Monday, October 31, 2011

Beyond Ourselves

One of the blessings at youTheology is hearing from people who are not directly connected with the program that it matters; that youTheology is making a difference.

That God is working through the program is something we believe. We know and see it in many of our alumni. They say it. However, when people who do not have as direct a connection throw in their lot and commit to the future of the youTheology because they see it's value, we give thanks to God and welcome them.

Our community is expanding to include people who will work with us envisage and enact new possibilities and ways of sustaining and strengthening what we have. Thanks be to God. Let us keep praying.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, October 28, 2011

Responsible Presence

"An incarnational approach [to technology in youth ministry] calls for us to love young people enough to be present in the spaces they inhabit so that we can build relationships, communicate in relevant ways, and model and encourage faithful living as we respond to God's love through incarnational living" (Smith  2011, 6).

We go where young people are, but we go responsibly, recognizing our call as leaders to hold up the light, God's light.

How are you holding up the light to your students in the area of technology?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, October 24, 2011

youTheology: The Difference

Sometimes people wonder what effect youTheology has. They know it's a good program in general terms, but what difference does it make. From time to time, we seek to answer this through the voices of our alumni. Last week, Jarrad blogged about the impact youTheology has had on his life. In the two videos below, Alex talks about what she took away from youTheology and how it has affected her and the choices she makes.. Click on the images below to find out more.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, October 21, 2011

Persepctives From the Field: We Serve

            “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

One of the major desires in our ministry is to show students the meaning of a Kingdom life. What does it mean for a high school student or for a middle school student to live a life advancing and living in the Kingdom of God? This is a deep and multi faceted question and you could fill the pages of numerous books with the different ideas and examples of how this is done. For our ministry one of the most essential ways we attempt to teach this and live the Kingdom out is through the act of service.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at a local High School’s leadership retreat. I spoke from the twentieth chapter of Matthew and specifically from verses twenty-five through twenty-eight. What a deeply profound and foreign concept of leadership and personal worth! Jesus is calling us as believers to be a people who are known not by the amount of power we can obtain through coercion and domination but through our capacity to give ourselves completely away through service! That’s incredible! 

You do not have to be gifted, talented, wealthy, high class, low class, a specific race, ethnicity, or age to serve. All you have to do is be willing to pour yourself out in the same way the Christ did for us. God’s calling and exemplification of serving are so fundamental to our faith that if we took it out of scripture, we’d be left with blank pages and a front and back cover.

So how do we respond to such a life changing truth? We serve. We find ways, everyday, to place the needs of our friends, family, and yes especially our enemies above ours. Another way we live this out is by asking ourselves a few simple questions: Where is there need? What can I do?

I promise this. If you in your life, everyday, spend time asking yourself those two questions, without even realizing it you will be knee deep in the Kingdom of God and our beautiful Savior’s holy work on our earth! 

by Jay Smith
Coordinator of High School Ministries
Church of the Servant
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reflections of a youTheology alum.

My name is  Jarrad Lehman, youTheologian in 2003-2004, the first year of the program at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City.  

youTheology opened my eyes to Methodism. I grew up Methodist, but never really knew what or where it came from. It was very interesting to learn where everything came from.  I was most impacted by what I learned about John Wesley.  Learning about his life and the things he did has helped guide me in the type of person that I want to be and to share and show how God cares for us all.
Currently I am a student at ISU (Iowa State) and plan on finishing December of 2013 with a focus in Industrial Technology.  I want to be a manufacturing or process engineer.  My hope/dream would be to bring manufacturing ideas and concepts to other countries in mission type work. 

This past summer I had an amazing experience going on a mission trip to Nigeria.  There I learned how important mission is for me.  I would love to continue with this in the future. That is why I would like to take some of my manufacturing background and possibly bring ideas to areas such as this as a major part of my future.  So, while I focus on finishing school, I also am trying to get involved in more mission type activities.

A couple of my friends, after we graduated from high school, became very involved in our youth program by being the senior high youth leaders. This was a very large commitment by them.  And I started becoming involved in their activities as well. The youth of the church are very important and we tried to help show this by becoming involved in leading this group.

God is always at work in everything we do. By listening and following God we can help others and show them the compassion and great works of our Lord.  By being Christians we need to be Christ-like in everything we do to help show God’s/Christ’s love to the world and each person.

 by Jarrad Lehman
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, October 14, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: Bended-knee Service

1 Timothy 2:1-7
A Call to Prayer
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men . . . Continue reading 1 Timothy 2:1-7.

Service takes many shapes in a youth ministry and church and it should. Many times, however, I have experienced service in a singular way: primarily the hands-on, mission trip or local service day. This kind of service is important and formational for youth and those who work with them. Often mission trips bring scripture to life. They unify groups, even if and especially when there is the drama and there is often drama when we go on these trips! Mission trips have a way of magnifying our heart for God through the work we do. Let’s face it, when we come back, we are amped up! I love that feeling.

I offer, however, another type of service integral in a youth ministry and church. This service is the outward-focused service of praying for those unconnected, disconnected, hurting and longing for something but can’t put a finger on it. Pray for hearts to be open to receive God’s grace. Pray for lives to be changed by the renewing Holy Spirit. Pray by name for those we know desire yet struggle with faith and Christ. Together, in our youth ministries, we can impact the reign of God through a service of prayer. For it is in prayer that hearts and lives change; ours and those for whom we pray.

For some it is easier and more exciting to do a mission trip than it is to pray. I get that. I encourage you to expand your service to include praying for those who have a desire to belong and believe.

In what ways do you incorporate outward-focused prayer (intercession) in your youth ministry?

By Charity Goodwin-Rosario
Blue Ridge UMC, Kansas City, MO
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Friday, October 7, 2011

Perspectives from the Field: Service

The other day a friend asked why I help others.  I responded that it is a question of HOW to help others, not WHETHER to help others.

Reflecting on this conversation, this is something that we need to share with youth.  God calls us to be His hands and feet and to love one another.   This can come in many forms but it is important to find ways to serve others, whether in our own community or on the other side of the world.

How do YOU serve and what are you teaching youth about service?

Mark Whitaker
youTheology Advisory Board member
Youth & Young Adult Director @ Avondale UMC
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mentor Bites: When It is Hardest, Care as God Cares

I am writing this blog with a heavy heart. And I also write with a bit of disbelief, because, if a year ago, I posted a blog that had to do with bullying related suicide with a heavy heart. Today, and again, I simply cannot be silent about this issue. God keeps calling me to be outspoken about this and let me tell you, I would rather not confront it. 

I am the Mentor Coordinator for the youTheology program, and it is a rewarding ministry where I get to help adults who care about youth. At the same time, I am serving a congregation in Fulton, Missouri. Fulton is a small town of about 12, 000 so if you do not live here, then you probably have not heard about the hurt and confusion that the town is facing right now. Last Friday, I received a call from one of the two youth pastors who is on the staff of the congregation I serve. She was distraught and all I could really understand was that a young person had taken her own life and that it would affect our youth group. 

As I drove to the home where everyone was gathering, I prayed. I prayed that God would give me the words. I prayed that I would be the presence of Christ that these people would need so very much. What I found was a young man who had discovered the grim scene of his girlfriend who had taken her own life and a family that was heartbroken. The girl’s family was so shocked, they could not speak. This last week of ministry has been somewhat of a haze. Listening to my youth and the adults of my congregation has been heart wrenching.

Suicide affects everyone, whether or not we want to admit it or not. But, to be honest, I do not always like to admit that. The messages that I received from my own family and community, my own CHURCH about suicide when I was a little girl were all negative. They said suicide is shameful; the person who takes his/her own life commits the one sin that separates them from God forever; we should pray for their soul; we should not talk about it anymore; we should hide it, lie about it. 

My pastoral response this week has been hard. This suicide represents the exact thing I wanted to run from! It has been hard to talk about it, to preach about it … just to confront it honestly. To hear and ask the hard questions right along with my congregation has been my response. The hardest part of this whole thing for everyone has been that the young girl showed no one any “signs” that she would do this one day. She told no one that she was considering it. She had the brightest smile that you have ever seen. And yet, she made this decision. What went wrong? What did all of us miss? Honestly, I am not sure. But I do know that there is so much shame and blame, embarrassment and harassment that go along with what our young people are experiencing these days. Maybe this young girl was afraid to even tell anyone, because her reasons had already been shot down as “sinful,” “a phase,” or “just plain stupid.” 

I am not sure what happened. And none of us will ever know. But what I do know is that God cares for our young people. We are called to care for them as well. Let us not dismiss their honest questions and deep yearnings. Let us see them as Christ does. Amen. 

by Emily Carroll
youTheology Mentor Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor