Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent Conspiracy Update

I am happy to announce that in our fundraising for Living Waters International (the orginization in which Advent Conspiracy supports) has been rather wonderful. From our middle school and high school students we have raised almost $400 towards a very worthy cause. I hope we can continue giving and contributing towards this wonderful cause this Holiday season. I hope everyone has a wonderful and beautiful Christmas. Safe travels and God Bless


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sacrifice vs. Responsibility

A couple of things have come across my desk this past week and I have recently noticed that there is a bit of a theme in all of them.

The first: Advent Conspiracy.

The second: A story from a friend of mine.

Setting: A girl around age 24, who has been searching for jobs but with no success and who was home for Thanksgiving, goes over to her Grandparent’s home. She finds this weird because she has never been there by herself, only with family. They spend a little time on the computer, her grandpa leaves and then this happens: She writes:

“Then my grandpa walks out and comes back with an envelope. They tell me to open it, and it is a check, a very large check, one that will cover a third of my student loan debt. I tell them, "Thank you" and that it was completely unexpected. My grandpa keeps apologizing that he wishes it could be more, but you know, they have money in the stock market as well. I keep telling them that it will help out so much. I don't even realize how much it will help out until I get home. I realize that I can pay off my smaller, higher-interest rate loan. I had been paying more money on it to try to get rid of it sooner and not pay so much interest. So now my monthly bills are reduced by $200, and I have one less loan.

I still can't believe that my grandparents were willing to sacrifice some of their financial security to provide for me, to erase some of my debt. And I never asked for any of it.”

In light of all the requests I have received to donate to any number of charities this holiday season I have come upon a huge dilemma. As Christians knowing the sacrifice that Christ made for us how do we go about following His lead and make sacrifices of our own?

I struggle with knowing what a true sacrifice is. I know that it is good to give money and donate my time to others and charities. But if it is in my schedule and budget then I don't think I am really sacrificing much at all. A true sacrifice is giving up something, Jesus' life for instance, for something that you deem greater in value, our salvation according to God.

Christ put our lives above his own. He suffered death on the cross so that we may have eternal life: The ultimate sacrifice.

And so what do we do every Christmas? We plan ahead and make sure we look for the sales and even get up early the morning after Thanksgiving to save some money so that everyone has the same number of gifts under the tree. We don't want anyone to feel left out or unimportant during the Christmas season. Hardly a sacrifice.

But what if we did what the advent Conspiracy suggests? What if we were to take time and think about some real sacrifices we could make so that those people who are dieing can have a fighting chance at life.

I find it a little ironic and funny even to think that our nation is going through some hard times these past few months. The stock market has gone rogue, jobs are being cut, families are spending less, and saving more. We are feeling a little pinch because we are not as well off as we normally are. I say good, let us feel the pinch. Then maybe we will reposition our priorities and align them more with Christ and not focus so much on our own happiness and more on the happiness of those needing things like clean water and food.

My brother made a comment the other day that made my stomach turn because of the truth in the statement. He said "Organizations with alternative gift options are great...but you can't help but notice how people feel slighted when all they get for Christmas is a slip of paper that says 'a portion of a cow has been donated in your name.'"

It's true. People are so used giving with the assumption of receiving something in return that they have taken the joy out of giving.

What about those people who have no money to give gifts, what happens then? They get creative, they give of their time. They love, they spend time together, they sing, dance, and laugh.

Sacrifice and Responsibility are not different from each other. They are more connected than we realize sometimes. Because of the sacrifice God made we are responsible to make sacrifices of our own so that others may benefit. It is my responsibility. It is your sesponsibility. As Christians, it is our responsibility. This is what the world should wish for. Because out of this self sacrifice comes peace and harmony the world over. Lives are saved, mouths are fed, thirst is quenched and love is shared. And all in the name of Christ.

Be grateful for what you have because you are blessed. Be creative this Christmas with your gifts. Give without expecting to receive. Love unconditionally. Live the story of Christmas.



Advent Conspiracy

ELCA World Hunger

World Vision

Samaritians Purse

Ten Thousand Villages (Fair Trade Gifts)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Inspirational Stories

I can't help but think there are too many depressing things on the news. Life, the economy, death, the war..... it really goes on and on every night and day. It makes me wonder why news crews and broadcasts do a full program of downer news and then try to make up for it by putting some funny cute clip at the end of the show. It's like a breath mint after eating an onion, my mouth will taste fine for a bit but the first time I burp that onion taste is coming right back up.

This holiday season we have been trying to focus on how awesome God truly is and understanding how truly blessed we are. We will be using a couple of stories at our Thanksgiving services and First Sunday in Advent that are truly amazing. These people inspire and truly give you the sense that God has put us on this earth to live beyond our selves and for others.

Take a look at these videos and give thanks to God of all we are and can be and do.


Monday, October 20, 2008

A new batch!

For the 9th graders school has begun, confirmation is no longer required on Wednesday nights, sports have taken over and all their church requirements are completed (for the most part). Now what....we take a confirmation retreat and the following weekend we make it all official. Sounds like a massive amount of steps to call yourself a confirmed member of a church. But is it?

Requirements aside the youth in 9th grade are now required to make the decision for themselves as to what Christ means in their life. They are saying thanks to their parents for bring them up in the church and giving them rides every Wednesday and Sunday to Word of Peace Lutheran Church. They put on their robe and walk down the isle fretting about the Apostle's Creed and whether they have it memorized or not...."what was that one part after 'I believe'"?

But more than all that....more than the confirmation service, more than the retreat, more than the party and the family that come from all over, more than all that it is about LOVE.

This past weekend we took 66 youth to Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa and the message of the weekend was non other than LOVE. I could not count the number of times the youth were told they were loved. And not only by God but by complete strangers because of God's love. It was amazing. The theme couldn't have been more applicable for those sitting in the chairs.

This message is one we all need to hear every day and then spread. Imagine if the world loved first like God first loved us....imagine. It's not impossible.

This was a great weekend and I am looking forward to seeing the seeds that were planted this past weekend grow and mature....because it's going to be amazing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Back to the Grind

It's been months, and I haven't had the chance to type what is on my mind for what seems like forever. A lot has happened and so much needs to be said for what is going on in this community, both joyous and tragic. So I hope you join me these next few weeks for what will be a trip down memory lane and eventually a look into the future of the Student Ministry at Word of Peace Lutheran Church.

Till then,


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Middle School Parents

How are you supposed to minister to a group of students that rely so much on their parents to bring them to events?  

Think about high school you have 2 and a half years with youth that can drive themselves to every event they want to come to.  But in middle school the parents are really the ones making the decisions on whether or not their kids go to church or not.  Think back to those years; what was the thing you wanted to do most with your time?  Hang out with friends, play sports, go to dance class, swim class, piano lessons, or the most likely...sleep.  Now you can add on top of all that: homework, not to mention watching tv, video games, talking on your cell phone, and being on the computer.  And those are all after school activities!

No wonder there is no room for church.  Why would anyone want to come to a place that is lame, boring, no fun and you have to learn more about something you don't understand?  (just for the personal opinion is our middle school events are as far from boring as one can get.)

But, there must be something important about it because for some reason we have 225 youth in confirmation this year and it continues to grow.  Do kids come because their parents tell them to?  Yes, but why do the parents think it necessary to take their kids to church?  Is it because they had such a good time when they were in confirmation?  Most likely not.  

In the end it comes down to the importance of God in our life.  Obviously, parents know this ether from their own experience as faithful people or the church is doing a good job of selling Christ on sunday morning, otherwise there would be no one around.  

But in the end, getting the requirements done seems to be the end goal for the vast majority of middle school youth and their parents.  

Wake up people!  While we are alive we will never fully understand everything about God.  And if we think 3 years of adolescent learning will teach us all we need to know about faith, God, Jesus and the Bible, then we have another thing coming.  On top of that I would no longer have a job, there is no real need for pastors because they take care of adults, and we should just have a place where we can drop our kids off for an hour or two while we go out for coffee.  Isn't that called daycare?

But that is not how it works, we are not perfect, we are sinners and screw up daily.  That is why we need a constant, firm and loving environment no matter what age we are.  Parents should note that it is up to you to initiate and encourage your kids to be involved in a positive safe environment called church.  You are the greatest influence in their lives.  Take them to events that will give them a real idea of what it is to be a loving a caring person, someone that will grow up and change the world for the better and love the Lord with all their heart.  That is, in the end, what being a parent is all about.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You better listen 'cause God's talking

Today I was making some rounds to see some of the wonderful youth I get to hang out with each week, when I ran into a few at Luna Blue Coffee in Rogers.

They were busy studying for their Spanish test the next day when I was introduced to a person next to them.  It turned out to be one of the Spanish teachers who was also a football coach at Rogers High.  But the test was not the real reason they were at Luna Blue.  A Bible study was about to happen as a part of FCA.  

Now FCA or Fellowship of Christian Athletes is something I grew up with and I was suburbly happy to hear that something was going on at Rogers High.  The funny thing is that just yesterday I was talking with my Senior Pastor and he brought up FCA.  It was just a passing comment, but in conjunction with my what seemed like a random meeting at Luna Blue has made me pay attention a little closer as to what God may be doing in this community.

I always say that getting youth through the doors of any church is one of the hardest things about being a youth director.  But what if we could get Christ in a place where the kids are already?  This is no easy task and I think it will take a lot of work, but with the right people and some motivated student leaders, we can be a force in the community both in and out of the church.  We shall see where God leads us.



Friday, January 4, 2008

When We Were Kids

A dangerous title if you were to ask me. Think about it, in the work that I am in, youth ministry, if I were to start off any conversation with that statement, I'm asking for an automatic turn off as far as youth attention is concerned.

But something I have realized lately is that this statement is no longer relevant just to the older generations. I believe it can be said, and is being said by Middle School and High School students alike even as we speak.

I pulled a book off of my shelf this past week I haven't read in a while because it made me think to much. Well, it did it again. Within a few short paragraphs of Practicing Passion: Youth and the quest for a passionate Church by Kenda Creasy Dean I came to the conclusion that youth are growing up way to fast. Faster than ever according to scientific studies. Dean talked about the definition of terms like "grown-up" "adult" and even "teenager". The most interesting part that made me really think, had to do with adults not letting kids be kids.

Here is a question: At what point is it OK to say a kid should be a grown-up? Is there a time in life that it is obvious for young people to make the transition into adulthood? 25? 21? 18? 16? 15? 13?

What Dean argues is that more and more youth are being thrust into adult situations and are basically forced to grow up prematurely. I agree. Just look at the things youth are currently doing in my youth group. The majority of youth have a job, actually, it's hard to think of one that doesn't that is old enough. Youth are driving their own cars that they have paid for on their own. They own cell phones and are paying the bills. Youth are in charge of transporting their younger siblings around to their activities just like their parents did for them.

Youth are even involved in adult situations. They are becoming pregnant and being parents, dealing with divorce, and asked to make decisions for themselves when they really have no clue. These things are characteristically things only adults have dealt with in the past, but now more and more youth are willingly throwing themselves into these situations. So why is this happening? It is something in the water where youth are becoming more anxious to grow up? Or should we look more towards the parenting in the families involved?

Honestly, I believe youth are growing up faster is because the real adults in the family are not pulling their weight as adults. Adults should be adults and let the kids be kids!

Is it really necessary to ask a five year old what he wants to eat for dinner? Why not be the adult and give the kids what you know what is good for your child? Why not take the experiences we have had in life and use them to form the lives of the children under us and let them be the curious, fun loving, careless beings they are?

As adults we are showing the youth of today a world where it is most important to be on time, working constantly, involved in everything, with hardly any time to spare for Church not to mention God. As a youth minister I have the job of combating that. I am one of those people that will forever be a Lost Boy from Peter Pan who never grows up. It's not that I don't want to be an adult or think being an adult is a bad thing, it's more about faith, imagination and passion.

Christ talks about the faith of a child. A faith that runs toward God with open arms waiting for the embrace of our Lord and Savior. It is a faith that is unconditional and forever trusting because they have no reason to think otherwise.

It's about imagination. I keep Lego's in our youth room because I think they are the greatest thing for the imagination. One of the greatest things to see is how the eyes of elementary children light up when I dump thousands of Lego's on the floor. In their eyes the possibilities are endless. But as they grow older the imagination fades and youth are no longer focused on the possibilities but the realities of their lives. Encouraging imagination and creativity are key points for youth and combating premature adulthood.

And finally, passion, the essence of the book I have been reading. Have you ever noticed the passion youth have for music? Watching a hoard of teenagers flock towards the front of the stage during a concert despite the sweat, heat, and possibility of injury, is pure passion. The feeling of being in a crowd of people all singing and jumping and not having a care in the world. I want worship to be like that!

And yet, adults find these three things only useful for the young. There is no place for faith, imagination, and passion in adult there?

I dissagree! Our church is that place. The sanctuary is the venue. Our Lord and Savior is the reason why! We must not bring the worldly ideals of reality into our faith lives. Christ is about us being children before Him. Using our imagination to creatively worship Him and imagine the life beyond this one that is eternal. And if there is any place that we should be passionate about anything, it should be church. There is nothing better than knowing we are saved from our sin and shortfall and our lives should be the expression of that passion. And if you can't let it out in church, then where can you?

I pray that adults will willingly form youth into passionate, imaginative and faithful beings that love Christ while encouraging them to be kids while they still can. And who knows...maybe when it comes time to grow up and be serious about something, that something will be Christ!