Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Quote of the Day: Henri Nouwen

    We would do well, in our ministries with youth, to let the words below guide our efforts when involving teens in hands-on mission:  
    "Jesus' whole life and mission involve accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God's love. Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there."  - Henri Nouwen

    Saturday, April 21, 2012

    Youth Ministry Fail!

    Several years ago, I shared some the biggest mistakes I have made in youth ministry and I think it's humbling to revisit these occasionally ... and add a few more!  Anyone willing to share their own personal "youth ministry fail?"  

    1) Competing with Other Ministries - It's hard to resist the temptation to want to see what the church across the street or across town (or across the country) is doing and wondering "Hmmm. Maybe I should be doing that, too." If the other church seems to be attracting more youth, I suppose it's human nature to want to emulate their program. I used to be hyper vigilant about trying to discover the latest trend, the latest gimmick, the newest "approach" to youth ministry and then implementing it, figuring that if it worked somewhere else, it would work with my students. This sort of approach assumes all youth and thus all youth ministries are alike and that what works across the street will work just as well on our side of the street. But the truth is - every ministry is particular to the setting and the individuals that we serve. It really doesn't even make sense to copy your own youth ministry program from one year to the next because over time the group shifts and grows and their needs change.

    2) Doubting My Age - When I was a younger man just starting in youth ministry, I feared that I was too young, too close to the age of the youth to make any lasting impression on them. Then, as I aged (grey hair...less hair...reading glasses), I began to wonder if I was getting too old to be effective with the youth. Was this a job for a younger person? The truth is, if youth ministry is your calling, then age has nothing to do with your effectiveness in ministry. There are advantages to being a twenty-something youth minister: you likely have lots of free time to give to the youth,  are more connected to youth culture, and have more energy. Of course, there are many advantages to being an "older" youth minister: you have much greater experience and a more mature faith, you've made lots of mistakes and learned from them, you've had more time to learn what youth ministry is and can be, and you've reached a much more relaxed time in life that allows you to offer the young'ns a different perspective on the world than the frenetic life they believe they are destined to lead.

    3) The "Family Guy" Error - I can sum this one up in three words: Preview! Preview! Preview! Several years  ago at a youth group gathering which we called "free night" (an evening of unstructured fellowship time), one young man offered to bring episodes of "Family Guy" to show for those who wanted to watch TV.

    Missional Youth Ministry: Now Available on Kindle!

    We're happy to announce that our text Missional Youth Ministry: Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples (Youth Specialities) is now available on Kindle for the excellent price of $9.99.   The book serves as a primer for those just starting out in youth ministry or for seasoned veterans looking to develop a more thoughtful approach to ministry centered around mission, worship, fellowship, and scripture.  The book grew directly out of this blog and discussions between Jacob and myself about the need for more resources that speak directly  to youth ministry in the mainline  and progressive Church. Additionally, it offers an alternative to the program-driven attractional-centered paradigm of youth ministry which has dominated for decades. The result is a resource that is both practical and theological, packed with ideas you can try out in your own youth ministry paired with sound biblical and theological explanations of that approach that you can share with your church and your youth ministry leadership team. 

    Wednesday, April 04, 2012

    Teens Create Amazing Anti-Bullying Video

     More about the video here.

    Quote of the Day...on Youth Ministry

    Paul Martin on attractional youth ministry:

    When we, for whatever reason, think that the gospel in itself isn’t attractive, we have lost sight of our faith. Using entertainment to dress up our faith or baiting outreach with gimmicks shows an individual loss of the need for the good news.

    More here.

    Monday, April 02, 2012

    The Subversive Message of The Hunger Games

    Will young Christian fans of The Hunger Games get the deeper message around how we might choose to respond to violence?

    In my latest column at the Patheos site, I offer my initial reaction to new film The Hunger Games.  I had not read the books prior to seeing the film so I went into the viewing with fresh eyes and was impressed with the film's themes and characters:

    I'm not sure what I was expecting when I chose to sit alone in a darkened theater to watch the new film version of the popular young adult novel The Hunger Games. I'd read the articles about the violence in the book and the plot's not-so-subtle commentary on reality TV. But as I settled into the story, I was quickly drawn in—not just to the characters and the drama but also to the way in which the film (and perhaps the book as well) takes aim at our culture's obsession with violence on screen and off. I began to wonder, "If some adults out there realized what this story is really about, would they let their children go see the movie?"

    What is the subversive nature of the film?  It all revolves around the script's message against violence -- ironically, the one element of the story critiqued most by those who think it glorifies violence:

    It is The Hunger Games' condemnation of our own culture of violence that, it seems to me, makes the film more subversive than many might realize. In early scenes, we follow the teens who have been selected for the Hunger Games as they travel to the Capitol and are dressed in fancy uniforms and paraded around to a cheering public—not unlike how we have sent our own soldiers off to war numerous times in our nation's history. But the film also forces us to look at disturbing imagery of children slaughtering children and the aftermath, quite unlike the way we still conveniently eschew televising images of real battle or footage of fallen soldiers or even the return home of our soldiers' bodies in flag-draped caskets.

    You can read the entire article here, including my thoughts on how the film might help you engage in a discussion with youth around Jesus' own attitude's about violence.