#PYM14

I used that hash tag quite often a few weeks ago while in Chicago.

PROGRESSIVE-YOUTH-MINISTRY-300x226

The Progressive Youth Ministry 2014 conference was my destination and reason I fly across the ocean from France back to the good ole’ U.S of A.  This has been a conference many have dreamed about for years.  Prior to moving, I would attend a few youth ministry seminars and conference each year.  Some big and some small but each time I would discover a like-minded affinity group of “progressives”.  Often treated like the extra grandchildren at Thanksgiving, we would be relegated to the “kids table” of some small room or late night pub discussion.  But from these encounters and interactions, deep friendships were forged and a vision born.

PYM14 was organized by the JoPa group and came together under the leadership of Tony Jones and John Vest, and I could not have been happier.

http://pym.thejopagroup.com/

The question left undefined, by design, was “What does ‘progressive’ even mean?  Moreover, how does one describe a progressive youth ministry?  While I have yet to answer those questions, I did realize a few things.

First, “progressive” does not mean liberal.  I really despise those division terms of conservative and liberal anyway.  Progressive also does not mean “anti-evangelical”

I was surprised to learn that approximately half of the over 200 attendees came from some form of “evangelical” background.  True, the vast majority of those are no longer working in those type of contexts, but are also unwilling to completely disassociate from their heritage.  The is a general belief and hope that the “left” and “right” can find beautiful points of convergence and experience a holy embrace.  Yes, this kiss might look ugly and sloppy at times, but at least it implies some form of connectivity and relationality.  We will see what this future looks like, but I sensed a palpable energy of openness to include those radically different.

Progressives do have a few common characteristics (in general).  Most support the rights of women and the LGBT community while also welcoming and affirming them within the Church.  While active in social and political issues, most progressives remain from political alignment, recognizing the importance of official separation. I would probably be unfair to say there were few Republicans in attendance, so I will not say that 🙂

Most importantly, the commonality shared in this conference was threefold:

1) Love for God and desire to serve the Church

2)  Passion for teenagers and belief they can change the future of the Church and world.

3)  Uncanny and unafraid openness to believe that God is bigger than we and the Spirit of Christ is, in fact, active and engaged in our world and future (and not just in the past)

Many attendees have blogged about their experiences.  You can read some of those here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProgYouthMin/223427967852288/?notif_t=group_activity

The following is a well-worded excerpt from Tony Jones’s blog, one of the organizers and key leaders in the conversation.  His reflection and sentiment cannot be better articulated, so I will let him speak for himself, and all those who attended!

“The speakers were incredible. Jeff Chu and H. Adam Ackley, a transgender theology professor spoke out of their own experience of being queer in their youth, and each of them explained how they could have been better ministered to by their churches.

And we listened.

Other speakers addressed how women are portrayed in rap and hiphop music, what “death of god” theology could mean in a confirmation class, what kind of youth pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was, and why process theology doesn’t suck. Otis Moss III preached us in, and Laura Truax preached us out. In other words, the content was amazing.

But something even more important happened last week at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago.

What happened in that room was that we had a sense that something special is happening. There was an unmistakeable sense that we have an opportunity to claim a significant voice in the conversation about what youth ministry is in America, that we can fight back against moralistic therapeutic deism, and that we can start to articulate a view of God that is generous, life-affirming, and inclusive. We have a tribe — that’s a clear take-away from last week.

For myself, I knew from the opening session that I was among people whom I understood, and who understood me. Most of my own leadership skills were honed in youth ministry, so I appreciate the challenges that many of the folks in that room face. But I also knew that the energy in the room could only have been generated by youth workers. The laughter was a bit louder, the singing a bit bolder, and the tears a bit less restrained than we’d ever get at a different kind of pastor’s conference.”

People always ask me where I will “land” in ministry, and for now specifically youth ministry.  I certainly receive a warm “home” welcoming back from so many friends, both old and new.  The conference was fun and entertaining, especially the live podcast of Homebrewed Christianity with Tripp Fuller.

http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2014/04/13/youth-ministers-the-niebuhr-revival-pastormark-other-goodies-pym14/

This tribe speaks my language and speaks up for the issues closest to my heart. Yet one key admonishment during the week was for this small band of progressives not to become “tribal”.  Very easily that can happen.

I am glad to have feet in both camps of theological tradition and practical ministry.  I appreciate my evangelical heritage and foundation but also deeply appreciate the progressive soul and lived-out gospel.

My sincere hope is to continue to converse and communion with all youth workers from all denominations, traditions, backgrounds, races, and cultures.  For that is where the Body of Christ is most beautiful.

Thank you to #PYM14 for a much-needed voice and platform in the expanding world of youth ministry. 

Times are changing, and as the Spirit progresses forward ahead us, so must we. 

emerging youth ministry resources

I am frequently asked about good youth ministry resources:  curriculum, books, videos, training, conferences….the whole deal

I hesitate to respond partly because it has always been my challenge over the past decade to find good resources but also because every youth ministry context is different.

Also, if I am to be honest, there are some really bad youth ministry resources out there…perhaps even the majority of what is produced and promoted (at least in my opinion)

I quickly discovered what might work well for suburban teens in New York, may not fit with middle America.  Urban environments are vastly different from suburban or rural

Every church is different and so is each denomination.

My recommendation could be to first look towards your denominational affiliation to see if they have created or recommend good resources. While I strongly believe in partnering across denominational lines, it is always good to strengthen bonds and ideology within the framework of any organization you are associated with.

I have discovered that, for the most part, U.S. based curriculum gets lost in translation when used overseas.  Here in Europe, the context is very different and so the content of what I teach needs to change as well.  Teaching style (or the method) can work well in most places since “Teens are teens” wherever you find them. However, the content (or message) needs to be contextualize and recaptured based on the particular group of students

In Europe in general, secularism and postmodernity have widely influenced the culture and religious climate. This has major implications on youth ministry and resources.

The challenge, as I have discovered is for youth ministries in Europe to discover quality resources.  Certainly compared to the U.S there is severe lack of networking, training, and resourcing.  We are looking to change that.

Language can be a barrier for sure, but there are countless English-speaking ministries and congregations all throughout Europe.  Many of them are international settings that offer a rich and diverse community whose influence spans the globe.  As I have traveled some of Europe this past year I realize how prominent the English is, especially for the younger generation. Most teenagers from France to Estonia and down through the Mediterranean understand English.  Wonderful resources for youth workers can be produced in promoted in these areas, either in the native language or simply in English. The question of course is what content?  It is my hope to actively dialogue with both international youth workers but also native youth workers and theologians to discover common issues, ideas, strategies, ideologies to help youth workers not just ministry to today’s students but to prepare to tomorrow’s teens!

This past year I attend two youth ministry conferences:

The International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (IASYM) in Tallin, Estonia http://www.iasym.net/

and the AICEME (Association of International Churches in Europe and the Middle East in London, England http://aiceme.net/

I will write more about each gathering and association in a later post this month.

A big question that continued to come to the surface of conversations was this:  What are resources that “work” in Europe (secular and postmodern) and in international contexts (global and transient).

The conclusion and dream are to work together towards the creation of new resources and open-sourced sharing of ideas.

Over the past few years I have found and used some wonderful resources that have translated to my youth group both in New York and now here in Paris.

My next post will be a basic list and links to my personal recommendations for emerging youth ministry resources, whether in the North American, the U.K. or Europe.

Week 2: Jesus

Last week was week 2 of our series called Clear: Theological Foundations of Faith.

For recaps of the previous weeks and why we are doing this series, please check out the previous posts.

The theme for this week was Jesus.  Again, not an easy topic to do in one evening.  In the past, I have actually taught entire semesters on Jesus, and on other occasions taught one month-long series.

About 2 years ago, rather than teaching a series based on the chronological and “major” events of Jesus’ life, we focused on providing our students with an intensive and profound look at who Jesus was, what he has done, and how then can interact with him.

Based on the chapter “Reculturing Education” from A New Kind of Youth Ministry here was our outline:

Truth 1: The Deity of Jesus

Week 1: The Divine Names of Jesus

Week 2: The Divine Attributes of Jesus

Week 3:  The Divine Works of Jesus

Truth 2: The Humanity of Jesus

Week 4: The Incarnation of Jesus

Week 5: The Character of Jesus

Week 6: The Priorities of Jesus

Truth 3: The Ministry of Jesus

Week 7:  The Teaching of Jesus

Week 8:  The Miracles of Jesus

Week 9: The Atonement of Jesus

Truth 4: Our interactions with Jesus

Week 10: Praying with and to Jesus

Week 11: Abiding In Jesus

Week 12: Participating in the Suffering of Jesus

Week 13: Following Jesus Every Day

I find amazing embrace, engagement, and transformation in taking this approach with our students, so I kept this in mind in preparation for this one evening

Flashback: When I taught this series on theology almost 8 years ago, my entire focus was not on engaging students with the life and presence of Jesus.  I did not care as much about seeing them spiritually formed and transformed as I did with convincing them their need for Christ’s salvation.

My main focus was on a clear presentation of substitutionary propitiatory atonement.  Jesus Christ on the cross in his crucifixion or sacrifice fulfilled the wrath and indignation of God. The crucifixion or sacrifice of Christ conciliated (or appeased) God, who would otherwise be offended by human sin and would demand penalty for it.

Naturally, the main goals in this kind of approach was convincing students of their sin, convicting them of their need for help, convincing them in the reality of punishment and eternal damnation and then offering them a solution.  In some ways, it is very much a sales pitch.  Now, you may firmly believe in the idea and the need for others to want and have it, but nonetheless, you still must spend time and energy selling them on that as well.

*disclaimer: I do not necessarily think this is wrong or inherently bad and do still see a need for this message. Generally around Easter time we have this discussion.

Today:

As mentioned from last week, I am attempt to include more of our leaders in the actual teaching time and group discussions as well and am trying to work hard to create environments and opportunities towards that end.

My theme and focus was on helping our students understand the mystery of Christ and the beauty of who he was and is.

1) I had one of our volunteers, Mary, offer a communal pray for our group and invited the presence of Jesus in our midst to quite our hearts and minds, guide us into truth and unity, and fill our spirits with his love.

2) We first did a brief recap from the following week, led by our students’ recollection of theme, content, and activities

3) We began introducing the night’s theme by showing this video, as a way of clearing up common misconceptions about who Jesus was not.

Following that funny clip I played an old Johnny Cash song called “It was Jesus” from his Love, God, Murder album

\”It was Jesus\”- Johnny Cash

4) Another volunteer (who happens to be my wife and very gifted in engaging students in interactive learning) lead the opening activity.  She divided the group into 2 and had each smaller group go into separate rooms.  One group was given a picture of a body on construction paper and asked to come up with words, images, or ideas showing the humanity of Jesus.  How do we know that Jesus was Human?

The other group was tasked with a similar proposition of coming up with how we know Jesus was divine.

This lasted for about 10 minutes and each group came back into the room and placed their sheet on the wall and explained how they arrived at their conclusions.

It was interesting to see which group had an easier time at first.  Can you guess which one?

About 5 minutes into the assignment, the “humanity” group had the sheet practically full, while the “divinity” one had probably 4 words written down.

I had a youth leader, Becky, help out each group by giving them a few verses to aid in their thinking and conversations

Group 1 (Humanity) Matt 8:24, Matt 21:18, Mark 3:5, John 11:35, John 11:36, John 12:27

Group 2 (Divinity) Matt 1:21, Luke 1:31-32, 1 Thess 1:10, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8

You probably cannot see from the images but here were a few of their discoveries:

Humanity:  he was born, he felt pain, he bled and died, he was tempted, he slept, he was hunger and thirsty, he felt human emotions such as fear, sadness, joy, anger

Divinity: his “I AM” sayings, various divine titles given to him (Son of God, Son of Man, image of God, etc..), his was sinless, he performed miracles, he was raised from the dead, he appeared after his resurrection, he pre-existence as the “Word” of God, forgave sins, had moments of omnipotence and omniscience

When both groups came back in we create a Venn diagram and had a really good discussion about which qualities, characteristics and attributes intersect with both natures (human and divine)

Examples were Love, Grace, Compassion, Community, Justice, Miracles

Christ represents the fullness and completion of what humanity can be.

As Millard Erickson writes in Christian Theology, “instead of asking Is Jesus as human as we are? we might better ask, Are we as human Jesus? For the type of human nature that each of us possesses is not pure human nature.  The true humanity created by God has in our case been corrupted and spoiled…Jesus is not only as human as we are; he is more human.  Our humanity is not a standard by which we are to measure his.  His humanity, true and unadulterated, is the standard by which we are to be measured.”

Some key points are:

Jesus can truly sympathize with and intercede for us

Jesus manifests the true nature of humanity

Jesus can be our example

Human nature is good

God is not totally transcendent

5)  I chose 2 students to read the following passages:

John 1:1-14

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

A second student read these words about Christ found in Colossians 1:15-20

The Supremacy of the Son of God

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Christ being divine meant that he is also fully God and can forgive us, redeem us, and restore our nature and relationship with God. We can and should worship him as God, as our risen and eternal Savior.

There is a mystery surrounding the dual natures of Christ.  100% human and 100% divine seem to add up to an incomprehensible 200%!

However, students (especially in postmodernity) understand and accept the existence of paradox in life and faith.

6) We concluded our corporate time together by asking who is Jesus to me?

I showed this clip about the identity of Christ.

7)  Another leader, Jenny, invited our students to grab notebooks and pens and write a letter to a friend explaining who Jesus was to them.  This hopefully served as a good time for personal reflection on both their intellectual beliefs about Jesus, and their spiritual affirmations and experience of Jesus

ie. what Jesus actually means to them and who he is in their life

During these minutes we played two songs in the background:

Jesus Messiah- Chris Tomlin

We Love you Jesus- Shane and Shane

8)  A college student, Josh, then read the poem “One Solitary Life”, which still concludes the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular program each year in NYC

One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty-three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

9)  Josh then concluded with a prayer found in the book Clear by Chris Folmsbee

“Jesus, thank you.

Jesus. you are the Christ.

Jesus, you are the Messiah.

Jesus, you are the Anointed One.

Jesus, you are our Prophet.

Jesus, you are our Priest

Jesus, you are our King.

Jesus, you are the reason we have a relationship with God.

Jesus, thank you.”

10)  For the last 30-45 minutes we generally break up into 4 small groups.  Depending on the night and the theme, sometimes we have guys and girls together and sometimes we divide.  Here are the questions given to our leaders, serving simply as a starting point for discussion and thought.

Small Group Questions:

What is still confusing or hard to understand about Jesus?

Do you believe in Paradox?  How might that apply to faith in Jesus?

What does Jesus Humanity Reveal to Us?  How can it help us?

What does Jesus’ Divnity Reveal to us?  How can it help us?

Describe how you have experienced the reality of Jesus in your life?

*During the next 4 weeks for our Confirmation group, we will get more in-depth on the subject of Jesus and be looking at the following questions: (These are taken from the Re:Form Confirmation program from Sparkhouse)

a) Was Jesus of Nazareth God?

b) Did Jesus know he was God?

c) If Jesus was God why did he have to die?

d) Do I have to believe Jesus performed miracles in order to be a Christian?

e) Why did Jesus get baptized?

f) Is believing in Jesus really the only way to get to heaven?

Next Week:  Holy Spirit

You can now subsribe via RSS feed

Finally, after two years I have updated this site and expanded…a bit.

You can now get email reminders sent directly to your account or subscribe via an RSS feed or Google Reader.

Content wise, I plan to begin some new series, continue with youth ministry and theology book reviews, and get a few guest bloggers to write as well.

Would love to hear from you any suggestions, ideas, topics, or themes impacting your journey in youth ministry.

Thanks for keeping posted.

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Top Ten Youth Ministry bloggers

As we close out another here I wanted to give a shout out to the youth ministry bloggers out there.

This is my own personal list, not intended to be “the” list.

For a great list of youth ministry bloggers check out the Youth Specialties link below

Top 20 youth ministry blogs of 2010

*and by the way YS, no hard feelings that this blog didn’t make your list…maybe next year (hint)

I am not sure how these numbers are calculated.  Hits to site?  Readership?  Subscriptions? Impact?  Name recognition?

Here is how I created my top ten:

People that I actually read, value, and learn from their thoughts in youth ministry.  I have chosen a few “outside of the box” writers and thinkers.  Some of these men and women you have heard of and probably read, others maybe not.  Personally I don’t care as much about the statistics of certain blogs, but more about the ideas presented.  If I can bring some new, progressive, and emerging voices into the realm of youth ministry that would be great.

Clearly there are so many great bloggers out there.  My list will look very different from Youth Specialties or your own..and that is a very good thing.  Each one of us in on a different journey, and so diverse types of thinkers and bloggers will impact us and our ministry.  Here are the thinkers, writers, practitioners, activists, and bloggers who have impacted me this past year.

Top Ten Youth Ministry Bloggers

A new kind of youth ministry–   Chris Folsmbee (author, trainer, and director of Barefoot Ministries

Youth Specialties blog– Adam Mclane and an “assortment” of other youth workers and thinkers

Rethinking Youth Ministry-Brian Kirk and Jacob Thorne (mainline/progressive youth pastors offering new perspectives)

ReYouthpastor– Jeremy Zach (trainer and innovator in youth ministry w/ XP3 students

Mike King (author and director of Immerse Journal and Youthfont)

Why is Marko– Mark Oesteicher (author, speaker, YS emergent brain child)

evolitionist– Neil Christopher (activist and progressive youth pastor in TX)

Lars Rood (author, speaker, youth pastor in TX)

pomomusing– Adam Walker Cleaveland (theologian & “postmodern” youth pastor)

Peter Waugh (progressive and creative youth pastor in Belfast, Ireland)

Now I wish I made my list top 15 or 20 because there are so many other great youth ministry blogs out there.

For more of a fuller and broader list of youth ministry bloggers that I read, please scroll down the right of the home page of Emerging Youth

and find the RSS feeds under “Who I read”. That section is my personal blogroll for youth ministry people.

*Please comment with ones that you follow and read and I will probably add a few more as well!

Happy blogging and Happy New Year