Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    BIBLE STUDY: Where/Who/What is God?

    With apologies to some of our readers, I have to admit that I am no fan of country music. But when I recently asked my youth if they had any popular songs they would like me to use as the focus for a Bible study, the immediate suggestions were two country songs, one by Josh Turner and one by George Strait. Both songs deal with how we experience God in our lives. Below you will find a complete plan for a discussion and Bible study based around the theme "Who/What/Where is God?" using the songs "I Saw God Today" and "Me and God."

    THEME: Who/What/Where Is God?
    Youth will be invited to consider how others understand God and how these understandings compare and contrast with their own understandings of God.
    • Youth will brainstorm a list of words to describe God.
    • Youth will investigate a series of scriptural images of God.
    • Youth will discuss the images of God in two different songs.
    • Youth will share their own understandings of God.
    Opening Up: Begin with a quick brainstorming game. Starting with the first letter of the alphabet, go around the room one person at a time and ask each person to suggest a word that describes or names God with each successive letter of the alphabet. For example, person one might say “All-knowing.” Person two “Big.” Person three “Caring.” And so on. Set a time limit (maybe three minutes) and see how far you can get through the letters in that time.

    Digging In: Share that there are many ways that faithful people understand/name/describe God. The different writers in the Bible talk about God in various ways. Ask several people to read the scriptures below and discuss briefly what sort of image of God is presented in each writer’s words:

    Exodus 3: 7-10 (God working through people)
    Exodus 13:21 (God working through natural world)
    Isa. 66:12-13 (God as a mother)
    Isaiah 64:8 (God as father/potter)
    1 John 4: 7-13 (God as love itself)
    (See many more possibilities here.)

    Reflecting: Pass out lyric sheets for the two songs. Beginning with Josh Turner’s “Me and God,” either listen to the song or watch the music video on YouTube. Next, invite the youth to imagine that Josh was just in the room sharing his thoughts on God and faith through his song. Use the discussion questions below to consider:

    How would you describe Josh’s thinking about God?
    Name some ways he describes God. What kind of relationship does he seem to have with God?
    What do you think of this way of talking (singing!) about God? Does it fit your understanding? Is it scriptural? How is it the same as yours? How is it different?
    If you were hired to make the music video for this song, how would you depict God (or would you?)

    Next, listen to George Strait’s “I Saw God Today” or watch the video (see above). Again, invite the youth to imagine that George was just in the room sharing his thoughts on God and faith through his song. Use the discussion questions below to consider:

    What do you think of the different ways the song describes God?
    The song says “I know He's here, but I don't look near as often as I should. I know I should. His fingerprints are everywhere. I'd just slow down to stop and stare opened my eyes and man I swear, I saw God today.” What do you think it means to say that God’s fingerprints are everywhere?
    Where do you see/find God around you?
    If you were going to make the music video of this song, how would you show God in the video?
    Why do you think both of these songwriters refer to God as “He?” Based on his song, how you think Josh would react to the other images from scripture we looked at earlier? What about George? What about you?
    What sort of differences do you see in the way they each think about God?

    Closing: Invite each person to share one place or way in their personal lives that they encounter God, whether it be in church, in the natural world, in other people, in prayer, etc. Close in prayer.

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Facebook Profiles Can Reveal Narcissim

    From the "NO KIDDING" Dept. :

    The researchers found that the number of friends and wall posts (messages left by the owner of the profile or friends) that a person had on their profile correlated with how narcissistic they were. Study leader Laura Buffardi, a Ph.D. student in psychology, said this is similar to how narcissists behave in the real world, forming numerous but shallow
    relationships with others.

    Narcissistic Facebook users were also more likely to have glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile photo, while others tended to use snapshots, the study found. The untrained observers also noted the differences in photos and amount of social interaction. "We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can be identified by others," Buffardi said.

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Sex Education and Youth Ministry?

    What place does sex education have in youth ministry and on what issues of sex should you or can you educate your youth?

    This is a topic that I did not give much attention to until recently and I was surprised by how appreciative the youth were that we were finally talking about sex at church in an honest and open forum (And I do mean "honest and open." The teens were allowed to ask any questions they wanted.) But there is also the concern about whether or not there is such thing as "too much information." Does sex education have the power to not only inform but also to encourage sexual behavior? Do abstinence programs work? What is the role of parents and school and all of this? These questions were all touched upon in a recent discussion on the Diane Rhem radio show on NPR:

    The latest teen birth rate figures are up after a 15-year decline, and the presidential campaign has renewed questions over the effectiveness and appropriateness of comprehensive sex education and
    abstinence-only education. A look at the trends in teen sexuality and efforts to influence young people's decision making.
    The panelists included: Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Valerie Huber, executive director, National Abstinence Education Association Debra Hauser, executive vice president, Advocates for Youth Stan Weed, director and CEO, Institute for Research and Evaluation Douglas Kirby, senior research scientist, Education, Training and Research Associates. It is definitely worth a listen.
    You might also want to check out other posts on this blog related to sexuality here.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Bench-Building as Mission!

    Benched from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

    Check this out! As an inner-city pastor, I think this is a great example of how inner city churches can be a part of mission in simple but profound ways. What a great idea for a youth group mission project in their own town! HT to Shane.



    Jacob and I have been at this blog for a little over two years now and we are grateful for the response to our efforts to be part of the youth ministry blogging community. We are proud to be one voice in a chorus of dedicated youth ministers sharing their ideas in the blogosphere (check out our sidebars and links tab to visit those other great sites). And we are humbled by the fact that our Technorati rating regularly hovers around 60 and we average around 5,000 visitors a month (and about 50,000 unique visitors so far this year). These stats are only important to us as they affirm that what we are posting is useful and helpful to those of you in the trenches of youth ministry. Our goal has and will continue to be to focus solely on the best ways to engage in ministry with youth and to help those youth find their place within the ministry of the Church. Your feedback, constructive critiques, suggestions, and ideas are always welcome! Thanks for visiting!
    -Brian and Jacob


    Dan Mayes has posted a very interesting interview with Dr. David F. White, Associate Prof. at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and author of “Practicing Discernment With Youth.” He has much to say on the influence of culture on youth ministry and models of youth ministry and their relative merit. It is definitely worth a read, particularly to get his perspective on the evolution of the segregation of youth and adults within the Church:

    Remember all those congregations that once organically integrated teens into their intergenerational life? It seems as if many of them have forgotten how to nurture teens. So much energy and attention has been given to the model of youth ministry that requires a paid, trained professional, so that adults and congregations have forgotten how to nurture and mentor young people so that they are not simply relegated to the margins of community life, but are brought into its center and empowered for important roles.

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Youth Sunday: The "Bugsy Malone" of the Church

    I recently communicated with our blogger friend Jeremy Zach about how to organize a youth Sunday (Jeremy, by the way, is currently featuring a series of interesting interviews with youth ministry bloggers, including yours truly. Check them out here). Our conversation got me thinking about why I just don't like youth Sundays. And I can sum it up in one word: Gimmick.

    Years ago, before most of you were born, this country was forced to endure the release of gangster movie called "Bugsy Malone." But this was no ordinary gangster movie. It had a huge gimmick: all the parts were played by kids! And instead of the guns shooting bullets, they shot cream pies. How many us have "Bugsy Maloned" the annual Youth Sunday service by replacing all the adults with teenagers? And how many of us have helmed Youth Sundays where the communion was replaced with something like Coca-cola and goldfish crackers? That's the "Bugsy Malone cream pie gun" version of communion. Do you see the problem here? This let-the-youth-take-over-for-one-Sunday-and-do-whatever-they want approach is too susceptible to being seen as a gimmick. And something that is seen as a gimmick is often not taken seriously. So what would I suggest instead? When planning a Youth Sunday service:
    • Encourage the youth to respect the basic format of your established worship service while infusing it with their own particular gifts. This may mean that they sing or perform the music, write the prayers, or deliver the sermon.
    • Make the planning of the service intergenerational. Get the youth working with your regular worship team or the pastor. Encourage them to involve other adults in the service as liturgists, musicians, ushers, etc.
    • Provide an opportunity for teens to partner with the pastor to develop and offer the morning's sermon, possibly even as a dialogue with the pastor.
    • Challenge youth to remember that worship should be designed to be meaningful to all ages and allow all present to worship God without being tripped up by the form of the service. (Translation: if gummy worms in place of communion bread is going to keep someone from coming to the table, it might be worth a second thought.)

    This sort of approach could set the tone for a Youth Sunday that is less gimmicky and more a celebration of intergenerational leadership in the church. In fact, it just might set a new standard for how worship is designed and led from that day forward. Perhaps there will no longer be a need for "Youth Sundays" because youth will be involved intentionally and meaningfully in worship EVERY Sunday!


    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    COOL IDEA: Interactive Youth Group Calendar

    Need a way to keep your youth informed about upcoming events, birthdays, and weekly activities without having to make more announcements or send out more postcards? Try creating an interactive calendar on the wall of your youth room. Mark off the lines for your one-month-at-a-glance calendar on a wall (the bigger the calendar the better!). Use masking tape to cover over all the lines.

    Next, paint the entire space of the calendar with a chalkboard paint available at craft stores and hardware stores. Once dry, remove the tape and your calendar is ready! Add a chalk tray underneath for added convenience and put one or more youth in charge of adding the new dates and events each month. The beauty of this calendar is that it also allows youth to add their own notes to the calendar such as performances for their upcoming play or their next track meet they want you to come watch. And the next time you make an oral announcement during youth group for your auditory learners, make sure to send your visual learners over to the chalkboard for added memory reinforcement!

    QUOTE OF THE DAY . . .

    On failure in youth ministry:

    Last night didn’t go so well. I think….But i feel that way about nearly each and every week. some weeks, I think my time with jr. high or high school students was wonderful and a “home run” kinda week. But most weeks, I think it just isn’t working. I feel like there is gap between what’s in my head and what I’m communicating. Most weeks I feel totally inadequate. I’m not sure that I made sense or that the students connected with anything I said. And why would I think I’m good?
    Wait. There's more. Check the rest of it out here.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Family Night

    Hi Everyone:

    This weekend, we are having our first annual Family Fun Night. I’m hoping this will be a good way for families to interact with one another and for children to spend time with their parents. We plan to have food and worship. We are also going to have some games. But, I have to admit, I don’t have a huge knowledge of games. If you were putting together a list of games to do with families what would you include?

    Here’s my short list. As you can tell I really need some help:

    Water Balloon Toss
    Three Legged Race
    Shoe race (have everyone take off their shoes, put them in a big pile, divide into groups, and take turns running to the middle, finding your shoes, and returning to the line)
    Guess Who I am (put the name of someone famous on the back of each person and have them ask questions to figure out who they are)
    Free throw contest (facing the basket backwards)


    Friday, September 12, 2008

    The Future of Evangelicalism . . .

    This interview, part of the "Speaking of Faith" radio show, is worth watching just to see Chuck Colson articulate the traditional evangelical view of sexuality and Shane Claiborne sharing what I can only hope is the emerging evangelical view for the days to come. For the sake of the youth in our culture, who see the Church as primarily defining itself as "who we are against", I hope evangelicals are moving in the direction you can read about in Shane's books Jesus for President and The Irresistible Revolution.



    What do I do now? How do you get started in your first year in youth ministry or your first weeks at a new church? Jeremy Zach has some great suggestions.

    Just another number? Grahame at the Insight blog offers up several thoughtful talk starters to get your youth talking about the value of each individual.
    How do I get them thinking? Jumping right into a difficult topic or scripture is not always the best way to get youth thinking. Brain research says "Start where they are at!" Shane at Nailscars suggests this simple yet effective idea for getting youth thinking on a difficult or abstract topic. (Check out his site for lots of creative ideas!)

    Why can't our worship be like this? The next time your youth complain about your worship service, show them this "it-can't-be-real-can-it?" video posted at the Nikao site (and while you are there, check out the series "The Death of Youth Ministry.")

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Getting Ready for Fall: Pt. 3

    It’s time once again to begin our weekly Sunday night meetings. Every year, we try to start with an activity or event that encourages both individuality and community. This year, we’ll open Sunday night by handing each youth a ceramic tile. We’ll have paint and brushes ready on the tables. The goal is to create on the tile a design (through words, pictures, and colors) that represents you. Once the tiles have dried, I’ll take them on Monday to the local craft studio. For a very small fee, the studio will glaze and fire the tiles. Once the tiles have been glazed, we’ll arrange them on a cross, glue them on, and fill the spaces between tiles with grout. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have a beautiful cross that represents us both as a community and as individuals. We’ll also leave room to add new tiles as people join us throughout the year. Later in the year, the cross will be used as an offering during youth worship.

    The following Sunday, we’re planning to host our first ever family night. After spending some time talking with parents, I realized that most families don’t know one another very well. I’m hoping that by hosting a family night, we can have a picnic, play some games, worship, and really get to know one another. When families begin spending time together, my assumption is that the sense of community will only strengthen. This may eventually lead to a family retreat.

    Then, two weeks from this Sunday, we travel to our annual corn maze festival. We rent a school bus, fill it up with kids, go the maze, and eat lots of hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. Activities like this encourage fun fellowship and easy entry for those who may be new to the group.

    How about you? How are you beginning your youth group activities? We would love to hear from you.