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:





In honor of World Communion Sunday…

8 10 2012

Here are some pictures from my worship experience last Sunday. My master’s degree cohort attended a trilingual church in West Philadelphia, and it was a beautiful experience of what the body of Christ can be!

Every Scripture passage, every song lyric, every prayer had to be repeated three times: once in Spanish, once in English, and once in Indonesian. In contrast to most churches I know, which aim to get people out the door in exactly 60 minutes, this service showed us the value of slowing down…even if we only understood 1/3 of what was being said. But it was a beautiful inefficiency, reminding us of our connection to Christians throughout the world and throughout history.

The service was wonderfully inclusive and participatory. Men and women of all different nationalities sang in the band onstage; then, after each reading, three new speakers would move to the podium for the next segment of the service. Probably half of the congregation was involved somehow in leading worship for their church.

There’s just something about stumbling through the Indonesian lyrics of “Shout to the Lord” that makes you appreciate the power of music. Many of the tunes were familiar to me; some were not. I can hardly put into words how amazing it was to know that we were all praising the same God, with the same tunes, in our own languages.

The sermon for the morning was about prayer; but rather than simply challenging us to pray “more” or “better,” the pastors sent us into the neighborhood to pray. So we, the Urban Studies students who had just arrived in the city one day earlier, joined lifelong residents and immigrant families in praying for their community.

We returned to the church to share a meal together…well, two meals really. First, the sacred Communion ritual practiced by Christians worldwide. Then, a home-cooked Indonesian meal prepared and served by the church members.

 

It was an incredible start to the week. I was challenged throughout the residency to deepen my faith, sharpen my reason, and act upon my sense of justice; this church spoke to me on all three levels. Church members admitted freely that they were far from perfect; they’ve had their share of growing pains and cultural misunderstandings. But in spite of it all, they have remained faithful to their calling: growing, serving, and worshiping together.

(photos by Nathan Corbitt)





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?