thESource unPlugged Summer 2012
LCMS Servant Events
LCMS Servant Events:
- provide opportunities for Christian service to the Church and world. - include Bible study, group buildling, and connection to other youth. - take youth out of their comfort zone and into the reality of others. - invite participants to live what they believe. - give youth opportunities to share their love of Christ with the .
people of the world.
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blogs Betwixt: Middle School Ministry
Snark, Crackle, Pop Culture
Word One Devotion
tools & resources iDentity
Hold On Loosely
The Hunger Games Book Talk
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thESource unPlugged is published annually by the Office of National Mission, Youth Ministry of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2012 The Office of National Mission, Youth Ministry of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Youth Ministry Office is: Rev. Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, Director Amy Gray, Project Coordinator Rev. Mark Kiessling, Associate Director— National Youth Gathering Jim Lohman, Associate Director— Servant Events/Gathering Arrangements Krista Miller, Associate Director— Gathering Registrar/Operations Contracted Resource Personnel: Sherrah Behrens, thESource Editor Jessica Bordeleau, Lutheran Youth Fellowship/ Young Adult Ministry Consultant Photos on cover and pages 7-9 by Jon Dittmer at the 2010 National LCMS Youth Gathering Photos on pages 10-11 by Rachel Brunette, apricot-studio.com Photos on pages 20-22 by Mark Cook
BIBLE STUDY: iDentity
by Rev. Jay Reed
Part One: iCreated (by God) It seems like everybody is into I today—iPhones, iTunes, iPod, iThis, iThat—it’s all about I. What is the problem with a society that so heavily focuses on I? When is it appropriate to focus on I? We live in a world that markets to I and wants to shape our identity. So let’s begin with these questions: What makes up our identity? Where do we get our identity? (Allow time for answers. At this point students may not link their identity to who they are in Christ.) Over the next four weeks, we’ll look at our identity from God’s point of view. My Plain Ol’ Rock (5 min) You’ll need rocks and a few sharpies for this section. Divide your teens into groups of six to eight and provide a one- to two-inch stone for each student. Allow them to each pick out a stone. Even as God’s people, we can sometimes feel like we don’t count, like there’s nothing special about us or our lives. Have you ever felt plain, ordinary and pretty much insignificant? Kind of like one of these rocks? Jot down on the student sheet under “My Plain Ol’ Rock Time” when that was and share it with your group. All About My Rock (10 min.) Take a few minutes to study your stone, taking in as much information as you can through all your senses. Give your stone a name and write it on the stone. Make up a history about it. Think about how your stone got its physical characteristics, what life events it has gone through, how it came to where it is today, etc. Give students a few minutes to come up with their stories, then have them take turns sharing their stones’ biographies. It’s amazing how, in such a short time, some of you were able to give a plain old stone a unique identity—a personality, a history and even how it got its physical uniqueness. Today we’re going to look at how we, as God’s children, each have a unique identity that has been given to us by God—as you gave a unique identity to your rock. Psalm 139 (15 min) Read Ps. 139:1-16. Discuss the following questions: 1. Where can you ever go that God is not there? (verse 7-10) (nowhere) 2. What is a good thing about God being there, wherever you go? (verse 10) 3. What are some “not-so-good” things about God seeing and knowing what you do and wherever you go? 4. Biologically, we know that human conception happens when a sperm joins an egg. What do verses 13-16 say about how we are formed? (by God’s intention and knowledge)
5. What does verse 16 indicate about every moment of your life? (God knows every moment before a single one is lived out) 6. Someone says to you, “All life is basically an accident; it’s about luck and chance.” From what you see in Psalm 139, how would you respond? Psalm 139 gives us a picture of God creating us, weaving His purpose and design into our lives. Now take a look at 1 John 4:9-16. 7. According to these verses, the God who created us has an incredible love for us. What is the clearest indication of that love? (verse 10) (Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins) Note: Most people assume God’s love is a feeling, because that’s how our culture understands love. However, in the Bible, God’s love is an action—God does not feel love as much as He does love. 8. Compared to how most people respond when you wrong them, how does God respond? How do you absolutely know you are forgiven and loved by God even when you don’t feel it? (We absolutely know that we are loved and forgiven through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross that is applied to us individually in our Baptism and as we receive His body and blood, given and shed for us, in the Lord’s Supper. The truth of God’s love, given to us in Word and Sacrament, is powerfully real, even when we don’t feel it.) 9. First John 4:16 tells us three things that God has created us for. What are they? (to know, to believe and to abide in His love for us) Have students fill in the blanks at the bottom of the student sheet. (“I am created by God to know, believe and abide in His love through Jesus Christ.”) Wrap Up (5 min) How do Psalm 139 and 1 John 4 give you an identity that is different from that of someone who does not know that she is created by God and loved by Christ? Write one good thing you have learned or been reminded of from this lesson under the section, “When I’m feeling like a plain ol’ rock, I will remember…” Use what you just wrote as a prayer of thanks to God. Collect the rocks from your students to be used for the next session. Part Two: iChosen (by God) We learned from Psalm 139 that our first identity is that we are created by God. No matter what else we become in our lives, our first identity is always as a child of God. Today we want to look at what that means.
Another ID: Nickname (10 min.) Pick up the rocks that you named from the last session and get into groups of six to eight again. Think of a nickname for your rock and come up with a story of why you gave that nickname to your rock. Share in your group. Now place your stones in a pile. One person from the group should close his eyes while the others mix up the stones in the pile. The object is to see if the person with his eyes closed can identify his own stone by feel, without looking. Allow everyone to have a turn. Sticks and Stones (5 min.) 1. As a kid, what were some of the nicknames people called you? Which ones did you like? Which ones didn’t you like? Why? 2. What are some negative names that people your age commonly use to put each other down? 3. What are some names that you and your friends use for each other that are positive and encouraging? 1 Peter 2:9-10 (15 min.) “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” True or false? Why? Allow them to share comments then have them read 1 Peter 2:9-10. Peter is writing to the Church during a time of suffering and persecution of God’s people. Persecution was not simply peer pressure or verbal attacks based on your beliefs, but often meant losing your freedom, property and even your life. Today, persecution sometimes comes through names, put-downs and stereotypes. This passage in 1 Peter was written to bring encouragement to believers then and now to remind us who we really are and what we really have in Christ. In 1 Peter 1:3 Peter tells us God has caused us to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 4. Based on the hope given to us by God in Christ, 1 Peter 2:9 lists four blessings that come from our identity in Christ. What are they? (see question 5) 5. What does it mean to be a “chosen people”? How about a “royal priesthood”? A “holy nation”? A “people belonging to God”? 6. This all sounds great, but when we consider our lives—our thoughts, words, actions and who we are, why might we be tempted to believe that God would not call or choose us? (because we don’t act like holy people so why would He call us) 7. If we often don’t deserve God’s mercy, why does He still give it to us and choose us? (see Rom. 5:8-10) (it’s a gift, earned for us through Jesus’ death that pays for our shortcomings, sins and failures and make us holy before God)
8. In worship, how are we assured of our chosenness in God’s sight? (through the means of grace: the promise of God’s Word in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) 9. If God were to say “You are chosen by Me and belong to Me,” what difference would that make in a) the way you see yourself? b) the way you act? Many times in Scripture God calls His people by positive names before they act like His chosen people or realize who they really are because of Him. Think of times when God refers to His people in positive ways before they prove worthy of those names. Share a couple. (Renaming of Abram- Gen. 17:3-8; Jacob- Gen. 32:2228; Solomon- 2 Sam. 12:24-25; Peter- John 1:42 and Matt. 16:17-19) Peter reminds us that God has given each of us an incredible identity through Jesus Christ: chosen by Him in love and belonging to Him as His very own. Aside from looking kind of funny, what difference would it make in the way you see yourself and the way you act if you walked around with a huge sign around your neck that read, “Chosen and loved by God!”? Wrap Up (5 min.) Many of you were able to pick out your rock with your eyes closed. You’re getting to know this rock by the stories you have created, the identity you are giving it. Imagine how much more God knows each one of us, whom He has given shape to in the womb. Think about the fact that God was and is shaping your identity in His love for you through Jesus. That’s why remembering that we are chosen and loved in Christ is so critical; because the world around us, sometimes the people closest to us and even we ourselves, might say or do things that will tempt us to believe our identity is something else. Write the word “Chosen” on your rock. There are times when we will all feel like “plain ol’ rocks.” Think about the blessings you have received in the identity God gives you by completing the phrase at the bottom of the student page. Use your response as a prayer.
Part Three: iWorth (by God) What’s It Worth? (10 min.) Claim your rock and gather into groups of six to eight. Someone is interested in buying your rock for $100,000, but you need to make the case for why your rock is worth so much. Invite a number of students to present their cases for why they think their rock is worth $100,000. Would you treat your rock differently if someone paid $100,000 for it and then asked you to take care of it? How so? Ask students to assign value to the body parts listed on the student page, then share the following estimates gathered from an internet medical source (you might want to do a search if you want first-hand figures): Lung: $116,000 Kidney: $91,400 Heart: $57,000 What makes something or someone valuable? Is it simply a sum of parts or something else? (Allow for a few minutes of discussion.) Worth can be measured in a number of ways. Something’s value may have to do with the sum total of its parts, what it is capable of producing or simply what someone would be willing to pay for it. When it comes to people, what we’re worth is a much trickier question. In our world today, people often think some people are worth more than others. What things might make some people worth more than others in the world’s eyes? (Give your students a few minutes to answer.) 1. What about you? If you were measured by the world, would you be worth much? 2. Why do you think teens struggle with their self worth? 3. How does a low self worth affect the way people act and live? Fortunately, our true worth is not dependent on what this world around us thinks, but on a different standard. Matthew 13:14 (10 min.) 4. There are a couple ways to view this parable. One is that the kingdom of God is the treasure. If that is the case, then what is the field and who is the man? What is the point for us as readers of the parable? You might ask students here, “Why couldn’t you buy the kingdom even if you sold all you have or gave up your life?” The parable has limitations in that the Kingdom is not for sale and if it were, you’d have to live a perfect life in God’s eyes to buy it! 5. Another view is to read the parable through the lens of John 3:16. In that case, we are the treasure. So then, who is the man, what is the field and what does the man sell in order to gain the treasure? According to this interpretation, what worth does our life have in God’s eyes? 6. In Jesus’ parables, fields represent the whole world. So what does the parable suggest that Jesus bought
because He considers you a treasure? (He was willing to pay for the whole world.) 7. Why should this make a difference in the way we view ourselves? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (10 min.) 8. This verse focuses on being bought. What have you been bought from? What have you been bought for? (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-21) Basically, God bought us from the power of sin, death and the devil. He bought us from a life of hopelessness, fear and struggle on our own. He bought us for an eternal existence with Him that includes right now. He bought us for a relationship with Him that means we live with His purpose, His joy and His love. This verse also focuses on the price that was paid that determines our worth. 9. What would happen if you weren’t bought? (would still be enslaved to sin) What were you bought with? (see 1 Peter 1:18-19) 10. How does the fact that Jesus baptizes you into His death and resurrection—and then gives you His redeeming body and blood—show your worth in God’s eyes? Wrap Up (5 min.) If your rock was worth $100,000, you’d definitely look at it and treat it with special care for the person who entrusted it to you. Thinking of your life in God’s eyes, it’s not just like a plain ol’ rock. Thinking about the worth that God has placed in it through Jesus, complete the following statements: “Because of the price Jesus Christ paid, in God’s eyes I am worth…” “When I’m feeling like a plain ol’ rock, I will remember…” Use what you wrote as a closing prayer.
Part Four: iNamed(by God) What’s in a name? (10 min.) Look up the meanings of the names of the kids in your group or have them do it during the study if you have the means to research. Break them into groups of six to eight and invite them to use smart phones or wi-fi connected devices to find out what their names mean. Have them note the origins and significance behind their names.
Were there any surprises in what you found? How many of you were named for a certain reason or purpose? Do you know how you got your name? Was your name significant to your parents for any specific reason? Have them discuss the answers to the following questions on their student sheets: 1. Do you like your name? Why or why not? 2. How does your name fit your personality? If you could choose another name for yourself, what would it be and why? Ephesians 1:3-14 (20 min) Read Eph. 1:3-14. List all the identity words/adjectives you can find. The list should include: Holy, blameless Adopted Redeemed, forgiven Chosen, predestined Included, marked with a seal Heirs of the Kingdom Now that you have listed these words, come up with a personal definition for each word. Then think of one way each of these identity names God gives to us might help us in our outlook on life. For example: Holy- Set apart by God for His special purpose. When I think that I am set apart for God’s purposes, it helps me to make more positive choices with my words and actions at school. Blameless- Because Jesus died for me, God is for me and not against me and it’s as if I have no blame before Him. This helps me to start each day new, not having to be burdened by yesterday’s mistakes and past sins. Redeemed- Bought back for a price. As I think about Jesus’ sacrifice to buy me back from sin, death and the devil, it helps me to realize that I am precious to Him and I want to show Him my gratitude in the way I live my life.
Predestined- God chose me to be His own before He spoke the first “let there be” at creation. My life is in the strong hands of God. He has done all the work in giving Christ to die on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins, calling me by the Gospel, moving me to repent and trust in Jesus, keeping me in the faith and eventually bringing me into eternity with Him. It allows me to live confidently through any trial or temptation knowing that God has my back. Sealed- It’s a done deal! I don’t ever have to fear rejection by God because in my Baptism and by the promise of His Word, I am sealed with Him forever. Give students time to fill out their student sheets as a group, then ask them to share their responses. A Name for Now (5 min.) This passage reveals many aspects of our identity in Christ that God has given to us as His people. For instance, there are times in our lives when we really need to see God as our Father, to comfort and strengthen us. There are times in our lives when we need to see God as Spirit to teach and guide us. There are times in our lives when we need to see God as our Savior to forgive and restore us. Although God is always all of these to us and more, certain identities, gifts and blessings of God may mean more to us than others, depending on our life circumstances and situations at the moment. Considering where you are in your life situation right now, which of the blessings/characteristics from the Ephesians passage means the most to you right now? Why? How does it help you to understand your identity in Christ? How does it affect how you live in this world right here, right now? Wrap Up (5 min.) Fill in a response on your student sheets after, “The next time I feel like a plain ol’ rock, I will remember I am_________” and share them in your groups. As you share, write the identity you picked earlier on your rock. Take your rock home and put it on your dresser or night stand as a daily reminder of who you are and Whose you are in Christ. Close your time together by praying for the person on your left, thanking God for blessing them with the quality/characteristic they chose and asking Him to bless how they see themselves through Him each day. Jay Reed is pastor of Light of the Valley Lutheran Church in Elk Grove, Calif. Scan this code with your smart phone to get a PDF of the Leader’s Guide and Student Sheet for this Bible study.
Not a Beginning or an Ending Although most people in western culture have heard of confirmation, misconceptions about both the classes before the rite of confirmation and the rite itself abound. Interestingly, two of these misconceptions are opposite sides of the same coin. While some people mistakenly think of confirmation classes as the beginning of a young person’s Christian education, others incorrectly conclude that the rite of confirmation marks the end of a young person’s Christian education. Confirmation is not the beginning of a person’s Christian education. Some families bring their children to be baptized as infants and then are almost completely absent from the congregation until it is time for their children to be confirmed. They may assume that children are not able to understand spiritual things or they may just see Baptism as an immunization against hell and confirmation as a necessary booster shot. In reality, Baptism is the first step in a child’s daily, life-long journey of faith.
by Heather Melcher
If parents are not actively helping their children build a relationship with God by studying their Bibles, learning to pray and participating in a congregation, then they are essentially teaching their children that these things are not important. Prov. 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” We would not dream of expecting our children to survive on formula from a bottle until they were in the sixth grade. Likewise, children need daily, age-appropriate spiritual food long before they are ready for confirmation. Confirmation is also not the end of a person’s Christian education. Many young people and their parents think of the rite of confirmation as a graduation from Sunday school. It is important to help confirmands, their families and the congregation understand that confirmation instruction provides only a very basic foundation on which people are meant to keep building their faith daily for the rest
of their lives. While publicly confessing one’s faith durages, picture books, young adult books, fiction, books on ing the rite of confirmation marks an important milemarriage and Christian parenting, DVDs, music CDs and stone in a child’s spiritual life, this milestone is nowhere any other resource that would help congregation memnear an end point of faith development. Most teens will bers grow in faith. In your newsletter or bulletin, include struggle to hold on to their young faith if the adults in book reviews, notices about new books and recommentheir lives do not continue to emphasize the importance dations about seasonal books. Make sure everyone in the of worship, Holy Communion, prayer, Bible study and congregation knows how to check out resources from participation in a congregation. In your library. Include library time in Heb. 10:23-25, we are told, “Let us your Sunday school hour, confirmahold fast the confession of our hope tion class time or youth group time. While publicly without wavering, for he who promIf possible, relocate the library to confessing one’s faith a high-traffic area of your church ised is faithful. And let us consider during the rite of how to stir up one another to love building so that people are more and good works, not neglecting to likely to remember it is available. confirmation marks meet together, as is the habit of Provide Christian Education Opan important some, but encouraging one another, portunities for All Ages milestone in a child’s and all the more as you see the Day Families tend to drop away from drawing near.” We must remember church attendance between the time spiritual life, this that Christian parents are not just milestone is nowhere their children are baptized and the their children’s parents but are also time when those children become near an end point of brothers or sisters in Christ to their old enough for a preschool Sunday faith development. children. Confirmation is not the end school class. They may think they are of a child’s Christian education and it just taking a break from church while is not the end of parents’ responsibiltheir children are small, but many of ity to nurture their children’s faith. them get so out of the habit of church attendance that The best way to overcome misconceptions about they never do come back, or only come back for a couple confirmation is to create a culture of life-long Christian of years while their children are going through confireducation in your congregation. mation classes. Consider adding a babies and parents Emphasize Baptism as the Beginning of a Child’s Sunday school class so parents can bring their babies Christian Education along with them to class, pray for their children together, When children are baptized, make a point to clarify pray for the other parents and have a short hands-free that they have become members of the body of Christ Bible study in which all Bible verses are projected on a and of the congregation. Provide parents with resources wall. Help recently confirmed young people transition to help their young children grow in faith at home. If to youth group. Help graduating youth transition to a you have a church library, be sure to invite parents of young adult or adult Bible study group. Provide a weekyoung children to use the library and take the time to day Bible study option for adults so that Sunday school show them around and explain how they can borrow teachers and people who work on Sunday can also have books and other resources. an opportunity for a weekly Bible study. Maintain a Functional Church Library Many congregations have at least one shelving unit set aside as a library. However, these “libraries” are often a random collection of books donated by members over the years. There are often several inappropriate, outdated or theologically incorrect books mixed in among a disorganized collection of resources that could be helpful if anyone knew they were there. A good solution is to form a library committee which can, with the help of your pastor, decide on guidelines for what kinds of books and other resources will be included in the library. The library could include concordances, Bible dictionaries, devotions for all
Help Confirmands Transition From Confirmation to Youth Group Your youth group could host a confirmation party for the confirmands to welcome them to youth group. Some youth groups have a tradition of kidnapping the confirmands and taking them out for ice cream or for some other fun activity as a welcome to youth group. If you have a youth room, you could have a membership wall or a membership book where new members get to design a tile or a page that includes their names, the date they started attending youth group, a favorite Bible verse and personal artwork that shares their faith. You could make it a tradition that confirmands are invited to put their names on the wall or in the book on the day they are confirmed or at a confirmation party hosted by the youth group. Youth group leaders could pair each newly confirmed young person with an older member
of the youth group as a mentor and encourager who will help the confirmand stay connected and involved with youth group through the summer and through their first year in youth group. Teach Confirmands and Youth About How the Church is Run Most of our Christian education focuses on the Bible, but part of our lives as Christians also include keeping a church running smoothly. Young people will be more likely to regularly attend worship and stay connected to a congregation if they feel included and needed. Arrange times for each board, guild or other group in your congregation to meet with the confirmands and/or youth to teach them how congregation members share their unique gifts, skills and interests to keep the church running smoothly. The altar guild and elders could show them where communionware, linens and flowers are stored and explain how these items are handled. The trustees and janitor could explain how they repair, maintain and clean the church. The financial secretary, money counters and board of stewardship could explain how your congregation handles offering, offering envelopes, paying bills, keeping records, managing gifted funds, etc. Your pastor and any other professional church workers could explain what kind of education they completed and describe the various things they do during their work week. Young people could even be allowed to serve in an apprentice role by doing things like cleaning or polishing items, helping with a repair project, putting new offering envelopes in congregational mail boxes, photocopying bulletins, making stewardship posters, going on a nursing home visit with the pastor, etc. You might even choose to require that each confirmand complete a service project or a certain number of apprentice hours before being confirmed. Confirmation is an important milestone in a young personâ€™s faith development, but it should never be treated as either a beginning or an end. Heather Melcher is a DCE who has written feature articles for Teachers Interaction magazine and was a contributor to two books: Lutheranism 101 and A New Song, I Have Set My King on Zion, both published by Concordia Publishing House.
BETWIXT: Middle Sch Ten Essentials Every Youth Worker Needs
Recently, I had an enlightening conversation that started the wheels turning in my head. Interestingly enough, it was with a hair stylist I had just met. Inevitably, small talk between two new acquaintances always turns to “What do you do?” as soon as chatter about the weather is exhausted. So, when my stylist asked the question— right on cue—I responded that I was a youth leader. She listened with amusement as I recounted some colorful stories about my job, and then hit me with a question I’ve never heard before: “So, what are some things you always need to have on hand, as you’re dealing with middle school kids all the time?” I had to admit, I’d never considered that question before. Without even thinking, the first thing I blurted out had her in stitches: “Trash bags. Lots and lots and lots of trash bags.” By the way—having your stylist shaking with laughter while holding a razor-sharp object alarmingly near your brain is a slightly terrifying experience, in case you were wondering. So, what are the top ten items a youth leader needs to possess, in my opinion? #10. Tarps (or, as I think of it, a mediocre substitute for an attentive janitor) Here’s something that most people don’t know about me: I really dislike being dirty. I’m very tidy and won’t even eat a single meal without a napkin. So I can’t even begin to explain why every youth event I do seems to be the messiest, goofiest activity you could possibly plan. Exploding flour bombs? Drippy paint projects? Tie-dying socks and shirts? Mashed potato sculpting? Gingerbread house building on kids’ heads? I’ve done it all...and believe me, having a plentiful supply of tarps has saved me quite a bit of clean up. #9. Febreze (or “Save-Your-Nostrils Spray,” as we fondly refer to it) If you’ve ever spent time with a seventh-grade boy in the middle of summer (um, or any other time of the year), you know why this is a must-have for any youth leader. And if you’ve ever had to spend a few days or longer with middle school students, you know that you can’t survive without some sort of top-notch stench-masking spray. I always restock our Febreze supply right before mission trips, and every year I have leaders confess
that it’s been the most-used item on the trip. Take a cue from our book—on our mission trip to central Florida last summer, we ended up lining up our large group and spraying them down, military-style, to save all of our noses. #8. A Clipboard (a.k.a. “The Portable Command Post”) This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we attempt to tackle our busy events and activities sans clipboard. It’s always at that moment when you’re talking to a parent, frantically searching for a pen to write down a phone number, and three more people are handing in forms, that you find yourself desperately wishing for a clipboard to organize your twenty-eight thousand papers and envelopes. As a clipboard connoisseur, I suggest a fine storage clipboard, which has a handy locking container for storing a sizeable bundle of papers and pens, along with a lovely clipboard front to hold your most important documents. #7. A Rubber Chicken (or as it’s also called, “Catnip for Middle Schoolers”) Any youth leader worth his salt can think of forty-six games utilizing a rubber chicken in no time flat. But, if you’re like me, you’ll revert to the good ol’ standby: Capture the Chicken. At the very least, toss it to your middle schoolers and watch them squeak and stretch your rubber chicken for hours on end—much like an alligator plays with its prey before chomping it to bits. #6. Trash Bags (a simple staple that parents will never stop praising you for having on hand)
ool Ministry If I had a dollar for every trash bag I’ve used in my years in youth ministry, I’d be a rich woman. If I had a dollar for every time I used a trash bag in a wildly creative way that I never figured I’d use it for—I’d be Bill Gates. From sledding aid to harmless weapon to protective gear for messy events, I’ve done it all with the help of my trusty trash bags. After all, how else are you going to send kids home in their parents’ cars when they’re covered with powdered sugar, ketchup or chocolate sauce? #5. An iPod, radio or CD player (or possibly a banjo, if you’re from the Deep South) This goes without explanation, right? Much like aloe soothes a blistering sunburn, music soothes the wild beasts that are middle schoolers. Well...it can also fan the fire of their energy, too. But fifty-fifty odds aren’t bad, really. Oh, and a helpful tip? Put your iPod in a bowl to make it louder. Works like a charm. #4. Markers and Scrap Paper (for your inner preschooler and/or Leonardo da Vinci) These supplies present a win-win: girls will sit and doodle for hours, while boys will make vicious paper airplanes and color all over each other’s faces, effectively allowing both groups to do what they love most at the same time. But careful, fellow youth leaders, permanent markers and middle schoolers do not mix. Unless you want to break the news to a student that someone spent an entire night sketching all over his face with permanent marker, take my advice and lock those in your desk. #3. A First-Aid Kit and a Plan for Dealing with Emergencies (and yes, that includes planning for zombie attacks) I always make sure to have an easily transportable first-aid kit on hand. My most frequently utilized tools from this kit include sterilization swabs, tweezers, band-aids and ice packs. Bonus points to you if you keep a freezer stocked with fruit-flavored ice pops—those can be a tempting substitute for an ice pack, too (although I don’t recommend trying to use five-gallon ice cream containers as ice packs—I’ve tried). It’s also important to have
by Cassie Moore
a plan for dealing with emergencies—every leader needs to know where the phones, exits and fire extinguishers are, and accident report paperwork and your first-aid kit need to be easily accessible to everyone. Consider going through some worst-case scenarios with your leaders and discussing what roles you would play—including how you would handle a zombie attack. Hey...just in case. #2. An Endless Supply of Patience (or, my mantra, “This will make a great chapter in a book someday”) Someday, your former students will write poetic masterpieces praising your everlasting tolerance. But don’t get your hopes up—they won’t appreciate it while they’re in middle school. In fact, they won’t even think twice about how hard you have it as a leader trying to deal with one of the most challenging ages you can possibly work with. But, to love like Christ does, it requires an incalculable amount of patience...even when students aren’t listening, things are going wrong and you’re completely fed up. #1. A Servant Heart (that beats steadily when beating in rhythm with the Savior) I’ve wiped up blood, put out fires, washed dirty feet, loaned out clothes and books that I’ll never get back, listened to tearful temper tantrums, pulled kids back from attempted leaps from roofs and cliffs, played endless rounds of boring games, slept on the floor and stayed up hours later than I wanted to. And that’s not even mentioning the countless other unpleasant things I’ve encountered as a youth leader. But through it all, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the Holy Spirit works through me—and through all of us—when I simply follow His promptings and serve His children to the best of my ability. Being a youth leader who positively impacts the lives of others and points people to our Heavenly Father is simple, as long as we keep that thought at the forefront of our minds. Now, I just need to schedule another haircut and recount this list to my stylist...where’s my clipboard? Cassie Moore is a DCE who loves middle schoolers. She recently moved to Cedar Park, Texas. Scan this code with your smart phone for more Betwixt: Middle School Ministry.
BIBLE STUDY: Hold On Loosely
Hook Before students arrive create a pair of similar sculptures using playdough. When you begin, ask for two volunteers. Place the sculptures in their hands. Have one volunteer hold the sculpture in their open palm. Have the other volunteer hold the sculpture with a closed hand, at first loosely without squeezing. Gradually have the volunteer tighten their grip on the sculpture, slowly crushing it. Once crushed, have each of the volunteers, without moving their fingers, offer their sculptures to someone else in the room. • So which one of these sculptures would you like to have? Why? Talk about why they make the choices that they do. • How might this sculpture be like the gifts God has given each of us? Lead the students in a transition toward the introduction of the Scripture reading. Book Introduce passage: In chapter eight of 2 Corinthians, Paul has been discussing how local churches can financially support and uplift one another through gifts of generosity. In the beginning of chapter nine, Paul offers an example of this generosity as a relief effort which was underway in Macedonia for the church in Jerusalem. In this context, Paul then introduces that a proper understanding of generosity flows out of God’s blessings to us. Have a volunteer read 2 Cor. 9:6-15.
by Dave Rueter
Commentary on passage: The Gospel rather than the Law ought to be our motivation to share generously. As God’s grace flows out on us, it then overflows our lives and flows into the lives of others. This is the natural course of God’s gracious giving activity. We receive out of the generosity of others only to then impart generously God’s gifts to yet more people. We offer thanksgiving to God through our generosity and demonstrate His grace to those who do not yet know Him. • What ought to be our attitude toward the calls from Scripture to give generously? • How is it that we come by this attitude? • What prevents the cultivation of this attitude? Look Pose the following hypothetical situation for small groups to discuss: A student in your high school is known to have limited resources. He has worn-out clothes. He eats leftovers he gathers from other students. He appears tired, seemingly aged beyond his years. How might you help him? Took After the small groups share their ideas with the larger group, have them think about concrete ways in which they need to adjust their attitude toward generosity with God’s gifts. Have them pray together about how God might empower them to desire out of love for Christ to share His love through acts of kindness and generosity. Encourage the small groups to remain in prayer for each other throughout the coming week(s) that they may adopt God’s will for their lives and truly seek to serve and give a thank offering for all that God has graciously done for them. Dave Rueter is the Youth and Family Facilitator for the Pacific Southwest District as well as Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Concordia University, Irvine. Scan this code with your smart phone to get the full Bible study.
BOOK TALK: The Hunge by Hannah Miller and Jamie Walters
Summary: The Hunger Games, a young adult dystopian novel, was first published in 2008 and is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It is the first of a trilogy telling the story of Panem and its narrator, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is a sixteen-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place. (www.suzannecollinsbooks.com) The Capitol and the Game Makers, who rather enjoy watching twenty-four children kill each other on what is essentially reality TV, require the Districts to treat the Games as a festivity, a sporting event. The last Tribute alive receives a life of ease back home and their District receives gifts of grain, oil and sugar for a year. Throughout the story of The Hunger Games, an air of rebellion and uprising develops; however, it is the subsequent books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, that flesh out these ideas. Recommended Reading Age: thirteen and up (due to some violence) Characters Katniss Everdeen: Sixteen years old. The main character and narrator of the story, everything is seen through her perspective. She is tough, strong and self-reliant. Since her father was killed in a mining accident when she was eleven, she has been providing for the family by hunting outside the District. Peeta Mellark: Sixteen years old. Baker’s son. He is described as genuine and funny. Becomes partner to and love-interest for Katniss during the Games. In District 12: Gale Hawthorne: Eighteen years old. Katniss’ best friend and fellow hunter. Provides for his mother and two brothers after the death of his father in the same accident that took Katniss’ father. Primrose Everdeen: Twelve years old. Katniss’ younger sister. Studies healing from her mother. Haymitch Abernathy: Paunchy, middle-aged man, likes to drink. Participated in and won the Games thirty plus years ago. The sole living victor from the District. Serves as mentor for Katniss and Peeta. In the Capitol: Effie Trinket: District 12’s escort to the Games.
Responsible for drawing the Tributes’ names at the Reaping and advocates for District 12’s Tributes during the Games. Cinna: Katniss’ stylist for the Games. His well-calculated costuming seems to inspire those watching the Games to support Katniss. Portia: Peeta’s stylist for the Games. Works to coordinate costumes with Cinna/Katniss. Venia/Flavius/Octavia: Katniss’ prep team for the Games. Excitable and eccentric. President Snow: President of Panem. Plays a bigger role in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Tributes of note: *NOTE: There are twenty-four Tributes to the Games, a male and female from each District. All tributes are between the ages of twelve and eighteen years old and vary in build and training. The Careers: Those Tributes from Districts 1, 2 and 4. Marvel and Glimmer (District 1), and Clove and Cato (District 2) are the Careers of note. Foxface: Sly, quick. Thresh and Rue: From District 11, whose industry is Agriculture. Rue, twelve years old and small, becomes Katniss’ ally during the Games. Synopsis: (contains spoilers) The story opens with our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, on “Reaping Day.” Reaping Day is an annual tradition in the futuristic, dystopian country of Panem (what was once the United States). Panem is a totalitarian country that is divided into thirteen Districts and is ruled over by the Capitol. Every year, as punishment dictated by the Capitol for a failed rebellion, the districts are required to send two child tributes—one male, one female—to fight in a battle (called the “Hunger Games”) to the death to win food for their district. Katniss, a resident of small, impoverished, and overlooked District 12, and all other children aged twelve to eighteen are required to participate in the Reaping, the process by which Tributes are chosen. On Reaping Day, Katniss, her long-time hunting buddy and friend Gale and Katniss’s sister Prim attend the ceremony to see whose name is drawn from their District. When twelve-year-old Prim’s name is drawn, Katniss volunteers to take her place as Tribute. The male tribute is Peeta Mellark, a classmate of Katniss’s. Peeta and Katniss are given a brief opportunity to say goodbye to their families and friends before they are ushered onto a train that will take them to the Capitol to prepare and train for the Hunger Games. They are introduced to their mentor, Haymitch, a District 12 winner of the games. The mentor’s job is to help
er Games Tributes train as well as work with sponsors during the Games. Sponsors provide life-saving supplies to the tributes throughout the duration of the Games. Upon arriving in the Capitol, Katniss is introduced to Cinna, her stylist. Cinna soon becomes Katniss’s friend and encourager as he helps her prepare for the Games. After several days of training and public events, Katniss and Peeta become known as the tributes to beat. During the Games, Katniss allies with Rue, a Tribute from District 11, until Rue is killed. As the Games continue, Katniss seeks out and saves Peeta from dying. Soon, few Tributes are left and the Capitol announces that if both Tributes from the District are the last remaining Tributes, they can both win. Peeta and Katniss devise a plan to defeat the remaining Tributes and win the Hunger Games. Discussion Questions: 1. What are some similarities and differences of our culture versus the society of Panem (the twelve Districts and the Capitol)? How varied are the differences between the living situations in the Districts versus the Capitol (i.e. housing, food, transportation, cleanliness)? Do we see these same differences in our world today? What, if anything, can we do about the differences? (James 1:27) 2. Katniss and Gale break several rules (hunting outside District 12, selling their hunt illegally) in order to provide for their families. Is it ever acceptable to break laws set by those in authority? In what circumstances? What does the Bible say in response to this? (John 14:15) 3. The Capitol is a society that thrives on fashion, fancy food and instant gratification. How is this viewed by Katniss and Peeta? What does this say about the members of the Capitol’s “priorities”? How does this attitude play into the Capitol’s fascination with the Games? How do these issues of vanity, instant gratification and entertainment for the sake of others affect us today? How do we, as Christians, respond and react to these issues? (1 Peter 3:3-4, Ps. 130:4-6) 4. Each of the Tributes in the Games has certain abilities that others do not have (e.g. Katniss with the bow and arrow; Peeta’s strength and painting). Though this is an extreme example of using our gifts, how can The Hunger Games help us to recognize and use our gifts? On the first day of training for the Games, Peeta identifies Katniss as a superior hunter even though she down-plays her abilities to their mentor Haymitch. What gifts do you see yourself as having? What gifts do others see
in you? (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12:3-8) 5. In order to survive the arena, the Tributes must kill each other to win the game, and in turn, food for their District. Does this justify their actions? Is there such a thing as a “just” reason for killing another? Can you think of examples in the world today where people justify killing for the “right cause” (example: Joseph Kony, Al Qaeda, Adolf Hitler)? (Ex. 20:13, Matt. 5:21-25) 6. The games are an annual source of entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol (much like the Superbowl). However, there seems to be a disconnect for them between the entertainment value (i.e. watching on TV, betting, sponsoring) and the realities of the deaths of children/teenagers. Are there any disconnects in our world today? Has media (internet, video games, TV) desensitized our society? How do we become more aware of the areas in which we have been desensitized? How do we move from awareness to change? Are there biblical examples that we can draw from? (Matt. 5:1-14, 3848, James 2:14-26) 7. Before the Games begin, Peeta confesses that he wants to stay true to who he is throughout the Games. He says, “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not” (p. 141). This theme comes to Katniss in the Arena as she watches Rue die. She remains true to herself and her District’s traditions regardless of what those in the Capitol think. How do you remain true to your identity? Is it difficult to do so when the outside world forces its views/ideas/ideals upon you? (Philippians 2:5-11) 8. Katniss volunteers to take the place of her sister, Prim, as tribute. She also risks her life several times during the game to save Rue and Peeta. She also signs up for the “tesserae,” (oil and grain provided by the Capitol in exchange for an additional chance at being picked for the games) so that her family doesn’t starve. Peeta sacrifices his personal safety by aligning with the “careers” so that Katniss has a chance to win. How important is sacrifice in District 12? In the Capitol? In the arena? What can Katniss’ and Peeta’s sacrifices teach us? (Rom. 5:6-20) Hannah Miller is DCE at Messiah Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City, Okla. Jamie Walters is DCE at St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, Alaska.
Game Guru Minute Games
Youth and adults of all ages seem to really get into games that focus around some piece of current pop culture. “Minute to Win It” seems to be one of those things right now. The idea of short bursts of activity, working against the clock and doing crazy things in the process has been used in game creation since games began (or so I hypothesize). Consider using one or many of the following games in your next gathering. Paper Plate Plop Props: Pack of small paper plates (the kind you put desserts or sides on—the ones that stick together, hard to peel), clean table (so you can reuse them) 60 Seconds to: Peel off the paper plates individually and drop them on the table. Must get 30 of them. Chop Stick Cupping Props: 12 or more sets of chopsticks, separated; one foam noodle; six ceramic mugs; one small step ladder 60 Seconds to: Stand on first step and release chopstick into noodle, aiming it into the coffee cups. Get one chop stick in each cup. Size ‘Em Up Props: 12 pairs of shoes (from other participants) mixed together in a mound 60 Seconds to: Line the shoes up, by pairs, in numerical order. If shoes are the same size, they must then be put in alphabetical order by brand name. If there are two pairs that have the same brand name, it doesn’t matter which goes first. Sandwich Cookie Spin Props: Multiple packages of sandwich cookies. 60 Seconds to: Twist the tops off the cookies, leaving cream on just one side. Get 15 cookies. Magnet Set Props: A small collection of silverware (forks, knives and spoons); refrigerator magnet (one that’s not too strong, play around to get one that works) 60 Seconds to: Use the magnet to drag eight knives out of the silverware pile and create a square (each side has two knives). The only thing the participant’s hand may touch is the magnet. Blow Me Away Props: Bag of cotton balls, separated; straw(s); large conference table with obstacles on top (books, cups, etc.) 60 Seconds to: Blow the cotton balls, using the straw, from one end of the table to the other side, blowing them off of the end. H-2-Oh My Props: two drinking cups (12 ounces each); drinking straw. Set up cups on opposite sides of a large table. Fill one cup with water, mark a line on the second cup with a mark for two-thirds of that amount.
by Sean Cramer
60 Seconds to: Suck water into the straw using only the straw and your mouth (no hands), walk the fluids to the other cup, and dispense. Must fill cup two-thirds full to line marking. These Numbers Rule! Props: Calculator (larger than a handheld); wooden or plastic ruler 60 Seconds To: Hold the ruler between your teeth and enter this equation: 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9=. If there is an error, hit reset and begin again. Ouch Props: A box or two of adhesive bandages (normal size), still in the individual paper wrappers; two pairs of tweezers; blank pieces of paper. 60 seconds to: Using the two pairs of tweezers only, completely open the adhesive bandage and stick three of them on a piece of paper to make the letter “H.” Sweeten the Pot Props: Large amount of individual packets of sweeteners; large potato; small cooking pot; plastic spatula. Set-up: Place the spatula handle on the potato. Place the pot a few inches from the handle of the spatula. Place the sweeteners near the flat end. 60 Seconds to: Catapult the sweeteners into the pot. You may place only one packet on the flat end at a time. Must get 10 packets in. NOTES AND IDEAS • Set this up as a theme event night. Call it “60 Seconds to Score.” • Put the participants in two teams and have each team have different players attempt the challenge. Award points for teams that finish each round. • Consider awarding partial points for partial finishes, when appropriate. • Set this up as a family event, and pit youth against adults. • Search “‘Minute to Win It’ ideas” for loads of other ideas. • Use the Minute theme throughout the night. • There’s a certain pop out there with “Minute” in its title. • Think of other foods with “Jiffy,” “Minute,” “Quick, etc. • Use individual games as quick energy boosts before a Bible Study, or at the start of other events. Sean Cramer is a DCE currently working with developmentally disabled individuals near Rockford, Ill. Scan this code with your smart phone for more games.
On Stewardship by Rev. Anthony Creeden
Part One: WHO AM I I need mental help. And before you laugh, so do you and everyone else. And teenagers? Well, I suppose that goes without saying. The reason we all need mental help is because we all suffer from the same crippling ailment that robs us of our mental faculties and greatly impairs our better judgment. It is known in certain circles as Willful Habitual Ongoing Alternate Multiple Identities, or WHO AM I. What circles you ask? That’s not important! What is important is recognizing the symptoms of WHO AM I, which include: • Sudden rapid loss of common sense • The inability to distinguish between “appropriate” and “inappropriate” • Rapid changing of identity amongst certain peer groups or social networks Research shows that every human is prone to WHO AM I with special attention given to its dramatic effects during the teenage years. What research? I SAID IT’S NOT IMPORTANT! What we have seen is an incredible ability for young people to rapidly shift their identity when faced with social challenges.
For instance, student “A” may be an active member of your youth group who attends regularly, answers questions with a fair amount of competency (even though it frequently sounds as if she is asking you the question) and has been involved in several mission projects. From all outward appearances student “A” seems to be the ideal member of your youth group. However, on Friday student “A” goes to the high school football game where her friends use what would be classified as “unsavory” language and have a propensity for crude remarks toward other students. Student “A,” suffering from WHO AM I, then proceeds to instantaneously lose her ability to decipher what is appropriate and promptly changes her identity to match the identity of her peers. Following the football game, student “A” then suffers another episode of WHO AM I as she returns home, hops on Facebook and posts for the whole world to see, “Jamming to [insert pop artist here]! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE [insert title of pop song riddled with sexual innuendo here] <3<3<3” What we can see here is that something is very wrong—aside from her emphatic insistence that every-
with what they believe to be a significant identity. But you and I both know that such a system is doomed to fail. The failure is a result of a culture and society that is constantly in flux. As trends and ideas change, each student feels they have to change in order to maintain status and relevance. And with each change they carry remnants of each identity. What we need and what we have is another way to solidify identity. That is stewardship. By carrying with us God’s given identity as stewards we are able to maintain a consistent single identity that is rooted in God as the creator/owner and us as the steward/caretaker. This changes the game completely. We no longer see appropriate steward behavior as the alien work. Rather, it is the moments that they struggle with WHO AM I that show themselves to be foreign to thing is less than three. What WHO AM I has done is our created and redeemed identity. fragmented her identity. It has created this belief that Taking care of personal property, giving of our mateshe can have three totally different identities coexisting rial possessions as well as ourselves for the work of the within one person and that this phenomena is normal, Kingdom, loving and caring for others are all issues of even expected. stewardship and all issues of identity. The solution? Stewardship. That’s right, have your “Should I clean up the youth room after we are done?” students give you as much money as Of course you should. Not because they can and this problem will clear your youth leader made you do it, but up virtually over night! because that is who you are in Christ. We are beloved, That was a joke. “Should I give some money in supredeemed children The solution is actually correct; port of this sponsored child?” Yes. of a gracious and it’s the explanation of the solution Not because your youth leader signed merciful Lord who that is the problem. The truth is that some piece of paper and made a comstewardship is an incredibly powermitment, but because that is what spared not even ful antidote for WHO AM I because stewards of God do—they love as we Himself to save us stewardship is a doctrine—yes, I said are loved. from our own mess. doctrine—that is primarily focused “Should I speak up against others on identity. That is to say, all of when they are making fun of another stewardship revolves around two person?” Absolutely. Not because your primary questions: Who is God? Who am I? What we youth pastor said you should, but because that is the get in response to these questions are sixty-six books kind of person God made and saved you to be. full of eyewitness accounts regarding the actions of a And this is not to say that upon hearing this revelaholy, loving and gracious God who created us with the tion of truth your students will instantly be transformed identity of stewards, that is, those who have been called into super-stewards who will always act in conformity to to reflect God’s love and be representatives of God’s will their steward identity (although that would be amazon creation. This means that none of us are capable of ing). But when we reclaim this full definition of stewardcreating or switching our identity because our identity ship as identity we regain the Gospel force behind the is a gift that does not originate with us. And what is that steward’s work in sanctification and we begin to see identity? that we care for creation and love others not out of legal We are beloved, redeemed children of a gracious and compulsion, but because that is what beloved children of merciful Lord who spared not even Himself to save us God do. As C.F.W. Walther so eloquently put it, “Apples from our own mess. do not make an apple-tree, but the apple tree produces We are to subdue and have dominion over creation apples.” In other words, it is not your works that define according to the will of God (Gen. 1:28) and to treat your identity, but your identity that directs your works. our fellow stewards in a similar God-pleasing and lovAnd when we make mistakes as stewards—and we will— ing manner (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke that identity becomes even more important as we see 10:27). not only our given identity as steward, but also our given The problem that most of our youth face today regard- identity of beloved and belonging to God. And ultimateing identity is due to the fact that they see identity as ly, there is no greater identity than that...or at least, that something they have to find for themselves. This results is what my mental health professional tells me. in an endless exploration and experimentation in an effort to develop a philosophy about themselves that fits
Part Two: So You’re a Steward So, you just found out that stewardship is an identity issue, that you’re always a steward and that your entire ministry is actually about stewardship. Have a seat, take a deep breath; you’re going to be OK. I would be lying to you if I said I, too, wasn’t rocked by such a revelation. I, like many, thought of stewardship as a part of the puzzle that I would address from time to time when we talked about giving money or taking care of our possessions or the possessions of others. But when it was put to me as a way of life, as an identity that found its way into every bit of teaching and ministry I do, I was a bit overwhelmed. It wasn’t that it was a foreign concept, because when I thought about it, it made perfect sense. The overwhelming part was changing the way I did ministry to reflect these truths. Teaching the Teachers As anyone who has done youth ministry for an hour will tell you, parents are the key to successful youth ministry. If they are not on board, you might as well be talking to yourself in an empty room. And while sometimes the visual cues from your students make you feel as though you are in an empty room, if you have parental support in what you are teaching, it really does get through. So when it comes to stewardship, teaching the parents becomes an opportunity to recruit more teachers. Framing stewardship as an identity for the parents allows them to reinforce that identity with their children at home. So whether it’s cleaning their room, doing their homework or taking out the trash, all of these tasks are placed into the context of a created identity and thus an expectation not of their parents, but of God. That might not mean parents saying, “Brian, God wants you to clean your room,” or, “Megan, God wants you to do your homework,” but it may mean that parents explain to their kids that their expectations didn’t originate from them, but from God as He has created them as stewards. Placing home life in this setting will help to reinforce the student’s identity and make your teaching that much easier. Talk the Talk Another way to shift ministry toward this larger view of stewardship is to begin to speak in the language of the identified steward. Conversations about sin start to take shape as issues of identity crisis. “Substance Abuse? Why would you be involved in that? That isn’t you,” or “I heard you saying some pretty bad things about Casey. That doesn’t sound like you. Can you explain to me what happened?” When we start to speak about sin from the perspective of stewardship, we are able to point out sin in a way that speaks to our godly conduct as stewards who care for ourselves and those around us, while at the same time positively reinforcing their loved and forgiven identity. And yes, this also works in the positive. When your students act in a way that is consistent with the steward identity we can build them up, but not act surprised. In
other words, the steward identity should be treated as the expectation and the norm for Christian living. To return to the apple tree analogy, when an apple tree produces fruit we shouldn’t be surprised; that is what apple trees are supposed to do. Rather, we should appreciate the fruit and show how it supports the will of God in its use. This might sound like, “Hey Andrew, nicely done helping out with the food pantry. That is an incredible help to a bunch of people. Not that I’m surprised, it’s Andrew being Andrew. Good work.” This might seem like a no brainer to many, but unfortunately most teenagers are not used to being spoken to this way. Fight the Fight We have to start pointing out to our students the way the world has stripped them of their identity as stewards in an effort to redefine them according to the world’s image. Teenagers have been classified and identified with low expectations. (Explore this more in the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.) As a result, their identity has been wrapped up in a lifestyle of endless partying and apathy that moves them away from the work of stewardship. They have to be made aware of this. Teaching your students how the world has deceived them into believing that stewardship is something reserved for adults will allow them to realize the beautiful created reality they live in and give them an opportunity to practice stewardship within the safe guidance of family and the church. Now, don’t you love it when articles make it sound so easy? Just make these intentional all-encompassing shifts to your entire ministry and everything will work great! But you and I both know that this stuff takes time. We are changing a culture amongst young people to give them the truth of their identity as stewards, and culture shifts take time. But this shift is absolutely critical to the future of not only our church, but of the world. To show these young people their steward identity gives them an understanding of who they are in every place: church, school, work, you name it. This, in turn, shapes their vocations and builds them up to be a powerful force for God wherever they are. This isn’t youth ministry, this is truth ministry directed at the masses, but I can’t think of a better place to start than with a group of amazing and talented stewards who are full of life and ready to take on the world. May God grant that to all of us. Anthony Creeden is the youth and education pastor at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Livonia, Mich. Scan this code with your smart phone for more stewardship resources.
Philosophy of Fundraising by Mark Cook Ever have a month that looks like this?
Bulletin Announcements: Feb. 29 - Sr. Youth Lenten Dinner Fundraiser March 5 - Sr. Youth Pizza Ranch Fundraiser March 14 - Jr. Youth Lenten Dinner Fundraiser March 28 - Sr. Youth Lenten Dinner Fundraiser April 8 - Easter Breakfast Fundraiser March sometime or another - Yeah, we actually do have Bible studies, worship, mission projects and a whole functional program attached to goals and our churchâ€™s purpose, but you (Joe average member) probably hardly notice because of all the fundraising we have to do! AAHHHH! *Oh, and we are still collecting aluminum cans, printer cartridges, box tops, soup labels and any other two-cent item that can be cut off a product you purchase.
Philosophical Debate #1: Should we fundraise at all? No, absolutely not. Fundraising in no way lines up with the goals of youth ministry. We are building up disciples of Christ and sharing His love, a much more important endeavor than serving overcooked spaghetti noodles and sauce for a Lenten dinner. What are you raising money for anyway? Your annual youth group vaca... I mean mission trip to Jamaica? The people next door to your church need to hear the Gospel, and your friends and family are starving for forgiveness freely given by Jesus. Fundraising is not needed for carrying out the Great Commission in our communities. Well, yes, we should fundraise, and it can be done in a way that builds toward our goals and purposes. We create community and fellowship through youth and families working together toward a common fundraising goal, and we give an open invitation for the congregation to support our missionâ€”not just through money, but by their prayers and words that edify and uplift our youth
and families. And that mission trip—it is to middle of nowhere in Montana Native American reservation with over 50% unemployment where hundreds of kids and families are hearing the Gospel through groups like ours running summer programs. Apologies for the bipolar roller coaster of fundraising, but the underlying point I want to get at, and at the risk of being too utilitarian, is this:
Is fundraising, or not fundraising, accomplishing the goals and purpose of youth ministry? I don’t know that many of us have really taken the time to give a thorough answer to this question in our own church. (I haven’t.) In the past I have taken the view of fundraising as a necessary evil and then just gone about doing it as efficiently and quickly as possible so it goes away. There is a lot to gain by evaluating how we fundraise—much like we would evaluate anything else, whether program or activity, done in youth ministry. Keep this concept in mind as we explore philosophical debate number two. While handing out $20 bills to everyone as their “per diem” for food on our mission trip that particular day, Jimmy asks, “How come I don’t get more than everyone else? I sold more flowers for mother’s day than everyone else.” “Yes Jimmy, you did an excellent job with that fundraiser. We’ve been doing fundraisers all year and everyone has helped out so everyone can go on this mission trip.” “Yeah, but I sold more flowers.” I’m not sure at this point if I said, “Jimmy, take the $20 and go buy your lunch,” or, “See Jimmy, there was this land owner who went out early because he needed people to work in his vineyard...” I hope it was the second. Philosophical Debate #2: Individual accounts or one big pot Definitely, the best way is to have individual accounts. This ensures that the youth who put the most time and the most effort into fundraising will be rewarded and have larger amounts in their account to use for youth activities. It also provides a way for those families who don’t have the available funds for big mission trips or
youth gatherings to earn enough by fundraising to cover their costs. And for those who don’t put in the effort for fundraising—they will have to pay out of their pocket for the event. One big pot is the only good way to go about it. Set the expectation from the beginning that everyone participates in fundraising, everyone helps out and everyone goes on the mission trip. Together. As a community of believers. Every family contributes to planning and running fundraisers, and we understand some of you have school, basketball, band, a job, dance, Boy Scouts and swimming, but we ask for your commitment not just to fundraising, but to this group and our purpose for going on this mission trip. I am sure you’ve heard the list of arguments between these two methods of fundraising, so I won’t belabor the pros and cons, but I encourage you again to look at the underlying philosophy of what is going on in your fundraising efforts. Whether you have individual accounts or use one big pot, have you evaluated this to see whether in practice it is uplifting or detrimental to the goals and purpose of youth ministry? Is it an enabling or disabling factor in ministry, and how can it be made more enabling? Mark Cook is DCE at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minn.
Fundraising for the Why by Matt Cario
going to be asked for money endlessly throughout the year. This creates a sense of urgency for people to give now. One-time donations are easier to commit to than ongoing donations. This also helps you avoid coming across as a beggar. You want people to give towards the “why,” not out of pity. Asking for money constantly is nearly as exhausting as being constantly asked for money. Consider your time, energy and resources, as well. You have a purpose to pursue in your ministry. Be faithful to your calling, not a slave to financially supporting your programs. Set Financial Goals Get your finances straight ahead of time. Know what your bottom line number is for what you are currently At some point in your ministry, you likely will have doing. Then develop a plan for how you would use addito raise money. While there is certainly theological basis tional money raised. The second number should be your for fundraising to further the sharing of the Gospel publicly stated goal. By setting financial goals... with all people, perhaps you wonder what you can do • You determine the level of support and giving you to better your fundraising efforts besides praying more. are hoping to garner from your supporters. This Although I would encourage you to engross yourself in helps people understand the gravity of your cause’s prayer, there is more to fundraising than solely praying “why.” and hoping. • You legitimize your cause. It suggests you are proSuccessful fundraising has considerably less to do fessional, organized and have a plan for the money with great ideas and infinitely more to do with solid you raise. fundraising philosophy and its application. While every • It allows you to determine if your fundraiser was fundraiser and group of people has their limiting factors, actually financially successful and helps you plan for there are specific actions to fundraise smarter and more future fundraising events. effectively. Stop Selling Stuff Connect the “What” with the When you fundraise by selling “Why” products, you will rarely recoup even “What’s this for?” It’s the first You will never know half of the money you gross because question you need to be able to anthe product overhead is too great. And swer when trying to raise money. Ev- or access your potential you’ve excluded the people who don’t if you don’t connect want the product you’re selling. On top eryone will ask it because we all want to know where our money is going. of that, consider the time, energy and the “what” with This is an easy question to answer. real estate you’re committing towards the “why”. “Why should I care about this?” making less than a 50% profit in most This is the most challenging and criticases. cal question for you to be able answer People who are willing to support and what you really want people to know. You need a your cause/organization do so because they believe in great answer to this question. This question gives you your “why,” not because you’re providing great products. the opportunity to paint the vision about the long-term Why give half of your potential earnings to a company and lifelong benefit your cause has on people beyond the that cares nothing for your “why”? limits of the hearer’s current understanding. It’s possible Worst of all, you communicate that your cause alone this person has the same passion and has been waiting isn’t worthy of donation in its own right. You never want for a teammate to help champion this cause. to become that organization that sells products to the You will never know or access this potential if you point that potential and past supporters begin to avoid don’t connect the “what” with the “why” and establish you because they don’t want more stuff. respectful trust that will lead to the development of part- Attract the Right Audience nerships with greater success in the future. Fundraising events seem to attract two major groups How Often You Ask Matters of people: 1) those who want to give and 2) those who Have the goal of asking for money only once or twice want a great deal. Focus on the former. per year. People will appreciate the assurance they aren’t In my church, we have an annual dinner that is our
sole fundraising effort for youth missions. My first year, we served over 400 people a BBQ meal and netted $5,500. The following year we changed the theme and menu, making the event more upscale, and promoted it accordingly. We served 300 people and netted $9,700 ($10,000 was our goal). Why the difference? Less overhead and food costs? It had an impact, but was less than $500. The difference was the 100 people who didn’t come, who barely donate enough money to cover the cost of their meal. There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a great deal, but you don’t want the great deal to be at the expense of your group’s fundraising efforts. Get Sponsored The easiest way to raise money is to seek sponsorships. I’ve found that it has virtually zero overhead and yields the highest revenue-to-time ratio of all fundraising activities. Most businesses are looking for the personal and meaningful connections you can offer and want to be associated with upstanding organizations in their community like your group. Here are six guidelines for sponsorships: • Establish the terms, what you get, what they get. • Have different levels of sponsorship available ($200, $500, $1,000, etc.). Don’t limit your prospective supporters. • Develop a list of contacts for potential sponsors. Start with businesses that have a personal connection to you or your church. Then look to businesses in your local area. Finally, avoid chains and national corporations that do not allow local employees to make financial decisions and have convoluted and exhaustive processes with stringent parameters. • Contact them personally with a phone call initially
rather than visiting the business. When you meet with a business owner, dress appropriately (business casual). Their perception of you is critical. • Have a summarizing letter printed on letterhead that includes the terms along with your FEID number. They now have a single piece of paper with all the essential information for their accounting. Send invoices upon their agreement to sponsor. • Thank you letters are required and must be in the mail within five business days following the conclusion of your event. This will legitimize your organization and be a step towards a future partnership. Conclusion Fundraising isn’t why God called you into youth ministry, but it is an essential part of pursuing the vision that God has given you for ministry in your context. Regardless of the fundraising program you choose for your group, every fundraising effort can be enhanced to be more effective at meeting your financial needs. Raising money is challenging and tedious at times, but be diligent and don’t give up. Use the platform you’re given to share with people the greater vision of your youth ministry that extends beyond the happenings and needs of the current year. In the end, this is all about our God and Father transforming the lives and souls of the people we are humbly called to show Jesus. Focus on the “why” and let it be exuded in your fundraising. Matt Cario is DCE at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas.
More Fundraising Resources at thESource Find these two articles and more fundraising resources, including fundraisers you can try, on thESource. Fundraising with Teens This PDF booklet contains great information on planning fundraisers, working with a committee, establishing a game plan, establishing accounting procedures, managing publicity and more! General Fundraising Guidelines A quick reference of things to keep in mind when planning fundraisers. Fundraising Policy Ideas Youth workers from around the country share their ideas and tips on fundraising policies. Sample Fundraising Policy This sample policy comes from Jeremy Becker and Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, Mo.
Fundraiser Ideas No-Show Ball Trivia Night 1950’s Drive-In Car Wash Variations Auction Variations Food Related Fundraisers M&M’s (Mission & Ministry) Fundraiser Rummage Sale Service Fundraisers Flamingo Flocking Stock and Shares Loose Change Fundraisers Scan this code with your smart phone for more fundraising resources.
SNARK, CRACKLE, POP Girls and Reality TV One of my favorite things about this blog is that in my research I occasionally come across a survey or a piece of research that completely affirms something that I have instinctively known for some time. I think this happens to all youth workers at one time or another and it can be incredibly vindicating. You work with teens all the time and you just know that there is a connection between two things, though you have no concrete proof. Then, there it is in your newsfeed, and all you want to do is print it off and post it for all your parents and teens to see. In this case, the survey I found was even more exciting because the “See, I knew it was true!” moment combines research on three things I write about often: girls, reality television and teachable moments. (Yes, regular readers, I just heard that groan from here. I promise, I’ll get off the anti-reality television show soapbox soon.) The Girl Scout Research Institute just completed a survey of 1,100 girls between 11 and 17 years old nationwide. They asked girls to self-identify if they regularly watched reality shows or not and then proceeded to ask them questions about relationships, self-image and about reality shows themselves. A good chunk of what they found will not be surprising to most, but there are some really interesting pieces of note. Girls who watched reality television regularly were more likely to believe that gossiping is a normal part of girls’ relationships (78% versus 54%) and to agree with statements like, “Being mean earns you more respect than being nice.” Reality show watchers responded that it is harder to trust girls (63% versus 50%) and that girls
are naturally “catty” with each other (68% versus 50%). The girls who regularly watch reality television also reported spending significantly longer amounts of time on their appearance than girls who did not. Reality television may not be all bad, however. Reality show watchers exceeded other girls in their confidence levels in almost every personal characteristic, including maturity, intelligence and humor. They are also more likely to be aware of and aspire to lead on social issues. Even more impressive, two-thirds said that these reality shows have sparked important conversations with parents and friends. One of the most interesting parts of the survey was that 50% of the girls said they thought reality shows like “Jersey Shore” and “The Real World” are completely unscripted. Seventy-five percent of the girls said they thought competitions shows like “American Idol” and “Project Runway” are unscripted. Yet, many of those who have participated in these reality shows have publically come out saying that these shows are far from a fair representation of reality. Just after these survey results were released, Kasia Pilewicz, a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” said, “They’re not getting how much of it is edited, and how much of it is scripted and staged—almost like it is fictional but you’re just playing yourself. I worry that a 10-year-old might try to emulate this and think this is how you should live your life and this is how you should treat your friends.” According to this survey, her concerns may be justified. While this survey did not differentiate between those girls who watched “Jersey Shore” from the girls watching “Mythbusters,” it does give us some interesting insight into what reality television is doing to the attitudes of girls. It is good to see that these shows are making them more socially aware. Yet it is clear we must fight the idea that these programs show us reality when in fact they do not. In claiming to be real, they teach young girls that this is how the world works, encouraging attitudes and behaviors that fly in the face of what God would want for them. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” I appreciated hearing that these girls’ parents and friends were discussing what they were seeing,
Ministry Musings of a Pop Culture Junkie by Julianna Shults
not just watching it absentmindedly. While I have no interest in which Kardashian is moving or what Snookie is doing for fun, reality shows are one of those unlikely places that hold a whole host of teachable moments. If the students are going to continue to watch it, we have to take advantage of how this programming lends itself to discussions of “What would you do in that situation?” and “How would you feel if that happened to you?” This is true of any media. Any time teens are watching television, listening to music or seeing movies, I hope that they are having critical, faith-based conversations about what they see. It is why knowing pop culture is so important. These conversations help teens from being misled by faulty messages. We need to give our teens the lenses of faith to see, understand and be critical of any media they encounter every day for the rest of their lives. Julianna Shults is DCE at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Chicago, Ill. Scan this code with your smart phone to read more from the Snark, Crackle, Pop Culture Blog.
Coming Up in 2012-2013 at www.youthESource.com thESource exists to provide Jesus-centered resources to those at work with youth in the Lutheran congregation and beyond... With that goal in mind, we will publish the following topics and resources in 2012-2013: New blog! Road to the Gathering, by DCE Brian Steward, will help you prepare for the 2013 National LCMS Youth Gathering in San Antonio. New Topics! At the Movies (with Bible studies based on movies), Functional Families, Sanctity of Life, Music Matters (with Bible studies based on popular songs), The Apostle’s Creed, Tough Questions, Hometown Servants, Youth Ministry Budgets, and more!
Write for thESource! Do you have an idea for a Bible study or skit? Are you an expert on a particular subject and want to share your thoughts with others? Does one of our upcoming topics especially interest you? Consider writing for thESource! We’re always looking for new ideas and new writers. We’re also looking for new (and old) ideas to share in the Idea Box Blog. Have you tried something new in your ministry? Or made a change to something old? Are you an expert in a certain field? Has someone shared some fantastic tips with you? Share them with others in the Idea Box! If you’re interested in writing for thESource, send an email to email@example.com with your Idea Box article attached, or ask to be included in our writer’s email. The writer’s email goes out four times a year and lists upcoming needs for articles, resources and more.
by Jessica Bordeleau
As we passed the wicker offering basket around the circle of teenagers, one by one they rustled through their pockets or purses and placed in the basket...their cell phones. The youth ministry at my church is led by a team of five volunteers. It’s our goal to create positive, mentoring relationships with the teens and help them grow in their Christian faith. We take turns planning and leading the Sunday morning Bible studies, but the entire team is present and helps facilitate discussion. Over the past few years we have noticed an increasing level of distraction during these Bible study times. Cell phones ring, and youth text and check phone messages during group discussion times. These distractions began taking their toll on the group dynamic and on our patience as leaders. After spending hours carefully planning a Bible study, preparing activities, finding video clip illustrations and making discussion sheets to help youth interact with God’s Word, it can get pretty frustrating to see youth totally disengage from the group to answer a text message. The leadership team spent time during several planning meetings figuring out what to do about the digital distractions. We understood their need to feel connected to their friends and have a sense of control over their own communication, but we also wanted them to make the most of the Bible study time and be fully engaged in discussing God’s Word. First, we tried asking the youth to turn their phones on vibrate or off during Bible study, but the temptation was too great—some just couldn’t ignore their phones. We tried talking privately with specific youth and explaining why we wanted them to be part of the discussion, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. As adult leaders, we talked about taking away their cell phones during Bible study, but we didn’t want to treat them as if they were naughty children who couldn’t be trusted. We tried just ignoring the problem and seeing if it would go away—but it just got worse. “It’s like they don’t even realize how rude it is to everyone else in the room!” Then it dawned on us: maybe they didn’t see it as rude. Maybe they were so used to looking for affirmation in messages and texts that they didn’t realize they were missing the benefits of face-toface interaction and the blessings of a group discussion about God’s love for them. Maybe they didn’t realize what they were doing. As the conversation progressed we decided to do a Bible study about stewardship—not of our money, but of our time and attention. We wanted to help the youth see that being a steward of God’s blessings included giving their attention to focus on Bible study, just as giving
money in the offering basket is being a good steward of God’s material blessings. We weren’t sure how they’d respond or if they would get it, but we knew we had to do something. It was Steve’s turn to lead that Sunday. He talked about the three T’s of stewardship: time, talent and treasures...and then added a fourth T—“aTtention.” I watched the faces of the youth as he presented the idea of giving our cell phones as our offering during Bible study. Some seemed interested, some looked terrified at the prospect of being separated from their constant connectivity and others were too busy texting to even notice. As Steve continued the youth came to the consensus that it was worth trying. I could tell that they didn’t love the idea, but they trusted the adult leaders enough to at least give the idea a chance and try something that they weren’t quite comfortable with. Everyone agreed to put their cell phones in the basket until after Bible study and then claim them again at the end. We continued the lesson without the click-clacking of texting or the snapping of phones opening and closing. By the end of the hour we agreed that we would give the offering of our attention by putting our phones in the basket not just for that week, but each week. Every Sunday we would begin our Bible study by putting our phones in the offering basket and giving our full attention to each other and to God as we read and discussed Scripture, talked about how our faith impacts our lives and prayed for each other. Not everyone pays attention the whole time and not every lesson has them on the edge of their seats, but the distractions are fewer and lately we have had some of the best discussions in months. Sometimes they even forget to reclaim their phones as they leave the room! Jessica Bordeleau is the LYF and Young Adult Ministry Consultant for the LCMS Youth Ministry Office. She also volunteers with the youth at Timothy Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Mo.
BOOK REVIEW Relationships Unfiltered Relationships Unfiltered: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation by Andrew Root (Zondervan 2009) Note about the format: Throughout this review I used text from the book to introduce a new idea. The quoted text will be in red. My family was a water skiing family growing up in South Texas. Almost every weekend we would go out to ski on a small man-made lake. When teaching me how to ski, my sister told me, “Just pull on the rope when the boat takes off and don’t let go. You’ll pop right up.” If you’ve ever learned how to water ski, you know it’s not that simple. It takes a lot of different muscles working and usually a lot of time being dragged through the water on your face before you get up for the first time. Andrew Root feels like we’ve been sold some false information about relationships in youth ministry: Just care for kids and love God, and kids will show up and be transformed. It’s not that this isn’t decent advice—it’s just incredibly over-simplified. Root is an advocate for the fact that relationships with youth (with everyone) are complicated. “What is the point of our relationships with kids? And how do we know when these relationships are successful? Faithful? Or simply worthwhile?” Andrew Root has spent much of his writing career digging into questions he expounds upon in his book Relationships Unfiltered: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation. Root explores the common youth ministry philosophy that the best way to get students to ________ is through relationships. Depending on your denomination, convictions, church or program, the ________ is going to be different, but the fact that you’ll be using a relationship as a tool to influence doesn’t change. “If the goal of the relationship is growth, commitment and conversion, eventually I am completely justified in
by Tommy Moll
abandoning the relationship. I can say to an adolescent through words or actions, ‘Let’s face it, this isn’t working. I’m moving on to someone more receptive to my efforts (i.e. easier to influence).’ “Now all this influence bashing isn’t to say there is no influencing involved in true relationships... My wife and my close friends have influenced me greatly, and parents influence their children more than anyone else. Yet, what must be seen is that these relationships were not built around the desire to influence the other, but were constructed around the desire to know, love and be with the other.” Root explains that, simply put, motives matter. To serve youth as long as they serve our purposes is shallow. It’s shallow because once a student serves his purpose by going through our program or we find that we can’t fit them into our program, he can be discarded. Exploring the implications of using relationships to influence carries throughout much of the book. The book begins with criticism of this model based on influence and slowly unfolds to reveal positive statements about how we can show who youth are in Christ through relationships instead of trying to make them into who we’d like them to be. The theology of being in relationships with youth that Root promotes is called “place-sharing,” which was developed by the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “A relational youth ministry of place-sharing argues that our relationships—where we truly see other persons and share their place—are the location of God’s presence in the world. So...if asked, ‘Where is God?’ we would answer that God is found in our relationships.” Place-sharing is not about getting young people to conform to our world, but to understand their world and how it impacts their person. Because God is present in our relationships, because we show Christ by entering into someone else’s world, our need to use our relationships for any other purpose is taken away. This is our entry point as Lutherans to present our theology of the Holy Spirit being active through His Word. It’s through His Word that God is present—where God speaks, where God acts. Relationships for us are not tools to deliver God’s Word, but the natural place for the Word to be proclaimed for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). “Once we have a relationship it is vital, if the relationship is to be real, we judge and confront each other. I say it to my students this way: ‘You cannot form a relation-
ship through judgment, but once you have a relationship, the relationship is dependent on you confronting and judging each other.’” Bonhoeffer writes in his book Life Together that a man can stand alone and confess to God and be absolved of His sin—but this is a rare thing. We do need others to speak into our lives. What Root’s book does is awaken us to the “why” of our relationships. Why would we want to hang out with students at their high schools for lunch? We know that relationships are key—but why? When we separate our motives from God’s motives in relationships, we suffer. When we separate our speaking into the lives of youth from God’s Word, we suffer. “The real art of practicing relational youth ministry, then, is not about dropping everything to be with kids; more profoundly, it’s about being open and closed alongside them. As a volunteer or a new youth worker, it’s not your job to be radically open with young people; it’s your job to be a healthy and whole person who’s able to both identify with them and be different from them. When recruiting adults to be in the lives of adolescents, I look for those who can live out of this balance more than anything else.” Passages such as the one above are refreshing. Root presents the idea that part of being a whole person is being a person who is “closed.” This means that there are some areas of your life that you don’t have to completely open up to those you minister to. You don’t have to open up your family time, your personal struggles or your alone time with God. As vague as a job description can be from a church, knowing how “open” to be with a youth is much more so. If a child is struggling with being gossiped about at school, do you answer her phone call during dinner? If you’ve been struggling to get confirmations from students on an upcoming retreat, do you check your email during your one night alone with your husband? Root reminds us that relationships are as much about being “closed” as they are about being “open.” “By your willingness to be with adolescents and
to share their place, you are—in your very being and acting—witnessing to the incarnate, crucified and resurrected God who shares their place in Jesus Christ. There will be moments to speak of the hope we have and the One who calls us to suffer their realities, but the call is first to join God in sharing their place.” Root is passionate about reminding us that relationships are complex and being in complex relationships is hard. He defines incarnational ministry by reminding us that relationships can be painful. By sticking through the hard times with youth, by being present in and through the suffering, we show something about God’s love. Here we have opportunities to share the Gospel. “‘I remember when I was in youth group we did so many fun things together; I loved it, and I’m sad that my kids aren’t getting that.’”...Too often it feels like parents and congregational leadership judge successful youth ministries by the number of kids and how much those legions of adolescents enjoy (are having fun in) those youth groups and their activities. “If you’re called to move toward a relational ministry of place-sharing and beyond the treadmill of influence, then you’ll have to be able to make a theological argument for such a change. This is why we’ve taken so much time examining place-sharing theologically.” These quotes reveal the heart of the argument and Root’s passion for the change that he prescribes, but they also reveal the moving target of his audience. Many comments in the book seem to be targeted at the typical youth minister who is fed up with too much programming and not at the volunteer helping out in a youth ministry program. This book also isn’t free from theological terms that might need further explanation before dropping this book in the lap of a typical youth ministry volunteer. “To really get into the discussion of moving the youth ministry into the life of the congregation would take another book, but it must be said if our goal is to really enter the lives of adolescents and share their place, it will take a congregation and its adults to open their own lives and invite young people to join them.” My greatest criticism of Relationships Unfiltered (which isn’t really a criticism at all) is that I wanted to be reading the book that Root describes above. I was sold on Root’s philosophy from his first book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, and I wanted to go deeper, not stay at the same level. This book is a good entry point into Root’s philosophy of relational youth ministry, and for that it’s a worthwhile read. Tommy Moll is DCE at Christ Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kan.
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WORD ONE DEVOTIONS Called Out of Egypt
“This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Matt. 2:15) Egypt. Mostly remembered as a place of hardship, but once it was a blessing to the people of God. You remember the story? Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Despite his faithful service, Joseph was wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife and landed in prison. But God was with Joseph and brought him through the prison to be the second most powerful man in Egypt, behind only Pharaoh himself. And then, when starvation hit the world, Joseph saved his family by providing for them in Egypt. There was a family reunion and all looked good for the people of God. But eventually, Joseph died and the people were enslaved until God raised one up to bring them out of captivity. Matthew refers to Hos. 11:1 as the source prophecy for his reference. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Israel, the people, was God’s chosen son. For the people of Hosea’s day, it’s doubtful they understood this to be a prophecy, but merely a recounting of their history. They knew the freedom and joy the people must have felt at being rescued
by Jason Christ
because it would have been recounted and retold in their midst often. They also knew the sorrow and hardships their ancestors faced. So Matthew draws on their shared history to speak words of hope about Jesus’ ministry: “Remember the joy and freedom the last time God called you out of Egypt? Remember the sorrow and burdens of your old life before that rescue? Take heart! He’s doing it again!” While he didn’t use these words, the feelings and implication would have been in the hearts and minds of the people. Their history with Egypt was pointing toward a greater rescue story, one which ends in total freedom, never to be enslaved again. It points to the fulfillment of the hope they have had in a coming savior ever since that first promise to Adam and Eve. For Jesus Himself is the Son of God called out of Egypt for you. Where has God worked rescue in your past? How does that bring comfort to you in your present struggles? Scan this code with your smart phone for more Word One Devotions.
Filled with the Spirit “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) Throughout His ministry, Jesus was a popular teacher with some and despised by others. Early on, He was popular in His hometown of Nazareth, but that changed in Luke 4. Upon returning to the town after being away, Jesus went into the synagogue to teach. Unrolling the scroll, he finds a passage in Isaiah 61, which Luke quotes for his readers. After concluding the reading, Jesus sits to instruct the people, as was the custom. He boldly proclaims that this Messianic prophecy has been fulfilled in their midst this very day. This was a bold claim. To the people, it was perhaps too bold, bordering on outrageous. At first, they were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, but later that amazement turned to doubt and disbelief. After all, wasn’t this Joseph’s son? Why were a people so eager for the Messiah so dismissive about this proclamation of grace? Perhaps it’s because they knew Jesus. They saw Him growing up.
They saw Him playing in the streets. They saw Him as one of them. And this did not fit with their expectations for who the Messiah would be. And because of their past experiences, they found this truth unfathomable: that Jesus was the Messiah of which Isaiah prophesied. The truth was hard to accept because of their own preconceived notions about Jesus. What preconceived ideas do you have about Jesus? I often hear people talk about abortion, homosexual marriage and other controversial, difficult topics by using the phrase, “My God would never...” The problem with that statement is that we often fill in the blank with our own notion of who God is, not the truth of God. What truth from God’s Word are you having a hard time accepting? Where are your own ideas about God causing a rift between you and Him? How does the Lord Jesus give you new eyes to see His grace? How does He set you free from the things oppressing you? How does He proclaim for you the year of the Lord’s favor? Jason Christ, DCE, is director of Attract and Middle School Ministries at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Tonawanda, N.Y.