- Why not? I do! 66% (25 votes)
- Pobably not, because it celebrates the occult. 21% (8 votes)
- No Way! And while we are at it, get rid of that pagan holiday of Christmas, too! 11% (4 votes)
- Only if they go dressed as Bible characters (and Satan doesn't count!) 3% (1 votes)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
My first Halloween was October 1966. That year I went as a baby. This year I'm going as a 40-something youth minister!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’ve mentioned before that every Wednesday night I have a small group (composed mostly of seniors) that meets at my house. With this particular group, we’ve met for the past three years. And each year, there seems to be increased levels of stress associated with the daily tasks of adolescence. A majority of my senior high youth sleep only several hours a night, spending tons of time on homework and AP classes (not to mention the extra-curricular activities that are needed to be accepted into the “top” schools). Their stress levels are out of this world. It’s clear that only so many activities and responsibilities can be crammed into one day.
So, I wasn’t too surprised yesterday when the NY Times came out with this article. The title of the article, “Less Homework, More Yoga, From A Principal Who Hates Stress,” says it all. Paul Richards takes initiative in lowering the stress levels of his students. He mandates home-work free weekends and yoga classes for all seniors. Furthermore, Richards formed a stress reduction committee and stopped publishing the honor roll in the local newspaper as a means of reducing competition, stress, and cheating among students.
I wonder what the reaction would be if our local school board took similar actions? And, what is the role of all of this in youth ministry? What is the relationship between education and ministry? Education and competition? Not to mention self care and spirituality?
Saturday, October 27, 2007
- Everyone agreed that one look at THIS and you just knew all the beauty in the world was a gift from God.
- No one could prove it, but THIS looked to be evidence of an overly-compassionate bunch of church youth!
- Amazing! THIS is an exact duplicate of (insert youth leader's name) face found in nature/public.
- All the townspeople agreed. THIS was truly a sign of God's love.
- Police office Smith wasn't sure what to make of it, but she wrote down in her report: THIS is evidence of an "attempted servanthood with intent to cause smiles."
- Surely THIS could only mean one thing: Harry Potter (or insert or famous name) had been here.
- It was pretty obvious to the onlookers how THIS was going to end.
- "Be Careful!" someone shouted at the group. "THIS could cause an unstoppable outbreak of peace in the world."
- Who would have thought a youth group could do THIS and no one got arrested! (Okay, maybe you wouldn't want to use this one, but I think it's pretty funny.)
Last Sunday I decided to introduce the practice of lectio divina into our youth Bible study activity. Lectio Divina, or "sacred reading," is an ancient Christian practice of reading a scripture text deeply, allowing it to speak God's word to us intimately.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
- Sure, if it helps get teens in the door. 18% (11 votes)
- Video games are fine as long as they are not violent. 51% (31 votes)
- Video games have no place in youth ministry. We have better ways to use our time with youth. 20% (12 votes)
- How about a game of Twister instead? 11% (7 votes)
So, in summary, tell your youth this Halloween to skip the haunted house and definitely "Don't make the same mistake Timmy made."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
To Introduce Youth to the Christian Faith: Not too long ago I wrote about Mike Yaconelli's assertion that youth are too young to be disciples. Becoming a disciple of Christ is more than taking an oath (because, as Marcus Borg often says, this would be "salvation by syllables"). Becoming a disciple takes a journey. It takes a willingness to sacrifice, walk through some fire, and struggle. Many youth have yet to give themselves over to this sort of commitment to faith. But one goal of youth ministry can be to introduce them to what it means to follow Christ--to introduce them to Christ's radical, boundary-breaking way of peace and justice. To help them be, in a sense, interns for Christ. In this way, we are perhaps preparing teens to become the disciple they will be later in life.
To Help Youth Build Community: The Christian faith is built upon community. It is built upon compassionate relationships that recognize all as beloved of God. One goal of youth ministry should be to help youth learn what it means to live in radically open and loving community. Youth ministry should offer opportunties for youth to experiment with what this sort of community might look like. It should provide youth a glimpse of what it means to be loved unconditionally. It should help youth struggle with loving others even when it is difficult.
To Help Youth Uncover Their Spiritual Gifts: Teens are bombarded with messages that tell them that their self-worth will ultimately be tied to the size of their paycheck and their ability to consume within our capitalist economy. Youth ministry can help youth see that they have God-given gifts that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. These gifts could include, among others, mission, prayer, teaching, healing, and hospitality.
To Be Spiritual Companions to Youth: Let's face it. Being a teenager is tough. Not many of us would relive those days even if we could. Teens struggle with issues of self-worth, confusion about identity, and worries about fitting in. Youth ministry programs can offer youth the mentorship of faithful adults who will love them just as they are, walk with them on their spiritual journey, and help them navigate the challenges of adolescence.
To Awaken Youth to God's Presence: Many teens have lived so long with the idea that God lives "up there" or "out there" that they find it difficult to figure out where God is in their lives. Youth ministry can help attune youth to the God-saturated world we live in by introducing them to a variety of Christian spiritual practices that can help to awaken our sensitivity to God's presence.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Three years ago, when I started serving Broadway Christian Church, I spent a lot of time forming relationships with my youth. I felt that before I could do any significant planning, or discern the future of the youth ministry, I needed to know each youth as well as possible. For me, I found five main ways to develop relationships: 1) calling up each youth and inviting them to youth group and/or visiting them at their house; 2) taking pizza to their school and joining them, and their friends, for lunch; 3) sending each youth a personalized birthday card (cut out from the back of my cereal boxes); 4) praying for, and with, my youth; and 5) making sure youth knew that I was always available to chat, email, pray, or just hang out. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep up with each of these practices. I spend a lot of time in schools, talking on the phone, emailing, and visiting. But, I’m always looking for new methods of relationship building.
So, how about each of you? How are you connecting with the youth in your ministry?
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
"It started to become more clear to us that what they're experiencing related to Christianity is some of the very things that Jesus warned religious people about," [the researcher reported]. "Which is, avoiding removing the log from your own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone else's."
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Check out Nathan's full post here, part of his honest and insightful ongoing series "5 Things I Wish Parents/People Knew About Youth Ministry.I often get the feeling that people think I want the students to come see me, this is not the reason I do youth ministry. I do not suffer from loneliness, we do not do youth group so Nathan has some people to hangout with. I love your children and refer to them as my children also, but we want these students to connect with God and with other
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Brian and I are members of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ (DOC). I have been a lifelong member of this denomination. As a child, I belonged to the DOC because it is where my family worshiped. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure where I fit in and the DOC seemed as good a choice as any. And as a seminarian, in a polity class, I was drawn to the core values of the DOC and how I believed these values resonated with my beliefs. I found comfort (and still do) in the fact that the DOC are rooted in social justice. Social justice, I believe, was one of the fundamental principles and teachings of justice…
Three years ago, in seminary, it was so easy to say how I would promote values of peace and justice in the churches I served. I believed I would always be fighting for the oppressed—comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Looking back, I’m not sure I understood, or even could have understood, all of the dynamics and politics that go into a church.
So, I continually wonder, and perhaps you do as well, how to serve as a role model for my youth when it comes to social justice? I want to share my beliefs, encourage my youth to be prophetic, and really live out the teachings of Jesus. But, at the same time, I’m keenly aware of the fine line, as a minister, that we walk. I want to push, but not push too hard.
But perhaps I’m not pushing hard enough. Last week, John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ—a church in which my denomination is in partnership with—was arrested at the White House while attempting to deliver a petition with 60,000 signatures protesting the war. Should John Thomas, the leader of a large mainstream denomination, serve as a role model for others to follow? Should we, as ministers of the gospel and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, be more vocal and less concerned about church politics and consequences of our actions? I don’t know. I plan to discuss this with my youth. In the meantime, I would love to hear what others have to say.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
With Halloween approaching, my thoughts turn to this fascinating documentary "Hell House." This film looks at a part of Christian subculture that I just find disturbing. The documentary chronicles the efforts of a church youth group to create their own version of a haunted house -- complete with scenes of a girl having an abortion, a gay teen with AIDS going to hell, a girl being drugged at a rave and being raped (that's what you get for being bad!), unsaved folk writhing in the fires of damnation -- well, you get the idea. It really is a great film -- like a car wreck, it's hard to turn away even though it is disturbing.
Friday, October 12, 2007
- Bathing - When showering, as you wash your feet think about how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and how he is sending you out as a servant, too.
- Eating - Take time before each meal to say a prayer of thanks. Make eating together a regular habit as a family and be aware of the gift of fellowship and community it affords. Invite others to share in the meal as a way to practice God's hospitality.
- Driving - Time in the car is a great opportunity for conversation. Ask your children to talk about where they saw God today. Invite them to focus on the needs of others by asking them how their teacher is or how the other children are doing at school.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
"...[V]ideo games are divisive. Essentially there are winners and there are losers. The winners are the cool students, and the losers are the rejects. Video games endorse this idea of performance and competition. In many areas of the students’ life there is this ideology of performance. Some of the performance activities may include: sports, co-curricular activities, youth programs, peer relationships, and even in school. The idea of performance tells the student if you meet the standard and make it, then you are accepted and can participate. If you do not meet the expectation, then you are rejected and on your own to figure it out. .... Video games divide the participants that are playing them and fuel the competitive and performance spirit that is everywhere around them in their everyday life. Youth Ministry’s goal is not to create winners or losers, but to create and disciple authentic followers of Christ. It is about following, not winning or losing.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
See a pdf sample from this resource here.
Hundreds of churches use Halo games to connect with young people, said Lane Palmer, the youth ministry specialist at the Dare 2 Share Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Arvada, Colo., that helps churches on youth issues.
“It’s very pervasive,” Mr. Palmer said, more widespread on the coasts, less so in the South, where the Southern Baptist denomination takes a more cautious approach. The organization recently sent e-mail messages to 50,000 young people about how to share their faith using Halo 3. Among the tips: use the game’s themes as the basis for a discussion about good and evil. At Sweetwater Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., Austin Brown, 16, said, “We play Halo, take a break and have something to eat, and have a lesson,” explaining that the pastor tried to draw parallels “between God and the devil.”
Can you relate? I wonder that those of us with such fond memories of high school tend to forget how tough it is to be a teenager.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Some might argue that these youth are witnessing to their faith. But I would hope we are leading them to understand that we don't witness to our faith by making public spectacles of our piety. We do so in the way that we live and love others, in the way we work for peace and justice, in the ways that we care for creation, and in the ways we practice reconciliation. But don't take my word for it. Read what Stuart has to say.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Yesterday marked a year since the school shooting at Nickel Mines—a small Amish community located in the heart of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it seems that school shootings are becoming more and more common. My sister, who teaches in St. Louis, often has children in her class who bring weapons to school. But, obviously, it’s not just in the inner-city. Violence happens everywhere, the evening news is full of death and destruction.
How we respond to violence is a question that our youth, and, for that matter, everyone, should face. We live in a society where, I believe, retaliation is encouraged. The sayings of Jesus: “Turn the other cheek and Love Your Enemies” are easily forgotten. In terms of violence and retaliation you have to turn no further than yesterday’s conversations in Congress.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, or even justifying, violence. But yesterday, on the drive home to work, I was touched by a story on NPR. Joseph Shapiro recalled how the victims of family members at Nickel Mines attended the funeral of the killer. Amish families who had buried their daughters the day before hugged the killer’s widow and family members. Wow. I am honestly at a loss for words. I don’t think I could offer, or even pretend to offer, the same grace and forgiveness.
Jonas Beiler, a member of the Amish community (and founder of the Family Resource and Counseling Center), says, “Tragedy changes you. You can't stay the same…Where that lands you don't always know. But what I found out in my own experience if you bring what little pieces you have left to God, he somehow helps you make good out of it…” Beiler also notes that the Amish can experience healing because they express forgiveness and carry no grudges.
I think this is a lesson we can all carry with us. We need to learn how to heal and forgive. It’s impossible to escape tragedy in life. How we respond to such tragedy will likely shape not only us, but also our ministry.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I try to encourage my youth to do some sort of exercise—swimming, running, biking, walking—and also see it as a spiritual discipline. In a society where obesity is a rapidly growing problem (no pun intended) it’s important for our kids to find a way to simply get out of the house and do some physical exertion. There’s all sort of benefits to exercise. Sometime soon, I may use this article as a discussion starter for youth group. This monk is serious about running.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Lately, life has been so busy I haven’t had much time to write. As youth ministers, and when I say ministers I mean anyone who works with youth (not just the ordained), we are constantly pushed to the max with Bible studies, worship, planning, service projects, committee meetings, and a million other events. So, last week, I was really looking forward to my fall retreat.
Twice a year (as part of the Bethany Fellowship), I am able to join more than thirty other young ministers, in their first five years of ministry, for a week of relaxation, community, renewal, learning, prayer, and worship. For 36 hours, there is a mandatory silence. Then, once the silence is complete, we break into small groups and do in-depth “check-ins” and prayer. Each person is able to share their story and have a laying-on-of-hands as five or six different ministers pray for the person in the center of the circle.
On the plane ride back home, I couldn’t help but reflect on what an important role the fellowship has played in my ministry. I am not only connected with thirty other young Disciple ministers who share my interests and passion, but also I know that I am kept in their prayers as I too keep each of them in mine.
All of this is to say: Where are you finding support for your ministry?
Ministry, particularly youth ministry, can be draining and lonely. We need to find ways to feed our soul and feel confident that we know we are never alone. I turn to the Bethany Fellowship, my family, my colleagues, my friends, my blog, and my youth. How about you? Where do you turn for support? How can we build a community?