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…

Premarital Sex

We had a guest lecturer at the Seminary yesterday, Rev Dr Stephen Willis, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the “relationship between premarital sexual activity and marital dissolution” through the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While his talk had so many great talk points and gems to ponder on and even places of rebuke for us who are raising kids without any thorough thought processes.

But what stood out for me more than the sexual practices activity and unwise decisions made by our adolescents, was the awesome and important role and responsibility that we as youth pastors and adults leader should play in the lives of teenagers in assisting and guiding them to live lives of purity. But what should this guidance look like? How do we go about educating adolescents on this important topic and experience in their lives?

 

 

Dr Willis gave some advice on how to address this important aspect namely:

  1. We have to engage young people before they engage in any sexual practices. The mean age for sexual engagement and experimentation usually is around 15 years old. That means we have to begin engaging with teens by the time they hit the double figures. Yes that’s right, you read correctly. By the time they reach 10 years old, we should have engaged them from a responsible perspective otherwise they will be receiving the information from less reliable sources such as friends, the internet, movies and magazines. And with the steady moral decline out there we sure do not want to take that risk.
  2. We have to educate and empower parents to be able to have this dialogue with their kids. Believe it or not, parents are still the most influential sources and guides in the lives of adolescents. For too long have parents abdicated their roles and responsibility to youth workers, teachers and other people of “influence” to guide and teach on issues of morality in the lives of their youth. It’s no wonder why there is so much rebellion from teens against parents who just let go of their right and privilege to guide and nurture.
  3. We have to encourage younger ages for marriage. I know this might sound weird and against our cultural grain. But here’s the thinking. If adolescents are having sex at an earlier age and marrying at a later stage, then it becomes obvious that the years between will accumulate the amount of sexual partners engaged. Yet at the same time, it would be wise to delay dating to a later age so that there would be less temptations and pressures to engage in sexual activity. This simple, yet I can imagine volatile talk point could save our adolescents from facing and experiencing unnecessary risks of physical, emotional and even spiritual trauma.

So where to from here?

Let’s just get the conversation going! Put your voice in there!

The Novice

It’s been a while since I last spoke at a youth gathering, in front of what will probably be hundreds of youth (well at least that’s the hope). And to be honest, my nerves are messing me around quite a bit, all thanks to Keenen Manuel aka Dippy for inviting me 🙂 . It seems that the fear of public speaking is listed amongst the top fears in the world and often rated number one. So apart from not speaking in this type of setting for a while and public speaking being listed close to the tope of the world’s fear list, is also the fact that it’s about eternal security. How do you speak to this type of group of people, having so many pressures about something that can be life or death? (Boy talk about me slapping on the pressure!). So after years of public speaking, I realised again, that  it’s not something you can easily get used to. I’m just a novice after all…

Well if you are free come along to Silvertown Baptist Church on the 8th June 2012 @ 7.30pm, I’m sure it will be a great evening. The theme for the evening is Transformers.

The Songs We Sing

We all too familiar with the adage of be carefull of the songs we sing or listen to, because it has the potential to influence and affect the way we think and live.  I remember a song from my childhood days that goes,

“Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear. For the Father Up above, Is looking down in love, So be careful little ears what you hear.”

 After a chat with a buddy of mine about a popular song, I had to ask myself when is it ok to endorse a song? Or what does endorsing a song look like? Is it when we sing it? Or have it on our iPods, or phones, or laptops?

In youth ministry we are to stay abreast of trends and culture. We are to know what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not. We need to be aware of who the new cultural stars, influencers and movers are. But where do we draw the line with following trends?

The song I’m referring to above is “We are Young” by Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe. The song was released late 2011 and has been one of the most downloaded songs for the past few months since its release (see Billboard.com). It has also been scripted in the series Glee (Season Three Episode: Hold on to Sixteen) and now in South Africa where it has been used in a car commercial. The message of the song promotes some pretty bad behaviour and if we are not careful we could be led astray by the beat or enticing melody and land ourselves in some hot water. Let’s be honest, it sure is a fun (pun not intended 🙂 ) song to listen to and can be quite addictive.

But before I get carried away, what does this song promote. Quite clearly it promotes substance abuse; binge drinking; and consequences of such behaviour which could be numerous (what is the logical conclusion of carry me home tonight after I drank too much?). What about the scar that’s being referred to? Is it physical? Emotional? Is it abuse because the lover is apologising profusely?

I can understand how this songs can touch on the immortality and recklessness that defines young people. How they can conquer the world and live in the moment of pure bliss. I can see and experience how this songs tugs at the heart and creates pure desire for the beauty of NOW. Of camaraderie and friendship.  But it is misplaced. If we are not careful, we can encourage this misplacing of youthful abandonment and could have disastrous consequences.

Is that the kind of message we want to endorse?

Have a look at the video and see how easy it is to fall for the song.

Locks and Hinges

After having a chat with Dr Godfrey Harold about ministry, I had to think and ask myself some fundamental questions about youth ministry.

Are we, who are in positions of authority and influence, be that youth pastors, senior pastors, elders, deacons, and leadership bodies, creating opportunities for the growth and development of youth or are we creating barriers and closing down opportunities for young people to develop or grow?

Ultimately, the numbers will show. While we do not want to focus on numbers and make it our goal and our all-in-all, numbers makes an honest reflection upon what we doing right or not. So, let’s not deceive ourselves and throw the number dialogue completely out of the window, because it is a gauge to reflect upon what we are doing. Sure, sometimes even with the best programs or the most trusted and sincere people we do not bring in the numbers, but that is the exception and not the rule.

So, have a look at your numbers. Listen to the whispers and the dialogues, and ask yourself, “why is the youth leaving our church?” “Why do the youth not want to be a part of the church?” and “what role do I play in their untimely exit?”

So to the one who has the influence, how are you influencing? How are the decisions you making affecting our youth?

Are you a hinge that is opening the door wide open for youth? Do you offer young people the opportunity to discover themselves, when we place spiritual formation on the same level as physical and emotional formation and development? To make mistakes and even mess up in a big way? To spoil the carpet that was donated more than ten years ago by a person no-one remembers any more? Do you offer the opportunity for young people to ask questions even when we do not have the answers?

Or are you a lock? Keeping the door of opportunity, self-discovery, growth and searching closed and locked? By allowing youth to not feel free to be themselves and discover what they can be in Christ sends them a clear and loud message that they are not important and do not matter. Sometimes the things we do not do has more volume than those we do.

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?