Science for Youth Ministry

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Luther Seminary has received a $1.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund a three-year project called Science for Youth Ministry: The Plausibility of Transcendence. The project will catalyze faith-and-science conversations with young people through youth ministry and will produce materials to encourage those discussions.

More information on this project can be found on the Luther Seminary website and has a great introductory video from lead collaborator Andrew Root.  https://www.luthersem.edu/research/templeton_grant.aspx

I cannot count how many conversations with students I have had over my 15 years of youth ministry when they ask the daunting question:  Can Faith and Science be connected?

Science and faith, method and mythology

Concept of science and faith locked in battle, or harmony, depending on one’s perspective.

They really want to know whether or not their Christian faith (worldview and convictions) can be reconciled with scientific discoveries or “truths” they are learning in school.  In many ways, I suppose this is not a brand new phenomenon or challenge facing youth ministers.  I suppose that ever since the Scopes trial in the 1920’s, issues of faith/region vs. science/technology have surfaced.    Then it was the creation and evolution debate. Now it might range from gender/sexuality biological findings to theories of time-space travel or the possible discovery of life on other planets.

I am honored to be a part of this conversation and will be attending a writing symposium at Luther Seminary with Andrew Root and other youth workers/thinkers/writers.  Initially, we will base our pieces on the book Galileo Goes to Jail: And Other Myths About Science and Religion edited by Ronald L. Numbers.

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http://www.amazon.com/Galileo-Other-Myths-Science-Religion/dp/0674057414/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457642172&sr=1-1&keywords=galileo+goes+to+jail+and+other+myths+about+science+and+religion

I will write about my observations and reflections in later posts, as well as publish my article on this site.  For now,  I will say that throughout the history of humankind there have been misconceptions about how religion and science coincided in culture and in the hearts and minds of people of faith.  So, in many ways, what we are facing today is really not new or unique.  The actual questions and scientific discoveries may alter over time, but the general premise remains unchanged.

How, if at all, can my  faith coexist with science?  Can “ancient” religious views hold up against “modern” scientific discoveries?  Are those terms fluid or fixed..and for that matter, is one’s faith fixed or fluid?

For more information, and to get your hands on the forthcoming resources to help youth workers embark on this great journey, please visit the Science for Youth Ministry website  http://scienceym.org/

Also, join the online discussion and network by connecting on the Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/scienceforYM/?fref=ts

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A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry

This month I will be reading and reviewing the four-books series entitled A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry written by Andrew Root http://andrewroot.org

I am excited that these books were dreamed of and published, as they continue to speak theologically into the context of youth ministry.  Root offers excellent insights in the question often asked of youth pastors “What exactly do you do …..and the pressing question asked by youth pastors themselves “What is the point of all of this?”

As an amateur theologian who serves and ministers to the youth of my congregation, I am eager to hear what Andrew has to say and hope to find this series both challenging and inspiring.

If you are interested in learning more about these books, you can obtain more information here:

http://zondervan.com/series/a-theological-journey-through-youth-ministry

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Talking theology and youth ministry with Andrew Root

Andrew Root

This week I had another great opportunity to speak with my good friend Andrew Root on his live blog talk radio show. I have been on in the past discussing ideas and chapters from his books.  This time however we joined together to talk about and promote Sparkhouse and their Re:form Confirmation curriculum.  I have written about this before as to the reasons why I appreciate the vision and teach the content.

Andy and I discussed one lesson/video that you can view here and now…..

Re:form offers 40 lessons that are question oriented and dialog-based for students.  This particular question was “Does God still create stuff today”. In our talk, we discussed the importance of affirming God’s continued active participation in this word.  There is a deep theological intention behind affirming that God still creates and recreates today…in the physical world and in hearts and lives.  Rather than ascribing to a form of moralistic, therapeutic deism, we hold God’s engagement and power to inspire and transform reality and our realities.

You will hear as well the practical implications and applications for the spiritual formation of students for the mission of God permeating through the lesson.

To hear our conversation you can download it for free on Itunes   Andrew Root podcast on Itunes \”featuring\” Dan Haugh

or listen to it here and now…..

live on BlogTalk radio

networking in Nashville…NYWC 2010

Later this week, I will be traveling to the land of BBQ and country music…Nashville, TN for the National Youth Workers Convention. NYWC 2010

NYWC_Brochure_2010

I will be blogging and tweeting on a regular basis during my time there so stay tuned.

If you will be attending this year, I would love to try to connect up with you.

This will be my 10th year attending (hard to believe!), and each year I look forward to it more and more.

While the training, content, music, and speakers are all great and inspirational, what I appreciate and need more than ever is the time and space to pause, reflect, and re-connect with God and others.

NYWC does a fantastic job of allowing for and creating sacred space for these moments. Around this time of year (every year) I often get bogged down and stressed.  These few days offer an escape and chance to recharge my batteries.  Some years I attend every seminar and session offered.  Other times, I take the opportunity to find solace and peace and rediscover my passion for students.

Over the past few years, the connections, conversations, and friendships made have probably been the most important to me.  During these conventions I have had the opportunity to meet so many youth workers, writers, theologians, volunteers, etc.. and maintain regular relationships with them to this day.  These connections have lead to times of support and encouragement, not to mention opportunities to partner and collaborate on projects and ministry.

For me, youth ministry is all about relationships with 1)  our students 2) other youth workers

It’s these relationships that keep me motivated, inspired, and challenged to continue in the journey.

Please do shoot a message or send a tweet if you will be around for NYWC 2010.

Here are a few of the places you might find me meandering around at in the big room (the one with all the tables and booths set up for ministries that like to give stuff away and then get to you sign up for stuff….)

Here are a few that I have affiliation with and support their cause and vision.  There are other great organizations and ministries represented that I hope to check out and connect with as well and have provided a link at the end.

Barefoot Ministries with Chris Folmsbee

Barefoot Ministries

We Are Sparkhouse (Re:form Confirmation) with Andy Root and Tony Jones

We are Sparkhouse

XP3 Students with Jeremy Zach

XP3 students

My Broken Palace with CJ Casciotta

My broken palace

YWJ (Youth Worker Journal)

Youth Worker

YMtoday

Youth Ministry Today

NNYM (National Network of Youth Ministries)

YouthWorkers

Click here for a complete list of all the exhibitors

NYWC 2010 exhibitors

Updates from Nashville to be typed with BBQ sauce-dripped hands in a few days…..

Re:form Confirmation

For the longest time, my student ministry had not had a formal way to introducing students to the Christian faith in theory, theology, and practice.  We would attempt each year to work within current structures such as Sunday school, retreats, and youth group nights to teach on a variety of faith issues.  Some months would be heavy on Christian doctrine and beliefs, while others would be more faith related topical issues.  We hoped that at the end of every year, we did a good enough job covering the more important subjects, but quite honestly, never really knew whether or not our students “got it”.  They would listen and respond when prompted, but we often wondered if they were truly engaged and wrestling with the subjects and themes.

Additionally, year after year, students would come home from college break distraught and frustrated in their faith.  While we had prepared a neat, clean, and pre-packaged faith to believe, their college experiences were opening their eyes (and brains) to a whole new world.  They would return home with questions such as “Why does the Bible contradict itself at times?,  ”Is God really a male?”, If there is only one God, why are there so many religions?”, Why are there so many different Christian churches?”, Am I really supposed to believe Mary was a virgin?”, Did God create evil?”, Can you accept the theory of evolution and still be a Christian?”, and many others like these.  We had been teaching content only, with little to no room for interaction, question, doubt, wrestling, and really helping our students make the faith their own.

What took years to construct through middle and high school often took one semester in college to deconstruct and collapse.  We had no way of helping students understand and critically and rationally think through some of the more difficult issues of faith.  We also had no real way of knowing whether or not our students actually affirmed the Christian faith as their own and not their parents or youth leaders.

Thus, it became important to do something to help out students understand, affirm, and articulate the Christian faith in a way that made sense to them and would hold up in contextually relevant ways for their generation.  We combined this desire and need with the fact that new families began attending our church from another Christian traditions such as Lutheran, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc.., and had been exposed to faith-based confirmation programs in the past.  These families really wanted something more official for their children to journey through.

That birthed our new Confirmation Program.  Though our particular denomination does not have a confirmation program, we actually went ahead and created our own. We chose to keep that same name because in the area we live in here in the Northeast and Metro NY area almost every church has a confirmation program and every student knows what that is. It is very acceptable, understood, and contextual word to use.  Now, we are doing something very different with confirmation and making it extremely interactive, fun, learner-based, student orientated, culturally relevant, and biblically grounded.  We also wanted to work with something that was more inclusive and embracing of various church traditions and was rooted in more of the historical Christianity, than just contemporary Western faith.  We have discovered these other traditions to be rich in history, theology, unity, and spiritual experiences/disciplines.  In an ever-changing environment, it is refreshing to share with out students the “bigger picture” and connectedness and connectivity of our faith, one that stretches far beyond (and behind) our current lives.

Rather than starting from scratch and writing our own curriculum, we have partnered with an excellent organization called Sparkhouse and are using their  Sparkhouse-Re:form Confirmation program.  Youth ministry veterans and theologians Andrew Root and Tony Jones helped collaborate on the theological emphasis of the course.  The content is question-based and covers main topics such as Bible, Creed, Discipleship, Jesus, Other Beliefs, Tough Questions.

Below is some information on Re:Form confirmation curriculum as well as some

helpful websites you can visit and explore. The course will consist of 40

classes. (see attached list of all the topics covered). Each class will be

composed of 4 elements aimed at providing a creative, interactive, and

participatory learning environment for all types of students.

re:form is a fully customizable curriculum that’s rooted in historic Christianity, but

speaks to kids on their level. re:form empowers youth to discover for themselves

what they believe, through three components:

ENCOUNTER: Two DVDs with 40 hilarious animated short films frame the tough

theological questions that kids really ask, like “Who wrote the Bible?” and “Why

does God let bad things happen?”

ENGAGE: A hands-on Anti-Workbook is the centerpiece of each kid’s confirmation

experience. It’s a sturdy, full-color, wire-O bound journal chock full of activities and

ideas, with space to journal and doodle, and extras like pullout cards and cool

stickers.

RESPOND: re:form prompts kids to make videos, take pictures, interview people,

and create stuff. Then they can upload all of their artifacts to an online portfolio — the

re:form gallery — where kids can share with the whole congregation what they’ve

been learning.

Below are a few links for the confirmation website, a gallery that students can share their artwork and thoughts, and the list of the topics and questions that will be covered this year during the 40 week course.

We are Sparkhouse

Re:form Gallery

ReForm Confirmation_SessionTitles

How to get a free copy of Relationships Unfiltered and partner with Andrew Root

Friends and fellow youth workers

Below is a note from a good friend of mine and excellant youth ministry thinker and resource Andrew Root. I have known Andy for a few years now, read all of his books, and had the privledge of attending the First Third conference and being a guest on his radio show.  He knows what he is talking about and his insights into teen culture, faith, and Christianity have both inspired and shaped my own ministry with my students.

From Andrew……

“Hello Youth Ministry friends, I’m sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading, but I have broken transmission to offer you an opportunity.

I wanted to get before you the chance to get a free copy of my book Relationships Unfiltered. As the new school year approaches and you think about volunteer leader meetings and trainings I would like to suggest you take a look at Relationships Unfiltered. It’s written just for this setting with discussion questions and chapters filled with illustrations and stories–but also promises to get you and your team thinking theologically about your core practice this coming school year: forming relationships with young people.

Here’s what I can do: If you’ll email me (aroot@luthersem.edu) I’ll send you a free copy of the book so you can look it over and decide if it would be of help to you and your volunteers.  If you’re interested in using it you can then go to Zondervan.com or Zondervan.com/ministry and type in the code 980752 in the “source code” box.  Starting August 1 this will give you a 40% discount on as many books as you’d like.

And I’ll also offer this, if you do use the book with your team, I’m willing to do a select number of skype or ichat conversations with you and your team after getting through the book.”

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I hope you will take him up on this offer, or at the least, look up his resources and see if they can be useful for your own personal development and ministry.  I have used this particular book with my leaders and it is extremely valuable for both full-time youth pastors and volunteer leaders.