Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Missional Youth Ministry Video: Are You A Trader?

    What does it mean to be missional? Ask 3 youth ministers and you'll get five different answers. For me, being missional means centering yourself, your ministry, your faith, your life in the mission of God. This video seems to be right in line with that understanding. What do you think? Would this video's message resonate with your youth?

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent 2012: 40 Days of Yes!

    Have you asked your students to give up something for Lent? Maybe you are asking the wrong question.

    This past Sunday I preached on a passage I'd never encountered before -- a passage in which Paul argues that Jesus is God's "Yes" to the world (2 Cor 1: 18-22).  I asked the congregation if they'd be willing to walk around wearing T-shirts that declared that message. We agreed that those looking at our shirts might all have the same question: What is Jesus saying Yes to?

    Lent is often thought of as a season of "No." We say no to chocolate or Facebook or TV or some other bad habit that we think would be worth saying goodbye to for a few weeks.  But what if Lent was seen as the season of "Yes." What if the reason for saying "No" to some of that stuff was really a reason to say "Yes" to things that really matter -- to the things Jesus says "Yes" to? What if Lent was the season to say "Yes" to a richer prayer life, a deeper study of scripture, more involvement in Christian community, greater outreach to those in need, or a more intentional effort to love others and ourselves? What if Lent was seen as a season to say "Yes" to real sabbath, to sharing our faith, or simply enjoying the beauty of God's creation?

    I was inspired recently to think of Lent as "40 Days of Yes" by something I read on Jonny Baker's blog.  What might this look like for your youth ministry?  You could invite your teens to each adapt one practice that they could say "Yes" to for 40 Days.  Maybe this could include saying "I love you" to someone each day, creating art each day, reading scripture each day, hugging their parents each day.  Or you could covenant as a group to spend the 40 days doing the same thing together, perhaps posting positive messages on Facebook, praying at the same time each day wherever you may be, or reading a book together. Get creative and see what new experiences you can say "Yes" to in Lent that will help you and your youth be more open to Gods' presence.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    How Old is Your Youth Group?

    What do you think is the age of the oldest "kid" in my church's youth group? You might be surprised.

    When our youth group gathered one Sunday morning several weeks ago to study together "The Prodigal Son," I invited everyone to share about something they had or would inherit from their parents (other than money).  When it came time for Bill to share he said, "What I inherited from my parents is the importance of learning and discipline.  We used to sing about it in school."  Bill then proceeded to sing this song to the group:

    School days, school days
    Dear old Golden Rule days.
    Reading and writing and 'rithmetic,
    Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick.

    By the time Bill finished, a third of the class had joined him in singing the tune.  The rest of the class sat there, looking dumbfounded as to why they were being serenaded with some song they had never heard before -- a song actually written in 1907. Now, it might help to know that Bill is some 80+ years old and all his friends who joined him in singing are around the same age, while those who were being serenaded ranged in age from 13-18.  

    In a new experiment in intergenerational ministry, over the past few weeks we have invited our youth class and our eldest adult Sunday morning class to join together for an ongoing study of Jesus' parables.  Each week the group gathers together for fellowship, laughter (an occasional song!) and exploration of the Bible. The senior adults have welcomed the opportunity to get to know our teens better and our teens....well, would it surprise you if I said they were actually enjoying the experience? These teens are learning new things from our seasoned citizens that they would never have encountered barricaded in their youth room way off in another part of the church. Together this intergenerational bunch is excavating new insights from some of Jesus' oldest and at times most inexplicable teachings.  And perhaps best of all, these youth are building relationships with mature adult Christians who model what a life-long journey of faith looks like.   

    We've discussed in youth ministry circles for years the need to stop segregating our youth away from the rest of the Church and instead focus more on family-based and intergenerational ministry.  I'd say the time has come to stop talking and start doing. What about you? What adventures have you had in intergenerational ministry? Would it work in your church?  Would you be willing to give it a try?

    Coming Up: 10 Ideas for Creating Cross-generational Youth Ministry

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent 2012: Free Ebook

    The Christian season of Lent will soon be upon us. On Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) we will once again begin that 40 day journey of introspection and reflection. 

    As with the other Christians seasons, Lent offers an opportunity for your youth to step out of the rush of their daily schedules and step into the rhythms of God's time for awhile. Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing a variety of ideas for exploring this season with your teens.

    Free YM Ebook for Lent
    First up is our most popular resource from last year:  Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Lent: Engaging Teens on the Journey to Easter and Beyond. This 34 page ebook is free and available for download here. Though there are enough ideas in that ebook to carry you through the whole season of Lent and then some, I just can't resist sharing some new stuff too so keep watching this space! 

    You will find additional ideas for Lent by using the "Search" box at the top right of our main page or by browsing through our collection of holiday resources.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    On Second Thought: RE-Rethinking Youth Ministry

    In the first of a new category of posts, Brian considers "Could I have been wrong?"

    Part of "Rethinking Youth Ministry" is not just simply critiquing the current paradigms but also rethinking my own assumptions about what youth ministry is and how it should function within the Church.

    Two recent companion posts at the excellent youthministry360 blog have challenged me to do exactly that. In his essay Can Big Fun Still Be In Style?, Ben Kerns makes the observation that the growing tide against attractional youth ministry seems to be related to the rise of professional youth ministry and the increasing age of the typical youth minister. Why is this a problem? Kerns writes:
    With youth workers aging, is it possible that the passions, desires, and energy which goes into the job dramatically changes? The older I get the more I’m interested in global issues and local impact. I want a life and a ministry that’s integrated, and making an impact with more than just suburban middle class kids. Compared to these new things God is doing in my life, setting up a marshmallow war just doesn’t seem to pack the same punch.
    Kerns appears to argue that some of us 30+ year old pastors working with youth who turn our noses up at attractional youth ministry do so partly for reasons that are not strictly theological. Rather, we are just simply too old to want to spend a great deal of our time playing silly games with teens. And as much as I hate to admit it....I think he's on to something.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    Can A Super Bowl Party Be "Missional?"

    Rick, a fellow youth leader, contacted me a with a great question:

    I am trying to merge most of what we do into a more missional approach.  I have a question which is probably really stupid but you seem like the guy to ask.  How would you do a missional Superbowl party?  I really don't like the Superbowl party idea but I let the students vote and they wanted to do one.  I hate the idea of giving a message at half time and all.  So, I was checking out your blog to see if there was anything. I didn't see anything and maybe there is a reason for that.  Anyway, any thoughts on this?

    Rick's observation that I haven't posted on this topic was right on target for one simple reason: I'm not a fan of youth group Super Bowl parties. For one thing, I wouldn't know a Patriot from a Giant unless one is carrying a musket and the other is really, really tall!  For another thing, I think it's a stretch to claim that sitting around watching competitive football and TV commercials is a good use of precious youth group time.  All that a missional Super Bowl event possible? 

    In our book Missional Youth Ministry: Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples, I write: "When we dare to think about youth ministry holistically and to incorporate the spirit of the Way of Christ into everything we do -- from lock-ins to mission trips, from game nights to campfire worship-- we're inviting young people to experience a missional way of life in which God's Spirit is evident in all they say and do." (p. 149) It is my firm belief that we shouldn't be leading any activities in youth ministry that don't clearly connect to our understanding of the wider mission of the church. For me, being "missional" means measuring all that we do against the degree to which it helps us participate in God's mission of peace, community, love, grace, forgiveness, and justice. Can a Super Bowl party really do this, or is it just an excuse to set aside youth ministry for one night and submerge ourselves in popular culture?  What might a more missional approach to a Super Bowl party look like? Here's a few ideas:

    1) Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring: It's simple. Just encourage your youth to bring canned goods or monetary donations to your gathering and make a plan to deliver them to a local food outreach ministry or organization. Even better, challenge your congregation on Superbowl Sunday morning to drop their donations off at the youth gathering later that evening. Feeling really intrepid? Skip the half-time show and go out into your local neighborhood and solicit canned food donations door-to-door. Download the "Tackle Hunger" sign from the Souper Bowl website, invite your teens to write their own messages about food inequality on the signs, photograph them, and upload the shots to the Souper Bowl website, Facebook, or wherever else you might be able to raise the awareness of others.

    2) Send Greetings: Watching the game together can simply be seen as a means to a different end.  With everybody in one place at one time, take advantage of the opportunity to set out a table of blank greeting cards and invite all of your youth to help you fill out greetings to your home bound elderly, anyone who is in the hospital, church members in the military, college students away from home, teens who haven't been to youth group in awhile, and so on.