So this week has been spent on two staff retreats.  The first one was led by Ken Newell at Drumalis Retreat Centre in Larne for all our staff in Carnmoney.  The day was structured around three main sessions. REST / REVIEW / REFOCUS.  I’m not really the contemplative type.  I prefer multi-media presentations, smoke machines, lights and loud music!  But these two days comprised none of those things and I loved it.  Ken’s ability to slow us down and encourage us as a team was superb.  He just has the kind of humble presence and authority that makes you want to listen to every word..

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Jesus

It is brilliant to receive this invitation from God and be able to pass it on.  The following day the interns and I headed up the north coast to unwind and retreat.  Hollie and David have been a great team this year and we really enjoyed getting some time away to reflect on God’s hand upon our lives.  I stole Ken Newell’s “rest/review and refocus” structure but felt compelled to add an additional R – Ramore Wine Bar !  (tobacco onions for me please..)

These times are so crucial to get perspective and refreshment.  Note to self- do this more often!


Functional Atheism

I’ve recently been reading Mark Yaconelli’s book which is entitled Contemplative Youth Ministry and to be honest it has disturbed me greatly. Those of you who know me know that I am not the contemplative type. So this book has made for some uncomfortable reading and more than just a little re-thinking about what I am actually communicating to young people through the Youth Ministry I am involved in. One quote in particular has been playing on my mind: youth ministry is often…
“an endless parade of duded up Christian rock stars, hyper activities, word heavy programmes and teen devotionals covered in exclamation marks!!!! There is a tangible sense that God must be dressed up or hidden behind high-energy music or charismatic speakers. Our churches and ministries seem deathly afraid of any-kind of downtime. All silence and stillness is eradicated for fear that youth might find God disappointing, boring or absent. It’s as if our church and ministry leaders suspect that God has left the building, and so they stall with jabbering words and meaningless activities in hopes that the crowd won’t become restless.”

Youth Ministry is hyper active and needs to be but there must be a place for stillness, silence, time to reflect, remember, consider etc and the young people can only follow the example of their leaders. If I’m honest silence intimidates me at times, contemplation can be uncomfortable and cringy even. I am more convinced than ever that youth ministry needs to slow down and I need to create downtime in my own life, integrate silence into my day and make stillness a regular occurrence in my week before it can ever become a part of the ministry I lead.