Throwback Thursday: Benediction Wall

25 09 2014

In our youth group, it was a tradition to close each gathering by saying together the Priestly Benediction from the book of Numbers. So when we began contemplating how to personalize our youth space (particularly, the ugly, bare wall in the hallway), we quickly became attached to the idea of using this Scripture in a prominent way. We wanted our decorations to reflect the spirit of our youth group and somehow emphasize the sense of community that we wanted all of our youth to experience.

We ended up making a community art piece based on the words of the benediction!  I scheduled this project for the beginning of the school year, so it was a great way to teach new students the benediction, and to remind returning students why these words were so important to us. We happened to have some scrap beadboard lying around, so that became our canvas. (Be creative with your materials, and take a look at what you already have! We could just as easily have used foamboard, plywood, newsprint, or even plain old construction paper!) Some of our youth boys came up to the church the week before and cut the beadboard into 28 same-sized rectangles.

On the night of the project, we began with a brief Bible study on the Numbers passage. We talked about what the word “benediction” means and looked at several passages from the Bible that demonstrated giving and receiving blessings. Students signed up for a letter from the first line of the benediction and were tasked with painting their letter onto their piece of beadboard. The only rule was that their letter had to be big and bold enough to stand out from whatever background they designed. At the end of the night, we put the verse together, and eventually we were able to hang the whole piece up in the Youth Wing:

2014-02-27 16.12.41

I love the finished product. Paul tells us that we, who are many, are made one in Christ; each of us has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to contribute to the body of Christ. Likewise, each letter is unique, representing the efforts and ideas of each youth in the group. Yet they come together to proclaim one, singular message:

May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you.

May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you
And give you peace. Amen.

Reading Round-Up: Babies, Blogs, the Book Bazaar

22 09 2014

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy today to share some of my favorite reads of the past month!


Friday Night Meatballs: How To Change Your Life with Meatballs (at Serious Eats. Thanks, Jana!)

“Starting next Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dinner table as a family — along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table.”

6 Things the Happiest Families Have In Common (at The Week)

“We basically ask three questions. What worked well this week, what didn’t work well this week, and what will we agree to work on in the week ahead?”

Eat, Sleep, Pray: Spiritual Practices with Newborns (at Red Letter Christians. Thanks, Britney!)

 “Scripture’s full of stories of God feeding us. Manna from heaven and bread from the table. John’s resurrection story of Jesus feeding his friends –with fish, then forgiveness — and asking them to do the same. It matters how we feed others.”

Life Among the Bus-Riders: A Window on My City (at Red Letter Christians)

“You watch a man in his work clothes pull the cable for his stop at Olive Street where he departs with two kids, a bag of laundry, and two boxes of food. And you think, ‘It takes someone real smart to navigate fare change, daycare pickup, grocery shopping, and bus schedules all at once.'”

In Print:

 The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

Over the past year, Nouwen has become one of my favorite authors, so when I saw this slim paperback on sale for one dollar at our local Book Bazaar, I quickly snatched it up. In this book, Nouwen explores Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son (as well as the original parable) from several different angles. As with many of Nouwen’s works, you can read the words of this book in an afternoon, and then spend a lifetime trying to internalize their message.


On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey S. Karp

Both of these books came highly recommended to us as we prepared for parenthood. We have friends who classify themselves as hardcore “Babywise moms” and others who swear by Karp’s “5 Ss.” During a few particularly fussy nights, I found myself reaching for and rereading both books.  Neither has all the answers, but both have wisdom (and specific, practical tips) to share. I have appreciated the breastfeeding advice and sample schedules of Babywise, and have been able to successfully implement the calming techniques of Happiest Baby. As with any parenting advice or philosophy, the trick is finding out what works for our baby — which, I’m discovering, is an ever-evolving process!



Throwback Thursday: Chalkboard Altar

18 09 2014

Chalkboard paint has been ubiquitous in the crafting world for several years.  The ultimate DIY supply, it can spruce up and personalize anything…from tabletops to wine glasses.

Two years ago, we decided to redo the altar in our youth room, using — you guessed it — chalkboard paint. The project itself was simple. We already had a wooden altar, and we just painted it with three coats of paint.

After that, the possibilities were endless!

Altar1Notice the mirrors on the wall? 

Wondering what you could do with a chalkboard altar? Here are just a few ideas to spark your creativity:

Altar21. Distribute copies of a Scripture passage. Ask students to write or draw the images or words that stand out to them the most. (In the photo at left, students responded to Hebrews 13:15-16)

2. Collaborate with the budding artists in your youth group ahead of time, and invite them to create an original backdrop to enhance your upcoming series or worship service.

3. Collect prayer requests by encouraging students to write down the names of people whom they would like to pray for.

4. Write out a simple Bible verse, and lead students in a Word Association Prayer.

Altar45. Pose a question to your students, and ask them to answer it on the altar.  (In the photo at right, we asked students about something they wanted to say “no” to. On the other side of the altar, not pictured, they illustrated what they wanted to say “yes” to.)

6. Divide students into groups, and assign them each a section from a longer passage of Scripture. Have them illustrate the passage, storyboard style, with each group in charge of one panel.

7. Set up an ongoing prayer station, where students can freely come to write or draw whatever is on their heart.

8. Cover the altar in chalk, and explore the spiritual practice of erasing. Might be a great object lesson to teach about forgiveness!

How else could you use a chalkboard altar??


Safety, CNN, and a Bigger Vision

13 09 2014

My baby’s world is getting bigger.

At birth, his field of vision was only about 10 inches long. And by the time he reaches three months, he’ll be able to see all the way across the room. But today, at seven weeks old, he is stuck in that awkward, in-between stage, trying to make sense of his ever-expanding world.

Earlier this week, he noticed the mobile in his room for the first time. He stared intently up in the air, transfixed by the swirling letters. And he is befriending the ceiling fans in all the rooms of our house, looking up at them and cooing with delight.

But awareness comes with a price. For the first few weeks, he could sleep through anything. This week, however, he began waking up to the slightest sound. Our dog’s barking scared him, causing him to cry inconsolably. Read the rest of this entry »

Everything has changed…

19 08 2014

It’s been more than a year since I’ve even contemplated looking at my blog, much less adding any new posts. And what a year it has been! Since my last post, I have (in no particular order): quit my full-time job as a youth minister, quit my part-time job as a violin teacher, taken on a new job at a non-profit organization, rescued a puppy, written my thesis, graduated with my master’s degree, and survived nine months of pregnancy as well as one blissful month of motherhood. 

One year ago, I never could have anticipated the twists and turns that lay ahead in this journey. Even now, as I write and reflect, I’m amazed by all of the changes that have taken place in my family in such a short period of time. 

Needless to say, as I turn to my blog again, my focus has changed! While I still have several youth ministry ideas that I want to share on the blog, youth ministry is no longer my day-to-day reality. Instead, there is an 8-pound baby boy who is currently consuming most of my attention, time, and energy. My relationship with the church has changed: I’m back to being just a regular layperson and am very much enjoying that vantage point. And as I emerge from the haze of grad school, I’m also rediscovering my own identity and the things that I am most passionate about.

Bear with me in the midst of these transformations. I don’t know exactly what I will be doing within this space, but I am excited about what lies ahead. I am looking forward to new ministry opportunities and new creative outlets…and as always, will be reflecting on where those two intersect.

Hope you’ll join me in the journey!


19 08 2013

For the past three and a half weeks, I’ve been in Bolivia: first for a week in La Paz with Jordan, then the rest of the time in Cochabamba with a group from my grad school at Eastern University.


Jordan and me at Lake Titicaca


We went mountain biking along Death Road!

preparing for class

My classmates and I preparing for our children’s art class (photo by J. Nathan Corbitt)


one of our sustainable development projects: building a cob wall. Photo by J. Nathan Corbitt


My contribution to the cob wall. Photo by J. Nathan Corbitt


(almost) all of our grad school team at Mt. Tunari. Photo by J. Nathan Corbitt

We created an online portfolio of our work in Cochabamba. If you want to see what we were up to, check it out here:

The Pallet Post

12 07 2013

One day before high school mission trip…All of the paperwork was filled out, all of the programming was written, and all of the supplies had been bought. (Hallelujah!!)

But instead of taking a rest, Luke (my summer intern) and I went on an adventure around town to create a Pinterest-inspired worship background. First, we had to find a free pallet. (Shreveport folks, if you need a free pallet, I can connect you!) Then, we printed and cut out giant letter stencils. Next, we experimented with white spray paint that we found in a closet before moving on to our more effective acrylic paint. We ended up staying up at the church until well into the evening!

Each night of the trip, we explored one of the “One Another” verses in the Bible. Some of our girls took responsibility for adding a new word each night, and then on the last night, we had each participant sign the board using a paint pen.

Love, love, love the result!!! Here’s the evolution of our pallet:






The 10 Commandments!!!

27 05 2013

10 CommandmentsBecause I’m playing catch-up after not posting for a really long time, I thought I’d share some of what we’ve done this year. During Lent, we did a 5-week series about the 10 Commandments, learning about two commandments per week. Download the series here: The Top 10 – 5 week series on the 10 Commandments.

A few things to be aware of:

1. We had some of our high school youth act as small group leaders throughout this series. They did a phenomenal job.

2.  Each week we started with a big-group review session before dividing into small groups to discuss the two commandments in depth.

3. One of our goals was for the youth to be able to remember all the 10 Commandments in order and to know where to find them in the Bible, so we taught them hand motions as a mnemonic. This worked extremely well, based on a quiz we gave at the end: all but one youth could remember the commandments, all but three knew where to find them in the Bible, and a couple offered anecdotes about how they had tried to live out the commandments. All in all, a success.

4. We had just finished a series on sexuality, so we didn’t really talk about adultery at all. Nonetheless, the 4th lesson was one of my favorites.

What I Want Them To Know

26 05 2013

Prayer request time felt especially heavy tonight.

A local teen killed herself earlier today: the second suicide to rock our community in two weeks. One of our youth’s brothers is on trial for murder this week. Another of our youth will be moving to Mexico on Wednesday. One youth’s dad is being deployed with the Air Force next week. And yet another’s grandmother is in ICU.

I offered up a prayer for all these, and more, wondering if my words could possibly be adequate.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)

In many ways, tonight was just an ordinary night. We played kickball, ate hot dogs, made homemade Icees, ran around, got sweaty, celebrated summer.

I think that life happens, MINISTRY happens, in the midst of ordinary moments: the spaces in between the silly games and the heartfelt prayers.

As I drove home, I wondered about the spiritual resources we are passing down to our students. How are we equipping them to cope with the stuff of life, both now and for the long term? What have we given them through youth group that will continue to sustain them after they’ve graduated? It isn’t as though there will ever be a prescribed formula for what to do when life gets tough…they need their faith to be strong enough to endure whatever life throws at them, but flexible enough to adapt to their own situation and emotions.

Here’s what I came up with (in no particular order):

1. I want them to know that our God is big. That there is nothing God can’t handle, including our sins, our doubts, our questions, our grief, our pain. That in the midst of all things God is working for the good of those who love him. And that even though he’s big, he is always with us.

2. I want them to be able to pray. We emphasize prayer all the time at church, but all too often we present it as a boring, dead discipline that we do because it’s good for us…like taking medicine or brushing our teeth. But prayer has so much more potential than that; it is our chance to encounter the living God. I want them to be able to offer short prayers in the midst of their daily, busy routines. I want them to be able to throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and express whatever emotion they’re feeling. I want them to know that they can pray even when they can’t find the words.

3. I want them to be able to search Scripture. I have found so much comfort through the words of Scripture as well as through other psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Instead of just waiting passively for us to tell them what story to read, I want them to be able to use the Bible as a resource on their own, so that they can find what they need when they need it.

4. I want them to understand and appreciate the power of community. I say this all the time: this youth group is not an ordinary group of people. You’re joined together because you have the same purpose. You’re here for each other because you love Christ, and that helps you love each other better. I want them to really do life together, and help each other THROUGH the hard times: bear each other’s burdens, laugh with each other, encourage each other, love each other. And I really want them to experience true community now so that they will seek it out in the future.

5. I want them to have hope. Faith, after all, is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In non-religious terms, hope is “facilitating creative visions for the future” and developing resilience (Carey, 2007). I want them to know what God’s vision is for his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. I want them to recognize that kingdom breaking into our world, to know that this is just the beginning, and to hope for what God will be doing tomorrow.

This is just a rough beginning. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What spiritual resources can we give our youth for when life gets tough? What resources have most helped you?

Philadelphia in photos

8 10 2012

Where we stayed:


New friends: