Church of Scotland Creativity Emerging Church God, Faith & Church Society Theology United Reformed Church work worship Youth Work

Missing Generations (part 5)

What spiritual practices do you do?

Eh?  What’s a spiritual practice?

I wrote in my chapter of Inside Verdict that the church isn’t very good at helping members keep the promises they make.  I promised to read the Bible, to pray and to join with other believers in worship.

Reading the Bible is difficult.  So it’s nice that someone explains it for 15 minutes once a week.

Praying is hard.  So it’s nice that the same person prays on my behalf for a few minutes once a week.

Joining other believers in worship is ok.  So long as I’m able to get there at 11am on a Sunday and I’m ok with ‘joining’ meaning sitting in rows looking at the back of someone’s head (if it’s busy enough that there is someone sitting in front of me).

It’s easy to criticise, but I think one of the most profound failings of the church with all age groups is our failure to help people develop spiritual practices.

Most people reading this won’t know what I’m talking about.  We don’t even use the phrase in our churches.

Christianity has a rich tradition of spiritual practice.  Prayer is one of them.  Meditation.  Fasting.  Walking the labyrinth.  Prayer beads.  Retreats. Lectio divina.  And yet we don’t talk about them, much less promote and practice them.

In fact, the very opposite is sometimes true.  We are suspicious of spiritual practices.  They are things that other religions do.

We have been shaped by the Enlightenment to such an extent that we now have an almost entirely cerebral faith.  God lives in our heads, not our hearts.  Except that’s not really anyone’s experience of God, is it?  We feel God.

I quoted a passage from Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple on Sunday:

Shug Avery asks ‘Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church?’

Celie’s answers ‘I never did.  I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show.  Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.  And I think all the other folks did too.  They come to share God, not find God.’

God doesn’t live in church.  God lives in everything.  We say it, but if we really believe that then how do we equip people to see God in everything and meet God everywhere rather than coming to church expecting to find God there and leaving disappointed?

Spiritual practices are a key to helping us have a deeper faith (and better mental health!).

The reason the Enlightenment left us with a cerebral faith was literacy.  People can read.  The church is only just catching up with this remarkable development.  Before mass literacy (that’s not a theological pun!) people needed someone to read to them and explain what things meant because they had no access to books.  That has changed.  Completely.  Our style of worship hasn’t.

So, what is worship for?

Someone once told me it is how we show God his worth.  I like that answer but it lays down a challenge.  If God means everything to us then shouldn’t worship be about everything we are and all that God means?

I think at some level worship needs to do three things; connect, engage, inspire.


Worship has to connect with people.  Deeply.  It has to help people connect with themselves, each other and God.  A sermon can do that.  Singing can do that.  Prayers can do that.  But so can other things.  Connection is one of the things Xers and Yers need.


Worship has to be engaging.  It has to draw people in and create a space where people feel able to engage without fear.  But it also has to engage with the world.  Worship can’t be a nice, safe spiritual bubble.  It has to reflect the joys and the struggles.


Worship has to inspire change.  I’m fed up being told I fall short.  I know.  I get it.  Help me to be better.  Inspire me, don’t blame me.  We talk about forgiveness but it feels like someone keeps a list, and the list gets added to each week.  Worship needs to encourage us to be more and to make a difference in the world.

I keep returning to these arrows.

The balance and focus of spiritual practice and of worship is vital.  These are like chair legs.  The story is the floor (backwards and forwards).  If we neglect ourselves (inward), our church/fellow travellers (together), our community and world (outwards) or God (upwards) then we end up on a chair with uneven legs and we spend all of our time wondering why it is so hard to balance.

So, what spiritual practices are you engaging with?  What is worship for?  What should it look like?  And who should do it?

Creativity God, Faith & Church Society Theology Uncategorized United Reformed Church

Missing Generations (part 3)

Who am I?  Who am I for?  Why am I for them?

There are questions that go to the very core of who we are.  As we have already discussed the various generations might choose to answer these questions in quite different terms.

  • Builders are for the country, the establishment.
  • Boomers are for the kids, and they’re still paying for them.
  • Xers are for themselves, and the world.
  • Yers are for whatever cause captures their interest.

Of course those are generalisations but even those four glib stereotyping statements give us an indication of the problem of a ‘one size fits all’ church.  It is almost impossible to be a place that meets everyone’s needs… almost.

To discover if the church is a place where people can belong the church needs to grapple with its answers those same questions.

Who are we for?  What are we for? Why are we for them?

These are questions that are central to our very reason for being and yet I’m not sure we, the church, could answer those questions well.

We could say that we are for God, we are for the poor and we are for them because we believe in Jesus, God’s son, and he told us that we should be for the poor.

But that does that really answer the questions?

Yes.  And no.  And maybe.

And that’s a problem. The answer works ok for Builder’s and for some Boomers.  It appeals to Builder’s sense of ‘doing the right thing’ and building a better world.  It appeals to Boomer’s need for a bit of certainty in an ever-changing world.

It is particularly problematic for Xers and Yers.  They want to know the detail.  Which poor?  Define poor?  For God?  What does that mean?  Why should we do what Jesus says?

I’ve had a look around at some church websites to see how people answer these kinds of questions.  Most don’t.  At least not in an up front way.  Some have a go in a ‘mission statement’ or like my own Synod who have a list of aspirations.

I like Mars Hill in Grand Rapids approach.  If you visit their website you find a ‘who we are’ sections that has a sections headed ‘What we believe’.  In there you find paragraphs on theology, values, mission, serving and membership.

The Values section has the arrows you might have seen in one of the previous post:

For Xers and Yers the answers to each of these directions; backwards, forwards, inward, withward (got to love those made up words!), outward and upward, are vital and I think we need to answer each of these questions for each of our churches:

Backwards – where have we come from?  What is our ‘big story’?  How do we fit in the story of faith?

Forwards – where are we heading? Who are we travelling with?

Inwards (one we almost always avoid) – Why are we here?  Do we value the wholeness of people?  Do we value their mind, body, soul, emotion and experience?

Withward (community) – How do we as a group of people live together?  What are the rules and expectations of our community?

Outward – Who are we serving?  Who are we fighting for?  Who’s lives do we make better?

Upward (celebration) – What does God mean to us?  How do we show that?  How do we share that in our community?

Once we answer those questions we need to be honest about who might share our answers.

I used the phrase ‘mixed economy’ in part 2 and this is where it becomes important.  Even if the generations can agree on the answers the next step is ‘How?’ and I don’t have a problem with that and I don’t think the church should either.  In fact I think we should embrace it.

We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think we already have ‘niche church’.  We all serve a group or a type.  Why not be honest about it and serve a varied menu?

And that brings us back to ministers…

Change The World Creativity Design Thinking Genius

Global Cardboard Challenge

Remember Caine’s Arcade?  Well, the idea of encouraging kids to build and play with cardboard has grown… lots.

6 October 2012 is build day for the Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge.

This fall, the Global Cardboard Challenge invites the world to build anything awesome out of cardboard, recycled materials, and imagination. Cardboard Challenge events can be of any scale and are being planned around the world. The Cardboard Challenge culminates on October 6th – the one year anniversary of the flashmob that made Caine’s day – with a Global Day of Play: On October 6th, communities around the world will be able to find local Cardboard Challenge events, and come out to play, celebrating the creativity and imagination of kids everywhere.

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Why don’t you build something with your kids, Sunday School, class at school, kids club, youth group, messy church…

Change The World Creativity Training Youth Work

Five Things I’ve Learned

No, not me… although I might give it a go soon…

Five Things I've Learned

“Showcasing great examples of the best in education, Five Things I’ve Learned is a collection of personal reflections from education leaders devoted to improving the fortunes of others through learning.”

These are great insights from some smart people.  Have a look.  You’ll be glad you did.

Creativity Events Solas

Solas Festival Staff Vacancy – Deputy Festival Coordinator

Solas Festival Staff Vacancy – Deputy Festival Coordinator

Applications by CV and covering letter to office [at] solasfestival [dot] co [dot] uk. Closing date is Wednesday 28th December 2011; interviews will be held on Wednesday 4th January 2012.

Solas Festival is a new and growing event, which features a broad arts programme, providing an excellent opportunity to gain a wide range of experience. The organisation is predominantly volunteer-led, with a large and committed group of individuals giving generously of their time, energy and talents to make the festival possible.

Solas Festival is seeking an energetic, self-motivated individual to join our staff and help deliver our third summer arts festival (22nd-24th June 2012, at Wiston, South Lanarkshire). Working closely with, and reporting to, the Festival Coordinator, the postholder will take responsibility for a range of festival planning areas, including aspects of programme, site, marketing, volunteer management and general administration. The remit is wide and variable, potentially including any of the tasks currently carried out by the Festival Coordinator, and to some extent will be shaped around the experience and strengths of the right candidate. The post is offered on the basis of a temporary self-employed contract.

Good communication skills are a must as the postholder will be required to attend meetings on behalf of the organisation and to line manage volunteers. Excellent organisational skills are also essential. Must be flexible and willing to work irregular hours when required, including occasional evenings and weekends, particularly as the festival approaches. Must be available over festival weekend and ideally throughout the whole of June 2012.

Solas Festival derives inspiration and values from its roots in the broad Christian tradition. This underpins our commitment to equality, justice, beauty and hospitality. Our aim is to create a space which is tolerant, inclusive and free of prejudice. We simply ask that all staff and volunteers be willing to work in sympathy with these values and aims.

Find out more at; enquiries to office [at] solasfestival [dot] co [dot] uk.

Solas Festival is a charity registered in Scotland, No. SC041434, and a Company Limited by Guarantee,
registered in Scotland, No. SC371181.  Registered Office Address: 110 St James Road, Glasgow, G4 0PS

Creativity Design Thinking Youth Work

design thinking resources

Since my design thinking epiphany the other day I’ve been looking around for more information on what it is and how it works.  I thought posting some links might help me remember where I found things and help you explore this a bit further.

Design Thinking on Wikipedia @ stanford university has some great downloads to help you think about what design thinking is and how it works.

design thinking for educators has evolved the process to fit an educational context:

discovery interpretation ideation experimentation evolution

They have a toolkit you can download.

I know this approach has been around for a while but I really think it offers some great opportunities for youth work and for churches.  Starting with people, hearing their stories and then involving them in generating solutions to their problems has to be a good way forward!

I’ve met lots of youth workers and ministers who feel just like this teacher…

Why Design Thinking? from Design Thinking for Educators on Vimeo.

Are you one of them?  Could this way of thinking help?

Change The World Creativity Events God, Faith & Church Holy City worship

Holy City : Choice / Cuts

Holy City ‘Choice Cuts’… faith and futures in a world in crisis

The 2011-12 programme focuses on the stark choices facing us today in Scotland and the world beyond. How we see the past, present and future; how we employ our imagination, nurturing, compassion and creativity; what we value in education, economics, health, hope (and ultimately) our humanity. The choices with which we’ll engage each month are not a million miles from those Jesus confronted.

We begin on Sunday 30th October, with the evening’s sub-theme ‘Love or Apathy?’… @ 6.30 – 9.30pm, Renfield St Stephen’s Centre, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow G2.

Despite what we sometimes assume, hate is not the opposite of love… the opposite is more accurately carelessness, indifference, apathy…. ironic, knowing, sophisticated and suavely self-indulgent posturing, even(?). We’ll be exploring examples of where the more passionate emotion (love) gets engaged and changes the world.

As usual, we’ll start with a wee sing, followed by workshops for an hour, then tea and coffee (courtesy of our delectable T-Team), and rounding off the evening with around 40 minutes of worship.

So, we hope to welcome you on the 30th!


Commissioning poverty, truthfully – speaking honestly about real things, with members of The Povert Truth Commission.
Encouraging vandalism – Urban Folk Art – provocative and loving words upon a wall, with Iain Campbell.
Love Story (the biblical exploration) – Jo Love & Chris Long unearth the love letters (and apathetic amour) in the biblical record.
An interviewer interviewed… – with Lucy Adam – chief reporter for The Herald. She has interviewed the Megrahi family, and won awards for her reports with Christian Aid and Concern.
Love coffee, love protest – Ruth Coulter talks about the Protest Cafe she and others have set up in Belfast to regularly take action and make a difference on issues that concern them.

‘Mibbes aye, mibbes naw’ – A liturgy on apathy and commitment, in song, symbol, silence and participation.

Further information: <wgrg [at] iona [dot] org [dot] uk>; 0141 332 6343. <>

Download the publicity postcard