Just a Youth Ministry Geek!

Conversations about modern youth ministry

The Lent Experiment February 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 7:13 pm
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I’m not from a tradition that observes Ash Wednesday or the events that surround Lent.  In the next couple of weeks I hope to learn a little more about Lent and it’s history.

My goal during the 40 days of Lent is to completely give up video games and devote that time to reading, studying and being silent.  I have a stack of books that I plan to read, some ministry related, some soul related.

What started this?

I go through seasons where I get really into a video game, and then for almost no apparent reason become extremely bored with it and switch to reading.  I decided that I got more out of reading than playing a game.  While video games are primarily social for me (I play with 4 or 5 of my college friends and we talk to each other through headsets) I walk away from a book with a better sense of accomplishment and growth.

It is my hope to finish this stack of books and come out of this a new person.  Pray for me as I start this journey on February 25th.


Book Review: Youth Ministry 3.0 November 29, 2008

Filed under: youth ministry — Dj @ 12:33 pm
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If you’ve been in youth ministry for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of Mark Oestricher, author and president of Youth Specialties.  Chances are you’ve even used his curriculum!  

More recently, Marko authored his new book Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go.  Being a big fan of Marko, and having a ton of respect for what he’s contributed to our little slice of the world in Youth Ministry, I knew this was a book I HAD to read.  And I did in 2 full sittings–which is something I never do.

For those of us in youth ministry, it seems like things are working they way they used to.  Oh sure, we may have huge youth programs and kids coming in by the hundreds.  But is it REALLY working?  I loved this quote out of chapter 1:

“…it reminds me of the church in North America.  We have all this momentum.  We perceive things are going well.  our megachurches are more mega than ever.  Our youth ministries are better funded than ever.  Youth Ministry is receiving more respect than ever.  We have better resources and training events and celebrities and credibility than we’ve ever had.

So why does it seem like we’re racing into a hole?”

The book goes through a history of youth ministry, the rise of parachurch youth ministry in the post World War 2 era (Youth Ministry 1.0), and the rise of Youth Specialties and more specialized Youth Ministry in the church till today (Youth Ministry 2.0).

Marko brings us to today, most of us are still in the 2.0 mindset but we need to move passed that into 3.0 to become more effective in connecting students to Jesus and the church.  How?  Well, I’ll leave that to you to go and read the book.  It’s not incredibly long (125 pages).  But I did want to dialogue about a few of the things that got me thinking.

  • As I was reading through this book, the thought that kept pacing through my head was “Maybe we need to do less!  Maybe we need to take a ‘softer’ approach to ministry.  Lose all the big lights, loud sound systems and Christian celebrities.”  Then, he said it: “One of the most important, dangerous, and courageous steps that any youth ministry needs to take if it’s going to make the shift from Youth ministry 2.0 to Youth Ministry 3.0 is to cut programs.”  I”ve been increasingly convicted that we DO too much.  I wrote about some of that here.  
  • Youth Ministry needs to move beyond the church walls.  Get out from behind the mask of “corporate worship” and get out there serving, showing people the love of Jesus in a real and tangible way.  This is what makes faith real in the lives of teenagers.
  • What frustrated me the most, is that one of the biggest factors of YM 3.0 is communion (as in community, not the sacrament).  What’s so frustrating about it, is that this isn’t something you can program for.  You can’t put it on a schedule.  And you certainly can’t say “Okay guys, let’s get our communion on!”  It’s a product of (I believe) authentic living in the midst of our relationships with our students and each other.  Marko has lots to say on this subject and he can do a much better job than I can.  But it’s frustrating that this isn’t something we can plan for.  It has to happen naturally.

The fact is, I think many of our American Youth Ministries are going to “fail” in the next 10 to 20 years.  We’re going to continue doing what we’ve always done because thats what is safe and that’s what we’re expected to do.  Personally, I’m afraid of being fired and never finding another job.  I am SO convicted over this whole issue that I feel passionately about it–but if I was to go to our church with these ideas, they would think I’ve gone crazy, call me irresponsible, lazy and a whole host of other names and fire me.  I think many are in the same position I am.

So how do we communicate this?  
How do we share with the rest of the church that things need to drastically change in our youth ministries?

We’ll see what happens.

Pick up Marko’s book.  It really is a must read.  I know lots of people say “Oh you have to read this” but I sincerely think that everyone involved in youth ministry needs to take their time to read through this book and wrestle with the many problems that it brings up and how to work through them. You can also participate in his facebook group of the same name to have open and honest dialogue about these issues.


What’s the big deal about Twilight? November 20, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 3:43 pm
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(Note: If you haven’t read it/seen it and are worried about spoilers, I will try my best to not ruin it for you)

Just in case you haven’t heard, there is a big movie releasing tonight at 12am across the U.S.:  Twilight.  The book, to sum up in a line, is about a 17 year old girl who falls in love with a vampire who has sworn off drinking human blood.

Fans are going absolutely crazy about this release, and chances are you have a few in your youth group that are just as crazy about the movie as the rest of the nation.  Which brings me to the point of this entry: What should be a youth worker’s stance on Twilight?

A mother approached me last night and asked me if I had talked to our kids about the movie yet, and I hadn’t (which would of been a good thing in this case), and she continued to talk about how she wasn’t allowing her 12 year old daughter to see the movie.  On my way home I thought about my conversation with this concerned mother and I came to 2 conclusions: 1) Parents are looking to youth workers for additional support when it comes to influencing their children and 2) We need to be careful how we toe the parental line when it comes to issues of entertainment.

I took the time and read Twilight because I wanted to see what the big deal was and I wanted to have some kind of a credible answer if someone asked me what I thought about the series.  I felt slightly awkward reading it because I’m  27 year old man reading a book written for 14 year old girls, but I found it an entertaining read none the less.

Here are my observations:

First, what I found positive about the book was that it was fairly clean for a young adult fiction book.  If you watch what’s on prime time tv for young adults, this is tame.  There is no sex.  There are no sexual references. There is some sexual tension between the two main characters but nothing that I would see as inappropriate (mainly kissing, holding, etc…).

Another positive is that are very few swear words.  I believe I counted 3 total (“damn” twice and one blasphemy).  As someone who has read the Harry Potter series and was surprised at the swearing in those, this book was a breath of fresh air for anyone who is sensitive to swearing.  Some may find one swear word unacceptable, but that’s up to each individual.

The story is compelling and interesting.  Even though there wasn’t “a lot of action” in the first two thirds of the book, I found myself being drawn to learn more and more about the characters.  Meyers (the author) has an incredible gift for making the characters come to life and easy to identify with.

At least in the first book, there is little violence.  There are no graphic depictions of vampires drinking blood or anything like that.  There is lots of talk about blood because it takes a major role in the book about Edward’s draw to Bella and her blood.  There is a bit of violence towards the end of the first book, but I don’t want to lead to any spoilers for any potential readers out there.

On the negative side…

Some view vampires occultic.  While the primary characters are “good” and do not participate in drinking human blood, there are still other vampires in the story that follow the traditional vampire thinking of drinking human blood.

My biggest negative is that the main characters put a potentially dangerous view and practice on love. Imagine for a moment that you have a teenage daughter that comes home to you, wanting to leave the family and run off with a boy who is “the one” that she met just a few weeks ago.  Bella swoons for Edward quickly and is willing to give up everything to be with him, even her own life and family.  That troubles me when the primary audience of this book are teenage girls who might be thinking of that boy who is ‘worth it’.  However, this does offer the opportunity to talk about these kinds of relationship issues between parents and their child.

Teachable points…

I don’t remember where I read about this, but someone made a great comparison between Edward’s desire for drinking Bella’s blood and the average teenager’s desire for sex.  Edward made the commitment to not drink human blood and even though Bella’s is nearly irresistible to him, he abstains despite his desire.  In my opinion, this point makes the great illustration of premarital sex.  Take it, run with it.

Bottom line: If you liked Harry Potter and had no problem with Harry Potter, you will like Twilight and have no problem with it.  If you had a problem with Harry Potter, you’re going to have a problem with Twilight.  There are worse books out there for young adults, but there are better ones too.  Below are 2 websites that I plan to forward to some of our parents who might be looking for some extra advice.  Feel free to check them out as well!

Here is a website review against the movie.

Here is a website review for the movie/books plus the bonus of some things you need to know.


Less is More November 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 3:53 pm
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I’ve been greatly inspired recently by the words of Mike Yaconelli.  Wow did he have a heart for young people and youth workers!  He’s one of those guys that I wish I had the opportunity to just go and spend time with him and just talk.  To soak up the passion that he had for Jesus.

I picked up the book Getting Fired for the Glory of God, which is a collection of articles that he had written throughout the years.  There is also a DVD with some video of his closing talks from the NYWC and other audio talks.  I read it in about 2 hours and continue to go back and thumb through it to take some extra time to soak it all up.

I can’t find a single phrase that I disagree with in anything that he says.  That’s rare for me.

But it’s not my point to go on about Yaconelli, but rather to talk about the aspect of his words that impacted me the most.  Here is a quote:

“Obviously evangelism is an important goal and calling of the church.  But evangelism is not a justification for busyness, exhaustion, burnout, or the destruction of families.  Many evangelistic missionary organizations have a reputation for leaders who’ve burned themselves out on the altar of evangelism.  And then–when these charismatic , driven leaders collapse under the weight of their maddening schedules–they’re tossed aside for the next leaders who’ll also self-destruct.

Youth workers, you haven’t been called to crazy, maddening schedules.  You haven’t been called to reach every student for Christ.  You haven’t been called to fix all the kids in your youth groups.  The weight of your youth group isn’t on your shoulders.  Your calling is to be faithful to Christ and to your families–and to reach those you can.  Growth is not the gospel.  More and bigger are not fruits of the Spirit.”

It’s so easy to get all tangled up in the web of busyness and “success”.  We look around and see what other youth groups are doing and we go: “Wow!  That youth worker must have something I don’t…” and we play that comparison game and we instantly try to emulate that kind of busyness into our own ministries.

Bigger is not better!
Bigger does not equal success!
More is not better!
More does not equal success!

There is nothing wrong with a small group.  There is nothing wrong with having very little to “do” on a calendar.  Of course our churches will tell us otherwise, but who are we to aim to please in life?  The board or Jesus?  Given the choice between the 2, we should choose Jesus every single time.

If you’re struggling because you only have 2 or 3 show up to your group, be encouraged!  You have those 2 or 3 to work!  There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact you have more time and more energy to devote to those 3!  I would much rather spend my time developing 3 committed believers than managing 20 students who may or may not even want to be there.

It’s time that we called out those who demand numbers and results and started focusing on who we are in Jesus.  When we do that, everything else will fall into place.