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one more picture...

Monday, October 29, 2007

I thought I would throw a picture up that showed me, late in the night, discussing things with Sherri, who is one of the most amazing youth sponsors ever, and with Eddie who I used to work with at Saranam. Eddie's costumes are always ridiculous...

But this also shows me in my "costume." In my crazy busy weekend, I never got a chance to get something more interesting, but I wore what I wore for an entire summer in the mountains of Tennessee...


Sunday, October 28, 2007
The big event for the youth group is now over. We've spent the last month preparing for an awesome event. At the height of it all tonight, we counted roughly 200 people. I would say we probably had about 225 people for the whole event. Here are some shots that I got tonight...

This is my friend. His name is... Aragog.

One of my adult sponsors made a coffin. The youth want me to put it in the youth lounge now. I don't quite know what to do with it, but I think storage...

The cars bounce house was a spectacular hit.

This shot was taken just after we counted 200 people. It was more than awesome.

And now I am glad it is over and I am going to sleep. For a long time.

just chilling at a coffee shop

Thursday, October 25, 2007
I have very little time to think let alone think enough to write these days. But today is quiet at the coffee shop as my youth who come normally are all busy and can't make it today. No matter though, I still come, and get some work done.

Sunday is our big carnival at the church. I've spent the month thinking about it, I even dreamt about it last night. I dreamt that there was no candy to hand out to the little kids which was quite the bummer. So of course I sent a reminder email to my youth to bring candy on Sunday. We do a TON of work to get this whole event planned and prepared. I'll be busy all day Saturday and Sunday for sure. I can't wait until the weekend is over.

My junior high youth are in charge of the games. It makes for an interesting time for sure. Then the senior high puts together a "haunted" area and this year will be a pirate ship. Of course they decided to go and be completely and totally elaborate. But it should be really cool. One of my adults built a coffin for us to use and that will be beyond cool. I can't wait to see it because he's really put a lot of effort and work into it.

I will hopefully get some great pictures of what they come up with.

I started to plan into 2008 today because I was feeling ok with Sunday's plans. I might regret that, but it is good to get a start on next year. Before I know it, it will be summer and I'll be headed to Costa Rica with the youth and families of the church.

Almost every day I have a point where I realize that the way things have turned out have really been nothing short of perfect. I have awesome students who are really eager to be helpful and to learn. I am definitely blessed by the position I'm in.

I finally finished Contemplative Youth Ministry, and there was a section that really struck me hard about why those who are called into youth ministry sometimes end up there. For youth ministers to relate to their students on a level that they need, often the youth minister needs to come to a level that is open and honest and seeking to be with Jesus. For many of the youth ministers I know, this is the only way that they can truly seek to be a follower of Christ. In other situations they are tough, seem like they have it all together and are "super" Christians. When they are with their youth, another story develops. It is one of compassion and yearning to be open and honest. It is one of vulnerability. It is one of seeking to be with the youth and present with them in such a way that it in turn changes the soul of the youth director.

I was struck by this notion and can see that within me for sure. When I am with my youth, I am alive, I am vulnerable, and I am seeking to not only teach them about Jesus by trying to be an example of Christ, but I am trying to reflect the Christ that I see in them right back at them. That is the part of my job that I love. Those brief yet precious moments of seeing a youth realize that Christ is within them and alive. Those moments makes the stress in my life worth it.

proof i love my job

Thursday, October 18, 2007
On Thursday afternoons, I head out of the office (more like run trying to get out on time) and go to a local coffee shop. I meet up with youth to hang out. Today there were 4 of us total, and we had a great time with conversation. One of them did homework, one played a game with me (flicking a quarter back and forth across the table trying to score a goal by coming close to the edge without going off) and the other was her normal self and chatted away. It was awesome.

Towards the end we were all playing with cell phones and the youth across the table from me snapped this shot. I think it is proof that I love my job.

Been awhile

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A lot has come and gone in the last few weeks including the balloon fiesta (I didn't go to a mass ascension nor take any pictures, sad) a visit from my parents and a whole lot of work. I also bought a new car which has been a grand addition to my life as my old one was starting to make me mad every time I drove it and really wasn't worth sinking a whole lot of money into.

I wanted to go back and hit a bit of what I learned on the youth director retreat, mainly because I'm avoiding doing a report I actually have to do for tomorrow.

If you want to read any more on the subject of Contemplative Youth ministry, I highly suggest Yaconelli's book called Contemplative Youth Ministry. I'm about halfway through and am learning a lot more than he shared over the weekend, and thankfully I also will get to hear him speak at the beginning of January at the Perkins School of Youth Ministry event that I plan on going to.

So... the basic premise is that youth ministry is based out of anxiety, in fact a lot of ministry is based out of anxiety. This does not make for good ministry. Good ministry is based out of love. In anxiety based ministry you need to have these things to survive: solid products, professional experts to tell answers, activity based programs, conformity and predictability, & control.

As one might expect, youth don't really latch onto that model. Just hearing it myself being a young person, I want nothing to do with it...

So imagine this, a ministry based out of love involves presence. The act of being present with someone. Whether it is talking to a youth about homecoming, or a sport they are playing, or just what is going on in their life. It is a process. You can't expect to just get right to the answer. Youth may not get it right away, but they will understand better if you go through the process. Explain the what and the whys (an old Mountain TOP trick of the trade). It is creativity and inspiration. You can't just use cookie cutter programs and expect that youth will just get it. I might use books for a basic idea, but I revamp and rework it, pray about it, and sometimes whatever happens at youth isn't what I intended. That is creativity and divine inspiration.
Contemplation. Being intentional about everything that happens is an important piece of this ministry.

The word anxiety comes from a word that means "to choke." That doesn't exactly make me excited about ministry, and unfortunately that is what happens with a lot of ministry. Talk to any pastor or person involved in the ministry, and they can probably tell countless stories of this anxiety based ministry. I know that the college ministry that I worked at really was working hard when I left to get out of ministry based in anxiety. The first couple of years there were just miserable under the leadership's constant fear of rejection by the students. As our leadership changed, it took some time to get the fear and anxiety out of the college students who had been disappointed for so long. Last I heard, the ministry is really getting to be a healthy thing on campus, and is whether they know it or not, I think is moving toward a ministry based out of love.

Above all, this ministry based in love is rooted in the presence of God being in the center of everything. Reshaping the way that meetings happen. Reshaping the way that we spend time with and look at youth. Last week I started a new program for our youth. Don't tell the management... but it isn't a program. It is hanging out. On Thursdays, which to me are the end of my work week as I (try to) take Friday and Saturday off, I spend 2 hours hanging out at a local coffee shop with some youth. The youth are free to come and go as they please, there is no agenda, no Bible study, no plan. We just sit around and chat. That was truly the highlight of my work week last week because as I sat around in a circle with these youth, I knew that they felt like they mattered. To each other as well as to the adults that stopped by. It was a blessing to get to spend some time with these awesome young people outside of who they think they have to be at church and just relax and goof off. It really was a great way to head into the weekend.

So, if you are in ministry, I challenge you to evaluate how you look at ministry. Is it anxiety based? If so... get out. Change it. Read the book by Yaconelli and figure out how to make it different.

If your ministry is based in love, you'll know it. And we can't be perfect all of the time, and there are moments when we all resort to using canned programs and wanting to have all the right answers.

When I was in training to work for Mountain TOP, we watched a leadership video that to this day has stuck with me. Each day we have a choice to agree to do 4 things in our jobs or leadership positions to make it worthwhile. Those things are to play, make their day, choose your attitude, and be there. I see these 4 choices at the core of the ministry based out of love. If I wake up each morning and think through these things, I think I'll be on the right track.
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