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Posts Tagged ‘Parma Lutheran Church’

… really hurts.

So, as I’ve been participating in the Hundred Pushup Challenge for the past 5 weeks or so, I’ve been getting a little bit of an ego boost in the form of arm and shoulder muscles that had been previously non-existent.  That ego boost has also been a bit of a pride boost. (Just picture me parading around the house in a sports bra and sweatpants flexing my arm muscles in front of every mirror – it’s actually kind of ridiculous.)

So, yesterday (on Easter Sunday, no less) as I sat with some of the youth from PLC at the Easter Pancake Breakfast, I was bragging (just a little, I swear!) to them about my buff arms and washboard (ha! not yet) abs from working out.  So of course on of them was like, “prove it!” and challenged me to an arm wrestling duel.  Well, being the competitive soul that I am, I had to take her up on the challenge and easily defeated her on the first try – piece of cake, right?  Yeah.  So then she told me I should arm wrestle Scott.  Since my ego had already been inflated at that point, and I was pretty confident in my new found arm strength, I took her up on the challenge and prepared myself to pin Scott’s arm to the table.

After several minutes of hard-fought battle, neither Scott nor myself were getting anywhere in the battle.  We were at a stalemate (and I was pretty proud of the fact that I was holding my own against my super buff fiance).  Then, perhaps in a moment of brilliance, that youth grabbed both our arms and pulled both down causing me to “lose” the match.

And that, my friends, is when I began to feel it.  Soreness began to creep into my shoulder.  Oh, the pain.  And today, it was multiplied.  My arm is weak.  I fear the gravity of the injury, so I’m waiting it out before I jump to go see a doctor about it.  Either way, I’m feeling the consequences of my pride, and if I can tell you one thing, I can tell you this: pride hurts in the end.

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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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There is an older gentleman in my church who was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer a while back.  At the time it was estimated that he would probably have less than a year to live.  As I observe this man in church it is clear to me that he is a firm believer in the power of God, the power of prayer, and in the importance of fellowship with other believers.  I’m pretty sure that since beginning his treatments for the cancer he has only missed maybe one or two Sundays.

Back in November our church held a benefit dinner for he and his wife to help cover medical expenses that raised upwards of $20,000.  That money helped to cover enormous medical bills that had been piling up while he and his wife were both out of work.

Tonight as we opened our last Lenten soup supper in prayer, we were able to rejoice with the saints in heaven at a miraculous victory.  The tumor which had previously been present in his pancreas is gone.  The tumor in his liver has shrunk to half its size, and appears to be continuing in its disappearance.  The doctors are calling it nothing short of a miracle.

The doctor’s advice: keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.

His response: “All I do is go home and pray.”

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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 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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Well, the time is upon us: reflection on another year gone by, resolutions for the year to come.  It seems that every year is momentous, filled with joy and sorrow and significant change – 2008 has been no different.  I can hardly remember the final days of 2007 – it seems like my life now is so far removed from where it was just a year ago.  So much has changed, and yet so much feels exactly the same.

It seems as though it were just yesterday when I drove back to Fremont after spending a week in Cleveland for the Christmas holiday, returning to a community that I had grown to love and a job that I had grown to love even more.  I spent the winter and spring diving deeper into my position as Director of Youth & Education Ministries at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont, Ohio and embracing all the opportunities that youth ministry provides–lock-ins, a children’s ministry conference in Chicago, the annual youth dinner auction, the joys of hosting groups of youth in my tiny apartment for lunch and Bible study after church on Sundays during Lent, and the celebration at the beginning of June of surviving my first year in congregational youth ministry.

In May I enjoyed a brief respite from the always-busy youth ministry schedule as I traveled with my sister, Kristen to Nashville, TN for a few days.  It was a nice way to break up the transition from school-year ministry to summer ministry as I prepared for a summer that would bring about a number major life changes.

As the seasons changed from spring to summer, some significant events and difficult decisions brought some major changes in my own life.  The catalyst of these changes was my long-awaited engagement to Scott on June 14, 2008 when he proposed to me at Mentor Headlands Beach during a weekend trip home to Mayfield.  The month that followed was quite the whirlwind as I took a group of Jr. High youth to the ALIVE festival, spent a week leading music and directing Vacation Bible School and spent two incredible weeks on Spoke Folk with a group of Sr. High youth from Grace.  Along with the joy and excitement of summer ministry, that month included the difficult decision to resign my position at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont and accept a part-time position at Parma Lutheran Church in Parma, Ohio so that I could move home to the Cleveland area to be near Scott and allow time for grad school and planning a wedding.

At the end of July I moved back in with my parents and began my part-time position as Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Parma Lutheran Church.  Scott and I began the process of wedding planning and are now looking forward to September 12, 2009 when we will join our hearts as one in marriage.  In October I began full-time studies at Ashland Theological Seminary where I will spend the next three years pursuing my Masters of Divinity degree.

Since starting seminary in October I have enjoyed the fast-paced life of being a full-time student and part-time youth minister.  I’ve enjoyed the many opportunities that I’ve had to settle into my position at PLC through various youth and church-wide events–a fall sr. high retreat, a service trip to Redeemer Crisis Center in Cleveland, and a Christmas lock-in event.

Now that I’ve reflected on the past year, it’s time to start looking ahead.  Resolutions, anyone?

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