Thursday, May 31, 2007

    Invisible Children

    I recently learned about the Invisible Children campaign through Stuart Delony's excellent blog. The campaign grew out of a documentary made by 3 young men who wanted to do something about the plight of children caught in the middle of the war in Uganda (I have since purchased the documentary to show to my youth group).
    The video above describes one way youth can get involved. The Invisible Children bracelet campaign "is a micro-economic program creating jobs for men and women in an otherwise unemployable war area . . . the Bracelet Campaign allows Ugandans living in displacement camps to hand-make bracelets and generate a much-needed income. Eight different colored bracelets are being made, and each is accompanied by a short film told by an invisible child. Each of these extraordinary stories highlights one of the many ways Northern Ugandans have been affected by this unrelenting war."

    Psalm 8

    Psalm 8 is my text for this Sunday's sermon. Still not quite sure what I'm going to say about it, but I love this passage.

    What a useful scripture text to share with teenagers, many of whom are experiencing times in their life when they feel inadequate and insignificant.

    How they might resonate with the question: "Who am I that you even bother with me, God?" And yet, the Psalm affirms that God does indeed know us, and cares deeply for us, and considers us partners in caring for the earth. Here is a version of the psalm from The Message Bible:

    God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.

    Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;

    toddlers shout the songs

    That drown out enemy talk,

    and silence atheist babble.

    I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,

    your handmade sky-jewelry,

    Moon and stars mounted in their settings.

    Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,

    Why do you bother with us?

    Why take a second look our way?

    Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods,

    bright with Eden's dawn light.

    You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,

    repeated to us your Genesis-charge,

    Made us lords of sheep and cattle,

    even animals out in the wild,

    Birds flying and fish swimming,

    whales singing in the ocean deeps.

    God, brilliant Lord,

    your name echoes around the world.

    We Need to Talk

    I had an interesting lunch conversation with one of my senior high youth today. This young person particularly wanted to share about challenges he was having in his home life and with his parents. Several weeks ago, during youth group, he'd mentioned in our circle sharing time that his parents were having troubles and he was bothered that none of the other youth really had anything to say about it. His revelation just fell like a silent bomb in the room, and then we went right on to the next person. Perhaps most troubling to him was that he knew other youth in the room were likely experiencing similar home life challenges, yet everyone was reluctant to share them.

    We talked about how challenging it is to create an atmosphere in any sort of small group ministry where people are willing to be real. This is true of adults in the church as well and teens. I actually had a senior pastor I served with once tell me that two things he never discusses at church are politics and religion, because both just start arguments (and he was serious!). So much of the time at church we are trying to be polite, to come off as the "good people", the "whole people," as the ones who have their acts together. After all, isn't that the advantage of being a Christian? Of course, we know that's not reality. As Christians, we may in fact be even more keenly aware of the troubles of the world and of daily life. And we need to know that the church is a safe space to come and really talk about the hard parts of life, about the issues and concerns that we struggle with daily. Relatedly, our youth programs need to be more than just places where kids come and have fun and laugh and recreate. They need to be spaces where they can genuinely express their deepest questions and concerns and know that, though we may not have all the answers for them, we will love them and embrace them in their struggles.

    I remember realizing not too long ago that this, in a way, is the value of confession in the Catholic Church. When we come before God and admit our mistakes, it's not that we are telling God something God doesn't know. It's that we are being completely honest and open with God about who we are, and at the same time realizing that, despite it all, God loves us and cherishes us. Would that all our youth knew this experience of unconditional love.

    (Cartoon courtesy of the Toothpaste For Dinner site.)

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Big Glasses Nite!

    Yes, sometimes we do things at youth group just for the fun of it! Never underestimate the useful items you can buy in a dollar store!

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Christian Consumerism Watch

    Which member in your youth group will be the first to get some?

    The world's first spiritual perfume - Virtue(R) - was premiered in April by IBI, a niche fragrance company in Orange, CA. Based upon an inspired Biblical formula, the perfume is designed to be a reminder of God, Christ, spiritual self and soul. "We turned to the Bible to seek inspiration about which items to include and became convinced that a formulation would reveal itself," explains Rick Larimore, IBI's chief executive officer. "Creating Virtue(R) has been an adventurous journey through fragrance and scripture, with remarkable miracles confirming our choices."

    Each bottle is only $80! Read Martin Marty's take here:

    A product like Virtue reveals much about the changing face of lived religion in America. There was a time when mainstream American Protestantism would have been highly suspicious of associating Christianity with a scent. Fragrances, images, and other sensory experiences were once considered to be the hallmarks of Catholic idolatry. But in 2004 the "Christian retail market" — selling Christian versions of everything from golf-balls to gangsta rap — hit $4.3 billion in sales. The suggestion of idolatry has been largely circumvented by marketing these products as tools for evangelism.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Book Review: Thriving Youth Groups

    Impulse buying recently at a local Christian bookstore, I picked up a copy of Thriving Youth Groups: Secrets for Growing Your Ministry (and further subtitled: "Proven growth strategies that took Jeanne's ministry from 30 teenagers to nearly 1,000") by Jeanne Mayo. It's a small book, only about 140 pages, but it packs a wallop! I have stumbled upon this book just at the time when my youth ministry is in serious need of a "friendliness" upgrade.
    So many youth ministry books are long on theory but they just aren't practical or applicable to real-world youth. This book is different. The author provides plenty of theological and sociological under girding, but the bulk of the book is a clear and concise approach to help you make your youth ministry a more welcoming place for teens to be. In particular, Mayo focuses on helping the youth themselves take the lead in creating a climate of welcome and openness within the group. This is a text that you can put to use right away.

    I also appreciated the author's wit, her willingness to admit her own trials and tribulations (and failures) in youth ministry, and the inclusion of sidebar comments from other youth workers, sharing strategies they've used to increase the practice of hospitality in their ministry with youth. And the key word here is hospitality. At its heart, the book is not about growing a big youth group. It's about increasing the hospitality, warmth, and Christian fellowship in your group so that other youth might find a spiritual home with you and your teens.

    Go here to download a free pdf of the book's appendix: "Small Groups FAQ."

    Death Cab for Cutie - "What Sarah Said"

    And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time
    As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409
    And I rationed my breathes as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today As each descending peak of the LCD took you a little farther away from me Away from me

    Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds

    But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
    And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself

    'Cause there's no comfort in the waiting room
    Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
    And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads
    But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die"

    So who's going to watch you die?

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Cool Idea: Mission Trips Revisited

    I belong to a Disciples of Christ youth leader yahoo group and lately we've been engaging in a great discussion on mission trips. Rob, one of the members of the group, shared with us his general strategy for offering mission opportunities to the youth:

    We have begun a four-year rotation of Mission Trips here at our church for our high school youth: a. Year One = F.A.S.T. (or similar Appalachian- type trip) b. Year Two = Disaster Relief Trip (Gulf Coast hurricane relief work, etc.) c. Year Three = Local Trip (we serve as the host site for smaller churches to come here for their mission trip. Our youth plan the whole thing - from work projects, to meals, to t-shirts and supplies) d. Year Four = National Trip

    I am particularly intrigued by this idea of involving youth in hosting other groups who have come to do mission work in their area. Rob goes on to explain:

    The "Local Trip" actually doubles as another small "fundraiser" in preparation for our National Trip. Since we are hosting the event, we charge a small registration fee to help offset our costs and then most of the meals are donated by our CWF and CMF [women and men's]
    groups. We call our local trip "DAWG" (Disciples At Work for God) - and we made t-shirts & everything. This summer, our Chi Rho [middle school] group is going to host a weekend version of this mission trip and they are calling it "Puppy DAWG."

    What a great idea for involving youth in hands-on mission that happens right in their backyard, plus offering them a chance to engage in the spiritual practice of hospitality.
    Note: For those of you planning to send your youth off on mission in the coming weeks/month, check out this nice responsive reading which would be great for a commissioning service.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Image of the Day

    He's an angel, originally uploaded by Laura Mary.

    What If? The End of Youth Mission Trips...

    What if we stopped organizing youth mission trips? How long have youth mission trips been a must-have ingredient to successful youth programs? Certainly as long as I've been in youth ministry. In fact, one of my most memorable experiences of youth group as a teen was a mission trip my senior year of high school. Every summer, youth groups spread out across the country to travel to places they have never been to sample an experience of hands-on mission. For many groups, these trips are seen as great ways to draw members closer together, build lasting memories, and provide youth with a chance to see what it is like to help those in need. But...are these trips actually helpful in launching youth into lifelong mission? Consider the downside of youth mission trips:

    • Since these trips are generally attended by youth, with a few adult leaders, they encourage age segregation within the Church, and further distance young people from the wider church family. Such trips may also create an understanding in the minds of youth and adults that these types of mission efforts are only for the young.
    • Summer mission trips, usually a week or two in length, actually may encourage an understanding of mission as a once-a-year effort, something that happens far from home, rather than a constant attitude and awareness of the mission we are called to be part of everyday, wherever we may be.
    • Many churches entice youth on mission trips with promises of detours to amusement parks, tourist sites, shopping malls, and a fancy dinner out at the end of the week (an attempt to leave behind "the least of these" and reintegrate ourselves back into middle class culture?). Such enticements distract youth from the true purpose of mission and feed into the consumerist mentality of feeling we must get something in return for our efforts to help others.
    • Finally, there is a stewardship issue inherent in youth mission trips. Depending on the acutal amount of work that youth will really do over the course of the trip, the costs of such trips can be quite expensive. In some cases, it would be a better act of stewardship to forgo spending funds on travel, food, and lodging and instead donate it all to the mission organization or effort you wish to support.
    What if we put a moratorium on this staple of youth ministry? What if we moved from "youth mission trips" to mission experiences that are cross-generational (inviting all age groups within the congregation to participate)? What if for every trip across the country or to Mexico, youth groups organized local mission efforts, right in their "backyard?" What if instead of these short bursts of mission work in the summer, youth ministries adopted long-term mission projects, such as working regularly in local homeless shelters or volunteering weekly time in nursing homes or organizing on-going peace and justice efforts?

    What if...? (Oh, and for those of you wondering: Yes, I am taking my youth on a mission trip this summer!)


    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Hallelujah Nuns!

    This is hilarious...and definitely worth watching to the very end! It's already giving me some ideas on how to incorporate our youth more "creatively" into worship on Sunday mornings (provided I can get the choir director to go along with it! Oh, and by the way...I think all those nuns are men.)

    Hat tip to Jim Hancock.

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Up, Up, and Away!

    I have the thankless task of trying to make some sort of sense out of the Ascension in my sermon for Sunday morning worship services. I met with the other pastors briefly this week and the topic came up in our discussion. Needless to say, they were glad it was me and not them that had to tackle this particular passage of scripture. What to do with a story of a Jesus floating up into the air, like some first century Superman? Taking the story literally is not a theological option for me personally, nor would it go over particularly well with the congregation.

    A couple of years ago, one of my professors from seminary, Stephen Patterson, wrote a book entitled Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. One focus in the text, which was news to me, concerned the mythic story of the descending/ascending redeemer, which existed prior to and outside of Jewish and Christian writings. His contention (as well as others, including Rudolph Bultmann) is that early followers of Jesus, in an attempt to make sense of their "Jesus experience," grafted this well-known mythical archetype onto the story of Christ. It was a way of helping others, perhaps those who had not encountered Jesus, to understand why he had such a profound effect on his followers. For them, he represented this mythical archetype they had heard spoken of so often. He came from God, redeemed the people, was destroyed by worldly powers, and then returned to God.

    When studying Patterson's book a few years back with members of my congregation, there was some resistance to this notion that early followers of Christ, or perhaps the gospel writers, superimposed this mythical story onto the pre-existing Jesus story. To them, such an understanding removes some of Jesus' uniqueness. "What's the point," they would argue, "depicting Jesus ascending to heaven, if they believed others had already done it before him?" (They, perhaps, had forgotten the story of Elijah!).

    Then a woman in the group, a literature professor, spoke up and said, "It is your modern worldview that values uniqueness. You think Jesus is important because you believe him to be unique. But in the ancient world, exactly the opposite would be true. To them, value was to be found in those things or people that in some way represented or lived out already cherished myths and truths. Jesus' value was to be found precisely in the fact that he represented not something new but rather was the embodiment of truths already known in the scriptures and in the myths and stories of their culture." All well and good, but will it preach? I would argue that it does to the extent that it encourages us to get past a literalism of the Ascension and to ask the really important question: "What does it mean? What did it mean for ancient Christians to tell this story? What does it mean for us today? "

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Selling our Youth

    Check out Shaping Youth, a blog devoted to unmasking media and marketing's influence on our youth. Advertisements have a powerful influence on our teens -- in many cases a stronger influence than their faith. Better the devil you know.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Marcus Borg - Christianity as a Spiritual Path

    If you've got 5 minutes, this is a video worth watching. Marcus Borg is a fine liberal biblical scholar who has broken through the academic wall to touch the lives of people "in the pews." Here he talks about Christianity as a "way" rather than just a "belief." This perhaps illustrates the difference of the approach to youth ministry in the progressive church. We do not focus primarily on Christianity as a way to save us from damnation and for the afterlife. We focus on Christianity as a way to open our hearts to a new way of life in the here-and-now -- a life lived in God through Christ. In this sense, the Kingdom of God becomes an existential reality, not something that comes after death.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Self-Serve Youth Ministry Blog Dispenser!

    And the Award Goes To: Got a list of those in the news you would consider a Fat Head ("a hot air inflated, blow hard idiot who coincidentally has a fat head")? Jerry Fawell? Michael Moore? Stuart Delony is accepting nominations. Spidey Fans Unite: Check out a good review of Spiderman-3 over at the YouthBlog. Helping Hurting Kids: Steve offers a review of a recent YouthSpecialities event with some helpful info on teens who are "cutters."

    Youth minister Melissa has a great idea for a mission project that students could do to help stop the spread of malaria in Africa. It's Free? Tim offers yet another one of his Freebie Friday give-aways for youthworkers. Everything is Fake! Marko has an interesting video on just how good advertisers are at creating false reality. Cuz the Bible Says So! The Youth Ministry 101 blog has started a conversation on the Post-modern view of biblical truth. Weigh in with your thoughts.

    Spider Man 3: A Review

    A few of the guys in the youth group have been trying to convince me to schedule a youth group outing to see Spider-Man 3. I generally don't think much of going to the movies as a youth group activity, since there is little opportunity for interaction, outside of annoying the other patrons with constant whispering and throwing popcorn at each other. I did, however, finally go see the movie with some family members. I was a big fan of the first two films and was hoping this one would continue the trend but I have to admit I was not exactly blown away. The effects are great (especially the Sandman character) and I enjoyed seeing the characters again, but at a running time of almost 2 1/2 hours, it was really more Spidey than I can enjoy in one sitting. Clearly going with the "bigger is better" maxim, the movie gives us three bad guys, trouble with Spidey's romance, a rival for his job at the Daily Bugle, and on and on. They had enough material here to make two movies. Also, and this may be showing my age, in many of the nighttime battle sequences set against the cityscape, I couldn't tell what the heck was going on most of the time. There is only so much webslinging and swooping through the air and in between buildings that my brain and eyes can process!

    On the positive side, the film does deal with some good themes such as forgiveness, redemption, the blurring of the lines between good and evil, love, friendship, and being good to your grandma! Fans of the first two movies will certainly want to go see it, but (unlike the previous Spidey movies) I wouldn't pay $8 to see it twice.


    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Good Tips for Anyone

    I just came across Tim's e-book: 130 Youth Ministry Tips and Ideas. In the introduction, he notes that this book is primarily for those in youth ministry who volunteer their time and have had little training. While this is true, I must also say that as an ordained minister, and graduate of seminary, I still found his tips to be extremely helpful and reassuring. If you get a chance, check it out:

    Just in time for Summer Camp!

    Oriental Trading, that famous supplier of all the cute trinkety junk-type stuff that nobody needs but churches love to buy, now has out a full line of "soldier of God" merchandise to share with the kiddies. The "Jesus Camp" folks must be buying this stuff by the truckload.

    Can anyone say "Christian Jihad?"


    Takin' It to the Streets

    My brother has been driving around for sometime now with one of those bumper stickers that says "God is not a Republican...Or a Democrat." It's been on there awhile so the bottom has startled to curl up, making it hard to read the "or a Democrat" part so it just seems to read "God is not a Republican." The other day, he came out from a restaurant to his parked car and found this note attached to his back window:

    Well, at least they didn't key his car or let the air out of his tires! I'm already dreading the coming election season...


    Faithless - "God Is A DJ"

    This is my church
    This is where I heal my hurt
    It's a natural grace
    Of watching young life shape
    It's in minor keys
    Solutions and remedies
    Enemies becoming friends
    When bitterness ends
    This is my church

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Battle Cry on ABC NEWS

    WHAT IF?

    What if church "youth ministry" did not = "youth groups"?

    What if our focus was not on providing activities for youth already in the church? What if youth ministry tried harder to push kids out into the world rather than draw them into the Church?

    What if we only gathered each week as a way to prepare to go out and "be Christ"in our communities?

    What if Jesus could tells us what he thinks about all our time in youth ministry spent bowling, watching movies, eating junk food, playing games, taking ski trips?
    What if ...?

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Words of Wisdom

    Our church staff meets each Monday from 10:30-12:00. We begin our time together with thirty minutes of prayer and devotion. Yesterday, these words, from the murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero (of El Salvador) were passed out at the end. I find them particular fitting for youth ministry:

    It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.
    The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
    We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
    of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
    Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying
    that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
    No statement says all that could be said.
    No prayer fully expresses our faith.
    No confession brings perfection.
    No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
    No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
    No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
    This is what we are about:
    We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
    We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
    We lay foundations that will need further development.
    We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
    We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
    This enables us to do something, and do it very well.
    It may be incomplete, a step along the way,
    an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
    We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
    between a master builder and the worker.
    We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own.

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Scavenger Hunt: Revisited

    We've posted before about different sorts of scavenger hunts with youth that go beyond the usual list of items (toothpaste tube, buffalo nickel, jar of pickles, etc.). We had another go at a creative scavenger hunt this past Sunday, with some new twists. Keep in mind, the goal here was to encourage conversation and creativity, particularly on ideas related to our faith (some items in the list below make that connection more plainly than others). Here's how we set it up:

    Your task is to find items that are represented by the descriptions on the list below. To record your findings, you must use one of the following methods, and each method must be used at least once: 1) take a Polaroid photo of the item, 2) draw a picture of the item, 3) write a poem about the item, 4) get a signature of a person that represents that item to your team, 5) retrieve a physical object, 6) (optional) : Take a cell phone photo of item, 7) (optional): A different method of your choice (as long as it’s legal!)

    After going through the ground rules, students were given the list below:

    too much
    Do you see what we see?
    meaning of life
    new life
    young and old
    ant’s eye view

    Groups were then transported to a particular area in the city and given a set amount of time to "scavenge." The great part about this activity is that they don't just rush around grabbing stuff. They have to take time as a group talking about what "peace" means or how you visualize "injustice" or where do you see Christ out in the everyday world. Later, the groups came back together and had a great time sharing their photos, drawings, poems, and experiences. (By the way, the time is not too far off when the Polaroid scavenger hunt will be completely replaced by the cell phone photo scavenger hunt!).
    For more items like the ones I used on the list above, check out this scavenger hunt resource.



    Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. Our church sponsored, in the sanctuary, a silent prayer vigil from 5:00-8:00. Individuals were welcome to come at anytime and stay for as long as they want. In an effort to encourage our youth, I offered to buy dinner and dessert (I’m a huge ice cream fan) for anyone who attended. We had six youth join us and pray in silence for forty-five minutes. Then, over dinner (during which I was reminded of Jesus’ table fellowship and ministry), we discussed our experiences and what we thought of the prayer time. I was really pleased with the insights of the youth. It’s clear to me that our youth 1) enjoy silent time; and 2) don’t get enough time to simply be still and listen to God. After reflecting on our conversation, I wondered what it would be like to lead a silent retreat. Has anyone ever done this with youth? We’ve had silence in retreats, but nothing for more than several hours.

    Party Time

    Last Saturday night was prom. The usual festivities were to be had: tuxedos, dresses, hair appointments, pictures, dinner, drama, and then…the after parties. This year, in an effort to offer an alternative to the traditional prom parties, we hosted an all night party in the youth center. We had games, prizes (there were even two i-pods given away), a bonfire, tons of food, and a good atmosphere. Our adult and high school senior leaders put the entire event together. We were really pleased with the turnout. And this morning, the local newspaper called wanting an interview. The reporter was surprised that the church would sponsor an after-prom party. Why was the reporter surprised? If the church can’t be a safe and welcoming environment for teenagers, where else can they go? I hope we offer similar events in the future. How about you? What events are other churches offering to provide youth with a place they can call their own and look forward to attending?

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Image of the Day: Imagine Peace

    Imagine, originally uploaded by Alan_Oliveira.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    The Blessings of Youth Ministry

    I was reminded during our youth group retreat this past weekend how great it can be to be in ministry with teenagers. We had a really relaxing and hopeful weekend that included doing some service work for the Christian campground where we were staying, paddleboating and canoeing on the lake, singing around a campfire and eating smores, starting each morning with outdoor worship in the midst of the woods and honking geese, sharing meals together, praying together, playing together, and building community. I am really blessed to work with a great bunch of youth and equally blessed with the adult leaders who give a great deal of time to work with our youth, week in and week out. For all the griping we youth ministers might do in order to keep sane, it's important to stop occasionally and be thankful that we have been called to this particular ministry within the Church.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Somebody Needs a Reality Check!

    Today's teens want the "good life" but they still think it comes with a big bank account balance:

    American teens believe, based on the career that interests them the most, that when they get older they will be earning an average annual salary of $145,500. Interestingly, boys expect to earn an average $173,000 a year and girls $114,200, according to the findings of Teens & Money, an annual survey released last month by Charles Schwab & Co. and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The fact is, only about 14 percent of U.S. households have incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income in the United States is actually $46,326, according to the latest Census figures.

    Can I Get a Link?

    Does/would your church link your blog to their homepage? Here's a story of one church that told a youth minister "NO WAY!"

    Late Night Musings...

    It's interesting the kinds of stuff you can come across on the internet when you are up late at night watching reruns of "The Rockford Files." I stumbled upon a refreshingly honest blog called Stupid Church People and a particular entry really caught my attention:

    My years as a pastor were mainly spent in youth ministry. That was my "specialty" and I believe I did it well for the most part. Especially as I became older. I think we do an injustice by putting young adults (especially post adolescent males) in charge of our young people. I know that this opinion goes a bit against what I have posted before about young adults leading the way in the church, but I do not think a young man in his early twenties has any business being in charge of the youth ministry in any church. There are a few reasons I feel this way, but as I have reached my 40's and have a pre-teen coming up, I especially feel this way. . .. . .As a youth pastor in my early 20's, I tended to take advantage of the general "misery" youth felt and equate that with a spiritual need rather than just a typical developmental need. In my opinion, this develops a warped sense of spirituality in teens, and for many of them, these warped ideas continue well into adulthood.
    You know, in thinking a bit more about it, there are plenty of youth pastors in there 30's and even 40's that manipulate the developmental needs of teens to create these feelings of "spiritual voids" within them. To me, that's a shame. I am beginning to think that NOT taking my 12-year-old to church on a regular basis might be a really good thing. He might have the chance to actually be normal.

    You really have to visit this blog to read some painfully honest commentary from someone who used to do paid ministry but has since found it a real challenge to stay connected with the Church --a Church which the writer feels is often divorced from the true way of Jesus. Incidentally, this is the very reason many young people give for why they are leaving the Church in their early twenties, with no intention of coming back.

    On this issue of young youth ministers: I sometimes wonder if the Church could do with a lot less women/men in their early twenties running youth ministry programs. And I say that as a 40-year-old guy who started youth ministry when I was 23. Granted: At 23 I had more energy, more free time, and could relate better to teen culture. That said, anyone in their early twenties overseeing a ministry with teenagers just a few years younger themselves needs plenty of supervision, boundary training, and a good mentor.

    Let me be clear: I'm not casting doubt that a young twenty-something could be called to ministry with youth. I fully believe I was called to youth ministry even at that early age...but that doesn't mean I knew what I was doing. I was still trying to figure out who I was, let alone serve as an expert on helping teens navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. Thank God that I also felt drawn to become a teacher at the same time and much of what I learned as a professional educator forced me to be a better minister to youth. Now at 40, I finally feel I have some sort of handle on what I'm doing. More patience, more perspective, just as much idealism........and I expect to be even better when I'm 50!

    So why is it, when I go to youth ministry training events, so many of the participants are just out of college (or younger)? Why do so many churches hire very young youth ministers? Is it because they will work for low pay? Is it partly to do with our culture's love affair with the attractiveness of youth and all things new? Or is it allegiance to that old chestnut that youth ministry is a training ground for "real" ministry? We certainly wouldn't want 22-year-old parents raising 15-year-old kids. Yet, many young ministers (including a huge number of seminary interns) will begin their ministries working with teenagers. I wonder if it would be better to have our youngest ministers serving adult populations who are in a better position to hold them accountable for what they are teaching and who might be able to help young pastors grow and mature within their ministry.

    Does this make sense...or am I just a rambling 40-something-guy? What are the advantages to being a "young" youth minister (there are plenty!)? What are the advantages to being an "old" youth minister (there are plenty!)? What would it be like if every church teamed the two together? Well, enough of this. I have to go take my Geritol.


    Words of Wisdom

    The truly holy people I've met in my life are really interesting people. They're a mix of the most incredible godliness and at the same time, the most unbelievable earthiness. I know a woman who curses like a sailor, but she's the most holy woman I know. She is! I'm not kidding. We've created this image of what holiness looks like that's just nonsense. Good holy people probably drink too much some times, and have colorful language, and there's plenty of room in the Bible to see people like that. We have to see life for what it is, entirely more complicated then simple. Spirituality is not simple; it's complicated. It gets messy sometimes.

    - Mike Yaconelli

    Why Didn't I Think of This?

    Giving away a car to lure people into the church! This idea and this pastor are cause to fear for the future of the church in this country.