The Grove Is On Fire

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:


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.

The Youth Group Reunion

Friday, 25 July 2014

Imagine you could get an insight into a successful youth group twenty years after it ended. Well, hooray, you can.

Last month, thanks to the joy of Facebook, someone got the old FT gang back together. Reassembled from all corners of the UK, 19 of us gathered in a curry house round the corner from that old church for a 20-year reunion. Our lives look very different now; marriages, children, jobs and house moves (and in my case a significantly healthier diet) have all done their bit to change and develop us. But perhaps extraordinarily, one thing remained the same. Every single person around that table is still in church 20 years later. Still Christian, after all these years.

Message Academy Evangelist Training

Friday, 25 July 2014

If you're young and passionate about evangelism and can train in Manchester then you should totally sign up to the Message Academy. There are more details on their website

Fun Ice-Breakers That Require a Baby

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Our son is now nine months old. He's been coming to the boys' bible study that runs on a Monday night at our flat for eight and a half months of those. When we go on camp next month he'll be there as well as his two year-old and five year-old friends. And a bunch of 11-15 year olds who are actually going on the camp.

When Paul said "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs - how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world - how he can please his wife - and his interests are divided." (1 Corinthians 7:32-33) he was —unsurprisingly for a guy divinely inspired— right. I have to be with my wife and son first, so I just don't have as much time for repeated long days, excessive residential weekends, and drop everything young person crises. But that doesn't mean they can't be involved in my ministry. Rather it means that my ministry is in certain aspects our ministry.

I think that's great for everyone involved. Our son enjoys playing with other people and the attention he gets. He also gets to grow up seeing how church and ministry operates. He sees it as normal that people read the bible with other people. It's great for the young people as they get someone little to entertain which is amusing, but also they get to see how Christian parents try and relate to their child. That's not a "look at how we parent, aren't we great Christians", but rather "look at how we screw up and hopefully forgive each other and rely on grace and move on". And it's great for my wife and I be cause we get other people involved in helping raise our child, and we get free entertain for him, and we get to show him what Christian community looks like.

Dead Book Society: The Confessions of St Augustine

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Meanwhile, in an ongoing series, over on the Youthwork Magazine website, I review another old book for youth workers. If you've ever thought 'if only we had an autobiographical account of someone coming to faith that deeply reflected on their life as a teenager and young adult outside of Christ before their conversion?' then The Confessions of St Augustine is for you.

Free Soul Survivor One Day Pass For Youth Workers

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

There's a lot of love for Soul Survivor here, and if you, a youth worker haven't been it's worth checking out even you're not taking your youth group, just to understand the Soul Survivor experience. Good news then, that they're giving away free one day passes to their summer events. If you can get down for a day and haven't been ever, you should.

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