Sad to see that Mark, who I gather had been suffering from cancer, has died. He was only 62.
Mark Ashton was CYFA Secretary from 1981-1987 (two before me, although the title had changed and so had the job by the time I took it on).
He had worked as a minister in Cambridge since then.
His seminal work, and greatest contribution to youth ministry in this country, was the book Christian Youth Work. In a period when many were beginning to look down on the fellowship model of youth ministry he outlined how it was meant to work, not as a Christian clique but as an outward-looking group of young people who were disicpled that, as part of being an ordinary Christian, one looked out towards those of no faith and invited them in.
In those heady days CYFA National Conferences (usually at Kinmel Hall in North Wales) attracted so many leaders they had to be run on two successive weekends.
Asked, in my early days, to write a vision statement for fellowship model youth work, I could do no better than repeat this, which Mark had sent round in a mailing some years earlier:
CYFA aims to help churches present young people mature in Christ as appropriate for them, using Colossians 1:28 as a key verse in understanding this.
It encourages groups to take these five principles equally seriously to ensure their work is biblical and balanced:
Prayer as the mainstay of the work
Bible as the backbone of the teaching programme
Gospel as the attraction to the group
Relationships as an essential (importance of the individual not the group)
Church as the context for growth
He also, and many of you may wish him ill will for this, at a Venture Leaders training day in about 1985 or 6, taught me the alarm clock joke that has accompanied me on my teaching journey over many years since.
It might be a fitting tribute to him to reinsert some value into the name CYFA as CPAS seem to have lost interest in it. Anyone else up for that?