Saturday, December 31, 2011

"So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. . . . Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!" Psalm 90:12, 16-17.

Image: vichie81 /
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Forward

As we approach the end of 2011, I got to thinking of how at the end of a year we review and project to the new year. It's natural. We do it at the end of a project, a phase of life, a semester . . . . Definitely we want to do it at the end of the year, so that we move forward with renewed purpose and vigor, having assessed our strengths and weaknesses, taking forward lessons learned.

The funny thing is, as I thought of looking forward, a childhood hymn came to me: "Looking upward everyday." On reflection, it is not really strange. As people of faith, for us to really move forward, we have to look upward to God for counsel and guidance, wisdom and strength. This is God's life and the work we do is God's work.

At the end of 2011, how are you looking upward? How are you enabling your students to look upward?

Leaving every day behind
Something which might hinder;
Running swifter every day;
Growing purer, kinder—

Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, December 26, 2011

Voice and Agency

Developing the art of communicating is part of the developmental process. As youth develop physically and in other areas it is important that they are given opportunities and various media to express themselves and be heard and valued. Not only does this help them to develop confidence but that the act of expressing and receiving feedback helps in the formation of identify.

Alison Mann, in the article below, uses her curricular subjects of film studies and media arts to give teens a voice which helps them to critically engage and contribute to their world.

Breaking down barriers by giving teens a voice -
Like all teachers, Alison Mann begins each new semester at Parkdale Collegiate Institute by introducing herself to the students. Unlike most teachers...

It is also true that often when we think of "voice" we think of the spoken word. Allowing youth to express themselves verbally is also important. The report from WebMD below references research. This research shows that when teens who are allowed to express their disagreements with their moms can better withstand peer pressure. This expression of difference occurs in an environment where teen's opinions are listened to and addressed, even when not resolved. Autonomy and resolve are strengthened.

Teens Who Can Express Themselves More Likely to Avoid Drugs
New research shows that teens who are able to express themselves with their moms are better able to resist peer pressure and say no to drugs and alcohol.

Giving voice is important everywhere. In the state arena, Florida is gearing up for its Teens only Town Hall Meeting. Teens get to interact with official and experts and ask their questions. It reminds me of a pastor who holds regular meetings with the youth of his congregation so that they can ask questions and raise issues affecting and/or of interest to them.

Giving students a voice | Florida Common Ground
3, supported by more than 100 organizations, is giving students a voice in everything from early childhood education to substance abuse treatment through its “Teens Only” Town Hall Meeting. The meeting gives teens the ...

The question for us then is, how are we allowing authentic communication with youth so that they can have agency? What and where are the respectful spaces for them to communicate via the arts and verbally their deepest longings, questions, aspirations, and yes, disagreements?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas from your friends at youTheology.                              
May you be filled with God's peace this season.                                     
"And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,                                                                        
'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Luke 2:13-14
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Invitation

A time to push aside the curtain of glitter
that wraps us in a haze of
sentimental astonishment
robbed of simple
awe and wonder at
God's simplicity -
a child, born to die
to save, to heal, to deliver
simply on a cross.

A time to embrace the chorus
that rises above the cacophony of
babel decked in
consumerism and bottom lines
driven by fear and greed
still missing
God - with us forever.

A time to go out in full surrender
to worship with our lives,
all that we have,
with the simple dwelling in
the fields of life
away from the center
yet close to God
and the angels.

Peace on earth.

by Claire Smith

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, December 19, 2011

Teens and Drug Use

In many ways, the teenage years are potentially hazardous. Teens can feel invincible and while knowing risk factors for particular behaviors, have that sense that these negative outcomes can not happen to them. Moreover, it is the age when peer pressure exerts a major influence on actions and attitudes, especially when positive, meaningful relationships with adults are absent.

This goes back to what research has told us about the teenage brain: it is still developing. Executive function is still developing and limited and often the emotional side of the brain drives behavior. It's a time of risk inasmuch as it is also at time of great potential with many positive results.

Substance abuse is one of those risk factors that keeps popping up. It seems we always have to be on the lookout for the latest trend among teens so that we can help them protect themselves from current and long term harm.

In the article below, we have a mixed report in that smoking and alcohol use are down among teens but marijuana use has increased. This includes the use of a synthetic form of marijuana that is known to be harmful.

Teens Smoking Fewer Cigarettes, More Marijuana
Fewer teens than ever are smoking cigarettes, but marijuana use has steadily increased over the past five years, according to a new nationwide survey.

However, it is not just the synthetic form of marijuana that is problematic but synthetic drug use in general. Teens find ways of turning everyday, household items into substance abuse as we at the link read below.

Dangerous trend sends teens to ER : News : HeartlandConnection ...
A rise in synthetic drug use is sending teens to the emergency room.

So who is at risk for and/or who is drawn to this type of behavior? Any teen. This cuts across the stereotypical boundaries and can be from any socioeconomic background as well as can include high achieving youth. In fact, the article below, which looks at prescription drug abuse, suggests that high achieving youth are very likely to experiment, given who they are. It also gives ways in which youth access drugs and notably shows that there are teens who feel that their parents will be easier on them if they abuse prescription drug vs other types.

Not My Teen: Why All Teens Are Vulnerable to Prescription Drug ...
If you've read up on the prescription drug addiction epidemic and decided it isn't something you need to worry about, it may be time to reevaluate. Your teen could be among the one in five adolescents who report abusing prescription drugs to ...

This calls for awareness on our part in youth ministry. We need to:
  • Keep abreast of what the latest trend of substance abuse is,
  • Talk about substance abuse in broad and very specific terms,
  • Keep an open door for those who have experimented with and/or may be addicted and are too embarrassed to discuss it in front of the group. If necessary, we can be a bridge between the youth and the parents.
  • Know where students can go to for help so that we can refer them,
  • Remind the students who profess faith in Jesus Christ that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • Reinforce the need for involvement in positive, life-giving activities outside of school time, 
  • Connect youth with adult mentors,
  • Remind them of the need for hanging with people who share similar values and goals,
  • Use the faith resources of prayer, Scripture and worship.
What would you add to this list?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, December 12, 2011

Valuing Youth

A week ago we noted that youth enjoy giving. Today we see youth in action in service to others, even when their situation may be seen as disadvantageous. Given the opportunity and guidance then, youth will do acts of kindness to benefit others.

The Oakland story reminds us not to write off anyone as we read about teens who have had brushes with the law making lap blankets for veterans, brainchild of their teacher..

Teacher Shares Love Of Crafts With Troubled Teens « CBS Detroit
An Oakland County math teacher is changing the lives of troubled teens with a crochet hook and a ball of yarn.

In Prichard, AL, teens reached out to younger children by reading to them, etc. You will see this below.

Teens spread holiday cheer in Prichard |
Teens spread holiday cheer in Prichard. Updated: Saturday, 10 Dec 2011, 9:55 PM CST Published : Saturday, 10 Dec 2011, 8:50 PM CST. Letisha Bush. PRICHARD, Ala. (WALA) - A young man sat center stage and read a book to a full room ...

Noticing the problem of hungry teens for whom there is no provision, Retired Army Major Gene Briseno guides young Cadet Club members to reach out and be part of the solution for their classmates and others.

Hunger among teens often goes unnoticed -
Day after day, as he monitored lunch hour at the Southwest Early College Campus, retired Army Maj. Gene Briseno would see students sitting at tables without any food in front of them.

Particularly at this time of the year when we think more of giving as we reflect on God's great gift, how are we providing opportunities for our students to bring practical solutions to everyday problems? How are we helping them to open their eyes to the need around them?

How do you do this in your student ministry?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor 
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, December 9, 2011

Teens and Technology

Research shows that teens continue to increase their use of technology. Smartphones give access to the internet and, of course, texting. With available apps and software, iTouch, and tablets are phones. However, there is heartening news. Cyberbullying isn't completely widespread, as the research from Pew below shows and there are those who will challenge the bullier. This research also reveals that teens, especially older teens have a greater awareness of privacy issues and exercise caution in what they post and do use privacy controls in social media. Teens look to parents for guidance and a considerable number of parents are engaged, monitoring, and giving sound counsel on the use of social media and the internet. However, considering the large number of teens who do not exercise caution in their postings, who share passwords and the number who lie about their age in order to have access to social media, there is cause for concern. Moreover, there remains a sizable number of unengaged parents.

Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites: Pew Internet Research

Below, is an infographic that gives the findings from the Pew research noted and lined above in one view. Yes, there is cruelty, but it is not as widespread as the title below suggests. Nevertheless, it is a good way of accessing the Pew data using a different lens.

Teens' cruel world of social networking [infographic] - Holy Kaw!
Teens' cruel world of social networking [infographic]. Posted Dec 8th, 2011 at 4:44 PM and seen. times. Tweet. (Click on the infographic below to learn more.) Via Column Five for ZoneAlarm. Like infographics? So do we. ...

While we're all happy to know that sexting is not as widespread as we would have been led to believe, 10 percent is still a significant number and should not be dismissed. Fortunately, not many of these images go viral. However, the impact on the victim in the few cases when they do is not to be underestimated. So we're thankful, but still concerned and needing to be proactive.

1 in 100 Teens Involved in Sexting | Psych Central News
Although teen sexting is a subject of controversy, new research suggests concern about the practice may be overblown. New studies from the University of New.

One cyber cop certainly sees the need for proactive engagement, wise counsel, control, and monitoring. He warns against "digital tunnels" because teens know how to and do embed content that is not appropriate in ways that would make it very difficult for parents and other adults to find, even when they are monitoring teens' use of the internet. He further gives advice on how parents could get their children to disconnect.

Cyber cop warns of secret teen world | vuong, teens, computer ...
Home: Cyber cop warns of secret teen world | vuong, teens, computer, parents, phone, digital, kids, fight, internet, technology.

I would suggest that we can do some of these and other things in our youth ministry, using Matthew 5:13-16 and Matthew 7:12 as our framework:
  • Applaud youth when they use technology appropriately and wisely.
  • Encourage youth to be thoughtful and respectful of themselves and others in how they use technology.
  • Give practical advise and examples of safe and unsafe, respectful and disrespectful online and texting practices.
  • Have youth identify ways of glorifying God in their online and texting presence.
  • Have youth disconnect at appropriate times and find meaning and fulfillment outside of technology.
What other Scriptures and ideas can you think of? What would you add?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, December 5, 2011

Philanthropy: Loving God, Loving Neighbor

"In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

Throughout the Bible we are told in word and example that we are be concerned about and proactive on behalf of those who are less fortunate; we are to give and not look for reward. We see this is Jesus' life and we remember his rendering of the two greatest commandments: "He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39).

People find joy in giving and serving and today's youth are no exception. Just read the articles below:

Teens build home from inside jail | WCBD-TV 2
Teens incarcerated at the state Department of Juvenile Justice hammered the first nails of a home they will build on Friday.

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen: Philanthroteens: Transforming Teens ...
When it comes to giving, we can draw inspiring lessons from today's youth. The volunteer rate among sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds, in terms of hours given, has almost doubled since 1989, according to the Corporation for ...

Red Thread Promise: New Orleans youth takes philanthropy to heart
New Orleans youth takes philanthropy to heart. Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent's, and Marigny, Hahnville High School senior. We trust by now you all know how much The Red Thread Promise values youth participation in ...

Whether it be organized, or spontaneous, youth are volunteering and helping others in significant numbers. Think of the way they are eager to go on mission trips.

The question for us as youth leaders/pastors/volunteers, etc, is how are we helping them connect what they do with our scriptural injunction to love God and neighbor?

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve; 
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.

 Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, December 2, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: Peace Should be More Than a Phrase on a Christmas Card

You’ve probably seen a greeting card that had the word “Peace” and it might have even included “Love” or maybe it said “Peace on Earth” but did the words have any meaning?

Memories of Christmas always make me think of two songs (“Peace on Earth” and “Silent Night”) with both being sung at the same time on Christmas Eve.  It sounds beautiful but it’s also a great reminder of an important part of what Christmas is all about.

Another holiday memory associated with church was actually on New Year’s and was with my college youth group when we had a peace vigil before Desert Storm.  This was very personal to me as my college roommate was among those going to Kuwait that year.  Little did I know that my own son would be spending a year in Iraq the NEXT time that our nation went to war with Iraq.  Now as we approach another holiday season, we’ve been promised that our troops will come home.

Of course, Peace isn’t just about things happening on the other side of the world or the presence or absence of war.  Peace includes how you treat your family, how you treat your friends, how you treat your neighbors and how you treat your enemies. That’s right, we need to remember to look for peace with those we love, those we like, those we hardly know and even those that we really would rather not interact with.

Each month, I close my blog with “youTheology: Loving God, Loving Neighbor” but have you thought about what that phrase really means?   If we LOVE God and we also LOVE our Neighbor, Peace should be a natural part of who we are as Christians.   I’ve now added the youTheology Mission Statement: “Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World, Now and In the Future.”  This includes reaching out to others that are different than us and creating an environment for peace today and tomorrow.

We need to make sure our youth understand that Peace and Love aren’t something that you TALK about; they aren’t just concepts; they are a way of life.

Speak up!  What are YOU going to do this Christmas season to show youth (and adults) an example of how to follow the Prince of Peace?

by Mark Whitaker

Youth and Young Adult Director, Communications Coordinator, & Scouting Rep
Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City MO (North of the River)
Advisory Board for youTheology / Marketing Coordinator

Loving God, Loving Neighbor 
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vulnerable Teens

We know that Jesus interacted and reached out to the vulnerable in his society and those who were on the fringes. We are challenged in youth ministry to do the same. However, sometimes we limit our understanding of the vulnerable and people on the margins to people in poverty and/or in other locations other than ours. But there are groups within out midst that we are in danger of ignoring. – Teens with autism often socially isolated

Drawing on research out of Washington University, Jessica Martin reminds us that adolescents with autism spectrum disorders are limited in their social interactions in inclusive settings. This raises for us the question of how can we ensure that our youth ministries are inclusive and that we do not unwittingly leave others out because we do not have them on our radar.

Teen Depression: Signs, Treatment, Help
WebMD discusses the possible signs of depression in teens. Here, Gina Shaw gives teens signs to look out for their own depression as well as intervention strategies. This is a good list for youth workers as well. It is easy to access and can help us as we work with youth who may be depressed to recognize the signs and be in a better position to help them. There are many such adolescents and they also are vulnerable.

Understand your Teen's Wild Decisions | GROW
If you have been around a teen for more than an hour you will start to realize teens make decisions in the world differently than adults.
And so Jennifer Wilmoth reminds us of the vulnerability of teenagers in their process of becoming. Because of the way their brain is developing, they are often driven more by emotion than by rationale thinking, though they have the capacity for great logical reasoning. What she say to parents is true for youth ministers - guide them in decision making.

"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me" Matthew 18:5.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Facebook and Youth Ministry

For many people, using Facebook is like breathing. For others, not so much but it is still a part of their lives. Many of us who work with youth entered the world of Facebook before it was as big a buzz as it is now out of a desire to locate and/or connect with our youth outside the ministry setting.

Ryan Langeland, Director of Youth Ministries at Manchester UMC, gives good guidelines for using Facebook for adults who work with youth. There are many helpful insights in his chapter, "Engaging the Facebook Community," in Youth Ministry in a Technological Age. What's really neat is that he recognizes that even when there is a separate group for the ministry, what we post on our own page can still be seen and needs to be in harmony with what we profess. Very importantly, he advocates similar boundaries to safe sanctuary or youth protection training in using Facebook..

What do you consider appropriate use of Facebook as a youth minister and in using it as a youth ministry tool?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, November 21, 2011

Connecting and Connections and Ah-ha Moments

Last week I was in Oklahoma and had the joy of connecting with members of the youTheology community - alumni, past and present mentors and pastors of partner congregations. This was a joy. I was at First UMC in Enid that Sunday and was able to worship with them and chat a little at the end of service. Something unique happened during my Oklahoma stay. I was able to sit in on a mentor-youTheologian time. This was a first.

Rev Thomas and Brandy reflected on their mentor-mentee relationship and time together. One thing that came out was the "ah-ha moments that happen during that time. The type of learning that happens in a one-on-one setting is different and special. It was also a ah-ha moment for me. Hear them talk about their time together below and think about how you engage your students so that they have those ah-ha moments:

I am very grateful for the opportunity and blessing of connecting with everyone. I give God thanks for you all.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: How to Keep Going in Ministry

I’ll never forget my first youth ministry conference. It was a huge event. I had the cool bag and order of the week. I arrived early, scouted out the place, then sat down to circle all the workshops I would attend. It was going to be packed with learning. I was excited. At the same time, however, I was tired. It was nice though, to focus on ministry by learning instead of teaching, leading, and training. I tried to convince myself that changing my focus was rejuvenating.

Opening worship began. The band played, we worshiped. The event’s organizer came forth to speak. He welcomed us and shared his vision about the week. He said, I want this event to be just what you need. So if you need to learn, go to workshops. If you need to socialize with others in youth ministry, skip the workshops and talk in the living rooms set up around the center.  Then he said it.  If you need to rest, take this time to sleep, pray, and reconnect with God. I was shocked.

It’s true; I needed rest – even if I had to pay for it!

It seems and feels counter-intuitive, however, in order to persevere in ministry I find that rest is the best. It’s finding time for Sabbath – to be and not do. We are human beings after all not human doings. Each week I have a day of being. When I wake up, I ask God, what do you want to do today? Sometimes I go to the park or listen to music. Other days I stay in my pajamas and play with my dog. I don’t plan ministry. I don’t read the book I’ve been waiting to crack open. I celebrate the God in me.

I’m not sure when you feel there is a lull in your ministry… I rarely felt that I experienced that. We were always on the go. Here’s what I am learning. To keep up a pace of ministry, I need to rest and receive God’s spirit into my life again and again. Jesus invites us to come to him…all of us who are weary and heavy laden and He will give us rest.

I challenge you, if you cannot find time to rest, I ask to whom does your ministry belong? In our might we will exhaust.  Only through Christ and his power can we lead and care for God’s families in our churches.

May you find rest on the journey!

by Charity Goodwin-Rosario
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Youth: Make a Difference

Older generations try to understand youth with varying degrees of success. I think it has to do with our level of interaction with youth and/or our attitude. The two are closely related. It is hard to understand people with whom one has limited or no deep and meaningful interaction. This lack of interaction can lead to stereotyping, which is often negative.

It's hard to have a positive image of young people when you simply go by news reports and the comments of people who see them only through their own lenses and their own desires. These are often people who do not understand young people on young people's own terms.

Of course I'm biased. I've worked with young people, it seems like forever. I see them as people with tremendous strengths and gifts that the church and the world need, now. I'm not uncritical and naive. They have some weaknesses as we all do. And, they are in the process of becoming in a much sharper way than the rest of us.However, all in all, they are delightful and eager to please and make a difference, especially this generation of youth, often referred to as the Millenials.

The Millennial generation is one about which much has been spoken and written, both positive and negative. It's a perspective issue. William Strauss and Neil Howe describe them as "optimists" (Strauss and Howe 2206, 41), citing research in which Millennials describe themselves. I would have to agree. They see possibilities and where many of us pull back, they plunge forward with amazing effectiveness. Just recently, Rachel Wheeler's story made the news. At 12 years old she has already built 27 homes in Haiti. See the Huffington Post. I think also of the youTheology students and alumni who are volunteering at different places and doing amazing things with their lives. Optimism is good when it is purposeful.

Another way of looking at Millennials, young people, is seeing them as idealistic. Ruben Navarrette seems skeptical of this idealism that seeks to find solutions to problem in his piece, "Entitled to Idealism." But then, the conversation he reported put a whole different spin on the "sense of entitlement" young people are supposed to have. It's quite a shift - negative to positive.For me I still see it more as optimism. There is a connotation to idealism that it's difficult to beat. For some, it could be positive, for others negative.

Whether you think of it as optimism or idealism, young people are dreaming dreams and taking concrete actions to make the world a better place. The questions for us are:
  • What example are we setting in this regard?
  • How are we nurturing the dreams and the desires?
  • How are we making space for these stories?
  • How are we helping them to connect these with God's love, reign and mission?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, November 14, 2011

Different Times

So what's new? The times in which we live. Times in which the intensity and venues for bullying, like much else in our world, has escalated tremendously. This leaves us with questions as parents, youth workers, and other caring adults. Questions as to how to prepare students for, protect them from, and prevent bullying.

My heart goes out to the mother of Ashlynn Conner who, as a single parent, did all that she knew to do. Could one have asked more of her? No. And yet, having done her best to prepare her child for what could be a cruel world she now mourns the loss of her daughter. We have to pray for her comfort and the too many mothers who mourn the loss of their children, particularly through suicide related bullying. In Stacy Conner's own words as reported by The Huffington Post: "'"I thought my kids were strong," Connor said. "That my words to them for guidance and advice would have more weight than what these kids were saying. I was wrong.'"The pressure from outside was too much, even with all the positive that was given on the inside.

These are different times.Youth don't only face bullying the in face-to-face space of school, but also online, and through text messages. It is all pervasive. Sometimes it cannot be switched off.

Adolescents are at a vulnerable stage in their development and bullying attacks them in all the vulnerable areas and places of development: physical, physiological, emotional, social, etc. It is a different time for them; a time when they need support  and affirmation as they seek to discover who they are and who God has made them to be.

While we do not have all the answers in youth and student ministry, this does leave us with some questions?
  • How are we creating safe spaces for youth to tell their stories so that their hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, and real life situations can be brought into the light and they get the help they need? Safety in terms of confidentiality, a non-judgmental, open and accepting approach in a space that is unhurried and where the focus is on the students and not the program.
  • How do we teach our students the various ways in which bullying occurs and help them to see that what may seem cool to some can be and often is detrimental to others?
  • How do we help them to see that bullying runs counter to our faith and loving God and neighbor as we are commanded?
  • How do we give them the resources to deal with bullying, whether it be speaking against it, reporting it, educating about it, etc?
  • How do we point them to God?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just Serve

I was privileged to have conversation with a young lady earlier today whose chosen path is public service. She is still in college, getting ready to graduate but is very clear on her chosen path. Specifically, she has an interest in education, recognizing the inequities in the educational system and the way in which certain sections of the population are undereducated.

What is noteworthy and admirable is that this young lady is not waiting until she fulfills her career dreams and is an elected official. Right here and right now she has begun to make a difference. She works with young people who are poorly educated in school and helps them to move beyond where they are and where their circumstances seem to allow them to be. She is teaching them and helping a younger generation dream bigger dreams and prepare for college.

This raises some questions. How are we faithful in the here and now with what God has entrusted us? Are we serving faithfully or are we waiting for that big moment.

What type of care and concern do the students in our ministries show for those who are underserved and how are we encouraging them to be involved in an ongoing way, whether small or big, to bring change? This would be to walk as Jesus walked.

If our students are underserved, how are we inspiring them and practically helping them to move beyond where they are?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: When you “Run the Race” is it a Sprint or a Marathon?

For those of us that work with youth, we often focus on the next meeting or next event but we need to make sure that we’re working with long-term and the end goal in mind.

Many times we’re not going to see how our youth turn out or how their faith journey evolves.  However, that doesn’t mean our role in that path is any less important.  Sometimes we are planting a seed and might not see the growth.  Other times, we’re the ones that benefit from the work of others as we see the light turn on as someone accepts Christ or grows in their faith. 

One way to increase your chances of seeing someone catch a spark is by getting involved with youTheology.  The high school youth in the year-long program are able to explore their faith with a mentor and it culminates in the Pan-Methodist Pilgrimage. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the youth I once led grow up to be active members of my congregation.  I even have one of my “alumni” that now has a son involved in Youth Group.  The son spoke during the youTheology One Day event this Fall while the father is joining me in the youTheology Think Tank.

Encourage your youth to learn and grow their own faith so that it’s not dependent on the next big event or youth trip.  You want to make sure that their faith can make it through the hard times and not just the fun, exciting ones.  Of course, the same goes for you as a Youth Leader; you need to have a support system to help your faith endure through the hills and valleys of youth ministry.

What do YOU do to help your Youth Ministry endure?

by Mark Whitaker

Youth & Young Adult Director, Communications Coordinator, & Scouting Rep
Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City MO (North of the River)
Advisory Board for youTheology / Marketing Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future