Monday, November 29, 2010

Youth Workers' Gathering 2011 - Oklahoma City

We are in a new decade and a new time, and youTheology is very aware of this. From Friday, March 25th to Saturday, March 26th, we will look at the theme, "Youth Ministry in a New Decade" with adults who work with youth. Dr Reggie Blunt of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, Bishop Robert E Hayes of the Oklahoma Annual UMC Conference along with Diana Northcutt of the Oklahoma Annual Conference, John Gilstrap of Church of the Servant along with others will be helping us to learn more abut youth ministry as the times change. Specifically, we'll look at Native American Youth, Youth Ministry in the Small Membership church: Working with 10 or less youth, Getting Kids and Parents to Re-prioritize so that Faith Development is not always at the bottom of the list, Urban and Large Church Youth Ministry.

Plan now to attend. The Gathering will be held at Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City. Click here for more information.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Engaging Digital as a Way of Life

Adolescents are part of the generation which has been born into and continues to grow up in the digital world. Consequently, they use digital media as a way of life. Don Tapscott, who calls them the Net Generation, notes that "this generation . . . . is the first to grow up surrounded by digital media. . . . they think it's all part of the natural landscape" (1998, p.1). In saying this Tapscott shows that digital media is taken for granted by adolescents since it has always been a part of their lives. This further helps us to understand why in wanting to go where teens are, learning through digital media is important in this collaborative enterprise. However, nothing removes the importance of real time interaction which is also a part of adolescents' lives. Nevertheless, we need to have as one of our ongoing projects as youth leaders/workers/pastors, learning how to engage adolescents in that world in which they are comfortable. Engage means meet with, guide, and challenge when and as necessary.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, November 22, 2010

youTheology as a Year-Long Process

youTheology with high school students is a one-year program lasting from summer one year to summer the following year. Yet what we most easily see are the periodic encounters at Saint Paul School of Theology and now at Lydia Patterson Institute. As critical as these meetings are for formation in the Methodist tradition, understanding of vocation, learning and doing theology, and engagement with spiritual disciplines they are only part of the story.

youTheology continues when the high school students are back at home, through regular meetings with mentors and online conversations with leaders. These sessions allow youTheologians to continue exploring what it means to love God and neighbor, looking at the Wesleyan tradition, doing theology using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and participating in spiritual disciplines. It also continues as their home congregation encourages them on the journey.

It is a year, an ongoing year of a journey that lasts for life. How would you like to be a part of this journey?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perspectives From the Field: Seasons of Our Christian Life

When Fall turns into Winter, my wife gets a big smile on her face. This is her favorite part of the year. It reminds her of the cycle of life. The leaves turn a beautiful color, then they die and fall off the trees. This happens when winter approaches. We then wait for spring to celebrate new life.

I want the Youth to think of this process as the seasons of our Christian Life. When we go through our Christian life we must shed the old. Then as we awake with new visions and thoughts those can not only change our lives but the lives of those with whom we come in contact each and every day.

We have a large tree in our front yard that is dying. Half of the tree does not produce any new leaves and the other half does. In about 3 years that entire tree will be dead, due to my neglect. I have failed to feed it the correct food and not allowed a tree specialist to come in and treat that tree.

This is the same way the cycle of our Christian life tends to be. If it is not fed properly and if it is not seen by a specialist (The Holy Spirit), it seems to die within us. We should pray for and want the entire tree to go through this renewal process successfully each year.

We can also allow the tree to represent our community. If part of that tree (our community) dies, over a certain amount of time, that entire tree/community will perish. Intervention is necessary. We must feed the word of Jesus to all of our brothers and sisters in the community we serve. We want the Cycle of our Christian life to reach everyone. We know that no matter how sick that tree or our community might be, with God in the roots or in the heart of those giving or receiving the word of our Lord, that tree and our community will flourish like never before.

You experience the changes of fall, the isolation and sadness of winter, the new beginnings of spring, and the joy and celebration of summer. We must be aware of the appropriate times to transition and move on with the light of the Lord. We must trust God in all times of transition, celebrating and thanking God when there is new Life.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Digital Storytellling

At the recent Religious Education Association Annual Meeting, Dr Mary Hess, President Elect, recommended a book entitled Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning, and Creativity by Jason Ohler. I was intrigued by what Mary said about it in her presentation and decided to check it out. I agree with her. It's worth reading, especially for those of us who see value in storytelling in youth ministry. It reminded me of the blogs three of us wrote on Narrative Theology at

So what's the appeal? This is a thorough introduction to digital storytelling that looks at what storytelling is and how to go about it in general and as an educative enterprise, gives an overview of engaging digitally in a manner so that even the most inexperienced can grasp it and participate, makes the role of the educator clear, and makes the case for the value of this activity. There are two sentences that stands out for me (there are several in fact):
We need to engage all of ourselves--left brain and right brain, researcher and narrator, critical thinker and storyteller/listener. Doing so offers the power to engage and educate in ways that resonate with the media culture our students understand while providing them with the tools necessary to navigate within it wisely (Ohler 2008, 10.
Here Ohler is saying that rather than being a passive activity digital storytelling is active, using recounting, investigative, listening and critical skills in a way that is familiar and meaningful to students and which leaves them equipped to maneuver judiciously through the multiplicity of information and/or stories to which they are constantly exposed. This is definitely an area in which we can help our students, and most likely learn at the same time.

Have you ever considered digital storytelling as part of your student ministry? Would you?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why youTheology Southwest Matters

In today's blog, Rev George Miller shares in this video, the importance and vision of youTheology southwest at Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, TX.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, November 12, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Using Holidays as an Opening to a Conversation

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we transition from Fall to Winter, we also shift into the Advent season followed by lots of holidays. Sometimes those holidays can be a way to open a bigger conversation about what Christmas is really about, that starting a new life (in Christ) rather than just starting another new year. Other larger conversations include keeping an open mind and looking at diversity, in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; looking at the intersection of God & nation as we celebrate President’s Day; and understanding the Greatest Love on Valentine’s Day.

No matter the season, God’s love is always there for us. With God in our lives, every day is going to be special and worth celebrating.

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, November 10, 2010

Taking it to the Congregation

I've begun reading The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry: Leading Congregations Toward Exemplary Youth Ministry. It's written by Roland Martinson, Wes Black, and John Roberto and is an examination of how congregations are enabling faith maturity in youth. Here is a sentence caught my attention:
The Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry discovered that it is the culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian faith (Martinson, et. al. 2010, 14, ).
Here, they are saying that congregational mores are most effective in the development of living faith in youth. Of course, this makes perfect sense, and yet we have had to be reminded of it because in some ways we have ignored it.

Recent research has made us painfully aware that youth ministry has been too isolated from the total life of the church. This may be convenient for some, or many, but it does not serve God, our youth, or the church.

We know that children learn the values and habits of families from living in them. The same is true for people who inhabit a new culture. While there is much that they could learn from books, television, and the internet, true acquisition occurs when they inhabit the new culture. The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry is reminding us that who the congregation is in its Christian expression and witness will go a long way in determining how our young people are or are not Christian.

What is the culture of your congregation?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, November 8, 2010

Looking Ahead

youTheology has just concluded its Fall Session at both centers. I spent it at our Southwest Center at Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, TX. It was a joy to meet the youTheologians and leaders there. They are a lively group and bring a "can do" spirit to the program. At times we were linked with the Midwest Center at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO plus I was in touch with the leaders there so I had some sense of how things were going at that end. It was different though, not being physically in Kansas City, but connected in various ways. It was good to see how things appear from the Southwest end and examine more closely the distance component of the program.

There are some things that stand out from our Fall Session this past weekend. The depth our young people bring to the discussions, the wisdom and insight in their sermons, the singing and the contemporary rendition of Psalm 139 which redid the Psalm from a technological world view. All of these are paths to loving God and loving neighbor more deeply. We are privileged to be part of their lives as we continue to develop faithful leaders for a diverse church and world.

My new-found knowledge and experience of youTheology Southwest along with with my knowledge and experience of youTheology Midwest has me eagerly anticipating the future. A key question for us as we look ahead is how do we truly live into the diversity God has given to us.

Some of the photos from the weekend can be found on our Facebook page: The videos, including the sermon can be found at
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, November 5, 2010

Perspectives From the Field: As Sure-footed As A Deer--The Blessing of Autumn

I love Fall! Although summer has been my favorite season since I was child, as I get older, Fall is now emerging as the best season in my view. It brings the beauty of the foliage in the tree leaves with all their bright colors. And the crispness of the cool air ushers in a much needed break from the sweltering heat of August. It's cooler, calmer, and more relaxed than summer. It is a time of confidence, beauty, and inspiration. I love Fall!

I wonder... does it mirror the seasons we experience in our spiritual lives? Fall can be like the strong confidence we have in our faith lives, after we have experienced the growth of Spring, and enjoyment of Summer, and we are now walking with assurance in God's plan for us. “He has made me as surefooted as a deer…Psalm 18:33 (NLT)” We hear God and God hears us. In one sense, all is well. We are sure of our relationship with God and excited about the future. . .

. . . Then out of nowhere comes winter with its cutting winds, endless snow, and bitter cold. . . Life can get crazy all of a sudden. Everything goes wrong at once! Loss of a job, death in the family, betrayal of a love. . . And we are not sure where God is or how we’re going to make it through yet another trial.

If any of this sounds familiar, then I am not the only one!

The truth is we all experience seasons in our lives, and this includes our youth. We should be intentional about teaching them a way of being prepared for the winter, for it is surely coming. Fall is our time to be strengthened in faith so when the rain, snow, and sleet show up, we make it through. Sure, even if the blizzard comes through and nearly buries us alive, God will be there to deliver. Praise the Lord! But I encourage you to experience Fall and the time it gives us to grow closer to God.

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Than You Can See

It is so easy to think of everything in material terms. This can be especially true when we seek to serve those in need. The needy are too often thought of as only those with material needs.

Now it is important to assist and minister to those who are destitute or on the verge of being so. I don't want to minimize this. However, God also sends us to people who suffer lack in a variety of other ways, such as social, emotional, spiritual . . . . However, if our focus is too narrow, we could miss the places where our students need to experience God's freedom and hear God's liberating word. We could miss opportunities of genuine service. Moreover, when we lead from a narrow focus, that's what our students learn. Thus, they will go out believing that we can only serve by meeting people's material needs. However, wouldn't you say that as human beings, we're more than the physical, more than meets the eye?

What do you think?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mentor Bites: Celebrate Mentors!

This past Saturday, the Northwest Wesley Center celebrated Homecoming along with the rest of the campus in Maryville. I am certain that the front room couches were carried outside to the curb so that everyone could watch the parade together. I am assured that there were sprinkled doughnuts and hot coffee for everyone gathered there. Alumni, community members and students alike shared in the blessed experience that is Homecoming at Northwest Wesley. And in the middle of it all, were the campus co-Pastors, who I called mentors for many years.

Don and Marjean Ehlers changed my life. They were the ones who said "yes" to my preaching (even when it was far from preaching and more like public speaking). Don and Marjean knew what it meant to put God first, family second and their ministry was always a very close third. Don and Marjean loved the idea of forming Christian community and even though the Wesley Center was on the edge of campus, after the walk you knew the doors would be open and there would be someone to talk to. They were an example to me that I still consider in ministry situations every day.

As you mentor young people, try and remember to celebrate those that have mentored you in the past. God has given you people that have brought you to this point. Thank God. Amen.

By Emily Carroll
youTheology Mentor Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor