So here we are, as promised, three days worth of blogging in one mammoth installment!!
I have spent the weekend in Eastbourne with tons of other youthworkers from around the country learning lots and having the chance to “deepen” our souls, thus making us happier youthworkers and making us more effective in our ministry. Has this conference had the desired effect on me and my ministry? I guess I’m still mulling things over and processing stuff through, but at least I can tell you about some of my musings and thoughts….
FRIDAY 21st NOVEMBER
I guess I was looking forward to this conference so much more than I have done in the past because it was a chance to spend he weekend with folks form SMB and spend time with friends who I never see anymore. I also knew it was going to be cool as this was my first conference as a full time youthworker and the first conference knowing that I want to do youthwork full time, long term…Making it a hundred times more needed, useful and relevant!!
Mike Pilavachi was the speeker on the first night, which was good, it isn’t like his talks are massively original anymore and alot of his jokes and funny stories can be recited along by most people who have been to Soul Survivor a couple of times; but part of knowing what kinda talk you’re gonna get is that you know you’re not gonna be disappointed.
The theme of the main sessions this year was King David, the first night being his call, anointing and the fact that him messing up made him so effective in his role. He was a guy that was after God’s heart and yet knew what it was like to completely mess life up and have to be entirely reliant on God’s abundant grace. Mike told a really poignant story about a little girl who’s favourite toy is a porcelain doll. Her dad accidentally breaks it, tries to fix it but it just doesn’t look right. He tells her that he’s sorry and that he’ll get her another one; she says she doesn’t want another one, she wants her one. Her dad asks why as her one is broken, and the little girl says to her dad that “just because she’s broken doesn’t mean I can’t love her.” The story really spoke of grace and the ways in which God loves us, that just because we’ve messed up and we are broken it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us and want to use us in so many ways. It really spoke to me about the days when I’m feeling rubbish and wonder why God has called me to youthwork, I am so broken and have messed up royally so many times, I do ask why he wants me to work for him a lot of the time. But I felt God saying that being broken doesn’t affect my ability to work with young people, and he loves and wants me to do this regardless.
SATURDAY 22nd NOVEMBER
So the only full day of the conference was a bright but freezing day that made it painful to sit on the beach for too long, so I didn’t, which is a bit of a bummer. It’s always easy to find God on a beach, and it has become a conference tradition for me to go and pray on the beach for at least a little while. But as I now live near the shore, it’s not a complete disaster!!
I went to the first session of a set of three done by Steve Chalke and Jill Rowe in the morning, I’ve heard both of these guys speak alot before and they are both fab and as the session description was quite woolly this was the main reason i chose to go to it! This session was on how there isn’t such a thing as “spiritual” life, as God is spirit and he is in all of life. And to call some things spiritual is to try and get rid of the God out of the other things. Which is wrong, there is God in everyone and true christian youthwork is to see that and catch up with what God is already doing there!!
It made me feel really goodabout the work we do here at the project, some people in the church around the country may try and tell us that what we do here isn’t “christain” youthwork because only 2 of our 8 weekly groups have a teaching slot in them and we are not constantly trying to shove Jesus down the kid’s throats!! But what we try to do, is build relationships with the young people, show them that we are interested in their whole life and not just converting them so we can get numbers!! (It goes back to “planting the seeds and never seeing the fruit” which makes this work so vital and yet hardgoing and painful at the same time) But this session did make me remember that when I’m blue cos it seems I’m not managing to talk about God to these guys, that’s my problem, that’s when I’ve got my perspectives screwed up again. I need to rememberto find where God is in sitting and playing guitar Hero, and catch up with him and delight in what he’s already doing here.
The main evening session was about David’s “Dark Side” (use the force Luke… :p). It was an amazing talk about how everyone has a dark side and as youthworkers we do need to address our dark sides and journey to work through the issues at their heart with God, but we need to be honest about them and because of our jobs we need to be accountable to our kids. Letting them know that it’s ok to talk to us about their dark sides because we have been honest with them about ours and shown how we have dealt with it. It was a really hard talk to listen to at points and has stirred alot within my heart that I am still thinking through. It ended with a time when people could come forward and be anointed with oil as a sign that they were choosing to take that journey through their dark side from that point on; I didn’t go forward because I really didn’t want to make any promises to God and myself lightly and then feel really disappointed at myself if I didn’t manage that journey. But what I can say that it is now really on my heart and mind, and I know some point I will be ready and spiritually mature enough to really address my dark side; Because as much as I’d like to say that I am spiritually mature, it’s talks like that make me see that I’m not and I have a long way to go!
SUNDAY 23rd NOVEMBER
The final morning of the conference always comes all to soon, and there is always that wondering of if you have really got all you can out of the time you’ve had!! I’m still not sure if I can say that I did this year!! But I know I have got alot!
The final main session was about the storms of life that come and what happens to you relationship with God and your ministry during that time. It was familiar stuff having been through a few “storms” in the last few years, and it did make me think about the good it has done my relationship with God which is now so much deeper and more honest since the storms. Sometimes you do need those things to come and shake you, so you hang on tighter.
It also got me wondering about this year. When I planned my gap year I thought it would be a year of non stop fun, making tons of new friends, and really feeling like was making a difference for God’s kingdom. I’d be lying if I said I felt all or any of those even once a week most of the time!! Things are testing and tough here, It has made me try to cling on to God so much tighter because there is simply nothing else I can do!! Perhaps God’s decided that another storm and “desert” year is what my faith needs, to really make me press on in and drive me towards my call to full time ministry. And oddly, much to my suprise, I’m 100% ok with that. Any crap that gets thrown my way, in the times when all I can do is curl up and cry, on the days where I really wonder where God has gone; I know that he is there watching me taking faltering steps, willing me to carry on in his strength and to seek him with ever more passion. And that can only mean an ever deeper realationship with him, which will prepare me so much better for my ministry.
As I drove home on Sunday, a song came on my Mp3 player that I have heard before but never really listened to the words of, and it totally blew me away that it was completely how I view my year here now. I have decided to put the lyrics in at the end as they can say things so much better than I can.
So I guess to sum up this HUGE entry that has taken me about an hour I wanna say that, while I probably have come away having more on my mind than when I first went with, and coming away knowing that things are gonna be hard for the foreseeable future, this weekend’s conference was so needed and has has brought up all the right things.
My prayer is that I continue to seek God in the mundane and ordinary, to find the right point to start that journey through my dark side, and to press on in to God in the desert and storm.
“Desert Song” Hillsong
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it’s way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve recieved I will sow