Monday, May 31, 2010

The Little Things

Hi. My name is Tricia Messier. I just graduated from Southwestern College with a degree in Philosophy and Religion. I plan to go to Seminary, but I am taking a year off to discern the program and degree I should lean towards.

Right now I am just about to get married. So on June 26 I will become Tricia Wheeler. After the wedding I am going to continue working as the youth director/children’s director at Trinity United Methodist church in Ottawa, KS. I expect my career path to always involve ministry somehow – maybe as and Elder in the UMC or a minister to/with children and/or youth.

I was in the youTheology class of 2006! My experience was wonderful. I made life long friends that year. Those friends support and love me even today. I also learned so many new things about John Wesley which made me love and respect the Methodist Church even more than I already had.

I love learning, and the growth in knowledge gained during my youTheology year helped me throughout college in classes for religion. I also love being on the computer, reading, and meeting new people, as well as exploring new places.

I experience Christ in the little things and in the small places. I see him in the wind, when I am at work sitting in my office, when a butterfly flies in the open sky, when a song is playing, and in people’s faces. I take time to listen to God’s still small voice each day and know that I am doing what God has called me to do.

Tricia Messier
youTheology Alumna
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, May 28, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Life after Graduation

It’s the end of May when we see a roller coaster of emotions from excitement about graduating to fear of the unknown future. Some choose the path of what everyone expects, while others choose to go their own way. Regardless where they go, our graduates need to know that they have a loving church family that is there to support them wherever life leads them.

There are things that you can do as a congregation to help them with this transition, reminding each youth that their home church supports and loves them whether they’re sitting next to them in the pew or are living thousands of miles away. As an example, here are a couple things we’ve done at my church:
• In the spring, we honor our graduates and present them with a blanket from our Threads of Love ministry to symbolize they are wrapped in our love.
• In the fall following their graduation from high school, we send care packages. The packages (2-liter bottles packed with food, fun, and faith builders) are mailed just after Thanksgiving so that those in college get it during Finals Week. We send a package to all of our graduates, not just the ones in college.

Many college ministries would welcome a receiving lists of students from their denomination moving into their area. I strongly encourage you to contact a college ministry in the destination town(s) of your graduates. The group/ministry can then reach out to the students as many have never had the experience of visiting a new church. It is a good idea to encourage your youth to experience different styles of worship by visiting other congregations as part of your youth group activities. Then it will not be such a scary experience when they move away. Attending church camp or going on Youth Mission trips with youth from other areas increases the chance that they might run into a familiar face in a new place so they will have someone to encourage them in their faith walk.

Some may go to college, others might go to trade school, join the military, start working, or who knows where their path will take them. And they might change paths once, twice, or many times. Don’t judge them; just LOVE them and pray for them.

by Mark Whitaker
Youth & Young Adult Director and Communications Coordinator
Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City MO (North of the River)
Advisory Board for youTheology / Marketing Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Before you Start Your Journey

Why are you going on that mission trip? Why are the members of the team going? These are important questions, but do we ask them often enough? Are they part of our planning and preparation? Or maybe we've done mission trips so often we just do them. Or even if we haven't done a mission trip before, it's the thing to do. After all, it's summer, mission trips are transformative, and it's the only time we'll have the young people able to give devoted time to an activity. Maybe the only way. So, why are we going? When we state our reason, how much is God in Christ a part of that reason? Is it about us (adults and youth), our needs, and how much we'll gain or is it about God and God's call to us? Where do the people to whom we're sent fit? How do we see them? Are they equals or are they people we pity? What do we already know and will learn about them? Do we go to be with them or to serve over above them? Do we even go to people or do we just go to projects?

You'll have to blame Don Richter's book, Mission Trips that Matter for this. His chapter entitled, "Why We Go" (Richter 2008, 29-32)raised some questions/issues and triggered my thinking about this and reminded me of concerns I have had over the years.

Before you start your journey, how can you figure:
~~Where God is in it all,
~~To whom you go,
~~How can you learn about the people to whom you go?
~~How can this "trip" be about God and God's people and not about things?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beyond A Year . . . One Day

youTheology combines worship, service, and learning in such a fun and exciting way, that its Advisory Board has come up with a way for people to experience a snapshot of its program with students. On September 18th, 2010, youth groups are invited to join as at Saint Paul School of Theology for a one-day event. The theme for this event is "One God, One Day, One Love." We are seeking to reach one person at a time through our worship and service. On that day, youth will gather at 9.30 am for worship, community-building, service, followed by reflection on the day. We will close with worship at 3.30 pm.

This is a great opportunity for youth groups to come and interact with people from different churches and locations. Maybe your group is small and it will be easier for them to do community service if they're part of a larger group. You definitely want to check this day out. As a bonus, for this program we'll accept middle as well as high school students. Why don't you bring your group to join us?

Check out for more information. The registration form is coming soon and you'll be able to register your group on line for an early bird discount.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, May 21, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Water the Seeds that Were Planted with Prayer

This time of year is very exciting and scary for a high school senior. They are excited about graduating and going to all the parties. But at the same time, they are scared about what lies ahead.

As a parent, you can only hope and pray that you have taught the lessons that will carry them on through life and provided them the tools needed to become adults. In my case, my daughter chose to go to another church during the end of her senior year. It was hard for me because going to church is a family thing. But at the same time I realized that if I allowed her to go to another church, it shows that she may follow that path when she goes to college.

Parents always wonder whether they have given their children all the necessary tools to carry them through life. All we can do is pray that we have planted the seeds for them to draw upon every day.

by Lori Watson
Pleasant Hill UMC, Pleasant Hill, MO
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Connecting Faith and Everyday Life

Don C. Richter addresses a concern of mine in Mission Trips That Matter: Embodied Faith for the Sake of the World. In one place he writes,
The more our hearts and minds are shaped by biblical and liturgical imagination, the more connections we notice as the larger story of our mission trip unfolds. And the more we notice as leaders-especially in relation to our bodies-the more readily we invite all participants to weave together daily events into the warp and woof of the life of faith.
Daily events during a mission trip are no different from daily events in life, are they? Yes. The location is different, the people are different, etc. However, we are still called to live as Christ's witnesses as we are so called to do at home and to be intentional about how we live in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ as members of our particular faith communities. We need to know and be formed by the narratives of the Bible and the lives of our congregations. Moreover, as youth workers, we cannot be passive participants. Rather, we should be able to help our students see and connect the events of the journey with the faith we claim.

How do you connect your faith and everyday life as you witness to God's love in Jesus Christ? How are the Bible and the liturgy of the church shaping you? How do you work with your students to be so shaped?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, May 17, 2010

youTheology: Still Relevant

I am a 2005 youTheology (yT) alum living in the Des Moines area. My yT year was led by the original Audrey-David team and included the pilgrimage to England in June of '05. I loved my time in youTheology and have been back to the reunion at Saint Paul every summer to play ping-pong, run around the chapel, sing hymns, and hang out with other yT’s... which now includes my little sister, Hannah. I still use today many of the things I learned in yT. I even had a college class on Christian ethics that was based around the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

I am currently a substitute teacher for several school districts while looking for a full-time teaching position. Every single day is an adventure. Not having a regular job has left me with plenty of time to be involved in my church (Valley UMC in West Des Moines). I play percussion with the praise band, teach a junior/senior high Sunday school class, serve on the board of Trustees, and am helping plan this summer's youth mission trip.

Stefanie Boren
youTheology Alumna
Loving God, Loving NeighborChristian ethics, Wesleya

Friday, May 14, 2010

Persepctives from the Field: Every Child is Yours

Giving our youth encouragement, along with the tools to succeed, can change their lives. Youth leaders must believe this with all of their hearts.

We can have Youth Group one night a week and send them off on their way for the rest of the week. But, if you want to build a lasting and trusting relationship with the youth of today, you need more than one interaction each week. You can add encounters with tutoring sessions to help kids with English or math. coaching a sports team, scheduling a movie night -- on days other than the regular youth night. Talk to the young people in your group and ask them what they need to be successful. Please do not just assume you know the answer. Get their input and views.

One need youth have shared with me is the development of a plan for life after High School. I am a true believer that the traditional college might not be for everyone. There are Trade schools, Vocational colleges and specific on-the-job training programs. But we need to help them see the variety of paths available. We can supplement the information and conversations their parents are having with their youth. The church can be there to help fill that gap between the parents’ experience, instructions from school counselors and the wide variety of possibilities. Youth workers can also be sounding boards for the youth as they explore ideas.

I know I might be asking a lot from those who might not have the time to invest this kind of effort. But, if not you, then who? There are too many youth who possess the talent to achieve a post secondary education setting, but fail to get the help from others like us who have the knowledge and skill to help them with this very important life transition. Information is power. If we continue to allow our youth not to tap into this information that can allow for a better life – spiritually, financially and for personal fulfillment, then we fail has Youth leaders.

by Earl Williams
Youth Director and Safe & Sacred Space Trainer
Grace United Methodist Church, Emporia, KS
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Those Mission Trips

One of the things that comes up when I speak with youth ministry leaders about summer is the mission trip. It's getting near. Schools close for the year in May in this part of the world so summer activities are just about here.

What has always concerned me about mission trips is the danger of mission becoming something to do and get over with; just a tiny slice out of our normal lives. In "Mission: Avoiding Fragmentation, Living in Love" in Loving God, Loving Neighbor, I wrote, "But mission is more than this. It is our Christian identity, individually and collectively. Mission is not fragments of good deeds and ideas. It is living as Christ lived, in and out of God's love" (131). Here, I was saying that mission is more than bits and pieces of activities and projects that we execute. Rather, it is orienting our lives to God's love following the example of Jesus Christ.

As we continue planning and as we go on our mission trips this summer could we see the travel and work as part of our ongoing witness? Could we help our students to see this? And how will we connect it to our Christian living at home, at school, at work, and at recreation?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, May 10, 2010

youTheology, Volunteering, Leading

I was part of the first youTheology 12-month program cycle in 2003-2004. I loved the England trip and the bond that I was able to make with the other students as we learned about John Wesley and Methodism. That experience sparked in me a real interest in learning more about the history of the church and helped me to think about my faith.

Presently, I not only attend church weekly, but also volunteer each week with our children’s programs as a 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school teacher. I am also involved in Disciple Bible Study, which I have really enjoyed this year.

I work for AmeriCorps at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS, with focus at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cowley County.

I look forward to continuing my education as I start my masters this summer in Leadership Studies. My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education. I love working with children. I plan to teach at some point. I am also interested in administration and working at a college in some form.

Julie Wilke, yT alumna
AmeriCorps VISTA, Southwestern College
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, May 7, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Transitions to College

Time to go off to college! O.M.G! This can be one of the most anxious times in the life of any family, when one of its young leaves the “nest of protection” and ventures off into a new world, a new life, sometimes far away from the family…alone! Teens are usually terribly excited about what they will discover, although some are scared. Many are just happy to get out of the house and away from the rules therein. Meanwhile parents become incredibly nervous about whether their child is really prepared for this moment and they worry, worry, worry! Ahhh, but the blessing is that the young person is never really alone and there is much we youth workers can do to support families during this nerve-wracking time.

1) Have honest conversations with your young people about their next steps, and what they might encounter along the way.
a. For example, talk about Godly decision making. For the first time they will be the primary decision-makers for their own lives. Help them to think critically about their choices.
b. Set up a time for current college students and college graduates in your congregation to talk to the rising college freshman about what college is really like. They can also provide advice and tips to teens.

2) Encourage parents to become familiar with the college environment. This means parents should be informed about the new city or community their child will be entering. This is only helpful, though, if parents do gain information that will help prepare and guide their child. This should not be the source of new worries for parents.

3) Talk to parents and family members about RELAXING!!! When kids step out there for the 1st time, it can really be stressful for parents. They are suddenly really challenged to believe that God is taking care of the child when they can’t see or talk to them. In other words, this can be a test of their trust in the Lord. Faith really has to kick-in because they have to relinquish much of their control and depend on God to protect their child. Note that the worry and stress can show up in places not expected, like grandparents, and other extended family members. Provide some care and support of the entire family. Remind them that God can and should be trusted.

4) Encourage youth and their families to keep in touch while they are far away from each other. Parents should give their child some space to “do their thing”, but be available when they need them. It is important that the youth should practice their new independence, but always know there is a loved one somewhere ready to help out when they call.

by Arionne Williams
Minister to Youth and Families
Metropolitan AMEZ, Kansas City, MO
Deputy Chair youTheology Advisory Board
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Before You Go Full Steam Ahead

For many of us in youth ministry, we're gearing up for summer activities at this point. School will be out soon in the Midwest and there's lots that happens during the summer as we seek to keep our youth engaged and do those activities that are not possible during the school year. Maybe the students will not all be there at regular youth group time but there are those mission trips, etc., etc.

It's pretty busy at youTheology as well. We have our Pan-Methodist Pilgrimage coming up from June 4-12, Closing and Reunion weekend from June 25-27, and Orientation for our new group from August 5-8 + . . . . At this time, I'm drawn to Mark Yaconelli's work. That's because it's easy to get so caught up in the busyness that goes with our activities that God can get left behind. We can be busy for God without God.

Of course, Yaconelli's work is relevant at all times and he provides a way for us to be attentive to God and each other continually. However, for this season, I'll share some words from page 25 of his book, Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus.
Contemplative youth ministry honors the desire to listen as well as teach in our interactions with kids. It grounds our ministries in prayer as well as evangelism—in silence as well as acts of justice. Contemplative youth ministry is about refusing to be so busy that you overlook God in your ministry. It's about remembering that Jesus goes before and beside us.
Yaconelli outlines a balance in the day to day over against our tendency to polarize. While contemplative youth ministry is geared toward students becoming aware of and in tune with the Triune God's presence and God at work in and around them, it really begins with us, doesn't it? And so, in contemplative youth ministry, we are helped to pause, breathe, and encounter the Triune God more deeply, before we go full steam ahead.

When do you most need to pause?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, May 3, 2010

youTheology Prepared me For Leadership

I can honestly say one of the best things I’ve done is participate in youTheology. I definitely took a leap of faith when applying for the program and entering into the yearlong journey that I still find impacting me today.

I graduate from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln on May 8th with a degree in Inclusive Early Childhood Education: Birth to Grade 3. Beginning in August I will be teaching preschool for Elkhorn Public Schools (which is in West Omaha). I’m also in the process of closing on a house and I am continually amazed at the abundance of blessings God has provided with me lately.

I participated in youTheology in its 2nd year of existence, the 2004-2005 school year, which was my junior year of high school. I loved learning about the Methodist church, John Wesley, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and how to impact lives around me.

There was a semester in college when I visited a different church every Sunday and found myself constantly being reminded of things I’d learned in youTheology. There were so many churches that just seemed to be missing something or I didn’t agree with something in their values. When I finally found a church, it was only fitting that it was a United Methodist church. The thing I know I’ve taken the most from yT is the concrete values I learned and experienced first-hand.

I’ve spent this past year on a leadership team for a campus ministry. youTheology prepared me to be a leader and example to peers. Also after going on a hurricane relief spring break trip one year, I led a similar trip the following spring break. Every service trip is such a humbling experience and reminds me how much I see Christ working in the lives of college students. It takes having a servant heart to dedicate your entire spring break helping people who need it the most and to show Christ’s love through actions. I’ve gotten involved in the young adult ministry at church and have met people that are passionate about Jesus, being a community, and impacting the community we live in. This can be seen in Sunday School class, gathering for a game night, packaging food for 3rd world countries, or volunteering for local organizations. It reinforces something I learned in youTheology: my gifts can change lives.

Brenna Poppe
youTheology Alumna Loving God, Loving Neighbor