Category Archives: Youth Ministry

advent Spiritual Practices Youth Ministry

God of the Present Tense

Every now and then, when I’m teaching at youth group, a teenager will roll his or her eyes at me and say something like, “We’ve already learned this, ugh! We already know this!” Most of the time, I resist throwing whatever is in my hand at the teen that makes the comment (most of the time), but it always gets me thinking about what I’m teaching, “Have they heard this all before? Am I boring? Am I making God’s Word boring (which is a sin if you didn’t know)? If they know all this, what am I suppose to teach them?” Then there comes a moment of thankfulness, because I remember that God often speaks through the complaints of teenagers whether they know it or not, and this complaint reveals something that I’ve forgotten—the thing that’s really important in youth ministry…scratch that, all ministry.

We are coming up on the Christmas Season in the church. I’m willing to bet that we are going to hear familiar stories, see familiar colors, and hear familiar songs. I really doubt anyone will say, “Boring! Heard it! I know all this stuff already!” When I think about the repetition of this story, year in and year out, I’m reminded that ministry, worship, and community (the things that make us who we are) are much more than simply the transfer of knowledge. We already know the story, but when we hear it again, we are reminded that God’s love is present, right here and right now. Ministry, worship, and community help us experience God’s love right now, in our very present.

I’m guilty of trying to make my ministry primarily about teaching teens things that they’ve never heard. Some times I forget that ministry is about letting teens experience God in the present, after all, the present, this present moment is the only place that we can experience God. It’s the only place that we are. We already know so many truths—God is love, God loves us, there is nothing more that we can do to be any more loved than we are right now. The trick is remembering it in this very moment.

There are so many things in our pasts and in our futures that tempt us to regret or worry, when the truth is that God is present to you right now, loving you more than you can imagine. So rest in that love, right now. And right now. And right now. It’s always exciting to hear a new idea or new knowledge, but sometimes we just need to remember the things we know, and be present to God in the moment. Merry Christmas!

advent Fun Uncategorized Youth Ministry

Free Advent Bingo!

Hey everyone, I spent way too much time making this Advent Bingo set to not share it in the world! Throw in some M&M’s and prizes, this thing was a hit with teens and children. There’s 60 unique Advent Bingo Cards with only 34 different icons (so the games don’t last forever). I also made a little list for calling out the icons. I liked this better than some of the things you could pay for out there. Have fun!

Here’s the 60 game boards!

Here’s the call list!

Infograph Uncategorized Youth Ministry

Infograph: Cheaters, from Kindergarten to Career

Cheaters
Created by: OnlineMastersDegree.com

Infograph Youth Ministry

Teenagers 1982 vs 2012


Church Leadership Spiritual Practices Youth Ministry

3 Things Churches Must Learn From Youth Ministry

“Young people are among God’s most forthright, frustrating, and often unwitting prophets…” – Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion

Youth ministry, is actually a pretty young experiment in the churches of North America. It’s been a messy, kind of  “on the job training” situation for the last 50 years, and it’s effectiveness has been hit or miss, given the low turn out of young adults in worship attendance. Still, through it all, youth ministry has discovered and centered on things that make youth ministry vital for teenagers, helping youth groups thrive. I think the church at large can learn more than a few things from youth ministry, but here are three that the church must learn:

Friendship is greater than Order.

When Jesus prayed for those who believe in him to be one, I’m pretty sure he did not mean we should gather once a week, face the same direction, hear the same songs, prayers and words, then leave without talking to one another. Friendship is absolutely vital to the church being the church. Youth ministers have known this for a long time. Youth ministry at its core is building relationships. Rarely is there a youth event without some time for teenagers to get to know each other, through ice breakers, small discussion groups, team building activities, etc. Often, these activities introduce a little chaos into what you are trying to do! Youth group is a place where friendships are made. I know a lot of friendly churches, but a friendly church and a church where friendships can be made are two very different things. What is the process for making friendships in your church? Is it easy?

Participation is greater than Performance.

I prepare my heart out for the “youth talks” (sermons) that we do at our gatherings. I write some jokes, plan the topic, and have an end goal in mind, but what makes these sermons worth anything to the teenagers is not my expertise but their involvement. During the gathering, teens are free to raise their hands at anytime to ask a question, give their own analogy, or make it clearer for one another. Effectively, everyone gathered there makes the sermon, and it’s far more relevant than what I could do alone. This goes for music as well. Teenagers do not come to church to hear the most professional musician or speakers. Teenagers come to participate in something. Only a few churches can “perform” to standards that could sell out stadiums and win the attention of teenagers with their pure awesomeness. At their church, teens are not interested in the best music or speakers. Teens want to participate with a musician or speaker. A teenager is interested in a place and gathering that is effected by who comes and how they act. A service that will be ran the same way regardless of who attends doesn’t appeal or seem meaningful.

Experience is greater than Information.

My wife said that this one doesn’t sound like me because of how important I think good theology is. When I say experience is greater than information, I do not mean that my personal experience trumps Scripture or good theology. What I am trying to say is that as the Church, we must lead people to an experience with God, not merely information about God. Youth are drawn to experiences of God through various spiritual practices such as Lectio Divina, prayer journals, prayer ropes, imaginative prayer, fasting, etc. Youth ministers often give teenagers some sort of physical reminder of an inward grace that teens are experiencing, such as a stone, a bracelet, a nail, etc. Teens want to experience God, not just learn about God. I don’t think they are any different from adults in this respect.

Youth ministry, in many ways, have trained teenagers to expect a place where they can make friendships, where their participation matters, and where they can experience God. When teenagers grow into adults, can they expect these same things in the churches, or do they need to form their own communities?

What are your thoughts?

Science and Theology Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry and Science Class

A year ago, an 8th grade girl came to me after youth group and told me that she doesn’t think that she can be a Christian anymore. I asked, “Why?” and she responded that a Christian class-mate told her that she could not believe in evolution and dinosaurs and be a Christian at the same time. “Evolution, dinosaurs, and rocks that are millions of years old make sense to me, so I don’t think I can be a Christian anymore.”

Lee Jost, a pastor, recounts a similar story on the Immerse Journal blog. In his case, the teenager was ready to throw away the science book. How did this rift between science and theology happen? I like what Jost says:

Perhaps it is because, as theologians, we are afraid to admit that we too have made some assumptions that exclude science. We have assumed that theories of evolution are there to strike the foundations of our faith. We have made assumptions that Genesis is a scientific account of origins, to be taken literally. Some Christian theologians have little time to read the language of new science and discern where there is common ground between the scientist and the theologian.. (read the rest here)

I like that he mentions the foundations of our faith. What is that? Isn’t the one foundation of our faith God in Christ crucified for us? I think so. In that case, how is Christ Crucified threatened by theories of earth’s origins? How does evolution take Jesus off the cross? It doesn’t.

I told that 8th grade girl that Christ is the center or faith, that he has saved us, and that what makes us a Christian is his grace, and we respond by believing and following him. That is unshakable. We do not need to be afraid of dialoging with science, learning from science, or even (gasp) adopting scientific findings. The more we breakdown the unnecessary wall between science and theology, the more we free up our teenagers to fully embrace God’s revelation in Scripture and in Creation.

Peace to your soul!†

-Ric