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

Our Potential is Limitless

A wonderful reflection from the Sophia Network web site:

unlock_potentialI wonder how many times during a week that we could catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts about ourselves? For me those thoughts usually go along the lines of “If only I hadn’t said that” or “If only I looked like that then I could…” or “That person can do this so much better than I can”.

Or is that only me?

The problem is that not only do those thoughts portray negative things about ourselves in the present, but they also limit our potential for the things we can achieve in the future.

The incredible thing about being a Christian is that no matter how we may feel about ourselves at a particular point in time, the truth is that we are children of God (John 1:12) who were created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are created with a purpose to be witnesses to the incredible things Jesus has done (Acts 1:8) and to show others the goodness of God (1 Peter 2:9). In God’s eyes our potential is limitless, but so often we let the limiting perceptions that we have of ourselves get in the way of becoming the people God has called us to be.

I became a Christian when I was 15 years old; until then the concept of being a masterpiece created for a purpose was one that I had never come across. I still vividly remember the evening when the faith that had become familiar to me through the lives of some of my friends became a personal reality through the words of Psalm 139. One of my youth leaders was reading the Psalm as part of a youth talk and afterwards I prayed with her and gave my life to Jesus. From that moment I have been on a journey of discovery, finding out what it is that God has in His plan for me. Thankfully, that calling is based on the truth of being a child of God rather than my limiting self-perceptions.

As we go through life discovering what it is that God is calling us to, it is essential that we learn to see ourselves through God’s eyes. In Josh McDowell’s book See Yourself As God Sees You he recognises that “your core identity – and particularly your perception of it – plays a vital role in determining how you carry yourself in daily life.”[1] He also states “your identity as a child of God will make a world of difference in how you view your life, your struggles, your relationships with others, and your relationship with God.”[2] So how do we achieve this in a world where the media constantly reminds us of the brokenness all around us, where a new breakfast cereal promises to revolutionise the next season of our lives, or a new moisturiser guarantees that we won’t look any older? McDowell’s recommendation is that in order to transform our sense of identity and hold on to the truth of who we are created to be, we need to immerse ourselves in environments where the truth about who we are abounds.[3]

What do these environments look like for you? Maybe it is a spouse or close friend who will always remind you of your identity in Christ. Maybe it is your work colleagues who will encourage you to try something that you never thought you could achieve. Who are the cheerleaders who will walk with you through this journey of discovery and keep reminding you of who it is that God has created you to be and called you to do?

Sarah Smart is Scripture Union Development Worker for the South East region.

[1] Josh McDowell, See Yourself As God Sees You (Cumbria: Paternoster Publishing, 2000), p5

[2] Josh McDowell, See Yourself As God Sees You (Cumbria: Paternoster Publishing, 2000), p7

[3] Josh McDowell, See Yourself As God Sees You (Cumbria: Paternoster Publishing, 2000), p166

Declining Churches, Struggling Youth

Too many of our churches and our young are struggling. Too many of our denominations and congregations are struggling because they are failing to transmit the faith to a rising generation, and too many of our young are struggling because they lack the foundations that were traditionally supplied by communities of the faith. To paraphrase the lyrics of a great band from my “ge-ge-ge-generation,” neither the churches nor the kids are all right… read more here:

Romance Academy Training

romance acadameyRomance Academy are national sex and relationships initiative. One of the main things they do is train and license youth workers, churches and organisations to run their14 week sex education programme with young people.
They will be in Southampton on 5th July delivering a Romance Academy Training Day. All the details of the day can be found online here:

Worship Workshop Eucharistic Planner Resource For Schools


Just to let you know that Worship Workshop now has a Eucharistic planner included: 

If you’ve never come across Worship Workshop you’ve missed a cool resource. Worship Workshop will help you to create your own patterns of worship around your own themes. Worship Workshop provides prayers, songs, Bible readings and other useful words and ideas which are taken from the liturgy of the Church of England. These can be sorted with Season and Value indexes to make patterns where you can slot stories and other things to go with your themes.

The resources are arranged according to a ‘map of worship’. Each resource is downloadable on its own in the resources section. The Eucharist is a special act of worship which has a planner all of its own.

Click here to access these awesome FREE resources.

Storify Your Sermon: Postmodern Preaching for a Postmodern Generation

StorifySermon_lg.250w.tnIf our audience (congregation) has changed while our message haven’t, then we are preaching a modern message to a postmodern audience. How can we preach the same message we grew up with ourselves—the same message that has been preached for decades—and expect it to be culturally relevant, to change lives? No wonder one researcher found that 100 percent of young people dread the sermon!

Read more here:

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)