Monday, February 16, 2009

Youth Ministry 3.0

This past weekend I was away from my normal routine and on Choir tour with the National Lutheran Choir. I have been singing with this choir for 5 years and love this group of people. Choir tour is always a great time to get away from the routine normalcy of life, see a little bit of the countryside and perform some great music at the same time.

I also looked forward to this trip because I picked up a new book about youth ministry called Youth Ministry 3.0. I was interested in it for a couple of reasons: 1, it was written By Marko from Youth Specialities and 2, I have noticed a change in the youth at Word of Peace and this book addresses some of the key points I am experiencing.

The basic idea is that there has been two major shifts in how youth ministry is run and how it reaches youth. The first was when youth ministry first became youth ministry. It was back in the 60's and 70's, post WWII, and churches began to realize that youth culture, for the first time, was in fact a culture of its own and need to be talked to and dealt with in a unique way. The first years of youth ministry were all about winning back the lost youth who had gone astray and pick up some new youth along the way as well.

The next shift came in the late 70's and 80's when the focus was on programming. How many awesome events could you plan and more importantly, how many people showed up. We are still experiencing this mentality today because "Programming or Youth Ministry 2.0 is what current Youth Directors were brought up in and are shaping their ministries after.

But youth culture has changed a lot since the 80's and 90's. There has been a huge change in the way youth communicate with each other. Back in the 70's youth was defined by when you were going through puberty, now it has more to do with mental and social rather than physical development. All this to say I was thinking a lot about the ministry at Word of Peace this weekend.

I haven't finished the book yet, but because it's not very long I will be done soon. There are lots of good points made so far, some of which I agree with and will look forward to implementing. There are also ideas that we are already doing. But there is still a fundamental change that needs to be made in how we minister and who we minister to. The time of gauging success by numbers is over. We need t start looking deeper into how we are affecting the lives of youth. We need to begin by finding a balance between telling them how to live their lives and just living it with them. We need to focus less on making the program awesome and more on relationships.

The strange part about this book is it's not a "how to" book. There are no formulas or cookie cutter youth ministry programs to follow because the essence of Youth Ministry 3.0 is individualizing your ministry to your community. And that only happens if you know your youth.

I am excited to see where God leads me with this book. I am excited to see where God leads all of us.



Monday, February 9, 2009

Surprise Me God - Day 24 - Wednesday

Dickens + Stewardship = Confirmation

I have to believe that the Holy Spirit was working through Derek, Rick and I last Wednesday when we planned confirmation for tonight. The reason being, we were so far from what we normally do and how we normally teach that there must have been some type of spiritual intervention involved because somehow it worked. Let me explain.

A "normal" night of confirmation is centered around music, teaching, video clips, something we call "filler" that breaks up the time between teachings, prayer, quiz bowls, and blessing each other. Basically, each night is the same format with variation every week in what we are teaching on and who is doing what. This week wasn't that much different accept that we had three things to talk about under the topic of stewardship: time, talents, and treasure. Our thought was we could use the model of the Christmas story for our teaching times. We would bring in our senior pastor, he would play the Scrooge character, and he would be visited by three ghosts, each having to do with a different part of stewardship.

In previous years we have done some crazy stuff and been creative about the message we present to the kids. But I must admit, in my mind I was a little skeptical about tonight. Stewardship is not an easy topic to deal with, if it was then we wouldn't have poor people, or hunger, or shrinking non-profit budgets. We would have plenty to go around and share.

The night itself went wonderful. For lack of practice and how much we ad-libbed the evening, I thought it went well. To my surprise the effect it had on the kids was one I never expected. I actually think they will remember what we taught them tonight. I even heard positive feedback from the kids. That they enjoyed the evening. That is a rare occurrence in itself, and a welcome one at that.

To end the evening Derek and I ran out into the parking lot of the church to greet the parents sitting in their cars waiting for their children. We never see the parents because they never come in they sit in the car waiting and so we don't get the chance to interact with them...ever. So Derek came up with the idea that we should go and give people the flyers about camp sunday directly to the parents in the cars this year rather than through the youth. The one consistent comments I hear from middle school parents is "I didn't know about it, my child never tells me anything." So this running through the parking lot in 15 degree weather with t-shirts on giving out flyers is an effort to let parents know what is going on. We shall see how it works.

Most of the comments made to us were receptive and thankful along with "put a jacket on!" But the most surprising comment was this: "Is this the only way to can get parents to know what is going on?" And our answer..."No, but we have to try all we can because we are not reaching everybody." So our quest continues to reach middle school age kids and parents. It is a long one but a worthy cause, I can assure you of that."



Saturday, February 7, 2009

Surprise Me God - Day 23 - Tuesday

Unexpected Praise

Today was another typical day...full of meetings and the normal routine. One interesting thing that did happen involved Michael and I at work. You see, I am the resident techie around Word of Peace. I seem to know enough, or am interested enough to get involved in almost everything that has to do with electronics around the church. So, when something breaks that puts me into a spot of fixing it. The projectors in the sanctuary are no exception.

Over the past weeks we have noticed a lack-luster performance from one of the projectors and felt as though it was time to replace the bulb. Now this is no easy task. Ordering the bulb, no problem. Putting it in and taking the other out....problem. Not having enough money to call someone to do it for us....bigger problem. So Michael and I get out the ladder and I go up first. As a side note, the last time I had anything to do with a projector and putting it in place I had a harness and was tied into the beam 30 feet in the air. This time I forgot to bring it. This made my confidence level go way down and my stress to go through the roof. As a matter of clarification you can't just unscrew the lightbulb from a projector, you have to bring it down from where it is mounted and take the old out and put in the new. So not wanting to drop the projector nor fall off the ladder was first and foremost in my mind. Needless to say, I am still here and the bulb was replaced without incident. WHEW.

Later that evening I had choir practice. We are currently working on a Bach piece that is huge and is a lot of work. We have a while to work on it still but have a long way to go. We are at the point where we should know the notes and should start refining the nuances of the piece but I was worried that we were no where close to that point and we might get yelled at. What came from the evening was my surprise for the day. Rather than getting reprimanded for not being where we should be, our director was actually pleased with our progress, really pleased. This was a shock because none of us felt like we were improving at a good enough rate. This was encouraging and a relief to hear.

I love when this type of praise comes. You have beat yourself up for not doing well or are not confident of your performance when someone comes up and tells you what a wonderful job you have done. This is a hard thing to hear sometimes because of the expectations we put on ourselves most of the time. But we try to be humble and write it off, but it does feel good inside to have a complement like that said to you. It makes we wonder if I compliment people enough when they are least expecting it. I guess I could compliment people like crazy and hope I hit one of those unexpected times.



Surprise Me God - Day 22 - Monday

Which Centurion?

On Mondays I plan an evening worship for the high school youth of this congregation. It is sparsely attended but averages around 15 people. We sing, hear a message from me and then do something so we can experience God in a way we normally don't in our lives. This is a lot of planning and I wish sometimes I had more time to do it. But I must confess that I sometimes save the writing of a message or planning an experiential element until the day of.

But today was different. I had had two weeks to plan for tonight and I was ahead of the game. I had thought about what was going to happen, planned it out and written my message before today. I was pleased with myself. So when I went to ask Derek what songs we think we should do tonight so I could put them in the computer, he asked me what we were talking about. I began to tell him and explain the stories I was going to use and the video clip at the end. Now, one point of important information: Derek and I thought up this idea and how it was going to pan out 4 weeks ago so he knows what is going on. He looked at me with confusion and said Dain which Centurion are you talking about. "The one at the cross, right?" "No Dain that's the wrong one."

I couldn't believe it. 2 hours before I was to give the message and I had written it about the wrong person. Man did I feel dumb. So I went away to my computer and switched some things around, put in the right Bible verses and made sure that it made sense and then hoped for the best to come of it.

It really is amazing how in our lives we can plan and think about where, when, how, and what to do in our lives. We plan and think we have everything under control only to find out that we are not in control, that some other being, much more powerful and loving than we could ever be is guiding us through life and helping us out. It may not seem like help at the time because it inconveniences us. But looking back, it was the right thing to happen.

The sad part of this story is I knew where I was supposed to be and what to do. But I got distracted and proud of my planning and I let that get in the way. This is the same for my life. I get proud of my plans I have and ignore what plans God has for me. I need to be willing to put my plans aside and not feel like it is an inconvenience because in the end it will all work out for the best. Because I believe that God loves us and has amazing plans for us.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Surprise Me God - Day 21 - Sunday

Super Surprise

After today Sunday afternoons become a little less interesting. The football season is ending with the Super Bowl and my team is not in it. But I do have some friends who are cheering for the Steelers. I thought they were going to win as well but being a sports fan I wanted a good game. I was not disappointed.

It seems as though some years I can't wait for the Super Bowl to be done with. I have watched 2 weeks worth of hype and every angle has been analyzed, every story told. This year I don't have ESPN, so I heard none of the hype. I was really oblivious to all that was going on. I really only knew the two teams that were in the game and that was it. I guess when I do actually watch the news I end up getting a little numb to all the importance and weight of this game. I wonder if the same thing happens in church?

Follow me for a second. People grow up and hear about God if their family attends church. They go to Sunday school and learn all the stories and have colored all the scenes of the Bible out of a coloring book. Then they get to confirmation where they learn more and more about God and the church. They finish it all off and get confirmed. All the hype all the learning and studying and the have reached the big game of life where the choice to follow Christ is theirs....and then they disappear. So many people have hyped up all the greatness of being a Christian and going to church but for most it has turned out to not live up to what people have said. Why is that? Do the people who reach the Super Bowl feel they have arrived and then quit playing the game after it is all said and done? I don't think so. There is still more to be done. And even if they stop playing, football is still a major part of their life.

I am not sure if that is the same case for Christians. See, we have never really had the chance to know what it is like without Christ. He has always been there, his love always abounding in our lives. We have never really had to make the choice of whether or not to continue on in our faith. I have seen my fair share of retirement speeches in my day and I know how emotional they can be. This is a major part of your life and you are making the decision to give it up. The sad thing is, I see that every year, but without the emotion. I see a group of 9th graders get confirmed and then make a decision to not come back. The worst part is it seems to be a relief to them.

Believing in God is not an accomplishment. The Super Bowl can't even compare to the bigness of God's love. But we still take it for granted. My hope is that in my life I can show people how to be in awe of God's love and mercy every day of their lives and that we would never forget that God is working through us. That's the whole point of this experiment...isn't it? To know and realize that it is not us that makes all this happen, but God. I pray I will not loose hope and believe all the hype about God's love in my life, and that you will too.



Monday, February 2, 2009

Surprise Me God - Day 19 & 20 - Friday / Saturday

Ski Extravaganza

Today was a day many of the youth at Word of Peace wait for all year long. Every year we plan an overnight ski trip to Welch Village in southern Minnesota where we leave the church around 9 p.m., arrive at the ski area around 10:30 p.m., get on the slopes at 11, ski like crazy until 4 am, get back on the bus and head home arriving around 6 am. It is tons of fun. This year proved to be no different. I was however, a little worried about having to many people on the bus. I was told that 56 is a comfortable amount and we were pushing it. People signing up last minute because they forgot, calling in hoping to not disappoint their kids. In the end everyone who wanted to go, even the ones who showed up at the door, got to go. That makes me glad.

The evening was really great. I got to spend a lot of it with Derek, Cory and Patrick. Cory and Patrick are two seniors who will be greatly missed when they head for college next year. I had coffee with them before we had to be at the church. It was good to sit and chat a little about life and catch up. They are great guys with a love for God that will take them far in life. And on top of that they can ski and board really well. It was a lot of fun to be with them on the slopes. Pastor Rick joined us as well at the end of the night and he is really good. I would like to say that was my surprise, but I knew that already.

Over the past few years we have had a couple of injuries in our group and I as always I hope and pray that we go without any this year. Thankfully the only time I saw the ski patrol out was for a training exercise, what a relief. There were a few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious. Thank God.

The ride home was and is my favorite ride home of any youth event we have. This is one I never have to worry about because everyone is so tired that they sleep the entire ride home, as do I. The big question is whether or not the parents are going to show up to get their kids. I have been at the church for an hour or more after the bus arrived on time waiting for parents to wake up. Tonight / this morning was, to my surprise, a very good night / morning. I was out of the church parking lot by 6:15 and on my way home to my bed. This was a great thing.

The moment I got home I was already headed to bed and hoping I could get to sleep before the sun could keep me awake. Not a problem. I was out like a light.

The rest of Saturday consisted of enjoying the new TV some more and eventually picking up my wife from the airport. We had a good rest of the evening with friends Steve and Kate coming over to rehearse for Sunday morning.

I think the best surprise I had these past two days would be the Q.T. I had with many people. The time I was able to spend with Cory and Patrick was great. I also got to spend time with a friend I haven't seen in a few years on Friday as well. Spending quality time with people always feels good to me. It's an interesting phenomenon, quality time. For some people it is a love language and I think it might one of mine as well. But I guess I haven't really realized before this that I need to make more of an effort in my life to have quality time with others. I always use the excuse that I am to busy and don't have time. And then what little time I do have I write off as quality time and call it good. The problem comes when the time I spent was only time, and it wasn't very quality. I really hope that I continue to find the value in this time I have with others, and that they see the value in it also.



Surprise Me God - Day 18 - Thursday

New Arrival

One thing I love about my job is the hours. Actually, it's more of a love/hate relationship. See I basically work what I can when I can and when I plan. In the end I am usually way over the average 40 hours for the week so I have to find some time to take off. This week was one of those weeks. I worked everyday this week because of the overnight ski trip we were taking Friday into Saturday morning. So, knowing Thursdays are usually lighter, I took Thursday morning and afternoon off. I had two things on my docket: 1, relax and two, go get my new TV.

This new TV is about 2 years in the making. Back when Heather's brother got married their parents (John and Marion) gave them a $500 credit towards a TV from John's TV store. With that they got a nice flat screen TV that made me rather jealous. Well, I can't say that I wasn't excited to get married and also receive the same credit towards a TV from John and Marian as well. So, with a lot of research and saving up of some money we decided on a TV and had it ordered. I had the day all worked out. Derek and I would go and grab an explorer from his in-laws, pick up my TV and another one to be taken to Two Harbors eventually and some DVD players for the TV shop, come back home, install it and enjoy. Well....the day didn't quite end up like that. Derek didn't get a chance to ask about the Explorer so we had to find another vehicle and the only one available was either Heather's car or mine. I took out the measuring tape and figured Heather's would be good enough if the TV was on at an angle. I really hoped this was going to work because not only did I want to enjoy 46 inches of high definition goodness later that day, I didn't want to come back empty handed since the drive was 45 minutes away.

After I picked up Derek we headed to DSI in Burnsville. I was given directions and knew where it was but didn't expect the road it was on to have nothing but look alike buildings with small names on it. So after a phone call or two and a few u-turns, Derek and I saw the place and pulled up to the back door. We walked in and saw two huge boxes and dvd players waiting for us and I knew this was going to be a least a two trip job if not three. I really hoped one of these boxes fit. We even got a "are you kidding" look from the guys at DSI when the opened the door and saw the car.

I opened the back of Heather's teal hatchback tying to eye the box and the opening. The workers then told us that it's best for the TV to ride as vertical as possible. Great! Well, there was no way that it was going to make it straight up and down, but it did go at a 45 degree angle. We braced it with whatever we had and hoped it would be enough on the pot hole riddled roads.

The ride home was quite as Derek and I watched for road land mines that would jostle the package we had in the back. The trip was fairly smooth but not without a few worries. We make it home and opened the package to see it indeed made it safe. Derek and I took it out of the package and placed it on it's new home. Derek and I watched the first part of Transformers until it was time for me to go to work. Once again, a day that was eventful, but no real surprises. Maybe the surprise was a great day with my brother. I don't get many of those lately.