New Series!

A Pilgrim’s Progress

and how it helps us realise what it really means to be a Christian

I cried the first time I read it.

When Christian loses his burden in the shadow of the cross: I broke down.  I knew what that felt like and to my embarrassment I knew (and still know) I was picking up that discarded burden again and again; fighting Jesus for the right to carry it. That’s way although PP isn’t one of my favourite books – I really value it as an allegory. There are no perfect Christians here only redeemed sinners struggling along.

I hope that this series, which is a heavily abridged version of the story accompanied by questions to link it to its Biblical inspiration and apply it to our lives, helps your young people. It may prepare them for struggles ahead or help them to realise they’re not trusting Jesus yet.

It’s largely adapted from Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of the classic, although I turned to the original for help sometimes. I also used Jason Cockroft’s beautiful pointillist illustrations in my powerpoint where I could (because they’re stunning!) but since I have no rights to them I haven’t shared them. You could buy the book and scan them in as I did. That’s why, in my version, Christian is young and Hopeful is female – it matched the illustrations.

More in this series next week.

Distinctives

Living a life that’s different

because that’s what following Jesus looks like

Here’s another short youth work series: Distinctive Living. I adapted Vaughn Roberts book Distinctives into five short studies for teens. The idea being; it’s hard as a teenager to stand out from the crowd and they need all the encouragement they can get that it’s a) not just them and b) the right thing to do.

It’s worth checking out the book, not only for the two chapters I didn’t adapt, but also for the in-depth thinking, explaining and examples that I couldn’t remotely do justice to in half an hour. I may adapt Purity in a World Obsessed with Sex and Certainty in a World in which Everything is Relative at some future date: the only reason I haven’t already is that I had a five week term and those two were harder. I myself occasionally use the book for my morning devotionals as it’s nicely divided up with thoughtful questions on each chapter. And it’s not just teenagers who need to be reminded that living distinctively is plausible, possible and profitable.

Check out…

This excellent post I just found

on an excellent parenting blog

Check out: Helping your kids engage with church on the excellent Gospel Centered Parenting blog written by parents for parents – it contains some good ideas (ones I’ve seen worked out in practice by multiple parents in multiple churches), praise for Sunday Schools (yay!) and, for the non-parents among us, implies some ways in which we can be useful to parents in our church families.

How to…

Help an anxious child

whether it’s first-day-jitters or an anxiety attack

Anxiety (along with depression) is the most common mental health issue today.  Having just read Emma Scrivener‘s latest book A New Day which deals in part with anxiety and receiving some helpful guidance from secular sources because all the schools are preparing for a new intake of students;  I thought I’d pass on some helpful tips to you.

Find some ideas on how to fight fear with fear right here. And honestly I cannot recommend Emma’s book or blog enough!

Updated:

Paul’s Missionary Journey

(but not completed yet)

I’ve put the rest of the series up here. The sharp eyed among you will spot that the study for PMJ 4 is missing – this is because it was planned by Eric my co-leader and I haven’t got a copy of his notes. When I have them I’ll let you know.

Others of you will wonder why Paul only got as far as chapter 18 when there’s the rest of the book still to go – it was a short term. At some point the rest of the Acts will get turned into studies but I don’t have plans for it anytime soon. And to be far even Luke didn’t manage to get to the end of Paul’s journeys when he wrote it up; so I’m in illustrious company!

Edit:

I found Narnia!

Not at the back of my wardrobe unfortunately.

Instead I updated the Narnia page on this blog with the talks and powerpoint from that series. I’m not entirely sure how or why they disappeared in the first place. Nevermind, they’re back now!

Take a journey

With Paul

from the comfort of your own youth group

First in a new series of Bible Studies for teenagers. This series takes us through the first two of Paul’s Missionary Journeys.
Check out the menu above for more studies written for a youth group setting. (It’s under Youth Work).

PS I’ve just spotted that the Narnia page is very broken (just the word Narnia – nothing useful)! Sorry about that; I’ll fix it soon and let you know when everything’s back in place.

Shadows of the Carnegie

Some thoughts about culture

Inspired by Children’s Literature

The Carnegie Prize is awarded to the best in Children’s Literature (although the short list is mostly what we’d call Young Adult) you can find out more about it here. They run a shadowing scheme in which libraries, schools, book clubs etc. can read the short list and offer opinions at the same time as the judges do – although I’m pretty sure public opinion makes no difference.

I’ve been shadowing this years shortlist with work and thought that some of the themes in these books for children were worth talking about. Of the five books I’ve read so far the main characters are:
A young girl threatened with near murderous bullying.
An orphaned young carer in temporary accommodation.
A teenage thief from a single parent family on the run.
A boy born in a refugee camp who hasn’t realised his mother is dying.
A girl left brain damaged after being raped and beaten, whose mum is gone, dad has died, grandfather is in prison and grandma is slowly dying from emphysema.

As you can imagine they are, on occasion, very sad stories. Even the sci-fi stories are filled with real people facing real events: lies, betrayal, confusion, cruelty, loss and death.

But there is also hope in these stories, in fact it is often the case that stories themselves bring hope. (Which is only to be expected when the creators of the stories are authors.)

I think it’s natural to be drawn to these kind of stories as writers, judges and readers; they are the same type of stories Jesus told. His parables are brief but full of realistic characters – the whiny older brother, the self-obsessed successful farmer/businessman, the nagging widow, the woman who manages to lose something very valuable then has to panic clean the house until she finds it (yep, been there!) They fully live in a world that is far from ideal and yet there is hope, the hope of rescue, restoration, retribution, reward and relationship.

There is definitely a role in using the excellent literature aimed at young adults and children as a starting point for discussion of some real world issues, the effects of sin in this world and the role of hope. It’s great motivation to praying for and serving the vulnerable and damaged in our society and others.

It’s also great as a way of evaluating how we teach. Are we realistic about the falleness of our world and the ways that affects young people? Are there issues we would never talk about or do we realise that our young people may be experiencing them? Are we teaching historical events with as much interest, personality and excitement as the real world has?

And most importantly when we talk about hope; are we talking about a hope that helps and heals even the most broken? Are we seeing that gospel hope threaded throughout the Bible? Are we talking about the difference hope has made in our own experiences? Are we talking about a hope that is built on the real person of Jesus – who invites the broken and abandoned into his family and makes them whole?

Another parable

The Power of Stories

to change people’s lives

I was a visitor in a small village church this Sunday and something said in the sermon struck me: about the terrorist attack in Manchester last week the vicar asked, ‘What was this young man’s story that lead him to this point?’ That was not something I had considered before, but how did he become radicalised? At what point had he decided that this was to be his path?

What difference does the gospel make to people’s stories? We never know the ‘what ifs’ but what if someone had shared the gospel with him? What if he had met the risen Lord Jesus? What if I hadn’t become a Christian – what might my life look like?

We make massive changes in people’s lives when we share God’s good news with them. Whether it is our friends and family, the children and youth that we teach, or a stranger who we took the opportunity to talk to. Jesus had among his twelve closest disciples Simon the Zealot who fought against the Roman government: his chosen messenger to the gentiles was Saul, a man whose religious beliefs led him to persecute others. We know Jesus changed their stories and the stories of countless others. Let’s pray for him to continue to do so.

I’ve added another parable: The Rich Fool. Someone who did not let God change his story and never even considered the possibility. I don’t want that to be anyone I know so hard as it is, Lord, would I be courageous enough to give everyone I know the chance to hear of you and to make their decision. Amen