Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Often Do You Meet?

As a youth worker, I've always felt the struggle between the actual amount of time I get to spend teaching and working with youth and the amounts of time they spend doing other things that are required of their time such as school, school sports, choir, band, drill team, cheerleading, one act play, UIL events, Academic Decathlon, sleeping, chores, hanging out with friends, going to the movies, etc., etc. Naturally, I've always thought that an easy way to combat this was to give students more opportunities to meet for Bible study throughout the week and through more events and activities on weekends. Many churches meet only once a week, but I've always tried to meet on Sunday and Wednesday nights--Sundays for small groups and Wednesday for a combined group meeting. At each meeting we have about 30 minutes of hang-out time (refreshments, video games, table games, Christian music videos playing on the TVs), then about 15-20 minutes of worship, then we have Bible study (everyone together or split into small groups). After Bible study is over, we have about 30 minutes more of hang-out time. We also have Sunday School, however, that has never been an outreach-oriented time. That is mainly attended by the kids whose parents are members of the church and are attending a class of their own and our church services.
Today, though, I was emailing back and forth with one of our youth workers discussing some of the issues in our youth program. Although he was very supportive of our twice-a-week meetings, he seemed open to the possibility that having more than one meeting a week (besides Sunday School) may actually be a deterrent for some kids who feel like if they can't make all of them, then why should they come to any of them? I've always thought if they couldn't make one, they could always make the other, so in my mind, more meetings was a good concept. However, the more I think about it, I think he may be on to something.
So, I'm posing this question to you, my peers in youth ministry. How often does your group meet? What format(s) are those meetings. Do you have any outdoor recreation? Give me your thoughts on how your group responds to your scheduled meetings and leave them in the form of a comment to this blog. Your input is valued and appreciated.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where's the Love?

This weekend, I was driving to a friend's church to lead worship for a Good Friday service. On the way, I saw a motorcycle rider on a sport bike--a small, brightly-colored bike built for speed-- quickly wave at a passing biker who was riding a cruiser--a Harley-styled bike with lots of chrome and loud pipes built for enjoying the open road. Two strangers on completely different types of bikes who were bound by one common bond--the love of having two less wheels underneath them than the average highway vehicle. As I saw that, I thought back to my days a few years ago when I had a Jeep Wranger TJ. Before I bought the Jeep, I took it for a test drive and noticed that as I passed other Jeep drivers they would wave. Not just a small wave either, but a bold wave. If they were in all-out Jeep mode and the windows or top were down or they would stick their arm out the window as a way of saying, "Hey, you're cool because you drive a Jeep!" For the next year, I enjoyed those waves and feeling like I was a part of something special, until I realized that although I loved my Jeep, it just didn't have the room I needed for the things I wanted to do. So I got a pick-up.
Fast forward to last week. A friend of mine was telling me that someone had basically told him he was not a Christian. He was in a convenience store and offered to buy a stranger's drink as a gesture of Christian love. When he told the stranger that Jesus loved him, the stranger asked him if he was a Christian. As the conversation went on, this particular individual went on to say that my friend was not a Christian because he was a part of a different Christian denomination than his own and that Christ never intended for there to me so many different churches. Acknowledging that he would pray for his new acquaintence, my friend walked out of the store.
Is this what we've come to? Are we really in a world where bikers and Jeepsters share a common bond and Christians just fight over our doctrinal differences? Maybe we've gotten too complacent. In the first century, the persecuted Christians would carve part of a fish symbol in the dirt and when the drawing was completed by the other individual, they celebrated their kindred spirit. Now we have these same fish symbols on bumper stickers, chrome car emblems, t-shirts, tattoos, earrings, necklaces, name tags, business signs, door knockers, and who knows what all else, and what do we do with it? We accuse one another of not being "saved" because someone goes to a different kind of church. In John 17, Jesus is praying a final prayer for his followers (both the ones of that day and the ones that were yet to be) before he endures the pain of the cross. Here is what he says.
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." God help us to be more unified!

How to get forms in on time?

This week, I've almost pulled my remaining hair out trying to get forms from all of the students we have going to two different mission trips. It has been a virtual communications experiment trying to acquire the registration forms this week by the April 15th deadline. Actually the deadline was April 1st, but the grace period carried over to the 15th (yes, I know it's tax day). I was joking with a friend of mine that I had decided to look on ebay for a team of ninjas (preferrably elderly and fat ones to keep costs low) to send to homes and acquire forms and payment from families when we were up against a deadline. So, here is how I went about everything. Please let me know if you would have done things differently.
1. Announce it to the students at youth group.
2. Email the forms to parents.
3. Snail mail the forms to the parents because email obviously didn't work.
4. Call/text remaining forms.
5. Have the pastor announce from the pulpit that registration forms are due.
6. Call/text ones that still weren't in.
All of the families paid their deposits for their students to go, so whether the kid wants to go or not, isn't the issue. Payment isn't even due for them until next week after we do a fund raiser lunch. So all that was required was to fill out a form and send it back with their kid at a youth meeting. I would rather not spend a good chunk of my youth budget on old/fat ninjas, so I'm asking my colleagues in youth ministry what you do to get forms in on time. Please comment on your thoughts!