dies. That's eight generations. Calvin makes this comment about why Adam would see so many of his children:
For through six successive ages, when the family of Seth had grown into a great people, the voice of Adam might daily resound, in order to renew the memory of the creation, the fall, and the punishment of man; to testify of the hope of salvation which remained after chastisement, and to recite the judgments of God, by which all might be instructed. After his death his sons might indeed deliver, as from hand to hand, what they had learned, to their descendants; but far more effective would be the instruction from Adam's own mouth, who had been the eyewitness of all these things. Yet so wonderful, and even monstrous, was the general obstinacy, that not even the sounder part of the human race could be retained in the obedience and the fear of God.
I can't see any reason to disagree with Calvin. Adam is left alive for so many generations to bear first-hand witness to creation, fall, curse and promise. It's interesting to note, that the first generation without Adam's living witness is the generation of Noah; the generation in which Noah is the only person who by faith is declared righteous. Is Adam's true witness and preaching keeping the world from slipping into the outrageous depravity that causes God to wipe out everyone but Noah? It's not the first time that immediately after a generation who knew the Lord and saw His great deeds die the next generation fall away completely (e.g. Judges 2:10-11.
Adam's death is seen by eight generations. As well as hearing from Adam directly about what happened in the beginning, eight generations got to see Adam experience the final consequence of the curse. Adam obviously isn't the first to die, and given Cain's many descendants and Adam's long life I imagine he isn't even the first to die naturally, but this is Adam. The man who was created from dust, who walked in the garden with the Lord, the man who fathered the human race. The first man is buried by eight generations of his children; to dust he will return. Eight generations are witness to let there be no doubt, that the curse has come on all men.
Enoch is taken up to heaven before everyone else dies. 57 years after Adam dies, Enoch is taken up to heaven. "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 'He could not be found, because God had taken him away.' For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5). So while the first natural death of Adam's line (the first death of the church if you like) was Adam dying under the curse, the second wasn't a death at all. By faith, Enoch was spared death. To the remaining six generations, the Lord preaches through Enoch that through faith in Him death is not final. If Adam's end proclaims that the wages of sin is death, Enoch's end proclaims that the free gift of God given through faith is eternal life. And so Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah all have witness of both the curse and blessing.
There is more to this passage once you start looking at what the names of children mean (Methuselah who dies right before the flood means "his death shall bring
judgment"). But even without that, we can see the gospel is proclaimed even here.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Michael Gove gave a speech today where he said the government will undertake the same revolution in social work as they've done in teaching. Now whether that fills you with enthusiasm or horror, is a choice I leave to you, I just want to pick up on this section:
There is another area in which social work training deserves to be challenged.
In too many cases, social work training involves idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society. They will be encouraged to see these individuals as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society.
This analysis is, sadly, as widespread as it is pernicious. It robs individuals of the power of agency and breaks the link between an individual's actions and the consequences. It risks explaining away substance abuse, domestic violence and personal irresponsibility, rather than doing away with them.
Social workers overly influenced by this analysis not only rob families of a proper sense of responsibility, they also abdicate their own. They see their job as securing the family's access to services provided by others, rather than helping them to change their own approach to life. Instead of working with individuals to get them to recognise harmful patterns of behaviour, and improve their own lives, some social workers acquiesce in or make excuses for these wrong choices.
Previously social workers saw their clients as victims of an unfair system. Now we shall teach them to take command of their fate. That's the grossly simplified idea he states. As a Christian though, what do we say? Is it our young people and their parents fault or is it the unfairness of society? Are people victims or are they perpetrators? Well, both obviously.
The sinful fallen nature of the world means everything is broken. Yes, the systems your young people will encounter do not work the way they should. Yes, the weak (the young, the alien, the infirm) are oppressed by the strong (the rich, the native, the healthy). Yes, they are victims of sin and a broken world. And yes, they are also perpetrators. They do what is harmful, they seek things that will harm them, they point the finger at others and say it's not my fault. They push others down to be lifted up.
In this way every man and woman is a little Adam and Eve, both victims of Satan's lies and deceptions but also perpetrators of sin, sinners who lift their fingers and place the blame of their sin on someone else's shoulders; "the woman, she made me eat", "the serpent, he lied to me". Praise the Lord that our God comes down and willing bears the penalty of our sin when we seek to hide it.
(The guy who really opened my eyes to this victim mentality stuff was Duncan Forbes in this great talk from the Reaching the Unreached conference. Worth a listen to if you see it in your kids.)
Saturday, 9 November 2013
Consider this article preaching to the choir, but what's wrong with that? Why you and your church should be putting children at the centre.
(Side note, he says at a guess 90% of people are saved at a young age. This isn't a new thing Thomas Brooks, in Apples of Gold written in the 1660's says young people should turn to Christ while they are young "Because it is ten to one, if ever they are converted--they will be converted when they are young.")
Saturday, 2 November 2013
Dare 2 Share (terrible spelling, good people) commissioned some research into the state of evangelism among evangelical youth groups in the United States and here are Greg Stier's (the founder and head of Dare 2 Share) thoughts on the somewhat depressing statistics returned. Obviously this research is American, but I imagine in this area the UK is hardly going to be doing better. The thing that hit me reading this is Greg's first point of conclusion; "Embrace the reality that the key to accelerating discipleship is creating environments that naturally force teenagers to rely on God." I'm not sure how good I am at pushing teenagers to rely on God in their evangelism. How much do I enable them to acknowledge and take the risk that is sharing Jesus with their friends? How much do I teach them where to find the strength and the comfort to take that risk? I don't know.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
After cooking for seventy or so people on a residential weekend this summer I wrote Advice For Youth Workers When Organising Catering On A Residential. This is the other side of that coin; advice for caterers when you're organising food on a residential weekend for young people or kids. I'm going to assume you know how to cook in bulk, so I'm going to ignore anything like that and just deal with the things that might surprise you or you might not think to think about till your on camp.
Recognise the youth worker's job is hard work.
Running a camp is hard. Speaking at a camp is hard. They turn up having had little sleep having been up late and then early prepping for the camp. They have to make sure all the leaders know what they're doing and all the young people know what they're doing and all the parents dropping and picking up kids know what they're doing. The twelve minutes of time to themselves that they managed to get has been filled by the need to plan a new activity to replace the bonfire night-hike that's been rained off, which is why they're re-writing their talk on the loo. So if you look over at them at dinner time just having a sit down next to the kids having a nice chat when you're rushing round the kitchen making sure all the food is properly cooked and edible and the dish-washer is working and you find yourself thinking of all the jobs you could give them in the kitchen so they'd work as hard as you... yeah, repent of that. They work hard.
Be ready with dinner when you say, be able to hold dinner for half an hour if you need to.
You should have a precise dinner time, and should be ready to serve up dinner however you're going to serve it up for that precise dinner time. So if the kids are due in for dinner at 6:30, food should be ready to be on tables at 6:30. But things happen, so be ready to hold it for thirty minutes or so. A really good idea is an hour or two before hand, checking with the camp leader that everything is on time.
Have something kids can snack on.
To be honest, this is fruit and maybe toast. Most of the kids who want snacks, if you're feeding them properly at meal-times want snacks because they're in the habit of snacking at home constantly. They don't need a snack, but it's good to have something. So put a fruit bowl out and let them snack from it.
This is not the time for master-chef or world's healthiest eaters.
As much as I'd love to roast a dozen chickens and serve them with couscous and salsa-verde if the young people would rather eat turkey twizzlers and mash, they serve them twizzlers and mash. Yes, they're philistines, yes they should like better food, but this residential is not the place to teach them otherwise. Likewise, you might think the kids would benefit from no-fat, no-sugar, no-carbs deserts, and you're probably right, but this residential is not the place to fix their diet. You can obviously cook them things that are healthy and tasty and they'll eat lots of (Spaghetti Bolognese! Jacket Potatoes and Chilli! Apple Crumble (sort of!)) but don't focus on that.
Plan super far in advance.
You have no spare time on the weekend. So have everything planned in advance, not just your menus but your expect specifics of your menus. You should know what time you turn the oven on to what temperature, exactly how many onions you need to cut up. You do all that and you can cook on auto-pilot and then have the mental energy to deal with things when they go wrong. It also means you'll save loads of time and cash in shopping. If you don't plan properly, expect to drive to Asda at least once a day (other supermarkets are available). Even if you plan you'll still go most days, but if you don't you can count on your free time being taken up by a car journey and a shopping trip.
Plan with the youth leaders how you're going to serve up food.
I'm just going to copy and paste this from the previous article:
You know what sucks? Getting 70 kids and leaders to line up at a serving hatch and get their food one at a time. If it takes 10 seconds a child that's ten minutes to get everyone served. Which means the first kids will have wolfed down their dinner before the last kids are served. You need to think through how you're going to get food to the tables, and how you're going to serve it. You need to think through how you're going to clean up dishes and get them off the tables as well. Talk this through with the cooks. Numbers and dining hall arrangements will alter this a lot, but we found what worked was bringing large serving portions to each table and getting the leaders on the table to serve it up. We have six tables of twelve, so everything had to be served in sixth's. This meant for some things like toad in the hole, you had to cook six big portions of toad in the hole, but that made serving simple, and meant everyone was eating at the same time.
It also takes time to serve something up. If you've cooked a big batch of pasta up it'll take at least ten minutes to transfer it into serving bowls. Plan for that time.
Have a break day.
If you're cooking every single meal from scratch you can make really cheap meals every time that taste amazing. The problem is what you save in time costs you in effort. Making a meal from scratch for a lot of people takes a lot of time. And over a week that's going to knacker you out. So plan a meal mid-week that's really easy and simple and doesn't take time to make. That could be fish-fingers and oven chips and peas. Or hotdogs. It'll cost more but it'll give you effectively a day off and mean you can overall make cheaper meals
Know your kitchen, and find out how to use the machinery.
If you can do a pre-camp visit, do it. Talk to the people who normally run the kitchen if there are any. Planning meals when you know what equipment you can use is so much easier. Do they have a food processor? What kind of ovens do they have? Also, learn how to use the industrial stuff. You can't just turn up and guess those industrial machines, because some of them are pretty insanely deadly. This a Bratt Pan. It's a saucepan the size of a chest fridge. It's very simple to use. It is realistically possible to hydraulically crush your hand into an open flame while using it. Don't use it if you don't know how to, but that doesn't mean don't use it. It means find out how they work and how to use them safely.
Know how to turn the gas off immediately.
Someone in the kitchen is a gas shut off. It's probably a big red stop button. Find that button. If there is a fire, immediately press that button. If you cannot find that button, or any kind of gas cut-off button, go and find the centre manager and find out where it is. It's important.
Use a temperature probe.
You should know this already, but get an instant-read thermometer (every catering kitchen I've been in has at least a couple of these, but bring your own just in case). Test everything you cook, especially lumps of meat like chicken or sausage to make sure it's cooked inside. Here's a handy list of internal temperatures that things should be at to be absolutely safe. This is very safe temperature scale. If you were cooking at home, a lot of these internal temperatures would be slightly over done. But you're not, you're cooking for kids so do it to temperature.
You know what you do lots of in a kitchen? Washing your hands. You chop some meat, you wash your hands, you dump stuff in the bin, you wash your hands, you accidentally run your hands through your hair, you wash your hands. And so on. And your hands will get dry and start to crack. So bring some really good moisturiser. That way your hands stay fresh and you don't stop washing your hands because it's too painful.
(Fact: I knew an ex-special forces guy who swore by hand-cream. Your get dirty hands, so you wash them to prevent giving yourself food poisoning and getting dirt in your gear. On top of all the other hard work you do, your hands get cracked. They get cracked, they get infected and you can't work as well as you need to. So you use moisturiser.)
If you have good knives or potato peelers, bring your own.
Seriously, the amount of garbage knives and potatoes peelers I've found in kitchens is ridiculous. If I could somehow have kept all the rubbish knives I've had to deal with other the years and had taken up juggling and juggled those knives, I would have never been injured because they were that blunt. Bring your own if you have nice ones.
Provide cake and tea and coffee facilities to leaders.
If you can have a constant supply of tea and coffee making facilities, and you can make sure there are biscuits around, and if you can use the left over sugar and eggs and flour to make cakes to share, then do. They'll thank you for it.
Friday, 18 October 2013
Today sees the publishing of a report by think tank Theos into Britain's spirituality; The Spirit of Things Unseen: belief in post-religious Britain(update).pdf. Much has been made of how people are still very 'spiritual' even if not religious. This shouldn't be particularly surprising, when people cease to believe in the teachings of Jesus, they may disown all spiritual things and take up pure atheism, but they're far more likely to slip into empty superstition.