Saturday, June 30, 2007

    How Big is Your Footprint?

    How does your carbon footprint compare with the rest of the world? Take this quick online survey to calculate how you stack up against others when it comes to protecting the resources of our planet. My score was 301. Not bad, but not great. There's a lot more I could be doing. I'm bad about leaving my computer on all day and night, I haven't replaced all my bulbs with those new-fangled fluorescents yet, and I rely on my car too much. Invite your youth to take this online carbon footprint survey, which is offered by Live Earth:

    Live Earth is a 24-hour, 7-continent concert series taking place on 7/7/07 that will bring together more than 100 music artists and 2 billion people to trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Live Earth will reach this worldwide audience through an unprecedented global media architecture covering all media platforms - TV, radio, Internet and wireless channels.Live Earth marks the beginning of a multi-year campaign led by the Alliance for Climate Protection, The Climate Group and other international organizations to drive individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve global warming. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is the Chair of the Alliance and Partner of Live Earth.

    Uh. Oh. Al Gore? I should have known! Somebody alert Pat Robertson. Frankly, I've never understood why the religious right is so dead-set against efforts to protect the environment. Is it the whole "the rapture is almost here so why bother" attitude? What's the worst that can happen from an zealous approach to easing up on our polluting of God's creation? Cleaner water? Cleaner air? A greater respect for wildlife? A few less dollars in the corporate slush funds? If we don't become better stewards of the gifts of creation, we're going to find ourselves developed right out of usable land, fresh water, and breathable air. And if we continue to act as if its us against the planet, eventually the planet is going to win out.

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    Watching "The Wire"

    Okay, technically this has little to do with youth ministry, but I just have to put a plug in for the HBO drama "The Wire." This has to be the best drama on TV in the last ten years (maybe more). Thank God for Netflix or I might never have seen it. The series focuses on police officers and detectives in Baltimore. It's about as real as a TV show has ever been. Thematically, it deals with crime, punishment, redemption, forgiveness, racism, heterosexism, drugs, youth crime, second chances, moral relativism, and on and on. If you haven't been watching this amazing show, the first several seasons are available for rent.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Sharing Faith

    Summer is such a busy time. Our youth are always attending various mission trips, summer camps, or family vacations. So, until last year, the church I serve did not offer summer Sunday School—it was difficult to find teachers, attendance was erratic, and the curricula was somewhat inconsistent. But, all of a sudden, we realized that not only could we offer summer Sunday School, we could do it in a way that involved the entire church.

    For the past two summers, Sunday School (for the youth group) has consisted of combining grades 6th-12th and inviting guest speakers (members of the congregation) to come and share their faith journey. The format is incredibly simple. For the first fifteen minutes, we simply hang out. Then, we spend fifteen minutes listening to faith stories of various individuals. Some of the stories are long, some short, some heart-wrenching, some humorous, and some strange. Once a story has been shared, we divide into three groups (based on age groups), discuss what he heard, and think of questions for the speaker. For the final fifteen minutes, the youth are able to ask the speaker any questions they want.

    Overall, we’ve received positive feedback from both the youth and speakers. As adults, I believe it is hard for us to clearly articulate our faith. We want to share our faith with others, but we don’t want to be intrusive. And, often we’re not even sure that people want to hear our faith story. But, the youth are a very welcoming crowd. When sharing their story with the youth, most people are relaxed and honest. I’m not sure you could find this type of environment anywhere else.

    At the same time, our youth love hearing the stories of adults. They’re always amazed that adults experienced (and experience) the same struggles that they face today.

    I hope that by having such conversations between adults and youth, we can create relationships that will not only last a lifetime, but also reinforce the notion that the church is composed of many age groups and that an imaginary barrier does not need to exist between youth and adults.



    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Should You Really Be a Youth Minister?

    I linked to this post earlier at Stupid Church People that really aims some sharp criticism at youth ministry and youth ministers in general. The post itself is a good read but equally interesting are the comments others have posted. Here's the main thrust of the post:

    I have written how the church needs to trust young adults to lead it if it wants to remain relevant... however, I no longer think that the training ground for this should be youth ministry. We have it all backwards. We let the young lead the young and this is where young pastors develop this sense of ego and entitlement that they bring with them into "big church". It's a psycho-social phenomenon that needs to be studied. I think it's both harmful to the students and to those young leaders that lead them.People complain that I am long on observations and short on suggestions. So here's one: If your church has a youth pastor under the age of 30, promote them immediately into either adult ministry or children's ministry. Then, go out and hire a 30-something youth pastor (preferably a woman), and be prepared to pay them well so they will stick around.

    I've commented here before on my thoughts about young people being youth ministers (I myself started at the age of 23). There are pros and cons to it, but after having read the responses to the comments at the Stupid Church People post above, I'm more inclined to say that it is less the age of the person than their motivation for doing youth ministry that makes the difference. How often is a young person serving as youth minister in a church because 1) She/he is still in seminary and no one trusts them to do anything else, 2) She/he will work for little pay or for free, 3) She/he has no idea what they want to do for a career and the youth ministry job gives them something to do while they decide, 4) She/he is biding his/her time until they are allowed to do "real" ministry somewhere with adults?

    Ultimately, the issue here isn't the age of the person. Many young people are fine youth ministers. The question rather should be "Is this person truly called to youth ministry? Is this the place they will be most effective in the church?" How can you tell the difference between a youth minister who is just biding his or her time and the one really called to youth ministry? Simple: Check in on them in 10 years and see if they are still in youth ministry. The ones truly called to work with youth can't help but keep doing it, in spite of low salaries, missed opportunities, and being forever "low" on the church staff totem pole.


    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Self-Serve Youth Ministry Blog Dispenser

    Who's Got Time to Read Blogs? Youth Hacks makes it easy with posts consisting of links to all sorts of helpful articles and resources. I particularly liked this one on using a blog to craft your sermons.

    But is it funny? Stuart has a thing or two to say about the Church and Hollywood's marketing of "Evan Almighty."

    Tell the World! I recently discovered this little treasure trove of youth ministry resources courtesy of the Youth Blog.

    Beyond the Youth Group: Here is a well-written paper exploring ways to integrate youth into the total life of the church (Courtesy of Lev's Blog).

    It's all in a word:
    Find out why this group is changing the way it talks about youth ministry. No more "kids" and no more "leaders."

    All are Welcome?
    Check out this important post on transgendered youth and the Church at tHEOBLOBY .

    As usual, the Stupid Church People blog says it like it is about our "youth ministry hijinks" and sometimes the truth hurts.

    Spiritual Journeying: Labyrinth

    If you've ever walked a labyrinth, you know that they can offer a particularly rich spiritual experience. As you walk the path, you pass others or they pass you. You walk at your own pace, and others at theirs. You seem to be working your way toward the center and suddenly you find yourself on the outside of the design. Finally you reach the center, pause, and begin the journey out and though you are retracing your steps, going in the other direction this time makes the path completely new. All of this whispers metaphorically of the spiritual journey we walk together.

    We were lucky enough at church camp this year to have an engineer in residence. His skills came in handy when we decided we wanted to build a labyrinth to compliment our theme of "On the Way: the Journey of Faith." It was decided not to build a permanent labyrinth so we settled on one that you simply spray paint (using environmentally-safe paint) onto the grass (you could also use stones, stakes, woodchips, etc). Now, this is not as easy as it sounds since a labyrinth must have a particular design. This is where the guy with the engineer's brain is very useful! Using some helpful directions we found here and here, we ended up with a great spiritual tool for the youth to experience and it was a wonderful addition to one of our worship services. I now plan to have us paint the same design on the grounds of our church.

    Blast from the Past: Jot

    Anybody remember the JOT cartoons? A local TV station ran these when I was a kid. I don't think at the time we had any idea that these were Christian cartoons. In this episode Jot steals a cupcake and goes on a pyschedelic acid trip of repentance!

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    What if...?

    As I sat on my back patio early this morning, feeling the rising sun on my face, enjoying my bowl of Silk and Honey Nut Shredded Wheat, listening to the birds, watching my dogs race around our little yard, and watching a mother bird feed her babies in a knothole of a tree, I had to wonder, "What more could I need?" Sure, I could work toward a bigger house, a bigger backyard, a nicer car, a better salary, a newer computer, big screen TV.....and on and on. But do I really need any of that? And would any of that really make my life better? When I think of all the people in the world who have so little -- and are happy -- I wonder if we aren't fooling ourselves, crowding our lives with more and more and more. And I wonder that sometimes if we aren't guilty of the same thing in youth ministry. Working toward bigger groups, mission trips to more exotic locations, huge evangelism events in football stadiums, louder and louder rock concerts.... Are we just helping the consumer culture in its abduction of the souls of our youth? What if instead of going bigger and bigger, we went smaller and smaller? Smaller groups, low-key programs, quiet events, smaller budgets? What if we helped our students see that sometimes less really is more? What if we helped our kids find meaning in the simplicity of a quiet hour spent with friends, the sound of birds singing, the satisfaction of a morsel of bread and a sip of wine at the table of communion. What if...

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Digging Jesus

    Stuart Delony tagged me in a meme. Here's the jist of it:

    1. Those Tagged will share 5 things they dig about Jesus.

    2. Those tagged will tag 5 other bloggers.

    3. Those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here of their meme so that others can read them.

    So, here goes. 5 things I dig about Jesus:

    1) Jesus loved people first. He didn't make his love conditional on what they believed or how they acted who who they hung out with.

    2) Jesus really knew how to tell a story.

    3) Jesus was an introvert, like me (he could handle crowds, but had a small circle of friends and liked to have quiet time away from everyone.)

    4) Jesus pointed us on the way that leads to the center of God's love and peace.

    5) Jesus was a trouble-maker!

    I tag:

    Funny Stuff

    Check out the Strip Generator site for a fun way to create your own comic strips. These could be used as a nice graphic way to get your group's attention on a blog, website, or flyer.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Back from Camp

    I've been off at church camp for the past week and I'm back home getting some much needed rest. It was a really great week and I will post some highlights soon as well as some resources we used that you might find useful in your own youth ministry programs.


    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Cool Video: Doll Face

    This creative (and sort of weird) video could generate an interesting discussion amongst youth about the ways we allow media/technology to manipulate our self-image.

    Ministry Marketing

    Here is an interesting idea for promoting your youth ministry or mission project. A website called Reactee will print your slogan on a shirt along with a customized keyword that people can text to recieve a personalized text message that offers more info. Say you want to promote your youth group. Your youth could wear shirts that say "Youth Blast Wants You!" followed by "text YOU123 to learn more." When anyone texts that keyword, they recieve your customized text message like "First Church youth group invites you to join us Sunday. Call us 314-XXX-5555." This idea could also be a great way to bring attention to a social cause or mission effort your group is involved in. (Hattip to my brother Barry for passing on this inventive idea.)

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    Type Cast

    I definitely got a chuckle out of middle school minister Josh's description of the "types" of youth that he comes across in small groups. For example, the "gun jumper":

    Things you can't use as a part of your teaching style around the Gun Jumper: rhetorical questions, stories that build to a point, or any idea that has more than one part. This one wants to ask the final point before you get to it. On the one hand, you want to applaud because of their ability to grasp what you're talking about. But on the other hand, you want to throw your shoe at them for messing with your set-up that you've worked so hard on.

    The Face of Love

    Several weeks ago, we had our final youth worship for the school year. I really wanted the youth to come away with the idea that when you look into a mirror the reflection you see is the face of God. So, we went to the local craft store, ordered a bunch of mirrors, and asked the youth to decorate the mirrors in a way that reflects their relationship with God. I was really impressed with the creativity of the youth.

    For the message, I spent the entire time sharing different ways I had seen God present during the past school year. When you sit down and write out such lists, it’s amazing at how quickly a page of paper fills up (I’m definitely going to pull this list out the next time I’m having a rough day). Then, at the end of our worship, we watched a slide show choreographed to the song “The Face of Love” by Sanctus Real. We interspersed pictures of the youth with photos of Jesus (I totally stole this idea from Brian). Overall, it was an incredible night. As much as I am ready for summer to begin (and all of the mission trips, summer camps, outreach activities, and fellowship events), I’m a little sad that the school year is over.


    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    COOL IDEA: Weebly!

    Looking for a free, easy-to-use tool for creating a great looking youth group website or blog? Check out WEEBLY, a new drag-and-drop application that was featured recently in Newsweek Magazine. Here is a review, including a promo video showing you how the site works.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    Speaking of Relational Ministry

    Here's a youth minister with a pretty good system for making certain he stays in regular contact with his students.

    How Much More?

    Several years ago I was accompanying a group of youth on an inner-city mission experience in Washington, DC (hosted by the Center for Student Missions). While there we had a chance to do some sight-seeing and stop at the Viet Nam War Memorial. 

    You might think it's just a long wall with a bunch of names on it. But standing there, realizing that those names all represented somebody's loved one killed violently, it's hard not to be emotional. I was particularly moved when I considered that most of the young men who died in that war were about the same age as the boys who were then with me on the mission trip. "Were we at war today," I remember thinking, "None of these boys would likely be with us on this trip. And some of them might be dead."

    As a Christian, my thoughts on war are anything but vague. War may at times be necessary, but it is always sinful. The necessity of wars only speaks to the mess we humans have made of this world. I now have a nephew and several former youth group members who are actively involved in the conflict in Iraq and every day I wonder "How much more? When will we end our desire for violence as a way to solve problems? When we will stop sending our young children off to fight and die? How can we, those who devote our ministry to caring for our youth and showing them Jesus' way of peace, love, and reconciliation, remain silent on this issue?"