All posts by Ben Mizen

I am the Youth and Children’s Work Adviser for the Diocese of Portsmouth. I cover all work with children and young people aged 0-18+ and work across Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport, Fareham, The Isle of Wight, Petersfield and Bishops Waltham. You can contact me at the diocesan offices on 02392 899652 and

Dangerous Youth Ministry

dangerI came across this challenging article, by, about how much we protect our children and young people. For your information it’s not really about doing crazy dangerous activities without due care or concern – no one is saying ditch all our good practice! However, it does peer deeper into some of our attitudes that may be making some things unnecessarily “safe”.  Read on:

I recently watched Gever Tulley’s TED talk 5 Dangerous Things. His presentation points to the problem of over protecting children, and makes a case for allowing danger in their lives for the sake of discovery. It’s a short watch if you want to see it for yourself.

This video got me thinking about youth ministry. Do we protect teenagers too much? Here are my five dangerous things:

1. Ask questions – Do we let them ask questions? Is it wrapped in the context of us always knowing the answers? It is hugely beneficial to let questions linger. The time spent finding answers almost always has more benefit than the answers themselves. Additionally, this prepares students for life when they have moved on from youth ministry.

2. Ask questions – Do we ask them hard questions? I’m not talking about hard questions like Do you believe in God? I’m talking about really hard questions like What is it about you that you love?

3. Live with tension – Inevitably, if we let questions linger, we have to acknowledge that mystery exists in our faith. There are just too many things we can’t understand about life, and especially God.

4. Work out their faith – So often in youth ministry we feel like we should fix students. This really is a lack of faith. We can’t even fix ourselves. Why would we think we could fix anyone else. It’s the Spirit’s work to bring people to repentance and sanctification.

5. Live with radical grace – If youth ministries aren’t willing to practice radical grace, going beyond forgiveness and into blessing those who hurt us, we really aren’t fully practicing our faith.

4 Ways to Keep Volunteers Happy

VolunteersYouth work and ministry in our churches and communities would not happen without volunteers. They are the lifeblood of 95% of what happens with young people… don’t believe the hype about paid workers! Anyway, Benjer McVeigh on his website offers some simple advice on sustaining volunteers. They’re simple and powerful – you’ll need to decode some of the “Americanisms” but you’ll get the gist.

It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, 100 people on a Sunday or 10,000: your church runs on volunteers. Without volunteers, your Sunday mornings would grind to a standstill, and much less ministry would get done during the week. When our volunteer teams are working well, ministry is fun and it feels like your church is really making a difference. When volunteers aren’t happy, however, working with your teams can feel like a drain. It doesn’t take long in pastoral ministry to realize that taking care of our volunteers is a make-or-break part of being a leader. Here are four ways to keep your volunteers happy:

1) Tell them what their job is (and how they know they’re doing it right). There’s not much more frustrating for a volunteer than not knowing what they are expected to do. When volunteers aren’t quite sure why they show up each week they’ll quickly get frustrated. And when they have no idea how they know whether they’re doing a good job, they’ll get even more frustrated. Even if you think a volunteer’s role should be clear, give them a quick two-sentence job description that let’s them know what they’re supposed to do and they “why” behind their role.

2) Give them a boss. This may seem counterintuitive, because who wants to have a boss on Sunday after working for one Monday through Friday? However, it’s crucial for a volunteer to have a “boss,” which is really just someone they can go to if they have questions. In addition, great volunteers want to know how to do their job right (see #1), and they’ll appreciate having a leader they know will guide them and let them know if there’s something the should be doing differently–even if that leader is also a volunteer. Good volunteers need to be supported by good leaders.

3) Remind them that they are part of something bigger. When it’s been a rough morning in the church nursery or a teenager mouths off to a youth leader, it’s your job to remind volunteers that their service is helping to accomplish a weighty mission: to see people experience a growing relationship with Jesus. When we help our volunteers keep that in view, they’ll bounce back after tough weeks ready to serve the next Sunday.

4) Say thank you. Seriously. If you’re not going through at least a few thank-you notes a month, you need to up your game. Whenever you email your volunteers–even if it’s a mass email–say “Thank you” to them. Whenever you call them to remind them about a meeting, say “Thanks for serving with us!” And at Christmas, send them a Starbucks gift card with a note that thanks them for another great year of serving. Five dollars goes a long way when it’s a thank you gift, and if you have 100 volunteers, it’s $500 well spent.


West Wight Churches Together are looking for someone to engage with this fantastic initiative.


A fantastic one-year opportunity for someone aged 16 – 23* to:

  • Make a contribution to your local community.
  • Learn about yourself.
  • Enjoy a challenge.
  • Meet other young people across the country doing similar things.
  • Work alongside an experienced Youth Worker in an ecumenical project.
  • Contribute to and use your abilities, skills and interests to plan, organise and deliver a programme of exciting activities.
  • Applicants must be aged 16 to 23 on 1 September 2014 Interested? Email Recruitment ( quoting reference number: OPP/CTWW/MK/0414 for an application pack. Closing date for applications: Thursday, 1 May 2014 Interview date: Thursday, 22 May 2014 This is a part-time job, working an average of 65 hours per calendar month, to include the following dates, for which applicants must be available:
  • 1st Training Weekend – Friday 5 to Sunday 7 September 2014
  • 2nd Training Weekend – Friday 17 to Sunday 19 October 2014
  • 3Generate Children & Youth Assembly – Friday 14 to Sunday 16 November 2014
  • 3rd Training Weekend – Friday 13 to Sunday 15 February 2015
  • 4th Training Weekend – Friday 26 to Sunday 28 June 2015

This post holds an Occupational Requirement for the post holder to be a young person within the age range of 16-23 – Standing Order 250, Youth Participation Strategy and the Missing Generation Report, Conference 2009. This appointment will be made subject to a satisfactory enhanced disclosure by the Disclosure and Barring Service (*for applicants aged 18-23). An annual salary of £15,520 pro-rata (£6,651 per annum for an average of 65 hours per calendar month) salary subject to review in September 2014. All applicants must have the right to live and work in the UK and must hold a current NI number and valid proof of ID (passport or British birth certificate, please go to for more information). More details about the scheme here:


5 tasty treats to cook with your youth group

Pete Maidment from Wincandy has some excellent easy-to-do cooking ideas for your youth group. I’ve no idea about the calories but they do look tasty.


Cooking with your youth group is great fun, and a good way to get discussion going. Here are five simple things for you to cook together.

  1. Rocky Road. Really simple, and totally adaptable, mix together melted chocolate with biscuit, marshmallows, cherries, sweets, chocolates… whatever you fancy! Spoon into cupcake cases and leave to set.
  2. Tea Light S’mores. This american classic can easily be adapted for any situation; stick marshmallows onto sticks and toast over tea lights. When they’re toasted sandwich them between two biscuits and a chunk of chocolate. The ultimate campfire delicacy. (Keep a bowl of water to hand for any accidentally combusting marshmallows).

  3. Pizzas. Either buy ready made pizza bases or if you’re feeling adventurous make bread dough with your group from scratch. Have a jar of tomato sauce (tomato pasta sauce works great) a big bowl of grated cheese and a selection of toppings.

  4. Chocolate Dipping. use up any unwanted(?) Easter Eggs… break the chocolate up into a bowl and melt it in the microwave or over a bain marie. Prepare stuff to stick on skewers: strawberries, grapes, marshmallows, cake chunks… include a few crazier options: salted pretzels, crispy bacon and ritz crackers are all good, and then get dipping…

  5. Pasta. Making your own pasta is great fun, really simple, and something just a little bit different… Mix together 600g of pasta flour and 6 large eggs. Use your fingers and keep mixing and kneading until you have a good smooth dough (either do this in one big bowl and give everyone a chance to have a go at kneading – or make 6 bowls each with 100g flour and 1 egg). Knead and knead (and chat and chat!) Once your dough is smooth and springy you’ll need to roll it out into a thin sheet. If you’re using a pasta machine you’ll have lots of fun, make sure everyone has a go! Otherwise, dust a surface with more flour, get out a rolling pin, and get rolling. You’ll need to roll it really thin (tagliatelle thin) and then carefully cut into strips with a sharp knife. Dump in boiling water for a couple of minutes and serve with a choice of sauces, or just butter and grated cheese…

What recipes would you add to our list?

Four Words That Can Transform Your Conversations With Young People

four_words_2_750_367If we are going to respond adequately to the doubting experiences of youth, we need to ensure that young people … have patient, understanding companions who can guide and care for them through the twists and turns of the journey of doubt.

Find out what four words every parent, leader, and mentor should keep handy in their back pocket for moments like these… click here for a stunning article from The Fuller Youth Institute

12 Things TEDx Speakers Do That Preachers Don’t

TED talks have pretty much set the standard in clear communication and effective presentations in recent years. There’s a great deal that churches, youth groups etc can learn from their style, as they have proven to be a great source of debate, engagement and learning. This challenging list about speaking and preaching by Nicholas McDonald is essential for anyone trying to communicate with young people.

tedx01 – Present one great idea. “An idea isn’t just a story or a list of facts. A good idea takes evidence or observations and draws a larger conclusion.” Of course TEDx talkers often have multiple points, but they always have direction: they’re always moving forward to a set conclusion (and that’s all big idea preaching is, for all the flack it gets). They also suggest to the speaker: “Get your idea out as quickly as possible”.
02 – Set a time limit. “Shorter talks are not lesser talks. It may only take 5 minutes to make your point unforgettably”. Ouch – yes, I often speak too long. Like Pascal in his letter, most of us preach long sermons because we don’t have time to prepare short ones – certainly not 20 minutes – but we could all stand to lose a few. Here’s how they approach this: “Make a list of all the evidence you want to use: Think about items that your audience already knows about and the things you’ll need to convince them of. Order all of the items in your list based on what a person needs to know before they can understand the next point, and from least to most exciting. Now cut out everything you can without losing the integrity of your argument. You will most likely need to cut things out you think are important.”
03 – Collaborate – On the above suggestion: “Consider making this list with a trusted friend, someone who isn’t and expert in your field.” During rehearsal stage, the guide recommends “listening to criticism”. Calvin made it a rule for pastors in his region to collaborate on their texts before preaching. Personally, I wish we didn’t see the preparation of a sermon as a lone-ranger event: why not ask the perspectives of people who represent those who will be listening to this thing, believers and non-believers alike?
04 – Put time into visuals. “Note anything in your outline that is best expressed visually and plan accordingly in your script.” In the section regarding the question, “What goes in my slides?” the guide states: “Images and photos: to help the audience remember a person, place or thing you mention, you might use images or photos…Use as little text as possible – if your audience is reading, they are not listening. Avoid using bullet points. Consider putting different points on different slides.” We might not have time every week to come up with captivating visuals, but check out some websites like - you’d be surprised how quickly you can put together an amazing presentation.
05 – Practice. “Once you’re settled on your outline, start writing a script. Be concise, but write in a way that feels natural to you. Use present tense and strong, interesting verbs.” After the script is finished, the guide implores: “Rehearse, rehearse rehearse! We can’t stress this enough…If someone says you sound “over-rehearsed” this actually means you sound stilted and unnatural.”
06 – Stay away from notes. “TED discourages long talks, podiums or readings”. This isn’t for everybody – but it’s certainly worth noting that according to the best speakers in the world, notes are considered to be a thing of the past.
07 – Avoid industry jargon. Christianese, anyone? “Don’t use too much jargon, or explain new terminology…Spend more time on new information: If your audience needs to be reminded of old or common information, be brief.”
08 – Draw people into caring. “Start by making your audience care, using a relatable example or an intriguing idea…Draw your audience in with something they care about. If it’s a field they never think about, start off by invoking something they do think about a lot and relate that concept to your idea.” How often do we assume that everyone sitting in the congregation is as interested in our text as we are?
09 – Show how it makes a difference. “Don’t use your conclusion to simply summarize what you’ve already said; tell your audience how your idea might affect their lives if it’s implemented.”
10 – Keep structure clear but invisible. “Your structure should be invisible to the audience. In other words, don’t talk about how you’re going to talk about your topic – just talk about it!” I thought this was especially interesting – the TEDx guide states that structure should be present, but that it shouldn’t be announced. Presumably, it should be natural and strong enough that everyone listening can understand it without explanation.
11 – Stay planted. “Practice standing still, planted firmly in one spot on stage.” So, yeah, about this. I have a VERY hard time with this. I should put two little shoe imprints near the pulpit.
12 – Respectfully address arguments. “Respectfully address any controversies in your claims, including legitimate counter-arguments, reasons you might be wrong, or doubts your audience might have about your idea.” The Puritans spent much of their preaching time answering inner-objections – it’s what Keller calls “preaching to the heart”. In a post-Christian society, we ought to be putting more time into answering arguments, not less.

Job Opportunity – Crofton Youth Project Youth Leader Wanted

Crofton Youth Project

The Crofton Youth Project is looking for a new Youth Leader to run the youth club on 3 evenings a week.

It involves working with young people aged 11-14, planning suitable activities in consultation with them and encouraging their social and personal development. The Youth Leader is also responsible for managing a team of 3 youth workers.

Hourly rates of pay are negotiable.

For further information please contact trustee Melanie Thomas as soon as possible.

Communion before Confirmation – revised diocesan policy

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Revised diocesan policy, process and resources for admitting children to communion in your parish have been released this month.

Click below for:


If you are interested in finding out more, read this interesting article from the Pompey Chimes on “The Big Issue: Should children take Communion?”

The diocesan youth and children’s team have a selection of the recommended resources for you to view. Please get in touch.