Unfortunately, the second half of the film finds us and Wall-E on a floating ark in space, the home of the human race for the past 700 years while they wait for creation to reclaim itself on their garbage-strewn home planet. While the humans wait for the little white robot Eve (the "dove" in this version of Noah's ark) to find an olive branch and bring it back to the ship to show them the earth is inhabitable again, the people have nothing to do but wait. It is here that the Pixar folks demonstrate an amazing amount of insensitivity in portraying all the humans as shockingly obese "do-nothings" who spend their days laying on hovering lounge chairs, sucking on sugary slurpy drinks while watching TV and being waited on hand-and-foot by robots. As soon as this part of the story began playing out, I immediately wondered how any heavy-set people in the theater must be feeling. Even worse, how might any overweight children in the theater be feeling about this obviously negative portrayal.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
REFLECTING: Next, as a larger group or in smaller groups of 2 or 3, invite the youth to each share their memories of Santa Claus from when they were kids. Where did you see him? What did he look like? What traditions did their families have about Santa Claus?
- How do you think the story of St. Nicholas got twisted in “Santa?”
- Who is in control of the “Santa” image today?
- How would you change the Santa image to better make it fit the true life Nicholas and the Christian message?
- What would you have him look like? What would have him doing?
St. Nicholas followed in Jesus’ footsteps, serving others, caring for the poor, welcoming children, working for justice for all people. And he was put in prison for doing so. The world always wants to take the radical and make it tame. To make a St. Nicholas into “Santa Claus” and use him to help sell toys. To make a radical Jesus into a “goody two shoes” who just wants us to be nice people. It’s at Christmas time that we need to work harder than ever to reclaim our radical Jesus.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Challenge each team to decorate their "it" person as a live Christmas Tree. You might even borrow the idea from the photo and have them wrap the person's feet to represent the gifts. How about flocking the "tree" with a little fake snow made of shaving cream! Just be sure to have goggles and a towel on hand. Finish with a fashion show of the decorated youth and a singing of "O Christmas Tree." (What's that you say? You've been playing this game for years? Then send us your photographic proof. We'd love to show the world!)
On a large sheet of paper, write "JESUS" in large block letters. Pass out Post-it Notes to participants and invite them to write down titles or names they would give to Jesus that explain how people think about him, such as "Messiah," "Son of God," and "King" (one name per Post-it). Have each person stick their Post-its on the block letters. When all have posted, read some of the responses to the group. Another Option: Lay out a long sheet of butcher paper and have the group trace the outline of some one's body on the paper. Now, have the group work together to transform the outline into a portrait of Jesus, each teen adding his or her own personal touch. Afterward, discuss how the portrait represents many different ideas about how we see Jesus.
REFLECTING: Invite youth to turn to someone around them and share which titles for Jesus are most meaningful to them. Ask: Where do we get our ideas about who Jesus was/is? (e.g. Bible, parents, media, experiences). Invite youth to consider that some people get their ideas about Jesus from their interactions with Christians and Christianity, and that these experiences are not always positive.
DIGGING IN: Play the song "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Browne. It might be helpful to pass out copies of the lyrics to read as the song plays. In small groups discuss:
- What words does the songwriter use to describe Jesus? Which of these images/words resonate with you?
- What criticisms does the song writer have of Christianity? Culture?
- How do you think he feels about Jesus as a person?
- Where do you think the song writer has developed his thoughts about Jesus/Christianity?
- What do you think of the song's observation that we have filled our churches with "pride and gold?"
- Do you see any signs of the "rebel" Jesus in our typical celebration of the Advent season (in the malls, at Wal-Mart, in our decorations, or festivities)?
TAKING ACTION: What would it mean to say that we follow a "rebel" Jesus? Are the things he taught still radical in the world we live in today? Why not covenant as a group to do something rebellious in the name of Jesus this Advent? Something that will get the attention of others. Many years ago I worked with a youth group to hang a huge banner on the front of our church that read "How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore the homeless the rest of the week?" Cars and people passing by the church couldn't help but see it and it generated several complaints! What can your group do to challenge the status quo thinking about Jesus? What image of Jesus can your group offer your community that speaks to the truth of the Gospel? Perhaps the lyrics to the song can inspire you.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Give Globally– Honor a loved one by giving a monetary gift in their name to a global missionary through your church or denomination. Or, instead of lots of bought gifts (that will be forgotten a year from now) consider giving to organizations such as Heifer International.
Organize a Canned Food Drive – Instead of focusing your entire Advent on shopping and decorating, gather together and sponsor a canned food drive for the local food depository or pantry.
Attend/Host a Taize Service – The Taize experience is quite unlike traditional worship services. The music is simple and meditative, the sacred space is filled with candlelight, and in place of spoken liturgy there is silence and time for rest and contemplation. Scripture read aloud opens one’s thoughts. The practice of individuals lighting candles through out the service as an act of prayer keeps the focus on the needs of God’s world in this season of expectation.
Watch a Film – Take time to just sit an enjoy a holiday-themed film and REALLY watch it. See it as an act of meditation. I would recommend "It's a Wonderful Life," any version of "A Christmas Carol," "One Magic Christmas," or "The Bishop's Wife" (the Cary Grant version!).
Visit Goodwill – While everyone else is fixated on what they are getting for Christmas, put yourself in the giving spirit with some winter cleaning. Go through your closets and clothes and gather up all the usable items that you no longer need or want. Then deliver them to your local Goodwill or resell-it shop where they can be of use to others at a low price.
Notice God’s Creation – Give thanks for the created world around you and get into the fun of decorating by creating special treats for the animals that live outside. Hang seed balls on the branches of your trees for the birds. Make festive garlands of cranberries, popcorn, raisins and nuts on heavy string and drape them on trees and bushes for the squirrels.
Visit a Shut-in – Drop-in on a home bound person or invite him or her on a field trip to look at outdoor light displays or to enjoy to a yuletide concert or play. Gather together to carol at a local retirement community or nursing home.
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day – December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. The story of Santa pales in comparison to the way this priest, later to become Bishop of Myra, lived a life of radical devotion to the gospel of Jesus. Take some time to learn more about Nicholas and consider the example he offers for living a life of Christian simplicity, compassion, and charity. A good place to start is here.
Practice Fasting – Commit to fasting as a spiritual practice for a certain number of meals just one day each week in Advent. Allow this time to help you focus on the needs of others around the world who lack adequate nutrition. Consider using some of your fasting time for volunteering at local soup kitchen or food depository. Determine how much money you saved by skipping meals and donate the funds to a local hunger relief charity.
Take it Slow - The stores were rushing headlong into Christmas even before Halloween, but we can adopt a practice of slowing down during Advent. Ease into the Christmas carols, the decorating, the baking. Savor the season. Have an Advent party instead of a Christmas party and create an event centered on lots of candlelight, quiet music, simple foods, storytelling, and rest. Adopt a craft and spend time making gifts for loved ones. Have a board game night. Limit the gift list and the parties you think you just "have to attend." Enjoy some silence and rest during this season.
1) begin with the Christmas Quiz
2) Spend some time talking about how the birth of Christ is depicted, or not, in the gospels
3) Spend thirty minutes in contemplative worship. This will include:
His birth…foretold in ancient writings.
His birth…a miracle that would threaten an empire.
His birth…would bring forth a revolution of new life and shine light into a world filled with darkness.
His birth…would change the world forever
His birth…would be the greatest gift God has ever given
May the miraculous gift of Christ fill your home with faith, your heart with hope, and your life with love.
How about you? What are you planning?
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
This Baby - A discussion guide centered on the Christmas song by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Make-A-Santa Game - Fun with shaving cream!
Silent Advent - Ideas for an Advent mini-silent retreat.
Advent Worship Nite - Ideas for setting up a prayer center-based worship experience during Advent.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Though we think of Advent as the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the original observance was something altogether different. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Advent was known as a six week preparation for the season of Epiphany, not Christmas. During this time, much like Lent today, new converts prepared themselves for baptism and faithful believers examined their hearts. Though the focus of Advent is different for us today, the idea of Advent as a time of introspection remains.
- Find a quiet place and take some time to center yourself.
- Think back over the day or week as if you were watching a movie of all that happened. Allow the experiences of that time to flow back to you. Ask yourself: What did I notice? What feelings or thoughts do I associate with this time?
- Think about where you saw God at work during the day/week? Give thanks for these moments.
- Think about where it seemed you were unaware of God's presence.
Think about where you were resisting God's presence. Ask forgiveness for this shortsightedness. Consider where God may be calling you to a new awareness. What new actions/attitudes might God be calling you to in your work/family/ministry/community?
- Close your time of prayer by giving thanks for the time with God and commit to greater awareness of God’s presence in the days to come.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I mistakingly thought that we would really “arrive” as an established youth ministry if we could begin hosting large events like this maybe once a month. I would lie awake at night imagining having multiple youth groups, kids coming in from the streets, maybe even attract a football player or two! All the while, never realizing that what we have already been doing…had been incredible and powerful.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
30% (42 votes) Getting the youth to "dig deeper" in their faith.
17% (24 votes) Increasing youth attendance.
14% (20 votes) Recruiting enough good volunteers.
9% (12 votes) Finding enough money to pursue our dreams.
6% (9 votes) Trying to get parents involved.
4% (5 votes) Getting the church to take me seriously.
Be sure to participate in our new poll in the sidebar!
Who would've ever known it
Note: Yes, that is Elijah Wood in the video.
OPENING UP: Invite the group to pray with you and say:
“Dear God, we come before you and give thanks for everything we have. We ask that you continue to bless us. Give us the things that we need and the things that we want. Help us get the best MP3 players, the best video game systems, the coolest clothes, the hottest sports car. Help us make good grades on all our tests and homework, and help us to win and be number one at whatever we try. Most especially, bless our country so that we continue to be more powerful and more wealthy than any other country in the world. Thanks God. Amen.”
Ask: If you heard this prayer in a worship service, how do you think you would react/feel? How is this prayer different/same as your idea of prayer?
REFLECTION: Go around the circle and invite each person to finish the phrase “Prayer is...” with one word. Do this three times, encouraging them to use a different word each time. Encourage them to consider action words, descriptive words, symbols, emotions, etc. Keep a written list of their responses.
Alternative: Pass out a handout with a variety of images on it related to prayer. The images might include folded hands, a person singing, someone walking in the woods, a lit candle, worshippers holding hands in a circle. Invite youth to share which pictures say something to them about how they understand prayer.
DIGGING INTO THE TEXT: Read Matthew 6: 5-17 together. Ask: How could the text help shape our prayer practice? How might we pray differently than we do now in church/in private?
Read Luke 18: 9-14 (The Pharisee & the Tax Collector). Ask: How do you think the Pharisee would define prayer? How do you think the tax collector would define prayer?
Read Luke 5:16. Ask: What do you think about Jesus' practice of praying alone? What do you imagine he prayed about? What does your own prayer practice look like or what would you like it to look like?
BRINGING TOGETHER SCRIPTURE & OUR STORY: Pose "The Big Question": Do you think God answers prayer? If so, how? What does a prayer sound like if it's not about asking for stuff? What part, if any, do we play in helping God to answer prayers (or own or those of others)?
Encourage the group to reflect on the different ideas and images of prayer that you have discussed. Invite them to create (perhaps in silence, as an act of prayer) a group mural that illustrates, without words, different ways of understanding prayer.
Perhaps commit as a group to pray each day for one week at a certain time and for a certain number of minutes. Then, report back to one another about your experiences.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Count off students into groups of three. Tell them they have two minutes to try to make as long a list as possible of the things that they own. After the two minutes, have them reflect on the following questions with their small group:
How many things on your list do you need?
How many things on your list do you rarely use?
How many things on your list would you be better off giving away?
Consider showing clips from the documentary "What Would Jesus Buy?"(see above).
REFLECTION: (10 minutes)
- Going shopping is sort of like a hobby or pasttime for me.
- I sometimes take my old clothes to a re-sell it store.
- I would work a job I hate to have enough money to buy the stuff I want.
- I'd want to buy the newest video gaming system (or other item), even if my old one worked just fine.
- I sometimes buy something because it's cool -- not because I need it.
- I would consider buying my clothes from Goodwill or the Salvation Army or other re-sell it store.
- There is too much "stuff" in my bedroom!
DIGGING INTO THE TEXT (25 minutes)
Separate into three groups. In this activity, each group will explore a biblical text that speaks to how much importance we should place on our material possessions. Invite participants to listen to a scripture passage and think about what it might have to say about the thingsin our lives:
Group 1: Luke 12: 13-21 The Parable of the Rich Fool
Group 2: Luke 21: 1-4 The Widow’s Mite
Invite the group to prepare a skit or pantomime based on the parable, with one or more persons reading the text as the others act it out.
BRINGING TOGETHER SCRIPTURE & OUR OWN STORY
Bring the whole group back together. Share that, in the Gospels, Jesus talks about our fixation on money and material goods more than anything else. He is remembered as someone who clearly felt that how we view the importance of possessions in our lives has a real impact on our relationship with God.
Have the small groups stage their parable for the whole group. Invite the participants to think about what the stories have to say about how we live in the world today.
Jesus, a poor man living in a world where most people were so poor that they only had the food they needed to live day-to-day, is remembered as teaching people to be careful about thinking that “things” would make them happy. He invited people to see that true life was about something better than just having lots of stuff. But he also knew that in order to see that better way of life, sometimes we have to let go of some of the clutter that keeps us from seeing God’s love more clearly.
Read Matthew 6: 19-21 and invite the group to meditate on the passage in silence or perhaps by using the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina.
Brainstorms some ideas as a group for simplifying your lives, including giving up some unneeded possesions. Try some of these ideas for starting this practice today. Perhaps take on a challenge as a group to adopt some some of these practices during the holiday season.
Close in prayer.
Note: Some of this Bible study was inspired by the resources from the Way to Live text and companion site. Check it out!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
How do you make yourself approachable to youth who have questions about sexuality?
How do you teach parents to talk to their teens about sexuality?
What are the messages you try to convey?
How can those in a secular setting create safe space for teens to explore their faith?
Monday, November 03, 2008
What is the "Pig of Truth?" Find out in this insightful post at the pomomusings blog all about maintaining rituals in youth ministry and finding a place to let the Spirit move.
Friday, October 31, 2008
If I could vote in the upcoming election, I would vote for the same people or issues as my parents.
My life experiences (where I’ve lived, people I have interacted with, etc.) shape how I vote.
Invite youth to read the following scripture passages aloud and then share with them the corresponding comments and questions:
Genesis 17: 1-7
When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to him … and said, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall now be Abraham … I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between you and me and your offspring after you … to be an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
Psalm 9:7-8 and Psalm 10:16a
The Lord sits enthroned forever. God has established God’s throne for judgment. God judges the world with righteousness; God judges the peoples with equity. . . .The Lord is king forever and ever.
Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, The kingdom of God is not coming with these things that can be observed; nor can we say “Look, here it is!” or There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.
The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
PART 3: HOT TOPICS THIS ELECTION SEASON
The youth may want to spend more time discussing the specifics of the hot topic current issues in your community. If time permits, ask if any of the youth have any strong feelings – as people of faith - about any of these ballot issues or candidates. This is a question which has the potential for leading into a heated debate. You will need to be careful to allow youth to express themselves respectfully, without allowing the discussion to get out of hand and lose control of the session.