Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's The End of The World

"It's the end of the World as we know it and I feel fine." Ah, vintage 1987 R.E.M.  (I am personally well acquainted with that fine graduating class).  I am not someone calling the end date for the world, bu many of the conversations I have been having or watching on T.V. regarding politics, war and the economy remind me of this song.  As a matter of fact, you can often hear me singing this little tune from my office from time to time.

Uncertainty, fear, powerless, disgust and hopeless are words I hear a lot of lately, but still...I feel fine.  It may be crazy, but I really am fine with all that is happening in politics, war and the economy.  I will weigh in with my passionate opinions (I have a lot) and I care deeply about the future of our world and country and what that means for my children, family and friends but still...I feel fine.  Why? Because God is in control and He is on the throne!  I was reminded of how cool and calming this fact is in a recent conversation with a "wealthy" friend and passionate follower of Christ.  We had, as I indicated above, a passionate and opinion filled conversation about politics and the economy--the outcome, we concluded, looks grim.  Even so, he looked at me and said, "I am comfortable with this scenario because it is not my stuff anyway!" (This guy has a lot of "stuff").  My friend continued to say the more he realizes his "stuff" is His "stuff" (notice the capital "H"), the more peace he has concerning the ever changing financial climate.  Now that is a great attitude!  Yes, this man gets up, goes to work and does his best to provide for his family and the church, but his perspective is set on the eternal.  The conversation left me nervous about the future economic outlook but comforted and resolved on our shared eternal outlook.  And just to be clear, eternal outlook involves the great opportunities that await God's children in THIS WORLD to share Jesus with people who are loosing confidence in their "stuff"and are opening up to the call of Jesus. 

In this crazy and uncertain end of the world as we know it climate, followers of Christ should feel fine.  I did not say "have to like it" but feel fine.  This feel fine attitude can be one of our greatest witnesses to a world that desperately needs Jesus.  After all, this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote Philippians!  Read these familiar words through the lens of contemporary culture and be comforted:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
-Philippians 4:10-13.

Question:  What are some practical ways parents/adults/youth workers instill this feel fine attitude in students?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teenagers are Human Beings

"We come in peace!" are the most common words spoken by aliens before they turn on you, scavenger human flesh and then blow up planet Earth.  This is the standard  script for alien invasion movies.  It is also the way adults often view their relationship with teenagers.  The somewhat manageable "we come in peace" days of childhood change overnight into a strange wasteland of alien activity, raging hormones and destruction of planet home life.

As a dad of a middle school son, I get the analogy.  However, brace yourself, teenagers are human beings.  They are not to be endured, they are to be cherished. They are not to be dealt with, they are to be parented.  I believe adults often treat teenagers with suspicion and contempt (I get that as well), but we need to remember they are little humans in need of adult "First Contact" (I had to continue the alien theme--sorry) in order to get from childhood to adulthood.  I am a big fan of Christian Smith and his research of students.  I recently ran across an interview of him published in the new MORF Magazine (  Check out what he said he personally took away from his study of students:

"One thing I learned from this research--which is a pretty stupid thing to have to learn as an older person, but I thin is really important--is that teenagers are people. They are not from another planet.  They are not another species.  They are just immature people just like adults are.  I think t is really important that young people have relationships with older people, real relationships, and that older people don't just think they have to survive teenagers or tolerate teenagers, but enjoy teenagers, to engage them, to have teenagers as part of their lives.  I think that's good for adults and good for teenagers. Out culture doesn't tell us that much.  If anything, it tells us the opposite and I think that that's wrong. I think what is really important and good is to learn to connect with teenagers because they are people that belong to the human race and need adults." 

Did you check out the last, highlighted line?  Students need adults!  As an adult, chances are you have a student living in your home or you know a student that needs positive adult influence.  Go ahead and start a conversation. Make first contact with this alien race of human beings and you will realize they really do seek peaceful relationships with earth's adult population.

Question:  The Smith quote contains a lot of powerful statements.  What is your favorite statement and why?  What way's are you interacting with today's student population?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting Fired for the Glory of God

Mike Yaconelli, youth ministry architect and visionary, had a gift to make everyone around him feel special, valued and uniquely gifted to impact the live of teenagers and the Kingdom. His words are still read, remembered and talked about in student ministry circles. After his death, Mike's children collected a number of their father's presentations in a book entitled Getting Fired for the Glory of God (great title for student ministry crowds that captures Yaconelli flare and passion) in which Mike's passion for students and student ministers is clearly seen.

This morning I picked up Getting Fired and read the chapter on "How Pastors Can Keep Youth Workers."  It was based on a presentation Mike gave in March of 2003 in which he gave advice to Senior Pastors on how they could better support and lengthen the staying power of student ministers.   My attention was immediately drawn to advice points 9 and 10.  Yaconnelli was talking Intergenerational ministry language before such "talk" became the buzz word at many of today's student ministry conferences!  Check it out:

9.  Now that you've hired a youth worker, don't expect that she'll do all the youth work.  Expect the congregation to volunteer, and if there's no response, go with the youth worker to personally invite others to help.  Believe that for every five kids in the middle or high school youth group, there should be one adult volunteer spending time with those kids on a regular basis.

10.  Include young people in the life of the church, not just youth night.  In fact, don't have youth night.  Put teenagers on boards, have them participate in the services and as greeters, and encourage the senior members of the congregation to "adopt" kids in the youth group so each has an older mentor, friend, pen pal, and wise sage.  Encourage both the kids and the seniors to exchange letters and tiny gifts for birthdays and special moments, and have the students put on a dinner once a year for their older pals. 

Awesome, echoing words from a student ministry sage.  Advice that needs to be picked up by Senior and Student ministers alike.  Warning, following such advice may get you fired. It is that revolutionary.

Question:  Why would such student ministry strategies get a youth worker fired?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Power of Story

I love me some Southwest Airlines.  I know there may be some haters out there, but they are the Fraze Family Preferred Carrier (I did not get paid to write that).   Besides, their magazine often offers up some good food for thought.  October's cover story was exceptional.

The power of story is something that has been hammered into my theological and cultural education and for good reason.  Shared stories are powerful.  According to this Spirit Magazine's cover story (I know...second party sourcing), recent research from Princeton University found that:

     Storytelling, it turns out, unites us on a biological level. Understanding one another connects us,
     literally as human beings.  Even better, it can connect us to ourselves (84).  

You know the truth of the above statement.  We have all experience that moment in an audience when a numb minding speaker tells a story and the audience immediately perks up and pays attention.  Why?  Stories unite, teach, illustrate, direct and energize.  Check out this month's Spirit Magazine at  In the meantime, take seriously the power of storytelling.  You may be surprised how much more your lessons hit home with students.  Oh, for those moments when you are in "lecture mode" with a student ( your own or some other kid).  Those moments are better received when you relate a story (personal if appropriate) that helps explain why you are pulling out "lecture mode."

Happy storytelling! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Turn it Off!

My wife and I had the pleasure of traveling to Nashville this weekend to spend time with a couple dear to our family.  The trip was a quick one so the kids stayed at home.  With no kids, you married people get this, we ate at some cool restaurants (those made famous on one of those "food show") and took our time talking, drinking coffee and walking around exploring a different city--a perfect weekend with the woman of my dreams. 

Part of a great weekend for us includes a hotel with a hot tub and a cup of coffee while soaking (don't judge--simple pleasures).   Other than a kid and her father (sitting at a table on the side) in the pool area, we were all alone in the hot tub.  It was a perfect!

We were lost in our own relaxing conversation when the mother of the duo showed up pool side.  We would not have noticed her had she not slammed her chair around on the stone floor--she did not look happy.  What followed next caught our attention.  There was little or no conversation taking place!  No, "How are you?" or "What's wrong sweetheart?" Okay, to be fair, maybe that type of caring conversation took place earlier, but at poolside there was no talking.  What my wife and I did notice was that the Mom (computer), Dad (iPad) and Daughter (Dad's iPhone) where sitting at a table in a great hotel (with a hot tub!) and they were staring at screens!  No talking going all...for about 20 minutes!  Crazy! 

Okay, I know some of you are thinking, "20 minutes, that's all?"  I realize we live in a "connected" generation and that may not seem like a lot of time to you.  However, all I could think about was the opportunity to "connect" this family was missing!  I wanted to insert myself into their cyber worlds and say, "Just turn it off!" and talk to each other a little. That would have been kind of cool but probably not that well received. So I just left saddened by the scene of a non-talking, screen staring family by a pool.

Let me remind all of us screen users (I get and use screens...a lot), when an opportunity to connect with your spouse, kids, family or friends presents itself in "real time" just turn it off.  You will be so glad you did. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wonderful World of Blogging--Observation #1

I have waited long enough.  It is time to dive into the world of blogging.  Truth be told, writing is a hard and challenging task for me (I am sure readers will periodically be able to find one, two, three or more grammatical miscues).  Still, there are times in which an observation is just to good to go without sharing.  So...I am entering the wonderful world of blogging and want to share the first, of hopefully many meaningful, observations. 

I attempt to spend time each morning with the Bible and/or a good devotional book. I say "attempt" because I am not always able to make this happen. When this time is secured it starts my day off well and often leads to a powerful insight from the Lord.  Today was one of those insightful days.

I was reading through Ezra. 

"Ezra?" "What is a student minister doing reading Ezra?" 

I am glad you asked.

Contrary to some, student ministers do and should read the Bible (I had to go there).  I periodically try to read through a book of the Bible that features a leader.  I read with a lens that helps me identify the strengths and weakness of that leader in order to find applicable leadership principles for my own life.  It really is a cool way to read and apply the Bible for ministers.  While reading, I came across a verse that caught my attention.

Before I share the verse, let me give you a little background on one of my current student ministry passions--Intergenerational Student Ministry.  In short, this approach to student ministry attempts to bridge the generational gap present in much of today's church programming by creating opportunities for meaningful relationships (loaded word) to be developed across generational lines.  Why the passion?  Because such programming is one of the key factors in assimilating and keeping students in the Body of Christ.  I will often write of  this passion.  Now the verse that caught my attention (I will highlight the cool part):

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of    the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen  the       former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.  No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.-Ezra 3:11ff

Here is the context.  The people of Israel have just finished rebuilding the foundation of the once destroyed foundation of the Temple in Jerusalem and it was awesome.  They all gave thanks to the LORD, but while the young worshiped joyfully, the older individuals wept.  I loved the way that both young and old are mentioned and their particular view of this powerful event highlighted.

Did you see it? It is within the highlighted verse?

"No one could distinguish...." I like that a lot.  The picture given is of one diverse community of believers expressing each heart's own unique response before their LORD.  Yet, all that onlookers could hear, was one indistinguishable sound.

That is a great picture of an intergenerational faith community.