Monday, February 22, 2010

    Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent '10: #3 Making Room

    Encouraging youth to give up something for Lent is just half the challenge. 

    A week ago, my brand new iMac work computer died on me, taking with it years of youth ministry files.  When asked why I hadn't backed up the files, I responded, "Who expected a brand new Mac to crash and burn a week after buying it!?"  My initial reaction was to be angry.  I was ready to march down to the Mac store and declare war.  And then a new feeling came to me.  It's the same feeling that I get when I do spring cleaning and finally get rid of a bunch of junk I've been carrying around with me for years.  It's that feeling of release that comes when you let go of "stuff" that was actually crowding your life...and make room for something new. 

    Lent can be a season for encouraging youth to let go of some of the stuff in their lives.  But I'm suggesting going beyond challenging them to give up some temptation such as chocolate or coffee or video games. Too often this sort of practice simply turns into a demonstration of one's willpower.  Rather, the challenge of Lent is to give up some of the stuff in our lives in order to make room for something new -- perhaps even making more room for God.  Invite your youth to rank the top ten things that they spend time on in a given week.   Where does their faith rank?  After school, homework, job, video games, socializing?  Which one of these would they be willing to lay aside during Lent in order to give more time to their faith?  Which would they give up in order to allow more time for prayer, Bible study, serving others, going to worship or youth group? What might they lose in taking up this challenge?  What to they think they might gain?  

    One other thought: If some of your youth want to give up something that costs money -- such as junk food -- challenge them to use the money for something else.  Here is an idea shared by a colleague of mine from seminary that challenges us to take stock of our lives during Lent as a way to give an offering to a worthy cause.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent '10: #2 Prayer Stations

    Lent is the perfect season to invite youth into a special focus on prayer. The prayer station ideas below might introduce your teens to a new prayer practice that they can continue throughout the Lenten season.  Each is tied to a phrase from the Lord's Prayer. Several of these ideas were adapted from resources all over the internet so feel free to use them, tweak them, and share them.

    "Our Creator in Heaven..."  At this station, participants lit a candle as a prayer for those who are struggling in the journey of life right now -- those struggling with health, relationships, or decisions.

    "Hallowed be your name..."   Participants spent time listening to various styles of quiet or contemplative music on cd players while considering how beauty in music can remind us of God's goodness.

    "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done..."  Here worshipers contemplated God’s dream for how the world could be. Using the art supplies, each created an image or symbol of God’s dream of how the world would be if peace, love, and forgiveness were at the center of all life.

    "On Earth as it is in heaven..."  Participants watched a slide show of photographic images depicting the neighborhood around the church, including both the places in need and images of those who are working for healing in our city.  As they watched, they prayed for those who struggle in the inner city and sought guidance to be part of bringing wholeness to the neighborhood. 

    "Give us today our daily bread..." At this station, participants focused on bread as an example of God providing for our basic needs. They offered thanks for all that God provides and prayed for those who do not have enough. Each person was invited to eat from a loaf of bread as a reminder of all that God provides on the faith journey.

    "Forgive us our sins..."  Focusing on the sins we carry around (those things that disconnect us from the source of God's love), worshipers wrote words to represent their sins on a stone and dropped the stone in a bowl of water to symbolize asking God to help them carry the burden. Each person also took a stone with them as a reminder that God is present even when life's burdens weigh heavy on us.

    "As we forgive those who sin against us..." Here participants prayed about those with whom they needed to seek reconciliation -- those persons who they struggle to see as fellow beloved children of God. They wrote the names or initials of these persons on a paper doll cutout. They then walked across the room and layed these as prayers at the foot of a large wooden cross.

    "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..." Reflecting on Jesus' temptation in the desert, worshipers were asked to consider which aspects of the Christian life and the Way of Jesus they find it most difficult to follow. They then crafted "postcards to God" confessing the temptation to stray from the path of faith.  They laid these cards at the foot of the cross.

    "For the Kingdom, the glory, the power are yours..."  Reflecting on the truth that all we have comes from God, participants spent time in silence while using this breath prayer.

    "Now and forever..."  This prayer station focused on God's unending and boundless love. Worshipers focused their prayer thoughts on this truth while contemplating images of Celtic knots which are designed with one continuous (eternal) line. Some traced the design with their finger or colored in the design.  Lots of images of these knots can be found with a simple Google search.

    "Amen."  Worshipers used a text-based mandala (found on this page by scrolling down to the heading "More Ideas") to contemplate Paul’s challenge to “pray without ceasing.” As they meditated on this phrase, they considered how they might be more attentive to God’s presence during the Lenten journey ahead and offered a prayer of openness to God.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent '10: #1

    The season of Lent begins this coming week with the observance of Ash Wednesday.  Though many protestant churches pay little attention to the seasons of the church year, I think we really miss out when we ignore the instropective season of Lent with our youth.  This forty day season (not counting the Sundays) is a time to reflect on one's journey of faith, to examine our relationships, and to become a part of the story of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross.  By observing this season, we invite youth to step out of regular time ( and into God's time for awhile. In the coming weeks we'll share some new ideas for engaging the themes of Lent with your youth. In the meantime, you may want to peruse some of highlights from previous year's posts about Lent:

    You will find additional ideas for Lent by using the "Search this Blog" box to the left.

    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

    Youth Ministry Bible Study for Valentine's Day

    It's February and time for Valentine's Day. Here's your chance to focus with your youth on a love that goes beyond chocolates, corny greeting cards, and roses.

    Getting Ready -  Distribute bowls of candy hearts and food safe marking pens. Invite youth in small groups to take some time to both read and contemplate the messages on the hearts and to use the pens to write new messages on the reverse sides that reflect the kinds of messages about love they would like to see.  After a few minutes, and perhaps some sharing of their creativity, ask youth how they might describe what "love" is.  What is difficult about trying to define love?  Would they say that there are different kinds of love? 

    Digging In -  Read together 1 John 4: 7-12, the passage that tells us that "God is love." Ask: How does this passage define/describe Love? What does it mean to you to say that “God is love”? Could we also say “Love is God?”

    Play for youth the song or video version of  “The Face of Love” by Sanctus Real which talks about the different ways we've envisioned Jesus throughout the centuries. Discuss: According to the song, how was Jesus “the face of love” to those he met? The song says of Jesus that "there was no one too lost for him to love and no one too low for him to serve." ASK: What stories from Jesus’ life come to mind that show how he loved others?

    Reflecting - Pass out one of the following Bible passages about love to each person and have them spend some time creating their own interpretation of the text, offering up their idea of "the face of love."  Youth might choose to show their interpretation through a writing a poem, drawing a picture, painting an image, creating a collage from magazine images, sharing a song, or sculpting something from playdo:  1 John 4: 16; 1 Cor 13: 4-7; I Cor 13:13; Song of Songs 2 : 2-3; 1 John 4:11-12; Matt 5: 43-45;  Gal 5: 13-14; Matt 22: 37-39;  Lev 19: 18; 1 Peter 3: 8-9; 1 John 4: 20-21; Matt 5: 44, 48; Song of Songs 2:10-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:15. As youth finish, invite them to display their creations and their texts in a special space in the room where others can see them.

    Wrapping it up -  The song "Face of Love" concludes by saying to God/Jesus "Let us be your face."  Ask: As Christians, how can we be “the face of love” at school/home/with friends/in the world? Is it even possible for us to be like Jesus? Why or why not?  Finish with a silent time of prayer for each person to commit to trying to be “the face of love” in a particular situation or place in the coming week.

    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Syncretizing Youth Ministry Pt. 2: Christian Fight Clubs?


    Our recent post discussing the trend in youth ministry to fuse elements of consumer culture with the Church encouraged some interesting conversation. While several readers suggested that there is likely a happy medium to be found here (many youth ministries, for example, make use of popular music and films as teaching aids) there is a temptation to go to extremes (designing youth rooms to look like mini malls) all in the name of doing whatever it takes to make our ministries look cool and get teens "in the door." A few comments from our readers:

    I'm reminded every week that it doesn't matter that our couches are falling apart, our media computer's internet rarely works and there's popcorn embedded in the carpet. Our teens don't see that. All they know is that someone wants to hear about their week.

    Our space communicates how we think about God and faith. If all our energy is put toward cool decor that makes people ooh and aah, then we're really just distracting them from the issues underneath. I love leaders who put a little bit of attention into room atmosphere but then let the rest go and are present with teens where they are.

    I hate it when youth pastors think their main job is making God/Jesus/Holy Spirit cool/cutting edge/relevant. Because if you truly believe this, then you don't truly believe that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are relevant, and therefore have fallen into consumerist Christianity...which leaves no room for relationship.

    I often wonder if in addition to the temptation to make God "cool," there is also a tragic identity crisis for those churches. I think there are a lot of ministries out there that lost the Gospel and are floating ambiguously in between the Kingdom and the dominant culture.
    One reader suggested we check out a particularly disturbing example of culture clashing with Church highlighted in a New York Times article entitled "Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries."  The article describes a trend in some churches to offer kick boxing ministries as a way to attract young males: "The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing."  The article suggests that these sorts of efforts are an attempt to counteract the way in which "churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility."

    As if the blatant sexism in that attitude weren't troubling enough, consider the issue of whether fighting as entertainment and recreation is an appropriate way to initiate young people into the faith. While some pastors in the article argue that they are simply using kick boxing as a metaphor for teaching young men to "fight the good fight" for the gospel, clearly it is not just a metaphor. They are both viewing and engaging in actual fighting.  How does this square with the image of Jesus we find in the gospel? As one pastor adds:

    What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay.  I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.
    Your thoughts?  Does the idea of Christian "Fight Clubs" go too far in an attempt to make the Church relevant to young men?  Or is this trend simply a way to get youth in door?