Monday, January 17, 2011

Many things I know in life I've learned from doing youth ministry

I've been involved in youth ministry, either as a participant or a volunteer, for almost 20 years now (which is really kinda scary for me to think about). Over those years, I've spent time with a lot of people and learned a lot about Jesus and the church, how to do ministry, how to live life, how to love people and a lot of other things. And I hope to continue to be involved in youth ministry for a long time to come. But, as we've been in a time of transition, I've gotten to thinking a lot about the ministries I've been a part of and the people I've known. And I've been updating my list of things I've learned over the years. I thought some of you might enjoy reading these...or at least recognize some of the life lessons you've been a part of. :)

So, in no particular order...
Many things I've learned from being a part of youth ministry:

- The Beatles Abbey Road may very well be the best album ever recorded.

- The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

- I do not go alone; God goes with me.

- At the nursing home, no matter what happens, just keep playing.

- When playing a song, getting all the notes right is nice but not really required.

- God is good and what he does is good.

- Step out and embrace the awkward!

- When you first start out at a new place, you can get away with a lot by blaming it on "the transition".

- Embrace the experience when the game of capture the flag turns into a water balloon fight. You can't program events like that.

- Ice cream is an amazing motivator.

- It's a good thing that you're sad someone is leaving. It means they've affected your life in a positive way. But realizing that doesn't make their leaving any easier.

- Giving a kid a dollar for doing something random they wouldn't normally do is usually a good investment.

- Being cool isn't that important, especially in the long run. Being real, being consistent and sometimes just being there is what matters.

- Don't mess with a guy's coffee.

- Adding parents to a youth event, while not necessarily a bad idea on occasion, will, most likely, lead to a quieter youth event.

- Don't expect thoughtful answers to theological questions before a guy has had his second cup of coffee.

- Be very, very careful when you recommend movies.

- Pay no attention to the typos in the song book. Just sing the words that are supposed to be printed there.

- If you get someone to help you with something, you won't be the only one getting blamed when others get upset about it.

- If you make a situation out to be the worst it could possibly be, people won't be too upset when it goes less than perfect but better than terrible.

- If there are no rules restricting playing active games in the fellowship hall as long as you don't break anything, there's a good chance no one will realize you're doing it and won't make rules against it.

- Don't worry so much about the people who aren't there. Rather, be excited about and focus on the people who are there.

- "I don't know." is a great answer, especially when followed by "But I'll find out and get back to you.

- Never be ashamed to admit that you're having a hard time believing all this stuff is really real, that God exists and he really does love you.

- It's okay to cry in church, even if you're the one doing the preaching.

- Never ask if someone will read or pray, instead, ask WHO will read or pray.

- Jeff's right, all tequilas really do taste the same.

- We should not be surprised when non-Christians don't act like Christians.

- Mooch off your parents for as long as you can.

- You can shine pennies with Taco Bell hot sauce.

- Ministry can and often does take place over a burrito or milkshake, on a ski lift, while mixing concrete by hand, or doing other less than ministry-y activities.

- ATP stands for Adult Type Person - Someone who is old and responsible enough that parents trust them to take their kids out of state for a week or more but not so old nor mature that they're above starting a marshmallow or shaving cream fight.

- With a small crowd, ditching the planned activity or lesson to go out for ice cream, donuts or a movie is not only a legitimate plan but often a really good idea.

- You have to earn the right to be heard and that takes time.

- Don't get discouraged when, after carefully planning a lesson, the kids seem unimpressed or even bored, leave your finely crafted handouts behind and can't recall what you taught on the next week. God is faithful and some of it really does get through and stick.

- Even kids too young to read, talk or even walk can minister to other people.

- One of the great things about being a volunteer is ultimatly not being in charge of anything and being able to answer, "Ask (insert name of the guy in charge)" in response to a difficult question or awkward response.

- Ultimate Frisbee is harder but still a lot of fun when played in the dark, with an LED lit frisbee and glowstick bracelets.

- When coming upon a game of Ultimate frisbee being played in the dark, the only thing leaving your car headlights on does is annoy those playing. It does not help illuminate the field or make anything any easier. Really! Just turn them off.

- Adding sugar to high school students is a good way to encourage verbal interaction during Sunday school. But don't use Laffy Taffy. The sugar concentration is too high and the jokes overly distracting.

- A good portion of youth ministry is just showing up consistently. A good portion of what's left is simply listening.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

1 January 2011 - The beginning of another new year and I've had some thoughts going through my head recently:

I've been watching episodes of The West Wing for a while now. A few weeks before Christmas I got to the Christmas episode of Season 4. It's titled "Guns not Butter". President Bartlet is feeling the need to get things done before the end of the year so he has Leo working on peace in the Middle East and Josh working on a doomed foreign aid bill. There's other plots and it's a good episode but what's stuck with me is a little exchange near the end of the episode. Josh has to admit defeat and he and the president have a short conversation. In that conversation President Bartlet says, "You know what the difference is between you and me? I want to be the guy. You want to be the guy the guy counts on." And in thinking about myself, my role as an ATP (adult type person,=youth volunteer) and even my role at work, I think that pretty much sums up what I want to be as well. I don't want to be the one out front, leading the charge. I'm not very good at motivating people or convincing people to follow me. I'm generally not the one with the big ideas or the grand schemes or the desire to shape the role and direction of much of anything. What I do better than those things and where I am the most happy, is being the one behind the scenes. I want to be the one who works with The Guy, who takes the big plans and schemes and new directions and figures out how to make those a reality. I don't care much for the praise and recognition from the masses. I just want to be the one The Guy in charge counts of when things need to get done. And I don't want to let The Guy down.

2011 is looking like it's going to be a year of transition in a number of ways. There's some stuff going on at work that will possibly result in me taking on some different roles or at least altering how I work. I think this will be a good thing. But it's going to take some getting used to. And we'll have at least one, if not two new youth guy transitions at work. With Matt leaving on relatively short notice, we've got a new intern who will be in charge for at least the remainder of the school year. We're hoping that God will provide a new, long-term youth guy before the start of the summer. And, if that's the case, we'll get to do the whole transition thing twice this year. I know that God will work this for the good for all of His people, including me and all of the kids. I've been through this before and can honestly say that I've seen God so greatly bless my kids and me with each of the transitions that I have no reason to doubt that He will do it again. But, well, change is scary and even the easy transitions are sometimes difficult. And Sylvia, my women's ministry prayer partner at church, and I will, I'm sure, have much to talk and pray about (especially with two of her kids newly engaged to be married...both good unions to look forward to, just, well, change and change is also often stressful).

And somewhere in 2011, I'll hopefully get to spend a week in Colorado with my high school kids, a week in Mexico doing summer camp with some street kids and maybe a week in Florida with my junior high kids. I'll certainly make it to Atlanta at least a couple of times and hope to road trip to Jackson, Mississippi some as well. I'd like to reorganize the play room and clean out my bookcases, work through my "to be read" pile, spend lots of time at the gym and more time in prayer and study of God's word. I hope to neglect my cats less and the television more, to put more emphasis on relationships with my family (both the one I'm related to as well as the one I'm not) and enjoy more time playing games with friends. I'll probably continue my quest for the perfect backpack and have to restrain myself from buying more water bottles and cold weather gear. But, mostly, I just want to live each day in such a way that I glorify God and enjoy Him in all things and maybe inspire others to do the same.