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Why Children’s Workers Need To Man Up

Let’s start with something that I feel is little bit of an elephant in the room…

I’m a man. I love children. I hate that for many people (in my generation at least), that gives rise to all sorts of sordid connotations. Far too many times have people made sarcastic, hurtful jokes when I mention that I’m serving in the children’s ministry or that I thoroughly enjoy working with children. The problem is, I used to make the same kinds of comments once too! Is that why there are so few male children’s workers?

Time to man up

In the church I get to serve in, we have some phenomenal female children’s workers, creating a supportive, nurturing, loving environment for well over a hundred children each week. In fact more broadly, I’ve met many exceptional women who do outstanding work with children; until I was eleven, all of my teachers (bar one for around three months), were female. I’m hugely grateful for the quality of teaching I received. Women are nailing children’s work, but I strongly believe that men need to step up to the plate. Whilst there are some outstanding men in our church children’s work, there are simply not enough men supporting the growth and development of children in our society.

I guess I’m talking most to the males in my generation. The male students and those in their early-twenties who are somewhat understandably in hot pursuit of fame, fortune and/or success. I earn a living as a musician; I have to admit I sort of know what it feels like to want those things. But I have never been more convinced in the power and influence of one of the ‘grown-ups’ showing children how special they are – that they matter.  We’re called as Christians to serve the needy, and who could deny that children are in need of passionate, strong adult role models of both genders? Jesus even highlights the importance of children in Mark 10:13-16:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

A call to arms

This is a call to arms for men. Ok, those arms might be plastic swords and foam footballs – possibly even shaving cream and a silly hat (see pictures below) – but the children of this world need more positive male influences.  The Department for Education has ‘found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of life.’  Shouldn’t we be a part of this crucial stage in whatever way we can?!

Click here for an interesting video I found on the subject

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Getting ‘gunged’ in our church kids work. Costume not my own

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Hanging out with Meg while her mum worked next to us

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Naomi (and her Dad) Skyped me so she could show me what she’d learnt on guitar. So cute!

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Chilling with the Partingtons

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I spent a few great months living with Meg’s family

All photos used with the parent’s permission.

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Facebook/Twitter: Where is the Love?

Ok. Here it is: as a general rule, I don't think we use social networking as well as we could.

I find it increasingly depressing to open up Facebook, Twitter and various other social applications and see a wave of boasting, complaining and sniping washing over my news feed. Am I blameless? Absolutely not. But is this the way it should be? I don't think so.

I'm a Christian and strongly believe that the Bible is divinely inspired (from God) and intended to help us live our lives in the best, most fulfilling way possible. There's a passage in particular that I think can guide us in our use of social networking…or at the very least, can guide my future posts:

(You might not believe in God, but don't worry, although this next quote is from the Bible, it doesn't even mention the 'G' word. Just view it as wise words from old guys.)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

As Christians, we are called to love God and love people – as human beings, this world can only survive with love in its various forms, so I don't think anyone is exempt from this. I think the issue is one of love; that inadvertently, we are acting without love or at least, with less than perhaps we ought to. Here's what I believe we can learn from this passage:

Love is patient…

…so don't post impatient statuses/comments/tweets.

Love is kind…

…so use these forms of communication to build up, encourage and inspire, not to dig at, snipe up, tear down or destroy.

Love does not envy…

…so don't post bitter statements when someone else does something that makes you jealous.

Love does not boast…

…so we shouldn't boast! This is one of the most frustrating things for me to see personally – we don't walk around shouting about our new phones, computers, cars, qualifications, results etc, so why do we do it online? I've been bad at this in the past and have been trying really hard over the last year or so not to do it. This isn't a clear-cut thing though; in fact it's the one that I am currently wrestling with the most. For example, I love travelling and posting pictures of beautiful places, but where is the line between sharing your joy and boasting? A difficult one for sure that I'm still a long way from figuring out!

Love is not arrogant…

…so don't be! Sort of linked to the boasting.

Love is not rude…

…so speak well both to people and about people.

Love does not insist on its own way…

…so, sort of obviously, don't insist on your own way!

Love is not irritable…

…so don't be irritable.

Love is not resentful…

…so don't be resentful!

Some of these seem sort of obvious, don't they? We don't need to air our dirty laundry or slate the people around us publicly and really, does any one actually care about that latest expensive product we've just bought? Imagine if we used the online world to share joy, encourage the people around us and speak well of others. Imagine if we tackled big issues in a respectful, honourable way and tackled private issues…in private! To me, that sounds like a great place.

I'm going to do my best to create that place; I'd love it if you tried to create it with me. This is also an open invite to call me on it when I mess it up – honestly, feel free. I know I will…and probably before the week is out! We'll see!!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 365: Challenge Complete!!

I’ve made it.

365 days of blogging.

18,550 reads (about 18,200 more than I expected).

Written from England, Estonia, Albania and Italy.

Read by people in 109 countries (see this handy map below, courtesy of ‘WordPress Stats’):

Map

When I started this challenge, I had no idea what to expect. Inspired by my American friend Lisa who had done the same thing, I started somewhat naively – I can safely say that this has been one of the hardest challenges I have ever taken. Every day has been overshadowed by the little blog-demons taunting me, knowing full well that I would have to find the time not only to write, but to attempt (often feebly) to say something of value.

It’s been a phenomenal journey and it’s been a real privilege to share my life with you every day for a year. I certainly won’t be blogging so regularly, but on the bright side, the quality of writing might be a little higher. Thank you so, so much for every single post that you’ve read, commented on or shared. I am so grateful for all the encouragement I’ve received over the course of this journey. Although monumentally tough (for me at least), I couldn’t recommend it more highly for those of you who would like a challenge. Why not give it a go yourself?!

Thanks again, it’s been lots of fun!

Dave :)

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 364: Youth Band Worship

I’m grateful that Revolution, the Kerith Community Church youth worship team, have given me a reason to write about them on this penultimate day of the challenge.

As usual, we gathered for our time together as a team before splitting into our three separate bands – the team I was with today met in the studio. Having talked through the upcoming set list, we attempted to practice the songs until it became apparent that any significant progression would be unlikely. The band just didn’t know the songs – my fault entirely for not sending out the set lists sooner, but rather than dwell on practising songs we didn’t know well enough, we spent time simply worshipping God together. For me, it was a pretty powerful experience.

Part of leading a youth worship team (for me, at least) is the perpetual concern that the young people are more interested in playing their instruments than worshipping God. There have been times in years gone by where that might very well been the case; but even if it was, those days are long gone now. It was so refreshing and exciting to hear the unashamed, uninhibited and unplugged worship of a passionate group of young people who lay their instruments to one side in order to get on and worship God without distraction. It was brilliant being able to spend time praying for each other and dwelling in the presence of God with no sense of awkwardness. For me, that’s pretty much the perfect scenario.

If you attend Kerith Community Church, I want to tell you in this last opportunity of the challenge (I’ve got something else in mind for tomorrow) just how inspirational these young people are. They are the real deal. Passionate, talented worshippers who want to give all they have to se Jesus glorified. If these are the guys who will be leading the church in worship in years to come, the future is in great hands. I want the last thing I say about Revolution in this blog challenge to be this:

I couldn’t be more proud of this wonderful team of young people. They are truly awesome.

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 362: My Current Playlist

There are two albums currently circulating my playlist at the moment. Enough that I can do nothing today but thoroughly, thoroughly recommend them:

Hillsong United’s latest album, ‘Zion’, is nothing short of spectacular. It dwarfs every other album around at the moment (including the one below, in my opinion) in terms of sheer lyrical genius, melody, gorgeous arrangements and sensational originality. It’s a worship album, but not like you’ve heard before – it’s closest relative is United’s previous album ‘Aftermath’…but this is a step up. Currently, I’m addicted to ‘Relentless’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Love is War’ in particular, but the whole album is fantastic. GET IT!

 

Elevation Worship’s latest album, ‘Nothing is Wasted’ is good. There’s no doubt about that. I think the problem with it is that it’s a shadow of their previous album, ‘For The Honor’ and simply can’t compete with the outrageous quality of Hillsong United’s project. Having said that, I reiterate what I said – it’s good. I strongly recommend buying this if you’re not into the uber-synth heavy tracks on Zion (although it’s got plenty of things going on for more keyboard-centric music lovers). It’s worth buying. Just don’t buy it with Zion at the same time!

 

Let me know what you think!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 361: Press Save

Today I finished my assignment far quicker than I planned, leaving a whole Monday afternoon wide open to play with the new keyboard sounds I bought a little while ago. From a composing point of view, there’s a whole new possibility of orchestral sounds that leaves me like a child in a sweet shop. Amazing!

After two hours of glorious solitude enjoying my own little musical world, the unthinkable happened. My laptop crashed. Two hours of composition lost – I hadn’t saved it.

To say I was a little disappointed is somewhat of an understatement.

As irritating as it was, I began to think about how it relates to life in general. There are times where life crashes – where that ‘up and to the right’ trajectory spirals downwards and suddenly, it feels like you’ve taken a few steps backwards. My thought for the day is this: it’s inevitable we will experience some sort of crash moments, but if we save regularly, the consequences won’t be felt in such a significant way. Let me explain what I mean.

When you experience a great moment, be sure to press the ‘save’ button in your head. Savour it. If someone wiser than you offers you a teaching moment, save it. When saved combined, the memories and lessons accumulated over the course of time ensure that those crashes become nothing more than minor inconveniences.

Don’t forget to press save!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 360: The Inevitable Birthday Post

Let’s be honest. I’m doing a 365 days of blogging challenge…it was inevitable that one of those was going to be on my birthday!

I’m 24 today. 24 on the 24th February. That will never happen again. I’m so grateful to everyone in my world who has made a pretty standard day a particularly special one. I have never had a stronger and more varied group of friends and I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for friends all over the country and for those in other countries who always manage to bring a smile to my face. Thank you.

Having worked for the vast majority of the day (though admittedly, doing a fantastic job with people I love to pieces), I’m going to spent the rest of my 24th birthday relaxing before an early start and a monstrous week of assignments and post-holiday catch ups. I’m going to relax before the final push to the end of this challenge. We. Are. Nearly. There!!

Thank you again!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 359: Refuel Time

Last night, I was extremely blessed by two of my favourite people in the world who took me out to dinner for my birthday (which is tomorrow, by the way!). I am so grateful for them both, but if I’m completely honest, I was a bit miserable. Having returned from a fantastic few days in Estonia and back to reality, for the first time in a while I felt totally lost. It happens every so often; I question my motives, my achievements, my direction, my choices. I wonder if I’m doing all that God has called me to do, or whether I’m just coasting. Last night, my two best friends took me out for dinner and listened patiently while I confessed my worries and concerns.

Today, determined to let the previous night’s conversations be a blip rather than a regular occurrence, I arrived at church an hour early and spent some time reading the Bible. I don’t do that anywhere near often enough, so today was me addressing that. We were gathering around 50 of our creative team members today to be filled with vision, inspiration and practical direction and were joined by Life Church’s Jock James for the day. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

It’s amazing how God guides you in the most incredible way when you make a conscious decision to fix your eyes on Him. I’ve been so concerned with my own worries that I was beginning to lose God in all of it – and yet, the moment I chose to put all of that aside, there He was, guiding me. Today I was spiritually refuelled…and I’m extremely grateful for it! I can’t wait for this next season!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 358: Idea Time

This is my thinking time.

The air stewardess has just collected my miniature can of orange juice. Today’s flight is accompanied by ‘Nothing is Wasted’, the latest album from Elevation Worship. Jo Owen’s book, entitled ‘How to Lead’ rests open on my tray, heavily weighted on one side as I approach the end.

This moment on a plane is one I adore; the freedom to read, to listen and to process. A number of the big ideas for Revolution (our youth worship team) have come directly from these moments. Already, my mind is buzzing with sparks of ideas, the combination of the solitude offered on the flight and the insight of the books I have the opportunity to delve into at these points.

Unfortunately, I can’t simply hop on a plane every time I need ideas, but I’m realising that there are a few principles from this time that I could certainly make more use of:

1. Force out distractions

One of the struggles in my life at the moment is creating those times of quiet and solitude – times when distractions are kept out of the picture for a brief period of time, or at least long enough to focus properly. It’s all too easy for our thoughts and ideas to be contaminated by the surrounding environment (although not always a bad thing). In a world of iPhones, laptops and so on, finding the space to calm the unrelenting information storm can be crucial to releasing creativity.

2. Actively seek ideas, don’t wait for them to appear

It’s very easy for us to expect strokes of brilliance or the perfect idea to float like a feather into our laps, but often they require far more thought. Mind-maps, whiteboards or even simply sparing the time, as mentioned above, can be enough to start getting creative ideas going. Think of it as ‘idea-hunting’. For a successful hunt (not that I condone it in anyway), preparation is crucial. From then on, an idea often needs to be tracked before it can be found.

3. Choose to learn the experiences from the experience of others

Jo Owen’s book on leadership has been a fantastic insight into leading in a business context. The principles that he talks about have stirred some thoughts and ideas in me about how I can improve the way I work and the way I lead – it’s been hugely beneficial. No doubt, at some point, I would probably have learnt some of these principles somewhere, but when?! Learning from others can make such a difference when it comes to inspiring new ideas.

How do you come up with ideas? Do you have a favourite place or time?