What does this say about my small group?

One of my students brought a friend to small group night this week and shared the following conversation:

"So [my friend] said, 'At my youth group, we watch Rob Bell videos.' And I said, 'yeah, at my church we watch Will It Blend'!"


Doing a bit of thinking

One of the reasons I choose to call myself a rookie, and plan to for my whole career, is to keep me from being arrogant. Yes, I want to be the best youth minister in the world. But that doesn't have anything to do with me, or whatever status might come along with that. It's because God called me to this ministry and He, (and my students) deserve nothing less than that from me.

It's struck home this semester how much I need to avoid arrogance. I've been taking an "Intro to classroom teaching" course and part of the course was a classroom observation series in local schools. I saw some amazing teaching that inspired me to go back to my youth group and immediately start using some of the things I saw. I also saw some really poor teaching; teachers who didn't care, and didn't stretch themselves, so their students stayed right where they started. And I saw some teachers who were right in the middle, doing the very best they could and not seeing many results.

It's easy not to be arrogant in the presence of great teachers, because they are so obviously better at it than me and I am eager to learn from them. It's nearly as easy to avoid arrogance when I'm watching bad teachers, because my thoughts get extreme enough about how much better than that I want to be that I can identify them and stop them right away. But in the middle is the hardest part. In the middle I'm caught between my incredibly high ideals, that get boosted by my education professor, and knowing the reality of how students can often seem callous and non-absorbent.

So in that place, I need to be the most careful. I need to consciously watch for what a teacher cares about. I need to see the small ways (often very small ways) the students show their respect and interest. And however long I'm there, I need to ask myself, "What would make me do the same thing this teacher is doing?" rather than "I can't believe she's doing that... I have a much better plan!"

Arrogance is one of the great killers of great youth ministers. And great teachers. And only when we break through it can we keep on learning.


Don't nobody mess with my radio...

Reverend Fun cartoon used under terms found here.
(C) 2007 Gospel Communications, Inc.



www.cheddarvision.tv-- the link goes to a webcam from England that shows a wheel of Cheddar cheese aging. Live.

Here's the YouTube timelapse too.

This is a neat idea. Not only because I love cheese. But also because not everything happens in an instant.
I've been waiting four years (the number of years I've been working directly with confirmation classes) for this to happen. My senior pastor in Michigan used to tell the class it was an option every year, and said he'd never had anyone say it either.

I'd messaged a student to ask for some feedback on our confirmation class, and my student wrote back to me, "I just don't want to be confirmed."

I'll tell you why I was thrilled about this.

Confirmands make promises. It's not just what they promise their youth minister that matters, it's that they promise their congregation and their God that they will, among other things, "continue in the apostles' teaching, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers," something that new members have promised to do since the church in Acts.

Every year, at least one confirmand makes those promises without intending to keep them. Every year, a few of them drift away after confirmation, without really thinking about what a serious breach they're creating between their promises and their actions. Especially in mainline churches, the temptation is to see confirmation as just another ritual, and go through the motions to make your parents happy. (That's a whole separate problem, by the way, not something I'm happy about or working to allow.)

So I'm thrilled because someone finally said, "This just isn't for me." We're not going to lose track of this student. But admitting honest doubt is, even if the doubter doesn't realize it, a step toward honest faith. Someone who says, "No" isn't always saying "Never" but often "I need more time."


One of these things is not like the other...

More hilarity from classroom observations, in the middle school. The lesson talked about the structure of the early church, and how the church modeled itself on the hierarchy of the Roman Empire, with laypeople, then priests, then deacons, then bishops, then archbishops, etc. One student had a question.

Student: A bishop... you mean like a jester?
Teacher: No... bishops and jesters are two completely different things.

Then one student identified the top of the hierarchy, the Pope.

Teacher: That's right. Are you Catholic?
Student: No, I'm Episcopalian.
Other Student: What's an Episcoponian?


Empowerment or worse!

So how's this for an idea that could start out healthy and turn bad in just a few heartbeats?

Mommy and Daddy's Little Life Coach (NYTimes)

"Parents have long depended on their children to be in-house experts on fashion, technology and pop culture, to introduce them to fresh music, purge their closets of ghastly apparel (“mom jeans”) and troubleshoot household electronics. And generations of parents have encouraged their children to weigh in on family decisions like choosing a winter vacation spot or a replacement for the belly-up goldfish.

But the nature and pervasiveness of child-to-parent advice has reached new proportions for a variety of reasons. Many parents — who have shed their status as old fogy untouchables and become pals with their progeny — are treating their offspring as worldly equals. They think of their computer-savvy, plugged-in children as confidants, and so they look to them for advice on life decisions, as well as major purchases: cars, computers, vacation packages, real estate, home d├ęcor. "


When I pray in school, it's for more comments like these...

The other day I was observing a middle school social studies classroom on a day when they were hearing a lesson on the early Christians, as part of a unit on Roman history.

Teacher: "Why might Roman roads have helped spread the Christian message?"
Student: "Maybe they had pictures of Jesus on them...?"


Christos anesti! Alethos anesti!

Welcome to a new season of blogging with the Rookie Youthworker! I took a fast from writing on it over Lent for a couple of reasons:

1) I was feeling really pressured to keep putting up awesome useful content, on top of work and school, and needed to step back and rest for a little while.

2) I didn't really know what the blog was for anymore.

God gave me an excellent season during Lent to sit and think and pray about it. Although most of the real progress didn't happen until the end of Lent, the whole time was worth it.
To deal with the problem of pressure, I've decided to re-instate the posting rule I had when I first started the RYW blog in December of 2005. I will post "major" content, aka serious essay-type posts or technique ideas or something to wrestle with and use, three times every week. That way I'll have time to think on them and make sure they're coherent and helpful.
To recover my sense of direction, God and I realized that the blog has three main purposes:
1) To glorify God by serving as a place where youth ministers can wrestle with theology and philosophy of ministry, to make sure the things we do are faithful to His commands.
2) To contribute to the overall state of youth ministry by offering ideas that we can work on, tweak, debate and remodel.
3) To share both humor and information from the world around us that helps us keep our perspective and appreciate the unique context we're working in today.
May God bless you through this blog and we strengthen each other in conversation this year!