Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Message from an Alumni

My name is Lindsey McDaniel. I am currently a student at Emporia State University with a major in Communications. I am hoping to have a career in ministry someday, either in youth, music, or missions. I participated in youTheology during the 2009-2010 session.

I came into the program not knowing what to expect or how much I would learn. I was taught so much about the history of Methodism, how it ties into the theme of Loving God, Loving Neighbor and into my own life. I heard the call to ministry during the orientation weekend of my year at youTheology. The year-long program helped me take those first steps on the path to serving God. It was fantastic to meet with other people my own age and see how they were taking their steps: getting involved in their churches, from music ministry to missions to youth and even giving messages.

This year I am serving as the youTheology intern. I have enjoyed every minute of it. I am an active member of my church, involved in the choir and worship planning, as well as the prayer shawl ministry and serving meals at Abundant Harvest. I see God every day, in the people I pass on my way to class, in my friends, my teachers, and my family. I see them being neighborly toward each other, and every day I am reminded of what I learned through youTheology.

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, August 20, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Focus on Developing Relationships

School has started. So, what’s the critical issue to focus on this year? How about relationships? I’m not talking about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. I’m talking about their relationship with God, their relationship with others within their church family (including other youth) and their relationship with their community.

Youth need to be able to have opportunities to grow their faith and build a stronger relationship with God. This can be designed by working with Youth programs and Sunday School lessons to make sure they have opportunities to question and explore.

Youth need to build relationships with members of the church. This means people old enough to be their grandparents as well as babies in the nursery. Understanding the faith journey experienced by others can have a big impact. Taking part in the church’s commitment to a newly baptized baby can reinforce what it means to be part of the church and remind them of the vows they took/will take when joining the church.

Youth need to get involved in the community, whether it’s a community service project or hosting an event at your church. They also need to see how the church interacts with the community and how what happens in the community impacts the church.

Youth leaders need to also make sure they are looking out for their own relationships, with all three listed above, but also with their own family. Sometimes, church leaders get so involved serving others that they forget time to take care of their own spiritual growth and/or they focus so much on their church family that they ignore their own family.

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, August 18, 2010

Letting Go of Fear

Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to communication outside our group. This group could be our little clique of friends or it could our region, our race . . . . We often don't truly know people outside of this "pack" and there is this tendency to fear the unknown. It is exploited by people who know that they can control best by dividing and keeping people from interacting with each other on a human level. Consequently, those seeking to maintain or take power will often demonize people who are different and seek to fuel our fears so that we no longer see other people outside our group as human beings whom God has created, but as "those people," with the subtext, "not like us" or "not really human."

Yet God in God's wisdom has a wonderfully varied world in both the animal and plant realms. Having seen this, you would think that by now we would have figured out that difference is natural, beautiful, and be enjoyed. But, no. We allow fear to predominate.

Can we embrace the difference in people not like ourselves and see it as part of God's wonderful creation? Can we get past fear and seek to know each other as human beings, people with hopes and dreams, and challenges? Can we press on even when conflict arises because of our difference and know that it is just a part of the process of learning and growing together?

Maybe we need conversion. Addressing a multicultural context, Kathleen T. Talvaacchia describes conversion as: "Turning away from judgments about groups of people without understanding the complexities of their experiences of social structural and personal discrimination" (Talavacchia 2003, 65). In other words, conversion means that we move away from coming to conclusions about a particular social group about whose context and experiences of prejudice at a personal and structural level we are ignorant. This means accepting that prejudice/discrimination at those levels is real, finding out the ways in which it is experienced and exercised, and locating ourselves in its various manifestations. It also means engaging with various social groups and using various means to learn all that we can about each other. Bottom line, it means letting go of fear.

How will you name and let go of your fears of the other?

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, August 16, 2010

Faithful Steps

I have to admit that the Southwest planning team was getting anxious. Since this was the first time we were doing the youTheology weekend away from St Paul, I did not know what to expect. There were still many unanswered questions. Would the videolink equipment work? Would the students connect over the video link? Could the presenters’ messages be received over hundreds of miles and a different time zone?

I knew that everything was ok when after one of the vespers services a 10 minute break was announced and no one moved. All of the youTheologians at Lydia Patterson remained in their seats or on the floor continuing their worship beyond the limits of the program. And then there was the time at the farm when everyone had to start cleaning the stalls and shoveling manure. Magda, our intern, remarked that she was not sure some of the students would even do it. To her surprise, everyone pitched in and the group came back to Lydia Patterson exhausted, but somehow changed. There was reconciliation between old friends and in the meetings with new neighbors during the weekend (some of whom were not very nice). It was in moments such as these that we saw there was a plan for this group in the context of “loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves,” and somehow, someway, in spite of all of our planning, etc., youTheology would indeed become a means of God’s grace.

While there will be many things to fine tune for next time, what was confirmed for me is the continuing strategic opportunity for the preparation of persons for mission and ministry, in an international cross-cultural setting, through the bridge of the Southwest site with the Saint Paul School of Theology. When we use the term “to be in connection” in the church, we can see how that is applied even over time and distance. Our youTheologians are already using the quadrilateral as a means to assess issues from a theological perspective and implementing our first chapel service based on the weekend experiences. Our dream of preparing leaders for church and society is bearing fruit.

We look forward to taking the next faithful step with all of you and to see what other surprises God has in store for us.

Rev George Miller
youTheology Southwest - Lydia Patterson Institute

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: The Pain is Real

There are many young people that we meet as Youth Workers that we would like to take home and raise ourselves. We may know of their struggles in life. We see that their pain is real, and frequently it is an everyday ordeal. We try to touch their lives during the weekly Youth Group meetings. But one day a week is not enough to relieve or remove the pain of life that youth encounter once they walk outside their front door. Sometimes that pain is from events and relationships within their own house.

Many of our Youth are in pain. They are hurting to the point that they do not know what to do or where to go. Our kids are dying, physically and emotionally and most importantly spiritually.

We all know there is no such thing as a perfect life. But a better life free of the pain of living on this Earth is what our Lord intends and extends to us. We must remember that as Youth Leaders we have 2-3 hours each week with those youth. That time is like a window of opportunity for the youth to see and recognize a better way of life.

Our Youth need us. We are in this together Black ,White, Brown or Red. IT DOES NOT MATTER THE COLOR, RACE OR RELIGION. Let’s work together to bring our youth closer to our Lord and release some of the pain they endure each and everyday of their lives. Let’s find ways to reach the lost, to reach those who have no relationship to God. Let’s reach out in God’s name and and tell his story to all who may listen, help those who are searching.

There are many ways to do this. First, we have to ask our Youth, “What do they need to build a stronger link to God?” And, then we must be quiet and listen to them. This is a critical step; only when we listen can we learn from their responses. Talk and listen. Write down some of their ideas. Then act on the information obtained, and continue to include them through every decision that will affect them. Only, then will we be able to address the needs through workshops, classes, events and programs.

Second, remember: OUR YOUTH ARE WATCHING AND LEARNING FROM US! We must practice what we preach and teach. As leaders of the Church, we must get off our high horses and realize we are no better than those who do not yet know God’s grace or love. We might have studied the Bible in depth, and read every religious book ever printed. But when we whine about a pew sitter, or grumble about the way people dress, or express envy about the amount of money someone else has – this behavior and attitude breaks our ability to reach our youth. They know that same attitude is out in the world and why should they become a part of this within the church. It is as if we live in a glass house where all we do is seen by others. As such, we must lay down any bricks, or they will damage our own walls.

Let’s all be vehicles of God’s love and grace to our youth that they may know their Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

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

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dont' Stifle That Anger

There are many who would have us behave and act as if everything is alright all the time, even obvious mistakes have been made. I find this particularly true in some youth group circles. We project this attitude in our effort to make everyone comfortable and at home. In this environment, therefore, we are supposed to be calm and not get upset. Thus Kathleen T. Talvaacchia's statement can seem at odds: "When we see clearly, we do not run away from those conflictual moments when true dialogue and authentic learning become possible" (Talavacchia 2003, 62). In other words, when we truly see the participants, including ourselves, and the dynamics in a multicultural learning environment we are able to deal with the clashes that stem from honest expression in which their is genuine receptivity.

This statement reminds us that there is a place for disagreement and challenge in our interactions with each other. Moreover, when we do not allow safe spaces for these, we short change participants and ourselves as leaders of deep learning and journeying to new places. We miss the gift God has given us for deeper understanding of God, self, and others and fuller healing. We even run the risk of harmful explosions in less safe arenas.

How do you handle moments of anger in your context?

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, August 9, 2010

Stage 1

The journey has begun for 21 youTheologians along with their mentors at locations in Kansas City, MO and El Paso, TX. This is a new journey for some leaders as well. For others of us, it is an ongoing Pilgrimage with new stages. For all of us, the 2010-2011 youTheology year has begun with excitement, joy, and anticipation of what is ahead.

We give God thanks for Orientation just past: new learning, friends, strengthened relationships with God and those around us, and new leaders emerging. Indeed God is good to us. The pictures on Facebook tell the story.

Much of the learning took place at Saint Paul School of Theology or via video link at Lydia Patterson. However, on Friday, youTheologians at both locations went on a rural ministry day. The Kansas City Group went to First Presbyterian Church in Osawatomie, KS in the morning. There we learned about joys, challenges, and opportunities of rural ministry. We were able to ask questions and then we were refreshed through the church's hospitality. In the afternoon, we spent time at the John Brown Memorial Park and Museum. First Presbyterian Church arranged this for us. We learned some of Osawatomie history and were able to do hands-on ministry that would serve the people of Oswawatomie. These experiences added depth to our discussion later on about inclusion and exclusion.

The youth led worship on the Friday night. Two debut sermons were given. We plan to put them up on Vimeo. We already have up some reflections from the weekend and singing from the worship service. It is truly a joy to be led in worship by people who are enthusiastic about God and give time, thought, and prayer to the words and general leadership they give.

When I look back on the weekend, one thought predominates: To God be the glory.

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, August 6, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Back 2 School!!!

This is another one of those very anxious times for young people. The kids will once again be thrust into an environment that regularly tests their faith and pushes them to "stand out" or "stand up" for Christ. With that in mind, it is important, first of all, that we, youth leaders, encourage our congregations to be in constant prayer for our young people. School can be stressful and challenging for anyone, but it is especially important to provide support and intentional encouragement for those who struggle academically. Seek God about meeting the needs of those youth. Finally, remind the youth that this is the new school year and therefore a time for a new beginning. There is no need for them to carry baggage from the previous year into the new one. "Behold, I make all things new..." Revelation 21:5 There are new challenges and new blessings to come. Go with God into a new beginning!

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

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Relationships Matter

We were on conference call with Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, TX this afternoon for our leaders' orientation. Through the community building activity and conversation on how we can help people to feel comfortable enough to participate, it came through clearly that relationships are key. The planning, organization, the nitty gritty, they all matter. But at the end of the day, relationships are key: Our relationship with God in Christ Jesus and the relationships with each other. I pray that we will put the relationships with our students and mentors first over this upcoming Orientation session. Yes. Orientation is here. Tomorrow or today, depending on where you are, youTheology 2010-2011 officially begins. Thanks be to God!

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, August 2, 2010

As Much as Possible

Right now, we're in high gear for our upcoming youTheology Orientation Session, beginning this Thursday, August 5, 2010. It is different, thinking of two locations instead of one. It means going through all the details and trying to ensure that both sites have the same information, same handouts, orders of worship, same pagination - you get the picture. It's a whole different way of being youTheology. However, this is just one part of it.

When we are actually video linked with youTheology Southwest at Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, TX, how do we maximize participation at both ends, especially given the cultural differences? That's our work. We want everyone to participate as much as possible and get as much as possible out of it. Thus, the process has to be participatory. We will not only share resources, but seek the wisdom of our fellow pilgrims in El Paso.

It is certainly an exciting time in youTheology. What do you think?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor