Saturday, December 22, 2007

May you have time to breathe life afresh this Christmas


Was Jesus born
in this Bethlehem spot?
Not a nice stable at the back of an inn,
but the animal end
of an ordinary house-cave
among the dung and the feed?

Did Mary breathe deep,
hold and push
in this underground smoke darkened shrine?

Did Joseph stand helpless
among the men
safe away from the
blood, pain and tears
around a fire warmed
against the winter chill?

Did the whenua of God
lie on this
star shaped spot
where millions have prayed?
Is it here God inhaled that life giving breath,
and exhaled that first joyful cry?

I don’t know!
And none of it matters…
Unless Jesus is born in me
this Christmas
Unless I breathe life afresh
with God
Unless I leave the helpless men
at the safe end of my cave
and join the woman in the
messy hand dirtying work
of giving birth to God’s world today.

May you have time to breathe life afresh this Christmas

John Hebenton tssf
Anglican Youth Network Facilitator: Tikanga Pakeha
Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
15 Farm Street, Mount Maunganui 3116, NZ
Ph: (+64 7) 574 0079, Fax: (+64 7) 574 0079, Mobile +64 21 679202

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A conversation on “mission-shaped youth ministry”

The Big E 2008
A conversation on “mission-shaped youth ministry”
Vaughan Park, Long Bay, Auckland
9.30am on Tuesday 3rd to 4pm on Thursday 5th June 2008

Our world is changing. Young people are changing. The way we do youth ministry is changing. Or at least it needs to change. Don’t believe me? Here are some figures from the last census
• Between 2001 and 2006 the percentage of New Zealanders who called themselves Christian dropped from 60.6% to 55.6% of the population
• For nearly every age group under 40, between 40-50% answered “no religion” to the religious affiliation question.

We are increasingly living in a country where young people in particular have no idea what the Christian story is, or who Jesus Christ is.
It is time to ask some hard questions about what we are doing and why, find new ways forward, and redevelop some of our old ways. Some of the questions we need to address might include:
• What are the issues you face in youth ministry?
• What is Youth Ministry?
• What is the end point of what we try to do in youth ministry?
• What is Mission? (And can we un-pack this?)
• What is mission shaped youth ministry?
• Where do we see it happening?
• What resources do we need and what do we already have?

The Big E is run by the Churches Youth Ministry Association, which includes Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterian, and is an opportunity for youth workers, youth leaders, clergy and interested others from any denomination to explore some of these issues. This is particularly aimed at those who see youth ministry as their calling, but is open to any who are interested.

Rather than being a conference with a timetable full of speakers, this is being planned to be a conversation, with a few speakers, and lots of opportunities to talk in small groups, to discuss issues you want to work on, and for these small groups to present back to the larger group. There will also be some guest speakers to provide some input, and to help our reflecting on these questions.

The name of “mission-shaped youth ministry” comes out of one of the approaches that has begun to help the wider church look at why it exists and how it might be more missional. This approach comes from the Church of England’s and is helping church’s find fresh ways to be church and to plant new churches in the changing context. A key question then is “Does this have anything to offer youth ministry?” Another is “What more do we need?”

For more information go to Well, not yet. Give it a month for us to get the stuff up officially

Links with articles:
Mission-shaped youth ministry demands radical re-think
Church House Publishing Running a youth group?
Children's&Youth Ministry: Essential Reading: Mission-Shaped Youth
tHEOBLOBY: Mission Shaped Church, my thoughts....
Mission-Shaped Youth Ministry: Conference in Australia: my thoughts

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thoughts on leadership

A couple of weeks ago I attended (and helped run) Raukura, a training event for run by Toru for the diocesan and regional youth staff in the Anglican church in Aotearoa-New Zealand within Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pakeha. Each of those attending were asked to write a reflection on what leadership is for them based on the presentations (by Bishop Philip Richardson, and Rev Jemma Allen) and the discussions that ensued from these. This week I went to Fiji to run some of the Manu Rui module for the archdeaconry youth co-ordinators in Polynesia, and Don Tamihere was to run his biblical modules. Sadly, Don injured himself and was not able to go, and so to fill in the extra sessions (apart from sitting one out in Nadi airport when the flight was delayed for three hours) I reused some of the leadership material, and the draft reader that Don had prepared for Raukura. What is below is my reflection based on both these events, my earlier reflections on being a priest, and the course on Leadership in Congregations I did earlier this year.

What in leadership in a youth ministry setting?
Leadership is first and foremost a calling. This is not something we want to do, but something God calls us to. From a Christian perspective all leadership is about calling. That calling may be a niggle from within. In my experience it is often something that comes through others, sometimes to being a leader in ways you would not have thought of yourself. When being called a key thing is to be able to discern that call, to listen carefully to see if it is confirmed by God through both your niggles within and what others are saying. When I was called to be Minister Provincial of the TSSF I did not want to stand. But others suggested it, and the niggles would not leave me. So I allowed my name to go forward, and hoped the process would elect another. In the end I was named Minister, but in that process I learnt to trust the niggles and the process of selection, and to know God would work through that.

Knowing I am called means that I can trust God, trust that God will give me the gifts I need, and more importantly trust that God will work through me despite my many failings. Being called also invites me to take seriously my need to anchor myself in God, to nurture my faith, my relationship everyday, to immerse myself in scripture, in stillness and silence, to be shaped an moulded by prayer so that I may live out of God’s love for me and all people, and not out of my own needs and ego desires. To put it another way, I am a leader only because I am first a follower. In a youth ministry setting being a follower first means being a role model for young people, that they may see that being a leader is not about themselves, but about following, and what it takes t be a follower.

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? Luke presents a picture of someone who saw the world very differently. In Luke 10: 21-24 Jesus rejoices that Gods wisdom has “because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…” Infants! How outrageous is this. In his culture God did not speak through infants, or children. God spoke through rabbis and priests. Elders! Jesus constantly stepped outside the deepest and most tightly held convictions of his culture and his religion to show people what more both could be. He behaved in outrageous ways, healing on the Sabbath, eating with unclean people, sharing his teaching with women. He told inflammatory stories like the parable of the Good Samaritan, which said that all people are our neighbours, even those we fear and loathe and hate the most, and we should love them. He treated all people as if they were made in the image of God. All people! To be a follower of Jesus then is to be equally bold, to be willing to step outside the deepest and most tightly held convictions of our culture and our religion to show people what more both could be. To be a follower of Jesus is to know the scandalous truth of the gospel as bishop Philip described it, “that I am profoundly, unreservedly and undeservedly loved by God, so are you, and so is every other human being,” and to live that out. That means loving every young person, and role modelling that love for the young people we meet. It looks much easier to do this than it really is. That is why it is so important that our leadership is based first on our being a follower, so that we do not try to live this way in our own strength, but in the grace of God.

The second part of the reading from Luke Jesus says: “Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” To be a follower is to keep our eyes on Jesus through the gospels. As we read and immerse ourselves on Jesus in the gospels we learn to see the risen Jesus at work in the world around us. The starting point is the gospels. As we read the bible from the gospels we also learn to read our cultures and our religions that we are immersed in and shaped by, and we learn to read our ministries and our leadership from and through the gospels. We learn to step outside those things, to want to be more, to live to offer a vision of each than is more than currently exists.

This does not mean that we stop being Pakeha or Maori. It is where we start from, the turangawaewae that gives us the ground on which we stand. Jesus never stopped being a first century Jew. The apostles never stopped being first century Jews. But they became more than that, and so must we if we are to lead as followers of Jesus.
Jesus shone the spotlight on his tikanga and in doing so he revealed God at work among the poorest, among the outcasts, among those his culture and religions said had no access to God, or to the core religious or community activities. God was at work bring justice to those who needed it. God is still at work in our tikanga, in our cultures, bringing life and justice to those who need it. Our role as leaders is to do as Jesus did, and shine the spotlight on our tikanga, to show God at work, to join God in that work, and to help our culture, our religion, our church, our ministry among young people to be more than it is now.

Sometimes it is said that a good leader will have a vision, and will work with others to grow that vision to bring it into being. As I reflect on some leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and Te Whiti Rongomai and Tohu of Parihaka, it seems to me that they did not so much offer a vision, but put into words the longing of those they became leaders for. The vision was not theirs so much as the peoples. But they voiced it. They gave it life, and invited their followers to hope that it might be so. They worked to keep the vision alive, to keep people focussed on the vision, to keep hope alive. Rather than leaders being the ones to have the vision, it seems more important they are people who can draw out of people their vision, to give voice to the collective vision that already lies in their hearts, and to allow for the hope that this vision might become reality. That is a different task than being the one with the vision. It becomes much less about me, and much more about the other. It becomes much less about telling, and much more about listening, listening to the people and to God speaking through them.

One final thing about vision. These leaders did not rest with the longing of their people. They called them to hope for more. Gandhi called Indians from a desire for freedom from British rule, to hope for an free India for all: Muslim, Hindu, Christian. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King moved their people to hope not just for an end to their oppression, but freedom from oppression for all who lived in their lands. And Te Whiti and Tohu called their followers to not just hope for peace and justice for Maori, but peace and justice for all who live in Aotearoa.

So to in youth ministry. We are to help young people belong to a community that cares for them, and the wider church to speak their longing to have young people as part of their community. In the end both those longings are self centred to some degree, and the task of leaders in youth ministry is to help move that vision to a longing that lives out God’s unreserved and unconditional love among all people, that seeks God’s life and justice for all people, to be much more than we are now because that is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

To be a leader then is to be a follower first. That means seeking God first, immersing oneself in the gospel so that I might know deep within God’s infinite love for me and for all creation. In that love leaders are called to live out God’s love, and work with God in drawing forth people deepest longings and desires, and invite them to embrace all of God’s world out of those desires. To be a leader in youth ministry in Aotearoa-New Zealand is to live out Gods life giving love among young people and the church, to invite both to be more than they are, to invite both to join God’s prophetic and life giving mission.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


So, I did the ride. Seven hours, forty eight minutes. Bugger! I was hopoing for a lot faster than that. This was the first time I have done this ride confident I woudl do a good time, feeling fit and ready, and I did my second slowest time, but over an hour. I was gutted. But life is like that really. Some fo the things you feel most ready for, most prepared for just don;t work. And some of the things you feel least ready fro are the things that do work and come off.

The good thing was that next year it will be easier to beat that time.

One of the thing that really annoyed me was this women beat me as well. I guess that means there is hope for me yet.