One Year Later…

One year later, and I am changed!

Yes, I know we all change and a year is more than enough time for many things to change. But let me explain and put that statement into context.

Exactly one year ago I  left Exclusive Books (EB) under very struggling circumstances to an unknown future. Honestly, sometimes the fear of the unknown is just so much brighter than any present circumstance and reality that we might have. Sometimes the seeming safety and security of the present can rob us from achieving greatness and satisfaction in our lives, but instead we remain with what we are familiar with. It’s like that saying rings true for so many of us, “rather the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” This was true in so many ways for me, I opted to dine with the proverbial “devil” and I settled for less than what could be possible. But toward the latter part of my stay I began asking questions, deep and honest and sometimes down right scary questions about myself, my purpose, my skill and ability and if I am found in the right place. Obviously, the answer to that question was a loud resounding NO!

These questions that I began asking led to a challenge in my belief of myself and my belief system. Now questions are not bad and neither is doubt because questions can lead to answers we never knew existed and if we do not ask, how will we ever know any different from where we find ourselves? And doubt can lead to faith, and when my present looked so bleak and dark, I could only hope and believe that God had something better in store for me and that he would catch me when I jump (or maybe I was pushed?).

And so in June 2011, my stay at EB ended and a new chapter in my life began. Just what that new chapter would offer was beyond my wildest imaginations! It’s alot like the Habakkuk 1:5  story where I would not believe what is possible and about to happen even if God had told me. I definitely was a Habakkuk. And so this journey continues to surprise me and overwhelm me at times, but what a ride!

The path I chose not to travel… what it could have offered? I think it could have offered me countless opportunities that would be great but I wonder if it would have that WOW factor? I declined a call as a youth pastor to an amazing church that offered great opportunities. I also declined an opportunity to work abroad, which I could imagine would be just as amazing with international travels and cultural experiences. I never made a good choice or a bad choice but I made a choice and it has made all the difference.

The path I chose to travel… and what it does offer? I began “working” but actually it’s more ministering and fulfilling a dream that I have had for many years. I am currently at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary as Registrar and Youth Lecturer. I have also commenced with my doctoral studies and I continue to be involved in youth at local church levels where invited to be part of. But I am here! And I love it. I lecture and admin and study and smile and live.

So, one year later and I am saying, don’t be afraid to make a choice and enjoy the journey that God will let you begin, a journey that hopefully will be shared with people who matter in your life. I am on such a journey and I am sure you would be able to say what I am currently saying, “what a ride! WHAT A RIDE!

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Youth Rally – Part 3

So now that I have given both positive (good) and negative (not so good) opinions, let me attempt providing some alternatives.

But before I do, let me reminisce a bit about my days at youth rallies and coffee bars. I remember days at Silvertown, Athlone, Battswood, Grassypark, Westridge Baptist Churches and Presby Bridgetown, Docks Mission in Belgravia and so many other churches that evades me right now, with fond memories. Many of my Facebook friends are a lifetime of these very people who I have met at these events. It was filled with fun and excitement and yes there was coffee and doughnuts. What is a youth event without coffee and doughnuts? I remember the WABY song festivals and people like Colin Johnson, Ron Lomax, Linzay Rinquest, Johnny Cyster, Rodney Readon and this list can just go on and on. It was great events, it changed me in so many ways. I was a believer of youth rallies. And it was extremely effective, bringing so many youth groups together from different walks of life and denominations. And many young people came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through such events.

But the question remains, is this the most effective means of getting youth groups together? I do suppose it rests upon the purpose of the event hey? But let’s stick to youth rallies here.

  1. The purpose: I suppose apart from presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people and with this I might suggest bringing the devotion (the 10 min sermon) as close to the beginning as possible – someone who may have never heard the gospel before might be in need of that and if relegated to the end we might miss that opportunity completely. Furthermore I would imagine that the event would be to allow young people to expand their friendship base and foster relationships, both new and old ones. So let’s give more time to relationship building and networking. Lets end the evening earlier and offer coffee and whatever has replaced doughnuts, let’s help young people develop the ability to grow socially.
  2. The event and items on the programs should be kept to a minimum (note point 1), preferably for an hour, so that maximum time can be given to young people to meet others. With regard to “items” done on the program, as much as possible try to screen what is to be done. We don’t want to send a message that is contradictory to what we would want to accomplish. Yet, let’s not miss the opportunity to showcase the talents that our youth may posses, it may be the only platform available to them to show the world what they have (reality is that many won’t make it to idols).
  3. More adult supervision. It’s quite sad and disconcerting to see so few adults at theses events. Either the adults are afraid of being in the same vicinity with the youth or they are just not interested. It may help adults to better understand a part of youth culture. It is also at such events that we can challenge the whole generational theories that might be out there. Young people need adult supervision and input in their lives, so let’s take every opportunity that exists.
  4. The venue? While it is understandable for the venue to be a church, as it is usually the church’s youth group that is hosting the event, i think a more neutral venue should be used so that we could attract youth that are unchurched as well. In this case, I would want to even encourage for a combined effort of more than one youth group when hosting the event. If we could network and combine our resources, we could reach so many more young people and be so much more effective. (I think the days of solo youth ministry has passed and if we continue down this track we might even become more obsolete than we already are.)
  5. Youth Participation is important and while they may love music and being entertained, I think that them being involved would be a more valuable experience than just sitting in the pews and sponging things in. I think we need to create events that allows for more interacting and crowd participation. This generation is wanting to give what they have and we should help them do exactly that, if we will not utilise them and their gifts and talents in church circles then we can be rest assured that they will use it elsewhere. Why not allow them to live for something worth living for.

So, the question at the end of it all, if we are wanting such results, should we look at alternative models? Should coffee bars have a come back? Will there be a place for it?

After all is said and done, I think that there should be a rehash of what coffee bars were and what it should be to meet the current generations needs. I think the name youth rally should be completely dropped and be replaced by something sexier 🙂 and more relevant in terms of getting the message and purpose across of what we are wanting to say. But beyond everything I think our aim at such events should be to foster a community experience in which all or most of those attending would be able to give in terms of their talents and gifting.

Youth Rally – Part 2

So as a follow-up to yesterdays blog (click here) as promised, I’m going to be reflecting on some of the negative things that I experienced on Friday. I also know that these are biased and should by no means be seen as dogma or law. In return I will post tomorrow a recommendation/s (which I would hope you would come out with guns blazing to critique so that I could come up with better suggestions next time around).

It is also important to see it as a continuation from yesterdays post as the evening is not all negative but there have been many positive aspects to it.

So after the evening, by sitting through and participating in the event, and with much reflection the weekend I have come to these points. That often there is:

  • The disregard for time or the inability and lack of control of what is placed on the program. It can become so full of “acts” (sometimes these acts can be unsavoury and distract from the intended purpose of the evening) that it can become overkill. We still live in a world with boundaries and if we as leaders cannot discern or set these boundaries of overdo or overkill then how can expect our youth to be able to? What lessons are we sending?
  • The relegation of the Word to the end of the program. Now I know in our current dispensation, the Word of God is downplayed and at times even considered irrelevant. The interpretation of the Word of God is frowned on even more, “that is your opinion” they would say. At times we even would consider preaching as a disturbance in the worship service or program, an unnecessary element that could be left out. When we misplace this important aspect and element from a Christian gathering, you can only then imagine the implications of our actions? The Word of God in your life can also be relegated, and even be an unnecessary disturbance which could be better left out.
  • When I’m at work or study and I give in sloppy work, I can bet my bottom dollar (sorry for the American expression) that I will be in trouble. What I find extremely disturbing is the quality of what we present as groups at such events. Yes, the Lord does love a volunteer and none is to be omitted from this amazing privilege of being a part of the ministry. But it is important to know what your gifting is and then also the quality that you present. I actually find it quite offensive when we feel we can give God just any scrap, I honestly think he deserves more than that. Let’s not for the sake of wanting to give or “minister,” as we will put it, just give anything irrespective of its quality. Some of the acts that we presented were bordering and even went over into the offensive side. I wonder what message we send across when we say, “anything is good enough for God, as long as you give”? Again, I think God deserves more than that considering what He gave us.
  • A general misplaced purpose. Toward the middle of the evening I was unsure as to what the evening was really about. If we could pin it down to just one thing and then do it well, it would have been an event well marketed and spent. Instead I walked away and was unsure as to the overall purpose of the evening. Was it to showcase talents? Was it for fellowship? Was it for hearing how God could transform lives? Was it to make some money through sales? I’m not too sure if I have the answer to those questions!

So, was it a bad evening? No it wasn’t! I think some goals, whichever they may be, were met. I do however think that  maybe there should be a more clearly definable goal and purpose to such events so that young people would be able to walk away with something concrete in a world were there are so many messages bombarding them all the time. So in the end, I would want to say that we should be careful with the messages that we send across, whether intentional or not.

Stay in touch for part 3…

Youth Rally – Part 1

I attended a youth rally on Friday and I thought that I would give an insight into what I experienced. So this blog would be in three parts. Beginning with the good parts, then moving to the bad parts and finally I will be giving my recommendations (which might not account to much in any case).

So to begin with the good parts…

I remember my youth days and many of it were filled with youth rallies; back then it was called coffee bars. It was an awesome time for you to meet with friends you have not seen in a long time. It was also a great opportunity to meet new people and by that I mean people of the opposite sex (of which I was a disaster). Youth rallies were also awesome for showcasing the youths talent and of that there were many, from singing to dancing to drama ( I even remember at one time a very shiny body showing off his muscles in a very tiny brief – which I still find disturbing 🙂 ). And obviously every youth rally has to end with a devotion; not a sermon because it was always kept to 10 minutes at a maximum (but more of that to come).

But after a while youth rallies began declining and soon became very ineffective and youth groups stopped attending and supporting such events for reasons at that time not known to me. So when this youth rally was announced, I was dubious to its success based upon the history and trends of youth rallies. I expected a handful of youth groups, with some really bad showcasing of talents and a crowd (the handful) would be unmanageable.

So come Friday and would do I see? The church is packed! I could not believe it! Could youth rallies be experiencing a come back? Have I in my educated “guessing” limited what God could do, yes even with a youth rally? And the crowd was controllable and generally supportive of the program. The showcasing of talents? Lets just say that some of them should not enter SA Has Talent :). But on that in the next blog.

So what is my opinion and lessons learnt on Friday?

  1. There is nothing new under the sun and if we rehash old ideas and present it in new ways it can still be effective.  God is bigger than my opinions and ideas and with him nothing is really impossible. He can even use youth rallies for whatever purpose he wants to achieve. So don’t consider anything as obsolete because we serve a God a who isn’t.
  2. Young people will always support such events because it affords them the opportunity to meet other young people and increase the friendship base (even if it’s just a number on Facebook). Part of what we do as youth workers is to afford young people wholesome friendships which such events could offer (although there were some unsavoury activities – more about that in my next blog) but we should never underestimate the importance of friendships and relationships for young people.
  3. Good marketing will result in good returns. I could see that some effort was put into the event and resulted a good crowd and some participation in the program for the evening. It’s encouraging to know and notice that youth groups are still actively marketing their youth groups and events that they host.

So are youth rallies back? I’m not about to answer that question before publishing the next two blogs…