Studying the Bible

March 9, 2009

How do we engage young people with the Bible? Is it important that we do? What is the point?

This weekend I was away with a group of young people from Bolton (and their excellent leadership team) looking in more depth at the Bible (a follow on from last year’s event). It was a great weekend – we had hailstones, horizontal rain, gale force winds and snow – and we were miles from anywhere (well, actually we were about 5 miles from Sedbergh but it FELT miles from anywhere!). Self catered, and in a converted barn with dormitory accommodation (and 4 leader’s rooms) the Tarn Centre is a terrific venue and lends itself well to this sort of programme with this sort of group. But it was interesting to see how the various age groups responded to the various methodologies. The group ran in ages from 11 through to 20 and planning the programme was a little like organising the world’s longest all-age service – with the same concerns about compromises and content! Do I aim for the lowest common denominator,; knowing that this would mean that the older ones got really bored? How about only using material (Bible stories) that I was fairly sure they would all know (and the massive assumptions that THAT makes)? In the end, I offered a pick and mix approach that , hopefully, allowed everyone to engage at some level with the activities. I can’t pretend that it worked perfectly, but no-one rebelled (they’re far too well mannered for that) and they all engaged in everything. So, was it a successful weekend? Well, in some ways yes (for the reasons above) but it left me feeling as though I hadn’t quite got it right. In the evaluations at the end it was clear that the younger ones had enjoyed the ‘getting crafty’ bits whilst the older ones had found the ‘research and review’ aspects more satisfying.

What was most gratifying about the weekend was that the group had chosen the Bible as the theme for their weekend in the first place! There is sometimes a feeling that young people aren’t interested in the Bible, that they consider it meaningless, irrelevant and a waste of space. In my experience, this is just untrue. They know that it is an important book for them and they want to know more. When they are provided with the opportunity to engage with the material in a way that is relevant to them and is sensitive to their abilities they not only get a lot from that involvement, but so does the person leading them. In fact, it would be truer to say that I was not leading them in Bible study – I was a fellow explorer.

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The Bible and Young People

March 5, 2009

This weekend I’m working with a group of young people from Longsight in Bolton. It’s a residential weekend up in the Lake District at the Tarn Centre (http://www.tarnoutdoor.co.uk/). The venue is really good – earthy and well appointed – if a bit basic but we’ve been there for the last 2 years and didn’t see a reason to change. This year is a follow-on from the 2008 residential which looked at the Bible. I’m lucky that the URC has produced the Vision4Life materials (vision4life.org.uk) many of which I’ll be using. I was quite pleased that, after last year, the group wanted to look more deeply at some of the Bible stuff – last year was a bit of a rampage through the whole book, just helping them to find their way around it, really. This year we’re going to be looking more in depth at some specific issues and trying to link them back to their own lives/churches today.

I have seen a real interest in the Bible by young people – they are always amazed at how much there is in it – and how relevant it can be if they just look behind the historical headlines. Obviously, there needs to be sensitivity in the way we deal with the subject – we have people who think (some even believe) that the Bible is a literal account of everything – and some who think it was all just made up to subdue people to the will of The Church. I guess the truth is somewhere in between that …


Leading School Assemblies

March 2, 2009

I’m leading the second session of this course tonight in Bolton. I wonder how effective school assemblies are? So many last for just a few minutes (one of the participants tells me that they get “12 minutes and not a second more!” Are school assemblies really about passing on a message or are they just one paving stone in the road to creating a community which includes school, faith centres, secular organisations and the like?