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.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In which I record some quick thoughts after an amazing week

I spent last week at a camp outside of Guanajuato, Mexico (west and slightly north of Mexico City...I think). I was a part of a mission team of 15 people from my church who put on a summer camp for 13 street children from Acapulco, Mexico. This was the first time that any of us involved have tried anything like this. I think everyone involved was a bit anxious prior to the trip. But it all turned out amazingly well. Such a great, weird, laid back, heart breaking week full of unexpected just about everything. I hope to write much about this week and post some pictures (more will be available on Facebook) but for now just want to get a few thoughts recorded.

This morning (Sunday), after getting home just last night, I was a bummed that I didn't have any fresh milk for my breakfast. I mixed up some powered milk but was, in my head, lamenting the fact that it wouldn't be as cold as I would like it and it wouldn't taste near as good as the "real" stuff. But then I thought about it a little more. I had milk. First, it wasn't the double pasteurized not terribly good stuff that we drank all last week in Mexico. But, mostly, I had milk. And I could put it in the refrigerator that I own, in the house that I (mortgage notwithstanding) own. And, later in the day I would worship God with a huge family I'm not related to who love me and care for me and talk to my parents who also love me and care for me and have always loved me and cared for me and have never hit me or cursed at me or gotten drunk or high and said and done unimaginable things to me. I have never worried about from where or even if my next meal would come. I have always had a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. I have never, really, feared that I would be attacked or assaulted, beaten or killed.

I spent the last week with a bunch of kids who can not say such things. All of them have left home for one reason or another, most at a very young age. How bad does life have to get for a 7 or 8 or 10 year old to just run away? My nephews are that age. I can't imagine what it would take for them to just up and leave. But that's what happened to these 13 kids. And this morning, as I was ticked off that I had to drink powdered milk with my cereal, some of these kids went back to unimaginable circumstances. Two of the boys, the two who live at the street child center in Acapulco remained at camp for another week. They're the ones with the best situation. Two others are in a government run orphanage. From what it sounds like, it meets their basic needs; food, clothing, shelter and some sort of education and that's about it. Three of the boys are in a government run juvenile detention/rehab center. I heard one of the boys talk a little about the place. He hates it there. There is little to do. The staff regularly yell at curse at the boys. He wept openly at the thought of returning. It sounds like it's better than the streets but only barely. The rest of the kids, as far as I know, returned to the streets. I pray that some will want to come and stay at the Sobre el Puente (the street child center). But I know many will not. It breaks my heart to know that these kids, these amazing kids who are so loving and polite and talented in so many ways have not only been through so much but are so stuck in such a situation that they want to be out, living on the streets. And I wonder how many other kids there are like them, like the kids I met in India a few years ago. I see their faces in my mind and I smile but I also cry. And I remember the words of Dustin Salter, "My Master is not pleased with this...This is not the way it's supposed to be. And this is not the way that it's going to be." I want to hug these kids again. I want to figure out a way to help them. But, tonight, I can only pray for them. And that is what I will do.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In which I share some insights into my chosen profession

Don't push your kid into, really...engineers are weird, weird people many of whom spend their days sitting in little boxes with fabric covered walls and bad flourescent lighting. have trouble enjoying mainstream entertainment because the science is JUST SO BAD!!!, take pleasure in pointing out the flaws in your perfectly crafted if not completely logically sound arguments and love nothing more than making little graphs on spreadsheets that represent things like the trend in automobile gas mileage against time correlated to average trip distance, speed, temperature, weather conditions, number of passengers, amount of cargo carried, percentage of turns which were left, change (and rate of change) of altitude during trips and time spent in the drive-thru line paying for overpriced coffee which can be made just as good at home if you will only buy the really cool, fancy, incredibly complicated machine that's available at that geeky web site.

Really, you don't want to push your kid to become an engineer. Most kids who become engineers have parents who begged them to not become engineers...but they knew there was no choice because, in most cases, engineers are engineers from birth...and if they survive the horror that is the teenage years (and don't die from blunt force trama delivered by a dodgeball in a PE class that they will spend years trying to repress), they'll find their home in one of those little fabric covered boxes with bad flourescent lighting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What if Scotty was wrong?

Sometimes I have random thoughts. Okay, often I have random thoughts. They're often a little odd, but regularly keep me entertained while commuting, at the gym or doing other things which don't fully engage my brain. This string of thoughts is probably a little more towards the "I have no idea how you thought of that" than others. You have been warned.

What if Scotty, the engineer from the Star Trek Enterprise ("No bloody A, B, C or D") was wrong? What if you really could change the laws of physics?

What if, all of a sudden, spring constants changed. What if springs, all of a sudden, got drastically stiffer or more squishy (What? Squishy is a technical term...and even if it's not you understood what I meant.)? Think of the havoc that would ensue. Old guys' wrist would be broken as their watches exploded. Water fountains, soap dispensers, many things with buttons would explode as the springs that kept their switches and handles in place suddenly caused those buttons and switches to rocket out of their housings. And, what if it was just a quick thing. Like after five minutes the spring constants reverted to normal? How long would it take for someone to figure out what had happened? Would the world believe it?

Or, what if air suddenly became drastically more or less compressible. Or friction just disappeared...or increased by a factor of 10? It would be like ice skating...or walking with velcro on the bottom of our shoes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quotes from the family.

All of these are actual things said by my family this weekend.

Mom: How long does it take to boil water in the microwave?
Me: That depends on the wattage of the microwave, how much water, what temperature the water starts at, what type of container it's in...
Sarah (my sister): Two minutes!
Me: Or you could just put it in for a few minutes and check on it.

Me: How do you people live without a scroll wheel on your mouse?

Me: You need to learn to Google.
Renee (woman who's been cutting my Mom's hair for as long as I can remember): Google? What will that do for me?
Me: It will answer all of your questions.
Renee: So, it's like God?
Me: Yeah, kinda, but without all of the scary angels.
Mom: And the forgiveness.

Me: Do you have any coffee filters?
Mom: Yeah...why do you need coffee filters?
Me: I have cups of food coloring, why would I NOT need coffee filters?
(I was in a crafty mood. It doesn't happen all that often. My nephews and I made colorful snowflakes.)

(Before sending me to run into the grocery store to get a container of cottage cheese she had forgotten to buy.)
Mom: If something other than cottage cheese finds it's way into the bag, that's fine, but I'm not paying for it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Space...there's a lot of it out there

I've been thinking about the satellite collision that happened last week and just how amazing it is that it actually happened. I mean, I know there's a lot of stuff up in space orbiting our planet. But there's also a lot of space up there.

If you think about it, two objects traveling along the same line (essentially one dimension) have a pretty good chance of running into each other. You get one going in the wrong direction or at a different speed and, well, it's gonna happen (think about two trains running on the same track). Adding an additional dimension, like with cars driving on the road, there's still a reasonable chance that two will collide, but the odds go way down. Think about how many cars are on the roads each day and how few of those actually hit each other. There's just more room in which to move and more ways to move out of the way of each other. Then, adding the third dimension, the odds of a collision go down even further. Think about airplanes. It's rare to hear about a collision of two aircraft that are in the air. The chances of two airplanes being over the same bit of ground, at the same altitude at the same time aren't very high. Airplanes are just too small compared to how much air is up there to fly around in. And airplanes only have a couple of miles of altitude in which to fly. Once you get into space, there's not only a whole lot more miles of altitude to inhabit, but the farther you go up, the more space there is. (Think about it like this: Draw a small circle. Now draw a bigger circle around it. Do that a couple of times. Now, start at the center of the circle and draw a line to the edge of the biggest circle. Do that again. Notice how the point where the lines intersect the circle get farther away as the circles get bigger? Same idea with altitudes. The farther up you go, the more room you have on that circle...or in that altitude.)

So, in order for these two satellites to collide, they had to be over the same bit of ground, at the same altitude, at the same time. Looking at the satellites' orbits (top inset picture here) , these two satellites were rarely over the same bit of ground at the same time. Add in that they needed to be at the same altitude (objects in orbit are constantly losing altitude. It's not a lot, but that's why you sometimes hear of satellites needing to be "boosted" in orbit, or the space station needing to fire it's engines in order to increase the altitude. So, satellites are always changing altitude. It's slow, but over time it makes a difference.), and the odds have to be astoundingly low. It just boggles my mind thinking about all the things that had to come together to get these two little specks (compared to the gianourmous size of space) to collide.

Also, the Astronomy Picture of the Day is a very cool web site and should be in everyone's RSS feed. (What! You don't have an rss reader? Start here. Best thing since the iPod...which is even better than sliced bread.)