Young people are too…well…young to be disciples.
Apprentices? Of course. Beginners? Sure.Trainees? Interns? Absolutely.
But not disciples.
We've convinced adults and parents that we have a program that can produce disciples. We perpetuate the illusion that we can take 13-year-olds and make disciples out of them. We actually act as though we can transform a group of inconsistent, uncommitted adolescents into mature, committed disciples by spending an extra hour or two a week with them.
Are students capable of heroic acts? Absolutely! Can a 13-year-old
be committed to Jesus? Yes, as long as we understand what we mean by committed.
Can young people make a difference in the world? Of course they can, but we're
still not talking about disciples.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
While on our mission trip, several youth admitted they were struggling with their faith. What quickly became clear was that it was not "faith" they were struggling with, but rather "religion" and the Church as institution. They firmly believed in following the way of Jesus, but they were skeptical that this is what we are asked to do in our churches. I wonder that they might relate to the words of this song:
I dont need to be a global citizen
Because Im blessed by nationality
Im member of a growing populace
We enforce our popularity
There are things that
Seem to pull us under
And there are things
That drag us down
But theres a power
And a vital presence
Thats lurking all around
Weve got the american jesus
See him on the interstate
Weve got the american jesus
He helped build the
I feel sorry
For the earths population
cuz so few
Live in the u.s.a.
At least the foreigners
Can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay
Only precious few
Can garner the prosperity
It makes us walk
With renewed confidence
Weve got a place to go when we die
And the architect resides right here
Weve got the american jesus
Overwhelming millions every day
(exercising his authority)
Hes the farmers barren fields
The force the army wields
The expession in the faces
Of the starving children
The power of the man
Hes the fuel that drives the clan
Hes the motive and conscience
Of the murderer
Hes the preacher on t.v.
The false sincerity
The form letter thats written
By the big computers
Hes the nuclear bombs
And the kids with no moms
And Im fearful that
Hes inside me
Some important things about youth ministry that I was reminded of repeatedly on this trip:
1) Youth will surprise you. For all the bad press teenagers get, I still wouldn't trade this ministry with them for any other. Our young people demonstrated over and over this past week that they are serious about serving others, that they can think for themselves, that they do care about their spirituality, and that they aren't afraid to express their opinions on faith issues.
2) Empower your adult leaders. I'm blessed to be working with a fine group of adult volunteers who, thankfully, are gifted in many ways that I am not. This devoted team of adults spent the week leading devotions with youth, setting an example with their excellent work ethic, driving endless miles, cooking meals, staying up to ungodly hours of the night, gently disciplining when necessary, and sharing their faith journeys. I couldn't, and wouldn't, do youth ministry without them as my partners.
3) Dig Deeper. Youth are ready for far deeper theological discussion and relationship-building than we usually give them credit for. They get enough "fun and games" in the other areas of their lives. What they need from us is a chance to build significant relationships within a Christian community that goes beyond the superficial.
4) Community over technology. Once again, we agreed on this trip to forbid the use of personal electronic devices while travelling. Youth and adults were free to offer up CDs to be played over the van sound system which meant we got a window into the different musical tastes in the group. In addition, there was great conversation all along the way.
5) Monitor the drinking. While travelling, if youth scream at you to make a pit stop to go to the bathroom, don't let them also use the stop to buy another liter bottle of Coke or you are going to have to stop again 20 minutes down the road!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
By April 2006, al Sharbi had already been locked up for almost four years at Guantánamo, where the military had declared him an “enemy combatant.” President Bush had claimed the authority to continue holding him—along with hundreds of men already in custody, as well as any other foreign national he might decide was an enemy combatant—until the end of the war on terror, a sentence that worked out to somewhere between indefinite and forever. His cell was eight feet long and not quite seven feet wide, with a bunk and a sink and, on the floor, a hole for a toilet and a painted arrow pointing toward Mecca. The lights were kept on around the clock, and he was allowed out only in shackles to shower and exercise for a half hour a few days a week. Al Sharbi had also almost certainly been subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” some of which until recently were considered torture and, according to the State Department, still are when practiced by Iran, Libya, Turkey, or any of a dozen other countries.
I know good Christians can agree to disagree on these topics, but let there be no doubt that these are not "just matters of politics." They are important issues of faith and I think they are issues our youth should be struggling with in light of their Christian walk.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Parents, pastors and elders want to see teens who are “on fire” for Jesus. That’s what they want the youth ministry to produce. Yet I am far less interested in making on fire Christians than I once was. Today I would rather seen teens who have a vibrant relationship with Jesus, yes - but who have also counted the cost of discipleship, realized that it is not easy, that God doesn’t always make sense, and that sometime life is down right dreadful. I want to disciple teens and help them realize that if someone says “shit!” that doesn’t mean that they are a less spiritual person than someone who doesn’t.
Friday, July 13, 2007
(move mouse over each color to see what they represent)
The winning entry took two days to film with help from the Vermont Film Commission. It begins much like the opening sequence of the TV show, with the familiar theme song playing as Vermont's Homer chases a giant doughnut (actually an inner tube designed by a local graphic artist) through the town, causing mayhem wherever he goes. The townspeople chase after him until they are beckoned into the movie theater, where they sit down for the premiere of The Simpsons Movie.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I'm preparing to preach this Sunday on the parable of "The Good Samaritan." I thought I knew this story well....perhaps too well as I was less than enthusiastic about dealing with this tired old chesnut. But in my exegetical study of the text, it has done what all of Jesus' parables do: thrown me for a loop and turned my expectations of the story upside down. I had always assumed that when Jesus tells the lawyer to "go and do likewise" he was referring to the compassionate act of the Samaritan. This is indeed a perfectly fine reading of the text. But this time, I heard something completely different altogether. What I hear Jesus telling the lawyer to do is go and be like the man in the ditch! Be willing to receive help/love/compassion from God in whatever way it may come. And be prepared for it to come in unexpected places, at unexpected times, and from the most unexpected sources! What have been those unexpected encounters with God for you?
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Currently, she is receiving training in California (what a nice place to train) and came across some teachings that I find very interesting. Her mentors state that for each grade a child is in, the teacher should lecture for that many minutes and nothing more. So, in a typical forty-five minute class, Lizzy will lecture for seven minutes and have classroom activities for the remaining time.
Has anyone else ever heard this? As youth ministers, I think we spend a lot of time trying to teach our students. I know I’ve been guilty of talking with my junior high kids for more than seven or eight minutes. Maybe I need to redefine some of my teachings and focus more on group activities and hands-on learning. Maybe we focus too much time on teaching and not enough time on relationships.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Yeah, I know you're busy. But you owe it to yourself to take 9 minutes and watch this compilation of inspirational words from the amazing Mike Yaconelli.
Have a talent night. I'm serious! The best learning always starts by connecting with something the learner's brain already knows and with which they are comfortable. Encourage your youth to come ready to share their talents, gifts, abilities, and interests. Yes, this evening could include the typical singers, actors, and musicians. But also encourage your artists to showcase their works, the poets to give a reading, the athletes to display a trophy or two, the comedians to tell a joke, the juggler to put on a show, the math whiz to solve a quadratic formula, the carpenters to display their handiwork, and so on. Youth who don't have a talent to easily put on display can describe their gifts to the group.
Identify Personal Spiritual Gifts. Next, help youth identify some of the more applicable spiritual gifts as found in scripture. Read together Romans 12: 4-8 and 1 Cor 12: 1-11, 27-28 and ask the students what jumps out at them. Prepare a list of spiritual gifts and their descriptions to give to the youth. You might include such obvious gifts as wisdom, healing, prophecy, service, giving, teaching, and mercy. But I would not limit the list to just the obvious ones enumerated in these scriptural passages. Consider also less obvious spiritual gifts such as craftsmanship, music, and writing.
After talking through the list, ask the students to imagine an invisible line going down the center of the room. As you read through the list of spiritual gifts, invite students to stand at one end of the line if they think they are strong in a particular gift or at the other end of they think they are weak in that gift, or somewhere in between. Invite them to explain their choices, if they choose.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I think it’s flat stupid that that seminaries and colleges offer degrees and majors in Youth Ministry. I know you’ll probally tell me I’m crazy, but I think it’s dumb. What are your classes: Gross Games 101? How to have really edgy youth pastor hair 310? How to get stains off the sanctuary floor so the elders don’t get mad 420?
Here's an idea adaptable for the end of a mission trip or any youth trip. Here's what the poster at Flickr says about the photo: "This was pretty simple and straightforward. This group had spent a year together in learning, small groups, mentorship, and fellowship, not to mention the year they spent doing their youth ministry work. We equated that to a "road trip" type spiritual pilgrimage. So we asked them to write God a postcard chronicling their experience. If I had to do this one again I'd probably make some postcards with various pictures. "
Monday, July 02, 2007
I wish every day could be a day full of inspirational actions and life-changing events. I wish every day (well, maybe not every single day) I could gather around the cafeteria tables with my youth and share a meal while listening to them share what is on their hearts and minds. I wish each night we could end with devotions.
But what happens when you and your youth are all pumped up from mission trips, or camps, and you return to the real world? How do we keep our youth continually engaged and cognizant of the fact that how we behave during one week out of the year should be, most likely, the way we should behave throughout the entire year. Perhaps we need to spend more time recognizing the ways in which we practice our faith the other fifty-one weeks out of the year. I think Brian had a good point when he suggested that we need to encourage our youth to see that less is more. What if we spent a year doing a mission trip in our hometowns? What would our youth groups look like then?