Starting over is hard. Moving to a new city, finding a new job, starting kids at a new school, learning to find a new favorite grocery store… its a lot of new, and a lot of tough stuff. This past year has been a year of starting over for us. We finally moved from outside Memphis TN to Decatur Alabama, where my husband had been living nine months prior to our move. We’ve spent the last year with lots of new in front of us, and its been quite the journey.
A few weeks ago our youth small groups did a lesson on the Holy Spirit from Francis Chan’s Basic series (great series by the way, you should check it out). The video went well, the intro to small groups was great, and then I talked to my leader’s afterwards and they said that it was crickets. Nobody seemed to have much to say about the Holy Spirit.
As we gathered a week later as leaders to discuss this we came up with a few reasons why our rooms seemed so quiet that night. Continue reading “Holy Spirit Prayer Stations”
In youth ministry we often use the phrase “that” kid, to describe the one that frustrates us the most, or completely exasperates us. Sometimes its the child on the spectrum, or the one who can’t sit still and just listen for 5 minutes. Or its the sullen too-cool-for-school kid that sets the tone for the rest of the group, or the know-it-all who has an answer for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Often its the one who just doesn’t fit the mold of what we’ve decided kids should be like, and so they become “that” kid in our minds.
Well, I have that kid. He’s highly intelligent, speaks sarcasm like its his second language (can’t imagine who he got that from), and is a total nerd. To quote him, he is “so far past nerd”. I asked him what is so far past nerd and he said, without missing a beat, “2,000 lightyears past nerd” and promptly stuck his earbuds back in to finish his Dr Who episode.
If you have the ability to play volley ball in your space, then I hope you play it frequently. Its a great game and is awesome for team building. However, unless you have some seriously competitive volleyball players in your group, then they may struggle to just get it over the net, in which case, maybe crazy volleyball is for you! Continue reading “Crazy Volleyball: Youth Group game with lesson ideas”
Mission trips, church camp, national conferences, and retreats. Water gun fights, trips to Sonic, Monday afternoon Mexican food, and laser tag outings. All of these add up to summertime in youth ministry, for some the favorite time of the year, and for others the most exhausting. So far this summer I have done the following.
When you work with youth, you receive the privilege of experiencing a full range of emotions. You get the giggles and hushed whispers for hopes of a new relationship, and the utter heartbreak when the relationship dies off. You rejoice over touchdowns scored, awards won, and valedictorian honors received. You counsel and mend broken friendships, crises of faith, and doubts about calling and vocation. All of these life events are part of the day to day of youth ministry, and it makes us feel pretty wanted and a vital adult in the life of an adolescent.
In my professional life I have worked in three fields, bill collection (gross), ELL education, and church work. I love church work. It is the most rewarding, challenging, inspiring, and fulfilling profession I can imagine. As with any profession we have busy seasons, collectors have the end of the month, educators have testing periods and end of terms, and church workers have…
So my driving foot is in a boot right now, for reasons that don’t pertain to this post but the short version is I didn’t listen to my fiance when he said “you should really have that checked out” and now three months later here I am. I say that so you’ll know that my driving is limited because its a pain to take the boot off. So yesterday my lovely partner in ministry Lauren from the church down the road came and rescued me for a quick trip down to Starbucks.
For reference purposes, we live in the boonies, so the closest Starbucks is 25 minutes away, and we spend a lot of our meeting times to discuss ministry and tend souls in the car to and from our chosen provider of all things caffeinated. So yesterday we made our trip down and back like any other day, and it was glorious.
So this morning I’m sitting in my chair with my giant boot, my own coffee, and beginning my Monday morning emails and I get a phone call from Lauren. She informs me that she was heading down to Starbucks (not even going to focus on the without me part) to finish her seminary work and the Starbucks was…
So she calls me, in an obvious panic, to tell me of this development. Apparently there were construction vans and the inside appears to be in the process of renovation. So this lead to an insane round of questioning on both sides of the phone call. “Why didn’t they tell us yesterday?” “Is it closed closed, like forever?” “Is it just renovation, and why it was fine inside?” “Seriously what are we going to do?” “The next closest Starbucks is like an hour away from town.”
At the end of our freakishly long conversation about the possible loss of our favorite latte location she decided to drive to the next closest Starbucks to finish her work and I went back to my work and at home coffee, life as usual.
But then I started thinking about the whole situation. In our churches, do we feel this way when someone doesn’t come to church? Or when a youth stops coming to youth group? Do we worry about what has happened or what we will do without them, or do we simply move on and figure they are probably fine? After all is it really our problem if they don’t come, its a free country, they don’t have to come if they don’t want to… right?
Or what about that kid that drives us nuts? The one who won’t stop interrupting, or getting in fights, or being generally defiant and argumentative, do we we silently rejoice when they don’t come on a Sunday night? Do we worry when we can’t find out why, or do we decide the break was great and surely he/she’ll be back next week?
People are messy. They don’t always make us feel warm and wonderfully perky like our morning (afternoon, evening) coffee. We can’t send them back when they aren’t made to our liking. But the wonderful thing is, we are all made to God’s liking, even when we are too bitter, sickeningly sweet, or even after we’ve gone bad. We aren’t perfect, but we keep working on it, and that kid, the one you just cringe at the thought of, he’s working on it it too. So maybe we start to care about each other as much as our macchiatos, and we can worry more about the ride, and less about the Starbucks at the end of the drive.
I have been working in youth ministry for about 5 years now (where that time has gone I’ll never know) and this year was my fourth 30 Hour Famine. If you are unfamiliar with World Vision or the 30 Hour Famine process I highly suggest you visit their website.
For my first two 30HF’s I did a traditional lock in style event with a service project. We would stop eating around 1pm Friday and then break the fast with communion and then a meal together. For the past two years I’ve been blessed to live in the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church where we have an amazing camp called Lakeshore where we hold a famine retreat every year. This experience is an unforgettable one every year, and every year we inevitably get the same question “Why would you not eat for 30 hours?”
I’ve given lots of answers, some really in depth and some really superficial. I have decided to give it some real thought and offer some of the top reasons why we continue to do the 30 Hour Famine year after year.
1. Fundraising for a Cause I Believe In
Part of the effort behind 30 Hour Famine is fundraising for the work World Vision does. One in eight people in the world are hungry and World Vision works to combat hunger and poverty related issues around the world. $35 feeds and cares for a child for a month, we are able to make a tremendous impact in a child’s life through fundraising for World Vision. Over the past 5 years and 4 famines my small groups of students (anywhere from 4 to 20 per year) have raised around $7,000 to combat world hunger. Its just a piece of the greater puzzle, but its our piece, and I’m proud of my students for making it a priority.
2. Fasting is Becoming Uncommon
Fasting, as a spiritual practice, has become less and less common. Fasting at its root is about self denial for the purpose of bringing us closer to God. Much of our life is all consuming, even the food and drink of which we partake. I for one am a wee bit obsessed with coffee and Diet Coke. And by a wee bit, I mean of course a lot. My friends are constantly posting pictures on my Facebook wall like this one.
And while this is all in good fun, its kind of true too. I can be a really hard person to deal with if I don’t have my coffee. So some self denial of what I consider to be a “necessity” for my life, is always a good thing. It reminds me of what I take for granted, not just caffeine, but food as well. When we participate in the famine we have to face the fact that we take our readily available abundance of food for granted, and that our neighbors, not just people in some far away country, experience real hunger every day. This may be the only form of self denial my students experience, but for once a year they get to practice fasting, and its well worth it.
#3 Developing Empathy
Lets be real, not all of our students are incredibly empathetic, and I’m not here to say that every child will end up with this overwhelming understanding of what it means to go hungry by participating in the famine, but it does open the eyes (or stomachs ) of some. Here are some quotes from students over the past five years.
“I never really thought about the fact that if you were on free lunch, and your family was struggling, you might go from Friday afternoon until Monday morning without eating. I can’t imagine doing that every week, I’m having trouble doing it for 30 Hours” – Girl, 8th Grade
“I have a headache, I’m sleepy and I don’t want to do anything. I wouldn’t be able to even get up and go to school like this, I sure wouldn’t learn anything” Boy 9th Grade
“Did you know Ethiopians live on like a $1.50 a day? Who can live on that? How is anyone supposed to live like that” Girl 11th grade.
Now, will every student go on a crusade to change the world after experiencing the famine? Probably not, but in the middle of being forced to realize what other people go through, maybe an activist will be born.
#4 Youth Group is more than silly games and pizza
One of the main reasons I love the 30 hour famine experience is it takes students out of the fellowship mode youth group can turn into. There is a time for fellowship, and as I’ve said before games teach great lessons, and pizza is an easy food to fill the masses, but at times it can seem like we get in a rut of pizza games and fellowship. But the famine forces us out of our normal routine, both physically and spiritually. We have to gather together without the focal point of food, forcing us to focus on each other. We also are forced to take a look at the justice issue around hunger, which can be an uncomfortable task for middle to upper class churches. But Jesus did not call us to be comfortable, and at least once a year the famine gives us the chance to step way out of our comfort zones and participate in the living work of the gospel.
I hope if you’ve never done the 30 Hour Famine that you will seriously consider participating, either this year or in the future. This can be a life changing event for you and your students, or at least an eye opener to the world of hunger. I pray you have an experience like this with your students, and that you allow yourself to be changed.
Peace be with you.