Summer is here!

27 05 2012

I love the feeling of summer. Even a Louisiana summer…

Graduation Sunday!

20 05 2012

At the beginning of 2012, we started a Prayer Partner Program, in which I paired each of our high school seniors with an adult Sunday School class, and asked the adults to pray for that student every week between January 1 and May 20.

Now, you never know how programs like this will work and whether people will get on board. But every Sunday School class immediately became invested in “their” senior. All semester long, congregation members have stopped me to say things like, “Can you introduce me to our senior?” or “Do you think it would be okay to send our senior a birthday gift?”

junior boys

snazzy servers at Senior Breakfast! It will be their turn next year! ūüôā

Well, May 20 was today: the official end of the Prayer Partner Program. Every year on Graduation Sunday, we host a breakfast for the graduating seniors and give them a gift. But this year, we added a new twist: at the end of the breakfast, we sent the students to their  Sunday School class to meet their Prayer Partners. The adults then got to pray for their seniors in person! It was a neat way to celebrate this milestone Sunday, both for adults and students alike.

me and the Class of 2012

These guys were sophomores when I first became their youth director: including an interim, I was the fourth person in the position in three years. They were old enough to be disillusioned, and you couldn’t have blamed them for keeping their distance. But instead, they took a chance on me, they welcomed me in, and they let me be a part of their lives. And slowly, they taught me how to be a youth minister.

It happened the first Friday night, when he sent me a message that said, “Yo! Did you get your unlimited texting set up yet?” and then proceeded to blow up my phone with text messages.

It happened one Monday afternoon, when he knocked on my office door and asked if he could help me set the futons up after youth group the night before. Somehow along the way, we ended up reading the Book of Ezekiel.

It happened one Thursday, when she turned sixteen and drove herself to the church to show me her license.

It happened one Wednesday afternoon, when four of them arrived to help serve Slushies to the kids walking home from school. We had no idea what lay ahead, but they knew they wanted to be a part of it.

It happened one Wednesday night, when two of them stayed after Bible study to tell me that they just weren’t too sure about this whole faith thing. What if we had made it all up?

Over the past two and a half years, I have laughed with them, cried with them, worried about them, prayed for them, celebrated with them, listened to them, talked them through tough times, cheered them on, studied with them, learned from them, and most of all, loved them unconditionally.

They have changed me…for the better, I think. When I plan my lessons, I think about them: how would they interpret this Scripture? how does this relate to what is going on in their lives? if i say one thing, will they hear another?¬†(I try to think about all my youth, of course, but it was my relationship with their class that taught me how to do this.)

They showed me what it means to walk alongside them in good times and bad…how to express that agape love through the power of just being there. And they reminded¬†me that my calling as a youth minister is more about building relationships than about planning programs.

They have offered their own gifts and perspectives to our church, diving headfirst into roles of leadership and service. They have been willing to ask hard questions and think deeply about their faith, and they have sought earnestly to live out that faith. They have supported and encouraged me, shown me grace when I screwed up, and they will be leaving a powerful legacy in the lives of younger students in our group.

It’s no wonder I’m having a hard time letting them go, but I’m also excited to see them stepping out on their own path, and I can’t wait to find out what God has in store for them!

Congratulations, Class of 2012!

Splatter Paint!

18 05 2012

The dilemma: This particular piece of artwork, displayed proudly in the girls’ bathroom in our church youth wing, doesn’t exactly scream, “We’re hip and cool and relevant to teenagers!” (There was a similar piece in the boys’ bathroom)

The process: I pulled aside three girls during our after-school program, presented them with two blank canvases, and commissioned them to create something a little more youth-friendly. They immediately went to work, splattering paint onto the canvas and their faces.

The product: Love what they came up with!


The caveat: As soon as they were installed, my high school boys immediately commented on the “potty humor” of the chosen Bible verses. Oh, well…the girls are still loving the transformation!

A few of my favorite things…

18 05 2012

The Rabbit Room. The Beatles. The Bishop of Durham.

So many of my favorite things, in one place … this is genius…and a whole lot of fun! Click below to see Bishop N. T. Wright sing his own version of “Yesterday” in Nashville, Tennessee.

Best story I’ve read in a long time…

3 05 2012

From Fast Company¬†magazine¬†comes the unlikely story of gang members, felons, bakers, and businessmen … and a Catholic priest who lives by the motto “You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

Please. Go read it now. You won’t regret it. ūüôā

Graduation Gifts!

2 05 2012

Graduation season is upon us! The seniors have four more days of school left, and we just got our first graduation invitation in the mail.¬†(But¬†I’m still in denial. So not ready for these kids to leave yet!!)

Last spring around this time, I headed to the bookstore in search of the perfect graduation gift. My options there ranged from “cheesy devotional book that will never get opened” to “practical how-to guide with too much information on things like drinking and sex, which I don’t necessarily want to endorse.” And an idea began growing in my head:¬†wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that is practical and fun, but also reminds students about where they came from?

So we enlisted the help of wise congregation members to write articles for the book; a nurse sent in First Aid information, a tire store owner sent an article about caring for your car, and a married youth counselor couple created a “how-to” dating guide.

I also sent out surveys to all the adult Sunday School classes, asking for little tidbits of advice and Bible verses they wanted to share with the seniors.

Then I compiled a bunch of pictures from their time in youth group, and assembled the whole thing into a book. ¬†I created the book in InDesign and used’s pdf-to-book feature¬†to upload and order the book. You really can’t beat Blurb for the price, quality, and speed (it only took a week to get here last year…plus, both years, I’ve been able to take advantage of their Mothers’ Day coupon codes to order in bulk!)!

Now we’re on Year 2, and I just finished updating and ordering the book for Graduation Sunday! ¬†Creating this year’s book has been labor-intensive but therapeutic (like I said, I’m in denial about these guys leaving): in creating the book, I’ve been able to pray for each of them and for their future plans, and to get excited about their next steps.

What I love about this book is that it truly involves our whole congregation. Our youth can take it with them as a tangible reminder of the church that loves them, cares for them, and has nurtured them in faith. Each page reflects the unique voice of the congregation member who wrote it, and our contributors did a fantastic job of giving really practical, wonderful advice! Plus, there are enough pictures and fun stuff that I figure even the least interested students might at least flip through it once or twice … and if they happen to glean some good advice in the process, then it’s totally worth it!!