Monday, October 29, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Soon, I will not be including a monthly calendar in my monthly mailing to you; I'm moving more and more info to this site, so please be checking often.
We're going to be doing a few "different" things over the next month or so, ex: a Fall Party next week in lieu of youth group on Wednesday night (note time change), and also our Sunday night group is going to Martelle TWICE in the coming months (once on November 25th, and again on December 9th).
Monday, October 22, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By Greg Stier from Dare2Share Ministries
"Let's face it. Most of us look at the clean cut Mormon missionaries that peddle the streets of our city and knock on the doors of our houses as somewhat out of date. Although they are kind and well spoken young men, when they knock on our doors we either don't answer or tell them we are already Christians who reject Mormonism and bid them good dayWe think to ourselves how "behind the times" these young people are forced to be when they are required to do door-to-door evangelism for their religion. We reflect on how grateful we are that we have the truth once and for all delivered to the saints. We may even think about how much more superior our youth ministry strategies are compared to theirs.
Or are they?
- Mormons expect a lot out of their teenagers. We don't.
- Mormons ordain their young men into the ministry at the age of twelve. We don't.
- Mormons require their teens to attend seminary every day of high school. We don't.
- Mormons ask for two years in the field of every graduating senior. We don't.
Maybe that's why we don't meet a lot of ex-Mormons, while there are hundreds of thousands of former church attendees in the true church of Jesus Christ (of everyday saints) who flee the church after graduating from high school.
Maybe that's why Mormons give more, work harder and are exploding as a religion. In 1985 there were 4.5 million Mormons and now there are over 12 million.
When many of our teens graduate from high school, they grab their books and a beer and go off to the college dorm (A.K.A. "The Party Zone"). When Mormon teens graduate from high school they grab a backpack and a bike pump and go off on a mission.
They know what they believe and why they believe it. They've hammered out their theology on our doorsteps. Their souls and minds have been steeled and sealed into Mormon orthodoxy through their fanatical commitment to the accomplishment of their version of the Great Commission.
Meanwhile we compress most of our mission work into one week in Mexico once every year or two. And even that is comprised mostly of building houses, not necessarily advancing the kingdom of God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There's a great line in the movie Braveheart where Robert the Bruce is commenting on William Wallace to his father. He says, "He believes. I want to believe like he believes."
When I look at the Mormons I think to myself, "They believe. I want to believe like they believe." Now don't get me wrong. I don't want to believe what they believe. Mormon theology is far from what the Bible says about Jesus, God, sin and salvation. It is, by no means, a truly Christian religion.Having said that, Mormonism pushes their kids harder and takes them deeper and farther than even the most ardent of evangelical youth ministries would ever dare.
Can you imagine a youth group that challenged every teen in the youth ministry to meet at 6am every day of the school year for a class on Christianity? That's exactly what Mormons do with their high schoolers and their belief system! We get excited if once a year at 7:15am, while Mormon teens are coming back from their daily seminary lesson on Mormonism, our teens gather around a pole and pray.
I'm not saying that we copy the Mormons specific strategy. I can't foresee our teenagers racing Mormons to the door in a battle of the bicycles. Nor do I believe the answer lies in a daily early morning class. We don't need to copy their strategy. We do, however, need to adopt their philosophy.
We need to push our teens. We need to turn them into active activists. We need to build consistent opportunities for service, outreach and training. We need to equip them to share their faith and then go with them, leading the way. After all, we are youth leaders.Somebody may accuse me of looking at this as some sort of competition. It is. We are in a competition with Satan for the souls of our young people. And we are getting our rears kicked.
My problem is not with Mormons. It's with us. Let's learn from the Mormons and turn our kids into missionaries. Armed with the power of the true gospel (not some aberrant belief system) our teens could mount a comeback and help us win this thing.
Monday, October 15, 2007
"Pacific Sun, you should have warned us, it gets so cold here.
And the night can freeze, before you set it on fire.
And our flares go unnoticed.
Diminished, faded just as soon as they are fired.
We are, we are, intrigued. We are, we are, invisible.
Oh, how we've shouted, how we've screamed, take notice, take interest, take me with you.
But all our fears fall on deaf ears.
Tonight, they're burning the roads they built to lead us to the light.
And blinding our hearts with their shining lies,
while closing our caskets cold and tight ... But I'm dying to live.
Pacific sun, you should have warned us, these heights are dizzying,
and the climb can kill you long before the fall.
And our trails go unmarked and unmapped and covered
just as soon as they are crossed.
We are, we are, intriguing. We are, we are, desirable.
Oh how we've shouted, how we've screamed,
take notice, take interest, take me with you.
But all our fears fall on deaf ears.
Tonight, they're burning the roads they built to lead us to the light.
And blinding our hearts with their shining lies,
while closing our caskets cold and tight ... But I'm dying to live."
Chris Carrabba is issuing a call to arms to the adults, leaders and parents of this generation. He is speaking for all of the kids, my kids, your kids, OUR kids who feel that they have no voice, no input, no one who cares. They are the ones yelling, "Take notice, take interest, take me with you." Over the past few months, I've been reading the weblog of a girl NOT in our youth ministry's sphere of influence. Please read her most recent post. Be warned...it pulls no punches and is graphic.
"Well tonight has been hell. I might spell a few things wrong. I can't feel my fingers on my left hand. You'll find out why in a minute. Just gotta dig through everything else to get there.
I ate today. A grand total of:
a bowl of pasta salad
2 handfuls of mini vanilla wafers
and a large (gah) chocolate extreme blizzard.
I shouldn't have had all that. God. I can see that cheeseburger clogging my arteries. After I ate I got on the scale. The number was so fucking huge I won't even say it. I ended up having a lovely urge. I think I'm better now. Of course, I say that after having cut a million times and a lovely salt and ice burn on my wrist (that's why the fingers are numb). But I'm okay. I think. I never really know any more.
Lindsey gave me the link to her diary thing. I read it. Wow. I know she would like shoot me in the ass for saying this, but it makes me worry about her. I want her to be safe and happy. I want her to eat and not worry about it. I want to eat and not worry about it. Who wants to worry about how many calories are in toothpaste? I don't. I would trade anything not to have gotten into this. I want to sit down and eat a fucking big mac if I want to. I want to find a guy that the size of my pants doesn't bother him. I want some one who loves all over a hundred pounds of me. I just want... Idk what I want. I just want every one to be happy. I want to go a whole day where no one says emo, talks about cutting, or has an urge. That would be like heaven. I don't remember the last time I went like more than 2 hours with out thinking about it. I'm even afraid to sleep. It's in my dreams. I don't want to deal with that.
I hope it's cold tomorrow. At least for a hoodie. What about softball? Hopefully cold enough for sleeves. Ick. I'm going to need them. Gym will be a fun one.
I have no clue what I'll allow myself to eat tomorrow. Ugh. I really don't think I'll be able to shove anything down my throat after today. My stupid fat ass self.
And omg. Mama hung clothes in the closet. I'm not allowed to shut the door (something about them not drying; they were wet). So I know I won't sleep tonight. Not with the doors open. I'll probably wake up in the middle of the night and have to get up and close them.
Anyway, done for tonight. I'm starting to get feeling in my fingers. Which equals screaming pain."
About a month ago, when I asked her how her parents responded when they learned of her cutting, she said, "They got mad at me and yelled...then did NOTHING". Nothing. And the girl still cuts. Parents and adults completely un-engaged.
Parents! This is a WAKE UP CALL to us! Are the fears of our children falling on "deaf ears"? Are the flares our children are sending up going "unnoticed, diminished and faded" as soon as they are fired?
While this student is NOT in our youth ministry, I know that some in our ministry feel the same way. What can you do?
Don't burn the roads that lead them to the truth. Don't blind their hearts with your shining lies. Live out your own faith. Be real and honest and transparent with them. Love your kids.
They are crying out to us.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
"Youth Perspective on Youth Ministry"
Over dinner, my daughter and I were talking about youth ministry. I told her about some of the conversations I’ve been reading around the blogosphere.
She saw my point about Halo and the need for youth to be more about being Christians than just hanging out and having fun. But, she said we adult Christians are using a double standard.
She noted that youth sometimes feel like victims of false advertising. At confirmation we tell them they are taking on the full responsibilities Christianity. They are - despite their status in the wider culture - Christians in full standing, just like the adults.
What this means in practice, however, is often nothing. Even at our church where our lead pastor tries to appoint youth to leadership positions, the voice of youth is often treated as - well - the voice of those at the kiddie table during Thanksgiving.
If we treat them as “not ready for prime time” and relegate their gifts to the youth lounge, what room do we have to then suggest they should be more interested in ‘religious’ youth group meetings than youth-oriented fun meetings. Do we let them act on the inspiration they might find in serious Bible study or prayer setting?
I told my daughter that most adults feel the same way when it comes to matters of church leadership, but that did not seem to help her much."
From Just Another Pretty Face:
"My Problem with Youth Ministry"
My general antipathy toward youth ministers in general is fairly well-documented. Of course, there are individuals in the field whom I truly like but in general I’ve got a bone to pick with youth ministry.
I’m not sure, but I think it happened in the 60s or 70s. Someone, somewhere thought it was a great idea to start engaging the young people with Church. So we started changing the lyrics to popular songs (Who here hasn’t heard “Amazing Grace” sung to the tune of “House Of The Rising Sun”?) and having big parties at church.
When I was growing up, most of the youth ministers I encountered were guys who had some sort of arrested development thing going on. They got into youth ministry because they loved the feeling of someone looking up to them, thinking they were cool. In Junior High I had the best Sunday School teacher. Dave Roth was great. He never talked down to us and delved deep into the meaning of scripture. We had actual Bible study. It was fun and not dry, but we managed to learn at the same time. I’ll stop naming names now, though, because subsequent youth leaders all of a sudden began to believe that we were incapable of study or rational thought. Suddenly church–which I had loved–turned into Mini Golf Paradise. They started youth meetings at 7:37 (Look! A HIP TIME!!!! WE’RE SO TEH KEWL!!!) and bribed us with pizza, pop and ping pong. If there was any Bible discussion at all it was usually pretty facile and covered territory we had already visited in kindergarten. You know–God Loves You! Sharing is Good!
I’ll never forget one of my youth ministers coming to chapel at my Christian School. This was a school where we had in-depth theology classes and deep discussions about things like transubstantiation, abortion, euthanasia and other faith/ethics topics. My youth minister’s idea of addressing “kids” was to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.
As I’ve grown older (and even more curmudgeonly) it seems like this problem was not solely at my home church. The dumbing down of church for the young is causing the modern institutional church to lose 20-somethings at a hemorragic rate.
It’s almost become an expectation that people will drop out of church between 18 and 30 and then return when they have kids and are ready to start “real life.” Meanwhile, the 20somethings are drinking their lives away, buying into the American dream of materialism, and starting off marriages on shaky foundations.
I agree with the bulk of that author’s post, but here’s the thing. I was a 20-something Christian who tried to find a church home periodically. But all the 20-something ministries were geared toward that whole Rock-N-HolyRoll thing. No church seemed to take 20somethings seriously unless they had kids. Then they were only taken seriously as parents of future youth group members.
Yet I wasn’t “buying into materialism” or “drinking my life away”. I was trying to cope with entering the workforce, figuring out who I was, building a healthy marriage, dealing with the struggle of infertility and health issues. In short, I was being a grown-up. But most church congregations don’t see you as grown-up until you hit 30 or drop a couple of shorties–which ever comes first.
The church needs to expect more from people between the ages of 14 and 30. The church needs to realise that this is when serious life choices are being made. Where shall we go to college? Can we go to college? Whom shall we marry? What will we do for the rest of our life? Instead of wooing “youth” with pizza party fun, the church ought to prepare growing people for the challenges of life.
I place a lot of the blame on youth ministers. Instead of hiring a series of Peter Pans to amuse and distract, we ought to hire theologically-grounded counselors with the ability to nurture. Then perhaps institutional church will once again be relevant to those who are adults everywhere but under the steeple."
Finally, there is an article about video games and youth group here. This will be a topic of discussion at our retreat this weekend.
Monday, October 8, 2007
|Why Most Missions Trips Are a Waste of Time|
By Noel Becchetti "We're going to Ecuador!" The words ring out in a dimly-lit sanctuary. As music pulses, more lights come on and more voices ring out: "We'll be working with our denominational missionaries!" "We're going to repair the roof of their mission house!" "We're going to put on a Bible club for the village children!" The voices? Members of a youth group in a large church in the Pacific Northwest. They were presenting their upcoming mission trip to members of their congregation. Me? I was the guest speaker, brought in to inspire the adults to support their students' summer mission plans. No problem--except that I was in a quandary. What can I honestly say to these people, I thought, when I know that this trip is mostly a waste of everyone's time and money?
Those words may read strangely, coming from the keyboard of someone who is dedicated to advancing short-term mission and service opportunities for young people and adults. But I'm concerned that many (if not most) of our well-intentioned mission and service efforts are misguided.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM (Mirror, Please)
"We have met the enemy," the saying goes, "and it is us." Afraid so--the first place to look when trying to figure out why we're wasting our time is in the mirror (me too, so don't feel too bad). There are three common errors we North-American, Western-Culture types make that can torpedo our best efforts.
We want to control the situation. This is understandable, given the responsibility we carry in taking a group of kids into a strange and potentially dangerous location. The problem is, missions by its very nature is a cross-cultural experience. We're choosing to go into a situation where the values, norms, cultural rules, and methods are radically different from ours. If we continue to insist on control--which means imposing our cultural and methodological framework onto our ministry partners--we create two wasteful byproducts:
1. Our ministry partners divert us to meaningless (in their framework) tasks that fit our control grid. A friend of mine has coordinated mission and service trips into northern Mexico for years. One of his sites is an orphanage, full of boys and girls dying for love and attention. And The Wall. "I've got this wall," he told me. "When a group comes that can't handle what's required to build relationships with Mexican kids, or insists on completing a task so they can 'accomplish' something, I put them to work on The Wall. They feel like they're a big help, and it keeps them out of everyone's hair so the ministry isn't compromised."
2. We pull our ministry partners away from more meaningful work. "People need to remember," an inner-city friend from Chicago told me recently, "that a ministry pays a price to accommodate volunteers. It takes a lot of time and energy to set up an environment that can effectively handle volunteer help." While there are a number of legitimate reasons why a ministry partner may choose to allow volunteer groups to come in on a "make-work" basis (expose kids to the mission field, build awareness of the ministry, generate financial support), it's a waste of their distinctive gifts and skills to force them to accommodate our control issues.
Remember the high school group headed for Ecuador? The missionaries really didn't need their roof repaired; they figured that it was what the kids could handle. But for two weeks, it took them away from their core ministry--an outreach to the adult men of their village.
We want to define what is 'ministry'. The 'ministry' that God calls our mission partners to pursue may be (and often is) the exact opposite of what we would do. The point isn't to decide whose definition of ministry is "right"; the point is that as we insist on defining what ministry is in a context we know little about, we head down the garden path. Ever wonder why so many other cultures don't maintain their homes and buildings up to our standards? Maybe other things are more important to them.
One of the most common cultural collisions occurs between linear cultures (like ours) and nonlinear cultures (like Latin). Our culture is task-oriented; Latin culture is people-oriented. Our culture is time-sensitive; Latin culture is situation-sensitive. Glen Kehrein, co-author (with Raleigh Washington) of a terrific book on racial reconciliation entitled Breaking Down Walls (1993, Moody Press), relates an incident that illustrates how these basic differences can collide:
"While visiting missionary friends in Mexico City, [his wife] Lonni and I decided to go sight-seeing. On the way to the pyramids outside the city, our friends dropped off a package for a friend of theirs. In the U.S. the encounter would have lasted thirty seconds--tops. In Mexico it involved extended conversation and refreshments. Our friends, Rick and Diane, had never met the recipient and would, most likely, never see him again. Two hours later we were back on the road."
"As whites we often see such encounters as a 'waste of time', rushing to judgment rather than attempting to understand the culture. The Mexican value of relationships is often viewed as laziness."
When we give in to our task orientation and define "doing" as ministry (one of our most common mistakes), we create more wasteful repercussions:
1. We spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money to do 'ministry' that is a low priority to those we're attempting to serve. A few years ago, a friend of mine went with a group of other adult men from his church to a jungle village in Brazil. They were there to build a new meeting room for the mission compound. "The only problem was," he told me, "the weather was horrible the whole time--driving rain 24 hours a day. It was the worst possible time to build a building; but we'd come to accomplish a task, and by George, we were going to do it!" He went on: "It got to be ludicrous. The villagers were laughing their heads off. They couldn't figure out why the gringos were so loco that they'd slop around in the rain and mud when anyone with half a brain was inside."
2. We tempt our ministry partners to tell us only what we want to hear. I've got another friend who also works in northern Mexico. He's built a network of relationships with Mexican pastors all over the region. There's just one problem, he says: "Some of the pastors have learned how to make a good living telling Americans what they want to hear. They'll tug their heartstrings with some cute children, then tell them how, if they could only build a new wing on their church, they could do so much more for the kids. It's not that these pastors have such bad intentions; they've been overwhelmed by the amount of money and material resources that Americans can pour into a situation."
Buildings are not automatically bad. But these Mexican pastors have become sidetracked from the ministry that is most effective in their culture (relationships) because of the overwhelming influence (and its attending temptations) of well-meaning but ignorant groups.
We want to see certain kinds of results. After all, we're investing a lot of time, energy and money into this mission trip. Surely God (not to mention the church board) wants to see some results from our efforts! True enough--but in rural Ecuador or inner-city Cleveland, "results" can be tough to pin down.
This pitfall can be especially treacherous when we're ministering in difficult, complicated situations. It would be great if homeless crack addicts could meet Jesus, get clean, and land a job in a week; unfortunately, it rarely happens that way. Results like "We got to know some homeless men and women and told them that God loves them", or "We helped the missionaries hand out information for an upcoming service to the village men as they came out of the cantina" can be tough to quantify. But insisting on attaining results that fit our criterion for effective use of resources creates still more wasteful ripple effects:
1. We run the risk of seeing 'results' that aren't really there. "What a great day!" one group leader told me after his group spent the afternoon at a Washington D.C. homeless shelter. "We handed out tracts and witnessed to dozens of guys. At least ten men accepted Christ!" Well, maybe...but homeless shelter residents are (unfortunately) familiar with evangelistic blitzkriegs and know how to go through the motions so they can get some peace and quiet.
2. We could do real damage to our ministry partners' long-term work. When the Iron Curtain fell, there was an explosion of evangelistic outreach from the West into the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Huge stadium rallies brought together thousands of people, virtually all whom, it seemed, raised their hands to accept Jesus. Unfortunately, the organizers of most of these events forgot to consider how they were going to follow up these respondents. Guess who absorbed the blow created by this phenomenon? The men and women who had patiently worked over the years to smuggle in Bibles and Christian literature, connect with believers behind the Iron Curtain, and support clandestine youth camps and other outreaches.
One friend of mine who has worked in the Eastern Bloc for more than a quarter-century recounted how he was approached by an American group that had held a crusade in Romania. "We've got over 2,000 decision cards that were filled out by people who attended our crusade," they told him. "Can you follow them up?" His ministry was staggering under the weight of trying to meet such needs while continuing the work he'd been called to for decades. (In 1993, the head of a respected mission agency reaching a former Iron Curtain country concluded that the results achieved from all the evangelistic efforts made into his country were essentially zilch.)
WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
Take heart - your mission and service trip can be a wise and effective investment of your time, energy, and resources. All you've got to do is keep three principles in mind as you prepare yourself and your students:
1. Let Go and Let God. Several years ago, a friend of mine and I were able to gain an invitation from the Romanian government to bring a group of baseball coaches to their country to conduct instructional clinics for their youth baseball program. (We were also given complete freedom to share with the kids about our faith.) I was in charge of the pre-visit; so, in the dead of winter, I headed over to Bucharest for my first meeting with Cristian Costescu, the Secretary-General of the Romanian Baseball Federation.
Romania is a Latin culture. It's people-centered, situation-sensitive, and they don't sweat the details. As Cristian, my taxi-driver/translator friend, and I sat in a Bucharest restaurant for the first of what were many hours-long meals together, sweat began to pour down my forehead as I realized that there was no way that we could nail down the logistics of our trip ahead of time. Where we would stay, what the schedule would be, who we'd interface with--every query was met with the reply, "You will be our guests. It is not a problem." I had two options: I could pull the plug on the trip, or I could place our group in Cristian and his associates' hands and trust them to do right by us.
Which they did--in Romanian, roundabout, by-our-standards-last-minute fashion. It was a fantastic trip. The clinics went great; the kids were responsive; God put us in touch with local Romanian Christians who were willing to follow up with interested players after we departed. Most importantly, my wife and I established friendships that we've maintained over the years, friends we've gone back to see several times since then. And interestingly (and appropriately) enough, we've 'done' more ministry just sitting around visiting with our Romanian friends than we ever accomplished during our mission trip.
Most of the control issues that hover around a mission and service trip concern method rather than goal. We're all after the same things; it's in considering how to get there that our differences emerge. As we allow our methods to be adjusted to fit the situation we're entering, we communicate a powerful message of trust and respect to our ministry partners that will ensure our time will be well spent.
2. A ministry by any other name would smell as sweet. In 1992, my wife Kyle and I started the Chicago branch of Center for Student Missions (CSM). As we began to learn our way around, we made friends with a number of African-American Christians who attended a church on Chicago's South Side.
One Saturday, I headed down to their church to get my car hand-washed at the facility they'd set up in a warehouse next door to their sanctuary. Kirk Bell, one of my new friends, came by. As we chatted, I looked across the street to the new sanctuary they were building out of what had been a burned-out grocery store. "Kirk, we could bring all kinds of work groups to help you with your church building," I said (in a dazzling display of Anglo task-oriented linear brilliance). "That would be great," Kirk (diplomatically) replied, "but what we'd really like to do is to train teams of Christians to go back with us into the projects where we grew up and share Jesus with the folks who live there."
Their ministry goals looked nothing like mine - and, as I was to discover, it took some real selling to convince our groups that traipsing into housing projects (where 100% of the residents were African-American) with a team of black evangelists was a good idea. But sharing Jesus with people in the Stateway Gardens housing project with Kirk and his friends has become one of the most powerful ministries our groups experience during their times in Chicago. By deep-sixing our focus on task and redefining our understanding of ministry, we were able to see God work in ways we couldn't have otherwise imagined.
3. Leave the driving to Him. Have you read Matthew 25:31-40 lately? It's one of Jesus' most significant discourses. After all, he's articulating the actions by which God decides who's going to heaven and who's headed You Know Where. What's fascinates me in this passage is what he doesn't say. Do you notice what he leaves out in his charge to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and minister to the sick? He says nothing about what results are supposed to be achieved through these actions. There's no talk about ending hunger, defeating poverty, or seeing the prisoner go straight. He says simply to Do It, because when we do, we're somehow ministering directly to Our Lord.
Jesus gives us the freedom to go into our mission and service trips with the goal of just plain ministering. We don't have to achieve certain "results" to justify our investment. Frankly, we might not recognize some of God's divine results when we see them! But as we can remove our cultural blinders, discard the limitations we place on God's definition of ministry, and "leave the driving" to Him, we can begin to understand what it means to be Jesus' hands and feet to a hurting world.
JUST CALL ME-CHICKEN
So what did I say to the congregation that was sending its students to Ecuador? To be honest, I wasn't very bold. I played it safe and affirmed what was praiseworthy about their trip--their willingness to move out of their comfort zone, their desire to serve God, their heart for the children they were looking forward to meeting. But I took comfort in the knowledge that they were under the guidance of a solid youth leader whom I knew would learn from the experience (he did) and approach future mission and service trips with more flexibility and sensitivity (he has). The "result" has been healthy relationships with ministry partners all over the world, and students whose lives have been changed forever.
That's what we want our kids to experience. And that's mission and service that's worth anyone's time.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Our Kernels money is on the way! I'll let you know when it has been deposited into the accounts of those who helped.
Wendy's night is NEXT week. There will be a sign-up sheet at youth group tonight.
The School Lessons for the next 2 weeks are in the resource folder. Check them out! While you're there, check out the "High School Media..." article in the "Interesting Articles" folder. How much "screen time" are your kids getting?