A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 2

In a recent post I shared with you a few thoughts on becoming a parent in youth ministry when my son went off to his first youth camp. I had high expectation for the camp and so on his return I was waiting eagerly to hear something spiritual about the camp. Instead he was full of stories about the fun, games and pranks that took place on camp.  After many interesting stories I asked my son what will he tell his best friend about the camp, the one who didn’t attend youth camp, and he replied “he totally should have been there”.  It was this one sentence that made me realise that something significant happened on camp. 

Over the next few days I had many conversations with my son about youth camp, none of them were deeply theological but they all helped me know my son on a deeper level.  In the week following the camp I watched him to see if there was any behaviour change and  I noticed that he was a little more reflective and a little more considerate but mostly he was the same kid who loves playing his video games.  At some level it was reassuring to me that there wasn’t a radical shift in my son; he was the same son just grown up a little.

In reflecting on the experience there are a few things that I learnt from hearing about the camp from my son:

  1. Leaders are important – whilst my son only seem to talk about the pranks the leaders got up to, he spoke with a great respect and admiration for the leaders.  It seems that he looked up to the leaders and when I dug deeper they really encouraged him in his faith.  As a parent I am so thankful that my son had some young adult leaders who were passionate about their faith and willing to share it with my son.
  2. Christian friendships are important – My son will spend most of his time with non-christians so to meet some committed christians is a really important thing.  We spent a lot our conversation time this week talking about the people that he met on camp.  I am sure that some of these people will become his long term friends even though they go to different schools.  In an increasingly secular world it so important to encourage our young people to seek out and develop christian friendships.
  3. The next step is important –  the youth ministry that ran the youth camp knew how important the next steps were and had pumped up the young people to attend friday night youth group.  My son was talking about it all week and was so excited to go that he was encouraging me to leave the house to drive to church.  Yet this is just the first in many “next steps” that my son will take.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we need to roll out the next steps so that young people who have never done this before know where they are heading.
  4. My own faith is important – as a parent the conversation can be directed at my son; I want to know about your experience.  Yet the conversation seemed to open up opportunities for me to share my faith with my son.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we can direct our conversation at the young people by asking them leading questions, yet we need to allow them to ask us questions.  I have to create a space where by my son can ask me questions about faith, prayer, theology, church, girls, dating etc etc.  Sharing my faith journey with my children is so important.
  5. This is just the beginning – I will admit that my son and i have had some great conversations but this is only the beginning on his faith journey.  My son still prefers to play video games and watch tv, so he his not an eager theology student by any stretch of the imagination.  My son and I have even had issues where i have had to discipline him and I am sure that this is just one of the many ups and downs we will experience over the coming decade know as “the teenager years”.

These reflections as part of my experience in shifting from a youth minister to a parent.  As I dropped my son off to youth group, which i had witness hundreds of times, I got the “you can go now” look from my son.  In an instance I had shifted from youth minister to daggy parent.  

My hope is that if you are a youth minister without children of your own, these reflection may help you minister to families in a better way than you currently do.  My hope for parents of young people is that these reflection may put into words some of the feelings stirring in you and perhaps pass them onto your youth ministry team.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net mrmarkmcdonald

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A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 1

After 20 years in youth ministry my role in youth ministry shifted this week.  My eldest son headed off on his first junior high youth camp.  That means that I am no longer the youth minister, I became one of the parents dropping their child off at church for camp, while the child tries to get away without a hug or a kiss.

Whilst as a youth minister I know a lot about what happens on youth camp, I find my mind has shifted now that I am a parent.  The things that I am looking for in a youth ministry as a parent are different to what to what I may have wanted from a youth ministry being on the leadership side.  Whilst I have never seen parents as the enemy, I see things differently now my own son is involved.

Here are a few thought about youth camp now that I am a parent:

  1. High expectations – perhaps my expectation of youth camp are a little high but I hope that my son has an encounter with God at youth camp.  I hope that he gets a passion for reading the bible, that he meets some great friends, gets some excellent mentors as leaders, that he likes going to church and that he fights for world peace, ok perhaps not the last one.  Are my expectations a little high?  As a youth ministers I would tell a parent that those might be good expectations after five or six years in a youth ministry but not for their child’s first youth camp.  As a parent though I can’t help wanting the best for my son.  In reality I know that my son will enjoy camp but will come home talking more about the fun games than the bible talks, he will still be the same kid who won’t like doing chores around the house and whilst he may not be against going to church I am sure he won’t always be begging us to go.
  2. Being part of our family – we hope that our son maintains a sense of family and isn’t sold an idea that the youth ministry is the most important thing in his life.  As a youth minister I heard numerous stories of young people who got involved in youth ministry in spite of a lack of support from home.  In our case my wife and I are very supportive of our son being involved in the youth ministry.  Yet as a parent I hope that the youth ministry acknowledges the vital role that we as parents play in nurturing the faith of our son as well.  I don’t want my son going off to youth events every week at the expense of our family time.  Sometimes our son will miss a youth event to spend time with our family and it isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment to the youth ministry.  Too often youth ministers blame families for a lack of attendance from young people, yet as parent I now see the family time is often more important than time at youth group.
  3. Bigger picture of church – as a youth minister I focused so much on the youth ministry that youth camp or going to a youth festival was the biggest thing in the year.  As a parent I still have one son who won’t be going to youth camp for another two years.  I also am more aware of parents in my small group who have kids in the children’s ministry.  As a parent I am far more interconnected with the other things happening in the church so I now realise that whilst the youth ministry is important, so are a number of other ministries in our church.  Perhaps as a parent I am more thankful of the role of the children’s ministry which nurture the faith of my son long enough to help him want to go on youth camp.

Perhaps my expectations are a little high but maybe that is a good thing.  As a parent I should want the best for the spiritual life of my children.  One thing that I must remind myself is that the Holy Spirit has its own plan for my son and I must accept what ever the Holy Spirit does with him.  It will take a life time for my son to understand God, so I can’t expect it all to happen on his first youth camp, but I am just a little excited at what God might do with y son on youth camp.

In the next post I will share a few reflection after my son comes home from youth camp.

Perhaps you have recently become a parent in a youth ministry, what are your thoughts?  share them in the comment section below.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net

A Youth Ministry of Sinners or Saints?

Recently I was speaking at an evangelical youth camp where many of the participants were active Christians.  Some of the young people were well versed in scripture being able to quote various sections by chapter and verse if needed.  One element that struck me was that many kept articulating that we are all sinners.  Whilst I might agree with them on theological grounds, in my experience it is not common for young people to talk like this; many young people don’t understand the language of sin.

It seems that many evangelical styles of youth ministry have been focusing in on young people being sinners in need of a saviour.  I think most of us will agree theologically that we are all sinners even if we are hard or soft on the exact language we use.  The issue is not theological but cultural; is the “we are all sinners” argument an out of date cultural image for young people?  Are the young people and youth leaders in our churches using that language because they understand it or do they just adopt it because that is the language of their church?

Recently I heard two speakers mention that many young people today already have a low opinion of themselves, that they know they have many flaws they don’t need the church to remind them of that.  they suggested that young people seek connection in the peer group because it helps them blend in and cover up their flaws.  So is the church preaching a message that is that different to the rest of the world?  Perhaps we aren’t if we only give young people confirmation that they are flawed.  We need to separate our message out from the self-help industry which articulates our flaws but if you buy this new book it will rescue you from yourself.

As Christian we preach that Jesus is the saviour of our flaws and weakness.  We should be a little different to the dominate culture which teaches that with our own hard work we will be better.  Perhaps youth ministry needs to teach young people the language of being saints.  In Christ we are a new creation, no longer our old selves but saints.  

Galatians 2:20 reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, young people are not weak sinners but powerful witnesses to the Resurrection.

When I was young, in the 1990’s, our youth group heard a talk by our church leader inspiring us to be Saints of the new Millennium.  We were reminded that we called by God to be a generation that made a difference in the world.  Back in the 1990 the young people were told by business to get a good job and earn you way to the top; top young people are told they can achieve anything they want to.  So perhaps this current generation knows they can make a difference in the world but do they realise that God called them to do this?  Perhaps this generation of young people in our youth ministries need to hear that they are called by God to be saints, set apart for the work of God.

Perhaps in youth ministry we need not just the sinner language or saint language but both.  We are a new creation in Christ, saved from our sins in order to be the saints who help build the kingdom of God.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

What was Youth Ministry like when I began in 1991?

Youth Ministry in 1991Recently I was presenting a workshop at a youth ministry training event and I began by telling the participants that I started in youth ministry in 1991.  About half of the participants in the room indicated that they were born after 1991 and most of the others were very close to the same age.  While I was running the workshop I became more aware of how different youth ministry was when I began over 20 years ago.  Young culture and Church culture have changed so much in the last 20 years that I thought I would share some of these with you.

Now before we go any further this is not a historical overview of how youth ministry has changed in the past 20 years globally or even nationally.  I will share a few observations from the youth ministry in my church back in 1991 and if you were around youth ministry in 1991 please leave a comment to share your observations as well.  If you weren’t even born in 1991 then read this as a history lesson.

  1. Led by Parent Couples – when I first started in youth ministry every youth ministry had a parent couple attached.  These were a married couple, or several married couples, who would oversee the youth ministry.  In my youth ministry they trained and support the youth leaders, helped workshop youth talks and run the finances.  As a young person we felt safe knowing that parents were looking after the “hard stuff” like finances so that we could have fun.  In 2013 it seems that parent couples have almost disappeared from the youth ministry landscape.  I know some youth groups in 1991 that had to take a break until a parent couple could be found, something that would seem unreasonable in 2013.
  2. No professionals – in 1991 I don’t remember any professional youth ministry staff.  Knowing the history of youth ministry that I know now, there were a few professionals around but they were rare.  Youth ministry was a volunteer ministry that was often peer led.  In 1991 I never ever thought that I could spend 20 years of my life getting paid to lead youth and young adult ministry.  In 2013 the “high” turnover rate that some see as a problem stems from the era of the 1980’s and 90’s when everyone volunteered for 1-2 years as a youth leader then moved onto the adult congregation of the church.
  3. After church on Sunday night – in our location and many other churches in 1991 youth group was on a Sunday night after our 6pm Church service.  Back in those days many young people were still going to church on a semi regular basis so linking youth group with the church service seemed like a natural thing.  In fact in 1991 it was easier to recruit youth group members from the church congregation if the two were linked.  In 2013 the biggest question many youth ministries face is the opposite question, how do we get our youth group members to join our Sunday congregation.  In 2013 youth group is often set in concrete on Friday nights as though that was how it has always been done.
  4. Keeping young people in church – when I started in youth ministry in 1991 many youth would stop going to church about 15-18 or Year 10.  So youth ministry was a way of keeping young people coming along to church.  In 2013 youth ministry seems more about starting young people coming to church as most young people stop going in the children’s ministry age group, if they were ever attending.
  5. No mobile phones – In 1991 a friend of mine showed me his dad’s mobile phone and it was as big as a brick.  Only business people had mobile phones.  Young people not only didn’t have smart phones they didn’t even have mobiles.  Youth Ministry was the time to catch up with people for the week and if you missed youth group you missed a week of connection with your peers.  If you missed youth you may have missed news of a party or social outing and there was no way to catch up.  In 2013 if young people miss youth group they can catch up with all the news, gossip and party news within hours via Facebook or SMS.
  6. Film Cameras – this might sound really old fashion but only a few young people had cameras at events and it would take a week or two to send the film photos off for developing.  In 1991 there was always a physical photo wall or photo album put up three weeks after youth events to show what had happened at the events; it was a real way to keep the memories alive.  In 2013 the photos go up on Facebook and Instagram as the event is happening and are forgotten about within days.
  7. Youth Culture – in 1991 in my area there were the metal heads (Heavy metal music), wax heads (surfers), skateheads  (skateboarding) and nerds (those who weren’t part of the other groups).  Whilst I admit that I was a nerd, it seemed that there were only a few youth subgroups to fit into.  In 2013 the youth culture has split the youth subgroups in to thousands.  The music industry alone has thousands of music styles that weren’t branded this way in 1991.  Youth clothing has become more targeted in 2013 and costs a lot more money.  In 1991 if a young person had slashed jeans they weren’t $250 designer jeans, they were the cheap jeans showing signs of being old.

This is just some of the ways that youth ministry was different when I first started in 1991.  My hope is that some of my colleagues who were around in the 1980’s/90’s might add a comment with their observations from that period.

Whilst the specific details might vary from location to location in 1991 they also vary from location to location in 2013.  Rather than this being a post of the golden era of youth ministry from the good old days, I just want this generation of youth ministry leaders to recognise that ministry changes and that is OK.  Many of the things that some youth ministers think we have always done in youth ministry are in fact new additions that have improved or complicated youth ministry.  It is OK for youth ministry to change, in fact I hope that youth ministry continues to change and adapt as young people change and adapt to the culture around them.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Ministry is like herding sheep, cats and sheep dogs

Recently I attended a conference session with Tim Hein which explored stages of faith development.  Whilst there were many complex elements to the presentation, a fun image that Tim used was the image of ministry as the art of herding.  So I thought I would share a quick overview with you:

  • Youth Ministry is like herding sheep – young people naturally want to run together as a herd.  There will be differences within a group but they tend to follow each other.  Young people like the stability of the herd and so are happy to go along with the routine.  Leading a youth ministry can seem difficult but it doesn’t have the complexity of Young Adult Ministry.  The challenge is to introduce complexity so that when they make the transition out of following the herd they know how to handle it.
  • Young Adult Ministry is like herding cats – young adults naturally want to explore their uniqueness.  Being a young adult is about testing out the boundaries, exploring the complexity of life and finding your unique place in the world.  Therefore ministry with this age group can end up with people heading in all sorts of directions.  As a young adult minister you can try to herd the cats but you will get a few scratches along the way, see the video below.
  • Adult Ministry is like herding sheep dogs – adults in the church need to run free because they are their own person but they can be roped in to help with the mission of your church.  Sheep dogs don’t need fences because they naturally stay on the farm; adults will naturally come back to church.  Sheep dogs don’t own the farm and the challenge with adults is to remind them they don’t own the church.

Some of these thoughts were my spin on what Tim was saying, his presentation was far more detailed than this.  I really liked this image because it seemed to resonate with the room, does it resonate with your experience?  Check out the funny video below then leave a comment explaining the image that you use for ministry.


markoffaith.net markoffaith, mrmarkmcdonald, mark mcdonald, Mark McDonald, Mark of Faith.

Should the 2012 Olympics be a wake up call for young people in Australia?

Looking through the newspapers on the weekend highlighted that many sport commentators are questioning the condition of the Australian Olympic team.  But it was the comments about the “Gen Y” training style from Eddie McQuire, Shane Gould and Suzie O’Neil that drew my attention.  Their thoughts about the swim team that indicated that the tough training schedule of previous generations had been relaxed to suit the Gen Y culture.  There were several other writers who commented about how distracting it was for athletes to engagement with Social Networking.  At least from the number of medals won it hasn’t paid off.

It seems that many of the successful countries in these Olympics have not given in to “Gen Y culture” in their training techniques.  Whilst many people question the “medal factories” in China, countries like Great Britain and the USA still demand a lot from their athletes even if they are Gen Y.  There are even some commentators who point out that Australia Gen Y athletes have only grown up in  the super investment period leading up to the Sydney Olympics.  The reality is that the funding is drying up or at least slowed down in many sports.  Whilst the Australian athletes are doing their very best, there isn’t a Gold medal for everyone at the Olympics.

Whilst the articles in the weekend paper were focused on sport, the reality is that the globally trend of young people having the pick of jobs is over.  In his book “Generation Y” Peter Sheahan believed that Gen Y had forever changed the corporate culture, yet the bubble may have burst due to the economic downturn.  In many countries, perhaps except Australia, youth unemployment has gone back to  at least 20%-30% which means young people can’t be as picky with where they work.  Young people are again having to take work where and when they can get it rather than choosing where they feel like working.    The dominance bubble that Gen Y and Youth Culture have had over the past 10 years may burst with the reality of economic crisis.

The wake up call is out there for young people, particularly in Australia, now that the choices are shrinking.  In the economic boom Gen Y were able to buy everything they wanted, travel where ever they wanted and work where ever they wanted.  During the sporting life of Gen Y Olympians there has been a boost in funding ever since 1996 in the lead up to Sydney 2000.  Talk to a Gen Y Australian and they will tell you about where they want to work and what they want to do with their life.  Talk to a Gen Y from Ireland, Greece, Portugal or Spain and they are just trying to find a job.   My own hope is that it should be a balance of young people having options and young people having to earn their way to the top rather than have it handed to them.

This is not meant to be a beat up on our Olympic team or on young people in general.  It just seems from observing the media on the weekend the landscape that young people are facing globally has changed and our young people have been sheltered from it because our economy is doing so well.  It also seems that whilst young people may be natives in the technology landscape they are unaware of how distracting social networking can be to achieving in life.  It seems that there are some important lessons for young people to learn from the experience of Gen Y athletes at these 2012 Olympic games.

What are your thoughts?  Please share a comment below.

Mark of Faith, markoffaith, MarkofFaith

Facebook Friends

Facebook friends can be “real” friends

Facebook FriendsIf you have ever heard someone comment about how many friends they have on Facebook, almost straight away someone else will say “but none of them are real friends”.  There is an assumption from many people that Facebook is not a “real” way to maintain a friendship.  Whilst this might be true for an older generation, the reality is that most young people do see their relationships on Facebook as real friendship.  Usually it is the people who are not on Facebook that under play the important role that social networking plays in maintaining friendships.

So consider for a minute what it might take to maintain a “real” friendship.  Would you consider these situations to be real friendships?

  • Pen Pals: for centuries there has been great prestige in being pen friends.  In many cases the people never meet face to face.  Whilst your grandmother may consider her pen friend more of a real friend than your 500 Facebook friends does it make it true?  Can you develop a real friendship without ever meeting face to face?
  • Long distance friends: people often move interstate and catch up with their friends when ever they are back in town. Some people think these are real friends compared to Facebook friends even though they don’t see them regularly.  Can you maintain a real friendship seeing someone face to face only once or twice a year?
  • Life long friends: some people who are cynical about the role of Facebook in maintaining a friendship reference their life long friend as the bench mark of real friendship.  Whilst they may have built the friendship over decades they maintain this friendship with as little as one or two events a year.  One of my colleagues lives in the same city as his friend but only sees him once a year at Christmas, another colleague sees her life long friend once a year because they are both so busy with their new lives.  Is real friendship based on longevity or how often you communicate?
  • Family:  all of us know that blood is thicker than water and yet we all have family members who we only see at Christmas, Weddings or Funerals. Sometimes we don’t see our family as much as we should.  Is a real friendship based on an established connection?

Think about the young person who is on Facebook every day catching up with what is happening in the lives of their 500 friends.  They know what is happening every day or two with their close friends, workmates, classmates, long distance friends, life long friends and family.  Compare this to the “real” friendships that Facebook objectors are maintaining through as little as one or two face to face meetings per year.  Before you think that I really think all Facebook friends are real friends I don’t, but my point is that many teenagers that we work within youth ministry do.  It is not appropriate to dismiss Facebook as a valid way that young people maintain friendships.

So here are four ways to use Facebook to maintain friendships with people in your ministry:

  1. Watch and listen – people will say and type things on Facebook that they don’t share in person.  If you want to know what a person thinks about then study what they do and say on Facebook.   In ministry you have to be careful not to raise Facebook activity in public forums but you can raise things in conversations with the person face to face.  For example, “I saw that you visited ……. For a holiday, what was it like to be there?”
  2. Comment – it can be seen as Facebook stalking if you read everything but never comment on posts.  Whilst we are tempted just to click “like” make the extra effort to write a comment.  Write something extra to show that you are not just gathering information but that you are developing the relationship.  In the last year or so people are engaging less and less in comments so try harder to make a comment or two.
  3. Groups – the benefit of creating groups is that you can start to link people who may have a similar interest but never meet face to face.  Be clear about what a group is about and don’t get offended if people don’t join your group.  You don’t want lots of group members, you want group members who engage in the conversation.
  4. Birthdays – it used to be so hard to maintain a birthday list, hours of asking each individual, now Facebook reminds you every day who’s birthday it is.  So there is no excuse for not making a comment on a person’s page for their birthday.  Yes it is not as good as a face to face present but it is better than hearing nothing for your youth minister.

So whilst we might not think Facebook friendships are the real deal, in youth ministry don’t dismiss the fact that young people see it as the real deal.  In fact if you start to use social networking more effectively in your ministry you might find it easier than ever to be influential in the lives of the people you’re trying to minster to.

If you disagree with this concept or you have a warning about using Facebook in ministry please add a comment below.  I understand that this post isn’t the definitive guide to using Facebook in ministry but I hope it helps you in some way.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith

3 Questions to ask when preaching to teens

This is guest post by Michael Angelo Crisafio.  Michael speaks to teenagers every week through school retreats, presenting at Impact Leadership and through preaching at Grace Unlimited.   You can follow Michael on Twitter.  If you would like to write a guest post please contact Mark McDonald.

I believe the quality of the things that you do is going to largely depend on the quality of questions you ask yourself.

When it comes to preaching to youth and in particularly school aged teenagers, it’s really going to be like herding cats if you are not going to ask the Holy Spirit to be with you daily.

In my time this year speaking to thousands of kids in schools all over Australia both in secular capacity, teaching out of bible based leadership principles or directly as a school based retreats speaker and facilitator there are some questions that I always ask myself when I preach.

  1. Who are you? your identity is largely linked to the quality of what you will delivering. are you a person of prayer? are you a person of action. Living out the Gospel is just as important as knowing the Gospel and when you can start seeing that in your own life others will see it too.
  2. What’s your story? Your preaching will come alive when it’s personal; when it’s a story only you can tell.  Teens love stories! You don’t have to look far to see what you’re competing with the likes of Twilight and 140 characters of conversation. It’s said that humour is a universal language and it’s always good to tell stories which bring out passion and humour; focus on things that people can all agree on – like sacrificial love.
  3. What does the bible have to say about it? The mysteries of the bible are as real and true and powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. Ancient rabbis talked of it like an any-sided gem, that when you hold up to the light a unique reflection is cast.  Teens want to know that the bible is relevant; as a matter of fact I make it my personal responsibility to allow people to see that connection as much as possible. If you don’t tell them, then the trash magazines, their friends or social media will tell them.

Please leave a comment about the tips you have for preaching to teens.

Don’t get trapped within a Youth Ministry Cohort

Have you ever had a bumper group come through your youth ministry?  I mean a group that is firing on all cylinders.  This group volunteers for everything, invite their friends, engage in worship, pray regularly, take an active interest in the youth ministry and everything is going very well.  These can be the golden years or dream years for the youth ministry.  You seem to connect with this group, you make friends more easily and they really seem to understand you.  In simple terms a cohort is a group like this that moves through your ministry in a group, they join and leave together.

Leading this cohort in youth ministry is what we dream of, it makes it worthwhile.  But the trap is that this group grows up and moves out of your ministry into the next group, which you don’t lead.  Perhaps you have never seen this happen, maybe you have.  In the youth group that I attended, the dream cohort were finishing up just as I joined.  It seemed that just after I joined everyone got too old for the group and left, leaving all of us a little deflated.  In fact these dream cohorts can create such a bubble in a group that when it bursts, they all leave, the group can’t go on.

Recently I put this question to Tim Hawkins from St Paul’s at Castle Hill.  Whilst Tim has been in Youth Ministry for a long time, he has led cohorts through St Paul’s for 18 years, so I thought he would have experience in this area.  Well Tim’s advice was really really simple.  He said:

“You gotta keep thinking of who is coming next”

Sounds so simple that everyone would do it.  But here are several practical tips that Tim mentioned:

  • People in Children’s ministry should keep an eye on birth announcements, these are the couples who will be bringing their kids to children’s ministry in a year or two.
  • People in Junior high ministry should be looking at the years 4,5,6 who are getting bored in the children’s ministry and are ready to move on.
  • People in Senior high ministry should be looking for the next Senior who can learn to lead at their youth ministry nights and be trained to run small groups.

Whilst we are all tempted to look for a complex plan, it seems from Tim Hawkins that it is as simple and as complex as keeping ahead of the game.  It might be hard and repetitive work but the alternative is having to rebuild your ministry from scratch every time a dream cohort leaves.  So who is coming next in your ministry?  Do you need to start recruiting for the ministry below you in the age cycle so you have a pipeline coming into your ministry?

What are your youth ministry tips for avoiding “Cohortism”?

Are there “Flashbacks” in the Bible?

Sometime when people want to be critical of the bible they point to passages in the bible that they call “errors”.  An issue that some critics raise are what they perceive as chronological errors.  Some critics look at stories that are out of chronological sequence as a proof that the bible is made up.  Yet if we look at modern day film making, we may have a clue to why some passages in the bible seem out of chronological order.

For example in Judges 1:1 we read that Joshua died, yet in Judges 2:6 we read that Joshua is still alive sending out the nations then dies again.  Did the author get it wrong? Is this a chronological error?  Is this a different Joshua?  In Genesis 10 we read that after the flood, people filled the earth yet in Genesis 11 all the people are back in the one place, is this right?

It seems that some people look at these literary tools as “errors” in the bible but when it happens in modern movies we all call these “flashbacks”.  Whilst I use this term here I have to be careful because the ancient writers didn’t use the term “flashbacks”.  However if you want to explain some literary tools of the bible in terms that young people might understand then you can suggest the parallel to flash backs in modern movies.

For example in the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy we see one character go into an optometrist to get a new pair of glasses.  Whilst the scene is quiet boring and might seem unimportant, the film maker uses the two different set of eyewear to show different periods of time in flashbacks.  When the character is wearing the old set of glasses the audience knows it is a flashback without the date having to appear on the screen.

So flashback to the example in Judges, the author is reminding the reader that Joshua sent out the nations to fill Canaan because it explains the problems Israel faced in chapter 1 and the rest of the book.  So Judges 2:6-8 is like a mini flashback to remind the reader of an important point for interpreting the future chapters.

Likewise with the earlier reference to Genesis 10 and 11.  In Genesis 10 the author is showing what happened after the flood involving Noah and so finishes the narrative with the people filling all the earth, which would have taken some time.  In Genesis 11 the author has a flashback account to explain why the people dispersed rather than stay together in the one place.  This is not a chronological error in the bible, simply a literary tool that the author uses to tell compelling accounts of God and God’s people.

What other “flashbacks” can you see in the Bible?  Leave a comment.