Advent Week 2: Preparation

Posted on December 05, 2016 by Lahna Pottle
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s,

For a lot of Schools workers, Advent is a great opportunity to talk about Christianity in schools and to engage students with thinking more deeply about this time of the year.

We want to resource and inspire Schools workers across the nation to engage with advent. So here on the blog each week in the lead up to Christmas, we are going to take a look at the different common themes of the advent candles, and reflect on what it means for our schools work.

The second theme is preparation. So how do we prepare young people's hearts/souls/minds for Christ?

We usually have an agenda when it comes to our youth work and we often know what’s best for young people - whether that’s the resources we use to support them in their social and emotional development, or how we choose to communicate the gospel in a way they’ll understand… Everybody knows it comes in handy to have some kind of plan. We come to 1:1s, workshops or lessons with fresh ideas for how to introduce young people to God’s word, and at this time of year we perhaps want them to understand the meaning of Christmas and why Jesus coming to earth matters. The tools we use are  beneficial and life giving, leading to development and wellbeing for that individual, and if the resources are good, young people are much more likely to engage with the subject…

BUT alongside all of this, even more important than the content itself, is the need to introduce our young people to a brand new culture. An environment and way of being that means they’re ready to hear about the birth of Jesus and the Gospel (or whatever else we’re planning on discussing that day) when we talk about it. Every single time our young people meet with us, they should be stepping into a culture that stems directly from our knowing Jesus. This way of being will be markedly different and it should flow throughout whatever tools we use to work with that young person. 

Setting ‘Jesus culture’ is in how we greet a young person when they arrive at a session, to how we listen to them as they wrestle with complicated questions, without imposing our own opinions. It’s forgiving them every time they mess up, whilst still maintaining high expectations for them, and it’s in holding onto hope for young people, even when they can’t see it for themselves. It’s always treating them with respect, no matter what, and perhaps it’s creating a space for them to ponder the deeper questions in life. 

We may know where we’d like our young people to get to, especially when it comes to their faith journey and understanding of Jesus (and in advent, perhaps the Christmas story), but in reality it doesn’t always work out like that. This week I sat in a couple of 1:1s with different young people, keenly aware of my own agenda for what I wanted them to understand, and having to set it firmly aside in order to meet them where they were at. When a young person is barely having their basic needs met, or is struggling so much with anxiety that they can’t focus on anything, we have to go back to basics. 

If we can provide a culture where a young person feels loved and accepted, just as they are, we’ll be showing them why the Christmas story matters, and why it can make a difference in their own lives. After that, if they allow us to, we might be able to get into the details, using resources and tools to our hearts content, but first let’s focus on Jesus culture and developing a relationship they can use for their own personal growth.

How do we prepare young people’s hearts/souls/minds for Christ?

We usually have an agenda when it comes to our youth work and we often know what’s best for young people - whether that’s the resources we use to support them in their social and emotional development, or how we choose to communicate the gospel in a way they’ll understand… Everybody knows it comes in handy to have some kind of plan. We come to 1:1s, workshops or lessons with fresh ideas for how to introduce young people to God’s word, and at this time of year we perhaps want them to understand the meaning of Christmas and why Jesus coming to earth matters. The tools we use are  beneficial and life giving, leading to development and wellbeing for that individual, and if the resources are good, young people are much more likely to engage with the subject…

BUT alongside all of this, even more important than the content itself, is the need to introduce our young people to a brand new culture. An environment and way of being that means they’re ready to hear about the birth of Jesus and the Gospel (or whatever else we’re planning on discussing that day) when we talk about it. Every single time our young people meet with us, they should be stepping into a culture that stems directly from our knowing Jesus. This way of being will be markedly different and it should flow throughout whatever tools we use to work with that young person. 

Setting ‘Jesus culture’ is in how we greet a young person when they arrive at a session, to how we listen to them as they wrestle with complicated questions, without imposing our own opinions. It’s forgiving them every time they mess up, whilst still maintaining high expectations for them, and it’s in holding onto hope for young people, even when they can’t see it for themselves. It’s always treating them with respect, no matter what, and perhaps it’s creating a space for them to ponder the deeper questions in life. 

We may know where we’d like our young people to get to, especially when it comes to their faith journey and understanding of Jesus (and in advent, perhaps the Christmas story), but in reality it doesn’t always work out like that. This week I sat in a couple of 1:1s with different young people, keenly aware of my own agenda for what I wanted them to understand, and having to set it firmly aside in order to meet them where they were at. When a young person is barely having their basic needs met, or is struggling so much with anxiety that they can’t focus on anything, we have to go back to basics. 

If we can provide a culture where a young person feels loved and accepted, just as they are, we’ll be showing them why the Christmas story matters, and why it can make a difference in their own lives. After that, if they allow us to, we might be able to get into the details, using resources and tools to our hearts content, but first let’s focus on Jesus culture and developing a relationship they can use for their own personal growth.

Lucy Greenland, Assistant Director of Youthscape Luton.