Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why Backpacking?

While shopping at Dick’s Sporting Good Store an idea crossed my mind. If I lived anywhere the Smokey Mountains I make it a spiritual discipline to spend one night a month in the backcountry. Now it’s safe to say that the Smokey’s could be substituted with any outdoor wilderness area (that’s a little bigger than what Indiana has to offer). What is it about the backcountry that drawls me into its surrounding?

I’ve been reading Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. Midway through the book he finds himself at the Grand Canyon taking in the majestic surroundings. As he looks at this section of creation he thinks, “Life is a dance toward God.” He thinks about all the junk he left back in the real world, as he manages life with just a few necessities, he comes to a comforting conclusion: “There is nothing I am missing. I have everything I was supposed to have to experience the magnitude of this story, to dance with God.”

This struck a nerve. My back packing is spiritual. It’s one of the few opportunities to “dance toward God” without interruption. Everything I need to enjoy this dance is strapped on my back in a 30 to 40 pound pack with no ability to clutter up my life with more junk. I can spin 360* and never be removed from this magnificent pace of life. Life is simple and therefore God becomes much more visible.

I wish I were closer to that magnificent canvas. Or maybe I need to learn to appreacted the canvas I currently posses.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What Matters Most

Doug Fields wrote What Matters Most to encourage youth ministers to find balance in life and ministry. Saying no to the things that do not matter is far better than saying yes to the things that are secondary. I bought this book mainly because I relate with Field’s approach to the job. But in all honesty, it wasn’t really a book that I needed to read. My training at college prepared me well to keep a balanced life. Then I heard Andy Stanly teach at a Y.S. conference that every minister has to choose who they cheat; their church or their family. I’ve learned to be intestinal about personal time, to keep family first, and that the church can survive without me. Thou this book was not the most approate for me, it will help teach the importance of balance to my church. There are a lot of people saying yes to the wrong things. Balance is difficult to find. I’m thankful for a job that allows me to find it.

I Want to Talk With My Teen About Addictions

I Want to Talk With My Teen About Addictions is a resource geared more for parents rather than a youth worker. Much of the material was extremely basic info about the signs and trends of adolescent addictions. Some of the static I question and the phrase “We need to safe our kids!” came up more that once. I shy away from such statments because I’m a firm believer that we need to be less focused showing kids the things to avoid and more about showing them the virtues of faith that need to be embraced. I would recommend this book to a youth worker but only as a resource book when counseling students or parents.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building A Small Group Culture

I picked up the book Creating Community : 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture with the intent to glen some advice to improve the culture of our youth ministry. I believe that community is at an all time low and youth meetings are becoming more of responsibility than an opportunity.

The book is a detailed description of the small group ministry of the North Point Community Church. Though I am not the small group director or even a leader, I identified with many of the values of this ministry…
• The need to be strategic with clear expectations and goals.
• Putting an 18 to 24 month cap on the time the group can exists thus, makeing it easier for new participates to join once a new group has been formed.
• Closing the group to new members so that the group can focus on spiritual growth rather than numeric growth.

This was not a youth ministry book but I did glen one major idea about how I lead the youth groups on Wednesday Night. When describing the goals of a ministry they believe that their “open door program” should “change people’s mind about church.” Their small group ministry should “change people’s minds about their priorities.” Without knowing it, this is the exact opposite of the way I’ve been teaching the youth.

The way I’ve been leading it was; come to youth groups so I can change your life’s priorities then we can change your mind about church. How foolish of me. Only God can change priorities; not a teacher. I need to focus more on changing kids minds about God and church rather than their life’s priorities. This will be very hard for me to change but I must.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A New Kind of Youth Ministry

A New Kind of Youth Ministry, by Chris Folmsbee, is a quick read. Putting the content of this book into practice will be anything but quick. If you are new to the “postmodern conversation” then many of these ideas will be new. I’ve been in this conversation for over six years and I can honestly say that many of ANKYM’s ideas have already crossed my mind once before. This book, however, collects these ideas and presents them in a clear presentation that leads it’s readers to one over arching conclusion…youth ministry can and should be done differently.