What a demand? What an unreasonable request?
You’ve left everything behind, followed this potentially crazy guy into the outback with no job or cash flow, and now he reckons you’re going to feed 5000 people. Nice one.
When Jesus was tempted, food was at the back of the mind, man doesn’t live by bread alone, right? But here, with those who are spiritually unaware and spiritually seeking, ‘the crowd’, this physical desire moves front and centre. This one need which covered everyone in the space.
The job of his followers – not to send them away and come back later as they thought, was to find a way to meet that need and therefore to offer something good to everyone.
Offering something positive to everyone, the whole crowd – not just the committed or the most ‘In need’ but everyone. Seems Jesus had a great plan… One to replicate…
One problem though, my young people aren’t hungry… some of them might stand to have a better diet, but they aren’t starving. Many have abundance, so feeding them carries less significance.
So what one need do they all have, what common denominator deficiency that means I can give them all something good?
It’s simple, basic, across all demographics. Young people need, want and respond to fun. It’s an essential and yet often neglected aspect of working with young people.
For my high achieving kids under pressure to get all A*s, pass their music grade and captain the sports team it offers a break.
For those who have had to grow up early because of the situation at home, it offers the chance to be young and free again, to not be the adult.
For those forced to come on a Sunday, it makes the morning that much less painful for them, offers a chance of belonging and love even though they switch off at the bible time. It serves the parents by potentially making it less of a fight every week.
When you want them to invite friends to events you’ll have more success if they can tell their friends how much fun they have every week.
There’s been a tonne of work done on the impact of positive touch and lack of it in the lives of young men. (Checkout @drantbradley on twitter if you’re interested.) Play and fun provides the opportunity for positive touch, deepening the relationships and impacting every other part of your work.
How did the disciples feed the people? They used whatever was in the room and let Jesus multiply it.
So I can’t tell you much of the how – it depends what you have in your room. The humour you have and that of your young people. That can be difficult and even downright weird.
I’ve had young people who enjoyed stupid jokes and riddles, so I brushed up on those. I’ve had young people really enjoy games, and they became instrumental in our work. Equally, I’ve had young people who enjoyed challenges around talking to strangers, singing out of car windows and really pushing each other to do some out there things. I even had a group of young people who basically invented their own language – I had little idea how or why but I had to jump in and use it.
Almost all groups I have worked with enjoy “banter” and this can be a great way of pulling folks together. As a Northern Irishman the idea of people not liking you until they’ve mugged you off feels like home. This provides the ability of enabling people to laugh at their foibles and mistakes; to not take themselves too seriously and for a demonstration of repentance and grace whenever the line is crossed. It can become one of those things that’s understood within the group and so feels like “our thing”, our humour, our culture and that is a huge win for group development.
Don’t underestimate the power of those moments when your group is laughing together. Of having the ability to reminisce about the fun that was had.
In the current age of isolation behind screens, young people reporting social media as the most negative influence on their lives, laughter may indeed be the best meal for the many, not the few.