Advocating Community as core to practice

For College I was asked to write a statement on Community and youth work practice.
I would suggest that there can be no effective youth work without community. Young people live in geographical communities, operate in groups or tribes that are mirco-communities, are influenced by the macro community of the global village, and spend time forming virtual communities in cyber space. They are the product of community, shaped by community, and socialized by community. Some might call this an anthropological reason for having community at the center of your practice and to ignore the community dimension of young peoples lives and its influence is a dis-service to the young people you work with. Yet there is a theological reason why community should be core to your practice, as without it community as the center of practice, it is a dis-service to God in whose image we are made. An image, which is one of community. The God we serve is a tri-une God, and the trinity is an image of the perfect community, Father, Son and Spirit all held in balance all One, if are calling young people towards God then we are calling them towards community.

What is our mission? At it’s heart youthwork is about change, change on a personal level, a group level and a societal level, captured well by the words of Christ “I have come that you may have life and life in all its fullness� Therefore as well as the theological and anthropological reasons stated there is a practical reason; namely change comes via community and is needed in communities.

M. Scott Peck Author of The Road Less Traveled argues strongly for community writing: There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.

Community is central to the process of change for a number of reasons.

Self understanding is an important first part of the process of youth work and the start point for understanding ourselves is community. As others reflect back to us a truer image of ourselves than we may have we journey towards a fullness of life. Therefore engendering a sense of community with the young people we work with engenders life.
As agents of change we cannot achieve changes by ourselves, if we are to work for fullness of life for all there is an inevitable community dimension to our work. I would suggest that if our own fullness of life hinders another from their fullness we are not truly living in the light. Therefore to work for change with, for and in communities, at local, national, global or virtual must be a paramount priority. Not only will the impact of these changed communities help those that are members have a greater fullness of life, but also those who engage in the struggle of changing these communities will also experience at greater fullness of life.
Finally because we are made in God’s image, humanity longs for a sense of communitas. Communitas is an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness Thunder on the Hill movies

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. Even the hermits of old sought this equality and justice for others, and togetherness with their creator as they retreated to desolate places to pray. The desire for Communitas is more prevalent as a characteristic when people experience liminality. ie when they are undergoing a period of change when the resources they have relied on in the past are called into question. If this desire for communitas lies latent at the core of humanity and comes to the fore during liminality, then it speaks of God’s image in whom we are made, and provides the key to forming lasting, real, dynamic relationships of change, and hope.

Sharing Mission Across Boundaries

I’ve been involved for a few years now with an inter-church youth work in our town. Perhaps the biggest challenge it has given me is “on what basis can a shared, inter-church, mission take place?”

Richard’s post the other day about equality Bone Dry the movie has inspired me to think about how a work can happen in an inter-church context.

Our natural tendency is to want to own the mission that we are involved in, and similarly if we are funding something we also want to own it and have a good deal of say in how that mission happens. When stakeholders are from different churches they might feel different things about how mission should work and they might feel different pressures from those in their churches, so it is perhaps more difficult to reconcile differences and come to agreement over what should happen.

I think that what an inter-church mission can be is:

  1. A resource.
  2. A part of reducing divides between different churches.
  3. An invitation to work in a way that has the side effect of breaking down division.
  4. A challenge to work with people we do not necessarily see eye to eye with.
  5. An opportunity to learn submission.
  6. An opportunity to fit into a jigsaw over which we do not have control.
  7. A way of learning to accept what others have to give, without pushing them to give what we think they should.

Perhaps our biggest challenge is to give up some of the control mechanisms that we are used to having in our smaller, individual churches. This does make us more vulnerable to the actions of others, but perhaps we are also becoming more vulnerable to God and his will as we learn to relinquish our own ideas!

I do find it scary and I’m convinced there is a lot, lot more to learn about this. I feel like a fearful newbie to be honest, but at least I can look back and see the work God has enabled so far.

Rite of passage and emerging church

In November we are of on a Skate Pilgrimage with some young people for the Church on the Edge project. We are working through the process of being
A Contacting Community – Through detached youth work
A Growing Community- Through ongoing contact and residential
A Connecting Community – Through undertaking a rite of passage committing to journey together
An Exploring Community – Through connecting stories and life
An Ecclesial Community – Through living together with a missionary DNA

So we are up to to this rite of passage stage. The rite of passage story is one of the hero leaving behind where they were, battling their enemy, and returning the hero accepted and endorsed by the community. It is this last section that I am concerned about.
One of the premises of Church on the edge at this stage is not about the young people coming to faith through this rite of passage, but being willing to commit to explore with us and be church together, regardless of their faith position. The yp are willing to do this, yet my initial reading on the rite of passage it is the reception of the broader community is a vital part of the process. The project is essentially saying to these yp “you are now part of the church” but who and how do we get this accepted by the wider and or local church. What does this look like?

In some ways the issue is further compounded by how we view the project. Namly that in many ways we are already being church with the young people, yet others may not agree. Some would argue that by going through this rite of passage we have moved towards being church, yet we are in part asking hard questions of what church is and how we be church, do sacrements etc. Importantly we are enabling the young people (who have asigned to the faith) to decide with us how we are church, be church, express sacrement etc. So asking another to endorse such an open journey is problematic.

I wonder if the emerging church so far only been endorsed by the wider church community because they came from those communities in the first place and they were not seeking this endorsement but it arose over time, when perhaps the journey had already been charted and they were safer to endorse.

Anyone for some comments/thoughts/dialogue?

ASBO Baby – Excluded at six months

Slight problem. We took Indianna to the childminder for the week to try and get her ready for Lori’s return to work next week. However Indi had other ideas, she cried at every session and would not eat or drink. Picking her up yesterday we were informed they could not accomodate her next week. This means Lori had to cancel her return to work. Whilst this is good in that Lori gets to stay with Indi we could have done with the income. So plans for the day van are on hold but hopefully it will give Lori the time to do some more writing and look after asbo baby.

relationships of equality

Yesterday Iain (BCYM) was running a session for line managers and said a throw away phase that caught my imagination. In line management we needed to have “relationships of equality rather than relationships of power”. A great phrase that says a lot about management style and approach, good to keep in mind as we approach others. It also reminds me a Transactional Analysis and how much better management is when you have adult to adult conversations.

The issue is how easy it is to revert to power bases particularly when you are in a hurry or have loads of expectations from others. Couple of other interesting points came up. Paul rasied the issue about how often ministers/ clergy are metaphoriacally seen as more “white” coller staff, professional expecting to manage their hours themsleves etc, but other staff can be seen as “blue coller” needing to clock in and out, request time off etc.

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