Working with children and young people has its ups and downs....
Editorial - June 2014
Hello and welcome to Youth Work Summit month! (Also known as June.) If you are reading this at the Summit, then a very warm welcome to you. If you are not at the Summit…why on earth not? Not really, we forgive you – and hope that you will enjoy this issue of the magazine which ties in with the Summit’s theme of ‘Open’.
Open is one of those words which we all feel pretty familiar with, finding it on shop doors, bottle tops and computers. It’s also one of those words that starts to sound weird if you say it too many times (‘Open’, ‘Open’, ‘Ohhhhhpppeen’). So why the theme of openness?
Jesus was radically open. He didn’t cling to his family, possessions, or ministry. He owned nothing so had nothing to grasp too tightly, sharing all that he had with others. He served others freely, as and when their needs presented themselves to him. He served and lived not out of duty or obligation, but out of freedom and love. (See Danielle Strickland on how to be open handed.)
He was open minded – willing to be challenged by those around him. In Matthew 15 we see the fascinating example of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. At the outset, Jesus does nothing to help her demon-possessed daughter – convicted that his ministry is to the Jews. When the woman persists and kneels before him, weeping and pleading with him for the crumbs from under the masters’ table, Jesus is moved and changes his mind. Seeing her great faith, he heals her daughter in that instant. (See Krish Kandiah on how to be open minded.)
His eyes were wide open - and he had a vision for his ministry which far surpassed other’s expectations. He didn't stick within his tribe, but rejected the religious leaders of the day, calling them a ‘brood of vipers’ and turning over the tables in the temple. He hung around with tax collectors and known sinners, praising the faith of a Roman Centurion and granting eternal life to a convicted criminal. (See a panel discussion with youth workers on unity and the wider picture of youth work.)
He was open to God – meaning that he would do the will of the Father even if it meant the end of his ministry, the loss of his friendships and a humiliating death on a cross. Knowing all that was to come, he knelt down in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed those dangerous words: ‘Yet not my will, but yours be done’. (See Mark Yaconelli on opening your soul.)
Finally, he was open hearted - responding to people’s needs as they arose, having compassion on those others had condemned, and weeping over his dead friend. (See a Bible study on this passage by Gerard Kelly.)
The hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry were love and freedom, enabling him to be fully open to God and to others. If love brings freedom and openness, fear brings imprisonment and closure. When we stop serving others (for fear of being vulnerable or sharing ourselves) when we close our minds (for fear of being challenged or wrong) when we close our hearts (for fear of being hurt or rejected) or shut off from God (for fear of what surrendering fully might mean) – we are acting out of fear, not love.
Being open is scary. For Jesus it meant the loss of everything, even his life. But it’s also the only way to be truly free, to live life out of love and not fear. I hope and pray that through the sessions at the Youth Work Summit, and through the pages of this magazine – you might know more deeply God’s perfect love which casts out all fear, and be drawn towards radical, Jesus-like, openness.