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.

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??


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?

Things Middle Schoolers Say

23 09 2012

Middle Schooler: Hey Ms. Callie, if you’re still the youth director when I graduate from high school, are you going to forget about me after I leave?

Me: No, of course not.

MS: Okay. Well, will you still remember me when I’m 25 and in the NBA?

Me: Definitely. You’re unforgettable.

MS: Okay… when I’m in the NBA, I’ll give you $10,000. And I’ll be sure to thank you in my speech when we when the National Championship.

Mission Trip videos!

27 08 2012

Last week I created videos about our summer mission trips to share with our congregation. Enjoy!

Who are you crazy about??

27 08 2012

Back in the swing of school…I just finished my first reading assignment for the new semester: an excerpt from Salome Thomas-El’s book I Choose To Stay. Thomas-El, an education consultant, was a teacher and principal in inner-city Philadelphia for more than 20 years. His website sums up his philosophy: “Every child needs someone to be crazy about them.”

I totally agree. It can completely alter the course of a student’s life to know that someone cares. So when we encounter a kid, no matter who the kid appears to be, we can’t ever just assume that they’ve already found that person…much less that they know who that person is! The responsibility falls on us, then, to make sure that those kids know we’re crazy about them, we believe in them, and we’re rooting for them every step of the way.

I love the way my friend Kenny once described his mentor: “Lorris had a particular way of telling you, ‘I think you’re really neat.’ Even when I broke the rules, and any other camp counselor would have rightly fussed at me, Lorris would come up and put his around me. Instead of a lecture, he’d say something like, ‘Kenny, you know something? I think you’re pretty neat, and so does God.’ And somehow he’d get the point across, too.”

I only got to meet Lorris once, but in the short week I spent with him, he told me several times that he thought I was pretty special. And even though I knew he probably said the same thing to the other 50  campers, his words still left an impression upon my heart.

So who are you crazy about? And have you told them yet?

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! 🙂

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!