It is over a year since I wrote a blog for my website – I have focused on other things, but I have increasingly felt I shouldn’t be neglecting this space – so, here we are. I hope you find this fresh article helpful!
Myself and Lisa (my wife and the founder of!) have just returned from the Emmanuel Theological College residential. We had a great time with over 40 ordinands (those training for ordained ministry in the Church of England) exploring children’s and youth ministry. We had to try and pack a lot in, we had just five sessions to cover everything from some basics to faith formation, the significance of the home, intergenerational ministry and needing to be trauma informed!

On the Saturday morning before teaching sessions began, we met with the whole college for morning prayer and worship. I was particularly struck by these words from the Gospel reading (Luke 9),

This is a desolate place

Just those couple of words from verse 12. In different translations this is either isolated, remote, deserted. The crowds have effectively been stalking Jesus, finding out where he is going to be and turning up. Here they are again, but the day is late and Jesus and his disciples are in the middle of nowhere.

Practical considerations kick in. The Twelve come to Jesus and encourage him to send the crowds away to find food and somewhere to stay. Jesus replies, ‘you give them something to eat.

Before we carry on, if you read back to the beginning of Chapter 9, these are the same disciples Jesus has given power and authority to and sent out – to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Jesus had said to them, ‘take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.

When we are in ministry we need to remember where our reliance, our security, our peace and confidence reside. Not in what we might have to hand – but ultimately, in God’s provision!

So, here are those same disciples. Being challenged by Jesus to feed the crowds. What do they have? Nothing like enough! Five loaves of bread and two fish, barely enough to feed the twelve, never mind the 5,000 (more than, as men were counted – but there would have been women and children there too!)

Here is the thing. When it comes to children, youth and family ministry I think we can sometimes have a ‘poverty’ spirit. We focus perhaps on what we do not have. Not enough team, not enough children, not enough money, not enough resources, not enough support. We can feel that we are ministering in a ‘desolate place’ (nothing can grow here, it is just so hard, look around and you will see for yourself!)

We might feel that we have such a small amount (time, talent, treasure) that nothing can come of it. Nothing will grow.

But then we read on about what happens. Not only is everyone fed, but there are twelve baskets full of broken pieces left over. If Jesus can ‘multiply’ the five loaves and two fish, why the extra? Surely, he can pray for enough – and that would be it.

However, we serve a generous, extravagant God. Do we seek Him in our desolate places, or do we resign ourselves to ‘nothing can happen here’.

In ministry it can be so easy to slide in to comparing ourselves with either an ideal ministry situation (do they exist?) or with the church up the road, the youth ministry that has all the space, the kids ministry overflowing with volunteers.

Yet, here we are. In this place that God has called us to. Is God saying, ‘you give them something to eat’? We then don’t feed them, reach them, teach them, nurture them in our own strength but in partnership with the work of God in us and through us. We are invited to ‘have them sit down’ as Jesus instructs the disciples and then we – you and me – get to see a miracle from our own hands, just as the disciples distribute to the people – we share, lead, encourage and equip. Not from our own resources, but from the abundant goodness of God poured out in to our lives.

When we serve in the most desolate, isolated, remote and deserted places and see life and growth – we know it can only come about because of God’s grace and goodness. What an absolute joy it is that we get to join in with what He is doing.