"I got a rock!" Hope your Halloween works out a little better! Need some last minute Halloween ideas? Check out this list at the Youth Ministry Ideas blog.
Friday, October 31, 2008
- I am more interested in voting on issues rather than specific candidates.
If I could vote in the upcoming election, I would vote for the same people or issues as my parents.
- The media and poll results highly influence my political opinions.
My life experiences (where I’ve lived, people I have interacted with, etc.) shape how I vote.
- I would vote for a candidate based on their appearance – what they look like, etc.
- A candidate’s technological knowledge (internet use, etc) is very important.
- A candidate’s sexual orientation (if they are gay or straight) would influence my vote for them.
- I think the only way to honor the separation of church and state is to not talk about politics at all at church.
- I think the faith of a candidate is important when deciding who to vote for.
- My faith influences who I would vote for.
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.
Notice: Faith and politics were connected in ancient Israel. The ancient people believed that God’s promise to be in relationship with them was intertwined with their political system (anointing kings). The theological claim they are making throughout scripture is that God cares about what they do and how they act, including who they give power to and how they rule.
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.
Question: Is this still a good comparison (God – king) to help us understand who God is today? What is important to God in our world today (this question will be answered more fully in later exercises)?
Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
Question: Do you know people of faith who refuse to pay taxes today, as an act of civil disobedience? (because the taxes support war efforts, etc.)?
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.
Notice: Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God. He used language and concepts with which the people were familiar (kingdoms). The kingdom of God was completely different from any kingdom the people had known, though. The kingdom of God was a “place” in which God’s values – of righteousness and equity – dominated; completely opposite from any kingdom that the people were familiar with (in which the rich and powerful oppressors ruled). The people had a very hard time understanding the concept of this new kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Question: How can we create the kingdom of God and live in a world that would be in line with God’s values today?
PART 3: HOT TOPICS THIS ELECTION SEASON
Consider passing out copies of your local ballot (likely available on the internet from your local board of elections.) Review with youth the ballot issues and candidates,, making special note of interesting facts (i.e. there are actually several people running for president!).
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.
PART 4: FAITH PRIORITIES
Option Two: Invite youth to pick one of their faith priorities and find two other youth who also share that faith priority. As a team, challenge them to brainstorm how they might get involved with this issue. What sorts of things can they do – as teens today – to affect the political process concerning this issue? Have the teams then create a poster that promotes their ideas and then show the posters to the whole group at the end of the discussion.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
What an important topic to speak with our youth about -- one that has, unfortunately, almost entirely defined what the Church stands for in the eyes of much of the secular public. You might want to share this video with your youth, as well as check out some of the Prop 8-related discussion questions for teens that fellow blogger Jeremy Zach proposes at his Small Town Youth Pastor blog. These young people are future voters. Let's listen to what they have to say.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
If you're looking for a way to talk with your youth about the election, their beliefs, and the beliefs of others you might like this idea. Begin with showing the video Generation WE (it's below this post). Next, go to NPR and play some video clips from the This I Believe series...We like these stories, but there are lots of great ones. After having some conversation and reflection on the video and audios, invite your youth to create their own, "This I believe" statement. When you are finished, have youth share their statements. For additional fun and creativity, you might consider videotaping your youth and posting their "This I Believe" statements on your youth website.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Youth Leaders -- take note of Generation We, the "Millennials," those born between 1978 and 2000:
From the book "Generation We: How Millennial Youth are Taking Over America and Changing Our World Forever" by Erich Greenberg. You can download a free copy the book here. It's definitely worth a read. Let us know what you think.
The Millennials are a special generation, potentially the greatest generation ever. They are not pessimistic or vengeful. Rather, they are sober in their view of the world. They believe in technology and know they can innovate themselves out of the mess they are inheriting. They believe in entrepreneurship and collective action, and that each person can make a difference. They are about plenitude, and they reject cruelty. They are spiritual, responsible, tolerant, and in many ways more mature than their predecessor generations. They reject punditry and bickering, because they are post-partisan, post-ideological, and post-political. Most important, they believe in the greater good and are ready to dedicate themselves to achieving it.
Who's Jack Chick? Perhaps you don't recognize the name of the most prolific evangelical tract cartoonist of all time but you've likely come across one of his little comic books sitting on a window ledge, on top of a mailbox, or left behind at a table in restaurant. My favorite depicts a guy who dies and goes to heaven and is shown highlights of his life on big movie screen. Most of the tracts focus on who's going to heaven and who is going to hell and why you don't want to be the latter. What Jack lacks in biblical knowledge and solid exegesis he more than makes up for with his kitchy drawings and over-the-top scare tactics. I always get a chuckle out of the fact that every year they market his tracts as a great give-away to kids on Halloween night. Here is a sample one of one of his comic books, a story about three teenagers who go running from terror out of a haunted house and one of them is hit by a car:
- "Some kids say 'I got this one last year, can I have a different one?' So we know they read and remember them." Maryland
- "The first kids said 'Books! Cool!' One little guy said 'The candy goes in here but this stays in my hand!' He walked away reading." Wisconsin
- "The Chick tracts went like hot cakes. Many of the children were more interested in the tracts than the candy! I was astonished!" Email
- "We have used your candy and tract idea for the last six years. Kids love Chick tracts. Some kids yelled to other kids" 'Hey, they're giving out the good stuff!" California
See more here.
UPDATE: Just for the record, and since it is not clear in what I wrote above, I'm no fan of Jack Chick and wrote this post with tongue firmly in cheek. Please don't give Christian tracts to kids for Halloween. Give them good stuff: Twizzlers and Snickers!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Last weekend, we had our annual Boys’ Retreat. In the past, we have always traveled to our local camp and conference center. This year, we went on a two-night float trip in southern Missouri. While the nights were a little cold, the daytime temperatures were perfect. On the drive home, I reflected on our weekend retreat. I am confident that outdoor retreats are a perfect opportunity, that may not be possible anywhere else, to focus on God, creation, and community. The theme of the retreat was “Finding God in Nature.” We spent time around the campfire talking about God’s creation and how we are called to be stewards of the earth.
For almost 72 hours I had a chance to live in community with my youth and adult sponsors. We had no cell phone reception, no televisions, and no video games. Where else can you get this kind of opportunity for ministry? Sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows, chatting, and throwing buckeyes in the fire (yes, they do have impressive explosions) create memories for these youth and adult sponsors that will last a lifetime. I really encourage each of us to continually think of ways in which we can take our youth away for the busyness of their lives and provide them with the opportunity to slow down, relax, live in community, and celebrate the presence of God in their lives.
Monday, October 20, 2008
TWO PERSON RULE - Just what it sounds like, the two person rule maintains that at least two adults must be present and within sight of each other at all times when youth are present. This is a "non-negotiable" in my opinion. In a time of heightened awareness of abuse by clergy, it is paramount that youth (no matter what age) not be alone in the presence of an adult. Of course, such a rule also protects the adult from being accused of something improper or having their actions misjudged by a young person.
Does this mean you can't meet one-on-one with a teen? No, but it does mean you can't be alone. I often arrange to meet young people at a local coffeehouse or restaurant so that there will be other people present when we are talking. If you meet with students in your office, you should insist at the very least that the door have a window so that you can be viewed at anytime by others. If you have to drive a student somewhere or take them home after youth group, make sure another adult goes with you. Oh, and one more thing. So often I hear youth workers suggesting that this is a gender issue: male leaders shouldn't be alone with girls, and women leaders shouldn't be alone with boys. True, but they only get it half right. No adult should be alone with a young person, regardless of the genders involved.
SAFE TOUCH - This one is tough for many youth leaders, particularly if you are a "hugger." In this part of our training, we emphasize that there is nothing wrong with touch -- Jesus often demonstrated the healing power of touch. But when it comes to teens and adults, there must be boundaries. We encourage adults to focus on "safe touch" which can include: a pat on the back, a sideways hug (hip to hip with arm around the shoulder), high-fives, handshakes, and A-frame hugs (where the two persons lean in and hug but torsos are not in contact). The most important question to ask when engaging in physical touch with teens is: "Do you want to offer touch to share God's love to the teen or do you yourself need physical contact? What is your real motivation?"
TRANSPARENCY - Many of us utilize social networking sites such as Facebook as a way to stay connected with our youth. But the real danger here is transparency. I've read recently about youth leaders who use the chat features on sites like Facebook to counsel teens. If you are a trained pastor, you might think there is no issue with this. But what about the other adults who work with you? Are they too having long private conversations with individual teens via chat rooms and Facebook? Do you have any way of accounting for these conversations (such as printing out the IM conversations or saving or printing email correspondence with youth)?
What about beyond the virtual world? Do your volunteers meet and/or socialize with youth outside of youth group times? (And are they socializing with teens for the benefit of the youth or because of their own need for friendships and social contacts?) Do you have any way of tracking or accounting for these interactions? Do you ask that volunteers at least share with you when they have met with youth, what they did, and any pastoral concerns that might have been raised? Do you run yearly background checks on all adults working in your youth groups? Each of these questions are important as they relate to the transparency of your ministry.
Ultimately, our primary concern should be that students in our care feel safe and come to know the church or whatever setting you are in as a place where they are cared for and they are protected. It's so important to remember that everything we do, for good or bad, may form how that young person feels about God and the Church for the rest of their lives. Ministries that provide safe space for teens to explore their faith are also giving young people a window into another possible vision of the world, the "Kindom" of God, where all people are loved and respected.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
For the past several weeks, I have been following the stock market more closely than normal. In fact, I can’t recall ever following the stock market. There is no doubt that we are in a serious financial crisis. But, this quote from U2’s Bono helps put matters in perspective:
The rest of the article can be found here.
It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases…Bankruptcy is a serious business and we all know people who have lost their jobs…but this is moral bankruptcy.
I think conversations on the bailouts with our students would lead to some pretty interesting dialogue. I only had one economics class in college and I found it to be difficult and miserable. So, I can’t claim any great insights. But, I do believe that our budgets, bailouts, and other financial priorities are a reflection of our moral agenda and what we value most.
Have you had any conversations with your youth regarding the bailout?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The 2020 Vision for schools has some intriguing goals—they are trying to transform the New York City public school system. Their vision encouraged me to reflect on what we are doing for our public schools. How can we, as youth ministers, be more intentional about the ways in which we help our schools and our students succeed? In the church I serve, and probably in your church as well, we have numerous individuals involved with the school at some level or another. How can we connect and strengthen our relationships with these individuals? What should we be doing?
What do you think? How can we form a partnership with our local schools?
Monday, October 13, 2008
Last night, our attendance was lower than normal. I tell myself not to worry. After all, it was a big football weekend with a late Saturday night game (the MU Tigers lost) and church attendance as a whole was down. Plus, I know that it’s not all about numbers. But, I can’t help but ask the question: Why am I concerned about the number of people attending youth group on Sunday night?
I know this a rather cliché question. Almost any book on youth ministry tells you not to focus on and worry about the numbers. But it’s difficult, at least for me, not to be concerned with a lower attendance. In fact, I think numbers can give us certain indications.
Taking note of attendance, without obsessing over attendance, can help us answer several questions: Is this a good meeting time for my youth? Are we adequately planning for our events and ministry? Do we need more adult volunteers? Do we need to do a MIA (missing in action) and call those we haven’t seen lately? Are we using the most effective teaching techniques for the size of ministry we have? Are we spending enough time preparing?
Perhaps all of this is to say, it’s good once in awhile to sit back and reevaluate our ministries.
How about you? Should youth ministry pay attention to numbers?
Friday, October 10, 2008
A video worth passing on to your youth. Whatever your position on the sexual orientation debate, I would hope as Christians we would agree that words have power and that all people need to be treated with care and respect.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
This year to overcome the oddness and uncomfortable trappings of traditional youth ministry I have tried to steer the focus of our youth ministry towards more of an outreach and social justice focused group. We are still doing the conventional components of youth ministry (teaching about Jesus and stupid silly games) but we are also trying to become a community of youth and young adults that reaches out past our church doors. This is a shift for both our church and my own thinking.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Why has Obama been able to pull this crowd of people in? Is it because they are politically dumb and see him as a "celebrity candidate"? NO! The reason why Obama has won this age group (my age group) over is
because he's a genuine, transparently authentic guy. My age group is tired of secret lives, hidden agendas, false pretenses, lies, dishonest honesty (Such as "I didn't inhale" or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Monica Lewinsky" and several others). My generation is dropping out of church for these same reasons.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
If you are looking for some way to engage your students around the cultural observance of Halloween in a few weeks, I strongly recommend the documentary "Hell House." This film follows one church's efforts to create a Christian version of a haunted house. What makes it Christian? Well, instead of ghosts and ghouls, we get a girl suffering through an abortion while taunted by demons, a gay man who dies of AIDS and goes to hell, a girl at a rave who takes drugs and is raped (her fault for being morally weak!) and on and on.
These "hell houses" are cropping up all over the country, most often sponsored by church youth groups who spend months preparing, building sets, making costumes and rehearsing their lines. All in the name of evangelism. The documentary lets the church folk tell their own story with no outside judgment or commentary by the filmmakers (though there is one really interesting scene where some local teens confront the youth minister on what they consider to be the intolerance inherent in the whole project).
I wonder that these hell houses are just an excuse for some Christians to have fun at Halloween while claiming they are not endorsing paganism and the occult. On the other hand, the participants seem genuinely convinced that this is an effective tool for bringing people to Christ. What a great conversation you could have with youth after watching this film, looking at issues of evangelism, thoughts on the afterlife, understandings of God in scripture (lover vs. judger), and the ways different churches understand the central focus of the Christian faith. Check out a useful review of the film here.
For more fun, check out this clip of every one's favorite cranky atheist, Richard Dawkins, interrogating a Colorado evangelical pastor about whether or not these hell houses are trying to scare people into "being good."
This yearly program asks students to meet at the flagpole outside their school and stand together holding hands and praying -- in a display of self-righteousness for all to see. Perhaps more bothersome: it centers itself around a flag, a symbol of nationalism, further commingling faith and country in a way that I believe dilutes our faith and is downright dangerous for the health of the Church. 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.
The question I have is simple. Where is the Biblical basis for this event? Because if we look at what the Bible says about prayer, I only find passages talking about how we should NOT pray to be seen by others. Jesus himself said that we should go and close the door to pray.
Read the rest. What do you think?
Update: There's quite a growing consensus of similar responses to "See You at the Pole" over at Pomomusings. Maybe it's time for some enterprising youth minister to come up with a better alternative. HT to Joel at the Mayward blog.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Below you will find a collection of creative prayer ideas, each tied to one (or more) of the multiple intelligences. Each idea is fairly open-ended and can easily be adapted to your particular theme or scriptural focus. Why not consider setting up a "night of prayer" for your youth and invite them to explore the prayer experiences that speak most to their own ways of exploring the world and their spiritual life.
Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence: This intelligence is often demonstrated through the appreciation or performance of music. Option one: To create a prayer station focused on this intelligence, round up several Ipods or MP3 players and download meditative chants or other spiritual music for participants to listen to as they focus on a particular text or written meditation. A great source for combined word-and-music meditations is the website Pray-as-you-Go which offers free daily downloads perfect for a prayer station. Option two: Load each Ipod/MP3/CD player with a different type of music: classical, jazz, pop, techno, etc. Invite participants to take time to listen to each, allowing the different styles of music to focus their prayers differently. Option three: Have a video Ipod? Provide (Christian?) music videos for meditation.
Interpersonal Intelligence: This intelligence is expressed in an ability to work with and relate to other people and in groups. For this prayer station, encourage three or four people to work together to create a group mandala. This prayer practice invites the group to work together to create a “sacred circle” in which each draws, paints, writes their particular prayer concerns and joys inside the circle. The challenge of the task is to see how they might each add or respond to the contributions of others to the mandala’s design or content. See template to the right for one possible way to approach this group mandala project.