Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This year's mission trip was a tremendous success. Thirty-one youth and eight adults journeyed to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a week of service, worship, and prayer. We had the opportunity to help rebuild a church and two homes in the lower ninth ward--all of which had been destroyed by hurricane Katrina.
It's difficult to convey in words the experiences we shared with one another: living as a community of faith for a week, driving fifteen hours each way, saying 'I love You' to Pastor Washington (the pastor of the church we helped rebuild), having conversations on racism, seeing the complete devastation of the hurricane, working in the heat, sharing a meal with members of Westside Christian Church, eating beignets at Cafe DuMone, and closing each night with our lullaby.
This was the first year we didn't use an organization, such as Group Workcamps, to help us with the mission trip. It was only our youth and we were responsible for everything from worship to cooking. Some of our youth missed meeting others and learning about different faith traditions. But everyone agreed that it was an amazing experience to be together 24/7 for a week. Where else do you get that type of opportunity?
How about others? Is it common to organize your own mission trip or use someone else to help you with all of the little details?
Friday, July 25, 2008
- Take your group to see Batman and then let Jeremy help you think theologically about the Dark Knight!
- Not all games have to be video games. Have a "board game night" and check out some of Shane's suggestions for fun games for youth.
- Grab your digital or Polaroid cameras and try this reverse photo scavenger hunt suggested by that great blog Rethinking Youth Ministry....wait a minute...that's US!
1) Don't rush things. Youth will go through a lot of emotions when a mentor announces it's time to move on: sadness, anger, denial, possibly even a sense of betrayal (And don't forget joy and relief. Admit it! Some of the teens never liked you to begin with!). Youth need time to figure out what this transition means for them and their group. They need time to try to talk you out of it (even though they know it won't help). They need time to imagine what happens next. So, waiting until the last possible minute to announce your leaving isn't a good idea. In fact, I would advocate making certain that, outside of the church board or personnel folk, your youth are the first to know that you're leaving. And if possible, tell them in person!
2) Honor the past, affirm the future. Provide opportunities to remember the growing experiences you have had together. Have a party and celebrate the end of an era. But then, make space to prepare youth and leaders for what is to come. If there is to be some lag between your leaving and the next youth minister's arrival, help the group develop a calendar of activities that they will feel comfortable facilitating in the interim. As the time comes closer for you to leave, begin stepping out of leadership and encouraging the other adult leaders to step into that void. Assure youth that the church will work hard to find a new caring youth pastor to mentor them -- a pastor who will have different gifts than you and these gifts will help to take the youth program into new and exciting areas and challenges. I was fortunate enough to know who my replacement was going to be so I took every effort to share with the youth that she is smart, talented, much younger than me (so likely more willing to do lock-ins!) and she can play the guitar (a skill I've never picked up so the youth were forced to put up with my acapella song-leading!).
3) Leave a Message in a Bottle. As you are packing up your office, your files, your photos, your can of Silly String, remember that the goal is not to erase all evidence that you were ever there. Provide your successor with some sense of what happened before he or she arrived. Perhaps prepare copies of your past months or year's activities. Leave a list of the church youth with some basic descriptive information about their level of participation, family situation, and ongoing pastoral needs. Describe some of the yearly traditions and events of the ministry so the new pastor can consider whether these are things they want to continue or not. Finally, consider leaving behind a personal letter encouraging your successor and inviting them to contact you if they have questions (such as "Who has been providing dinners for the group? What happens if I park in the senior minister's parking space? What is behind that door with the sign that says "Never, Never go in here!")
4) When it's over, it's over. The ethical standards that I agreed to at my ordination clearly state that when I leave a ministry I cease to be a pastor to that church and its members. After years with a youth group, this can be difficult. It means cutting the umbilical cord, in a sense, so that the youth can make room in their lives for something new. In my last official gathering with our group (which occurred during our mission trip), I explained that I was going to have to put distance between us as I was not going to be their youth minister any more. This meant no more regular messages back and forth on Facebook or email, no calls seeking help with personal issues, no joining them for a movie or ice cream after youth group. I explained that this didn't mean I loved them any less -- it was just time for me to move on and for them to make space for their new pastor. After a pause to take all this in, one of the girls in the group said, "So, does this mean we are breaking up?" We all laughed and I said, "Yeah, in a way. We are breaking up. But we will always be friends!"
Ultimately, the truest evidence of a good "goodbye" is that the ministry continues on just fine without you and even goes places you were never able to take it!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
"This is a song about a church being moved hundreds of miles across the US on the back of a very big lorry. Features the 40 strong Manning Chorus in what is possibly one of the most bizzare bits of TV I've ever been involved in - a musical number at the end of a show about, basically, feats of engineering skill. Some of the footage is amost Fellini-esque. It's taken from the upcoming series MONSTER MOVES which airs on Five (UK) and National Geographic (USA) from early 2007." (HT to Chris Kidd)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Prayer Stones - Assemble a collection of smooth stones and ask participants to choose one and hold it firmly in their hands, focusing on and praying for a particular joy or concern. When ready, worshippers should take a sharpie and write a word on phrase on the stone to represent their prayer and then add it to the growing pile left by others.
Candle Shape Prayers - Set out a number of votive candles and a lighter. Instruct a small group to work together, in silence, to form together a shape or symbol to represent a prayer need of the world. When the group senses the image is complete, have them work together to light each candle, hold hands, and pray in silence.
Pipe Cleaner Prayers - Invite worshippers to take several pipe cleaners and form a shape or design that communicates a prayer concern. Ask them to add their creation to those of others and to spend time contemplating all the prayer concerns represented.
Stick Sculpture Prayers - I must admit the exact focus of this one alludes me but I'm sure you could creatively adapt it. Found sticks were provided and the group worked together to form a sculpture. Perhaps each added stick represents an individual prayer and the sculpture represents our prayers connected to each other, or perhaps the entire sculpture represents a prayer.
Of course, any of these prayer experiences could be enhanced by providing scriptures to read, sacred music, written questions to encourage thought and meditation, or icons such as images of Jesus or biblical stories in art. You can find other creative worship ideas, including more suggestions for interactive prayer stations, here.
Monday, July 14, 2008
What's So Bad about "Wall-E" - After the minor furor on this blog over my review of Wall-E (fueled in part by the fact that the review got linked to the national political blog of Andrew Sullivan) I thought I'd pass on youth ministry blogger Jeremy Zach's more friendly review. Should you encourage your youth to see the movie? Sure, then talk with them about it afterwards.
Guns for Christ? Youth minister Cory highlights one of the most ridiculous attempts to attract youth to a ministry gathering. Add this one to my growing criticism of the use of violence in youth ministry.
Do we have to go to bed? Danny has a few excellent tips on how to handle things in your cabin at summer camp, including how to address the always challenging "bedtime" routine!
Tired of Duck Duck Goose? Here's a free mega-list of over 2000 games perfect for church camp or any youth ministry gathering.
Keeping up with the culture? Mark offers some thoughts and suggestions on how gas prices are affecting youth ministry...and an interesting post of a recent cover of People magazine that you just might want to talk about with your youth.
Can it fit in a bottle? Devin wonders why people pick up shells on the beach and poses a cool question that would be great to share with your youth.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
In this post, I thought I would share some of our fundraising activities that we have done over the years:
•The fundraising is done on a point system. For each half-hour that you work, you get a point. The points, at the conclusion of the year, are divided by the total amount of money raised. In order to participate in the mission trip, you must have a certain number of points. This way, no one gets to go without first participating and you build group cohesiveness.
•Each fall, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we sell “Gifts in a Jar.” Basically, we buy mason jars and fill the jars with the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, and soup.
•Super Bowl Sunday Subs. The day before the game, we prepare sub sandwiches. The orders have already been made. Last year, we made several hundred sandwiches and the local grocery story gave us a huge discount on the ingredients.
•Pink Flamingos. A flamingo (or flamingos) gets placed in your yard. You have to pay $5 (per flamingo) to remove it and have it placed in someone else’s yard. For $20 you can buy anti-flamingo insurance. This is a lot of fun, and productive, but very labor intensive.
•Stock certificates. For each stock you purchase you are entitled to: a postcard, dinner and program when we return, and a photo of the mission trip team.
•Car wash. Make sure you can have multiple hoses and water pressure.
•Child-care night. We’ve done this on Valentine’s day and sometime during the holiday season.
•Rock concert/talent show. This was a huge hit last year. We called it Loftapalooza—The Loft, is our youth center. We had the participants on the mission trip develop skits, performances, and songs. The senior minister even sang a solo.
•Bake sale. Make some homemade pies and make sure the first pie or two sells at a high bid.
What other ideas do you have?