Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    Personal Labyrinths for Youth Ministry

    I recently came across this image from from The Labyrinth Society Facebook page. Imagine creating these at a lock-in focused on contemplative prayer. Each student could make their own mini-labyrinths, personalizing it with different design or style. Send them home with some written suggestions on how to utilize their labyrinth as a daily prayer practice. Covenant as a group to walk your personal prayer labyrinths for a week or month, perhaps, and then share your experiences with each other. 

    Another option: After you have used these mini-labyrinths as a group for awhile, invite each youth to gift their labyrinth to a friend or an adult in your church with the invitation for them to walk and pray the labyrinth for a week or month and then pass on the labyrinth to yet another person.  Suggested items needed for project: muslin, brushes, acrylic paint, pencils, sample labyrinth designs. 

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    Youth Ministry Pin of the Day: Labyrinth Prayers

    Here's a great prayer idea if you don't have access to a full-sized labyrinth.

    I have always found it meaningful to pray with a labyrinth.  The insights you receive through the physical act of walking and praying as you traverse the path of a particular labyrinth can be quite surprising. I have found that youth are naturally drawn to labyrinths, perhaps because of their visually creative designs and because they offer an opportunity for active prayer. But you may not always have access to a large-scale labyrinth. I think this idea would be a great substitute, providing youth with printed copies of blank labyrinth designs and inviting them to "walk" the labyrinth by writing in their prayers as they move through the design. Challenge them to use different colors to represent different emotions, thoughts, insights. This activity would be best done in silence, perhaps with quiet music playing in the background.  

    Friday, January 23, 2015

    Are You Beloved?

    Invite your youth to claim their identity as beloved children of God with this simple activity. 

    I have to wonder that the world would be a better place if more people actually believed they were worthy to be called the beloved of God. 

    Teens particularly are constantly bombarded with explicit and implicit messages from peers, family, teachers, and consumer culture telling them they don't quite measure up. Yet, the gospel of Mark paints a portrait of a Jesus who claims his own belovedness in his baptism and then spends the rest of the book trying to help others claim their belovedness, too. 

    Spend some time with your youth discussing Mark's particular take on the baptism of Jesus. Invite your youth to consider what it would mean to truly believe we are loved by God and how trusting this might impact the way we live in the world.  What would it mean to treat all other persons as if they were beloved of God, too. How could they live in such a way that would help others to claim their belovedness? 

    Conclude your time by giving each youth two name tag stickers like the one pictured here. Challenge them to wear their name tag in proudly in public -- at school or work or a trip to the mall, for example.  Encourage them to be ready to share with others what the name tag is all about. They might even want to take a selfie while wearing the name tag and post it on social media. Additionally, encourage them to gift the other name tag to someone in their lives who really needs to know they are "beloved," whether this means giving them the name tag in person or dropping it in the mail.

    Friday, November 07, 2014

    Creating a Prayer Mosaic with Youth

    Try this creative pray method for helping your youth create a vibrant visual expression of how prayer binds us together as a family of faith. 

    Sometimes youth come to that moment when you ask "Who has a prayer concern or joy to lift up?" and nothing comes to mind. Recently, I tried this activity in worship as a way to stimulate ideas for prayer perhaps beyond what  might normally come to mind and to aid those who might have trouble focusing on a specific need or blessing.  

    Provide each participant with a colored paint chip (like they have at home improvement stores) or square of construction paper. Invite them into a time of prayerful meditation where the specific color of the square guides their thoughts. Perhaps a green square invites them to think about their gratefulness for the gifts of creation.  A blue square might remind them of a friend struggling with depression. A yellow square calls to mind a family member who brings warmth into their lives. Encourage the youth to write or draw something on their square that represents their prayer. 

    As they are ready, participants come forward to a canvas or piece of foam board where they will adhere their square. You could simply give everyone a roll of tape to put on the back of the squares so they will stick to the canvas. In my case, we actually lined the entire canvas with double-stick tape so all people had to do was come forward and stick their square right on (without the annoying sound of someone pulling tape off a roll over and over). 

    As each participant places their square, a beautiful, colorful mosaic forms.  Finish your time together by inviting youth to share, if they choose, what they prayed for and to discuss how the mosaic (both the finished product as an art piece and the process of creating it) symbolizes what happens when we pray together as one community of faith. 

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Guest Post: Imaging God

    Jay Campbell, Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministries at Clinton UMC in Clinton, NJ shares this idea for challenging youth to see the deep needs of the world through a contemplative experience exploring documentary photographs. For those of us who might think that teens can't handle silence or contemplation, Jay offers a window into just what can happen when you provide the right atmosphere:

    We moved into the sanctuary with only a few dim lights on and instrumental music playing in the back ground that invited us into a holy space. Throughout the sanctuary we placed 20 pictures (last time they were chosen from Buzz Feed’s Most Powerful Pictures from 2012 and 2013). We invited the students to take as much time as needed to explore the humanity in each picture and to write their response on the paper.

    I was blown away by what the youth wrote. They wrestled with questions of theodicy, saw hope and perseverance, saw the call of the church to stand for those oppressed, wrestled with the reality of a broken and painful world, as well as seeing the hope and possibility of a new reality. The first time we did this our middle school students stayed in the sanctuary for almost an hour, after we finished, to continue praying and expressing their honest thoughts and emotions. When everyone was finished, we stayed in the sanctuary to have honest discussion about our reactions. I will admit that it has not always stirred up joyful responses, but we journey together to see the reality that many face everyday in this world and end with the hope of God’s reign coming and our call to be apart of its in-breaking here and now. The Spirit of God has worked powerfully in these spaces.

    Some photos are heartbreaking, others inspiring. Each one stirs emotion and I challenged my youth to ask the questions: Knowing each photo represents a person, a story, a struggle (most often representing the reality of many people): Where is God in this picture? How is God at work? Where is God calling you and us to act and respond?

    Jay has been in ministry for a little over 5 1/2 years serving in roles of youth ministry and internships that include the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society working on the issue of combating human trafficking. In May 2014, he will graduate from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC with his Masters of Divinity. He is currently serving as Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministries and Missional Witness at Clinton United Methodist Church in New Jersey. Jay loves to cheer on the Tennessee Volunteers, and proudly loves to watch professional wrestling (what is often called the fake kind) for his guilty pleasure. 

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