Be More Pirate
I’m reading a book called Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende. I haven’t finished it yet, but the thrust of its argument is that pirates – the ones from the ‘golden age of pirates’ (around 1690 to 1725) – were the rebellious innovators of their day.
These pirates, the author argues, went against the conventional wisdom of the day and the norm practised by the establishment, and found new ways of working – ways that were almost always fairer and more egalitarian than society in general. Sam Conniff Allende challenges the idea that pirates at this time were violent anarchists and asserts that they blazed a trail. They reinvented society so that, for example, everyone on board was given equal say, booty was shared fairly and those injured in service were looked after properly. These practises were initially resisted and ridiculed by the establishment before being taken up and made mainstream.
Sam Conniff Allende challenges his readers to be like those golden-age pirates – to reinvent everything. Not just tinker around the edges, but turn everything upside-down and innovate. Even though our innovations might start off at the fringes, he encourages us that, just as the reforms of the pirates were eventually taken on by society, whatever we innovate has the potential to change our field, and society in general, in the future.
So, thinking about the world of children’s and youth work, if we were more pirate in our approach, what would that mean? Well, we certainly wouldn’t do something because we’ve always done it. And we wouldn’t start a new ministry because lots of other people are doing it. We’d look at where we are and at the needs of our local community and come up with something new that makes a real difference in the lives of those around us.
It might be that our innovations won’t lead to bums on seats in existing Sunday groups or midweek ministries. Alternatively, it might mean that children, young people and families completely unused to being in church turn up on our doorstep (and don’t behave the way we expect people to behave in church). But that’s OK. In fact, if we’re ‘being more pirate’ then I’d expect these things to be the case. We might meet resistance to what we do, but again that’s almost a guarantee that we’re doing this pirate thing properly.
So, if you could throw everything out of the window and innovate in your own parish, what would work with children, young people and families look like? What do the people in your parish need that only their local church is in a position to provide? You might not be in a position to throw everything out, but where are you in a position to innovate in your ministry? Where can you take bold new steps towards reaching others with the good news of Jesus?