Thursday, May 31, 2007
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 songsThat 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.
(Cartoon courtesy of the Toothpaste For Dinner site.)
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
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."
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
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
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
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."
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
- 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...? (Oh, and for those of you wondering: Yes, I am taking my youth on a mission trip this summer!)
Friday, May 18, 2007
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
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
Monday, May 14, 2007
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
BUZZ-KILL! 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.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Can anyone say "Christian Jihad?"
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...
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
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
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
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!)
Do you see what we see?
meaning of 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.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
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.
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.
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
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.