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

Teenagers tell Family Lives the best and worst things about being a teenager

teentasticA Family Lives survey revealed teenagers’ greatest fears and what their advice for parents is. They wanted to find out what teens really think about life, school and everything else in between, so they ran a survey to find out. The results are fascinating and really show us what teens care and worry about the most. Read more here

Conversations between Parents and Teenagers

serveA brilliant article by Susan Oh Cha and Yumi Bryana Cha from the Fuller Institue about conversations between parents and teenagers:

As parents, we have all kinds of reasons to talk to our kids. Often we resort to talking at our kids. But how often do we really talk with our kids?

When we do pursue conversations with our teenagers, what is our motivation? To listen? To learn? To understand? Or are we hoping to win an argument?

Read more here

Messy Churches in a rural context

messy church logoThe Arthur Rank Centre specialises in resourcing and supporting rural churches. They’ve got lots on their website about Messy Church in a rural context:


Make Disciples Differently

sandalsWhat would it look like if we as leaders focused less on the things that make our churches entertaining and more on making disciples?

This video challenges and reminds us that we are a sent people, called to take the gospel to the world. The grace that Jesus has shown us by coming after us frees us to then seek others.

Its time to rethink how we are making disciples.Click here to watch this 2 minute video.

Biblical and Theological Perspectives: Resources for Raising Children in the Faith

Bunge articleMaric Bunge author identifies some fundamental insights from the Bible and the Christian tradition about the roles and responsibilities of parents and the complexity and dignity of children as resources for raising our children in the faith.

As common sense and many recent and innovative programs have shown, one of the most important ways to strengthen the faith formation of children and young people is by engaging and supporting parents or primary caregivers.1 Practical theologians from a number of denominations are therefore focusing more attention on the importance of spiritual formation in the home.2 Institutes and centers devoted to faith formation of children and young people, such as the Youth and Family Institute, offer a number of practical resources “to equip families to pass on faith and live well in Jesus Christ.”3 Many conferences and training workshops are devoted to helping pastors and church leaders work more closely with parents and families. Innovative religious educational programs now include more attention to the role of parents and other caring adults in the faith development of children. Read more here

Messy Church Meet Ups

messy church logoFancy meeting other Messy Church teams and leaders? Very informal but useful evenings to gather and chat. Bung these dates in your diary for now and I’ll remind you about them in the autumn:

  • Wednesday September 25th Messy Meet up at St Wilfrid’s Cowplain 7.30-9.00
  • Tuesday October 8th Messy Meet-up at Fleet Methodist Church 7.30-9.00

And don’t forget Portsmouth Diocese is hosting a day with me on discipleship in Messy Church – what next? on Sat 5th Oct. Details here.

Outdoor worship: Garden prayer stations

yellow roseWe’re enjoying a rare spell of sun and warmth in the UK at the moment, and church indoors. The outdoors lends itself to worship, with God’s creation all around.

The Bible is also full nature references and metaphores. The seven prayer stations in this set are based on things you may find in a garden; trees, flowers, water, hills, thorns, fruit and earth.

You could choose to use only the stations that you have the location and props for, or you can add extra things to your garden to make all the stations possible. Autumn has plenty of opportunities too!

Go here to read more and download the resources from ENGAGE WORSHIP.

Releasing the Generations


It is a tragedy when relationships between generations go wrong. I do not assume that they always go wrong; they often work well. But, while recognising that each situation is different, and that these issues are easy to caricature, I’m looking to address what can be done – when there is frustration or tension – and to identify a better way. My fundamental conviction is that Christianity is a missionary faith, which makes it a ‘from generation to generation’ faith, irrespective of the degree of cultural change…

The relationship between older and younger generations in the Church is complex. Older people can hang on to leadership too long, while younger people (if they stay) get frustrated. Well-intentioned, but often token, appointments of young people are made to church bodies whose meetings can frustrate – or bore the life out of – those same young people. Yet there are also older people looking for someone younger to take on roles they have filled for years – and they can’t find anyone to take their place. The problem is essentially one of power: who has a say and who does not. The issue is also vocational: is each generation respected and released to obey God’s call and trusted to trust God’s promises?

Young people often feel that their church is out of date; that they couldn’t invite their friends and feel powerless to make changes. Or an older generation wonders why people no longer come to church, while a younger one knows we have to go out to the people rather than wait for them to come to us. They are operating
from different models; one is attractional – wanting to make church more attractive – and the other more incarnational in seeking to engage more with the everyday lives of non-Christian friends.

Technological change means that a generation accustomed to listening to an authoritative teacher respectfully is encountering another which has been taught to question everything with the capacity, in a moment, to check multiple media sources. In today’s culture, respect for the wisdom of the elders has largely
been lost. In some communities older people are even afraid of younger people.

But no generation of Christians is meant to start from scratch as they serve Christ in the world. We have to test things out for ourselves – or they remain theoretical – but we are not meant to ignore the wisdom of previous generations nor recycle their mistakes out of ignorance. Unless, of course, we want to learn for ourselves the truth of Christian writer and poet Steve Turner’s lines, ‘History repeats itself. Has to – nobody listens.’

Sometimes the problem is that we confuse particular forms of worship or discipleship with the eternal truths they convey. An older generation finds it hard to imagine a different, perhaps more informal approach to worship, while a younger one fails to see beyond the form to the truths being expressed.

A lot of this is evidence of fractures within our culture, which inevitably impact the Church. But that is no reason to give in to them. There can be a better way. Each generation can pass on the truths of the faith and the callings and promises of God to the next. Each can learn to recognise and bless God’s calling on the others. Each can play their part in releasing each generation for their calling. There is plenty to do. Without effective youth and young adult ministry the Church has no future, but given the rapidly growing proportion of the population over 65, ministry by – and to – that generation will be essential in the coming decades.

The stories around the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus in Luke chapters one and two provide a model for relationships between the generations. We are even told that John will ‘turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the
Lord (1:17).’ God wants to sort out intergenerational conflict.

Three generations are involved. The oldest – Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna – have faithfully kept God’s word and trusted his promises in their generation. They deserve respect and are afforded it by God’s choice of them, and by the whole way Luke tells his story. (Even if Zechariah has a late in life lesson in obedience.) Their ministry is not yet over. They still have the task of blessing the next generation, and continuing to serve God, as they have been. There is no suggestion that Zechariah is to stop being a priest, or that God has finished with his generation now that his wife is expecting John the Baptist.

Mary comes to stay with Elizabeth. Separated in age by the equivalent of two generations, and receiving the hospitality of her older cousin – who is a direct descendent of Aaron the first High Priest – the younger would normally have paid her respects to the elder. But Mary is not given the chance. She is barely through
the door when Elizabeth greets her prophetically as ‘the mother of my Lord’. The older generation rejoices over God’s call on the next generation.

Mary’s response shows no arrogance. She is awe struck and amazed that God was using her, that he fulfils his promises and shows mercy ‘from generation to generation’ (Luke 1:50). Later, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus, who together with his cousin John, forms the third generation, into the Temple. Simeon blesses them and prophecies over them and their child. Anna also speaks about this child. Once again the older blesses the next generation, seeing in them the fulfilment of God’s promises.

A fine example of this was seen in a small Methodist church in Polzeath, Cornwall. The chapel was down to two members, aged 85 and 90. They did not want their church to die, and warmly welcomed a proposal that it should be developed as a church for the surfers on the adjoining beach. The new focus would involve changes in both the building and in worship, but these two were thrilled to see what God wished to do in the
next generation and blessed it – just as Elizabeth blessed Mary. The new work was released by the faith, prayers and permission of those two.

So how can we release the next generation?

Identify leaders

I chair the Soul Survivor trustees so I am a guardian of the values of that ministry. It is a prime value of Soul Survivor to equip young people so that they can take responsibility for the ministries to which God is calling them. That involves a discipline of spotting potential as early as possible, giving opportunity for appropriate ministry and then mentoring as you go. Just as Jesus invested in the 12, following a time
of prayer, discernment and listening to the father, so pastors and youth leaders need to identify the young people with leadership potential whom they should mentor and release. That’s how the Church identified
and supported Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Andy and Beth Croft – as well as the many, many others who do not have such ‘public’ or high-profile names.

Release them now

Instead of telling young people to wait until they have more experience, we need to release them now to do what only they can do. Christian leaders, whether pastors or youth leaders, have to make a choice. Is
their role primarily to protect the young people of their church or to equip them for mission? Is it to educate or to release? Where young people have a vision from God about serving him at their school or in their neighbourhood, give them support but do not take responsibility for that ministry from them. If they have heard it from God, then they are mature enough to lead in it, with prayerful support.

One of the ways in which churches with well-established patterns of mission and worship can become ‘mixed economy’ (inherited styles of church and fresh expressions of church in partnership) and
reach people their existing work does not reach, is to release young people to reach their own generation by establishing a fresh expression of church for them at school, college or a leisure centre. The point is not just that young people can hear God and act on what he says, much earlier than cautious churches allow. It is that
the rapid pace of change and the average age of many congregations (the average worshipper in the CofE is 14 years older than the average age of the population) creates mission opportunities which only young people can engage in.

If they are still looking for their calling, create an environment where they are helped to hear God for themselves. Support them as they take risks of faith so that to risk in faith and find that God is faithful,
becomes instinctive. Provide council and feedback but do not take control.

Let them rise to the challenge

Set the bar high with worthwhile challenges. Young people are required to make potentially vocational choices early as they select exam subjects. So set the challenge of the kingdom before them. The kingdom of God involves the salvation of men and women and the healing of the whole creation. That leaves plenty of scope for discernment and plenty of challenges to tackle. My experience of this generation of young people is that they rise to a challenge and are prepared for sacrifice. When young people are trusted to take initiatives in this way, they become much more open to the wisdom of former generations because they know they need all the help they can get!

Let them shape the church

It is not the calling of young people to preserve or continue the church as it is but to engage in God’s mission in a way which will inevitably shape the Church of tomorrow. If we are to engage with the UK as a mission field with its sheer scale and diverse complexity, we need the missionary gifts of young people today – not just tomorrow.

Christian faith is a ‘from generation to generation’ faith. Young people must be released into mission and older people respected as the faithful stewards of God’s promises. If the generations fail to communicate with, or understand one another, they can miss what God intends. What all three generations have in common are the promises of God. They provide the link. Each generation sees in the next a further stage of fulfilment of the same promises. The forms which faith and obedience take may change, but the common
thread lies in God’s promises. The generations are not so much linked by the way they do things, especially at times of rapid change, but by a shared commitment to God’s will, and to trust and act on his promises. This is the DNA that passes from generation to generation.

‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.’

Bishop Graham Cray is Archbishops’ Missioner and team leader of Fresh Expressions.

LIFELINE – St Jude’s Church and St Simon’s Church – Southsea

We want to help our young people to live fulfilling lives as disciples of Christ, think about how their faith will be lived out as young adults and what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.

We are therefore planning an opportunity for young people in the deanery (Year 10 and upwards) to join together over 4 Thursday evenings at St Jude’s to meet other young people in the deanery, have fun and think in interactive ways about the following issues:

  • 12 September, 7-9pm
    What Christians Believe – Our Creator God, Salvation through Christ, The Holy Spirit. Taking responsibility for your own faith as you go out into the world.
  •  19 September,  7-9pm.
    Why is Christianity Different? – Salvation by grace and our relationship with God and Jesus.
  • 26 September, 7-9pm.
    What is Sin? What is forgiveness? – receiving it and offering it.
  • 3 October 7-9pm.
    What is Baptism and Confirmation? What does it mean to be part of the Body of Christ?

We are anticipating that some of those who take part in this course will choose to be baptised and/or confirmed at the Deanery Confirmation Service on 3rd November at St Jude’s Church. (This service will include Holy Communion)

There will be a residential weekend of fun, fellowship, teaching and worship at Ferny Crofts in the New Forest from the evening of Friday 11th October to Sunday 13th  October. During this weekend we will be asking the young people, with the help of Revd. Jenny Gaffin, Bishop’s Chaplain, to plan and contribute to the Deanery Confirmation Service on 3rd November.

Young people (Year 10 upwards) from the deanery are welcome to join us at Ferny Crofts, even if they have not been coming to the ‘Lifeline’ sessions – especially if they are to be baptised/confirmed on 3rd November.

Following this young people from St Simon’s and St Jude’s will meet on one more Thursday evening to think about Holy Communion. It is anticipated that each participating church will hold their own session to prepare their confirmation candidates to receive Holy Communion.

‘Lifeline’ will be run by: Rachel Duff (CYF Worker) and Sue Theobald (Assistant Curate) –  St Jude’s,  and Jo Borley (CYF Worker) – St Simon’s

The Thursday evening sessions are free. The cost of the residential weekend will be £46.00, which includes  accommodation (2 nights) , transport, food and one outdoor activity led by a member of the Ferny Crofts’ team.

If any of your young people would like to join us, either for the Lifeline sessions or at Ferny Crofts, please contact Rachel Duff, (Children, Youth and Family Worker) at St Jude’s Church by Monday 9th September.

Email:     Tel: 02392 750442


WorkerNET Programme – 2013-2014

toolsEvents, gatherings and meetings for the youth and children’s workers (full and part-time, plus significant volunteers) in the Diocese of Portsmouth. If you need any more information about anything happening or you simply fancy a coffee and chat please call Ben, Youth & Children’s Work Adviser, on 07974 418062 or 02392 899652 or email.

Dates for 2013-14 are as follows

  • 25th September 10.:30–13:30 at Becket Hall, Cathedral House, Portsmouth Cathedral. Time and Task Management with Canon David Isaac. Includes Lunch.
  • 3rd December 11:30 – 14:00 Christmas Gathering – Festive Food, Drink and Fellowship before the Christmas events and activities in our parishes. Venue to be confirmed.
  • 15th January 10:30 – 14:00 at Holy Rood, Stubbington. Building Strategy & Vision That Produces Fruit with Rev Charlie Peer. Includes Lunch.
  • 25th March 10:00 – 14:00 Retreat. Includes Lunch
  • 14th May 10:30 – 14:00 How To Find, Support and Develop Volunteers To Build Effective Youth & Children’s Ministry with Ben Mizen. Includes Lunch. Venue to be confirmed.
  • 27th June  11:30 – 14:00 Summer Gathering & BBQ – Food, Drink and Fellowship. A time to catch up!!! Venue to be confirmed.

Download a flyer here.

SoulNET Youth Leaders Breakfast – November 2013

soulnetSaturday 23rd Nov
St Jude’s Church, Kent Road, Southsea, PO5 3EL

For all youth leaders, volunteers and helpers. Come along for inspiration, ministry, fellowship and breakfast. With worship, encouragement and input from the SoulNET and Soul Survivor team. Bring some cash for breakfast. R.S.V.P. to help with numbers:

Download flyer here.

Youthwork as the Mission of God – Training Day


Thurs 28th Nov
St John’s Church
Rowland’s Castle

Exploring at how churches can serve the needs of young people in their parishes and communities. What resources do we have and what do we need to engage with those in our society who are young? With youthwork practitioner and writer Jon Jolly (

For all clergy, church leaders and youth workers who are looking at how to connect with young people as part of their mission and outreach. Refreshments provide but please bring your own lunch.

Cost for the day is £5:00 – spaces are limited. For more information and booking details please contact:

Mrs Clare Jones,
023 92 899 678

Download flyer here.

Leader, Volunteer & Helper Basic Training 2013-2014

thekeyThis is the basic programme for equipping and orientating volunteers, leaders and helpers in youth and children’s ministry in the diocese. Participative, interactive and fun! Get booked! Packed full of ideas!

Dates for 2013-14 are as follows:

  • Sat 26th Oct, 10:00am-3.00pm – St John’s Church, Newport, Isle of Wight
  • Sat 30th Nov, 10:00am-3.00pm – Holy Trinity Church, Fareham.
  • Sat 1st Mar, 10:00am-3.00pm – East Meon Church.
  • Sat 7th Jun, 10:00am-3.00pm – Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn

Download flyer here:

Developing Schools Ministry – Resource & Training Day

Tues 11th Feb 2014
Shedfield, Study Centre, Shedfield

school tie

More than assemblies and RE lessons??? How does a parish engage in mission with schools in their area. A day to exploring ministry with staff and pupils in schools. Innovation, creativity, storytelling and plenty of resources with Amy Stock from

For all clergy, church leaders and youth workers who are looking at how to connect with schools and pupils as part of their mission and outreach.

Refreshments provide but please bring your own lunch. Cost for the day is £5:00 – spaces are limited. For more information and booking details please contact:
Mrs Clare Jones,
023 92 899 678

Download a form here.

I Wonder If Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids??

heroes-r1An excellent and very challenging article about the messages that we pass on to our children. Taken from “Beliefs of the Heart“.

Several years ago I met with a woman distraught by her son’s rejection of Christianity.

She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”

She wondered why he rejected Christianity.

I wondered why it took him so long.

Here is how we destroy the gospel message

Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum. You’ll find:

  • Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.
  • Joseph was a good little boy (unlike his “bad” brothers), and God made him Prime Minister of Egypt. So be good like Joseph.
  • David had a pure heart (unlike his brothers), and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.
  • Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.
  • Finally, if we fail to be good, Jesus will forgive us (a “P.S.” tacked onto the end).

What’s so bad about these Sunday school lessons?

Nothing really. Except that they lie about God, they lie about these “heroes of the faith,” they lie about the Bible, and they lie about the gospel. Apart from that, they are pretty good. Oh, they also create “younger brother” rebels and “older brother” Pharisees.

Is the gospel our central theme, or is it a “PS” tacked onto the end?

The gospel storyline

The message of the gospel—the entire storyline of scripture—is God’s loving pursuit of people who run from him as fast as they can and who live lives unworthy of his love.

That’s why it’s called grace.

But our Sunday school lessons teach us to be good little boys and girls, and God will love us and use us. It’s the total opposite of the gospel. It’s a counterfeit of the worse kind.

The inside out of the gospel

The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s when Beauty kisses the Beast.

The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he’s loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness.

If the Beast were loved for his beauty, it would be an unbearable burden. Any day he might be scarred, and soon he will certainly be a wrinkled old man.

So why do we burden our children with the unbearable load of “being good little boys and girls like the heroes in the Bible”? We wouldn’t load a pack mule with the burdens we place on our children.

There’s gotta be a better way

Let’s teach the wonder of the gospel. Let’s show our kids that God loves us … simply because he loves us. In our beastliness. That he loves us before we are good.

That his love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.

  • How Abraham was an idol worshiper and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Joseph was a narcissistic boy and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Esther had sex outside of marriage with a non-believer and God loved her and pursued her.

Our heroes weren’t loved because they were good; they were good because they were loved.

We may believe in the innocence of youth, but our children know better. They see the children in the schoolyard (and they see us at home!). They don’t need the counterfeit gospel of pack-mule-moralism; they need the kiss of the Beauty.

Maybe we do too. Besides, it’s what the Bible in fact teaches.


(Reposted from Beliefs of the Heart, June 26, 2012)

Comment below. What do you think?

Self Harm Training – Portsmouth

5244753198-1If you work in any capacity with young people, the likelihood is that if you haven’t already, before long you will find yourself in a conversation with a young person who self-injures. How will you respond? Do you know enough about the issue to direct them to help?

It is now believed that one in ten young people deliberately self-harm in some way. Hospital admissions for children and young people have increased by a shocking 68% over the last 10 years and statistics clearly show that recorded cases are on the rise.

For many young people self-harm is a lonely and often misunderstood epidemic surrounded by myth and stigma. Nearly all cases of recovery start with a young person disclosing their behaviour to someone they trust and so we need to be ready to know how to help.

As a teacher, parent, youth worker or professional working in any capacity with young people it’s essential you equip yourself with the skills to deal with this complicated and delicate issue.

Training Event:

11th October 2013
City Life Church,

Cost: £65
Book a place