Monday, December 17, 2012

    Is Teen RIght for Questioning Christmas Display?

    Should your local high school be allowed to have a Christmas display, even if some students object?

    I came across this very interesting post at the Friendly Atheist (a column I regularly read at Patheos) which offers a response to a teen concerned that the teachers in her school have set up Christmas trees and are playing Christmas music: 

    "I am a (soon to be)15 year-old high school student in Austin, Texas. I go to a public school. My school exhibits at least two decorated Christmas trees, and several teachers play what they call “Christmas Music” during class. There is no menorah, but there also isn’t a nativity scene. I have talked to my Mom about my thoughts on the subject, asking her whether or not I should raise a fuss and get them taken down. We talked about jockeying for equal representation, but I don’t believe that would resolve the problem. There is no conceivable way to truly exhibit equal representation. After all, what would the majority of parents think if our school had a Wiccan altar, or a Festivus pole? I would really appreciate your help."

    Richard's response, I think, is not only helpful but also spells out the truth that there is, in the United States, both a secular and a religious observance of Christmas and both are a part of the fabric of our culture. For Richard, the important question is: How serious is the religious imposition? That is to say, if the school is just decorating a tree for fun and if the Christmas music tends more the way of Jingle Bells instead of O Come All Ye Faithful, maybe there's no reason for a young atheist to worry about launching a protest.

    I used to be a public school teacher and a youth pastor at the same time.   As a committed Christian, I objected to all the religious symbolism in my school at Christmastime.  Some of my colleagues would say, "But you're a minister.  Why are you bothered by us bringing Christmas into the school?" For two reasons: 

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Advent Ideas for Youth Ministry: Subversive Art Revisited

    A youth worker shares images inspired by our post on Subversive Advent Art.

    One of my favorite Advent activities in our church last year was creating together a mosaic image of Mary and infant Jesus out of bits of colored paper torn from Christmas advertisements and catalogs (Target ads came in handy when we needed some red!). The idea was to take the commercialism of the season and subvert its purposes in order to create something representing the sacred. You can see the image we created here and find a link to the original piece of art which inspired it. 

    Several fellow youth workers have shared with me the results of trying this project with their own youth.  I'm grateful to youth worker Tracy Wallace of Coquitlam Presbyterian Church in Coquitlam, BC, Canada who recently contacted me to share these great Advent/Christmas images created as part of her youth group's participation in Advent Conspiracy activities. 

    This project is really versatile. I know one youth minister who adapted it for use in Lent. You could use images of warfare and violence to create a mosaic icon representing peace, transform images of the world's outcasts into a mosaic of the radically welcome table of communion or even take individual photos of your own youth or church members and transform them into an image to represent what you hope to be as the one body of Christ in mission to the world.

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Have Yourself A Merry Zombie Apocalypse?

    Why as people of faith do we find TV shows like The Walking Dead so compelling? It turns out that the season of Advent just might hold an answer.

    My latest essay at Patheos takes a serious look at why our culture is so interested in zombies and apocalypse, and what this all might mean for our youth in light of the Advent season:

    For those citizens of the ancient world, living lives of oppression at the hands of the Empire, knowing the end was in sight and that big changes were coming was just about the only message of hope they wanted to hear. In a sense, anything had to be better than the present situation. And what of our teens today? Do they really want to see the world turned upside down? Some do, yes.

    The mass shootings this week are a stark reminder that even as we try to bring light into the world with our holiday festivities this time of year, so much tinsel and evergreen boughs cannot hide the fact that there is still much darkness in the world, and many of our youth are experiencing that darkness in their daily lives. Might Advent be the perfect season for helping them to see how they can be part of bringing light into a world so in need of illumination?

    You can read and share your thoughts on the full essay here.  

    (Note: Image above features a paper craft zombie nativity. Not certain what to do with that theologically but maybe one of you wise readers can suggest an idea.)

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Video: What is Advent? (Gangnam Style)

    (HT to Catholic Youth Ministry Resources.)

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012

    Advent Ideas for Youth Ministry: Free Xmas Devotional

    Take time in Advent to slow down and reflect on the meaning of the season with this free resource. 

    Fellow youth minister Robbie Mackenzie has penned a nice selection of devotionals to use through the Advent season and up to Christmas. Though written to be used at home with the family, they would also be easily adaptable for use with a youth group or for private meditation. 

    Each day includes scripture, reflection, questions, and a prayer exercise. He has based them around weekly themes of waiting, expectation, joy and peace and them work best if you use them along with the lighting of an advent wreath. Read more here for this and additional Christmas resources from Robbie and download the devotional book here

    Amazing Video for Your Next Bible Study

    I'm a huge proponent of reading the Bible in context, recognizing the cultural, racial, moral, ethical, intellectual, colonial, gender, and sexual lenses that color everything we read in the Bible. (Which lenses did I leave out?)

    How often do we name our own biases when reading scripture? How often do we interpret a scriptural text as if it was written for us living in the 21st Century without noting that to those living in the first century the text may likely have meant something completely different? (Incidentally, this is the subject of a very interesting and accessible new book entitled Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien).  

    It seems to me that this video would be a great way to illustrate to students that how we interpret something has everything to do  with the perspective or vantage point from which we view it.  The objects in the video appear to be real three dimensional objects...until you change your vantage point.  Then they transform into an idea, a visual representation, a fake, an interpretation of an object, and so on. (You can download the Rubik's Cube image here, print it on 81/2x11 paper and try it for yourself.)

    Monday, December 03, 2012

    Advent & Christmas Ebook Still Available!

    My ebook Creative Youth Ministry Ideas for Advent and Christmas (2011) is still available if you didn't have a chance to purchase it this time last year. Heck, even I went back to pull ideas from it to use with our youth this December!
    In addition to offering some of the material scattered about this blog, now newly-edited and neatly repackaged into one ebook, you'll also find 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. You can find out more information here. And keep checking back as new ideas for Advent and Christmas are on the way.