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

Poverty Sunday Resources

Poverty Sunday is a chance to reflect on the issues of poverty and how we might respond to them. Although it is usually kept in June, Poverty is an issue which needs to be addressed more than once! This year, 22nd June has been identified as Poverty Sunday.

The Church Urban Fund provides materials specifically for Poverty Sunday to help children and young people reflect on the issues (though these can be used at anytime during the year) and the Children’s Society have general resources which offer theological and practical responses to poverty.

Prayer flower garden


  1. Draw a simple outline of a garden on paper – or you could use a picture from a magazine or a plain sheet of green paper or the picture above (just click to download).
  2. As a family, agree on a special place to keep your ‘prayer garden’.
  3. Draw some flower shapes for your garden, cut them out and then decorate one side with felt tips, stickers or whatever craft materials you have available at home.
  4. Write a short prayer on the other side of your flower shape – it could be a please, thank you or sorry prayer.
  5. Now place all the flowers in a pot or container near your ‘prayer garden’.
  6. At an agreed time each day or week, one person or several selects a flower shape. As a family, think about the prayer written on the back of the flower shape and then pray together.
  7. Finally, attach a glue spot or sticky tape to the back of the flower and stick it to your ‘prayer garden’ picture.

15 Historical Complaints About Young People Ruining Everything

An excellent article from MentalFloss reminding those of us who work with young people and have to field complaints this is nothing new!

134394694Nothing is certain in this life but death, taxes, and the existence in every generation of fuddy-duddies who carp about things not being what they used to be. This centuries-spanning collection of gripes seems to suggest that the golden era of stability and contentment these geezers long to return to may never have existed in the first place. Still, the sheer similarity of their views ought to console them—some things never change.

1. “So Fatal a Contagion”

From an 1816 issue of the Times of London:

The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced … at the English Court on Friday last … It is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies … to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females…[Now that it is] forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

2. “Self-Admiring, Emaciated Fribbles”

In Paris Fashion: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele published a letter sent to Town and Country magazine in November 1771 by a reader who wanted to get something off of his chest:

Whither are the manly vigor and athletic appearance of our forefathers flown? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Surely, no; a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles can never have descended in a direct line from the heroes of Potiers and Agincourt…

3. “The total neglect of the art of speaking”

In the preface to the 1780 book A General Dictionary of the English Language, Thomas Sheridan wrote:

The total neglect of this art [speaking] has been productive of the worst consequences…in the conduct of all affairs ecclesiastical and civil, in church, in parliament, courts of justice…the wretched state of elocution is apparent to persons of any discernment and taste… if something is not done to stop this growing evil …English is  likely to become a mere jargon, which every one may pronounce as he pleases.

4. “Corrupted the Morals of Many a Promising Youth”

In the 1790 book Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock wrote,

The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?

5. “A Lessening Sense for Both Duty and Discipline”

In 1904, psychologist and educator Granville Stanley Hall published The Psychology of Adolescence, in which he warned that it was a dangerous time, particularly for young folk:

Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active life is most needed, early emancipation and a lessening sense for both duty and discipline, the haste to know and do all befitting man’s estate before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth–all these lack some of the regulatives they still have in older lands with more conservative conditions.

6. “Lax Habits, Low Moral Standards, Hotel Episodes…”

Besides the devil, nothing was more dangerous to the immortal soul than film—at least, according to “The ‘Movies’–The Greatest Religious Menace,” published in the November 6, 1926 issue of The Pentecostal Evangel:

…[The screen artists’] beauty, their exquisite clothing, their lax habits and low moral standards, are becoming unconsciously appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth. Let them do what they may; divorce scandals, hotel episodes, free love, all are passed over and condoned by the young… The eye-gate is the widest and most easily accessible of all the avenues of the soul; whatever is portrayed on the screen is imprinted indelibly upon the nation’s soul.

7. “A Mere Amusement of a Very Inferior Character”

In its July 1859 issue, Scientific American rallied against a wicked game that made both the mind and body weaker—chess:

A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages…chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises–not this sort of mental gladiatorship.

8. “A Mendacious Umbrella”

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the 1894 essayThe Philosophy of Umbrellas,” could tell a lot about a person based on what they held over their heads when it was raining:

A mendacious umbrella is a sign of great moral degradation. Hypocrisy naturally shelters itself below a silk; while the fast youth goes to visit his religious friends armed with the decent and reputable gingham. May it not be said of the bearers of these inappropriate umbrellas that they go about the streets “with a lie in their right hand”?

9. “Lewd Wicked Children”

In 1695, Robert Russel wrote in A Little Book for Children and Youth (subtitled Being Good Counsel and Instructions for Your Children, Earnestly Exhorting Them to Resist the Temptation of the Devil…):

… I find by sad Experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children, and many Children as they have played about the Streets have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and it would grieve ones Heart to hear what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the Mouths of such…

10. “Dogs at Their Heels and Other Evidence of Dissolute Habits”

In a speech to the House of Commons on February 28, 1843, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, ranted:

…a fearful multitude of untutored savages… [boys] with dogs at their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits…[girls who] drive coal-carts, ride astride upon horses, drink, swear, fight, smoke, whistle, and care for nobody…the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.

11. “Full of Self-Conceit and Admiration”

It’s probably safe to assume that the writer S.B.S. wasn’t invited to any more kids’ shindigs after “Children And Children’s Parties” was published in The Mothers’ Journal and Family Visitant in 1853:

… see the simpering little beau of ten gallanting home the little coquette of eight, each so full of self-conceit and admiration of their own dear self, as to have but little to spare for any one else… and confess that the sight is both ridiculous and distressing… the sweet simplicity and artlessness of childhood, which renders a true child so interesting, are gone (like the bloom of the peach rudely nipped off) never to return.

12. “The Mad Spirit of the Times”

In “Degeneracy of Stature,” which appeared in the December 18, 1856 issue of The National Era, Thrace Talmon wrote:

Household luxuries, school-room steam-press systems, and, above all, the mad spirit of the times, have not come to us without a loss more than proportionate…[a young man] rushes headlong, with an impetuosity which strikes fire from the sharp flints under his tread…Occasionally, one of this class…amasses an estate, but at the expense of his peace, and often of his health. The lunatic asylum or the premature grave too frequently winds up his career…We expect each succeeding generation will grow “beautifully less.”

13. “A Progeny Yet More Corrupt”

In Book III of Odes, circa 20 BC, Horace wrote:

Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more

14. “Youth Were Never More Sawcie”

In his 1624 book The Wise-Man’s Forecast against the Evill Time, Thomas Barnes, the minister of St. Margaret’s Church on New Fish Street in London, bemoaned:

Youth were never more sawcie, yea never more savagely saucie . . . the ancient are scorned, the honourable are contemned, the magistrate is not dreaded.

15. “Throwing Off Every Kind of Social Restraint “

In Hour of Decision, published in 1933 (and translated by C.F. Atkinson in 1942), Oswald Spengler wrote:

The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing…the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.

Bereavement resources for young people

see saw

SeeSaw helps children and their families both before and after a major bereavement, helping them to move forward and to face the future with hope.

“It just gave me a bit of peace when the wheels of my life came off.”

They can give advice to parents and carers, teachers and other professionals, and young people themselves. They also provide a tailored service to meet young people or their parents in person. The service is free and confidential.

Over 40 great videos to help you with your children’s and youth work


Scripture Union have launched about 40 ‘top tip’ video clips featuring a variety of people giving their top tip on an aspect of children’s ministry. They could be very useful discussion starters, and you might like to use them as  part of your group training sessions. (click here)

6 Reasons Millennials Aren’t at Your Church

EmptyChurchWhy aren’t Millennials at your church? You don’t want them there.

I know it sounds harsh and is admittedly a bit hyperbolic, but that is the basic reason any group of people are not actively involved in your church body. You have created, be it intentionally or unintentionally, an environment in which they do not feel welcome.

If your church does not have anyone under the age of 35, it is because of the culture you have established. They don’t feel at home there and until they do, they won’t be there.

Obviously, I am using generalizations to speak about a large group of people. This will not apply to every Millennial everywhere. But we can still learn from the characteristics that are frequently found among young adults.

Here are six reasons Millennials may be staying away from your church.

1. You aren’t online.

Most Millennials do not remember a time before the internet. They grew up on social media and are called “digital natives.” It is not something extra to their life; it is a place they live their life.

Three out of four have created a profile on a social networking site. With it, they connect with friends (some of whom they’ve never met in person), communicate with the world, and check out your church.

If you have not established a web or social media presence, they have assumed you are not not interested in relating to them.

2. You are too inward focused.

If they see your church as spending all of its time and resources solely on bettering the lives of the people who already attend, they’ll go somewhere else.

While Millennials have a reputation of being self-absorbed – over half have posted a “selfie” online – they passionately support causes that inspire them. Over 80 percent made a financial gift to an organization in 2012.

Their biggest discouragement in giving is not knowing how the gift will be used to make a difference. They want to be part of a larger cause. If that’s not you, they’ll get involved somewhere else.

3. You aren’t trustworthy.

Well, maybe you are trustworthy, but a Millennial is going to make you prove it.

Two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” when it comes to trusting people. Only 19 percent agreed that, generally speaking, most people can be trusted. They are cynical of those they do not know, particularly people in authority.

This is why we did the piece “False Facts: Why We Love Bad Stats” – because your audience will fact check your statistics and anecdotes. You don’t want to give Millennials a reason to distrust you.

4. You aren’t diverse.

Millennials are the most diverse generation in history and they want their church to reflect that.

More than 40 percent of adult Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation. About half the newborns born today are non-white.

If your church has no interest in reaching people outside of one ethnic or cultural group, your church has no interest in reaching Millennials.

5. You are too institutional.

When it comes to institutions, Millennials run the other way.

Political parties? Half describe themselves as independents. Marriage? Only 26 percent of Millennial adults have walked the aisle. Religion? Almost 3-in-10 are unaffiliated. That doesn’t mean they cannot learn to see the benefits of those institutions, but unlike previous generations, they don’t trust them inherently.

If business meetings drive your church and not a heart for bigger causes, you’ll drive Millennials away.

6. You don’t offer real community.

They recognize the need to connect, but they’ve chosen to do it through affinity groups and not institutions. Using social media, they have cultivated relationships with people next door and around the world who share their viewpoints and perspectives.

They want to have the support of their friends. Seventy percent of Millennials are more excited about a decision they’ve made when their friends agree, compared with 48 percent of non-Millennials.

They will find connections and community. If your church does not provide it for them, they’ll find someplace that does.

What’s next?

The church has to decide if it wants to reach the Millennials. They are open. It is simply a matter of whether we will put in the effort to communicate the gospel in a way that resonates with them.

It can be done. A follow-up post next week will give the six ways to draw Millennials to your church and into your community.


10 Minutes in God’s Word: A Theology of Learning

BibleTeen_LearningStyle_lg.250w.tnThe Bible contains more than 700,000 words. By comparison, The Lord of the Rings trilogy contains nearly 500,000; The Iliad clocks in at approximately 360,000. The gateway into God’s revelation is massive text on many thin pages. That’s a lot of reading. For some, actually for many, that sounds boring, perhaps painful. Further, of all the learning styles, verbal/linguistic (aka reading) is not the style for which most teens are wired.

Read more of Barry Shafer’s excellent article on learning styles here.

Google Knows…

This small article by Conrad Gempf is worth a look… especially if you’ve been using the internet for a while…


ivsLwRWAn article and infographic by Tom Gara goes into frightening detail about what Google knows about us.

every single webpage you have visited in the last five years… everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on GoogleMaps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched.

If Google knows that much, just imagine what Facebook knows! Apparently, they’re stocking away 600 terabytes of information about people every single day.

And here’s an article by Matt Petronzio about a woman who tried to conceal her pregnancy from Google and Facebook and what’s now being called “Big Data”.

Vertesi said we need to be more aware of the information we give our servers voluntarily, and wondered if a time will ever come when we can opt out of giving personal information to the Internet. Winter Mason, fellow panelist and data scientist at Facebook, said that he doesn’t think that’s possible anymore.

Can you help? – Cafe Leadership Christian Youthwork Research Project

cafe_leadership_logo_400_344_80If the average lifespan of a Christian Youthworker is 18 months, or even 3 – 6 years; then Christian Youthwork has a retention problem! Without the ability to retain our outstanding Youthworkers, Young People lose transformative relationships and the sector as a whole loses wisdom, experience, momentum and the ability to have a lasting impact.

Cafe Leadership wants to get at the heart of what outstanding leadership and management needs to look like in the C21st for Christian Youthworkers. We want to know whether leadership/management is one of the contributing factors to the perceived retention problem; and to find out what we can do about it if it is! What if there are some key leadership/management practices that if implemented, would double or triple retention rates – imagine the difference that would make to the Young People in the UK.

That’s why in 2014 Cafe Leadership is conducting this research project on the impact that current leadership models and structures are having on the delivery of Christian Youthwork.  Go here to take the survey and find out more.

Love and Sex Matters

New PictureA pioneering new resource: Relationships and Sex Education in a context of Christian values.

  • An important, realistic resource to help children and young adults navigate the complex context of modern relationships and sexuality
  • Written in the light of the MacDonald Review and The Children’s Society’s A Good Childhood Report
  • Useful for schools engaged in the spiritual, emotional and moral development of pupils.
  • Engaging activity-based lessons with guiding questions for discussion
  • Materials written in consultation with teachers and tested with classes
  • Separate and complementary resource packs written for all four Key Stages
  • Featured on the national CofE website: click here

Find out more here.