#SelfieSunday Scavenger Hunt

We played a game yesterday that was OFF THE CHARTS FUN.

#SelfieSunday Scavenger Hunt

The vibe: We didn’t have normal programming in our youth Lodge, but because we already graduated 5th grade to the Lodge, and they did have programming, we decided they could have The Lodge all to themselves. Since it was their 3rd week in, the leaders thought a scavenger hunt would be awesome. Well, if you know me, then you know I’m not just gonna hand a kid a checklist.

The directions:  

  1. I asked students with Instagram and their cell phones on them (I ended up letting a group use mine……whoops) to be group leaders. I told them to take their accounts off private just for a little while.
  2. I counted off the group to split off. We had about 20 5th graders, so we had 5 groups. Having more than 4 or 5 per group makes cramped selfies.
  3. I told them to come up with a group name and use it in every photo that they hashtag, as well as “selfiesundayJH.”
  4. Then I gave them a list of selfies to make and 20 minutes. The energy was WILD.
  5. On the screen I had InstafeedLive. Every time they used our hashtag, the photo would show up on the screen. Again, accounts need to be off private in order for this to work.
  6. When they came back, they looked at the pictures on the screen while I counted up the votes. Honestly, they loved looking at them so I could take my time. #TeamSwagalicious won.

The List of Selfies: Here’s my list!

Because the purpose was to introduce them to The Lodge and let them truly own it for a day, I put some Lodge-specific activities on there. I also put some things for them to “find,” like my St. Louis Cardinals hat that a volunteer was wearing the entire time.

I also let them venture out slightly into the parking lot–a selfie by the Basketball hoop, a selfie in the Recycling Dumpster, a yellow car that they couldn’t find because apparently the people at my church don’t drive those, and more!

Then there’s the “generic selfies”–the photobomb (“sneak selfie”), hair mustaches, a stranger, and of course a most creative selfie.

If you did this with older students or had more time, you could have adults drive them and do fun selfies off-campus. Because of the vibe I was trying to create, I wanted to keep them close.

The product: Amazingness. Our adult leaders were obsessed. Our students were excited. Even when selfies weren’t coming on the screen “fast enough,” they were still eating it up. I received an email from a parent saying it was the best part of her daughter’s day (Happy Mother’s Day!). Kids were commenting on the students’ photos asking what “JH” stood for (one asked if it meant “just hanging”–to which I responded that they could “just hang” with us ANYTIME. I may have embarrassed my student). It was a fun vibe and the students couldn’t stop talking about it. I got approximately 23048 hugs before they left.

Basically–DO IT. IT’S SO MUCH FUN. I CAN’T EVEN.

“Jesus Feminist” and the Why We Need Women Theologians

Although John Piper and I would disagree on how this plays out, a quote of his has stood out to me:

Wimpy theology makes wimpy women. Wimpy theology simply does not give a woman a God that is big enough, strong enough, wise enough, and good enough to handle the realities of life in a way that magnifies the infinite worth of Jesus Christ.”

A few months back I read the book “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey. The book is simply marvelous. A lot of female theologians tend to bullhorn their theology in a way that is counteractive.  Bessey writes in a way that is empathetic and has a way of saying, “You may disagree, but we both love the Lord the same. Neither of us is more right than the other.”

Her book reminds me why we need female theologians:   We need people to express God’s Word in ways that are sensitive, nurturing, and that narrate the stories of our lives. Bessey’s book does that.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

So may there be grace and kindness, gentleness and love in our hearts, especially for the ones who we believe are profoundly wrong. The Good News is proclaimed when we love each other. I pray for unity beyond conformity, because loving-kindness preaches the gospel more beautifully and truthfully than any satirical blog post or point-by-point dismantling of another disciple’s reputation and teaching. (p5)

Years ago, I practiced anger and cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over. I practiced being defensive —about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics. And then I went on the offense. I repeated outrage and anger. I jumped, Pavlovian, to right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every inflammatory blog post, pontificate about every question. Any sniff of disagreement was a dinner bell clanging to my anger: Come and get it! Rally the troops! Like many of us, I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart, and I wondered why I had no real joy in this ongoing search for truth. . . I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism anymore. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath (pp. 5-6).

We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world’s dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language.  (p. 14).

I’m pretty sure my purpose here on earth isn’t to win arguments or perform hermeneutical gymnastics to impress the wealthiest 2 percent of the world. (p. 16).

Throughout the records of the Gospels, I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china . We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend. (pp. 17-18).

“God bless your mother— the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Yet Jesus replied to this common blessing with “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Women aren’t simply or only blessed by giving birth to greatness; no, we are all blessed when we hear the Word of God—Jesus— and put it into practice. We don’t rely on secondhand blessings in Jesus.  (pp. 20-21).

I stopped expecting everyone to experience God or church or life like I thought it should be done. In fact , I stopped using the word should about God altogether, I sought God, and he was faithful to answer me. I came to know him as “Abba”— a Daddy. He set me free from crippling approval addiction, from my Evangelical Hero Complex, from the fear of man. He bathed my feet, bound my wounds, gave rest to my soul, restored the joy of church and community to our lives. I learned the difference between critical thinking and being just plain critical. And I found out that he is more than enough, always will be more than enough— yesterday, today, forever. (pp. 49-50).

Stay there in the questions, in the doubts, in the wonderings and loneliness, the tension of living in the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, your wounds and hurts and aches, until you are satisfied that Abba is there too. You will not find your answers by ignoring the cry of your heart or by living a life of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. (p. 52).

People want black-and-white answers, but Scripture is rainbow arch across a stormy sky. Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter. (pp. 56-57).

It’s dangerous to cherry-pick a few stand-alone verses, particularly when they are used as a weapon to silence and intimidate, effectively benching half the church in the midst of holy harvest season when the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. But it is equally dangerous to simply get on with doing what we “feel” is right. We cannot ignore any portions of Scripture simply because they make our (post) modern selves uncomfortable. We can’t simply dismiss the parts of the Bible we don’t like— not if we call ourselves followers of The (whole) Way. Nor should we weigh the desires or practices of our own culture and personal experiences to the exclusion of Scripture or tradition  or reason. Theologian N. T. Wright believes that to affirm the “authority of Scripture” is precisely “not to say, ‘We know what scripture means and don’t need to raise anymore questions.’ It is always a way of saying that the church in each generation must make fresh and rejuvenated efforts to understand scripture more fully and live by it more thoroughly, even if that means cutting across cherished traditions.” (pp. 58-59)

But then who is the spiritual head of your home? Only Jesus. Only ever our Jesus. (p. 74).

No, I am a biblical woman because I live and move and have my being in the daily reality of being a follower of Jesus, living in the reality of being loved, in full trust of my Abba. I am a biblical woman because I follow in the footsteps of all the biblical women who came before me.  (pp. 97-98).

Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, a place, that you are called. Didn’t you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother’s womb is the one singing these words over you, you are chosen. Stop waiting for someone else to validate your created self: that is done. Stop holding your breath, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, through your quietness, your submission, your home, your children, and your “correct” doctrine that God has already freely given to you. Because, darling , you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your vocation or your marital status. Not because of your labels or your underlined approved-by-the-gatekeepers books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the celebration you’ve mistaken as a job description in Proverbs 31. (pp. 192-193).

What #OC14 Taught Me

I went to Orange for the first time last week, making that my third ministry conference experience in the last 14 months! Here comes Middle School Campference this fall! :)

Here is the 900-word summary of what I learned:

Youth Ministry is about the Family.

Doug Fields said, “You may be a children’s or youth worker, but you’re also doing marriage ministry.”

Let’s get real: Programs compete with the family. My junior high Sunday nights do nothing to serve the family; it just takes students away from their one family night. If I care about my students, then I care about the time they spend with their families; therefore I need to make sure they get as much time there as possible.

When there’s an issue in the church, we try to answer it with programs.  Heather Zempel said, “Programs to not disciple people. People disciple people.”  She also said, “Instead of finding people to serve structures, find structures that serve people.”

In Reggie Joiner’s breakout, he gave two pointers for ministers in their 20s that I keep thinking about. The first is applicable here: Be intentional about keeping things simple. Yearly decide what to stop in order to do other things better. That doesn’t mean to just get rid of something that’s not working. True leadership comes when you prune strong stuff to make the weak show its potential.

Tension is GOOD.

Reggie gave a message that made my SBC brain officially reconcile with my new UMC ministry.

There are all of these tensions: “I believe that the Bible is God’s word and authoritative” no longer has to compete with “This person needs love.” Reggie Joiner said (something like), “If your beliefs are hurting people, then it is time to reevaluate your beliefs.” He also said, “Kids should feel safe enough to process their doubt so they can own their faith.”

Truth no longer competes with Grace. The Church no longer has to compete with the World. Faith no longer has to compete with Doubt. They can work together, constantly be in tension with one another, and that’s beautiful. You can know God with all your heart, and he can still be a huge mystery. You no longer have to pick one or another; there is no sacrifice in living with tension.

“Say yes to beliefs that matter. Say yes to people who matter more.

“Say yes to the uncomfortable moments to see lives changed.”

Volunteers need to be owners, not renters.

Reggie Joiner said in a breakout that one of the keys to having a ministry that disciples kids instead of babysitting them is having weekly volunteers who are invested. Having rotating volunteers does nothing for ministry. He said, “You may be teaching kids truth each week with a different leader, but you’re not discipling them.”  He also pointed out that leaders may not understand the need to be there each week because they don’t understand the importance. He said, “People don’t commit to weekly because we haven’t invited them to commit to something significant.”  Our family pastor who was with us, David Williamson, added in our staff discussion: “Are you asking for less of a commitment from volunteers than you expect from attending families?” Brilliant. So brilliant. I plan to blog about this in abundance.

Sue Miller then used an analogy in her breakout about how volunteers need to be owners, and not renters. Owners see a problem in their home and they fix it. Renters call the landlord and expect them to fix it.  We have to convince our volunteers to commit to and sign the mortgage, and be realistic that it may cost them something. They need to learn that it is THEIR house and THEIR ministry…and that they are on a team of people who feel the same. Sue said, “It’s easy to leave a task, but few will leave a family…When volunteers rent, they don’t get deep enough to join a family.”

Jeff Henderson said something that will preach all day, “You will never experience what the church can do for you until you see what the church can do through you.”

We can talk about homosexuality.

Andy Stanley gave the most loving, inclusive talk on same-sex attraction I have ever heard. No matter where your stance is on the subject theologically, it is difficult to argue with Andy on his approach to talking with middle schoolers. Andy said that his church has adopted this statement: “We believe the church should be the safest place to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

Andy reminded us that the answers we give to our kids are the answers that they will have with them for the rest of their lives… Jeff Henderson said that “sometimes ministry gets in the way of ministering.” Sometimes we have to put our personal beliefs on hold to love a kid where they’re at. But especially with junior highers, we don’t need to get into theology. We need to get into Grace. We need to get into Love. And we need to get into the Truth that Jesus loves us right where we’re at. That’ll preach!

One last thought from Jon Acuff: “God will never be handcuffed by the failures nor unleashed by the successes of your ministry.”

And from Mark Batterson: “In an argument with God you need to lose so that you can win.” Because “sometimes God shows up, and sometimes God shows off.”

What did you guys learn at Orange? My head is spinning. :)

Why Being a Christian Young Adult is Lonely

I think I’ve hit the loneliest point of my life. I don’t mean this in a “woe is me, take pity on me” kind of way…I just mean that bring a young a adult and trying to live your life for Jesus is hard.

First of all, this is the first time in our lives that we we aren’t surrounded by people our own age. We’re no longer in an academic setting of peers, but in a job of intergenerational people. That means that we have to figure out new ways to make friends. That’s weird.

Add in singleness for those of us who didn’t get our MRS or MR degrees, and now we’re doing this alone.

Add in the whole “Bible College” factor, and you’ve got a bigger dilemma: culture shock. What’s funny is, I didn’t think that would happen to me.  I grew up in an urban environment and didn’t think that would apply to me. But alas, I came to the real world and was shocked at how much I didn’t relate to it.

Let’s add moving to a new city or state for our first “big girl” job. Not only am I alone, not only do I not know how to make friends, not only have I lived in a bubble, but now I don’t know anybody. And I can’t find a Target.

So let’s throw in Church. Churches ignore young adults. I have some speculation as to why. Perhaps because they can’t tithe to make an impact, they aren’t given programming. The Church sees no return from it (monetarily at least. We forget spiritual returns in the Church a lot). And since many of us don’t have children, people aren’t forced to give us programming… but this is just speculation. ;)

And how about those of us who take it a step further and work in the Church? That can be a lonely job in itself. Add in all those other factors, and you have a mess.

Let’s not even talk about moving to a new denomination, or how we’re all wrestling with our faith to begin with, or the mass amounts of media advertisement tempting and swaying us to abandon our moral compass.

All I’m saying is, this is a huge struggle.

And I’m not alone. As I confide in peers, I know that we all are experiencing this to a degree.

And Church, we need you. We need community and if you don’t give it to us, we’ll make it for ourselves.

Making A Sabbath

Sabbath is important. As I talked about in my last post, God stated that part of our Covenant with him is to honor the Sabbath.

As youth workers, this is impossible. First-off, Sundays are my busiest day of the week. So a traditional Sabbath is out of question. Secondly, I may have “Fridays and Saturdays off,” but that doesn’t count youth events on the weekend, retreats, or random hospital visits or hang-outs with people who can’t fit into my weird schedule (how dare them!).

Here are a few options of Sabbath:

Turn it off completely when you go home.

Unplug completely. What I do is turn the push notifications off of my phone so that I only recieve texts or phone calls. If I get a text, I ignore it (people actually point this out and I joke I’m a terrible Millennial, but there is actual purpose to it!). I sometimes leave my phone in another room and

Make a daily time of devotion of some sort.

Devotion looks different for everyone–for some people, reading Scripture rejuvenates. For others, it is worship music. Still others, it’s a book.  I have a 25-minute commute to work, so I use it to listen to a scripture devotional (I’m going chronological right now!) or listen to worship music. It is my time that I have regularly. It’s not textbook, and looks differently as I have different needs daily. But it just is.

Find something that is just for you.

Take up a hobby–my senior pastor goes home and chops wood. It’s a thing that he has just for himself, and I would assume it gives time to think or even just turn completely off. I enjoy doodling scriptures that I’m meditating on. I’m not very artsy, but it calms me. On my days off, I cook a huge breakfast, drink coffee really slowly, and enjoy the quiet.

Make a day for you and those important to you.

Chances are, if you aren’t making time for yourself, you probably are not taking care of the ones you love. As an extrovert, I get energy from people (although I require my alone time). Take a day to spend with friends and family. I live in a new city a few hours away from those people, but I understand the need to make a day trip and get refueled.

Regular “Sabbatical.”

For every week that you don’t Sabbath, then you need to add that to a weekend so that you can have an extra-Sabbath-y time. Your church may not grant you a technical Sabbatical, but you can do it yourself. I have a coworker who says that sometimes her husband buys her a hotel room to escape her kids and home hectic-ness; she spends the weekend to herself, journaling and attending another church. I know others who go to the woods for a weekend. I use that time to visit friends and family.

 

None of this is rocket science. But it is important. Know your personality and your needs, and take a rest.

The Importance of the Pit

My church’s theme for Lent is “The Race.” The series is phenomenal; every week I walk away with a revelation about my relationship with God. As an introspective person, this kind of teaching is especially important for my spiritual journey. What makes this even better is that we have “Lenten Small Groups” to dig deeper into each theme with a group of people. It’s refreshing and fantastic. Basically, I dig it. :)

The theme from two weeks back really stuck with me–“Red Flag: The Importance of the Pit.” The idea is that each racecar has a moment where it refuels for the race. Although it may seem momentary, it’s necessary.

This made me reflect: What am I doing to spiritually refuel, change my tires, and take a sip of Gatorade (or honor whatever my sponsor is)?

The funny fact is: As introspective as I am, I am terrible at taking care of myself at times.

One of my dearest friends and I meditated on this scripture a few months ago:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:30-34 (NIV)

Here’s what hits me: The disciples were overextended. They were so busy, they didn’t even have a chance to eat.

And life didn’t stop because they were so busy–the crowds demanded even more from them. Jesus didn’t say, “Sorry guys, they need more from you. Let’s get back to work.”

Nope. He said, “You go rest. I’ve got this.”

Then this morning in my daily chronological scripture reading, I read the part in Exodus where God states that the Sabbath is a part of his Covenant with his people. He commands that part of honoring God is honoring a time of rest.

Friday I’ll talk about what a Sabbath can look like in ministry, where you sometimes work 7 days a week. My friend Aaron published an infographic where he says that the average number of real Sabbath days a youth worker takes in a day is 14.

I’m not a math genius, but 52 weeks minus 14 sabbath days equals a lot of weeks where we are not keeping up our side of the Covenant.  It makes me wonder if I’m really honoring God with my work if I’m not honoring him with a rest.

So shut up, and take a Sabbath.

5 Tips for Type A Ministers

I’m Type A, and at times I think the “A” stands for Anxiety, which personally turns me into ADHD if I don’t handle it properly. Being Type-A can be a blessing and a curse. Here are 5 tips that I have learned.

Chill on the lists.

One of that characteristics of being Type A is that I always have a to-do list, and I when I check something off of that to-do list, I get a rush of adrenaline.

The downside for youth ministry is this: there is always something to do.  So, if I live off of the mentality that I must check the things off my checklist in order to be content, I’m going to live a very panicked life. That is why I do the next point in order to help–

Set a standard

Every morning I look at my list, and I say to myself, “What are the necessary things I must do today in order to claim today as a success?” For example, I may have 30 things on a to-do list at any time, but  what are the basic things that I can do before I call it a day and go home?

Here’s an example: Yesterday it was to clean out my email, prepare adequately in order to have three meetings with 5 volunteers (crazy day!), and form an outline for our March retreat. This morning I decided that if I made my Sunday lesson, made our announcements, and contacted leaders it would be a success. Of course, there were other things I did, or different parts that went into that. But that defined success for my day and allowed me to go home without anxiety.

Turn off the notifications

Every time my phone goes off, I feel the need to check it… that is why I turn off my “push notifications” or “mobile network” for a majority of the day. When I have the time to check my email, I will check it; I don’t need a notification going off every two minutes with an email, or I will drop everything and check it.

Set personal boundaries.

Type A people feel like they can take on the world, and conquer it alone. First of all, learn to say “no” to unnecessary tasks. Second of all, learn how to delegate tasks to others…and trust that they can do a successful job at it. Lastly, leave some time for a personal life.

Learn vision.

One of the blessings of Type-B people is that they are vision people. They can see the big picture of things, whereas Type A people are tasks and short-term thinkers. Either learn to see the big picture, or surround yourself with people who do.

What do you consider yourself to be–Type A or Type B? How do you set yourself up for success?