Parenting For Sticky Faith

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594aec67-2081-47fa-95a6-1783d2fae287Here’s an interesting article about Sticky Faith and parenting. It’s  an interview with theologian and educator Kara Powell on the subject. I especially love this reflection she offers:

Our research indicates that most youth group graduates have embraced what Dallas Willard referred to as the “gospel of sin management.” This “sin management” gospel truncates the gospel to a list of behaviors, or “do’s” and “don’ts.” When young people fail to live up to these behaviors, they end up running from God and the church just when they need both the most. So at the heart of Sticky Faith is an understanding of grace.

Grace is what separates Christianity from every other religion, and yet sadly, young people are failing to understand that

Read the short article here

Prayer Spaces in Schools – Training October 2014

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LONDON: Friday 3rd October, 10am – 4.30pm [Registration open from 10am, sessions start at 10.30am]
Venue: Church House, Holy Trinity Brompton, Brompton Road, London SW7 1JA
Directions: http://www.htb.org.uk/directions [The driveway to Church House is next to the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Brompton Oratory.]
Cost: £15
Refreshments: Please bring your own lunch or come prepared to explore the local cafes; hot drinks provided.
Further information: London event details.
Ready to book? – BOOK A PLACE ON THE LONDON DEVELOPMENT DAY

More details here.

Teenage kicks? Today’s young people are too focused on the future

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Here’s a fascinating article and perspective by a teacher featured in the Guardian today (17th September). It paints a picture of a generation of young people who are going to be highly competitive and quite sensible. If you have 3 minutes I’d encourage you to read the it here– failing that the quote below is a good vignette.

Teenagers today are some of the most tested and examined in generations, and carry with them a prevailing sense that these years are preparation for a highly competitive adult life. Their trajectories are much more linear and rigid: “I will get my GCSEs, do A-levels and go to university.” And in a world where failure to do so increases the likelihood of ending up trapped in poverty pay and/or a zero-hours contract, today’s young people are exercising necessary pragmatism.

Generation sensible is on the rise and good luck to them. For them, a great deal is at stake.

This article follows and challenges a story that was posted in the Daily Mail two days ago that cited the rise in “sensible” behaviour of teens being down to an increase in young Muslims – http://dailym.ai/1BLgLkz. I find the teachers perspective a good balance and more likely.

The perspective that this article offers is not only useful for those involved in youth ministry but also for those looking towards developments in vocations, theological education and future ministry provision across the church. If young people are too focused on the future, how are we preparing (in a nurturing sense) them for a highly competitive adult life? I wonder if the book of Daniel is a good place to start for a faith perspective on this? You’ll probably have your own thoughts!

Andrew Root: Take it from Bonhoeffer — there is no ‘Christian youth’

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An excellent article by Andrew Root – taken from the Faith & Leadership web resource: As Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out long ago, youth ministry isn’t about setting aside a special place for young people in the church but about moving them into the centre of the church community, says a youth ministry scholar and author.

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Editor’s note: The following essay is adapted from Andrew Root’s forthcoming book, “Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker” (Baker Academic), scheduled for publication Oct. 21.

For a while, I thought it was like the Loch Ness monster or Sasquatch. People said it existed, but I’d never seen it, and nobody was able to tell me how I could. But finally, I found it, and it was as amazing as I’d imagined.

No, it wasn’t a rare novel or comic book worth millions. In fact, it had no monetary value at all. But to someone who has spent his adult life either doing or thinking about youth ministry (and who has also been a longtime reader and lover of Dietrich Bonhoeffer), it was mind-boggling. There, resting at the end of Volume 12 of the “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works,” hidden in an appendix, was “Eight Theses on Youth Work.”

Nobody knows when Bonhoeffer wrote this short essay, but it was clearly a major part of his most consistent pastoral experience. It’s hard for many to believe, but Bonhoeffer spent his entire pastoral ministry, from 1925 to 1939, with either children or youth. All of it! And he wrote these theses toward the end of that period, after years of experience with young people, and writing other theological essays and books.

Bonhoeffer’s eight theses have a lot to teach Christians today, especially as we struggle to help young people hold on to their faith during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. At a time when many are concerned about the “rise of the nones” and young people “drifting away” from faith, Bonhoeffer has much wisdom to offer. And as is so often the case with Bonhoeffer, he speaks to us in surprising and unexpected ways.

To keep young people in the faith, for example, many today argue that youth should have a privileged place in our churches. Young people, so the argument goes, need a place that more directly forms their identity as “Christian youth,” a place that gives them an identity that will stick during and after their time at college.

Yet Bonhoeffer says we should do the opposite. In Thesis 4, he says we should not set aside a special place for the young if we really care about their faith formation:

Youth enjoys no special privilege in the church-community. It is to serve the church-community by hearing, learning, and practicing the word. God’s spirit in the church has nothing to do with youthful criticism of the church, the radical nature of God’s claim on human beings nothing to do with youthful radicalism, and the commandment for sanctification nothing to do with youthful impulse to better the world.

“Youth enjoys no special privilege in the church-community.”

Understand why I was amazed? These are strange words for us today. Ironically, the more anxious we have been about young people leaving the faith, the more we have tried to create a privileged space for them; and the more we have created such a privileged space, the more we have created avenues for them to depart from Christian commitment.

Sadly, youth ministers often think a major part of our job description is to claim a special privilege for the young. But such claims do more harm than good. We only fortify the generation gap, pushing young people off into youth ministry programs and away from the center of the congregation. We make the very nature and form of childhood no longer theological but fully cultural.

Because of “special privilege,” we segregate young people in their own special youth rooms and youth ministries. Youth are so “special” to the church that they become a major line item in the annual budget.

But all this specialness only pushes them further from the center of the church community. Making young people “special” divides them from their parents and other adults, for only those with special knowledge can teach them the faith, or even relate to them at all.

As a result, youth workers are caught in a vicious cycle. Once their pleas for “special privilege” have been heard, they often become ostracized and frustrated. They have sounded the alarm about a distinct generation gap that needs specialties and specialists to solve it. But then they find themselves and the youth far from the center of the church community’s life.

Perhaps, as Bonhoeffer suggests, the best way to advocate for youth and to do youth ministry is to tell the church community that their young ones have no privileged space. Instead, young people must be taken deep into the life of the community to find Stellvertretung (place sharing) with all the adults of the community.

With no more privilege than anyone else, the young should be invited into friendship at the center of the community. Together, we all bend our lives toward the unveiling of Jesus Christ in our midst.

Following Bonhoeffer’s Thesis 4 would require a profound paradigm shift. Under his vision of youth ministry, the paid youth worker’s job — her ministry to and for the young of the church — is to remind the church that there is no privileged space for its children; its children must be taken into its life. Her vocation is not to idealize the youthful spirit of the church’s young people but to call the church to look past that spirit and embrace young people in their full humanity.

To Bonhoeffer, it is theologically misguided to even put together “Christian” and “youth” as a privileged label, for Jesus is not the inventor of Christian children but of childhood universal (as Bonhoeffer asserted in a little-known lecture in Barcelona). Combining “Christian” and “youth” undercuts the importance of young people themselves.

When we put together “Christian” and “youth,” young people are no longer “Christians” — disciples, and full participants in the church community through baptism. Rather, they become a distinct species called “Christian youth.” And when the “youthful” part of the label no longer fits, then neither might the “Christian.”

To label the young “Christian youth,” Bonhoeffer believes, is to make faith bound not in their humanity and the eschatological work of Christ, not in the wrestling of their being, but in this episodic time of “special privilege” created by culture. Faith becomes a fashion, a particular, distinct period during which you are loyal to something before moving on to something else.

Your “Christian-ness” is bound in your “youthfulness.” Once youthfulness fades with age or new lifestyle commitments, so too can “Christian.” “Christian” was an adjective you used to describe your high school days. As you outgrow the privileged space (especially the youth group), as you outgrow your youth, you outgrow “Christian.”

For years, youth ministry has been searching desperately for new ways to keep young people connected to the faith they had as “Christian youth.” Young adults seem to shake off “Christian” like a dog shakes off water after a bath. Maybe the reason that’s so easy to do is because we’ve fused “Christian” and “youth,” establishing a privileged space for “Christian youth” in our congregations.

Clearly, Bonhoeffer believes that we should continue to do youth ministry. But we should do it by undercutting youth ministry as a privileged space. We should do youth ministry as way of moving the young into the center of the church community.

Youth ministry seeks not to make young people “Christian youth” but to participate in the humanity of the young as they encounter the living Christ. Youth ministry is not about strategies to produce “Christian youth” that hold on to the fashion and stay loyal to the brand. Instead, it seeks to invite young people into the cruciform space of Stellvertretung (of place sharing) that is concretely lived out by the community of the church.

In the privileged space, young people are “Christian youth” for a time. But in the cruciform space, they are given a shared space, a space of persons sharing in persons. They are not “Christian youth” but persons bound to others in faith, hope and love.

In the shared space of church, young people encounter the living Christ, who meets them not with a call into a fashion but with an invitation to follow.

The need for the contemplative

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“Contemplation is the key to unlocking the attachments and addictions of the mind so that we can see clearly. I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear.

I find most people operate not out of “consciousness,” but out of their level of practiced brain function, which relies on early-life conditioning and has little to do with God encounter or grace or mercy or freedom or love. We primarily operate from habituated patterns based on what Mom told me, what went wrong when I was young, and the defense mechanisms I learned that helped me to be right and good, to be first and famous, or whatever I may want to be. These are not all bad but they are not all good either.

All of that old and practiced thinking has to be recognized and accounted for, which is the work of contemplation. Without contemplation, you don’t see clearly. Everything is all about you, and you just keep seeing everything through your own agenda, anger, and wounds. Isn’t that most people you know? Few ever achieve much inner freedom. Contemplation, sadly, helps you see your woundedness! That’s why most people do not stay long with contemplative prayer, because it’s not very glorious. It’s a continual humiliation, realizing, “Oh my God, I did it again. I still don’t know how to love!”

Richard Rohr

(thanks to the Youthblog Geezar! for posting this)

Spiritual Parthenogenesis

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I’m really challenged by this excellent article by Mike Clifford on the  youth specialties website about formation, growth and discipleship.


mike_clifford_700x227In the natural world, there is a phenomenon called parthenogenesis.

Parthenogenesis is the process where an organism asexually reproduces due to environment or lack of a mating partner. Commonly known as cloning. Rather than having an egg from one parent and sperm from the other, certain organisms can simply duplicate their cells to create exact copies of themselves.

This is possible in a number of invertebrates and insects like aphids and water fleas. It has also been known to happen in some amphibians and reptiles. Komodo Dragons even.

Although this is a tremendous feat that sci-fi movies have tried to duplicate for years, it’s not the most effective form of reproduction.

Asexual reproduction robs the new organism of diversity and variation. Because standard sexual reproduction incorporates the inherited genetic code of two different parents, the offspring has the chance to integrate both sets of successful DNA. In theory, the offspring is stronger and more fit than both parents.

SPIRITUAL PARTHENOGENESIS

Think of this in Christian Formation. We know we are being formed by something: our families, friends, interests, studies, etc. Everything in the world around us shapes how we think and live.

If we spent our whole lives only taking in one teaching or strain of thought, we would only be as effective as that one idea can be. This would be the equivalent of spiritual parthenogenesis. Not bad, yet there is a better way.

Now, imagine if we were to take on as many ideas, teachings, and experiences as possible. It would strengthen our understanding and ability to think about the world around us.

In Christian formation we are learning to think and see the world as Jesus would. We must realize that not everyone perceives life in the same way.

“There are as many denominations as there are Christians in the world” – Dallas Willard.

No one author, speaker, preacher, or idea has the exhaustive understanding of the depth of Christ’s revelation of his holy and glorious AbbaWe are strengthened as we encounter various ideas and thoughts, ultimately submitting to our master teacher, the Christ.

We are in need of dedicated Christ followers who understand more than their particular Sunday morning experience. We need Christians who understand how the good news shared around the world impacts all of humanity.

We have the opportunity to glean as much knowledge as we can about the environments and people around us, and with the Holy Spirit alive in us, help His kingdom come on earth as it is in the Heavens.


 

See original article and more here.