Kevin Colyer's thoughts and ponderings

Semi-random rambles

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Missing A Monastic Link?


Copyright user Ian Brittan CC-BY-NC

A video news item from the BBC caught my eye this morning. It is a review of the first year of the new monastic experiment for 20-35’s of the St Anselm community initiated and hosted by Archbishop Justin Welby in Lambeth Palace.

As I watched the video I was reminded quite strongly of the period I was working with Youth With A Mission, England running one year-long programmes of discipleship and evangelism, called Operation Year (Op Year for short). We wore less robes and waved our hands in the air more in worship but that was the only major difference I could see in this short piece by the BBC and my experience: the similarities were overwhelming.

Similarities and differences

Starting off with that which is very similar.

  • Op Year was for 18-35 year olds.
  • Mixture of genders and nationalities
  • Lasted one year (!)
  • Mixture of training, spiritual development, prayer and outreach work
  • Residential
  • Ecumenical (if I understand the t’s & c’s correctly)
  • a Sodal community – not a rooted local church (see here)
  • The Archbishop (he has initiated St Anselm’s community and is also the Patron of Youth With A Mission, England
  • Benefits – both years lead people more deeply rooted in their faith, with a deeper knowledge of who they are, skills for life and ministry and a deeper compassion.

The community of St Anselm is of course different and not the same thing and what immediately springs to mind are:

  • Intent – Op Year is run by a missionary organisation and has stronger evangelisation goals.  St Anselm seeks to be a monastic community
  • Rule of life – St Anselm has a clearly defined rule of life and a stronger rhythm of prayer
  • Philosophy of discipleship – this requires a deeper look but I would expect the formation to be more reflective and gently guided. YWAM’s style is more provocative and drives change through passionate inspiration and challenges change and growth. (I believe both approaches equally valid)
  • Somewhat cheaper – no cost is mentioned for St Anselm. Op Year charges for board, accommodation and tuition for a year.
  • St Anselm is heading into a second year and as far as I know there are no Op Years running.

There are more differences I am certain and I am writing this with scant true knowledge of St Anselm’s (please forgive!) I have recently moved from Youth With A Mission where I had extensive Op Year experience over the years and I am currently an Anglican Ordinand studying for Pioneer ministry.

I am intrigued about the new monastic movement from which I assume that St Anselm’s is drawing inspiration from. I would be very interested in comparing and contrasting and reflecting much more deeply on the tension between the two programmes. I would not have wished to identify with a monastic experience when I was a member and a leader of Op Years, but now I am not too sure if it was not more closely aligned than I could have imagined. I wonder what I will learn as I dig deeper?


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Church at the Margins

Polish SausageJesus was a man who went to the margins of society; he touched the lepers, he allowed the prostitutes to weep on his feet and he hung out with the disreputable and the hypocritical alike. So we should expect his followers to do the same.

I had a wonderful day in Sheffield visiting Dave, Dave and Jennifer who have done just that. The margins in question are the ones drawn by UKIP – migrant workers – and in this case a small community of Polish men and women, who had fallen out of work, and found themselves homeless and reliant on the bottle to get them through. Dave and Dave over the past couple of years have invested their lives totally in them and one by one seen them getting off the streets and starting to get sober and get on the road to working again.

Over the years they had invited the guys along to a larger churches meeting which although positive was not really a place they found a home. I joined them for one of the first meetings of the church that the Dave’s and Jennifer have formed for them.

We met in a church café not very far from Sheffield station. Few churches begin with a small tussle over putting aside the Peach Schnapps. Once that was over we ate a simple meal of Polish sausage and cucumbers, and tasted the Polish sweets on the table. We worshipped together, with hearty singing from the guys. People drifted in and out all the time. One guy had an epileptic seizure but recovered well with care from some others.

There was no rush and we had a short Bible study. The men are well-educated and some had good Bible knowledge. The week before they had knelt and all accepted Christ and it was clear that was a real and deeply felt commitment. Each of the men asked for prayer into their needs: recovery of a passport, a place to stay off the streets (all prayers answered I hear) and we prayed long and hard for them.

The meeting ended with a rush for the bottle for one guy, but for the rest they left peacefully. It was an oasis of peace and love for them.

This was a Fresh Expression of church. It is a group that is very distinct culturally with some very special needs and life controlling problems that would not be met in a normal church with its programme orientated worship and time bound services. There was a real depth of worship there, a hunger for God and a real sense of his presence, of love, of fun and some new disciples of Christ making progress on their journey.

I can’t wait to see them all on my next visit and how far they will have come.

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Post-Sprint Review

Dear All,

I am back in Brussels and the Sprint is over. We had a blast and we missed you all!

In the end Pitpat, Arnoud and myself spent a very hot few days hunched over computers, pizzas and gummy bears working on the KB in Berlin.

It was a lot of fun and it felt like we made a LOT of progress in a very short time. We spent time annoying the Berlin YWAMers by asking them to do usability tests for us which was INCREDIBLY helpful. We made a some simple, quick but hopefully relevant changes to the KB that will help others engage faster (actually when we conducted another test after that user was twice as fast as the others… which is encouraging but not conclusive of course!)

It was a valuable process and I would recommend doing similar things in projects you might be running: observing someone new engaging with our website or even YWAM centre or team! It was eye-opening.

There are oodles of other things discussed and plans worked out for including a more advanced plan and infrastructure for translation of ‘completed’ KB articles (see YWAM Statement of Faith for a live example). We also have a clearer idea of what to work on and how to keep on improving. (see the new and improved DTS pages, categories and sub-categories for an example) We want to create some bounties of tasks or sub-projects that we can offer to U of N schools for student assignments.

The full report is available from the Community pages at: YWAMKnowledgeBase:Sprint_2010_Report. Please have a good look at what we have there and see where you might be able to help us with the ongoing project.

We missed you all and hope you will continue to send feedback and contribute to the KB. Summer is upon us now and I have a 7 week furlough soon so you will not hear from me much for a while (thank heavens!).



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June YWAMKB news – it’s the Sprint!

Dear Infonauts,

I am writing this on the train to Berlin, where I will meet face to face with other YWAM KB editors to chat, think, pray and work hard on the KB. We had a lot of fun last year at our Sprint and I am looking forward to this coming meeting very much.

Finding time to work on the KB has been exceptionally difficult for most of us recently. The top five editors have been marrying off children, changing nappies on children (different editor’s kids!), taking exams, fixing their computers, running YWAM bases and generally handling Real Life! When I talk to other YWAMers I know this to be true too.

I think the reality is that most of us are overworked and under-resourced. This makes taking time to write and in doing so to pass on to others vital help a lower priority than we would wish.

I recall the Eisenhower Matrix, that Covey made use of in his Seven Habit’s book and how the Important but NON-Urgent tasks are so easily squeezed out by Important (and Not-Important) Urgent tasks. Reclaiming this time, or taming it and diminishing the Urgent takes plenty of thought and delegation to others. Good delegation requires training. Where might we get the training? On the KnowledgeBase!

So can I urge you to break out of this treadmill! Consider how to delegate and when you train and develop others (to reduce the time pressure on yourself) why not prepare that material and place it on the KB? Remember you don’t have to produce a finished article – even rough notes are better than nothing (see a lot of my contributions!)

Why not drop by the YWAMKB Sprint pages this week or catch up with us as a virtual participant around 4pm (GMT+2) on Skype (kevincolyerwork). Even a simple “I would like…” comment can help us a lot! Please keep your eyes peeled and I hope we all will rise above the tyranny of the urgent (me especially!).

One thing you could do that would be simple is to help us out by answering the questions below over the next 24 hours.



Quick survey for YWAMKB Sprint 2010

  1. What are the top 3 best things about the KB?
  2. What 3 things could be improved? (Any suggestions of how welcome)
  3. What articles do you miss?
  4. What is the harshest criticism you would make of the YWAMKB? (Please be frank if you have some negative concerns!)
  5. Do you have an endorsement that we could use (please give name and role!) or a positive comment for us?
  6. Anything else?

Please FORWARD your answers to Replying might send your comments to everyone on the mailing list!

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April News from the YWAM KnowledgeBase

Dear Infonauts,

I hope you have had a long and enjoyable break from these YWAMKB messages. The gap since the last November newsletter has been so wide due to the rather intense family life I am experiencing at the moment in addition to being a Base leader and National leader.

We have some GREAT news! We have served more than 500,000 pages since we started running the KB. This is a wonderful landmark to achieve. Recently the KB has entered a READING phase rather than a EDITING phase and the statistics seem to indicate that we have more readers than a year ago. (Sometimes EDITING creates a lot of READING hits due to repeated viewing by the editor). These are page impressions by the way, not ‘hits’. When a website describes their ‘hits’ they often mean all the requests the web-server gets, rather than whole pages served up. (The YWAMKB server says we have had 660,428 hits in the last 12 months right now for example).

Over the last months we have been doing some minor improvements and optimising the KB to serve pages faster. It is some 6 times faster in serving pages now (I bet you hardly noticed). We have also improved the backend processes and made the human factor in caring for the YWAMKB more robust too. Now if I get hit by a bus, the KB will survive. The data will not be lost and pretty much anyone could replicate the whole system somewhere else. But please send flowers in this eventuality!

Another important thing is to know that you are warmly invited to the next KB Sprint that we are holding in Berlin in June. We will be there from 7 June, leaving on 11 June and we want to welcome all to this meeting. Your virtual presence is appreciated even if you are unable to come in person. ANYONE who cares is welcome. ANYONE who cares is welcome to add to the discussion. The Sprint page is being developed here: YWAMKnowledgeBase:Sprint2010‎. If you would like to come but travel costs prohibit them please let us know and we will see what we can do about it. The face to face interaction we will have is intended to boost and cement the virtual relationships we share throughout the year.

Lastly, if you are struggling to find something on the KB, please send one of us a short email saying HELP! I have recently had a couple of these and it was a pleasure to locate material and in a couple of cases realise that we had a few gaps that needed plugging. It is very useful feedback knowing that people can’t find something – much more so than finding out that people can find something!

Till next time, every blessing!


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September Newsletter from the YWAM KnowledgeBase

Dear Infonauts,

Welcome to the autumn term after a wild and/or restful summer (maybe both?).

I am very much overdue to write this little newsletter for the KB. It has been an interesting few months recently where we have made some jumps forward and a few leaps backward too.

Arnoud (or Little Eagle) has been doing a superb job of pulling the community side of the KB together. He has organised the recent Cleaning Days and been active on the Facebook group. The Cleaning Days have been good and certainly help me to focus time on the KB, knowing others are hard at work too. One of the great things about working together at the same time is that one sparks off another. Also mutual appreciation flows. After all, it is hard to know if someone values an edit you made to the KB if you don’t get feedback.

Recently I have been having a lot of positive collaboration time with PitPat who has been using a tool I created to evaluate websites. Through evaluating the KnowledgeBase (and it failed 3 out of the 4 tests!) we learnt a lot about what is important in an evaluation and have radically improved the tool. I recommend having a look at Evaluate your YWAM website and then the evaluation of the KB too. Massive thanks to PitPat.

Anyway I have since then implemented a number of improvements we identified that could be quickly achieved (or I alone could do) such as upgrading the MediaWiki software and some server tweaks and administrative procedures to reduce the bus factor (number of people critical to the long term management of the site).

You may notice no difference, or quite a lot of difference as upgrading usually breaks a few custom extensions to the wiki as well as fix the security holes (very important). Please report anything that is troubling you as this is a large project and it is hard to see all the less common faults.

Sharing Knowledge I was following the GLT meetings recently in Switzerland and I noticed the following paragraph in one report about communication:

“Finally, the GLT have had communicators writing their internal minutes, and producing short videos and these written reports for the wider YWAM body. Knowledge is power, and good leadership seeks to empower people through sharing knowledge. Wherever security allows, it is good to communicate appropriately. Many leadership teams have followed the GLT’s example and invite communicators to observe and serve them…”

I was thrilled that GLT members see this value that the KB has been striving to achieve! Now, where you can play your part is getting those who lead you to take this word from the GLT and start applying it to the KB. Surprisingly there is only ONE GLT leader who has made any direct contribution, and that is Steve Goode. Others have material on the KB (put there often by me). Very few leaders at National or Base level have contributed either. Anyway, it is time to remind them of their responsibility to train and develop others and to maximise that contribution via the KnowledgeBase! So please pester your leaders, ask them what they could contribute, and teach them how to do it! That we all might grow! They may prefer face to face encounters but let’s remember the Apostles Paul, Peter and John (et al!) all thought the written word an appropriate way to develop and nurture those they were responsible for!



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YWAM KnowledgeBase news June 2009

Dear All,

Last month was an exciting month for me and I hope for all in the KB community! The Sprint meeting was a very key event and an unusual one too.

I’ve been to quite a few YWAM events but this was the first where we actively invited non-physically present participants to engage with us. Each day at 4pm it was a lot of fun connecting to YWAMers from different continents making friends and talking KB. I think the two key outcomes of the Sprint were the creation of KB community and start of more systematic training using the KB.

It has been a surprise to me how the Facebook group has been developing and the types of discussion and connections made there. It seems we need a place where we can generally chat – perhaps the discussion tools on the KB itself are not suited to the sort of conversations folks are wanting to hold! Arnoud has a passion to make this community a cosy space. We also think that having a regular time slot online that the community can come and chat in and ask help from each other would be beneficial. So listen out for Arnoud’s invitations (coming soon!). We also started a mailing list that many people are receiving this message through right now! This is for the community – please use it, call for help on it, ask questions, make suggestions, send insults, jokes etc. If you are not on it you can simply join it from here: We have links now from the front page of the KB to both the Facebook group and the KB Mailing list.

The second important development is what we are calling “Threads” (for want of a better name). When we surveyed people about the KB it seemed there were a variety of different ways people used it to get answers to their questions. But there were many people not having a clue what to do with it at all. The strength of the KB is that you can just stick in a page. Searching will pull it out. However, when you want to learn a set of skills or gain a broader understanding of a subject (e.g. starting a new team or becoming a dts staff member) it makes sense to have a pathway through those pages, systematically pulling together the key topics and skills needed.

So we created these pathways or threads (if you have a better name please suggest it!). They appear on the front page. We started with some classic roles and questions and provided the initial links to category pages etc. But some are now sporting the initials WIP (Work In Progress) and a little spanner. These are the new thread pages and this is where we think we need some extra input.

The WIP’s need developing and expanding. They need each skill-set breaking down, then pages or sections of the KB matched to them with links. Where there are gaps in the KB (and there will be lots) we can create the article title we want and seek people to write them. (links to pages that don’t exist are called Wanted Pages and you can get a list at any time here:

Exciting times. I hope you are as pleased as we are.

The next time to connect will be Monday 8th June (


Kevin Colyer