Where do we find you?

I sometimes struggled with the moments of church services that are spoken of that ‘God is in this place’, or ‘welcoming God here’ – and then a song is sung, or someone speaks. Dont get me wrong undoubtedly God is in those spaces, but often i struggle with finding God in these spaces, God almost feels to manufactured in the space, or predicted, or ‘scientific’ – ie if the song is sung, or the something happens then God is present. Maybe that lost feeling started for me at the wembley event with noel richards (and others) as an all afternoon worship event, in 1997 standing slightly bemused at a large crowd of people thinking ‘what does the God of the Bible think of all this?’ and ‘where are you , if you are here?’  , however in the last 10 years its been more apparent to me, as God in the conversation with young people on the streets has been where he has been found is such a contrast to the gathering.

To compound this feeling, day to day working with young people causes me and others like to me to regard the spaces with young people as places where God is present, like the emmaus road conversation, the surprising moment when God is revealed unexpectedly. God the artist. Maybe Vanhoozer is onto something when he suggests that theatre needs to be the handmaiden of theology not science ( 2014), the performance not the predictability.

Until last week, when i was at Central Methodist in Hartlepool  i came across a moment in a service, in which a song told the story of personal anguish, of searching, of trying to find God in the spaces outside of a church, trying to find God in the questions itself. Maybe God is after the questions and the wrestling, and the finding of him in the spaces of darkness.


Responding to the call, where can we find you?

God in the uncertainty, God in the question

God in the walk, God in the conversation

God in the drama awaiting and unfolding

God in the margins, painting a story.



What kind of church needed brexit to be a wake up call?

The dust has no way settled, the ramifications have been going on, many words are being spilt on re defining the UK in view of its post referendum status, especially those from within the church. There’s been a fair few who have proclaimed that it is a redefining moment for the church in the world, a wake up call for the church to think about their community.

I ask – where has this kind of church been, to have avoided thinking about its community up until now?

Hiding from the headlines about foodbank use? not seeing young people queuing outside job centres? or youth centres close around them? not wondering if people were a ‘bit’ upset about the government during the riots in 2012, not see the wave of cuts to benefits, the bedroom tax, disability benefits, to think that people might be real on benefit street.

No, the Brexit vote has been the wake up call to the church. Why now? is it because people might be angry at the establishment that the church might also be complicit in? or that people might actually have disagreeing opinions that might threaten the status quo, and be a ‘bit’ pissed of with the treatment theyve had by successive governments, or ‘the system’.

It feels odd that the brexit vote is the catalyst for church to re think how it engages with its community. Yes to recognise that it too has left people behind, left the poor that should be with the church, outside the church. Left the margins to find solace in the centre. But a call to the margins should be from God, and is contained theologically as Jesus inhabited the border towns and walked the highways, Brexit shouldnt be the spur, and if it is – what kind of church has ignored not just the poor, but the other, the other who isnt like it is, thus far?

Yes it might well be a wake up call, but really the signs have been there all along.




After all, its not like food bank use hasnt been rocketing? and unless im mistaken, the church is actively involved already in this.


England vs Iceland Commentary DYFC Charity Bingo Card

Fed up with the political chat? ( well dont relax itll go on a while yet) 

Want a fun game so you can cope with another evening of tension and a result possibly no one will be happy about? 

Then play along to England Vs Iceland Buzzword Bingo! 

Print it for free, play along on your portable screen, make a game of it with your mates, use it as a drinking game – actually use it as you wish (though drink responsibly please)

But please do give to Durham YFC who have created this game for you, itll help to finance their long term work with young people in some of the challenging areas of the north east, please do so:

Donate to DYFC Here Please !

Enjoy the game, enjoy playing along and please do help us donate – even if England do get knocked out, please help a North east charity to continue its work, thank you.

Brexit blog: Young people, Sex and lowering the voting age to 16.

As a youth worker who voted remain last thursday its been a tough weekend, not least because I’m also trying to finish an essay. But one of the thoughts that has been going around has been the conversation about young people, how leaving the EU will affect them, and also conversely whether as a youthworker I could have done anything differently to help the situation, or increase participation in the process.

And the simple answer is no, as a youth worker i coudnt. And neither can schools either.

According to the Sky news poll – 36% of 18-25 yr olds voted, it was over 70% for the 65-80’s. At the same time 75% of the younger age group were to vote remain, only 39% of the older age group.

There are obvious reasons why it is important for everyone to vote, there would have been even more reason in the eu referendum for more of the 18-25’s to participate. But this got me wondering… arent the current 18-25 year olds the first group of young people to have been given citizenship lessons in schools about 10-14 years ago?  Then a reaction to low voter turnouts in elections, to encourage younger voters?

So what happened- why didnt they vote in droves? was it poor education (the usual suspect) or something else..?

And this goes back to the original question. As a youthworker, if we have a conversation about Sex with young people, or its sex education in schools. Young people in the room will either a) be thinking about it, b) in relationships and thinking about it c) ignoring it, but still thinking about it or d) having it  or e) watching it.

Whether any of these options are legal or not, it doesnt matter, because there is a possibility that for the young person a conversation about sex in a youth club or sex education lesson might be immediately relevant, and if not to them to their friends. It could be what they’re about to do that weekend, its has an immediacy that fixes the attention in the brain, whether its acted upon or not.

Citizenship lessons aren’t like the ‘sex’ talk though are they. Unless somehow someone tries to put a condom over a nigel farage shaped head. As a youthworker i could, and we did have conversations with young people about democracy, about choices, and about the EU referendum, and they had opinions and were interested, but they aren’t going to get chance to vote, whether they wanted to or not, not for another 4 years. The only influence they might have had would be to plead with their grandparents to vote choice on their behalf.

It would have been even worse for the young people for whom citizenship classes are a distant memory, especially distant after a good year at university with some alcohol consumption. And, for what its worth any citizenship class more than two years ago would not have included the prospect of an eu referendum, as it was barely on the cards then, and hardly likely to be in the curriculum.

I am sure however that if young people are given citizenship classes at 15, and can vote at 16 then the early participation in the process and the closeness of it to the education of it, and the right of passage that this will bring would increase it participation. It would provide urgency to educate young people into being active in the democracy process, so that they are informed about what is going on.

Given that citizenship education has been scrapped, then its all the more important that those who influence young people in youth work settings give opportunities for young people to understand the wider political world in which they are part and in relationship to, but at the moment the odds of young people participating when they are able to are stacked against them. Actually if were working with young people and dont educate them in terms of the political powers around them then we’re doing them a disservice. But voting itself and participating, that at the moment will have to wait.



Reclaiming artistic Supervision in the Church

We’ve got a bit of an issue in the church about management at the moment havent we?  for one it feels corporate, globally scary and tied in with images of corporations like Macdonalds, Apple or Facebook, let alone traditional industries like Ford. Yet Management is what seems to be whats being required more and more in the church, the youth worker needs a line manager, so does the administrator, or the finances need to be managed. Nelson (1999) talks then about new public management in a post modern world, of christian leadership in a post modern society and how Management  (especially new public management) is often about performance management, about managing data, numbers and effectiveness, and in a neo liberal context this is about value for money, efficiency, control and a focus on outputs and outcomes. What management tends to be is task focussed, with the individual playing second fiddle to their own efficiency in the role. As the old adage goes what can be measured can be managed, but is management itself a construct adopted too easily by the church, and if so what are the alternatives?

Where Management is barely mentioned Biblically, i was as shocked to find Supervision anywhere in the Biblical text, but i did, its in Numbers 8:22 and 1 Chronicles 25 3, 4 &6

The Sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph

(6 brothers…..) were under the supervision of their father Jeduthun

All these brothers were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the Lord. with cymbals, harps for the ministry of the house….they all were under the supervision of the King

For the task of the creative musician, the brothers required supervision, as they played their music, as they performed their service. They were supervised to perform artistically in the task of service and for the King.

Sue Cooper (2012, in Ord, J (2012) writes that balanced supervision is to have three essential functions ; ‘restorative/supportive, formative/educative and normative/managerial- and that the process itself must be two way’, she is writing in the context of the supervision of youth workers, a profession that prides itself on being artistic (Young 1999), creative, imaginative and socially constructive.

But as should Church and faith be also a theatrical pursuit, one that seeks to perform scripture as local gospel theatre (Vanhoozer 2014), with the full gospel that seeks faithful discipleship for world transformation, if that can be measured and thus managed and is not an unpredictable, creative art then i’m not sure what else it is supposed to be…..As Vanhoozer suggests, the picture of theology as science has held the church captive for too long, instead it needs to be dramatised and become a theatrical art form. (2014)

And thats where supervision comes back in, It is argued that taking one of those three aspects away causes supervision to be less satisfying for both parties, in the situation of the music, a heavy hand would constrain performance, too light a touch might produce chaos, somewhere in the middle improvised Jazz occurs.

Maybe Management as a concept needs to be dropped in the church.

A reclaimed view of artistic supervision could take its place, one that balances the managerial with also education and support in order for creativity to be realised, and for the persons in the supervision relationship to value the ongoing creativity that both the process of church and youthwork (where this is the relationship) are to be creatively performed.

If Supervision swings from development focus to managerial focus – what does that say about what we believe church to be- a science? or a faith?  Maybe a fuller understanding of supervision, especially its educative function for a creative ministry is one that will help to rebalance current practices of supervision in the church, whether that its clergy being supervised, or clergy as supervisors. To reclaim the educative function of creative supervision might also enable it to feel more like the kind of Discipleship that has Biblical tones rather than a form of management that seems at odds with the freedom even Jesus gave his disciples to decide for themselves actions, or even criticise him.

If the most important resources for an organisation are its staff, and one of the main complaints from youth workers (and other employees in a church) is that of the relationship with their line management often the clergy (Davies 2012) – maybe it might be time to rethink what it means to be an educative, supportive supervisor of people in the creative performance of church & mission in the church & world, in order that people are able to play the tunes as collaborative artists, in the improvised mission in service to the King.

Lets value and develop the right kind of supervision for organisation of the church, in order for it to perform practically and prophetically the gospel on the stage of the world.


Where to find help when: ‘undecided about the EU referendum’

So there’s just over one day to go before voting starts, and like remembering that the passport needs updating in July, its a bit last minute to work out all the arguments, views and opinions to decide upon which way you’re going to vote.

Fortunately as a Christian you can turn to the Bible for your guidance, especially those pages just after the contents section, the where to find help when pages , yes the go to place for lifes little emergency to find a passage thats just right for you in your predicament. Now isnt the time to dwell on taking these verses out of their context or work out who wrote them, no you need help, and need it fast.

Fortunately in the newly updated relevant for 2016,  TTNIV – the third NIV, theres a section to help on todays very pressing issue, how are you going to vote. And like everything there is no right answer, but armed with enough bible verses you might be able to decide by 8am Thursday.

So, if you’re thinking of Voting Leave; try these:

Leviticus 6:9, 10:3

Numbers 33:55

Deutoronomy 31:26

Joshua 18:5

John 15:4-10

However, if you’re in the Remain side, and arent too sure then  you might find help reflecting on these verses:

Genesis 31:13

Exodus 3:21, 10:24, 14:12

Numbers 32:15

John 6:67 – A strong argument against leaving. its in red ink…

Rev 22:2

After giving these some thought i’m sure you’ll be able to make the right decision in the Eu referendum.



As a Youth worker- How should i vote?

Its nearly upon us, another year, another opportunity for the nation, well the bit of the nation that is above 18 years old, to participate in the adopted democratic process in the UK. In case you hadn’t noticed its EU referendum voting day on Thursday.

However under 18’s, and prisoners are the only people excluded from being able to vote, whether or not prisoners should or shouldn’t may itself be down to an EU law anyway (how ironic this week) .

Now, this is not the time to compare the rights of prisoners to the rights of 17 1/2 yr old in the UK – though if voting is so important to be excluded from an offender of the state, why restrict its access to young people for whom haven’t committed a crime, only the crime of not reaching a certain age, which isn’t their fault.

So, if a youth workers principle philosophy and approach is to ‘hear the voice’ and represent young people, the fight might be to try and reduce the age of voting ( which Labour have recently pledged) – but also if a great number of people, ie the under 18’s in the UK will be affected for the longest by this decision this week – how will their views be heard in the debate and who will act on them?  will parents act on behalf of their children, or grandparents for their grandchildren…?

Does a youth worker have a responsibility, because of their approach, their conversation and the sake of the young people they work with, to represent the views of the young people they know in their local area to vote in accordance with them – so at least their opinion & a vote is representative?

After all, the youth worker has something in them that considers young peoples voices to be heard, represented and acted upon, even if it seems futile that one vote is to represent a large group such as a youth club or group.

As far as i know, the philosophy of the youthworker in regard to young people is different to that of prison wardens or workers, who by and large are there to service the institution, rather than be the voice of the prisoner and represent them, for the teacher this is often the same in the school (not all teachers etc, but is the organisation that drives their purpose not the young peoples needs, gifts, interests or opinions)

For the youthworker this is fundamentally different, as we’d almost goo out of our way to criticise even our own institutions when young people arent being treated as they should. So, the question remains – As a youthworker – How should i vote? 

Recently in one of the groups at DYFC, we did a session with young people (10s-13s) on the subject of the EU referendum. The vote at the end was 50/50 in/out, with as many who did express an interest not voting. In terms of making a decision as a youth worker this makes it all the more difficult to decide, however the discussion was lively and thought provoking, and a case could be made that 12-13 yr olds could be given the vote, as it would get a 50% turnout rate. When the over 18’s get that kind of turnout rate maybe then can there be legitimate call not to include young people who were empassioned and had clear reasoning for their opinions.

So – As a youth worker – how should i vote?


Euro 2016 England V Slovakia Commentary Buzzword Bingo

No Gimmicks! – Just a free game for you to play during tonights England Match on ITV, to help relieve the unbearable tension (or is that just me)

Predict how many ‘Clives’ you might hear Glenn Hoddle say…  or ‘For me’s’  (and yes itll get annoying after a while…)

Anyway – print it off, play along in your homes, churches and gatherings, and then please make a donation to Durham YFC here: Durham YFC

Before we settled down to watch todays match we were out on the streets of Gilesgate chatting to young people, hearing their challenges in life and providing support, we also delivered an after school craft club in a community centre on the housing estate, which over the last 5 years has given young people a space to go on monday evenings, to chat, socialise and have conversation with supportive youthworkers. This week our mentoring project is starting to build an allotment in a school with a small group of young people. Please do donate, your money really will help and make a difference to young people in County Durham. Thank you. To do all this properly we need finances to pay for staff who can train volunteers locally, so please donate, thank you. If everyone donated the amount they also spent on alcohol during the game, or the tournament to DYFC then it will be possible to make a bigger impact with more young people in the local area. Thank you. Enjoy the game!


The Waste of talented young people should bother us more than wasted food.

Genuinely, the work that local heroes in Durham like Nikki Dravers has done, in setting up a business (Re-f-use) to recycle food that was going to be wasted is amazing. Challenging the mindset of Durham restaurants and supermarkets through grassroots publicity and awareness raising is truly excellent. Its a gradual mood that is becoming more and more prominent, this nation is wasting food by the truck load, even tonight the Guardian ran this piece suggesting that the equivalent of 113m meals is wasted by Tesco per year alone. A man shopping

Its an issue that, given most of us have dabbled with food porn on Bake off, left 1/2 a pizza in a restaurant, or have chucked away out of date yoghurts, we can all relate to, and should do something about.

But what about the wasted talent in this country?

Only last week I was in a town in the north of England and a school teachers said to me that they have lots of young people who have leadership skills, but no where to express them. And thats just the young people who are in the school. That is tragic.

Every week on the streets of Durham, or from the reflections of staff members, we as youth workers are faced with the crude reality that in one community alone swathes of unrealised talent, gifts and skills of young people will be left dormant. For, in many cases their lives cope in survival mode. Surviving home, surviving school, surviving bullying, surviving responsibility, surviving gossip. Not thriving, but having to be strong to survive, not growing and learning and creativity, music, arts or sports – but coping.

The wasted talent, gifts and abilities in this country should make the headlines, not just the wasted food, but that young people have not been able to flourish in their communities to something like what they could be more capable of given opportunities afforded to others. These are the young people who will get left further behind. Left behind unfulfilled. Creativity wasted.

Today, sadly Bob Holman died, at the end of ‘Kids at the door’ in which he reflected on the progress of many of the young poeple whom were encountered during his time at the southdown project in Bath, he said this of a young person , Daniel, who sadly ended up in Prison; ‘ Daniels life has been characterised by unhappy personal relationships, by drug abuse and violence. Daniel is as valuable as anyone else. God has a special concern for those who lacked privileges and luxuries. The project was right to give of itself to Daniel, not because it would chalk up success, but that he was a valuable young person who needed adults who could offer him the guidance and the affection which is found in a resourceful friendship’ (kids at the door, revisited, 2000)

Today (Aug 1st, 2016) a report is announced that it costs the UK economy £78 billion, for issues and consequences of poverty. Yet wasting food became an issue a few weeks ago, its never about the wasted talent of young people due to poverty, but the cost of it to the economy.

The gauntlet has been laid down to the multi nationals on food waste, the movement to reduce this is gathering momentum quick. The wasted talent, gifts and abilities of young people is too hidden, too hard to find, too difficult to harness. Bananas in tescos are far easier.

Not to mention plastics in the ocean. And I am all for reducing waste, reducing pollution please please do not mishear me. But animal charities get 4-5x more donations than people based charities. If David attenbrough did a documentary about young people instead of oceans..?

As youth workers, despite the temptations to do otherwise, nurturing and encouraging the gifts, talents and skills that young people have driven on by helping young people flourish and have life in fullness has got to be and continues to be a main priority. Someone to encourage a young person, to identify their possibility, someone to dare to dream with a young person. Someone to interject hope into their lives.

“There is no change without dream, as there is no dream without hope” Freire


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