A message to the Youth Leaders…

UPDATE- Read Mike’s own response and clarification

Dear Youth Leaders of the Diocese of Winchester

You may or may not have seen a bit of a flurry in the youthwork world this week as Mike Pilavachi has done a punchy, challenging (and, in part, slightly controversial) interview with Youthwork magazine.

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Much of the debate, discussion and heat has centred around this comment from Mike, as he was asked about what change he’s seen in the world of youth work over the last 25 years:

“Generally, the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically.”

Ouch.

Firstly, let me publically say, I have all the time in the world for Mike. He has been a faithful, obedient, prophetic minister to young people, youth leaders and the church, for decades now. When he speaks, we do well to listen.

But let me also say, as I go round the diocese, as I meet you, listen to your heart for young people, the way you sacrificially give of all you are, your absolute commitment to love God even when your circumstances are truly tough – as I speak to you, to plagiarise Eric Liddle, ‘I feel God’s pleasure’.

So I want to speak that word of encouragement to you first.

And then let’s together step into the words of challenge Mike has. There seem 3 parts of his challenge (do read his own words here):
1.    Let’s take the Bible and discipleship seriously – it’s alarmingly easy as youth leaders to become ‘professional Christians’ and let our passion for God wither as we pick up the Bible just to prepare Bible studies. Many of you challenge me as I meet with you, in your commitment to your own discipleship. But let us together commit to making loving God and spending time with him and his word the first thing we put into our diaries – maybe through engaging with the Diocesan Rule of Life? When we do that, we won’t be able to stop our youth work being saturated in God!

2.    Let’s be bold in tackling the hard issues – Mike laments how many youth leaders aren’t talking about Sex and Relationships with their young people. This stuff matters, and I’m sure if we thought hard enough there are a million tough issues we struggle to engage with. Let’s have courage – God is invested in these area of young people’s lives and we have a responsibility, with their parents, to help them grow. But if you’re feeling totally unable to tackle an issue and don’t know where to turn, that’s what Andy and I are here for – to help you find resources, figure out how to engage or to cheer you on.

3.    Let’s be bearers of a vocation to young people – Youth ministry gets into your bones. As I’ve travelled the diocese I’ve met people from 16 to 65 (and beyond) who love young people with a heart given by God. Let’s pray for others to awaken to that vocation, let’s cheer on those we see with it, and let’s know that this vocation matters to God, and it’s a vocation worth giving a life to.
I’m proud and privileged to get to work with you all. I often wish I could clone you and have twice as many of you! You matter. You are seen and loved by the God who moves mountains. So let’s commit to facing the challenge that Mike’s given and, who knows, maybe he’ll find himself saying something different next time.

Let us bear this vocation with a passion for God and a boldness of Spirit, and let’s see what God wants to do next.
Sarah

PS And now we’ve talked about that – let’s let the rest of his interview sink in!

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Christmas is coming! Here are some resources

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We know it might still feel a long way away, but we’re hitting the time for Christmas planning! Here’s some of the best resources we’ve been able to find to help you make Christmas a special on in your ministry this year.

Unleash your youthgroup for justice this Christmas – why not engage with the Advent Conspiracy together.

Feeling brave? Run an advent sleep out with the young people in your parish or deanery? Get them to bring their friends – chat while you shiver about why it’s happening and what Christmas is all about. (Additional Youth Resource)

Headed to school? Here’s some ready made Chrismas Assembly resources.

Need a great Christmas video illustration? Here’s Guildford Diocese’s (2015) 12 videos of Christmas.

Looking to link with a community event or engage with your community? Why not try ‘Get in the Picture‘?

Explore Christmas through Gingerbread with family, at Messy Church, Sunday school, or somewhere else.

A host of resource books for engaging with children from BRFand Scripture Union

Not enough ideas for you here? The Evangelical Alliance have a bumper list of more here.

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Keep your eyes peeled – we’ll be updating this with any more great resources we find as we countdown to Christmas!

Supporting Parents in a Digital Age

How do you know how much technology is too much technology for your kids if when you were their age all you had was a Walkman?

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Parents today are pioneering a whole new arena – touch screen technology, 4G, ipads, camera phones, social media. Park of our ministry role is to support them raising whole, well, resilient children – and that includes helping them figure out some of the challenges they’re facing with technology.

Thankfully, there’s a whole world of resources we can pass on or point them to to help them with all these challenges! Here are a few of our favourites:

Website: Childnet

Book: Bex Lewis – Raising Children in a Digital Age

App/Book: Digi-duck

Website: Vodafone Digital Parenting

Website: ThinkUKnow

Prezi Presentation: Children and their Media

Premier Digital Conference

Do you use the digital within your youth or children’s ministry?

Do you have young people around who are passionate about youtube, Instagram or snapchat? Want to help them explore using those platforms in mission and ministry?

Or do you wish you could just figure out how to use technology to interact with the children, young people and families you work with?

Well, Premier Digital Conference is the Conference for you!

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Loads of resources for people interested in the digital world, seminars for those ‘just starting out’, and seminars tackling the issues young people are facing.

Sarah will be heading up to London for this (catching the 0756 train from Winchester which gets in at 0908 to Waterloo and then catching the Tube across to the conference. Meeting others at Waterloo by 0920) and she’d love to take you, members of your team and some young people you bring, along with her.

Find out about the conference here.
Book your tickets here
Drop Sarah an email (sarah.long@winchester.anglican.org) to link in with her.

Young People and the Internet – SafeGuarding Round Table Update

Youtubers. Anxiety. Sexting. Digital Footprint.
It’s a brave new world for young people and youthwork.

Which of us could have imagined the iPhone 6 in 1999 when the Nokia 3210 was launched? And which of us could have imagined what the world that 17 year olds born then would be like?

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On 14th September, a group of youth leaders from across the diocese gathered together with Jackie Rowlands and I (Sarah) to start to consider ‘What’s happening in the world of young people and the internet?’ and ‘how do we as youth leaders help them flourish?’
At the core of our approach is this – technology can be a positive or a negative. Young people are living in a whole new technological world. We need to be active in engaging with these two things.

When it came to the digital, worries ranged from:

• Sexting
• Grooming
• Pro-anorexia and self harm websites
• Cyber-bullying
• How we, as youth leaders, can use out technology for youth work
• How to put together an effective safeguarding policy

As youth leaders we know we’re facing challenges around:

• Dealing with ‘friend requests’ from under-18s
• Getting parental consent right
• Data protection
• Training others, like parents or co-leaders, to use digital well with young people
• Accountability with the technology we use to engage with young people
• Working with at-risk young people
• And so much more!

But fundamentally here were the guiding principles the group felt were essential for engaging online: • Have a policy
• Have no favourites
• Use it at appropriate times in the day
• De-escalate risk – always be moving interaction to a lower risk environment
• Close down and hand over accounts/pages when you transition on to new places and new things
• Know how to escalate issues through your safeguarding process

So what next?

Jackie and I are aware we have a way to go to be providing the best possible support we can in this area. As we reflect on and review our current safeguarding policies, we’ll be applying all we heard from the Roundtable Discussion to what we produce – so watch this space!

Got a perspective on Young People, Safgeuarding and Mental Health? Come and be a part of our next event!