Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Community

Reaching out, connecting with like-minded people, sharing hopes and dreams, having a common mission, spending meaningful time learning together and challenging each other - so necessary. This was brought home to me in a new way at Youth Workers' Gathering in Oklahoma City. It was a great time of fellowship, learning and refreshing. Adults who work with youths need some time out with other people who have a passion for seeing students come to and grow in faith and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Last weekend (March 25-26) was such a time. We gathered in community and God did an amazing work at Church of the Servant. We are thankful for the privilege of sharing in this ministry.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, March 21, 2011

Changing Times, Exciting Times

Life is changing before our eyes. We may not always be aware of this, though there are seasons when it just hits us that there is a lot of change around us. We're in one of those seasons. Our culture is changing for many reasons. We see it in the changing nature of our interactions with each other. We see it in our churches. We use different words as we try to figure out what is changing; what we're losing and what we're gaining. Sometimes we talk about commitment and the lack therefore. At other times we talk about conflicting priorities.

Youth Ministry is also changing. Yes, there are some things that will always be the same, like the importance of relationships and effective programming. But what does that mean in today's reality.

We are excited about our opportunity this weekend to share and reflect together on these matters at Youth Workers' Gathering in Oklahoma City. From Friday, March 25 to Saturday, March 26th, we will examine the theme, "Youth Ministry in a New Decade." We will be led by Dr Reginald Blount of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and has a wealth of experience in youth ministry. We will also break this down in other ways:
* Getting Kids and Parents to Have Faith Development as a Primary Priority
* Ministering To Students In A Large Church Setting
* Creating Youth Worship Experiences Without A Large Budget
* Native American Youth
* Youth Ministry in the Small Membership Church: Working with 10 or Less

Experienced youth ministers and leaders will resource these sessions. You can click here to find out more about the program and about these excellent session leaders.

Bishop Robert E Hayes, episcopal leader for the Oklahoma Area of The United Methodist Church, will be the guest preacher Friday night.

This educational and inspirational gathering of adults working with and/or interested in youth will take place at Church of the Servant, in Oklahoma City.

What are some of the changes you have seen in your youth/student ministry?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, March 18, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: Why Lent Matters

Lent is a time of preparation. Just like Advent helps us to understand the importance of Christmas, Lent reminds us of the significance of Easter. Sometimes we give something up during Lent or other times we choose to take on something new but the important thing to keep in mind is what Jesus Christ went through on our behalf.

At the time this blog is published, we’ll be about a third of the way from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday which is sometimes also known as Holy Thursday. These two dates mark the two times each year that our church gathers on a weeknight as a congregation in a time of worship.

In fact, for me, Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday have always been the most significant services in the life of the church because each marks key events in the life & death of Christ but also because each immediately precedes the two events that get the most publicity in both the secular and Christian world.

It’s important for our youth (and the overall church) to not forget about the life of Christ between his birth and death. Lent is one time of the year that we can do just that.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Corporate Worship

. . . the planners of worship are not called to be prostitutes. They are, rather, priestly mediators who seek to know and love God, and to know and love their people (Smith 2008, 61-62).
This means that instead of treating worship as a "thing" to be made attractive so that people would buy it thereby turning those who plan it into hustlers, those who have this responsibility are agents of reconciliation who perform religious rites. They are people who pursue the knowledge and love of God and those they serve. For me, this raises the question of focus. On whom do we focus in planning and participating in worship? If worship is not about God, why are we worshiping. If worship is not about God, could it be that we are worshiping ourselves?

What do you think? What do you practice in your youth group? When youth are preparing worship, who is foremost in their minds? Whom are they seeking to please?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, March 14, 2011

youTheology in Illinois Great Rivers and St Louis Metro

Come July 17th, Pan-Methodist students in Illinois Great River UM Conference and the metro area of St Louis (MO & IL) will be able to participate in youTheology (yT) in that general area without having to come to Kansas City. Rev Robert Freeman who is the coordinator for the yT-Pod talks about the significance of this move in the video below. To find out more about it, please click here.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mentor Bites: Five Things I wish I would have been told about Lent when I was a young person . . where were the adults?

Though some of the following on the list will be light-hearted and meant to make you laugh, I do want us to take seriously the next statement I share. I did not know how the Lenten season connected to Easter until I was in college. Yes, let that sink in for a minute. Put your eyes back on that sentence. Read it again. Ready to move on? Are you sure?

Where were the adults to explain to me what Lent was all about? I knew that for six weeks before Easter we had special Wednesday night worship services and that towards the beginning of those Wednesdays we would mark our foreheads with ashes. I knew that they were usually somber. And I remember my High School vocal teacher telling us that Lent was a good season to try to sing different parts in the hymnal as we prepared for sight-reading contest. After all, no one knew the Lenten hymns anyway . . .

Lent is an important season in which we prepare our hearts to recognize the life, suffering and death of Christ. It is recognition that sacrifices are important to our relationship with God, and that those sacrifices bring life on Easter Sunday! So, here are some serious and some silly things that I wish I would have known . . .

#1. We don’t just put ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday so that people will look at us weird for the rest of the day. And we don’t do it so that people will know we are Christian either! We mark our forehead to recognize our mortality. We should talk with our young people about the human condition. We could talk to them about how amazing it is that God sent a human for us to follow. Wow!

#2. We don’t give things up just to kick an addiction to caffeine or sugar. We sure do not give up fast food so that we can lose weight! We do not add a walk to our daily routine to get our heart rate up. We do all of these things to draw closer to God. We take up something new or give something up out of a desire to connect with God on a deeper level.

#3. Sundays are not a day given by God so that we can break from all we are learning/doing/changing because of Lent. They are not a day to stop our practice so as to not go crazy from our lack of diet coke. Instead, they are days to recognize that Easter is coming. They are a day to give thanks to God for the ways in which we see ourselves growing from our disciplines during the season. Consider telling the youth around you about the ways that you are growing in your faith. And ask them about their journey!

#4. Lent does not have to be some awful time that we are somber in worship and waiting for God to strike us dead at anytime for how awful we are. Instead, it can be a time where we realize that God loves us just the way we are and desires for us to grow. Talk to a youth you care about . . . tell them how much they are loved even though they make mistakes!

#5. Lent is not just the stuff that annoys us from the dryer (in fact that stuff is spelled differently anyway.) It is a season that brings us closer to God. Make a covenant with a young person who trusts you. Promise to pray for one another. Pick a book from the bible and read/discuss it together. Fast and keep one another accountable. Whatever you do, talk about it. Know that God desires to be close to you.

by Emily Carroll
youTheology Mentor Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lent Matters

Why Lent matters? Why is it important for your youth to know about and observe it?

I think it is incredibly important to teach young people about Lent because this season can take us on a journey through a deeper understanding of our faith, ourselves, and our God. We begin the season of Lent with a posture of lowliness on Ash Wednesday as we remember our human frailties. I actually look forward to Ash Wednesday as it really reminds me of my own need for a Savior! This is a critical concept for the young to embrace, particularly in a culture that can sometimes over-emphasize the strength of humanity (void of God's power) and under-represent our failures and sinfulness. It is as if people don't even like to talk about sin--and this happens in the Church. I hear too much theology and preaching these days that is entirely too human-focused, and that lacks teaching on the Christian values of confession, forgiveness, prayer, and fasting. It's like our ministry is being turned into motivational speaking that does not deal with the realities of our broken existence and our need for salvation and redemption.

Instead of teaching them to overlook their shortcomings and pretending they don't exist, we should teach our youth to offer their broken selves to the Savior who is able and willing to help them. In this way, we move past the sort of surface-artificial youth programming into the messy, dirty, hard work of youth ministry. For we can truly be redeemed by the blood of Christ and changed into who God always desired us to be by the power of the Spirit.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hearing Love

In her last blog on February 7th, 2011, Emily Carroll, our Mentor Coordinator, reminded us of the importance of laying aside our agendas and listening to young people as a way of valuing them and helping them "understand their worth and value in the eyes of God." I was reminded of this as I re-read the chapter, "Love: Power of Hearing the Other Into Being" by Young Ho Chun. Chun makes the point that Jesus really heard people in real love that is unmotivated by self-interest, accepts "without censure," and enlarges the person loved. Young Ho Chun explains the concept of "hearing others into being," which is a modification of Nelle Morton's "hearing each other to speech" as:
. . . an unconditional and sustained attention given to the other. It explicates the love of neighbors. It takes a form of justice in its best sense of the word, since many are subject to conditions of the alienated, the estranged, the marginalized, the exploited, the excluded, the disempowered and the dehumanized. Justice is a public form of the love. Restoring the human dignity to those who are force to become the otherers or strangers to themselves is a justice" (Matthaie 2008, 54.)

This reminds us that as important as actively seeking justice through advocacy and campaigns is, there is another aspect that involves us being still enough to listen to the other in redeeming love. As Young-Ho Chun reminded us, we see this in the life of Jesus.

Learning to be still in God's presence and allowing God to fill us with God's love is critical to our being able to hear the other in this loving, restoring way that itself becomes a form of justice. How are we preparing ourselves to hear?

We remember in our student ministries that young people often fit the description in the quotation above. They are often marginalized by society, including faith communities. Their idealism and desire for love and acceptance are often exploited, especially by marketers. How can we hear them into being?

"Love: Power of Hearing the Other Into Being" is found in youTheology's book: Matthaei, Sondra. Loving God, Loving Neighbor: Ministry With Searching Youth. XLibris, 2008.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor