Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
I went to see an excellent production of "Inherit the Wind" last night, featuring a student from my youth group. Amazing that we are still debating this issue even today.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
In 1990 a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem. They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive. What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fund raising meal. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world. By the following year the originators had developed this concept into Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that fight hunger.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
My favorite is a tool that turns your selected image into a movie poster. Lots of possibilities here for using photos from your youth ministry for promotional items or cool gifts!
(*Click on photo to see larger version of image.)
I am____________________.I am____________________.I am____________________.
Invite youth to take a few minutes to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that describe themselves. The repetition in this activity helps youth to move beyond the superficial and dig a little deeper for ways to describe who they are. The more lines they have to fill in, the deeper they will have to go to come up with something to write. When everyone is finished, invite students to read all or part of what they have written. Even for those who do not want to share outloud, this can be a valuable activity in self-awareness.
Friday, April 20, 2007
A tribute to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut who recently passed away. Inspired by a passage from Vonnegut's classic book Slaughterhouse Five in which the character Billy Pilgrim describes how beautiful a war in reverse would be.(If more young people read Vonnegut's books, the world would be a better place! -- Brian)
"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God."
Thursday, April 19, 2007
- As you think about the Virginia Tech shootings (and similar incidents?) what do you learn about people?
- What songs (or movies?) come to mind as you think about the Virginia Tech shootings? What do you hear from them?
- What phrases or stories from the Bible come to mind? What do you hear from them?
- What would you like to say to or do with or for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings?
Related resources can be found here at the STEP (Student Ecumenical Partnership National Network) website.
(Randy Kuss was the national youth ministry leader for the Disciples of Christ from 1995-2003. He is currently Director of Christian education and Youth Ministry at Speedway Christian Church in Indianapolis as well as leader of God @ Center youth leader retreats, based in part on his work with the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project.)
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Overall, I thought the retreat went very well. At the worship on Sunday morning parents were invited to attend. I shared with the parents that at the retreat, at least in the beginning, there is always some awkwardness when discussing sexuality. But, I can think of no safer place to have a conversation about sexuality than at the church. As a youth minister, I hope my youth feel comfortable discussing with me, and other adult volunteers, issues involving sexuality. I think avoiding the topic of sexuality would be a serious mistake.
This summer, our camp program is offering, for the first time, an Eighter’s camp that is focused on sexuality. The description for this camp says: Eighter’s is a unique camp just for youth entering 9th grade in the fall which provides youth with factual and spiritual understanding of God’s gift of sexuality. Morning keynotes focus on the humanity of Jesus, God’s love, forgiveness, and plans for camper’s lives. Workshops on anatomy, puberty, abstinence, dating, STIs/AIDS, conception, and contraception are presented in the evening. Small group sessions daily provide a place for related activities and fellowship. Worship wraps up each day. Campers also enjoy swimming, crafts, games, music, team challenges, and campfire.
Has anyone done anything similar?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
As I go I will not refuse any destination, for:
As I go I will embrace all that crosses my way, for:
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Years ago, when I was beginning my first youth ministry position, the church suggested I consider starting a clown ministry with the teens. What they didn't know then, but would eventually come to discover: I hate clowns with a passion. What's more, I've yet to find a single person who really loves clowns. Don't miss the point at about 2 minutes into the video where a group of clowns freak out an elderly man!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
- Engage youth informally at church. Though they may be shy or not know quite how to react, youth appreciate being approached informally on Sunday mornings, called by name, and asked about how things are going in their lives. This sort of outreach goes a long way to help young people see themselves as full participants in the life of the community.
- Write to youth. Young people love to get mail, particularly personal notes that are written for no other reason than to just to let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them. If you are particularly computer savvy, try email, myspace, or Facebook.
- Ask youth their thoughts and opinions. Who knows what wonderful results might come from occasionally inviting a group of young people to sit with you and simply reflect on the current state of the church, the church’s mission, and how they see their role in that mission. Teenagers can bring a unique perspective that can enable us to see the Church in new and useful ways.
- Invite youth to use their talents/gifts in leadership of the church. Young people are gifted in a multitude of ways to provide leadership in all areas of the church, but more often than not they need to be asked and invited before they will step forward.
- Engage the youth on their own turf. Simply put, rather than expecting them to come to you, go to them! Take time to visit a youth Christian education class or evening youth meeting. Visit youth and their families in their homes with no other agenda than to get to know them better.
Breaking from tradition, high school students in this small town are getting together for this year's prom. Prom night at Turner County High has long been an evening of de facto segregation: white students organized their own unofficial prom, while black students did the same.This year's group of seniors didn't want that legacy. When the four senior class officers two whites and two blacks met with Principal Chad Stone at the start of the school year, they had more on their minds than changes to the school's dress code. They wanted a school-sponsored prom. They wanted everyone invited. On April 21, they'll have their wish. The town's auditorium will be transformed into a tropical scene, and for the first time, every junior and senior, regardless of race, will be invited to an official prom.
See full article here.
I briefly shared with the youth my understanding of Christ’s resurrection. I have found that it is almost impossible to prove the resurrection. For every argument in support of the resurrection, there is an equally compelling counter-argument. But, I believe that the message of the resurrection, even to the point of death, is that Christ is not separated from us. When Christ calls Mary by name, Mary encounters Christ. And just as Mary encountered Christ that day outside the tomb, we too encounter Christ daily—new life begins with us.
I asked the youth to share, if they were comfortable, some of the experiences they have had in encounters with Christ. Answers included: mission trips, church camps, random acts of kindness by complete strangers, retreats, worship, and even silence. As we shared our stories, and listened to one another, I truly believe that I saw the presence of Christ in each individual present that morning.
After the service, we returned to church for a great breakfast of cinnamon rolls, bacon, and eggs. As we sat down to eat, I was reminded once again that a defining act of Jesus’ ministry was table fellowship.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Have the group sit on the floor in a circle and place a clear pitcher of water and a bowl in the center of the group. Invite youth to share their prayer concerns either out loud or in silence. After each person prays, they are to take the pitcher and pour a small amount of water into the bowl. The youth watch as the bowl fills with the prayers of the group. Conclude by sharing thoughts on the importance of pouring out our prayers in community, so that all our joys and concerns become as one in God. You might also talk about how our prayers mingle with the prayers all people in the world --even those we will never meet.
Words by Carl Sagan, Astronomer.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
For awhile, everything was going well. The youth were really digging the notion that we’re accepted by grace and faith, not solely works righteousness. They also enjoyed the conversation that dealt with sin and the concept of original sin. We had a great debate over nature versus nurture.
Then, we came to Romans 13: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. One individual asked: What’s going on here, this doesn’t look like Paul at all?” Someone else suggested that maybe we should just ignore this chapter of Romans.
The more I thought about it, and the more we talked, I really I wasn’t at all sure how to interpret Romans 13. This morning, I think Romans 13 may be seen as 1) a general statement about ruling authorities and the idea that God is the head of order; 2) for some reason, Paul may have respected the Roman government or perhaps the Roman government offered some sort of protection from persecution (though I think this is unlikely); and 3) perhaps Paul wrote this when Nero was in charge of the empire (54-68 CE) and believed that Nero offered some benefits to the early Jewish and Christian community.
Ultimately, I’m still not sure. I hesitate to think that ruling authorities are ordained by God. But, I am sure that posing such questions is one of the reasons I enjoy working with youth. They are unafraid to share their thoughts and questions.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Might the protesters also be bothered because the artist's choice of chocolate gives this Jesus dark skin? Cosimo Cavallaro, the sculptor, has explained that he wanted to create a work that gave Jesus a flavor. He chose chocolate because "it's sweet." Ironically, at a time of the year when the passion is trivialized by chocolate eggs, chicks, and crosses, we don't seem to be able to stomach a chocolate Jesus.
So, I was a little concerned that my topic of the night dealt with silence and ways in which we can listen for the voice of God. The youth that I work with are constantly surrounded by noise: i-pods, cell phones, televisions, stereos, and x-boxes. When there is an absence of noise, they start to become uncomfortable.
Nonetheless, after spending some time just hanging out and playing games, we watched a NOOMA video by Rob Bell entitled, “Noise.” In this short clip, Rob Bell suggests that there is a connection between the amount of noise in our lives and our inability to listen to God. He also asks if, when we have a problem (which we all do daily), we spend as much time listening to God as we do talking about the problem with others.
Once the video was over, I asked the youth to spend three minutes with me in complete silence. This wasn’t a problem for either the younger or older youth.
As we sat on the floor of the youth center, which is the original sanctuary, and listened to the walls creak and the air conditioner hum (yes, it was warm on Sunday), I gave thanks to God that I am surrounded by youth who, at least when asked, our comfortable shutting down the noise in their life and seeking out, in silence, a relationship with Christ.