Tuesday, November 24, 2009


    A whole different way to approach Advent this year.  Why not give it a try together as a youth ministry challenge?

    Monday, November 23, 2009


    Youth worker Christina recently guest-posted at the Musings of Foreign Hearts blog and graciously agreed to let us share her post entitled "Days I Hate Being a Girl (Youth Worker)" as part of our Women in Youth Ministry Series:

    An annoyance of today turned into a little bit of a rant, but it's a glimpse into my life, so enjoy! Feel free to comment about what bugs you about being a girl today!

    -Days when you're in a business conversation with someone and they can't keep their eyes off your chest. Even though you're very modestly dressed. And your guy coworkers notice this exchange. Awkward and disgusting.

    -Days when I can't walk as fast as my (guy) coworkers because I like to wear heels and not tennis shoes every.single.day.

    -Days when I have to worry about why the sophomore boys want to hug me.

    -Days when I have to hear about pooping more than I'd like (aka any.)

    -Days when we are going swimming and I have to spend lots of time finding a modest-enough swimsuit to be around high school boys. AKA usually a tank top and shorts. While my co-workers run around shirtless.

    -Days when I start making lists in my head because the topic of conversation turns to MMA. Again. :)

    There are also MANY days I absolutely love being a girl (youth worker.) But today is not necessarily one of those days.


    Does your youth ministry observe the liturgical season of Advent?  If not, your youth may be missing out on the whole reason for the season.

    With Christmas music and decorations appearing in stores in the middle of October, it's a sure sign that our culture needs to slow down and cultivate the spiritual practice of waiting.  Though many churches ignore the liturgical calendar, the way our culture runs headlong into the Christmas season (before we've even tasted Thanksgiving turkey) reminds us why our youth need the Advent season of waiting and contemplation.  

    In the coming days, we'll be sharing a number of new ideas for helping your youth ministry find meaning in the season of Advent, as well as highlighting some of our favorite ideas and links from past years. 

    Idea #1:  Advent Themes

    My youth ministry is a cooperative effort with another local church and last Friday night our lock-in centered on a great creative project.  We set the youth loose to create works of art centered on the themes of advent.  After getting a quick lesson on collage from an artist, the youth proceeded to gather together scrap materials, magazines, odds and ends, glue, paint, brushes and anything else they could find to spur the creative imagination.  They then worked together on large sheets of cardboard to create art pieces, each focused on a different theme of advent: Peace, Hope, Love, and Joy

    The teens were encouraged to think abstractly, working without too much planning and just striving to express the feeling of each theme word. Some youth spent their whole time on one art piece. Others rotated around and added something to every piece.  The image above was created as a collage of faces cut out of magazines. The favorite creation was the "peace" image below.  Think about trying this with your group and then displaying each themed painting outside your sanctuary or worship space on the corresponding Sunday.  Perhaps include some scripture texts or a written devotion for reflection. 

    -- Brian

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Women in Youth Ministry Profile

    As part of a new series of profiles of women serving in youth ministry, we visit with Devoree Crist. Devoree is a spiritual director, M.T.S. graduate of Eden Theological Seminary, and holds a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. She has been involved in lay youth ministry for 21+ years.

    What do you find most enjoyable about ministry with youth in the Church?

    I enjoy being around persons who are starting to think for themselves and are just beginning to develop their own understanding of God, of religion and of faith. Up until this time of life they are open to what they learn but as they enter into adolescence they begin to question things for themselves and make their own conclusions. There is still an innocence but with the world intruding upon it. It is a real pleasure to be there to witness those moments when they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom. It is also a great joy to help them see the options open to them that may not be so obvious when "in the world".

    What do you find most challenging about ministry with youth in the Church

    The greatest challenge for me is the number of persons doing youth ministry that have no experience with youth other than their own personal experience of being a youth, and/or no real desire to do youth ministry yet are placed in that position for a number of reasons. These are the people who are writing curriculum, running the youth programs in congregations and on the larger church level. I really cringe at what passes for youth ministry sometimes. " Keep them busy and out of our way" is the theme. Working against this type of thinking is the greatest challenge.

    What shifts or changes would you like to see in youth ministry in the next decade?

    I would like to see the youth (and younger children for that matter) better integrated into the life of the church on their terms. By this I mean making it easier for youth to participate in all facets of the church experience without just being a "mini-adult on a committee." For example, serving as liturgist (trained of course) and deacon. It is good to welcome their ideas and incorporate those ideas into planning. This is true whether the youth are able to go to committee meetings or not. It would be great to see youth feeling safe to offer their gifts in worship or other aspects of church life. I would like to see classes on youth ministry taught in the seminary. When someone is called into youth ministry they should have the proper skills to do so. In other words, recognizing that youth ministry is a specialized ministry.

    What would you say to other lay women who are considering a call to ministry with youth? Are there particular challenges or advantages to being a women in this area of ministry?

    I think anyone who wishes to work with youth must truly love youth. It is challenging work and not for everyone. If noise bothers you or you can't stand short attention spans, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you are someone who can be patient and love through mood swings and lots of drama, and if you can be flexible with your plans, then you will find this the most rewarding work. I am not sure that being female has any real advantage or disadvantage unless the whole church environment is chauvinistic. Sexism is alive and well in our churches and youth ministry is not immune. "You're a woman, you know how to take care of kids." This is not helpful in selecting a person to work in youth ministry. I suppose if you are a younger woman you might have some boundary issues, but that is true of younger men. I find that being an older woman gives me a little more authority - probably as mother figure which kids respond to well.

    Additional thoughts?

    It is really important to understand that not all youth are alike. There is really no such thing as "THE YOUTH". Youth groups vary in dynamic from year to year, from congregation to congregation. Some youth are quite mature at 13 while others are terribly immature at 18. Some groups as a whole are more introspective, some more superficial, some more energetic, some more laid back. Individuals may be musical, artistic, interested primarily in mission, or some have more secular inclinations. The key is to be open to whoever is in your group and to be with them where they are so that when God is working on them you don't miss it or get in the way. In addition, when you accept each as they are, a child of God, you help them to accept each other and that is the way safe space is created.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    CULTURE WATCH: What's so great about "Glee?"

    Is your youth ministry full of jocks, cheerleaders, and future valedictorians or is it a rabble of drama geeks, choir kids and the "losers" no one wants to sit with at lunch? Either way, you should be watching "Glee," a new series on the FOX network and one of the best reasons to watch TV. "Glee" focuses on a passionate young teacher who is trying to make a success of the high school's glee club. Known for being a depository of losers and geeks, the teacher's real goal for the glee club is to help these teens discover their worth and realize their potential, despite what others think. Along the way, his efforts attract more students to join the glee club (including members of the football team and cheer leading squad) and the wrath of the coach of the cheerleaders.

    Last week's episode, entitled "Wheels," firmly established "Glee," in my opinion, as great TV. This single episode dealt with issues of justice related to teens who are differently-abled and mentally challenged, the realities of teen pregnancy and casual drug use, and took an honest look at the loving relationship between a gay teen and his father while acknowledging the homophobia of high school culture. On top of that, the humor and music remind you that life can be an uplifting and exciting adventure.

    If you are a junior member of the morality police, you might have a problem with the mostly adult content of a tv show focused on teen characters, and personally I'm not certain younger teens should be watching the program. But for those of us working with teens, it's a vision of world where all young people have someone who loves and cares for them and challenges them to be the persons they were created to be. Hmmm...remind you of anything?


    Tuesday, November 10, 2009


    Tap into your teens' creativity with this project that encourages worship of God wherever they go.

    In the exile, the Israelites came to understand that God didn't dwell in just one particular place but that God's presence could be experienced anywhere. Yet, how many of our youth believe that worship of God mostly happens in the confines of a church sanctuary one hour a week? To encourage teens to develop a practice of tuning into God's presence the whole week long, invite them to create mini-altars or worship centers like the example below. These can be carried in pocket or backpack and used as visual inspiration for moments of prayer throughout the day.

    The process for making these pocket altars is simple and allows for each person's individual expression. Encourage teens to consider what focus they want for their mini-altar. They might want it to remind them of things for which they are thankful, images from nature, words of scripture, and so on. You'll need one empty Altoid tin for each person (can be purchased at a craft store) and a variety of art supplies. It helps to use sand paper or steel wool to take off some of the outside paint on the tin first. Youth can then decorate the tins with acrylic paint, or decoupaged images and words cut out of magazines. Small objects like buttons and shells can be easily attached on the inside or outside of the box using a hot glue gun or Diamond Glaze. Encourage teens to consider placing helpful items inside the tin such as a written prayer, a passage of scripture, mini icon images, a cross, photographs, a small votive candle, and so on. When finished decorating, consider spraying the inside and outside of the tins with clear spray glaze to protect the decoration.

    See below a pocket altar I made myself or check out these other examples.


    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Rethinking Church Camp 2010

    It's that time of year again. Right? Seriously, now may be a good time to start planning for next summer's church camp. I just finished Fred Craddock's new book: Reflections on My Call to Preach: Connecting the Dots. Fred is one of the most influential preaching voices in North America and a member of the denomination in which I belong--Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

    I expected the book to be a reflection of his days spent in the pulpit and teaching in seminary. Instead, Fred reflects on his early years and how his experiences as a teenager, particularly at church camp, formed his understanding of being called by God to preach.

    At one point, while recalling his camping days, Fred says, "My most significant, and frequent conversation partners...were ministers. Older ministers." Then he says, "Apparently I am reporting on a time before the churches decided to turn their young people over to young ministers, some of them but a few years older than their charges."

    To be fair, Fred notes that perhaps such changes were necessary. But I think his points, and experiences, are genuine. All too often we look for younger adults and college youth to help be counselors. But what if next summer we intentionally focused on having older adults present at camp. You could even have several "Camp Chaplains." Maybe we need to be more intentional about briding the gap between generations?

    I tend to agree with Fred when referring to these "older" ministers who helped develop his sense of call he says, "They were present, available, nonintrusive, [and] good listeners..." Isn't this what we look for in our camp staff?