Next Sunday, we're talking about Passion in HSM, and I've been thinking about it a lot today as I started some message prep. Two things stuck out to me:
John 2:15-17: "Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: 'Passion for God’s house will consume me'."

The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering– physical, spiritual, and mental– of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion.

Christ was passionate about God's people. The scripture above has a lot of layers in it that can easily go unnoticed. All of these salesmen had set up shop in the temple, each one claiming his sheep or doves or whatever were better than the next, and therefore would be a more pleasing sacrifice to atone for the buyer's sins. Instead of the sinner sacrificing his best livestock, he could purchase what he needed at the temple and offer it as a sacrifice. The whole concept became twisted and morally corrupt, when it should have been drawing people closer to God. It ruined the idea of sacrifice, it tainted God's beautiful gift of redemption. It made Jesus angry, and He reacted.

His passion for God's church consumed Him. It fueled every action, every thought, every use of His resources. It was His filter for every word that passed over His lips, and it was the driving force behind His journey to Calvary. "The Passion" is a term that has been around forever, and more recently, associated with the film, but have we ever stopped to realize what that exactly means? Jesus Christ, beaten, exhausted, and standing alone as his friends watched from the back of the crowd, all for His passion.

Are we that passionate about Him? Are we that passionate about anything? Does anything drive us as much as Christ's love for God's people fueled Him?

Link Love: Posts worth a read

I don't know if it's due to excitement over the new school year or what, but there have been some solid articles and blog posts that have popped up over the last two weeks or so. I keep meaning to compile a list, and since I'm waiting on a turkey to cook [yeah, there's a project], I figured there's no better time than the present.

I've included a snippet from each that really connected with me. These have really got me thinking about the hows and whys behind the way I run my program.

CNN: More teens becoming 'fake' Christians
She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips... But it's not enough to be radical -- parents must explain "this is how Christians live," she says. "If you don't say you're doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people," Dean says.

DC Curry: How do we draw Millennials to church?
...Younger generations are growing up POST-Civil Rights Movement. Without US History classes in school most would have NO concept of pre-civil rights way of living. This gen isn’t afraid of other cultures and as a whole, they embrace it.

Adam McLane: When did ministry become an office job?
...Compare the hours per week that your own church spends in the office vs. the amount of time the New Testament church did. They didn’t even have an office! So it was 0%. The biblical model is 0%. God’s Word is true, right? God is unchanging and unchangeable? ...How can we justify 50%, 75%, or 90% of our hours doing office work?

Geoff Cocanower: I almost chickened out
Okay, I'm not going to put a quote from this because I don't want to give away the light-bulb-over-the-head moment. But this REALLY hit home with me, and is definitely worth the read for anyone working with teens in a church setting.

Weekend Wrap Up: Week 1

Date: Aug. 29, 2010
Audience: Junior and Senior High
Topic: Live Large, Be Different, Shine Bright
Scripture: Romans 12:1-2 [The Message]

We had a HUGE group last night [around 30- three junior high, the rest senior high], which made the night a little crazy, but also gave it that Kick Off feel. It definitely showed that a) i need to recruit more volunteers, and b) we definitely have some spacing issues.

We started off with a new game- Ping Pong launch. Split the kids in 2 teams, and have them shoot ping pong balls with spoons at juice pitchers. The teal team had 44, and the green team had 19, but the best part was seeing 200 ping pong balls flying through the air all at the same time. My prediction: these ping pong balls will last til Christmas :) Our youth room is a black hole for ping pong balls.

The message and the scripture connected together really well. Romans 12:1-2 is a verse my kids are pretty familiar with, so I mixed it up and read it from "The Message." We talked about how they can make brand new choices this school year- that their decisions will affect the outcome of their lives, and only they can make those decisions. I challenged them to Live Large, Be Different, and Shine Bright- to accept the abundant life Jesus has for us, to choose who they follow, and to work together to light up their world.

One key thing I'm trying to do this year is build into the idea that youth group is a safe place to open up about the tough stuff. We talked about how sometimes we get in situations where we feel like our flame for Christ is barely a flicker, struggling to stay lit. In those moments, we need to find the "floodlights" and come at it from a community standpoint. If I've got a flicker and Lucy's a floodlight for Jesus, her light will help shine in the dark spots that mine is too weak to reach. God designed us that way- we're the BODY of Christ, not the BODIES of Christ.

For some reason, we whizzed through everything, so the kids were stoked that there was time for Booty Ball at the end. Everyone stands in a circle with their legs shoulder-width apart, and you try to roll a ball through each other's legs. If it goes through your legs once, you have to turn around and play backwards. If it goes through again, you're out. High intensity game, especially with a large group.

Overall, I'm pleased with how things went- tweaking the schedule a little for next week to add some small group time at the end. We also handed out surveys re: our programming [Sunday School, Youth Group, overall] because we're trying to beef it up this year. I'm excited to see what our students come up with.


Great Media on Digital Harassment

This video played during "If you really knew me" on MTV tonight- it's from www.athinline.org. A great resource for youth workers and teens.

Quote of the Day

From Bible study this morning:
"Church has increasingly become an option at a buffet, rather than the main course of the meal."
We continue to serve it, but more and more, people would rather pick the main dish for themselves.

How can we meet in the middle? How can we serve what people are hungry for?

Article: Transference in Youth Ministry

This is a superb article from Conversations on the Fringe about transference in ministry. It's crazy, too, because I led an adult Bible study this morning, and we ended up talking about exactly that. Here's a clip:
Wherever you have an authority role, a very specific kind of transference happens. The “role” of pastor, not the “person,” but the “role” encourages a complex set of transference reactions.

Students and parents tend to idealize you and then “transfer” to you their unmet dependency needs that they carry over with them. You become the good loving parent they never had. You become “Better than… Purer than… Kinder than… Gentler than… .” The youth pastor, being the human being that he/she is, will sooner or later disappoint people, who in their disillusionment will begin to turn on their leader who failed to meet their needs after all.
The discussion this morning turned towards this idea in regards to the Church [body of Christ] and the world. "Christ was perfect, the Church is the body of Christ, ,therefore the Church should be perfect. But wait, it's not! They must be hypocritical!" There's transference. The Church should be God, rather than be a community on a journey towards the cross. It's an often unmet expectation; the world is looking for a finished product, and we don't deliver.

Why is that? I think a lot of it stems from how we portray ourselves. "Come to our Bible Study and you'll make connections that last a lifetime!" What if I don't connect? "Experience a life transformation with us Sunday mornings!" What if I walk away unaffected? "When we believe in Christ, we receive new life!" What if things don't seem to change, or better yet, they change for the worse? The Church is known in the world for making promises we can't keep.

Are our intentions good? I believe the answer is yes. I believe the Church is passionate about sharing the love and hope of Christ with the world. I also believe there needs to be a level of transparency involved in it. The apostle Paul was bold enough to tell people he was the worst of all the sinners, and yet it's a common misconception that Christians have to have it all together.

We don't. Life is filled with lessons. God gives us opportunities, and we will either succeed or fail. One or the other. It's what we do with the outcome that changes things- do we learn? do we grow? do we share the experience with others? Do we as a Church community provide a space for these things to happen? Or are we expecting perfection, expecting what can only happen beyond this earthly life?

I say it all the time: people are people are people, and people do bonehead things. If you don't learn from it, then you continue to be a bonehead, but if you do learn from it, just think about how the world can change.


Currently Reading

Thy Kingdom Connected by Friesen
Taking Your Church to the Next Level by McIntosh
Better Safe than Sued by Crabtree

Three big issues I'm currently thinking about [hence, the books]:
1. How can we communicate information clearly and effectively, without adding to the noise?
2. Where is God leading us as a ministry? What's the big picture?
3. The best defense is a good offense. What are we doing well? Where can we improve?

Youth Ministry: The Business of Memory-Making

our kids are a little goofy :) Mission Trip 2010

One thing that really has jumped out at me over the past year is the importance of memory-making in youth ministry. Maybe the memory involves a teachable moment- an object lesson, a speaker, a chance to serve- or maybe it's the memory of a once in a lifetime experience- throwing a pie at their youth leader, climbing through a wire tunnel forty feet in the air, hearing a camper say "I want to commit my life to Christ."

Are we creating a space where memories can be made? Do those memories strengthen our students' bond with the Body of Christ and with God?

Our students deserve our best- so does our God. How can we use our gifts and passions to create memorable youth programming?


CCUMC Student Ministry Shirt Sale!

Here's a sneak preview of the shirt graphics for our Shirt Fundraiser :)

Hooded Sweatshirt Design [youth sizes have bright green letters]

Short sleeve T-shirt Design [youth sizes are bright blue with tangerine stripes and white letters]

The fundraiser starts August 15th and runs through September 1st. You can order shirts at the table in the Narthex on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, or you can pick up an order form outside of the youth room and drop it off in the office in Kara's mailbox with the shirt payment. Proceeds will go towards Youth programming at CCUMC.


youth workers, i have a question for you.

what do you look for in curriculum?

I have been having the hardest time finding curriculum I like, or curriculum that's volunteer friendly- something that has a lot of substance when it comes to the lesson but a lot of options when it comes to teaching it. I also run into a lot of curriculum that's written too young for the intended audience. Our students are maturing at a faster rate- we as youth workers need to accept this and meet them where they're at. It also seems like curriculum keeps getting more and more expensive as youth ministry budgets are getting smaller and smaller.

Am I the only one facing these kinds of problems?

let's dialogue about this: when it comes to your students, what do you look for in curriculum? what works for your ministry setting? what doesn't work? what does the "perfect curriculum" look like? have you run into any "walls" when looking for curriculum?

*author's note: i'm kind of a nerd when it comes to curriculum, and i can get pretty picky about it. i'm interested in what everyone else is thinking, whether youth pastors, volunteers, mentors, interns, whoever. everyone's got a voice in this conversation, and there's no right or wrong answer, so feel free to pipe in!

Link Love: The Wisdom Test

Tony Morgan is on point today. Check out his post about wisdom. Here's a clip:
James 3:17 offers a wisdom test for us to evaluate the credibility of a piece of “wisdom.” ...Based on the guidelines in this verse, wise advice should elicit the answer “yes” to the following questions:
Is it pure?
Does it promote peace?
Is it humble/submissive/impartial?
Is the teacher living it out?
Pretty solid advice... dare I say, wisdom :)

Sorry, the joke was there.

Have a great day, guys!

CCSM: Fall 2010

I just finished our topic list for the rest of 2010; thought I'd put it out there in case any other youth workers were looking for ideas.

HSM has two main series, but they're pretty diverse. The first is Character Counts- we're hitting a lot of character traits and how students are able to connect with Christ and share Him by developing these traits: reflection, passion, hope, transparency, integrity, honor, responsibility, giving, and celebration. Then we're moving into a series called "Family Matters": the myth of a perfect family, expectations, authority and rebellion, parents as friends, sibling rivalry, and counting our blessings. We'll wrap up the year with a Christmas Party at Park Terrace, which was a blast last year.

The Flipside has three series coming up, and they look like they're going to be a blast. We've got some new curriculum coming in called "The Lads: Secrets of the Universe" about three guys in a rock band who help students discover what life is all about. It's got crazy games and activities with it, and it looks perfect for The Flipside. After that series, we're going to dive into what it means to be a disciple, focusing on a couple different examples [John the Baptist, Peter, Paul], the cost of being a disciple, Jesus's prayer for His disciples, and how we can work together as the Body of Christ. The last series is called "Joy to the World!" which revolves around the hope and joy we receive through Christ, which we'll share on the last night of Triple F by heading out to do Christmas Caroling.

Busy busy year, but it's going to be amazing. I'm excited to get the ball rolling and see where God takes us. It's shaping up to be a big year for CCSM, and I can't wait :)


Excitement in the air

I know my students are dragging about it [not my college students though- they're counting down the days], but I'm excited that school is starting. There's a ton of stuff going on within the youth department at CCUMC, and it looks like it's going to be an amazing school year.

Our theme this year is "Live Large, Be Different, Shine Bright," which came from this great book Simply Youth Ministry put out recently. We're talking about character, purpose, ministry, passions- everything that makes each of our students unique and wonderful. We've got new curriculum in all our classes, and both rooms are getting a much needed makeover [sayanora mice-infested couches!]. There are some new programs coming, along with new opportunities for our students to get involved with. We're going big this year with God, and I'm excited to see where He takes us.

The cool thing about all of this is that there's a group of us working together, and every single decision gets filtered through "How will this help our kids connect with each other and with Christ?" It's the coolest thing, and it gets my blood moving.

The Flipside [5th and 6th grade] starts August 18, and Jr High [7th and 8th] and HSM [9-12th] both start on September 5th. It's going to be a big year, and you won't want to miss it. Parents, help make sure your kids get here. It'll be worth your while.


Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work

Paul Vitello from The New York Times posted a great article yesterday on clergy health that's worth a read. Here's a clip:
Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.

But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.
In planning out my summer, my senior pastor told me I had to take at least a week of vacation once camp and the mission trip were over. I ended up taking a week and a half, and it was a great time for me to relax and renew. I completely unplugged, and as a result, I was able to come back to our congregation with a new sense of passion and vision.

As ministers, it's easy to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's easy to want to answer every call, e-mail, or need that comes our way and answer them quickly. Here's the thing: we are not God. We cannot solve the world's problems on our own. We're vessels for His work, and when we push through the stress instead of taking time to renew, the stress can cause cracks in our ministry, in our lives. It can be damaging to that which we're working so hard to maintain.

Are you resting? Do you have a Sabbath, where you completely unplug? Or are you slapping a quick fix on the cracks, hoping the stress of life won't cause you to crumble? Your health- spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical- is important. It makes up who you are. It honors God. Your current schedule and lifestyle choices will tell you exactly who or what is your god. Maybe it's success, maybe it's pleasing people, maybe it's self-fulfillment. We've got to keep ourselves in check and keep our eyes on who God has created us to be.

Indy racecar drivers wouldn't drive the race in a busted car- they take care of them, they make sure they're in great condition. Mid-race, they'll pull off, get gas, get tires, get things in order so they can keep going. Make sure you're taking that time to pull off the track and get back in working order so you can finish strong.