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.
“Generally, the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically.”
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.
PS And now we’ve talked about that – let’s let the rest of his interview sink in!