Monday, August 27, 2012

    Quote of the Day: On Short-Term Missions

    Even though summer is just now coming to a close, I know many youth ministry leaders are already thinking about short-term mission trips for next spring and summer. In light of that, I share with you a quote from Tim Ghali's Black Coffee Reflections blog. I noted this quote over a year ago and stumbled upon it again today and thought I'd share it because Tim offers a thoughtful rationale for what short-term mission experiences should be all about:

    To be completely honest though, I join the many who have always been concerned with the virtues of the short-term missions experience. Looking back on the last five years however, I think our response to the concern has been part of what has made these opportunities helpful. We tell students that they need to share their summer with others. We tell them to be faithful with the opportunities provided on the mission trip and to allow their hearts to be broken. We tell them later, that they can’t care for the homeless in New Orleans or the HIV patient in the Bahamas and curse their mother under their breath and ignore the socially marginalized in their school. In leaving our zip code, God has taught us a great deal about the people in it.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Free Resource: Peace Videos by Teens for Teens

    Voices of Peace from Hands of Peace on Vimeo.

    Check out this excellent set of videos by the youth organization Hands of Peace:

    "The mission of Hands of Peace is to foster long term peaceful coexistence among Jewish-Israelis, Arab Israelis, and West Bank Palestinians by bringing young people from the Middle East together with American teens in an interfaith setting. It strives to promote this mission by creating opportunities for the participants – young people from the Middle East, local teens, host families, staff, and volunteers – to seek the mutual understanding that comes from face to face encounters...."

    Monday, August 06, 2012

    Women in Youth Ministry Profile

    As part of our continuing series of profiles of women serving in youth ministry, we visit with Youth Director Sami Pfalzgraf of St. Charles, MO.  

    Sami began her work in Youth Ministry in Omaha, Nebraska after she graduated from Luther College in 2003 with a degree in Psychology. She has been at St. John United Church of Christ in St. Charles, MO since 2007. In addition to directing the Youth Ministry, Sami occasionally preaches during the Sunday worship services and supervised the Children Ministry for three years. Sami has a passion for mission trips and has conducted many trips all over the United States for Middle and High School youth.

    Our "Women in Youth Ministry" series highlights the invaluable work women are doing in ordained, licensed, and lay youth ministry even as the majority of the Church worldwide still refuses to allow women to serve in pastoral roles.   You can read previous profiles in this series here.

    What do you find most enjoyable about ministry with youth in the Church?

    The most enjoyable part of youth ministry is the youth. I love watching them grow in their faith; wrestling with the hard questions. My goal is to help youth figure out what they believe and why they believe it. I love encouraging them to get outside their boxes. God doesn’t have to be a white male with a long grey beard up in the clouds. I love challenging their image and character of God so that they get a better understanding of God and then can talk to others about it in an open and loving way. However, it’s hard to find curriculum that doesn’t wrap everything up in a nice package. I want curriculum that asks difficult questions and allows the youth to figure out the answer. That is why I write most of my own curriculum and get feedback from the youth and leaders. I honestly think they are as picky as I am with curriculum. 

    What do you find most challenging about ministry with youth in the Church?
    I think one of the biggest challenges is changing the way churches see youth. They can do more than serve food, clean, and do service work. They can lead worship, be on committees that make major decisions, and they can be in Bible study classes of all ages. I think churches do youth a disservice when the youth room is in the back room where no one can hear them. Youth really don’t want to be separated from adults; they want to feel a part of the group. Youth and children should never be paraded in front of the congregation, letting them know we have youth and children in the church. There are better and more intentional ways of incorporating young people into the life of the church and worship. That should be high on ever youth worker’s priority list.

    What shifts or changes would you like to see in youth ministry in the next decade?
    I would like to see a shift towards a more “missional” youth ministry; if I can borrow from Brian [Kirk], where food, fun and fellowship are partnered with spiritual disciplines and relevant, engaging Christian education. However, first it’s really difficult to figure out what that looks like, and second, it can be hard to actually make that a part of the ministry in a way that doesn’t turn youth and parents off. I would like to see veteran Youth Leaders mentoring less experienced leaders to help them answer these concerns. My pet peeve is when I ask a question and someone gives me a book. Thanks for the suggestion, but I want your answer and to talk to you about it because you have more knowledge and experience than I do. Please talk to me!

    What advice might you give to those just starting in youth ministry? To those who have been at it as long as you?
    I wish I could mentor every new youth worker to not make the mistakes that I did. When you begin your ministry at a church, wait and honor those that have come before you. Don’t go in making huge changes. Be patient, listen, learn the church’s culture and history, create relationships with the church so that they trust you when you do decide to make changes. However, make changes slowly! The only thing that likes change is a wet baby. Also, watch what you say. Words can be used for good or evil and the walls at church have ears. Use your words wisely, even when you think no one is listening. For both new and veteran leaders, balance your time. It’s a never ending battle but Doug Fields was right when he cautioned for every yes you say, you’re saying no to something else. Find that balance between life and work and strive to keep it. One thing to help you balance is a strong volunteer team. You are not alone. Find leaders that are strong in areas you are weak and whom you can work with, well. Then, trust them and let them go to do ministry, after you have trained them, of course. A strong leadership team is vital to the ministry and your sanity.

    Interested in being profiled in our "Women in Youth Ministry" series? We'd love to hear from you.


    Wednesday, August 01, 2012

    Free "Hunger Games" Resource for Youth Ministry

     This fall our church is planning on offering a small group for teens and adults that looks at The Hunger Games from a faith perspective. 

    Fortunately, I just came across this free and very useful resource for helping youth explore faith-related issues in The Hunger Games.  This guide, available as a free download from Seedbed, is promoted as  "a how-to book. It is not about how to physically survive the Hunger Games. It is about how to engage the questions that develop out of reading the books and watching the movies. This is not a study of the movie, or a study of the Bible, but a series of questions and activities designed to challenge students to think more theologically and philosophically about some of the issues of our time." 

    Created by a seminary student with a background in youth ministry, this guide covers such topics as hunger, families, and violence in a format that includes an overview of the story, discussion questions, quotes, biblical texts, and ideas for action.

    It is also available for Kindle.