Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When Will We Get It?

This morning I picked up a book to read entitled, Generation Rising: A Future With Hope for the United Methodist Church, edited by Andrew C. Thompson. It promises much and I am sure I will not be disappointed. In skimming through, I went to the chapter, "Youth Ministry: Reclaiming the Art of Confirmation." What struck me as I looked at the early part of the chapter was the discussion on the downside of treating youth ministry as if it were peripheral to the congregation, assuming that youth neither need nor want depth, resulting in a superficial approach to youth ministry that is disconnected from the main life of the church.

Some of us have probably encountered this concern before. As I read this section, I reflected that this is an old conversation and yet many have continued uncritically down this road of separateness. Even when faced with statistics and convincing arguments in favor of a deeper, more engaged youth ministry that is rooted in and connected with the congregation it seems that many adults working with youth find it easier to skim the surface and engage almost exclusively in the lighthearted moments. Whether this is about the adult or youth belongs to a different conversation. Nevertheless, my big question is, when will we get it? When will we allow ourselves and our youth to grow up into Christ who is the head of all things?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ministry "With" Young People

What's the difference? You may ask. Ministry "to. Ministry "for". Or ministry "with" young people? It doesn't matter much which way you say it, right?

I would argue which word you use when you describe your work, love and life with young people as you seek God matters.

To young people it matters a great deal. For they are intregal partners on the journey. They give way to who you are becoming just as powerfully as you give way to who they are becoming. You both need each other.

Recently Mary Nelson wrote a book called, "Empowerment Book". This read addresses how to work with and among communites which do not have all of the resources they need to rightly bring about justice. Some of you connected to youTheology are serving in these sorts of communities and congregations. This book is for you.

Some of the amazing youTheologians who just returned from their trip feel called to serve with folks in under-resourced communities. You are filled with God's heart for justice and the city. This book is for you.

Check it out:

While you're at this site, take a moment to read about Christian Community Development Association and all the good work they do.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, June 17, 2011

Perspectives From the Field: Best Program

During my 10 years as a Youth Director, the most fun & powerful moments I’ve ever had took place during the unplanned moments when we’ve taken youth trips and events.

These are most likely to take place on youth trips when there is a significant time to connect and make those lifelong memories you talk about in the decades to come.

Now, go have Fun in the Son!

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Image of God

It was a Saturday morning and we were out for breakfast at a local greasy spoon. She and I had known each other for four going on five years. Over the course of living life with this amazing young woman, I had always sensed a desire to know and seek God but something seemed to be getting in the way.

So I asked, "What sort of person do you think of when you think of God?"

"An old white man with a long white beard".

"Really?" I replied. In some ways I was not surprised that the "white Jesus image" was imprinted on her mind since we often give our responsibility to teach our young people about their faith away, quite unintentionally at times.

She confirmed and went into great detail about what this sort of God would look like. Mostly, she painted a picture of Jolly Old Saint Nick.

"If you think of someone who really loves you and really knows you what sort of person do you think of?" I inquired.

"An older wise black auntie," she smiled.

And I grinned back at her. This was more the idea I was hoping for. Her eyes lit up at this idea and she began to explain how she felt more comfortable talking and praying to a God who just might look more like her.

Spending time listening to our diverse groups of young people and helping them to re-imagine their image of God is quite a task. This task is essential to our journey's with young people because they hold within them the key which will unlock their ability to truly and authentically connect with the God of Love. Sometimes it's our job to help them find the key.

Sometimes they help us find ours.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Presence-Centered Youth Ministry

There was a lady named Lorna Holly who lived across the street from where my parents owned a cabin on church campgrounds. I had known her since I was a young girl and always felt loved by her. Later in life, I learned she had been a Nazarene pastor from the age of 19 until she could no longer preach and teach. She was now in her late nineties and lived in her little home across the street.

I decided late one summer night to stop in. I’d like to say my visit was the gift of the Spirit and I think if she was still alive she would agree.

Gently I knocked on the door, “Mrs. Holly?,” I inquired softly.

“Oh hello, dear,” she said. “Please come in”.

Her house smelled musty like older folks homes do. I’m not sure if they lose their sense of smell with age or if their very homes antique with them into a glorious distinctive aroma. Anyways, she engulfed me in her embrace. Seems like God is always putting skin on and walking around among us in ways we can feel, touch, sense and smell.

We talked about many things and she listened. What a gift! A saint, full of wisdom, experience and knowledge who was not eager to impart such knowledge but who humbly listened. In her listening she named one of ways God shaped and formed me to be faithful. She said, “Diane, you must preach and preach holiness!”

I submit 90-year old Lorna Holly was and is one of the best youth pastors who ever lived. Why? Because she extended to me an invitation into her home where she had been seeking God's presence.

After 8+ years of working with young people in some form of youth ministry or another, I firmly believe this is the most important thing we do as youth pastors. We create spaces for young people to encounter God and we welcome them into the places where the saints have encountered God in the past.

Mike King seems to agree as he writes about this in his book "Presence-Centered Youth Ministry". Don't take my word for his incredible insight in his book; check out this review by a fellow youth work supporter.

You can find Mike's book and other resources he would recommend at a page from his blog linked to Amazon. Click here to access.

With hope for God to infuse our work with young people,
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, June 3, 2011

Perspectives from Advisory Board: Thank You to the Woman behind the Curtain!

This is not my normal blog. Normally, I share a perspective from the field but today I’m sharing a perspective from the Advisory Board.

For the last couple years, I have had the privilege of serving on the Advisory Board for youTheology at Saint Paul School of Theology and this program has many elements from the year-long program and the Pan-Methodist Pilgrimage to Youth Workers Gathering in the Spring to the new One-Day event that we introduced last fall.

None of these would be possible without the hard work of the people behind the scenes. And I’d like to say a special thank you to Kathy Williams who has been in charge of Planning & Logistics but is leaving us to become a Pastor in Topeka. Our loss is their gain and God has great plans for her in the future.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to publicly thank Kathy in front of the current class of youTheology on the eve of their Pilgrimage and I’m looking forward to reading about their journeys at over the next week.

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