God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for the ‘Youth Ministry’ Category

Floored

Posted by Martin on November 4, 2006

Had a meeting with a senior colleague the other day which was both highly uncomfortable and potentially invaluable. We sat down for coffee, spoke of trivial things, but then he cut to the heart of things:

‘You’re a great guy, and you have the potential to be a briliant youth worker, but as your friend, I need to be honest with you about some of your flaws…’

Now no-one likes THAT conversation. But with grace, he listed a few areas for improvement in my life, and I have to admit that at least one of them was pretty big. It was hard to hear. He’s a friend, and I respect him, but who ever wants to be taken down a peg or two? I like my peg position. I thought I was making good progress up the peg wall.

Anyway, a couple of days on, the dust has settled and I’ve realised something: I’m so grateful to him. I had no idea I was winding people up in these ways! Now that I know, at least I can have a rough stab at changing. So I guess the challenge is this: do you have people around you who can/are prepared to tell you about the things you need to work on? I didn’t – but from now on, I’ll be asking my colleague to give me a regular ‘how am I doing’ flaw update.

Posted in Youth Ministry | 2 Comments »

Ch…ch…ch…ch…ch…changes

Posted by Martin on November 4, 2006

Turn and face the strangeOne of the hardest things in youth ministry is when you and the team around you are putting in hour after hour of work, planning spectacular events and profound talks and discussions, and no-one’s really interested. You’re all trying your hardest to build relationships with them, and the young people look at you as if they’re Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense, and you’re Bruce Willis. Month after month goes on like this, and you’re getting nowhere. Some of the leaders give up. The adult church starts to put pressure on you, asking ‘why is nothing happening?’ You start to think that you’re not cut out for this at all.

We’ve had one of those years. But suddenly, almost without warning, something is happening. The group has changed gear. Community is starting to form where once there was just blank space. And one or two of the young people are displaying radical changes of heart and lifestyle. We’ve seen one kid go from ‘that one who is never going to make it’ to the beating heart of the group. It’s incredible to witness.

Two things to say about this. First – you wil never cease to be amazed by the transforming power of the living God. He changes lives, and he does it all the time, and in such a way that Paul McKenna can only dream about. Second – things take time. Youth ministry is a long haul job, and success rarely happens overnight. When we invest in young people, we’re putting the foundations in place, but often no-one can see what is actually being built for many months. The adult church needs to realise this key principle – that young people’s lives are changed in years, not days – or we’ll always be set up to fail.

Posted in Youth Ministry | 1 Comment »

Diddly diddly dee… two callings

Posted by Martin on November 2, 2006

Well, I’ve been writing this thing for a couple of weeks now, probably time to cut to the chase…

I believe that sometimes, God gives us a specific path to follow. A job maybe, or a ministry. For some people it’s overseas mission; for others it’s primary school teaching or nursing. It doesn’t even have to be anything terribly altruistic. He could send you into investment banking. I’d term that ‘calling’ – others will have their own definitions.

This is meant, in some way, to illustrate youth ministryFor most of the people I’ve spoken to about calling, it tends to be quite a focused thing. A calling to work in Malawi; a calling to become a children’s worker; a calling to work with prostitutes. And in my case, I thought I was getting the same deal. A few years ago, I believe that God spoke very clearly to me, telling me that he was calling me to youth ministry.

Then, a little while later, I believe he spoke just as (or even more) clearly, telling me that he was calling me to the movie industry, to be a screenwriter. I know, that’s a bit like saying ‘God’s calling me to be rich’, or ‘God’s calling me to be a pop star,’ but bear with me.

Now I usually test these things in two ways – first, does this ‘word from God’ seem to tally with the God I read about in the Bible? If I felt God was telling me to become a porn star, the call would probably fail this test. But a calling to work with youth, and a calling to work in the media/communication industry – they both pass.

Secondly, I tend to lightly prod the relevant doors, and see if they swing open. In both cases, they have done so emphatically. So I’m highly involved in UK youth ministry, and deeply embedded into the Hollywood scene. Which presents various challenges, ranging from mild time pressures to tear-my-hair-out moments.

I am overwhelmed by this dual calling – and I’m pretty convinced now that is what it is. Hence the title of this blog – I’m going to need some serious help navigating two concurrent paths. Also, God is my Director has a very subtle movie industry link – can you spot it?

Tonight, I’m going to serve as a church youth pastor from 7.30-9.30pm, running a sports night. Then I’m packing up and running home, where I have a conference call with Universal Studios at 10.30pm. Welcome to my life. I have no idea where it’s going.

Posted in Movies, Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | 2 Comments »

God bless youth ministry

Posted by Martin on October 27, 2006

Heard an interesting observation from the marvellous Mark Yaconelli (pictured) at the recent National Youth Workers’ Convention in the US. He was noting how we often talk about how God is ‘blessing our ministry’ when we see numbers rise, or get some funding, or see some other kind of increase. But in fact, he said, if you look at Jesus life and call to ‘take up our cross and follow him’, his call is actually a path of difficulty, where things aren’t all rosy and straight forward.

It seems to me (this isn’t Mark now) that when we really get involved with them, we HURT for and with our young people – when we get deeper into youth ministry we find ourselves sharing God’s pain for the brokenness in their lives. Their lives are often a struggle, and thus so can our work be.

So, (back to Mark again), perhaps when God really IS blessing our work, this is what it looks like: it hurts. It’s messy. It’s painful to journey with these young people. Our group isn’t growing (remember Jesus never managed to grow his youth group beyond 12 – he’d have been sacked after a year in most churches). We feel like we’re failing. There’s a great big cross on our backs and it’s getting us down. So next time someone tells you that God is really blessing their youth ministry, perhaps you should reply: I’m so sorry – how can I pray for you?

By the way, Mark has written one of the best books about Youth Ministry I’ve ever read. It’s called Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus, and it’s available in two different versions depending on your side of the Atlantic. Wherever you are, I’d recommend the US version – it’s much nicer, and it’s a hardback. Believe me, you’ll spend so much time looking at it, it might be worth the investment in the sturdier version (pictured).

Posted in Youth Ministry | 3 Comments »