Monday, November 28, 2011

    Hot Off the Presses: Advent & Christmas Ebook for Youth Ministry

    Our latest ebook, Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Advent and Christmas, is now available, serving up a wealth of ideas for helping you and your youth experience the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

    In addition to offering some of the material scattered about this blog new edited and neatly repackaged into one ebook, you'll also find new ideas never before published on the site.  This 66-page ebook includes Bible studies, games, discussion starters, art projects, song studies, and more.  All for the small price of $1.99.

    PLEASE READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY BEFORE PURCHASE: To get your copy of the ebook, click on the "Buy Now" button below. Once you make your purchase, don't close the final PayPal window. Look on the middle of the page for the  link "return to brianskirk@yahoo.com." Click it and you'll be taken directly to a page where you can both view and download the ebook immediately. Download problems or questions? Just contact us at brianskirk@yahoo.com and we'll help. 

    Your purchase will help us to continue providing quality youth ministry resources on this site. Thanks for your support and happy holidays!

    Justin Bieber's Christmas Album: Bad Theology For Teens?

    Have you heard the songs on Justin Bieber's new holiday album?  Should your teens be listening to it?

    My latest essay at Patheos responds to the many criticisms being aimed at Justin Bieber's latest album which offers up a typical mix of the secular and the sacred that defines many Christmas albums.  But is he sending a mixed message to teens when he conflates romantic lyrics with biblical references to the nativity story:

    The miracle of Christ's birth hardly seems to be an apt metaphor for Justin's receiving a Christmas kiss, but perhaps we should cut this young guy some slack. Particularly since his version of "Drummer Boy" offers a pretty catchy updating of a Christmas classic. Critics are suggesting that the bridge of the song in which Justin raps along with Busta Rhymes amounts to a bastardization of the true meaning of the carol. I'm not so sure.

    You can read the rest of the essay and share your thoughts here.  


    Do You See What I See?

    To borrow a line from the well-known Christmas carol:"Do you see what I see" in the photo above?  Look closely. Perhaps you can make out a shepherd....Mary....baby Jesus....Joseph (and maybe even  a dog standing in for lamb)?  

    This makeshift nativity was crafted from trash by my youth Sunday school class as part of a lesson on how the characters in the Christmas story represent the "throwaway" people of their culture: an unmarried girl, outcast shepherds, a helpless baby, a poor carpenter.  Why is it important that we tell the story of Christ's birth from the perspective of those at the bottom of society?

    This activity is one of many available in our new ebook "Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Advent and Christmas" available here.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    VIDEO: Advent in 2 Minutes!



    A short little video that helps illustrate what Advent is (and is not).

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    It's Here! Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Advent/Christmas Ebook

    Our first Yuletide ebook, Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Advent and Christmas, is still available, serving up a wealth of ideas for helping you and your youth experience the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

    In addition to offering some of the material scattered about this blog newly edited and neatly repackaged into one ebook, you'll also find new ideas never before published on the site.  This 66-page ebook includes Bible studies, games, discussion starters, art projects, song studies, and more.  All for the small price of $3.99.

    PLEASE READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY BEFORE PURCHASE: To get your copy of the ebook, click on the "Buy Now" button below. Once you make your purchase, don't close the final PayPal window. Look on the middle of the page for the  link "return to brianskirk@yahoo.com." Click it and you'll be taken directly to a page where you can both view and download the ebook immediately. Download problems or questions? Just contact us at brianskirk@yahoo.com and we'll help. 

    Your purchase will help us to continue providing quality youth ministry resources on this site. Thanks for your support and happy holidays!

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    Should We Help Teens "Occupy" the Church?

    In my latest column at Patheos, I consider the intersection of the Occupy Wall Street movement, new efforts to lower the voting age, and the call to help youth take a place of greater responsibility within our churches:

    Rather than relegating teens to the backseat of Church life, as we so often do, why not invite them into positions of leadership and responsibility? Instead of limiting teen participation to joining the youth group or leading on one token Sunday of the year, why not invite adolescents to serve as the chairs of church committees and ministry teams or as leaders of worship? Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, we might find that allowing teens to lead and make decisions creates some messiness and inconvenience for those of us already in positions of power, but the passion of youth might also help to propel the Church into exciting new expressions of mission, ministry, and change for the better. 

    You can read the entire column and share your thoughts here.

    Guest Post: The Greatest Obstacle to Following in the Footsteps of Christ

    Guest Blogger Jason McPherson offers up his thoughts on what we might term a "missional" question: What is the greatest obstacle to following in the footsteps of Christ, particularly for those of us living in a consumerist culture?  How might your youth answer this question?  How might we be called to help them name that obstacle?

    I recently had the opportunity to attend a great conference called 'Sentralized' in Olathe, KS a few weeks back that focused what it looks like for the Church to be a missional people. There were several speakers at the conference that I learned a great deal from. One of the main speakers, Michael Frost, challenged people to 'listen to the heartbeat of your city' in order to find out how to be the hands and feet of Christ to them. He went on to say that we must really know the inhabitants of our community in order to effectively minister to them and we must listen to their cries.

    Here is my issue. I understand what Michael Frost was getting at. I understand the necessity of having listening ears and sensitive hearts in order to properly and effectively do the work of the Kingdom in our communities. You don't start an 'Obesity Recovery Club' in a village that is full of people who are starving nor do you offer English speaking classes for Japanese people in a town that is 70% Caucasian and 30% Spanish. Listening with a prayerful heart is essential.

    But what if the greatest desires, wants, and 'needs' of my community is a flat-screen to replace their 'old tv' from 2005? What if what people desire most is a better car than the one they already have now? A job that pays better so they can afford to go out to eat more and to support an excessive lifestyle? Someone to repave their driveway so it looks as good as they neighbors new driveway across the street?

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    Why Do We Say Thanks? A Youth Ministry Bible Study


    Back by popular demand, here is a Bible study just in time for Thanksgiving to help your youth explore the spirtual practice of gratitude.

     

    Opening: Play a quick game to test your teens' knowledge of Thanksgiving. Using the list of facts and answers below, create a set of note cards with just one fact or just one answer per card. Give all the cards to the group and challenge them to work together to match the right answer with the right fact. When they think they are finished, reveal the correct answers.

    1. Pounds of turkey consumed by the typical American in 2007: 13.8
    2. Pounds of expected U.S. cranberry production in 2010: 735
    3. The year killer-turkey horror movie “Blood Freak” was made: 1972
    4. Dollar amount (in millions) of Thanksgiving weekend movie box office earnings in 2009 : 275
    5. Percentage increase in the volume of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Years: 25
    6. Time in minutes it takes to make Stove Top Stuffing: 30
    7. Number of pounds the average person puts on between Thanksgiving and Christmas: 1
    8. The value (in billions) of the turkeys shipped in 2002: 3.6
    9. Number of cities in U.S. named “Turkey”: 3
    10. Number of years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was suspended during WWII: 2
    11. Cubic feet of helium needed to inflate the Jimmy Neutron balloon in Macy’s parade: 12,300
    12. Number of days the first Thanksgiving celebration lasted: 3

    You will find a nice graphic with most of these facts and more here.


    Digging In: Ask the group if they can think of times that they forgot to say thank you to someone – maybe a relative that sent them a gift, a favor offered by a friend, or a simple act of kindness by a stranger. Why do they think they didn’t bother to say thanks? Ask the youth if anyone has ever failed to thank them for some deed or favor they considered important. What did it feel like to be forgotten or slighted? Read together Luke 17: 11 – 19, the story of the ten lepers. Ask: Why do you think the nine lepers failed to say “thanks” to Jesus? Why do you think the writer of Luke wanted us to remember the story of the one who did come back to say thanks?


    Reflecting: Invite the group to consider why we might offer thanks to God. Does God need to hear us say “thank you?” Do we benefit from the spiritual practice of offering thanks? When in our lives do we actually take time to do this?


    Wednesday, November 02, 2011

    Leaving Attractional Ministry Behind: An Interview with Calvin Park



    Faithful readers of this site know that we've been talking about leaving behind attractional youth ministry from almost our very first postI have coined the term "distractional model" to critique this approach which is more about entertainment than ministry and we offer a new way forward in our book Missional Youth Ministry.  Recently, fellow youth minister Calvin Park began to explore his own journey toward a new understanding of ministry with youth.  You can read more about it at his blog. We invited Calvin to share some of his thoughts on the topic, his reason for making the shift, and the challenges and blessings he expects to see along the way. For anyone about to start the journey away from attractional youth ministry and toward something more deep and meaningful, Calvin's responses below will offer you hope and some thoughts on a path forward.

    Calvin Park currently serves as Director of Youth Ministries at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church in Gaithersburg, MD. He holds an MA in Biblical Languages and an MA in Old Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife are expecting their first child soon, and they dearly hope he'll be ever bit the geek that they are.


    What do you understand attractional ministry to be and how does it differ from the "model" of ministry you are working towards now?

    Attractional youth ministry is difficult to define. It's incorrect to assume there is this monolithic thing called attractional ministry. It varies from ministry to ministry. I've written quite a bit on my own blog about what attractional youth ministry is, and I'll probably revist the topic in the future. It's just extremely broad.

    In short, however, I think attractional ministry is ministry that is focused on me (as the student, not the youth pastor). It is ministry that places my desires, needs and wants ahead of others. It is ministry that entertains instead of discipling. It is ministry that attracts instead of sends. In other words, when we seek to attract youth to our ministries through any means other than the Gospel of Jesus we've missed the point; and we may be implicitly teaching our students that--just like our culture--the Gospel is all about them. As the old adage goes, what you win them with is what you win them to.

    In terms of how this differs from the model our ministry is now working towards, we're still in the process of discerning where God is leading us. At the least, I think a different kind of youth ministry has to include three elements:


    1. Intergenerational diversity - No longer can we confine youth to their own ministry apart from the larger church and expect them to grow into fully committed disciples of Jesus. Not only do the students miss out, but the rest of our churches miss out on what students have to offer.