Video Scavenger Hunt 2007-- the year of the offensive tackle

The instructions read: "Bonus points: Include your youth minister in one of your videos."

The kids ran up to me and said: "Isaac! We have to catch you on tape!"

I said: "Okay."

Here's what happened.



On the plane from Denver to STL yesterday, I overheard the following four sentences in rapid succession.

"Make sure you tell them it's not my fault we missed the plane."

"They know we're late for everything."

"I know a lot of those are my fault."

"I just don't want the reputation of someone who's always late."

At the moment, I'm reading Steven James' book "Story" which is about the mystery that is faith in Christ and how much more deeply we need to look at it, and one of his chapters is about "Christ admirers" vs. "Christ-followers." He points out that Christ admirers say great things about Jesus, and claim faith in Him, but don't change their lives when He challenges them to. Christ-followers, on the other hand, back up their reputed faith with the responses to Christ's work and teaching that show they really are walking with the Lord.

The fact that I was reading the book and hearing the conversation at the same time struck me as highly ironic.


Group's Effective Communicators' Summit-- Day 3

Level 1 of the summit finished up today, so I'm flying home in the morning, and today was the moment of truth.

I gave my 20-minute message today, and then had 1-on-1 time with a coach who walked me through the tape and pointed out some things.

T showed me today that I need to spend more time preparing the normal messages that I do, which are 2 minutes and 10 minutes, on Sundays and Wednesdays, because there's so little time to get the point across that they need extra polish.

He also said that when I have the chance to give longer messages, for example on retreats, I should replace a lot of my talking time with time for my students to discover with each other the points that I want them to know. They also need time to work out how to apply it.

This actually goes right along with my teaching courses. It's applying it and investing the time that will be the trick.

But I also worked out a little strategy for it. When I go into a message, I've discovered, what I need is an outline of the points I want to make and the questions I want to ask, and a few illustrations that go along with it. I don't actually work as well with every word written out. And if the group I'm speaking to is discovering a lot of my material themselves, I'll need to be quick on my feet to respond to them.

This year I've been committing to improving my planning (by doing more of it in advance), my standard material (things I use over again and just needed to write down) and my speaking (first by doing more of it, second by reflecting on it and doing training like this.


Group's Effective Communicators' Summit- Day 2

Driving from my hotel to Group's HQ, I can see the Rocky Mountains the whole way down, and it's amazing. There was ice on the windshield this morning but I'm from Michigan; that was nothing. I didn't wait in the car for the defroster, just hopped out with the ice scraper and then off I went.

Today I have had conversations about what the biggest challenges in ministry are; how accountability to goals is a blessing and a thorn; and whether doing youth work in Hawaii is as great as we all think it would be (the minister from HI and I decided that since there's no off-season for the beach, ministries have to fight more distractions year-round!)

People retain 5-10% of what they hear
25% of the media they see
40-60% of the role-playing they do
and 80-90% of the experiences they have

And in order for an experience to have the value we as ministers intend it to have, we need to allow time for kids to process with us, guiding the discussion using the Gospel.

Within the conference, half of us are anxious about using experiential techniques more than lecture techniques because we'll lose control of the group, and the other half are afraid that we won't be able to cover as much of the material. But faith is not a subject we master, so if we are going to reach postmodern teenagers, we're going to need to get over that fear and start using more hands-on and discovery-based ways to teach.


Group's Effective Communicators Experience-- Day 1

I flew out to Loveland this morning to be part of Group Publishing's communicators' summit, and for the only time I can ever remember, all of my flights, shuttles and various legs of the trip happened on time, so I got here just early enough to change out of my travel clothes and run over to Group headquarters.

The group is a mix of children's ministers, youth ministers, a few senior pastors, some volunteers, and a few Group staff. Most of us haven't been to one of these events before, or out to Group HQ, and a bunch of us haven't had the chance to do actual speakers' training since we took public speaking in college.

We're all excited about something that's happening in our congregations. I've decided that the best question one can ask another minister is "What's great at your place?" because it lets us talk about what's going on, what we're passionate about, without asking "So how many are you running?" or any other questions that hinge on numbers.

I need to work on the outline for my 20-minute presentation that's the thing I'm supposed to have with me, so those are my notes.


I "gently sprung" this on my leaders

This week pray for my small group leaders-- they are flying solo on Wednesday night and while I know they're up for it, some of them are a little nervous.

I'll be out at Group's headquarters for a speakers' training workshop (and hopefully blogging from there) and completely forgot that I'd need to set up some system for covering Wednesday Bible study, until last Wednesday. So the leaders agreed to give it a try, and the kids agreed to show up, and we'll see how it goes.

God's got a plan for it, I know that!


Family Meals, with or without TV, make kids healthier

An article in the NYTimes today showcases some research about family dinner time; apparently, eating together is one of the most powerful influences on kids' diet (and has an impact on other behaviors) and things like TV don't distract from that as much as we've thought.

“Obviously, we want people eating family meals, and we want them to turn the TV off,” said Shira Feldman, public health specialist at the university’s School of Public Health and lead author of the research. “But just the act of eating together is on some level very beneficial, even if the TV is on.”
The research, published this month in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, is the latest testament to the power of the family meal. While many parents worry about what their kids are eating — vegetables versus junk — a voluminous body of research suggests that the best strategy for improving a child’s
diet is simply putting food on the table and sitting down together to eat it."

The Secret Checklist for Lock-Ins

A few things I learned from the last series of lock-ins we did here at CSMSG.

  • Strings of Christmas lights make great safety lighting through the hallways-- kids can play games "in the dark" and I can see my way around.
  • Give the adult leaders the Bible study guides before Bible study actually starts. One adult at the 8th grade event said, "Well, I have gone into presentations with less preparation than this."
  • Set up an official rotation for adults to be in each of the activity areas, not all clumped together in one space. This worked out naturally after a little while, but I should have been more active about it.
  • Post signs that say, "This door is locked" on red paper on any door that's not physically locked but that is "locked to students."
  • At rule-making time, make the "please don't" list yourself, then ask students to make the "please do" list and all sign it.
  • Don't leave the pile of big red signs around where students can find it and post the "guys only" and "girls only" signs on the opposite doors.


What took my breath away this morning

Over the summer, the staff at Fortune Lake led a prayer walk, and one of the stations was about expressing our identity as we see it, and considering our identity the way God sees it. This photo was the board after that station was over, the last week of camp. "I am broken like Christ" made me a little teary. (Click the photo to see it full-size and read it better.)
(credit to my friend LB on Facebook)


Greatest quotes from this weekend's HS lock-in

(while playing Apples to Apples, the world's greatest game next to chess and Monopoly): You can't cuddle up to Los Angeles, but you could with a bottle of soy sauce!

(at the beginning of the A2A game):
PK: "And there's Isaac-- he's not my friend."
Isaac: "Even if I'm not your friend, I'm still your brother in Christ."
PK: (thinks for a second) "Yeah, well, just don't tell anybody about that!"


Halo 3 makes news as an outreach tool

In the NY Times this morning, this article about churches using Halo 3 in their youth programs.

"Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a popular video game at church"

"Martial images in literature or movies popular with religious people are not new. The popular “Left Behind” series of books — it also spawned a video game — dealt with the conflict preceding the second coming of Christ. Playing Halo is “no different than going on a camping trip,” said Kedrick Kenerly, founder of Christian Gamers Online, an Internet site whose central themes are video games and religion. “It’s a way to fellowship.” "

CSMSG's ministry uses the Nintendo wii to give students a fun way to start and close our events, or to hang out and chat after school, but I do make a point of limiting the type of games and screening violent ones. It doesn't seem to matter to the kids-- they might comment on how I pick lame games, but they'll get up and play them right after that.


An unclear comment about Facebook

I'm not entirely sure what this essayist is saying, but there's an article about Facebook attempting to grow up in the NY Times Op-Ed section today, called "The Fakebook Generation."

"Facebook did not become popular because it was a functional tool — after all, most college students live in close quarters with the majority of their Facebook friends and have no need for social networking. Instead, we log into the Web site because it’s entertaining to watch a constantly evolving narrative starring the other people in the library...

For young people, Facebook is yet another form of escapism; we can turn our lives into stage dramas and relationships into comedy routines. Make believe is not part of the postgraduate Facebook user’s agenda. As more and more older users try to turn Facebook into a legitimate social reference guide, younger people may follow suit and stop treating it as a circus ring. But let’s hope not."

One of the reasons my adult leaders and I so appreciate Facebook is that it's treated by kids as a safe place to have important discussions; while there's some question about whether that's healthy, it's a good first step that might not otherwise be taken, toward finding a trusted adult mentor who can point the way to God.

Ten things that would make field hockey better

I thoroughly enjoyed the game this morning. My kids are solid players and they put up a good fight, but ultimately lost 2-0.

I also had some time to think, while I was watching, of a list of suggestions for the powers that be who decide how field hockey is played, that would improve the game. As a disclaimer, I mentioned a few of them to one of my students who plays, and she immediately said, "Oh, that would make the game much more fun!"

1. Water hazards and sand traps. Since field hockey is what regular hockey would look like if it was played on a golf course, let's include the traditional golf obstacles.
2. Tackling. So many times the other team stole the ball; if my student had been able to knock the other player down and run away with the ball, that problem could have been solved.
3. Hills on the field. Bear with me on this one. A level playing field means everyone can see all the other players all the time; how much fun is that, really? Let's get some high ground that a team can hide behind and ambush the other team when they run by. We are talking, after all, about a game that used to be played with the heads of one's enemies.
4. The "You Hassle, You Hustle" rule. (In fact, let's get this in all sports.) Under this rule, if a parent shouts out advice to the team, the referees insert that parent into the game to show everyone how it's done right. Guarantee the stands stay quieter after the freshman girls' team schools some middle-aged dad who shouts, "You gotta catch up with them!"
5. Let the players actually stand up while they play; no more of this bent-over running thing- that cannot be good for the spine.
6. An official airline.
7. Crossover games-- like the series crossover novels that featured both Nancy Drew AND the Hardy Boys; let's play the field hockey team vs. the tennis team, or something like that. Maybe the bowling team.

8. There might be only seven things-- any other suggestions?


Study Bible

I'm trying to pick a study Bible for my small group and youth groups to use here at the church; right now we have the plain New Revised Standard, the pew version, with no footnotes or other useful goodies. I like having the Word straight up like that, but I also like having a version that includes some background and cross-references so that my kids start to get that it's one big picture, not a bunch of random ones.

Who's got a good one that works for the group you have? Why'd you pick it and where did you get it from?

My conditions:

No "named" versions, aka Steve and Sarah Everyminister's Get-Your-Life-Straightened-Out-In-90-Days Study Bible. Adding a person's name to the Word does not make it more valuable or useful to a kid's life.

No cheesy theme Bibles-- "half-pipe of life" type thing.

All of life explained by index cards

I saw this blog mentioned on the NYTimes website a while back and forgot to go look at the actual blog until today-- it's called "Indexed" and the author does charts that show odd relationships between things, drawn on index cards. Most of them are very funny: check it out!


This week's quickest lock-in game

The exercise is: get a tent pole. Either grab one from an actual tent, or put together two tent pole repair kits, leaving out one segment.
Have people stand in lines on either side. They need to hold their index fingers out, alternating with the people on the other side of the line.
A person on either end of the line holds the tent pole just above the students' fingers while you give the instructions:
Rest the tent pole on their index fingers. Warn the students not to hook their fingers around the ends like the guy in white is doing. Their job is, working all together, to lower the tent pole to the ground. They must keep their fingers in contact with the tent pole at all times.
Usually, the first thing that happens is that the tent pole goes straight above their heads and stays there for a while. After they've tried their best for a few minutes, give them a new instruction: this time, they need to lower the tent pole to the ground. And the tent pole is very, very heavy.
You can interpret it by explaining that if we see the Christian life as a set of rules and things we have to do, it'll get really frustrating. But if we understand it as a relationship between us and God who continually reaches down to meet us, we'll worry about it less.
Usually it takes a long time-- my kids got it in 2 minutes this weekend.

Bible study on Responsibilities-- used with Confirmation class

Here's a Bible study I did this weekend on the 8th grade lock-in. We used the movie "Night at the Museum" which is a good, fun, mostly clean movie that came out around Christmas in 2006.

What’s Your “Rs?”

What’s the first thing your family ever made you responsible for?

What do you know?
What kinds of things do adults “have to” do?

From the Movie
Which characters lived up to their responsibilities? How did they do that?

Which characters did not keep their promises? What happened because of that?

What does the movie teach us about responsibility?

From the Bible
Matthew 28:16-20
In your own words, what’s the church been commanded to do?

How do we do those things here in our church?

Acts 2:42-47
What were the disciples’ responsibilities?

What happened because the disciples kept those habits?

1 Timothy 4:11-16
Timothy was a young person but he had big responsibilities. How can you lead and serve in the church today?

Which of the responsibilities we’ve talked about tonight do you think you most need to pay attention to?

In Our Lives
Write yourself a note encouraging you to be responsible for one of the things we’ve talked about tonight. Seal it in an envelope and write your name (first and last) on the outside. You’ll get that note in the mail sometime during this year.

Closing Prayer
Ask a student in your group to make up a prayer or read this one:

Dear God, you prepared your disciples to receive the Holy Spirit by hearing Jesus’ teaching. Make our hearts and minds ready to receive the Spirit’s blessings too, that we may be full of the strength that Your presence brings. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, adapted, pg. 819)