Thursday, June 4, 2015

Planning a Calendar

Hurry Hurry it's time to get the supplies, think of a game, think of a lesson, Oh wait I have a lesson from last year that I can use, call the counselors.... How many of us plan our large group gatherings on the fly or the night before?!? How often do you mach five it to church praying for the holy spirit to intercede on the way?  Oh Holy Spirit may you give me the message I need to share tonight that I should have prepared for last week.  If your like me this happens more than once or twice a year, it happens more often than I would like to admit.  I'll be honest sometimes planning is boring and not on my top ten things to do or even my top 20.  I love students and I wish that I could spend all my time with students and no time in the office, but the reality is radically different.  So how do I prepare for the year, how do I present the best message ever, actually the better question is how do I use the minut time I have with the students in order to have the greatest influence upon them.

BEGIN WITH THE END

That makes no sense.  Actually it does... I think about what is it that I want these teens to walk away with at the end of High School, when they leave my ministry.  Who do I want them to become? What values do I want to communicate to them?  How do I prepare them for college and the world out there.  Those are difficult questions that only can be answered if we have the end in mind when begin planning today. If we know where we want to go, we can then be intentional about what we do to get there.  

CONSIDER TEACHING IN “THIRDS”
We like to break our teaching into three primary categories: Invitation, Discipleship, and Challenge.  At the beginning of the year we like to make it easy for teens to come, to invite their friends, and build relationships with one another.  The first part of the year is light on teaching and heavy on fun.  Towards the middle of the year we start focusing on discipleship which means the messages become heavier and the games become lighter.  Topics such as hope, patience, and worship become start taking center stage.  As you move to the end of the year the messages turn into challenges pushing the group to live out these practices and values you've been talking about the first 2/3 of the year.  Youth are help accountable to living it out and inviting friends to participate with them.  

FIND A RHYTHM 

Everything in life has a Rhythm, think about it: that's why birds migrate, bears hibernate, bees pollunate, and humans do things in a certain way.  My daily rhythm begins with waking up and heading straight to the coffee, then taking time to process the day, get ready, wake up the kids... and so forth. Your rhythm might look similar or completely different either way you too have a rhythm.  So the question becomes why not capitalize on this rhythm to teach your students. 

We teach in monthly series rhythms.  We first choose a theme like Moses leading his people from exodus and a topic like perseverance.  We then break that down into three perspectives.  The first week is how does this relate to God, we call this Up.  The second is how does this relate to each other, we call this In.  The third is how does this relate to the community/the world/the stranger, we call this Out.  Each week we will break down the scripture in a different way which means that the whole scripture may not be used each week instead only sections or snipets may be used to communicate the topic.  Then at the end of the series, which happens to be the end of the month, we do a celebration service.  A celebration service is where we bring all the pieces together in order to help the group see the whole picture and may include: testimony, different individuals sharing, music, reading the whole story, reflection, prayer, and some kind of challenge to live it out.   

It may seem repetitive at first glance but it allows the message to be communicated to a diverse group of individuals in a variety of manners. The other reason is simply because it’s tough to cover a subject in just one lesson. A series-driven calendar allows you to take a longer, more expansive look at the topic on hand.

CONSIDER THE HOLIDAYS AND TIMELY EVENTS

When do you friends and family usually gather?!? I know for my family and friends it's holidays and/or special events.  As you prepare your calendar, and as you pencil in the various series at the various times, pay close attention to where Holidays fall and plan the right series at the right time. Is there a way to connect into what's happening at the school like back to school, prom, winter ball or how about holidays like Christmas and Easter, or how about world events like the Super Bowl or World Cup.  

Ultimately we know that no message will ever replace the relationships you develop with the students.  The best message you can ever share is the one you live daily.  How we interact with a student, with a stranger, with our family, and with the world will speaks volumes above anything we say.  But lets also not be naive to think that our words have little or no effect.  Did not Jesus share words of wisdom with his disciples?  Did not Jesus see every event as an opportunity to further the kingdom?  We should not be lazy sluggards as the scriptures say, but be diligent in our work.  Planning is an essential part of what we do and will help us to further the kingdom.  

To be honest I've been on both sides of the spectrum.  I've been the plan as you go to the annul retentive sort.  I have found looking at what the end goal might be then developing a yearly plan to address those goals has been helpful.  I will also usually create a 3 year plan that is evolving every year just so that I have something to help me understand the bigger picture. 

QUICK TIPS
Involve Students in Planning because Students are awesome and gives them investment into the topics. 

Allow your volunteer team to reflect on the upcoming lessons before handing it to them, they may see the scripture from a whole new perspective.  

Allow room for the Holy Spirit aka be flexible and willing to change. 

Remember to keep the end in mind, how are you trying shape your students?

Have a great day and hope this helps!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Snapshot of My Story

When I entered high school I was at a place in my life where I felt disconnected from the world, my friends, my family, and my church.  My thoughts were spiraling downward towards a path that was leading to my own self destruction.  I would say that I knew of God as I grew up in the church, but did not know who God was or what he could do.  My freshmen year of high school, the church, got a new youth pastor.  She invested in our lives, developed strong relationships, and lived out the teachings of Jesus.  She challenged me constantly, she pushed me to go further, she gave me opportunities to lead, and she worked hard to build a positive community where different individuals could thrive.  She developed a team that did likewise and for the first time I wanted to be at church.  

That Summer, I was invited to be a counselor at a Christian camp and I remember the first day of camp, one of the third graders walked up to another kid and slugged them.  Our director was furious and about to send him home.  I argued with him, I'm not sure why perhaps I had empathy for the kid, about sending him home.  Following our, heated, conversation he allowed the youth to stay but I had to take full responsibility for him.  The kid didn't want to talk to anyone and it seemed that he didn't care about anyone.  My heart broke for this kid who felt alone and it was obvious that his current path was heading in a negative direction.   On the third day of camp, we go to the beach.  All the kids were playing games and building sand castles except for this kid.  My co leader asked him to grab a pail, scoop up sand, and dump it next to her.  He did (I think he had a crush on her).  She asked him to do it again and again while both of us asked him questions about his life.  He built a whole sandcastle to his surprise.  To our surprise we learned his dad was in jail for abuse, his mom was dying of cancer, and was being taken care by his uncle who owned a liquor store where he hung out after school until it closed.  Neither one of us knew how to respond, except to treat him like family and work harder at the relationship.  That's how I felt my youth pastor interacted with me and the other youth, it was all I knew.  I had no prior experience or real training.  He began wearing my sweaters, which was funny to watch since he would take a few steps and then go splat because the sweater was too big.    At the end of the week he called me brother in spanish.  

I'm not sure I could explain what happened except for the holy spirit was doing something magical at the camp and it was such a joy to be part of it.  Following that experience I felt God's calling to dive deeper into the ministry.  I found that God was a larger part of my life than I had ever realized.  The kid demonstrated to me the power of God and what he was capable of doing.  Several years later I saw the kid at another camp and his pastor said he was doing far better than she could have imagined.  One might say that I was part of his transformation, but in reality I think he was a bigger part of my own transformation.  I look to that event as one of the primary catalysts for me going into ministry.  

My final year in high school I was preparing to follow my dream of being a lawyer.  The last 4 years I had done mock trials, interned with lawyers, had a mentor who happened to be a lawyer and set myself on that path.  The schools I was begging to apply to for my undergrad had connections with law schools.  One of my friends, who at the time was agnostic, said to me I don't know what your thinking, but everytime your around kids you light up.  There's something different about you when you talk about God and kids.  I'm not sure that being a lawyer is what your suppose to do.  
Wow I was hit like a ton of bricks, but still has lasting power even after 10 + years.  I would say that I'm called into the youth ministry, and every time I tried to deny it or run from it God has other plans.  Where I am today is because God had other plans than what I had imagined and I think I might stick with God's because they seem to fit perfectly to who I was created to be.