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Posts Tagged ‘youth ministry’

… 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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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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The liturgical season of Lent has always been one of my favorite seasons of the church year.  This year, I’m particularly excited for the Lenten journey to which God has called me.  Ben recently wrote a wonderful post about Giving Up, Giving Out, and Taking In noting that:

…the season of Lent is not just about giving up things.  Sweets, soda, television, or Facebook.  Lent was a time to fill ourselves with the things of God.  So we empty ourselves of these simple pleasures that we might be filled up with the joy of Christ.  Lent is a time to be drawn closer and to draw closer to God.

There have been years that I have painstakingly legalistic about forcing myself to give up things such as dessert, soda, caffeine, meat, etc. without so much as a thought of filling that space with the joy of Christ.  What is the point if we are not throwing ourselves whole-heartedly at the feet of Jesus, emptying ourselves of our worldly desires and filling ourselves with His love.

So, here’s the deal.  In light of recent struggles and confessions, I’ve been spending some time in prayer and reflection over what God may be calling me to in this Lenten season.  Where does He desire me to empty myself and what areas of my life need to be filled by Him?

For the next 40 days I will be emptying myself of the need to be artificially connected to people:  I have deactivated my facebook account, I will be signing off of Instant Messenger and will most likely stop Twittering.

In place of artificially maintained relationships I will be filling myself: I will be investing heavily in my relationship with God and re-discovering His love, I will be investing in “real life” relationships – with Scott, with my family, with friends, with my youth.  And I will be fully present in those relationships.

So, basically my only outlet for internet communication will be here at the blog – and I even questioned giving that up (but it turns out that blogging is typically beneficial in that it helps me to reflect on God, life, and love).

I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

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I am very fortunate to be living and learning in the company of people who come from all walks of life.  I am in classes with people who are parents, people who are right out of undergrad, people who have been pastors for years, people who are working a part-time food service job just to get by, people who come from different ethinc backgrounds than myself, people who have lived through some of the “historical” events that come up in our discussions, etc.  I have the privilege of working alongside people who are in ministry as a second career, who have experienced more pain in their lives than I can imagine, people who have been effected by the government and society since before I was born, and with people who know the true value of family, friends and life experience.  Many of the people who I have gotten to know the most in my classes are easily old enough to be my parents.  As I sit in classes alongside these fine people, I have recently been challenged.  I am humbled by the amount of “life experience” with which I am surrounded in any given day.

Life experience is one of those things that doesn’t happen over night.  (Duh, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life experience.)  Lately, I’ve become painfully aware of a rather annoying habit that I have — every time someone has a story to tell about one of their life experiences, I seem to have a “similar” story to share (although often times it’s nowhere near similar).  I’m notorius for saying, “Oh yeah, like this one time when I…”  or “When I was in college…” or “When I was your age…” (usually that one comes out in the presence of my youth group kids).  It wouldn’t surprise me if any one of those phrases instantly cues somebody to put on that filter that reduces everything that follows to “blah blah blah blah-dy blah-dy blah blah…” Who am I kidding?  Most of the time, my “life experience” pales in comparison to the people I’m talking to.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are a few things I am not saying:

  1. I am not saying that life experience isn’t important.
  2. I am not saying that my life experience isn’t valuable enough to share with people.
  3. I am not saying that I don’t have any life experience.

Rather, I’m beginning to realize some things:

  1. There is an appropriate time to keep my mouth shut and just listen to the life experience of others and learn from it rather than feeling the need to interject with some story from my own life that is probably completely unrelated.
  2. For as much life experience as I think I have, I still have so much to learn and experience in life… after all, I’m only 24 years old – I’m still a youngster compared to many of the folks I keep company with.
  3. I hope that 25 years from now I have the same patience to listen to the life experience of a 25 year old as many people have had with me.

Just some thoughts I’ve been having lately.  Hopefully they’re at least somewhat coherent.  What value do you place on life experience?  Are you guilty of being too arrogant about your own?  Do you value the life experience of those younger than you? …older?

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