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Archive for the ‘youth ministry’ Category

Although you wouldn’t really be able to tell from looking out my window at the 3 inches of snow that fell today, the seasons are beginning to change.  Winter turns to spring.  Academic busy-ness turns to spring fever and summer fun.  The ministry madness of the Christmas to Easter season begins to turn slowly to the more relaxed pace and flexibility of summer ministry.

As I was glancing today through my calendar for the next few months, I couldn’t help but notice something.  While there certainly isn’t a lack of work to do, events to plan, and family functions to attend in the coming months, they are looking significantly less full than the past few months have been.  Things are beginning to wind down for a season – you know how I can tell?

  • The number of youth events on my calendar has dropped.  SAC lunches are down to a minimum (due to upcoming holidays that fall on the 2nd Sunday of the month) and we’re preparing to wind down this academic-year-season of youth ministry at PLC.
  • There are fewer classes on the calendar this quarter.  Since one of my registered classes this quarter is Field Study, which is mostly taking place in conjunction with my ministry at PLC, I have fewer classes per week and at least the notion of less homework.  It’s a nice reprieve and lead-in to summer.
  • My little sister graduates from college in a month!  Even though her academic calendar finishes up about a month before mine, I’m already hearing the sounds of summer.

In addition to the change in perceived busy-ness, I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in my ministry.  What does this season look for me as I face a calendar with fewer events and more office hours?

  • Evaluation – For the first time I am facing the end of this academic-year-season of ministry knowing with certainty that I’ll be continuing in my ministry in this place.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reflecting on how we’ve done youth ministry this year at PLC and trying to figure out ways to build on that for next year.
  • Relational Connections – I’m beginning to step up my efforts in connecting with youth on their “turf” through coffee connections, texting (as much as I despise it sometime) and just checking in to see how they have grown during the course of the year.
  • Future Planning – I’m in the early stages of figuring out where Youth Ministry at PLC will be headed next year.  We’re in a place right now where some shifts are beginning to happen, and I’m excited to see where God is calling us to go this Fall.

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After the day I had today, I needed this reminder:

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Tonight in my Theology of Scripture in Ministry class, we spent some time digging into the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:1-8:1.  As part of the study I ended up in a group handling the following case study:

You have been asked to assist in the preparation of 7th and 8th graders for their Confirmation at Easter.  As a layperson you and others from your church have been asked to explain what The Sermon on the Mount has meant to you in your walk of faith as a personal testimony.  You are sitting in a very informal group setting in a circle with these young people, the pastor and several other laypersons.  What would your understanding of The Sermon on the Mount contribute to this group?

As I started nonchalantly tossing around my thoughts on Confirmation (there’s a topic for another post) and 7th and 8th graders in general, something started to churn inside of me.  As I began a simple distillation of the Sermon on the Mount (a la junior high lingo) I began to see the sermon in a new light.  Now, there’s a lot to be said about the Sermon on the Mount – it’s probably one of the most well known sets of teachings given by Jesus in any of the gospels, and it includes a number of “all time favorites” (The Beatitudes, the “you are the light of the world” discourse, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.).  Right along with these “all time favorites” there is some pretty hard-to-handle stuff in there.

In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus presents a number of discourses which include the phrase “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you” in which he essentially takes various Old Testament commandments and then heaps on additional seemingly impossible to achieve commands.  For example:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

Now, as I was trying to figure out how to explain this series of “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you” statements to a group of 7th and 8th graders, I drew this comparison:  It’s kind of like if your teacher would say to you, “Your teachers last year taught you not to plagerzie, but I tell you that you can’t even look at another source while you’re writing a paper.  Don’t read anything.  Don’t listen to anyone speak on the topic.  Don’t talk to your classmates about the assignment.  For if you do any of these things you have already plagerized in your mind.”  There were a number of other examples that came to mind to use with junior highers, but basically you get the idea.

So what’s the point?

Jesus takes some old school commands, which although difficult, are obeyable.  One could reasonably go through life without murdering, committing adultery, divorcing his or her spouse, etc.  However, the instant Jesus gets a hold of these commands they become seemingly impossible.  I don’t think Jesus’ point here is to completely discourage his followers by making them believe that what he requires for discipleship is impossible and thus it shouldn’t even be attempted.  Rather, Jesus is demonstrating exactly what Paul has so beautifully stated in Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  We need grace.

If we didn’t need grace, there would be no reason for Jesus to have come, died and risen in the first place.  There’s some beauty in the fact that we can’t live up to what Jesus teaches.  It means that we need him.  We need his grace.  I need his grace.

What a beautiful truth to reflect upon in this Lenten season.

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I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

Perhaps that explains my recent fascination with high school basketball.  It’s strange.  When I was in high school, I never attended a single basketball game, and I had no desire to do so.  This past December, I attended my first high school girls’ basketball game to cheer on a girl from our youth group (and a friend of hers who is a frequent visitor) who play on the varsity girls basketball team.  Since then, I’ve made it to four additional games and become almost compulsive about checking scores for not only their team, but other teams in the district and conference, and even my own high school (which I graduated from over 5 years ago!).  I don’t even particularly care for the sport, but since I have a connection through a person I’m invested in, I have become involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

While in college I used to sneak up into the balcony of the chapel during the times when the worship dance ministry practiced.  I would sit up there reading, or journaling, or just watching.  It was almost as though through watching the movement of others in worship I was able to participate in that which they were so passionate about.  I’m not a dancer, and probably will never have the poise or grace to lead others in worship through dance, but since I had a connection through people I was invested in, I became involved.

I love watching people who I care about do the things that they are passionate about.  And more than watching, I love involving myself.

What is it that draws us into things?  What is it that involves us?  For me it is the passion of a person in whom I have a vested interest.  It kind of makes me wonder.  What is it that I do with such passion that others are drawn into involvement?  Is there anything that I do with such passion?

I’d like to think that I am passionate about following Christ.  But do I really follow Christ with such passion that others are drawn into a relationship with Him?  I sure hope so.

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So, it’s surprising me a little bit that the transition from full-time youth ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont, OH to my current part-time position at Parma Lutheran Church has actually gotten harder instead of easier.  Back when I started in Parma, I was loving the fact that I had dropped from working 40+ hour work weeks down to 20 hours a week, but lately it’s seeming like those 20 hours are never enough.

In a lot of ways, it’s helping me identify some of the differences between  a “job” and a “vocation”.  Dictionary.com defines a “job” as “a post of employment; full-time or part time position”.  That makes sense to me… I’ve had a number of “jobs” during the course of my life: concession stand worker for the City of Mayfield Heights, filing and for Shuttler’s Uniforms, birthday party hostess for Chuck E. Cheese’s, camp counselor for Camp Mowana, and most recently Director of Youth & Education Ministries (at Grace) and Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries (at PLC).  All of these “jobs” have fit the dictionary definition, but only the last few have qualified as fitting the Dictionary.com definition of “vocation”:

  1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
  2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
  3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
  4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.

See, vocation is far more than a job.  And for me, youth ministry is far more than a job – it’s a vocation, a calling from God to pour Christ into the lives of youth, and to walk alongside them on this journey of discipleship.  So, in essence it’s a lifestyle (and I’m sure most of you in any form of youth ministry would agree with that – or any form of ministry for that matter).

So, maybe that’s my struggle in transitioning from a full-time youth ministry “job” into a part-time youth ministry “job” – my calling remains the same, and the more time I spend investing myself in that calling, the more joy I find in it.

So, what do you do when you’re confined to part-time hours in a full-time vocation?

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I’ve been really challenged and convicted the past few weeks to examine the differences between being fully present and always available.  Are the two mutually exclusive or is it possible to balance the two?  This is a tough call for me, because I am a strong believer both in being fully present to God and people and being always available to a friend, youth, family member, etc. who is in need.  I credit some of my appreciation for being fully present to my time spent working at camp and touring with Spoke Folk.  These were both situations where we were strongly encouraged to be fully present in everything that we were doing, whether porch-sitting on a Saturday with whoever was hanging around at camp, or staying up late into the night getting to know the intimate details of a friend’s life who you’ve just met.  There is power in being fully present, and I strongly feel that the best relationships develop out of being fully present (that includes relationships with God as well as with other people!).

We live in a society today that practically makes it necessary to be always available.  We carry cell phones with us at all times (and really, who turns off their cell phone anymore?), update friends with the little details of our lives using Facebook status messages and Twitter, and are connected to the internet nearly 24/7 with high-speed internet access available pretty much anywhere we go.  So, where do we draw the line?  I’ve always been one to tell my friends/youth/etc. that they can call anytime if they need something, whether that’s in the middle of the afternoon or the middle of the night.  I try to make myself as available as possible for friends, family, etc.  I make it ridiculously easy to get in touch with me (I’m a (newly) avid texter, keep my cell phone with me at all times, spend far too much time on Facebook, am nearly always connected to Instant Messenger, and even update Twitter fairly regularly).

I’ve recently been giving some kids in the youth group a hard time about texting during youth stuff – it’s not so much a problem during “official” meetings, but when we’re in the car driving to an event, or hanging out playing games, or having coffee… it seems like our culture has taught them that interrupting any conversation to answer a text message/phone call/etc. is the norm.  It struck me the other day, though, that if I’m going to keep giving them such a hard time about it, then I should probably be able to articulate my reasoning for it. Especially since I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing with friends, and even during classes (shh! don’t tell!) lately.

I’m beginning to realize that it is absolutely appropriate to be “unavailable” sometimes – healthy, even.  Where do we draw that line, though?  Part of me wants to say that if I’m with a person (hanging out, having coffee, on a date, etc.) then I’m available to that person and that person only.  But is there ever a time in which it’s appropriate to allow for interruption?  Is it even possible in today’s society to be fully present without having our attention in some way distracted?

I think I’m going to continue wrestling with this.  I’m not even sure that there’s a black and white solution (in fact, I’m sure there’s probably not).  I think it’s an important discussion to have, though – with friends, with the youth I minister to/with, with family, etc.

What do you think?

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I’ve been trying to shift my priorities in youth ministry for a while now with little to no success.  I’ve had the tendency for the year and a half that I’ve been in ministry to spend more of my “work hours” sitting behind a desk than actually spending time with youth (yikes!).  This week, however, I’ve taken the leap – and I love it!  Why didn’t I change my priorities sooner?

Because of the size of the church I’m in now (relatively small, and much smaller than Grace was), it’s pretty manageable for me to get to know all the kids in our ministry fairly well.  So, for the time being (until we start to experience some growth), I’m taking advantage of that and making it a top priority to do exactly that.  I want to know the kids that I’m ministering to and with.

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says these words when asked about the “Greatest Commandment”:  “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” So, if Jesus said that these are the two greatest commandments, I’m realizing that I should be doing ministry in that way.  So, the new priorities for youth ministry:

  1. Relationship with God: Deepening my own relationship with God and helping our youth to deepen their relationships with God by supporting and walking alongside them in this journey of faith.
  2. Relationship with Others: Seeking to develop relationships with youth both in and outside of our congregation by meeting them in “neutral” territory (such as coffee shops, fast food restaurants, etc.) and on “their turf” (i.e. school programs, athletic events, concerts, etc.).

That’s it.  Everything beyond those two things is gravy.  These two things will be the meat of my youth ministry, and I’m excited to say that my schedule this week has already begun to reflect the shift in priorities!

Shifting Priorities in Youth Ministry

How does your schedule (ministry or otherwise) reflect your priorities?

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