Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    What is Progressive Youth Ministry?

    The interfaith website Patheos just finished up a two week online symposium on the topic of progressive Christianity. It's been interesting following the various essays and realizing how differently many of us define the term "progressive." I guess this makes sense as progressive Christians tend to resist rigid categories, literal interpretations, and overly dogmatic assertions. 

    In my essay, I attempted to answer the simple question "What is progressive youth ministry?" I share briefly about a recent intergenerational study at our church that looked at the big questions of faith. We discovered our congregation was even more theologically diverse than I suspected and we actually celebrated our willingness to live with our theological uncertainty:

    From the perspective of ministry with youth, a progressive theology challenges us to help teens embrace that theological uncertainty and to see faith not as a destination but as a journey. Teens need to be free to ask difficult questions, challenge traditional beliefs, and reevaluate their understanding of Christianity without fear of being labeled "unfaithful."

    I finish the essay by suggesting four quick, basic approaches that might guide those of us striving to lead youth ministries in progressive and/or mainline congregations. You can read the entire column here. This peice serves as a companion to the guest post I did awhile back at the Jesus and Teenagers blog on this same topic.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    COMMUNITY BUILDER: Inside-Out Teen Self Portraits

    Looking for a way to personalize your youth space and help teens learn more about each other? Try this creative activity which encourages youth to share who they are on the inside.

    This activity is designed to help your teens celebrate their identity as beloved children of God and to share something about themselves with the rest of your group.  Begin by using an overhead projector to help you cast a shadow of each teen's profile onto a sheet of black paper taped to the wall. Have the youth help trace each person's portrait in pencil onto the black paper.

    Next, invite teens to cut out their silhouette from the black paper (using one continuous cut),  paper clip the silhouette to a sheet of white paper, and trace their profile onto that paper. 

    Now the fun part: encourage the youth to show who they really are on the inside (their likes, dislikes, thoughts, dreams, doubts, fears, gifts, questions, loves) by filling in their "head" with glued on magazine images that reflect their identity.  No need to stay completely in the lines on this part of the project because the last step is to glue the black negative cut-away piece back onto the silhouette to create a black background for their portrait.  To extend this activity, invite youth to use gel pens or white colored pencils to write words on the black background.  You may also want to invite youth ahead of time to bring photos or copies of photos from home that they may want to use in their collage.

    Close by reading together Psalm 139: 1-18 and sharing together your thoughts on what it means to say that God knows us intimately and loves us completely.  How should this understanding affect how we live with and love others? 

    Book Give-Away Contest Winners

    Thanks to all who entered our contest to celebrate the release of our new book from Youth Specialties/Zondervan. The winners, drawn at random from all who responded, are:

    Roger Shock
    Jeff Nelson
    Benjer McVeigh

    In particular, we want to highlight all the great responses we received to the question: "What is the mission of your youth ministry?" For anyone looking to develop a missional youth ministry, any of these would be a good start for your brainstorming:

    Empowerment, discipleship, social justice, fun and worship to name a few of the concepts I work with in ministering to youth.

    The mission of youth ministry is the same as any other ministry - to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    "Missional Youth Ministry" Free Book Giveaway

    To celebrate the publication of our new text Missional Youth Ministry: Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples we are running a contest this week to give away three free copies of the book as a thank you to our readers who helped make this project possible.

    This text, written from a mainline/progressive/emergent perspective, argues for a holistic approach to youth ministry, challenging adult leaders and volunteers to help teens create ministries focused not on numbers, entertainment or programs but on the mission of the Church.

    How Do I Enter?  There are three ways to enter the contest:

    Comment on this post by answering this question: In your view, what is the mission of your youth ministy?

    Subscribe to our blog by using the "Follow By Email" box at the top right of the homepage.

    Tweet a message about this contest which includes the hashtag #missionalyouthministry.

    Each way earns you one chance in our random drawing for a free book. Contest deadline is Sunday, June 19.

    Want to see what the book is all about before you enter?  You can read sample chapters here and here or click on the "Browse Inside" icon at the bottom of this post.

    Browse Inside this book
    Get this for your site

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Can Twitter Help Shy Teens in Your Ministry?

    As an introvert myself, I've always felt the need to look out for the shy teens in my ministry. So much youth ministry programming seems to be aimed at extroverts, from big events where we cram 100+ students into one big noisy space or games that require a person to interact with a group and look silly in front of everybody (just for fun, of course).  There's nothing wrong with activities like these, but we at least need to be sensitive enough to reallize that for introverts they can be sources of stress and even make a teen feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. 

    It's important to have ways for introverted youth to participate without having to draw attention to themselves.  I use a variety of approaches, including:

    • Inviting youth to talk in pairs or trios about a discussion question before we discuss it togther as a group. This gives them a few minutes to rehearse an answer and perhaps be more comfortable sharing it with the group becuase they've already tried it out on someone else.
    • Purposefully planning activities that incorporate silence.
    • Making certain there is a balance between big group and small group activities.
    • Allowing teens to "opt out" of group games and the like if they choose.
    Now some thoughtful teachers have begun to see how Twitter could be used in the classroom (and, I would argue, in youth ministry) to allow introverted youth to engage in group discussions and share their ideas and thoughts in the safe space of the internet via Twitter.  I'm sure some hip youth ministers have already started using this approach in large group settings (and some churches in worship), so why not also apply it to your regular ol' Bible study time or when your small group is just sitting around talking about poverty, or peace or relationships? 

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Are You Ready for Camp?

    Heading off to church camp in the next few days or weeks?  Before you go, you might want to check out some of these classic posts from our blog below.

    7 Ways to Guarantee a Lousy Church Camp - Just some quick thoughts on things to avoid if you want to be sure all your youth feel welcomed and included.

    Creative Prayer Stations for Church Camp - Complete descriptions with photos of interactive outdoor prayer stations you and your youth can set up around the camp.

    Rethinking Church Camp - A suggested daily schedule that can provide more time in your camp day for youth to attend to God's presence and practice sabbath (with some helpful comments from our readers!).

    Can Your Campers Handle a Night of Silence? - A description of an all-camp contemplative event which many of our youth rate as the best part of their week every summer.

    Bonus link: Don't miss the treasure trove of ideas at the Ultimate Camp Resource.

    Thursday, June 09, 2011

    "King of the Hill" on Attractional Youth Ministry

    "King of the Hill" rethinks  attractional youth ministry. 

    Monday, June 06, 2011


    It’s official . . . summer has finally started. The graduations are all finished, the temperature is well into the nineties, and the cicadas are so noisy it is hard to even think.

    Several years ago, at a youth ministry conference, I listened to a well known speaker spell out in perfect detail exactly what his youth (assuming they didn’t leave the church or move) would learn from the first day of kindergarten to the final day of graduation. At the time, I was pretty impressed with the spread sheet that was produced. And I thought to myself: Maybe I can create a similar spreadsheet with the youth I work with? The goal, at least for me, wasn’t to have the youth necessarily learn a right or wrong about religion, but rather expose them to a number of different theological explorations--from the earliest writings of the ancient church all the way to the book of Revelation.

    So one summer, I tried to lay out an entire twelve years of Christian Education. I did make a spreadsheet and for a while I tried to coordinate all of the different pieces. It was difficult to put into action though and I wasn’t sure if such a rigid schedule of teaching allowed for the creativity and freedom that is needed in Christian Education.

    But now, I realize that by thinking in terms of a twelve year spread sheet I missed a big component of what learning is. We never really graduate from our faith. Our faith and spirituality should continue to grow every day. What I believe now is not what I believed ten years ago and not what I will believe ten years from today. So this summer, as we already begin to think about fall planning, I think it’s helpful to think about the ways in which we are preparing our youth to continue learning for a lifetime, regardless of what they have just graduated from.

    How about you? Anyone else try to diagram out what their youth should or should not learn?

    Creative Worship: Can I get a Witness?

    If you’re looking for a fun way to kick off summer activities with youth, consider focusing on the passage taken from yesterday’s lectionary reading—the Ascension of Jesus, Acts 1: 6-11. This is a text that some youth might find appealing—it’s not too often that we talk about Jesus flying up into the sky...

    • Begin with a conversation focusing on how youth initially interpret this passage.
    • Next, spend some time focusing on the words, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Ask your youth: What does it mean to be a witness for Christ? As a witness for Christ, you have the possibility to live your life in response to the one who has changed your life. All of your daily actions are intended to be a reflection of the witness of Christ.
    • Finally, have some fun with this Bible study. Encourage youth to email or message you throughout the week pictures of them “witnessing” to others, whatever this might be. The pictures might include anything from showing hospitality to studying the Bible. When you meet the following week show the pictures as part of your offering for worship and consider also showing the pictures on Sunday morning worship—a reminder that youth are part of today’s church, not just the church of the future.