Friday, March 30, 2012


We love great ideas. We get enthusiastic about them and are ready to run off and implement. Now great ideas are important and necessary. These are the source of our programs, our recruiting and networking, etc. Where would we be without them? Yet, by themselves they are not enough.

Mark DeVries of Youth Ministry Architects reminds us of the need for foundations and structures that can sustain what we are doing. They take time but are required for the long haul, for a youth ministry that is sustainable.

I am looking forward to hearing Mark and the lively conversation we will have with him this weekend at our Youth Workers' Gathering in Oklahoma City at Church of the Servant. In the meanwhile, here is a question for you:

How are you building so that your youth ministry is sustainable?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Saturday, March 24, 2012

You Matter

We end the week as we started it, with a reminder to adults of the significant role they play in the lives of teens looking at two related posts.

Being in tune with the mental health of students can help us to provide needed support.

A new study suggests emotional support from middle school teachers may often delay alcohol and other illicit substance use by teens. Researchers determined.

Non-related adults are important in teens lives:
THURSDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Teachers and parents play a greater role than peers in keeping teens engaged in school, researchers have found.

While parents and school teachers are particularly singled out, and rightly so since they have the greatest contact with students, the articles recognize the importance of adults in general.

Be encouraged as a youth worker, even if you do not see the fruits immediately. You matter. Be prayerful for strength and wisdom for the journey so that your words and actions are appropriate and you understand your role in the students' lives. Be faithful to what God has called you to do and continue to provide the Christian support that makes a difference for the glory of God.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, March 19, 2012

Healthy Living

The preteen and early teen years are critical as students adjust to the beginning of the adolescent period. This is a time when adult support is very important so that they develop healthy habits. The blogs below point this out. The first one shows the connection between healthy habits and happiness. The second one looks at the influence of parents on the mental health of teens while reminding us that we are all responsible.

A new study shows that teen's adoption of healthy habits is directly linked to their happiness. Teenage years are somewhat problematic to children as they try to understand the changes in their bodies. This is also the time ...

Relationships key to teens' mental health: study. Interpersonal relationships at home, school and with peers appear to be critical for positive mental health among young Canadian teens, a major study suggests.

How do you support students in this critical stage of development so that they practice healthy habits and enjoy meaningful and open relationships with adults?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, March 16, 2012

Teenagers: The Then and Now of It

Here is a 30-year span comparison of teenagers by How does this gel with what you know of teenagers? How accurately does it describe the teenagers with whom you work? What are the surprises, if any?

Then vs Now: How Things Have Changed from 1982 to 2012
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, March 12, 2012

Innocent Beginnings, Dangerous Consequences

At times it seems that we have the uncanny knack for distortion. By we, I mean human beings. It never ceases to amaze me how often this happens. Beautiful things can become destructive in our hands. Part of the problem is that too often we leave aside the principle of discipline.

Here is an all too frequent example - internet addiction. Yes. The internet is a great invention facilitating communication across boundaries, opening up seemingly endless possibilities for learning, putting entertainment at our fingertips, and . . . you get the picture. However, without the exercise of discipline in its use, it can become an addiction. This inability to exercise restraint in this area often correlates with other types of addiction as Join Together Staff point out in this following article:

The researchers found the teens who reported substance abuse had significantly higher average scores on the Internet addiction test. Those scores were important predictors for past or present substance use, the researchers ...

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Now this one blew me: Cinnamon. Who would have thought this spice that adds so much flavor to life would become an item that merits a warning about its use?

A high school principal in Ann Arbor is warning parents and students about the dangers of something called the "cinnamon challenge."

I'm reminded of the verse in the Bible: "Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour 1 Peter 5:8." Why does this particular verse come to mind? Well, a disciplined use of cinnamon that keeps it in its proper place would avoid the challenge noted above. In addition, when faced with the seductive promise of always being connected offered by the internet whether via computers, iPads, smartphones or other forms, we need to be disciplined. If not we compromise the relationships in front of us and also run the risk of allowing our lives to be taken over by a "thing." This can hinder our relationships with each other and with God, sacrificing broad yet surface connections and knowledge for depth. So, yes: Discipline and alertness.

The other thing about 1 Peter 5:8 is that it is preceded by a verse that counsels us to give our anxiety to God who cares for us. Some of the inability to disconnect comes from our anxiety that we will miss out, that we will become less important and maybe lose our place, our value. This holds true for adults and students.

So here's the question, how are we modeling a non-anxious, disciplined use of the internet and a non-anxious disciplined approach to life?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, March 9, 2012

Planting Seeds

In many ways, that's what we do in youth ministry: plant seeds. We could take a broader look and realize that in general, our interactions with the young plant seeds because of this impressionable and vulnerable period of life. The question then is what seeds are we planting?

I suspect that the answer to the question regarding the type of seeds we plant in young lives has to do with how we view teens coupled with our interest in their well being. Here is an example.

The author of the article below points out that part of the reason teens start smoking early is because they are targeted by the advertisers. In other words, they are viewed as commodities that will yield profit in the short and long term. Thus, the seeds of tobacco addiction are planted.

Most smokers start before it's legal for them to buy tobacco. A new report released Thursday by the U.S. Surgeon General blamed the problem on the way tobacco sellers market their products.

Though not having the same intent as the tobacco industry, if we are not vigilant, we will allow technological addiction to take root. This can have adverse implications for health and social life, as noted below.

Technology has been advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, particularly over the past decade. There is rarely a teen found without a cell phone clutched in their hand, and virtually every teen has access to their own ...

Of course, we can be intentional about planting seeds for a bright future as this group is doing in a variety of ways:

(Jeff Vorva/Tribune). The Orland Township Youth and Family Services Group has been serving two groups of teens – those who want to be leaders and, recently, those who get into a little bit of trouble and need to be led.

In youTheology, we seek to develop faithful leaders for a diverse church and world now and in the future. We value the students who come to us and see them as active agents in God's work and create a space for them to discover and live into their potential.

What seeds are you planting in your student ministry? Check: How do you view the students and what is your interest in their spiritual well-being?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Time of Learning

 It was great to have the youTheologians in this past weekend. The focus was on "Loving God, Loving Neighbor: Loving Myself." It is important to root loving ourselves in loving God and neighbor otherwise we run the risk of narcissism. As we understand more and more of God's love for us, we gain a greater appreciation of ourselves as God's handiwork, created and redeemed. Do we really have a choice as to whether or not we love ourselves?

In exploring this theme, youTheologians also looked at Wesley's life and his search. They learned about his theology of grace. There were exercises to help them in their appreciation of themselves and others that went beyond the superficial to a deeper understanding of the other. They also learned the difference it makes when you stop to think about yourself and who you are. For some, it was motivation to be better. In addition, there was time to engage in spiritual disciplines and time for fun and games. All in all, a wonderful time with awesome youth and leaders.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future

Friday, March 2, 2012

Perspectives: Self-Denial

When we join the church, we promise to support it with our prayers, our presence, our service, our talents and our gifts.  This is especially true during Lent when we are reminded of the sacrifices of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We and our students should make an extra effort to give our time, talent and treasure to God and seek how He wishes for us to serve. And if giving up something or giving something extra is painful, we are reminded of what Jesus went through on the cross.

When I was a child, I heard the phrase "I'm Third." - this stood for "God 1st, Others 2nd, I'm 3rd.". This is one more way to remind our youth to Love God, Love Neighbor!

by Mark Whitaker
Chair, youTheology Advisory Board

Youth & Young Adult Director @ Avondale United Methodist Church in KC North
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future