Letters to the Exiles – Flow

It’s great to see how small group resources are maturing these days. long gone are videos of talking heads with an awkward backdrop. Christian film makers and creatives have matured and are creating some great content (at a decent price as well). the latest project from Flannel (of nooma fame), called Flow, is ideal for engaging young adults in conversations that they are having around faith, life and church.

Check out the preview video bellow and purchase the bundle for just over $20 on flannels website

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What the world needs more of

Found this quote in this article today. I liked it and if this strikes a chord with you, have a read of the full thing, or even just the first two paragraphs.

“Brothers and sisters in Christ, the world doesn’t need a bullshit Christian subculture. It needs the church.”

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Two Kinds of Heretics

Speech bubbles for Right and WrongI have been pondering for a while on why there seems to be only two options for talking about theology/Church/life/faith/God/Jesus in the public sphere.  Maybe it’s that these are the loudest voices and the rest just dont bother. Or is it that there are only two main options?  I’m talking about the clash between liberal and conservative that alwasy seems to lurk around any corner of social midea for most Christians. I came accross an interesting article today that i feel expresses a little of what i feel.  Frankly, they both make me uncomfortable and i can’t identify with either. i want to explore this more on here at another time but for now i’ll just share this link and leave you with my main questions which is, “Is there a third way?”

 

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Live like God isn’t watching

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What if as Christians we lived life more like God isn’t watching?

 

I was listening to “Can’t hold us” by Macklemore today and I heard a line that echoes a sentiment that I have heard in a hundred different songs.

 

“Raise those hands, this is our party. We came here to live life like nobody was watching.”

 

This idea of living life like no one is watching is such a captivating idea for so many people. It’s the sense of freedom to be who I want to be without the consequence of other people judging me. It’s the idea that I don’t need to be afraid of my flaws and the things that I am embarrassed of in myself because no one is watching. It’s about finding who I really am and letting it out and being proud of it.

 

As Christians we grow up with a looming sense of God watching us.  Even if it isn’t something that is preached from the front of a church, we still have a strong image of God as someone who is watching us, judging us, scrutinizing our behavior. When we do something wrong we feel like God disapproves, when we think we are being a good Christian we feel like God is more pleased with us. How much of our Christian life and conduct is lived out of a sense of God watching us – God on the outside looking down and critiquing our lives as we live them out?

 

What if we instead lived our lives like God was not watching? What if we chose not to base our decisions in life on whether God would approve or not?

 

What if our life was directed by something not outside of us, but something that was at the very core of who we are? What if our lives were not directed by a sense of God looking down on us and disapproving or approving our thoughts and actions; but instead started living out of a sense of God being the one who animates our life?

 

The One who helps us stand up and be proud of who we are. The One who gives us conviction and hope to live by. The One who makes life so beautiful and rich and diverse. The One who gives us the courage and freedom and sense of self to dance like no one is watching.

 

 

This, I think, is how God wants to be involved in our lives.

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Love, Collaborate & Innovate.

I have just finished reading “You lost me” by David Kinnaman, which talks about the challenges facing the church in response to a generation of young adults that have said to the church, “you lost me”. In the last chapter he gets inputs from a stack of people on how the church can response to this challenge. Charles Lee gives an incredible challenge to the church in this little nugget.

The creative implementation of innovative ideas is at an all-time high. Rapid advancements in technology and human networks have exponentially opened up new pathways to actualizing one’s passions. Unlike in past centuries, people no longer need to wait for “permission” from established institutions to pursue a dream. If a person genuinely cares about a product or cause and commits wholeheartedly to giving his or her life to it, he or she will find or be found by a tribe of like-minded people. What does this mean for the church today? We must humbly recognize our inability to “manage” people. Most are not asking to be managed but rather loved. We must move from cultures like Britannica (i.e., closed and controlled) to that of Wikipedia (i.e., open and collaborative) in which new ideas are welcome, easily shared, and postured for refinement and collaboration. We must architect more communities that allow for innovation without threat and inspiration without judgment. The alternative to all of this will be a growing trend of disinterest, pessimism, and abandonment.

WOW! How could your church respond to this?

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Discomfortphobia

Discomfortphobia

If you are a Christian, you live with the reality that Australia and the western world is becoming more and more hostile to what you believe. It is becoming more and more uncomfortable to be a christian in the public sphere. In Australia over the last 10-15 years the attitude towards christian belief has changed from tolerance to hostility. Not physical hostility but an attitude that if you believe in God you are stupid, illogical and behind the times. Almost a sense of pity that you would subscribe to suck out of date beliefs. Here is a great sermon from Mark Sayers about our aversion to discomfort and how we can live openly as Christian is this culture. Click the title above to listen

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The danger of affirming words

1337706956_WordsAre our encouraging words harming the teenagers under our care?

 In my last post I talked about the important role our words of affirmation play in the development of the teenagers in our care. I talked about how young people have too many voices speaking into their lives and how we need to provide a more impacting voice that speaks a deeper truth.

 But was I wrong?

 In “The Godbearing Life – the art of soul-tending for youth ministry” Kenda Creasy Dean & Ron Foster (p.65) talk about the dangers of affirmation. When comparing our affirmation to the story of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce her role in the incarnation of Christ in Luke 1:28, they say that

 “The danger comes when we stop with Gabriel’s opening line (greetings, you who are highly favoured) and fail to deliver God’s message in full. Right on the heels of God’s affirmation comes God’s invitation and expectation. Despite all the positive messages we send to our youth, affirmation without invitation or expectation subtly tells teenagers “We don’t really expect much of you or ourselves because God loves us no matter what”. In the face of abject rejection, anonymity, and powerlessness our words “you’re great”, “you’re special”, “you can do anything” ring hollow to suffering youth who simply conclude ‘grown-ups lie’.”

 How often have you been guilty of this: affirming a young person with hollow words, without following through with invitation and expectation to live out the affirming reality we see in them?

 When we fail to follow through with our affirmation, we run the danger of falling into a ministry of feeding a young person’s narcissism. We build up their ego without building their character. We give them lots of fluff about how great they are without actually helping them to live out that greatness and help them see it for themselves.

 

If all we give teenagers are nice words of encouragement, are we actually setting them up for a fall? 

 But it’s more than that as well.

 God created the young people under your care for more than feeling good about themselves and having a good self esteem. He created them to accomplish great things. He calls them into his ongoing redemption of the world.

 If we simply encourage teens and help them see the potential that is in them but don’t direct that potential with an invitation and a challenge, we leave open the possibility that this potential be directed in any manner of ways, sometimes with dire consequences.

 God created us for a reason, there is intention in his creation of young people. There is an invitation in knowing Christ, an expectation to live out – in all its fullness – who God made us to be. If we encourage kids without inviting them into this new way of living, we are simply setting them up with over-inflated egos that will either be expended in selfish and hurtful ways or, even worse, never really amount to anything, which will render our words empty.

 

How can you not only speak new life, but also invite young people to live this new life?

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Everybody wants to be somebody

whoamiI just finished reading a great book called “Sticky Faith Youth Workers edition: practical ideas to nurture long-term faith in teenagers” by Dr Kara E Powell and Brad M Griffin.

There is a stack of great stuff in this book that you should all read, but I want to focus on one quote that really stood out to me:

 “The breadth of peer relationships that young people experience means they get a wider variety of feedback about how they are perceived. Because friends opinions matter so much during adolescence, the result is a delay in identity formation. Quite simply, kids receive inconsistent and too much feedback in response to what they say and how they act, so they often postpone committing to who they want to become.”  –  Sticky Faith Youth Worker edition, Powell and Griffin, page 54 (kindle location 733)

 

The first thing that occurs to me regarding this is Facebook and, sure this is part of the problem mentioned above, but I think even Facebook is part of a bigger social shift.

Everyone wants to be somebody.

I feel like we live in a time where there is a growing emphasis on the importance of being well known;  that fame seems to be more reachable than ever before; and that it is realistic for young people to thing that one day they will be famous. This has driven a desire to be known and connected to more people. Is this the result of social media or is social media feeding off something that was already there?

What I do know is that many young people are not satisfied to have a small circle of friends anymore. There is greater and greater focus on curating a self-image that is sent out to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. There is an expectation that if I am not getting feedback and interaction beyond my small circle of friends, then I am not popular enough and there is something wrong with me.

We live in the tension between a lie and reality. The lie is that the more people I am connected to, the healthier I am as a person and the better off I will be.  The content of this quote indicates that the reality is quite different: the more people I am connected with, the less healthy I am and the longer it takes me to form my identity and sense of self and place in the world.

 

HOW DO WE HELP TEENS DEAL WITH THIS?

When the whole world is shouting at a young person that they need to be more popular and connected, how can we speak into that with a loud enough alternative?

I think the key is substance. Or maybe we can call it depth.

Yes, young people are receiving way too much feedback on who they are and how they act, but most of it is shallow and trite.  It is wrapped up in niceties and generalities that make it bland, impersonal and fake.  But if it’s all they get, they will take it.

It is our job to speak words into a young person that are deeper, more genuine, more impacting, more life-imparting than the words of the world around us.

 

· When was the last time you told a young person about the strengths you see in their character?
· When was the last time you shared what you see deep down in them behind the mask and facade they put on?
· When was the last time you dreamed with a young person about who you believe they can grow up to be?
· When was the last time you encouraged a young person in the unique gifts you see in them?
· When was the last time you spoke the word of God over a young person to strengthen their identity?

 

If we can take the time to get to know a young person and speak into their life with deep, raw, true words of what we see in them and the potential they have, I think these words will be much louder than the shouting of the world.  These words will stick more and have a greater impact. These words will help develop their identity in the right way.

Treat your Senior Students Differently:

In the many years I have been in ministry I have noticed that there is a definite age where youth drift away from our ministry.  For us, it’s grade 9.  By the start of grade 10 and even by the end of grade 9 we have significantly fewer people attending then in grade 8 and 7.

There is a whole bunch of reasons why this is, and I would love to hear your thoughts below. I am becoming more and more aware that the type of ministry that young and older students respond to is very different. It is a very different life stage and students are dealing with very different issues.

I found this fantastic article that outlines some thoughts about how we can treat our more senior students differently and I love all of it.

Check it out  http://www.organicstudentministry.com/?p=1107

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Jesus doesn’t care about your dreams

Stumbled across this Article which is a letter addressed to American teenagers, But i think it applies just as much to Aussie ones as well.

In our ministry, what are we telling students that Jesus cares about? What message are we conveying. Because i can almost guarantee you that if your message is along the lines of “Jesus want’s you to be happy and fulfill your dreams”, then the students in your ministry will eventually leave and loose their faith because you have set them up with an unrealistic expectation of the role Jesus plays in their life. Their world will come crashing down, and you students will be left picking up the pieces wondering why Jesus didn’t live up to the hype.  Then they will move on with their life leaving Jesus behind.

If “Jesus can help you realize your dreams” is the best we have for students, then we need to rediscover our faith, because there is so much more than this.

here is the link 

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