Multempire - Thoughts on Youth Ministry

Clearing YM Noise Away

Posts tagged Christianity

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Daniel Durant: You’ve alluded to the need for worship and wonder. Do you think that worship can also be an escape for some?

Ravi Zacharias: Yes, I think the way we worship can be an escape. Sometimes I wonder about the evangelical world where worship to us has become so much noise. I often wonder how much that really couches the most important thing: for you to be still. Sometimes we’re afraid to be alone.We’re afraid to listen to our inner voice. Worship can be an escape, but if worship is the ultimate recognition of the sacred then it’s not an escape. It’s a fountain from which all else flows and you sense it. But it’s a great question and I think you’re right. Many times not just worship itself but even religion in general can be an escape. All kinds of things can be an escape:

watching television, watching sports. So the truth ultimately has to be settled: What is the paradigm from which I view everything else? The Bible talks about what you believe, so you are, and how you think, so you are. Worship, when it is a legitimate expression, is not an escape; it’s ultimate fulfillment.

Ravi Zacharias


Filed under Ravi Zacharias Worship Wonder Escape Quote Wisdom Christianity

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What Do We Make of the Riots. This Youth Worker tries to make sense of society and its reaction to the riots and how it degrades the humanity of all those involved.  The image of young people in British society is at issue, so is the animalization of other humans (degradation).  

I walked the streets of Croyden (outside of London) two days after the riots ended and saw the boarded windows, though life seemed to be returning to normal.  It was the self-reflecting, the punishments, and the editorializing in the papers that brought light to many issues in British society, but which have parallels to America as well.

Thoughts that come up in my mind as I watched this:

(1) How we view young people (and their role in society) is a social justice issue that needs to be part of our culture’s conversation.  They cannot just remain a monetized group with no purpose or vision for life - let alone the issue of joblessness.

(2) The vision of young people as trouble makers and responsible for the ills of society is disproportionate to the actuality (note the stats on who actually participated in the riots - 80 percent adults).  

(3) Punishments on young people, when they are used as a scapegoat, are much more severe than punishments on those wealthy elites or politicians who perpetrate much greater crimes (note last frames on comparison of punishments).

I watched this and was fascinated.  Partly because I can’t stop listening to the English accent, but also because the anger and the disconnection between the rulers and the young people is something the US has been dealing in different ways (Columbine?).

When people have no purpose and are given no dignity or goal, and time widdles away,  sooner or later something is going to burn.  

As youth workers and ministers, what is our role in this?  How do we address anger in youth?  How do we point them to hope in Christ?  Hope in a future for them, their families, their dreams?

(Source: http)

Filed under London Riots Response Video youtube Youth Worker Convention Youth Ministry ym youth young people social justice growth hope Christianity

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Adam McClane Feels Youth Ministry's Cup is 95% Empty - I Respond

Excerpt from Adam McClane’s Blog.  Read the full article at his blog HERE.

You don’t need a scientist to measure impact if you know basic facts about your community.

  • How many students are in middle & high school in your community? How many students attend a youth ministry in your community? Divide.Probably less than 10% of the eligible population. (If you factor in students who attend youth group by choice… this number dramatically falls, doesn’t it?) 
  • How many years has the current model of youth ministry been impacting your community? 20, 30, 40 years? How much have churches grown as a result?At best, church attendance has flatlined over the past 20 years, likely declined compared to 30 or 40 years ago. 
  • You might be able to point to a couple of exceptional examples. (Communities of great impact or individuals greatly impacted) But for the amount of effort, amount of investment, in most communities the impact is pretty small.

It’s not that the wrong people are in youth ministry, it’s not that they are uneducated, don’t care, are lazy, or even under-resourced. I actually think the frustration, the quitting, angst, and the burnout we see in youth ministry is because we have the RIGHT people working 24/7 [largely] on WRONG strategies. [More fairly, their current strategy is OK, just limited in impact.]

That’s not tearing down at all, is it?

My point is that the strategies we’ve used to date have a finite impact. We can look at 40 years of history and say “youth group” will impact less than 10% of any given student population. (How much more evidence do you need to see that this is true? 50 years? 100 years?)

My Thoughts in Response:

Adam - I know your heart is right, and looking at the stats it looks grim, but I see things quite a bit differently.  There is a big picture here and a few factors, I feel, are shaping the tide.

First, your stats are right.  That is the impetus to do what we are doing.  As a person who has just gotten into full time youth ministry within the last four years (after seminary), I’ve chewed on the seemingly grim reality.  But there is more.

Second, the big picture affects the little picture.  Culture moves in waves, and with this transitional phase of American culture, people are saying “Am I religious?  Is God real?”  America was in a similar state prior to the Revolution (Jefferson thought that everyone would be a Unitarian in 40 years).  Look at the Books of Judges, Chronicles, Samuel and Kings.  So much perspective on how generations choose their loyalties. Good or Bad, those who serve the faithful have to continue on in faith that God is working the big picture for the greater glory of Himself (and not necessarily the church itself).  With some of the sins of the people of the church, is it a surprise that people are re-evaluating their stance toward organized faith?  It is a heated topic, but scripture and history are a way to gauge some of this.  

Third, Smal things can lead to Big Things.  We have to remember church history.  In Methodism, John Wesley started with one Small Group, that would eventually revitalize Anglicanism, start Methodism, and lead to the end of Slavery in England.  Small sparks lead to big things, and we have to be faithful.

I’m an optimist by nature (the glass is always 95% full IMHO, because God is greater than… I’ve seen amazing things happen in individual youth, and I’ve seen youth that carry a flame into their cultures (which can be very dark).  But God is always doing a work.  Even if Christianity becomes more monastic and is pushed from the public sphere - we are here, reminding all people that the God that created you loves you and wants your whole focus to be on Him and the transformation of the whole world.  

I feel that we are on the cusp of some great movements in world Christianity.  I’ve learned in ministry that sometimes you have to persevere, wait, and see what God is doing, when everything has already fallen apart.  That’s how we know it was God, and not us.  

Thanks though, Adam.  Your thoughts get my thoughts going. This is by far my favorite blog. Kudos.

Adam’s Reply:

Interesting perspective in light of church history. The reason Wesley (and Whitfield) had so much success? They did a little missiology and built a ministry around where people were at instead of trying to force them into church. ;) 

The Conversation Continued a bit.  I am Thankful for Adam’s insights:

  • Adam McLane Daniel - See, like I said in the post, you can point me to points of success individually or even specific group examples. But we have 40 years of evidence that the current model isn’t enough. My post wasn’t calling for the end of YM at all. I’m just saying that we need to dream about new ways to impact the lives of students. I’m not satisfied with 3-5-10% of adolescents. That’s not theologically appropriate to me.
    30 minutes ago · Like
  • Daniel Griswold This is a hard topic because there are so many moving parts. I agree on the impetus, but I’m worried about discouragement. In history there have been times when things seemed dark, but pointing to a refocusing on personal holiness, and working with the few who are coming alive, God works in their lives to create a network of change for the future.
    10 minutes ago · Like
  • Adam McLane This statement in the post, “My point is not to tear youth ministry down down. It’s to rebuild. We can’t think about the future until we can make a sober assessment of what our tribe has accomplished.” If my premise that a sober assessment isn’t encouraging, I apologize. The intent of my words was to help us dream.
    8 minutes ago · Like
  • Daniel Griswold 
    Thanks Adam. The dreaming element is big and I’d like to see more of that. Perhaps it is just that there are so many voices out there that to a youth minister in the field, it feels like there is an echo chamber purporting the fact that we are “failing”. I worry about younger ym’s and those who read blogs as they tackle tough situations. Likely I should give ym’s more credit though, especially the ones that will persevere and make a differences.

This is from a conversation on Gordon-Conwell’s Youth Ministry FB page.

Filed under Adam McClane Response Reaction Youth Ministry youth life optimism practical growth discipleship Christianity Faith

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Fifthstory Interactive: Kony2012 - Why it matters to God...


Since I started in youth ministry almost 7 years ago, I’ve been a part of the Invisible Children movement.  I started out wanting to direct my group into some sort of aid/missions/activism project in order to remove them from the insulation of life on Hilton Head Island.  My church did not have the resources to do foreign missions work, so I suggested to  our group a few projects we could support from home and they chose IC.  Since then I’ve seen both the climate in Uganda and in my students change.  I’ve had students begin  to see the bigger world and their place in it, and with that see what God has called them to.  Because of Invisible Children, we’ve seen the end of Night Commuting  in Northern Uganda, the slow closing of Displacement camps and the return of the Acholi people back to their homes, the rebuilding of schools in Northern Uganda thanks to the efforts of high school and college students, and the development of jobs in Northern Uganda through the Mend campaign.  I’ve also seen students come alive with a passion to heal this world and find a reignited interest in Christ because Christianity became tangible through this movement.  Personally, I’ve had the chance to share Jesus in the halls of Congress with fellow IC supporters, welcomed strangers into my home, made life-long friends, taught my children that they are not the only children that matter in this world, spent all night praying with my wife, students, and friend  for the movement, the LRA, and Joseph Kony, and have seen the best of my family while camping for four days in a field in Charleston during The Rescue.   In short, I love Invisible Children for what they have done and are doing on the ground in Uganda, DRC, and Central African Republic, but I also love them for what they have done for my family and my ministry.

Now I realize that the Kony2012 campaign has its detractors and IC has come under fire for some of its business practices.  When I first heard about this I was upset, but did my homework to find out what was being said and if the allegations are true.  No, IC does not spend every dollar donated on the ground in Uganda, and no, this is not new information.  IC has described themselves as a media company in the past and it has been plain to me that some of the money donated to Invisible Children goes to getting the word about the LRA out to the world through films, tours, and any way that they can think of.  Beyond that, it is important to note that the bulk of the work done by IC is not done by paid employees but by passionate interns and volunteers both in San Diego and all across the globe.  These people are the heart and soul of IC and never receive a penny.  In fact, they raise their own money in order to do this work.   Sadly, the detractors miss the fact that IC has been working to heal Northern Uganda long before Kony2012, and have done amazing things that prior to their first file “Rough Cut” probably would not have been accomplished. 

So, how should we as pastors, youth ministers, parents, and Christians respond to the sudden wave of fame that Joseph Kony has garnered?  This is obviously a very complex issue that did not start and will not end with Joseph Kony.  Uganda has been in turmoil since its independence in 1962 and faces systematic issues within its government and economic structure.  But this does not change the fact that there are still children held captive as sex slaves and child soldiers by the LRA, and it really doesn’t matter if it’s 20,000 or 200.  If 2 American children were held captive by an African war-lord we would all be outraged, and so we should be just as outraged that 200 African children are held captive.  Moreover, we as Christians are called to care for the least of these, and captive, scared, brain-washed children definitely count as the least of these.  And so, as Christian leaders, I believe that we should encourage our students and children to engage with this issue.  If our young people begin to care about the lives of others, this only opens new doors for the Gospel to flow through them.  We should encourage them to pray and act, and act in ways that God would wants us to.  Invisible Children offers great ways to be part of the solution, from their Tri campaign, to getting politically active, to helping rebuild schools, to aiding in the newly established early warning protection program.  Yes, we are very grateful that the U.S. government has heard our cry and is getting involved, but this is not Invisible Children’s only focus, so we can also encourage our students to support the Schools4Schools campaign and other on the ground programs and also to continue to share the story. 

                In the end, I believe that part of our life ministry is to listen to those we serve and find ways to interject the Gospel into their lives and passions.  If our youth are calling out for the rescue of child soldiers and the arrest of Joseph Kony then we should support them and allow the Gospel to flow through those moments.  Who knows what this will spark in their future?  Maybe this single viral video could be the spark that reignites the church’s place in the world and brings people to the healing power of Jesus in ways we could never have imagined!

Filed under Kony 2012 Kony Reblog fifthstory Personal Take Christianity God Justice youth ministry

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This Anime is an intense depiction of Jesus’ last days from the Thief’s perspective.  Warning: It is a cartoon but it still feels brutal at times (whipping, the crucifixion,etc) but the ability to see the moment where Jesus and the two thieves have interaction was very moving. This may not be appropriate for a Large Group setting, but selecting portions of this for a High School Small Group or a College group could have a big impact when coupled with the scripture reading below.

Some thoughts/concerns:

(1) Any artistic depiction (including Anime) of Christ and his last days is an interpretation of what occurred and filtered through a production/artistic teams lens.  Make sure that students and leaders grapple with this a bit and rediscover the text before or after viewing.  There are different accounts from different perspectives in the scripture, and this viewing is directly from Luke 23.

(2) To make the story flow in visual form, other artistic works have been sourced.  The Passion of the Christ, the most recent popular release of the story of Jesus, is heavily used, including the popular flashback mechanism that was used in that film. 

(3) Immerse yourself in the scripture and spend some time in prayer and contemplation if you choose to present this. 

Luke 23:32-43

 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

If you decide to use this, let me know how it goes.  What was the response?

Filed under Jesus The Passion Christ Jesus Christ Anime Video small group youtube resource Thief Golgotha Theology Christianity The Cross youth ministry

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Casey the Punisher: This video is of a small bully picking on a larger kid.  The story goes that this little guy picked on the bigger kid every day.  This one day, the bigger guy, Casey, snaps while other kids are filming it.  He body slams the bully in retaliation.  It is apparent that he messed the other kid up pretty bad by the bad balance and the hard hit.

Bullying is a huge issue right now and working with youth, there seems to be a lack of self worth - and a lack of respect and giving of dignity to others in many cases. Those kids who do give respect are in the “Soup” of craziness, and can be drawn into the swirl simply by being in wrong places at bad times or being a random target. 

A few possible reasons this is happening now more than ever:

(1) Parents aren’t parenting, they’re friending.  Without fences, pre-teens and young adults go nuts.

(2) Parents grew up in small neighborhoods often and went to small schools.  The super-schools of today are basically cities of children.  Like any City - there is crime, and adults are just learning how to deal with bad behavior on a Kid City scale.  A few police won’t do the trick if a few hundred kids decide to act up. 

(3) No ethical training in schools.  We are so muddled as to what can be taught, and so much morality is grounded in religious teaching and mores, that the public sphere has lost a lot of civility as religion is completely stripped from public life.  That’s hazardous because faith, morality, and citizenship need to be lived and breathed in all spheres if to be fully implemented in identity.  This is a scary future if we don’t change course and deal.

Bullying has always been around, but in communities where everyone knows everyone, it is dealt with.  But in Kid Cities - how will the future generation find its moral ground?

Filed under school, morality bullying Christianity problems Body Slam Viral Video

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If you have ever attended a session with Rob Bell, such as his “Everything is Spiritual” tour, or watched a “Nooma” video with your small group, you know that Rob Bell is a talented communicator.

Bell has come out with a new book that is the talk of Evangelical Christianity called “Love Wins” in which it appears that he comes out with a Universalist version of the faith in which it doesn’t matter what you decide on this earth about God and Jesus Christ - in the end God is Love, thus, all people will eventually be won over by God.

Watching this video, however, Bell politics his way out of answering the question of whether he is a Universalist or not.  The debate started even before his book was released when John Piper and others read the promo summaries of his book and Piper, a reformed Christian leader, wrote the tweet “Farewell Rob Bell”.  A twitter firestorm erupted (seeing that Bell is a pretty hip guy and lots of people follow him there) and hashtags surrounding Bell actually trended as Christians talked back and forth for and against a book that hadn’t even come out yet.

Book reviews are starting to come out, and traditional theologians are starting to speak against Bell’s views that seem unscriptural.  We all, out of ignorance or sometimes purposely, we emphasize different parts of scripture.  Probably because comprehending God’s vastness, we tend to want to fit God into a box.  Bell here, wants to emphasize God’s Ultimate Love, or God Being Love itself. 

It is hard to follow his reasoning, however, when you strip away the modern notions of love as being merely a Romanticized Love in the vein of The Song of Solomon, and realize that true love involves Refining and Discipline and Justice.  The different aspects of love need to be held together in tension - not even as a Paradox, but as parts of a whole.

While we hate to think that someone that is a good person by our standards may end up in a state of being totally and completely alone, separated from God and the Righteous forever, we have to remember that with Free Will and the ability to decide how we live our lives, there are consequences to our actions. See the Gospel of Matthew on the Sheep and the Goats - there is a stern warning to decide here and now.

It is plain that the world was created for us to enjoy.  God created the world and humankind was to tend it for the Lord.  Never our own possession, but a gift.  But rebellion against God and living for ourselves - even when humans do good for others benefit.  If we live our lives with Humanity or any part of Creation as an idol before our Creator - we are separated from God already.  We make a choice every morning who or what we will serve. 

Christ died for all, and all may accept Him as Lord and be washed of our injustices, our sins, our rebellion - but God set it up so our decisions matter.  That is part of human dignity.  We decide and God delights when we decide to live for Him.

Rob Bell really needs to grasp with this a little bit more, and perhaps when more have read his book, he’ll say it was just an exercise in Conversation, but right now we all need to decide scripturally where we stand on the Doctrine of the Afterlife.

What are your thoughts?

Filed under Rob Bell Hell Heaven Afterlife Religion Mars Hill Church God Good and Evil Life Decisions Faith Christianity youth ministry debate discussion church politics

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Watching Yourself - Porn Consumption High When Christian Conferences in Town (Click Title for Full Article)

The Gospel Coalition meeting is coming together and the blog “The Gospel Driven Church” posted a blog about Christian porn consumption.  Quoted from the blog:

Steve Farrar’s Finishing Strong:

A number of years ago a national conference for church youth directors was held at a major hotel in a city in the mid-west. Youth pastors by the hundreds flooded into that hotel and took nearly every room. At the conclusion of the conference, the hotel manager told the conference administrator that the number of guests who tuned into the adult movie channel broke the previous record, far and away outdoing any other convention in the history of the hotel.

The blog continues on about how we are known in some circles for Christian porn consumption rather than love.   No matter what you think about Pornography, from a Biblical perspective, it is certainly not God honoring, nor spouse honoring, nor self honoring.  Those who love and follow the example of Christ really need to bring the parts of their lives they hold in darkness into accountability.  (1) Because we are representatives of God’s Kingdom, (2) Because a mind full of pornographic images is not healthy, and (3) Because sex is given to us by God and deserves to held in high regard and given a place of honor - not a creepy place in a hotel room!

Now saying that - God does love us as we are and we have to concede that we are not perfect as Christ is perfect.  But on the flip side - sanctification is a process where we strip away those things that are sinful and harmful to ourself and others.  Sexual addiction is obviously a cultural problem as a whole, but when Christians are consuming more - we need to check ourselves and pull ourselves together.  At the conference and in our homes.

See full Blog here.

Filed under accountability youth ministry conferences pornography self check Christianity Hope Growing Beyond Sin Sanctification