Announcing: LifeAsGodsHouse.com

Hi Everybody:

For the past year or so I've been playing around with the idea of changing things up here at Rookie Youthworker. I started this blog with the idea that I would always be "a rookie;" always learning something new, always challenging the way I did youth ministry to make it better, more Godly, more effective, but never claiming to be an expert or to have learned all I would need.

Today I'm announcing the opening of a brand-new blog called "Life As God's House."

This blog's intention was to always write hard-hitting, usable or theological youth ministry reflections and ideas and use my rookie philosophy to help improve other people's ministries too. But what I noticed about all the other great youth ministry blogs I read was that they had more in them than just Bible study plans and problems to solve; they talked about the bloggers' families, hobbies, and other things like that.

My new philosophy (catch the reference, anybody?) is this: Life is a ministry.

If I say "Ministry is my life" I'm usually complaining about how much time it takes, and how little attention I have to pay to everything else because of the work I do for my youth group.

But "My life is a ministry" is an affirmation that when I take up a new hobby, that's part of my ministry. When I read a book just for me and talk about it with someone, that's part of my ministry. An accountability group I work with told me that one of the things they noticed when we checked in was that I never talked about what I was doing for "Isaac time," and I realized they were right.

So check out the new blog, let me know what I can do to make it better, and let's explore what it means to live ministry together!

McDonald's Happy Meal Ad

The CORE was this weekend in St. Louis, and the trainers this year are talking about transformation-- both in our selves/our students and then, through that God-inspired transformation, in the world. And this was one of the videos Dave Ambrose showed to make the point about transformed people transforming others as well.


Look just like your dad

"Tell your dad you have an excellent GPA."
I was at a transfer day at one of the colleges I've applied to, and the woman checking over my previous credits looked up and said that.

It threw me for a second because she'd never met my dad, and I always think I'm being very clear that I'm the only member of my family who lives in, or has any reason to go to, St. Louis.

But then I realized what had happened. She'd spotted a large, bearded guy next to me in the lobby when she came to find me. He was there for the same thing I was; applying to school, but since we were sitting and talking together, and looked a little similar, she assumed we were related.

While I was pet-sitting a week or so later, I was out for the dog's morning walk and ran into another dog-walker. She looked at the dog, and looked at me, and said, "Doesn't your dad usually walk him?" I explained that no, I was a friend of the family, not a relative. But with both of those stories, I apparently "looked just like my dad."

Jesus told us that anyone who has seen Him has seen God the Father. And St. Paul writes that "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Taking those together, since people are supposed to see and know the Father through Christ, and see Christ through His followers, we as Christians are supposed to "look just like our Heavenly Father."

So how do we do that?

What does God do? And how can we do those same things?

We know that God is a creator. I tell everyone who will listen that one way to experience a connection with God is to create something-- bread, lamps, artwork, antique cars-- I think one of the reasons we're seeing people with such fragile faith lately is that not enough people know how to make things themselves. So we miss the experience of knowing how much a creator cares for what he's created.

And we know that God is a storyteller, and that God's people are keepers and sharers of that story. The theologian Martin Buber wrote that "it is possible to listen someone into existence." Today when Christians end up in the news, they tend to be denouncing something. I think we need to spend more time listening to the stories of the people we want to reach with the Gospel, so that we will be able to identify with their lives and figure out how God's story will reach them most powerfully.

Most importantly, we know that God is mysterious. And that He is bigger than us, and our understanding, and our way of worshiping. One of the most important qualities I look for in volunteers is an ability to say, "I don't know." People want to wonder; that's why school classrooms are using more debate and conversation, letting teachers and students discover things together instead of having an expert download information into students. And God's church needs to make a bigger deal out of showing people that we all wonder together about God.

It's vital for us to "look just like our Dad." Not "just like our denomination." Not "just like our senior pastor." Not "just like our youth group." And those are my thoughts about a few of the ways we can start.


A Prayer

Lord God,
teach us to rely on your grace for our salvation;
on your wisdom for our decision-making;
your strength for the work you have called us to;
and your provision for our daily needs.

Send your Holy Spirit into this place to teach us to lead your people.


Tape Sculpture

Marko blogged about this a while back-- a fun cool art project using plastic wrap and clear packing tape to make sculptures of people, or body parts, or anything else you might want to mold. The other week we had a middle school youth group and I was less than prepared... so we made a tape sculpture and used it to talk about welcoming people into our community and how we might do it better.

The idea was that the guy we created represented anyone who might walk through our doors, so we did some role-playing about how we should and shouldn't treat him, and how we might make him feel welcome and start to hear God's story from us.

Here's a photo.


Help-- need a hard-to-recognize Biblical character

Hey, I'm headed for a reunion next month with my group of youth ministers who trained together, and part of the event is a trivia night/costume contest.

So I need some suggestions for a character from the Bible who would be hard to recognize but would also have a great backstory. Any thoughts?


On MSN, a columnist denounces Hannah Montana

I spotted this column on MSN.com this afternoon, titled "Why Hannah Montana is a bad role model" and it's an interesting read, mostly pointing out boilerplate reasons why following teenage stars too closely is likely to get real kids into trouble. The column predicts that H.M. will be the "next to go all Britney Spears on us." It's a fairly strong criticism the whole way through, and while I can't identify if the author is connected with any particular Christian group, I wanted to post this link and see if there were any thoughts about it. I hear a lot of parents talking approvingly about Hannah because she's seemed like a generally well-scrubbed small human with a lot of potential, and they tend to appreciate their kids watching her rather than some of the more "grown up" stars (those ones grown up in chronological years only, of course.)

Here's a quote.

These teen idols, besides charging $30 for fan-club membership, are doing one thing: They're making our teens and preteens idle. Instead of watching quality movies, reading good books and learning to sing and play instruments on their own, our kids are indulging in the fantasy that their idols are sitting just across the family room. Really, these young stars are sitting on huge piles of money that would be better invested in college savings funds, and squandering irreplaceable time that could be better spent on something smart or, at the very least, on quality entertainment.


NYTimes story on religious affiliation

"Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report finds"

"The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.
For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said."

Any thoughts? I was talking with some people at a party one night about how this is a great time to be a Christian, because so many people are open to "spirituality" and trying out different ways of having a spiritual life, that they're also open, if they're approached properly (which is always the issue) to Christianity. The downside, as the article points out, is that if you're determined to sample all different kinds of faith, the spiritual life you end up with could be somewhat un-integrated.