Monday, March 25, 2013

    YouTube Faith: Week 2

    This is part two of our continuing series of lessons developed to be used with a mixed group of youth and adults, discussing issues of faith through the lens of various videos discovered on YouTube. We are intentionally drawing from both religious and secular videos.  Part one is here.

    Week 2: What is it all about? Figuring out God, Jesus and Religion

    1. Kitten vs. Two Scary Things

    Views: 7 million

    • What do you think is going on in that kitten’s head? Is it playing? Does it feel threatened? Do it have a clue what’s on the bed?
    • Think about how we’re like that with religion sometime – especially when it comes to trying to figure out what Jesus and God are all about.
    • What are we clueless about when it comes to religion?
    • What aspects of God do we find unsettling?
    Share: Let’s take a look at one young guy’s attempt to figure it all about. As you watch it, think about the argument he makes about the following Jesus vs. being part of a religion.

    Are You Caring for the Introverts in Your Youth Ministry?

    In my experience, many pastors I meet fall at least somewhat on the introversion side of the personality spectrum. Their introversion allows them to cultivate many of the gifts helpful for effective ministry: the ability to listen deeply, encourage introspection, and lead others without the need to take center stage. 

    Conversely, most youth ministers tend to be extroverts (you may disagree but I'm just sharing what I've observed over several decades working with youth ministry colleagues.) Considering the energy it takes to work with teens, it makes sense that many youth ministers are outgoing, enjoy being around large groups of people and have a high tolerance for noise and commotion. In fact, they might even thrive under such conditions which may explain why so many youth ministries are centered around programming that involves large group activities, wild games, lock-ins and road trips.  

    But it's important to remember that at least some of the youth in our ministries are introverts -- those individuals who tend to give of their personal energy to others and can be quickly tired out when being with a group. These teens need opportunities for small group experiences, silence, rest, quiet prayer, and the permission to opt out of high energy activities when they need time away from the group.  Think back over your last few youth gatherings. Have the activities been primarily aimed at the extroverts? What opportunities were included for quiet reflection, one-on-one interactions, or low-key activities?

    This article suggests several helpful examples of things not to do if we seek to be more sensitive to the introverts in our ministries.  I particularly like this one: 

    “Since you’re not doing anything...” Sitting quietly and staring into space is doing something. It does not mean I’m waiting for a nice chat."

    For a more thorough study of the qualities and needs (and special gifts) of introverts, check out the texts The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.

    What about you?  Introvert? Extrovert? (Not sure? Take the quiz.) How does your personality type affect your ministry? How do you attempt to meet the needs of both personality types in your youth ministry? 

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    YouTube Faith: Week 1

    My doppelganger (henceforth referred to as Barry, my twin brother) is developing a new multi-generation study for our church centered around videos discovered on YouTube. This study is for teens as well as adults who are interested in joining the teens as fellow learners and mentors. 

    The plan is to view several YouTube videos each session as a jumping off point to discuss issues, questions, challenges, doubts, and ideas about the Christian faith.  We'll post a new YouTube faith lesson each week and look forward to your feedback. 

    Youtube Faith:  Week #1

    • What videos/types of videos do you usually ike to watch on Youtube?
    • How often are those videos related to politics, religion or social justice? 
    • Have you seen any videos about Christianity?  What did they talk about? Were they positive or negative?
    Explain that over the coming weeks you are going to explore together topics of spirituality, social justice and Christianity, all through the view that is created by this one channel:  Youtube 

    Share: Let's start by looking at one specific Youtuber's unique view on what Christianity is all about: 

    1. Tyler Oakley: Christianity in a Nutshell:


    • What's your reaction to Tyler Oakley's description of Christianity? 
    • Did you find it funny? Accurate? Misleading? 
    • What would you say to Tyler about his video and his interpretation?
    • If this was someone's first intro to Christianity, what sort of picture do you think they'd have?
    Share: Let's check on this next video from the Soul Pancake Youtube channel-- as you watch, think about what connection, if any, this has to your understanding of what Christianity is about, beyond cosmic zombies (re: a reference to Tyler's video): 

    Friday, March 08, 2013

    Lent Ideas for Youth Ministry 2013: Prayers of Michel Quoist

    Ever been challenged spiritually by prayers written by someone else? I've been experiencing just that recently while reading through a book of prayers written by Michel Quoist, a French Catholic priest and scholar who died in 1997. 

    His 1956 text Prayers of Life (written when he was 33) reads like conversations between us and God, touching on the most basic and gritty elements of every day life rather than being lost in lofty, intangible spiritual ether. 

    From a working class background, Quoist spent much of his early pastoral career as a youth chaplain and he remained committed to working with youth and young adults throughout his life as a priest.  This commitment may explain why his written prayers still speak so vibrantly to the way young people often are so sensitive to the vast needs in the world around them yet also struggle with the tension between the call to serve and the comforts of our consumerist culture. Take for example this prayer excerpt (which I've updated slightly for more inclusive language):

    Lord, why did you tell me to love all people?
    I have tried, but I come back to you frightened.
    Lord, I was so peaceful at home, I was so comfortably settled.
    I was sheltered from the wind and rain; I would have stayed unsullied in my ivory tower.
    But, Lord you have discovered a breach in my defenses.
    You have forced me to open the door of my heart.
    The first came in, Lord. There was, after all, a bit of space in my heart.
    I welcomed them. I would have cared for them as my very own little lambs, my flock.
    You would have been pleased, Lord; I would have served and honored you in a proper and respectable way.
    Until then, it was sensible.
    But the next ones, Lord, the others – I had not seen them, they were hidden behind the first ones.
    There were more of them. They were wretched; they overpowered me without warning.

    I shared this and another related Quoist prayer with our youth recently and they really responded to the language, the imagery, and the challenge inherent within the simple words.   These prayers could certainly be used as a regular way to open or close your weekly time together, as part of a night focused on prayer, or even as an outlet to encourage your teens to work together to write similar prayers that focus on the reality of God in their daily lives filled with bus rides and textbooks, sports, music rehearsals, after school jobs, dating and fears about the future.  

    Perhaps most helpful for Lent, Prayers of Life could be used to connect youth with Jesus' own 40 day struggle in the wilderness to discern what God was really calling him to do and be.  In addition, the text includes an entire section entitled "Prayers on the Way to the Cross," complete with scriptures and meditations to lead your group in an exploration of the last days and hours of Jesus' life.

    Quit Taking Your Kids to “Service Projects”

    The following is a guest post by Aaron Kirkpatrick, youth minister in Little Rock, Arkansas:

    I love teaching our teens to serve. Over the years, service has become ingrained in our group’s DNA, and our teens serve hard. They are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, and they are regularly challenged to press through their comfort zones when they are serving in the name of Jesus. Numerous teens have told me that the most impacting things they have experienced in our youth ministry happened when they were serving, and a few of our teens have even chosen career paths after an experience serving someone changed their worldview. So when I tell you to stop taking your kids to service projects, I am absolutely NOT telling you to make your teens stop serving. I’m asking you to consider reframing your service in a healthier way. 

    It should be obvious, but every service opportunity must have a human component. There must always be someone who benefits from your service, or else you’re wasting your time. If your teens visit cancer patients at the local children’s hospital, the human element is obvious, but even cleaning graffiti off an overpass, picking up trash at a local park, and painting government housing projects touches people in the name of Jesus. You don’t clean up the park for the park’s sake: you do it because it will benefit the children who play there. You don’t clean an overpass for the sake of the concrete, you do it because it blesses people on their daily commute. This is true every time you serve, and it’s important for your teens to understand who they are serving and how their service helps others. When we talk about doing a “service project” though, we immediately put a stumbling block between our students and what we want them to accomplish and experience.

    A project is a job. A project is an assignment. A project is something that must get done, regardless of whether you actually want to do it. Cleaning the bathroom is a project. That fifteen page paper your seniors have been putting off doing is a project. My honey-do list is full of projects. But we’re calling our students to serve people, and people are not projects.

    When we refer to these times of service as “service projects” we immediately cheapen what our teens are doing, we limit the ministry our teens will do, and we hinder our students’ ability to be transformed through the experience of serving. At best, our words frame their service in terms of what they do instead of who they touch, and at worst they cause our teens to view people in an impersonal way that removes the love and compassion that is at the heart of Christian ministry. 

    So the next time you call your teens to serve, find a more positive way to discuss what they’re doing. In our ministry, we have started referring to times of service as “service opportunities” because an “opportunity” is a positive thing that you don’t want to miss. This puts everyone in the right mindset from the moment they are asked to serve.

    When it’s all said and done, any time a teenager serves, it’s a win. But if we, as youth workers, help our students frame their service in a way that clearly places the highest value on the people we serve, our students will come away with a deeper appreciation for the work they accomplish and the lives they touch, and they will be more likely to jump at the chance to serve again in the future.

    Aaron Kirkpatrick has been leading the Chenal Valley Youth Group in Little Rock, AR for seven years. He is passionate about relational ministry and connecting with teens outside the walls of the church building. This has led to countless hours at basketball games, plays, recitals, Sonic parking lots, Minecraft servers, and anywhere else teens are congregating. When he needs to recharge his creativity, you'll find him haunting a local Starbucks, Panera, or Baskin Robbins. You can follow Aaron on his blog and catch up with him on Twitter .