Brian O’Connel speaks on “Education and a future of our youth”

winterskool-brian-oconnelO’Connel is the Head of the Western Cape Department of Education and he was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Winter School in Stellenbosch.

O’Conner started off with painting a picture of the future of the earth and it shocked the audience. He explained why climate changes are creating a major crisis and challenge for us. By 2025 there will be serious energy, water, food shortages, especially in South Africa.

His point was that this generation’s leaders are challenged to solve this problem. We need to influence the future. But in order to do this we must be talking about the right (important) things and we must be willing to change our way of thinking. We need to try make sense of the statistics and respond to it timeously. We need to start by changing the culture and the conversation. The church can play an important role in this.

The question that this talk left me with, was why am I not really thinking about climate change and the future? And why is this topic so seldom discussed in the church?

Abigail Hopley on the “selfie generation”

winterskool-abigail-hopleyAnriëtte de Ridder

Abigail Hopley was one of the session speakers at this year’s winter school in Stellenbosch. She started off by quoting the statistics of young people leaving the church as well as the reasons for it, from the book “You lost me” by David Kinnaman. She also showed a video clip of David Kinnaman where he requests that we engage in a conversation with young adults who have left the church.

She also described how social media influences the identity of the youth and explained why we it is important that we think about identity and social media when we work with the youth.

Abigail helped me remember that social media and media influences are not just a tool to reach young people but fundamentally changes the way the youth act, feel and think today.

Anita Cloete: youth culture

winterskool-anita-cloeteDr Anita Cloete

Dr Anita Cloete was a session speaker at this years Winter School in Stellenbosch. She started off by reframing the topic. The question according to her, is not “how can we make the youth feel at home in church? but rather, “What can we learn from young people about what church is?”.

She made 2 main points:

  • Youth are not a homogenous group


The church should be and look diverse if it wants to include and serve a diverse youth. She asked the question how we can practically become more diverse and including and she made some suggestions.

  • Teenagers live in a time of transition…


She also explained that teenage life is a good metaphor for the church. As teenagers are living in a time of transition, the church should also live in a a place of transition (change, movement, and not knowing everything, questioning, etc.) We are embodying something of the kingdom but we are also pointing to the Coming Kingdom.

Dr Cloete reminded me that we cannot generalize when speaking about the youth. There are many sub-cultures. After her talk I am left with the question – how well do I know the youth in my community?

Rev Esmé Bouwers on the role of the local church

winterskool-esme-bouwers-church-on-a-hillRev Esmé Bouwers was a keynote speaker at this years Winter School in Stellenbosch. She confronted and motivated the Winter School delegates with the question: is the church a city on a hill or “agter die klip”? What are the stones that hinder the church to shine and be the salt?

She described places in her own life where she saw the church as it should be – unified, in spite of theological differences. Humbly asking forgiveness. Seeking to serve.

We should discover our local church’s purpose. It should not be about growing in numbers or building bigger churches, but it should rather be about serving.

Read Eph, Rom, 1Kor 12, Rev.

Each congregation has its own sin, challenges and recommendations

It is His church! Each church should be a light in the community in which they are in.

She explained why we should not only be a home for all as church, but why we must have a heart for all!! She challenged the delegates to rethink the role of women and the youth in leadership. She challenged the diversity and inclusion of all in churches.

The church is a:

City on a hill!

Salt and light!

Rev Esmé Bouwers is reshaping the way we think about women in leadership positions by her own example. Her affirmation of the local church gave me hope and made me think about my own congregation’s role in the community.

Lovelyn Nwadeyi on the youth and politics

winterskool-lovelyn-nwadeyi-youth-and-politicsLovelyn Nwadeyi is described as a young, public intellectual and she was a keynote speaker at this years Winter School in Stellenbosch. She started off by telling her own story and her involvement in the student protests last year. She described her own disappointment when her church did not support her effort, or engage in conversation with her, during this time.

She believes that churches cannot be neutral in politics. The youth will not be at home in church if there is no voice about social injustice. The church will lose the youth if it does not engage in the issues that the youth struggle with. She asked the question: “Why were certain churches silent or passive in the conversation and protest on US campus (#feesmustfall or #openstellenbosch)?”

She explained her view that the fact that the gospel reached Africa through colonization, influenced the interpretation of the gospel. She raised the questions: How did history influence Christianity in Africa and how does that hinder the church being a home for all?

She is convinced that a homogene church is problematic! How would a church look like where one (male) person does not lead, but where everyone has a voice? How would a church look like decentralized? How would a multicultural church look like with ALL types if people included equally?

She left us with some challenging questions…

Jesus overturned the tables… What would He do today?

When is political conversation needed and when is action needed?

How do we as Christians act when we cannot control the space?

Is there a place for violence?

She quoted Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

She concluded by quoting her favourite jazz singer Gregory Porter’s song “Illusion”:

“I’ve been trying to find reality

a grip on the illusion that I lost you

when you left me”.

Read the lyrics: Gregory Porter – Illusion Lyrics | MetroLyrics

This speaker was challenging in her views and left me to consider what should the church’s voice and role should be in politics and social transformation.