Tag Archives: youth ministry

NYA – Vision to Reality – A Youth Work Offer for 2020?

There is a lot to commend in the NYA “A Vision for Youth Work” document . . . and some gaping holes.  

First, the commendable stuff ::

  • Young people need a viable local offer – and this needs to be a collaborative effort, with all potential stakeholders (especially young people) drawing up plans and strategy that will work locally.
  • As a national agency, the NYA has highlighted the value and significance of youth work – in essence informal education, at a time when many others are focusing on schools and formal education establishments as being the places where investment needs to happen for the future of young people.

This is all good.  However, there are some challenges as I read the document as a whole . . . 

Firstly, the “providers of youth work” . . . it is great that a broad spectrum is mentioned, but – my niggle here is that if you are going to mention a bunch of different types of providers (such as uniformed organisations), is it too much to mention faith based providers?  In parts of the country the faith sector is the major provider of youth work.  See the following extract from a report by the Rank Foundation

The most recent figures suggest that there are around 5,500 fte youth workers employed by churches and Christian agencies, more than the statutory youth service (Centre for Youth Ministry 2006). There are also said to be around 100,000 volunteers. Churches have become the largest employer of youth workers in the country.

The Church is not always great at highlighting the good work it is doing, nor keeping national track of that (with denominations and different streams within the church “counting” and assessing stuff in different ways – so, it is hard to give more recent figures than those above – but, the trend, if anything has been towards greater employment over the last 5 – 8 years . . . and, the Church is just a part of the faith sector . . . yet, it doesn’t get a mention in this list of providers.  The largest provider doesn’t get a mention.  This is a gap, whether intentional or not, that skews the conclusions and the NYA statements about what should happen to make their vision a reality.

Secondly, “the role of local government will be” . . . now, i have nothing wrong with local government being involved along with other providers, but, increasingly – local government is finding itself being held responsible for work it either is no longer doing, no longer has statutory responsibility for or is simply under resourced and cannot make stuff happen.  The level of funding now available for youth work – unless it meets very stringent requirements associated with targeted support – through local councils and districts is negligible; the number of workers that councils and districts have is diminishing by the day.  Local Government itself needs to be re-invested in, re-capitalised, if it is to play any meaningful role in youth service provision when we hit the year 2020!

Thirdly, and this where the holes open up in the vision from NYA – the “workforce”.  what will it look like, well in the vision document there are four elements highlighted, of those four the first three emphasise “qualified”.  Nothing wrong with that, except for who is going to determine what “qualified” means.  NYA want, and have it as a strain of thought throughout the organisation and hold it as a key value, recognition of youth work as a profession.  Again, nothing wrong with that – up to a point.  the fourth element of the workforce though, unlike any other profession i can think of absolutely DWARFS the other three in terms of numbers . . . just taking that 100,000 volunteers as mentioned above in the Rank document . . . in many places, if volunteers were not running youth work – there would BE no youth work.  They need support and training, agreed – but do they need to be “professionals” or “qualified” to be taking the lead in a small rural village with the youth club?  Infrastructure support is vanishing . . . that is a continuing trend, it is not going to be reversed by this vision document – and, appropriate training and support and ongoing supervision are essential elements for effective youth work.  A number of agencies over the last decade have been working on “workforce development” within Youthwork – across vast swathes of rural England, if not also in our urban areas – this support is left to the voluntary sector, Universities are continuing to close down their degree courses in youth work as the take up is poor . . . there is a big difference between having a vision and that vision being rooted in any kind of reality that can make it happen.   This, unfortunately, leads us to “what needs to happen to make our vision a reality.”  This is the biggest problem with the vision . . . 

If I have a vision, generally i accept it is something that I need to do.  Me, I need to be a contributor in making that vision a reality . . . it might be that the NYA consider writing this vision document is their contribution, but – the problem is not with what needs to happen, the problem is with who . . . 

The following statements in the document cause me concern, “Government must . . . “; “Government must . . . “; Government should . . . “; Local Government must . . . “; . . . . let me just say – Government HASN’T, and DOESN’T . . . I do not believe – unless there is a wholesale ethos change across the political parties – that anything will change here.  There are lots of expectations on others to make this vision a reality, others for whom it is not what primarily gets them up in the morning . . . they may pay lip service to investing in the next generation, but it is youth workers who live and breath “youth work” and making a difference in the lives of young people . . .

finally, my biggest gripe with the vision . . . and this stems from having sat in meetings with NCVYS and with NYA there too – and it is this final statement,

“Employers must require all youth workers to undertake JNC approved qualifications relevant to roles and responsibilities.”   

and this one, 

“A register of youth workers.”

JNC is fine, but it is not a panacea for those involved in youth work.  I have been doing youth work for 28 years, I have led large programmes at national events, i have (and do) run training and support and supervision for youth workers, I have line managed and supervised people who are on degree courses to obtain JNC recognised qualifications, from 2008 and to 2011 I studied for a MA in “Reflective Practice” and my youth work is done, primarily in a youth ministry context – where faith nurture and discipleship are the main areas of work.  IF we continue to head down this road then far more needs to be recognised as “qualifying” someone for being a youth worker or being engaged in youth ministry than what is JNC.

And, finally, right at the core of NYA philosophy is to have a system in place where you cannot call yourself or “be” a youth worker if you are not qualified in a certain way, and thus approved for a “register of youth workers.”  

We could find ourselves in the laughable situation where a majority of actual, genuine – yes folks it is youth work and youth ministry is being delivered by volunteers who cannot call themselves youth workers.

My own suggestion?

A decent round-table discussion with all the national representatives of NYA, NCVYS, Uniformed Organisations, YFC, Urban Saints, Scripture Union, Church of England and other national bodies + CYM, OASIS and awarding bodies to agree some criteria for recognising what IS BEING DONE, not create a system where those who already have the skills and are delivering youth work have to “prove it” . . . Oh, and if you look at other areas of national stuff where it used to be provided by the state – NHS and Education, private bodies are flocking around the dying bodies of those national institutions because there is money to be made and “where is the profit” is their bottom line.  Youth Work provision via local authorities has fallen apart, there is not such thing as universal provision anymore . . . where are all the private bodies and businesses and organisations . . . there isn’t any money in youth work, it isn’t why we do it.  

There is a vision for youth work and youth ministry provision that cannot be articulated in a way that a society built around a capitalist model can grasp.  It is right to invest in this generation of young people, it is vital to invest in this generation of young people . . . it is its own reward.

 

 

 

4 Things Young People Need From the Church | #1. Acceptance

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The first of the four things young people need from the Church is acceptance. We MUST welcome and accept young people as they are; precious, made-in-the-image-of-God, creative, unique and just incredible. Every single one of them. Our welcome makes a difference. Accepting young people is not simply a nod to their existence, but a welcome that includes, draws in and values them. The greatest challenge I have found in youth work though, is convincing young people they are worth the effort. Whilst this post is about the church (meaning all of us) accepting young people – many young people find it incredibly difficult to accept themselves.

They might believe someone else might be – but not them. Words mean nothing if they are not followed through with actions. Acceptance is demonstrated when space is created for young people to worship in ways they find helpful and meaningful; acceptance is demonstrated when their opinion is asked; acceptance is demonstrated when sermon illustrations are inclusive and might be something a young person can relate to; acceptance is shown when at ‘the peace’ adults approach young people to shake their hand; acceptance is illustrated when mid week meetings or gatherings of the church are at a time young people can make; acceptance is demonstrated – not when the church delivers things TO young people, nor when the church does things FOR young people, but when there is work WITH young people.

Part of the challenge for young people is what they can ‘accept’ is possible for them. Many young people ‘accept’ their lot in life – the hand they have been dealt meaning ‘this is it’ – they ‘accept’ that they aren’t going to achieve anything, aren’t worth much; are not valued and won’t get anywhere in life. It doesn’t take many people speaking this kind of stuff into young peoples lives for them to begin to accept it. 75% of media coverage of young people is negative. 1 in 5 young people struggle with mental health related issues. Of those I have worked with over the years a significant number struggle to accept they are FORGIVEN (these are young people who are Christians and repentant – seeking to live as God wants). In our world and culture – acceptance is earned, in academic life, achieving an ‘acceptable’ grade needs effort. What is so hard for young people to grasp is that NOTHING they can do can make them acceptable to God. Scripture says,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 3:23

That’s pretty tough stuff. Yet, we (all of humanity, which includes all young people!) are worth saving – so much so that when we could do nothing to save ourselves – Jesus came for us,

God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
Romans 5:8

Part of submitting ourselves to Christ and acknowledging Him as Lord and Saviour is accepting that this is true. Christ has made us acceptable!

God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and He raised Him to life – so that we would be made acceptable to God
Romans 4:25

We need to communicate this truth to our young people again and again. Then, knowing this to be true – we can talk about what that means – if we put our trust in a God, if we believe in His name – something wonderful becomes possible. It is a change that can transform any life – any possible destiny, any young persons life where they feel or believe they have no hope suddenly becomes full of potential and possibilities.

but, to all who believed Him and accepted Him he gave the right to become children of God
John 1:12

This acceptance thing is pretty HUGE. Our young people need to accept themselves, they need to accept that they are loved by God and acceptable to Him through what Jesus has done, the church needs to demonstrate this and accept young people.

Then we get to this ‘right’ that we have – to be children of God! Wow! Get in!!

Which brings me to the image at the top of this post – it’s Tom Cruise from Minority Report. Cruise plays a cop who hunts down criminals with the help of some ‘prophets’ who can ‘see’ people commit crimes in the future – Tom and his team then turn up and arrest the criminals just before they are commit their crimes – pretty cool way to police the future! Anyway, one day an image of a future crime flashes up on the screen and yes – it’s Cruise, in a room with a gun about to murder someone. Cruise goes on the run to try and figure out what is going on . . . . Ultimately the picture comes true, there he stands in the room, with the gun, about to shoot someone (as predicted) – then – from the corner of the room the voice of one of the prophets speaks before he pulls the trigger,

you can choose

That’s it. And for our young people life might seem like it is heading in an inevitable direction – but, it does not have to be that way! Our young people need to shown they can choose to have a future as part of Christ’s family.

Let’s accept them, let’s help them accept themselves and let’s show them they are accepted by God – because of Christ – and encourage them to choose life with Him!

Long Distance Children’s and Youth Ministry

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Sometimes a blog post is just a cathartic exercise for me. I know who I am, I know what God has called me to do and I seek to get on with it – some days it is good to reflect on the years since the call!

I heard “the call” when I was 15. As I remember, it was a call for those who knew God was speaking to them about full time ministry. I stood up. I just knew. What I didn’t know was how long it was going to take to get there and the crazy, joyful, painful and incredible journey it would be . . . So far!

Well, that was 30 years ago. It started out as ‘full time youth ministry’, which I took to mean ‘give your life to it ministry’ (whatever ‘it’ might be).

Three years later when I was 18, I became Sunday School Superintendent at my church – what a bonkers title! For the next decade, whilst I worked for the Ministry of Defence in everything from general admin to procurement to systems analysis . . . I carried on with Sunday School and began a youth group – I realised I was spending more time preparing for youth group and Sunday school than i was spending doing my day job (they were very understanding) – so – packed it in.

I went part – time in 1996 at my church whilst I did a certificate in youth work (that’s all you could get back then).

I could rattle through all that has followed – but, suffice it to say – my sense of call has firmed up (and continually is firmed up) as ‘children’s and youth ministry’. I have been asked two things repeatedly:

1. When are you going to ‘pick’? – that is one or the other, children’s or youth ministry . . .

And

2. What are you going to do next or when are you going to ‘move on’?

With 1. There is no picking possibility as far as I can see. Working with young people does not begin when they hit 11 and it does not end when they reach 18. It is working with people, but the most incredible, special and creative and spontaneous and baffling people on the planet. Working with children and young people is life on ‘fast forward’ – it is immense to learn and discover so much in every kids group meeting or youth work setting. I could not pick, I love it all. God is present – right in the midst it feels, in an incredible way – with young people. Jesus had special things to say about them and delighted in them. Jesus placed them in the centre if the disciples – we should place them in the centre of our churches. What we pass on to them through what we model – through what we teach, equip, fail at, laugh and cry at, enjoy or loathe – it all goes in! What a scary privilege. I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything else – certainly not picking between children and young people.

With 2. There is no ‘moving on’ because there is no better job, and nothing else I have been told to do. Peace is found when we are doing that which we believe we were put on this earth to do. This is my ‘thing’ – the only thing that has developed from it, and I simply see it as an extension of children’s and youth ministry is to equip others to do the same. Everything you could possibly want out of ministry is found in serving children and young people and those who work with them and for them. Equipping others is mainly through the lessons learnt from failure and arrogance – with a huge helping of grace.

So, it has been a long distance so far – we (as a family) are loving the mid week kids club we are leading – called ‘Breakout’. I ran one in Ealing for seven years, we have been running this one for nearly three now. It is amazing. The kids are great, we are seeing an increase and a growing team. God is good! There is something about consistency – showing up – week in week out. Building presence takes time – children’s and youth ministry is most definitely NOT a place to ‘cut your teeth’ or ‘have a go’ – bundling something real and tangible with young lives needs stability, commitment, endurance and stamina. These are REAL relationships, this is REAL ministry – it is not a practice ground. If you are doing children’s and youth work please, please grasp this!

The longer you are in this ministry – the more amazing it gets. It really does. Seeing young people I have worked with previously heading up youth ministry, seeing young leaders I have worked with go on to ordained ministry (a whole bunch of them!), seeing children grow up in the faith and discover more and more of what God has in store for them – it is truly EPIC stuff.

No greater privilege on earth than seeing a young person who discovers for the first time they are loved by God – and watching them grow to believe it.

Nothing like watching young people demand a bible study before they have become Christians.

No joy like the moment you think a young person has walked out of a meeting (like you knew they would) only to realise they have gone forward for prayer.

Nothing like seeing a young person blossom as a worship leader when they thought they would only ever be playing songs in their bedroom by themselves.

Nothing like seeing a young person ‘preach it’ and blow a congregations socks off with what the Holy Spirit has given them to say.

There is nothing on earth like the feeling in youth ministry of getting out of the way so that young people can flourish, give, serve, lead and minister.

So – I am 28 years in this year to ‘doing this’ 10 as a volunteer, 2 part time, 16 full time. I cannot imagine doing anything else – I know there are some exciting things ahead AND things I just don’t know about . . . But whatever, here is to the NEXT 28 years of children’s and youth ministry.

Never land or Wonder land in Youth Ministry?

We (me and my wife) are hugely enjoying ‘Once Upon A Time’, it’s a mash up tv series with just about every fairy tale character you could imagine. The episode we have just watched had a character from Never Land (Hook) meeting a character from Wonder Land (The Queen of Hearts) and, I got to thinking about those two words – ‘never’ and ‘wonder’. What kind of landscape does our youth work take place in? What motivates us to ‘do what we do’.

Never Land. Maybe we are working in a place where our young people are frequently told ‘never’. You could never do it, never change, never finish school, never amount to anything. Maybe we do what we do because we will not accept that. We cannot believe it could be true. We work in Never Land, but we refuse to believe it is the only place our young people will grow up. Or, maybe, and this takes some honesty – we are – on the quiet – a ‘never’ youth worker, we can’t quite believe things can change – even as we try to do it, we find it hard to have conviction. Maybe we have been told ourselves, you will never change these young people, you can’t make a difference – maybe you should be doing something else.

Don’t accept that!

Wonder Land. Maybe our young people live here. Anything could happen, they are full of wonder, hope and expectation. Opportunities, possibilities, life is full and exciting. Everything just works out! You have your dream job, are constantly encouraged by all that God is doing, parents of the young people you work with run up and high five you in the street!

Reality Check.

Maybe most of us (and our young people) live somewhere in between. It’s not ‘never’ its ‘maybe’ or, rather than everything being full of wonder its ‘pretty good’.

The challenge in youth ministry is to see the landscape we inhabit as God sees it, see the young people we work with trough his eyes. To take the occasional ‘never’ the regular ‘maybes’ and the rare moments of ‘wonder’ and, EVERY time, in all circumstances and – however the Land lies – see God at work.

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20 Essential Ministry Books // #6 “Postmodern Youth Ministry” Tony Jones

postmodernI have to confess, my reasons for first buying this book back when it came out in 2001 was twofold, I thought the cover was cool (and I still do) and because Tony Jones was also born in 1968 – there is something about that year!

Glancing now at those who contribute throughout the book, I also notice that Mark Driscoll is among them (a name I did not know back then), Mike Yaconelli, sadly no longer with us and the UK’s very own Pete Ward.  So much has changed since this stuff was written – I am not even sure whether “where we are” can be called “post-modern” anymore, or if we are now in the new era of whatever properly comes after “modern”, or if Gen-Xers were just having a meltdown at not being able to lead churches yet and make the big decisions that we invented this idea of “cultural shift” to feel important and that we were living in a significant time, even if we didn’t feel significant ourselves . . . (whoa!)

Whatever your thoughts on the above, this is a great book!  I still constantly refer to it as I think through discipleship in particular and how what we do must be holistic.  This is probably the book that made me think that what we do needs to be “holistic”, so a big thank you for that.  The books starts with two thoughts that I love :

1.  What we try and do (and have relied on for years) when talking to young people about faith DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE.

2  This book is not going to give you a programme for what to do now that is GUARANTEED TO WORK.

I love that!  This book is not a book of answers for how to do youth ministry now, it is more a conversation and a journey through the landscape, the territory we find ourselves in – it is a map, in that different aspects of culture  are pointed out as we come to them, different challenges sit there in front of us, in black and white, daring us to navigate our way around them or through them or to turn back and not bother – but this is NOT a Sat Nav, which will get us to a pre-determined destination.

A load of ground is covered though, giving food for thought and inspiring us to take seriously the challenges of engaging in youth ministry today, and, whilst not offering programmes this book does offer us “hooks” to engage with those things that resonate with young people.  Some of those things, spiritual practices among them may feel counter-intuitive, but they actually make a lot of sense as we grasp what has changed and the way everything within our lives and our culture that surrounds it is on “fast forward”.  For example, the internet had more users in the first five years than the telephone did in the first thirty.  Back when this was written there were no 3D Televisions or Smart Phones – in fact, the IPod had only just launched – offering the possibility of “1000 songs in your pocket” . . . . we live in a crazy accelerated world!  Yet, one of the dynamics that Jones explores is how young people long to connect in ways that, to be honest, until I had read this book, I had not given much space or time to.  Space and Time.  Those two things . . . I was used to filling the evenings with activities for young people, full of choice, action, non-stop – a bit like their actual lives . . . everything “on”, music blaring, screens with videos, constant banter . . . space and time were a key aspect of the ancient practices, those spiritual habits done by Christians for centuries – what Tony does is articulate why there is a place for them today and why they resonate with young people.  In the UK, if there is one part of the Church of England that seems to be seeing growth regardless of which part of the country it seems to be in Cathedrals.  Many of these places have been places of worship and prayer for 1000 years or more.  This creates a connection with the past, a rooted sense, meaning – that our young people crave.  They do not want a trend, they want what is real.

All through the book there a great big themes being explored with Church history thrown in – this is like no other youth ministry book!  I would argue that it takes the place and importance of youth ministry more seriously than any other book I have read about youth ministry.  The Bible is explored, not with a wishy – washy approach but with a robust recognition of the power of the Word of God, whilst acknowledging our need to “bring it to life”, the narratives within scripture (great swathes of the Old Testament and the Gospels and Acts) are, I would argue, often seen as just that “stories”, whilst many churches that teach from scripture choose to hang out in letters that articulate doctrine.  Yet, without the stories, without the stories that are passed from generation to generation that show the works and the wonders of God, his “deeds”, how are our young people to grasp how gobsmacking the doctrine of say, “grace” actually is?

There is great stuff too on community, (a topic I explored in a previous post) our need to be missional (in fact – lets just nail it, youth ministry IS mission, it IS evangelism), discipleship and bringing it all together what a holistic youth ministry looks like.

I think the reality explored in this book is bang on, I think the focus on values and ethos rather than programmes is also bang on.  Programmes do not lead young people to encounter Christ, people do.  This youth ministry book is about people, the conversation that takes place with the snippets from a whole variety of people is also about another dynamic that is essential to youth ministry . . . lets discuss, lets chat about it.

God himself does this!  Isaiah 1 verse 18, “Come, let us reason together” – I love this and throughout the book, Tony is engaging with different voices who are challenging, inspiring and provoking all of us who read this book to work our what we MUST do if our youth people are going to discover, get excited about, and live out a Christian faith in the 21st Century.

I can’t commend this book to you highly enough.  Get it – wrestle with its content, but above all, search for a way to build authentic community with your young people that does not revolve around programmes but the people you have and the journey of faith you are on together.

20 Essential Ministry Books // #5 “Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry” Doug Fields

Doug Fields is probably best known for “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry”, which was written back in the mid 90s.  This book, still written 10 years ago, isn’t really a follow up – in some ways, it is more a book that gives each of us involved in ministry a context, the values and the ethos we should have before we start thinking about which tool; which youth ministry teaching book; which resource we are going to use in ministry.  This is why, as I look at this whole list of my essentials, there is not really a book for running a programme or doing youth ministry with young people – it is not the most important stuff.  The best thing we can offer young people is a healthy US.  This book from Doug seriously helps with that.

The book is split into chapters around particular topics, all with a view to helping you have a healthy view of ministry, our role as youth leaders and – especially helpful – we can drawn on the experience of others throughout the book who are honest about their mistakes and some of the pitfalls we might avoid with their generously offered hindsight.

I did not read this book in my first two years of youth ministry – but, it is an essential read, at whatever time you get your hands on it!  The most helpful chapter (which I wish I had the opportunity to read back in 1986) is about working with parents.  Seriously, if you read nothing else in the book, or browse the other chapters with the “i know this stuff” feeling . . . don’t skip through this chapter!  As a single guy from the late 80s to the late 90s, I spent a decade ignoring parents almost completely – duh!  Parents, and their faith and values, are essential to the spiritual health of their children, we ARE NOT.  Doug shares from his own pain of missing this, but doesn’t wallow – through what he has learnt along the way, he helps us get to grips with why this needs to be a priority of ministry with young people and how to go about it.

You may not see a chapter heading that stands out to you, maybe as I write this it is because I have a particular desire to help others (and myself) get it right with parents – maybe it is because I am a parent myself now.  This is another reason this book is so critical, Doug has this “360 view” of the place and purpose of youth ministry – I think, so often, in my own practice, I have just been looking at what I am doing right now (barely thinking to the next session, never mind the impact of the work with young people in 3 or 4 years time).  I guess this has been emphasized at different points in ministry – I have worked for churches where the senior pastor has young children, so the kids work is “vital”; a senior pastor with young teens, so the 11-14s work is “vital”; a senior pastor who’s kids were about to go to university so the key question was, “what are we doing for students?” . . .

This book helps me reflect across every area of work and, rather than focus on the work itself, get me to focus on ME and what I am prepared to bring to every piece of work, every relationship, in the pursuit of reaching and discipling children and young people.

Further highlights that mean I keep returning to this book – for a “pep talk from Doug” are:  Dealing with discouragement // Establishing (or recovering) a strong spiritual foundation // Time Management! . . .

The area of the book (for me at least) that I keep returning to is right at the back . . . Doug’s recommendations for what to practically focus on in your “first two years”, the thing is – they are not “jobs” to be ticked off a to do list . . . they are habits, actions that need to be kept up.  So, whether you are brand new to youth ministry (or any kind of ministry, the same applies!) or been doing it in various ways for 27 years (yep!) this is the kind of gold dust book that will keep reminding you, in an encouraging way like a good friend, to keep going, to have hope and to love ministry . . . not just for now, but for as long as God has called you to it.

Get this book.

Be the change

I arrived for a meeting today that didn’t happen. Probably my mistake – somehow I had in my diary to be at the Corn Exchange in Lewes for a review of the ‘Thrive’ programme – which is the remodelled work with children, young people and families for East Sussex County Council – the need for the phrase is to improve services and see a more empowered, better informed workforce. Well, I don’t work for the local authority but, as a voluntary sector rep I have been invited to be part of the change process, witness the learning taking place and input a voluntary sector perspective along the way.

Well, I think the meeting has been postponed – nobody there and local Lewes staff didn’t have anything in the diary either. Three hours I was not expecting – I didn’t dash back to the office, I wondered what it might be to meander for a bit and think about stuff.

Sometimes we have to make the most of the thinking time when it arrives (especially if we find it hard to naturally plan that time into our diaries in the first place).

What better time to do that than today, Ash Wednesday. I was ‘ashed’ this morning and then dashed back into the office (ash then dash!) . . . Much to do, especially as I had this afternoon meeting coming up . . .

I have also noticed today, and in the time building up to Lent a whole bunch of blogs, tweets, emails etc that have encouraged me to ‘be the change I want to see’. The whole Thrive project is about change and change management, things are going to be different stuff has to change – we have to be proactive in changing our work habits to bring it about etc.

I work for the Diocese of Chichester and if there has been a constant over the last seven years it has been ‘change’.

My children are changing – at a crazy speed, my pre-school children are now both at school, one in juniors the other in reception. We get used to one pattern of clubs, groups and learning topics and a set of clothes our children look gorgeous in – only for all that to change within a term, every single term, no let up – constant change.

I am also approaching 45, as I scarily noted in a jokey tweet (to hide my fear and shock) I am only 5 years away from going on a SAGA holiday! Everything for ‘over 50s’ seem to have grey haired, old men in weird jumpers – no, this is a change to far!!

Anyway, the phrase ‘Be the change’, as I have sat here, on Ash Wednesday, I have appreciated this unexpected window of calm. I think for this Lenten season, rather than ‘change’ (getting old, getting my head round yet another way of thinking about my work, in the midst of the change I cannot do anything with but . . . Go with it) I want to concentrate on the first word in that statement ‘be the change’. I want to just ‘be’.

I want to ‘be’ secure in the midst of all this change by trusting in the changeless one – Jesus.
I want to ‘be’ able to take these moments of calm and appreciate them without guilt about my to do list or email inbox.
I want to ‘be’ with those who matter most in my life – and truly be with them, being fully present in those precious times.

Change is part of life; who I choose to be in the midst of that change (and taking the time to notice) is how I want to ‘be’ during lent rather than something else that I have to ‘do’.

Does that make sense?