Open Paris…in review

Open Paris

This past weekend, 50 youth workers from across the E.U., U.K. and the U.S converged upon Paris for the inaugural Open Paris.

We were tremendously blessed with a stacked lineup of diverse speakers and seminars including Mark Oestreicher, Andrew Marin, Chris Kidd, Chris Curtis, Gemma Dunning, Markus Eichler, Tabea Weiler, Tim Eldred among others.

Tim Eldred

1385849_10153353236685246_36276769_n

For the full range of the schedule, seminars and vision for Open Paris you can check out the website here:http://paris.openym.org

Hosting was fun and I really enjoyed playing tour guide in the city of Paris and The American Church in Paris.

More importantly, I loved connecting up with such a wide array of youth workers from 6-7 different countries. Each person shared his or her unique story, context, struggles, successes, hopes and dreams for God’s work in the lives of their students.

Some of the highlights for me included a very delicious traditional French dinner served for all guests on Friday evening followed by a sacred time of worship in the church’s catacombs.

(photos courtesy of Tim Eldred and Andrew Marin)

1380531_494316293997801_1802729810_n

1390681_597146333679203_458460514_n

Open Paris was highly interactive, participatory, inclusive and relational.

In my opinion that is the way forward for youth worker gatherings.

Though some well-known speakers were on site, Open Paris was NOT about creating a dichotomy between the “professionals” and the ordinary youth workers.  We were all together all the time, and this is unique among these type of conferences.

Open Paris was about taking some bold risks and opening up honest conversations about real issues facing youth workers today including ministering to the ever-increasing LGBT community, embracing ecumenicalism as a way forward,  and inter-faith dialogue in pluralistic contexts.

panel

I applaud the vision of The Youth Cartel (Adam and Marko) for desiring to create this kind of atmosphere and am excited to see what the future holds for other Open events and also for the connectivity and friendship of youth workers across Europe.

We have much to learn from each other and I hope to see more of these gatherings in the near future!

ACP sanctuaryThe American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

Gaining Ground in Gabon

Image

On July 6 a team of 13 high school students and leaders from The American Church in Paris will leave the comforts of France and venture to Gabon, Africa.  This year we are blessed to have a group from New York join our team for the two weeks of service.  This year’s trip will mark my third summer in Gabon and I am amazed to see what God has accomplished during these years.  There have been uncertainties and difficulties, but all along the way, God provides and proves faithf

When I first arrived with my youth group from New York back in the summer of 2011, our team was overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task ahead of us.  We spent one week with the Hope House trying to develop relationships with these forgotten children and teenagers. The second week consisted of clearing land in a jungle and preparing trenches for the cement that one day would begin the foundation of a new church for the village.  We worked hard and shed many tears and drops of sweat.

 Last year, a dynamic group from ACP traveled back to these same sites to continue the work.  Being French-speaking, our team was able to connect with the Hope House and establish strong personal connections.  Wonderful ministry was accomplish through a Vacation Bible School program, shared interests and hours of dialogue.  In the village of Ebel Abenga, our Parisian party began and completed the actual foundation of the building! 

 And now the two teams unite in a combined effort to gain even more ground in Gabon.  The combination of experience, fluency in French, and passion for the people of Gabon is exhilarating as we are only days away from departure.  Due to an unattainable increase in rent, Pastor Israel had to leave the Hope House and is beginning the work of constructing their very own building that will better accommodate the needs of the children.  Through God’s provisions, an angel from ACP requested his company’s help to provide 100% of the materials need to complete the construction!  And so our teams will spend the first week with the children of Hope House running a VBS program again and helping build their new home.  Our second week will be back in the village beginning construction of the walls that one day will house a church, school, and medical clinic. 

 I am thankful for the support of these two church communities in proving for these trips and grateful for the hard work and dedication of our team members as we embark on God’s calling to Africa. 

If you would like to follow our team’s progression and reflections while in Africa, please subscribe to the blog linked below

http://acpyouth.wordpress.com/

 

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

Andrew-Root-BIOWebPhoto-300x199

The “Elephant in the Room” series

2008-11-03-Elephant%20In%20The%20Room

This month in our youth ministry, our leaders decided to let the students choose topics to discuss.  Throughout the year we have been teaching on theology, Scripture, and spiritual formation.  While engaging and often entertaining, my feeling was that there existed more pertinent and important issues facing our students.

Faith is not simply about what we believe, but how our beliefs intersect the reality we see daily.  If youth ministries are unwilling to have open and honest conversations about real topics, then I wonder what is the point of our teachings.

Here is what we did:

I made a Facebook question survey with 8 issues; theological and social.  We asked students simply to choose their top three and then the overall top 4 results we would cover in one month.

The students voted for the following:

Gay Rights (marriage and adoption)

the existence of Hell

Pluralism (many faiths, same God)

and Does the Supernatural happen today

(this one tied with Drinking and Premarital Sex)

Not surprisingly most of the questions have come up in popular events or social media.  Paris had massive demonstrations for and against homosexual marriage.  Our city and schools are very diverse and so students have dear friends from many religions backgrounds.  Islam and Judaism are the two largest and so naturally our students are faced daily with how Christianity and those religions compare and contrast.  They are asking, “Will my friends really go to hell because they worship God in a different way?  Which of course then brings up the question of Hell.   The Supernatural issues (demons and miracles) I suppose is a result of the many exorcism and ghost movies produced in the past year.    Drinking is interesting because the legal age in Europe is of course 18 and most families allow children to drink much younger.  However, when our students visit the U.S or go there for college, they are faced with the crisis of not being able to drink legally.

The point of all that is to say I am glad we have listened to the voice of the students.  They need to be validated and space created for them to share.

Our leaders discussed and decided that we would not make this a “teaching series”, meaning we would not create additional lessons and pick Bible verses to support a particular view. Instead we would maintain neutrality and allow for students to openly and honestly share their views on these issues and, very importantly, why they hold those views.  I have discovered that students thoughtfully think through these issues are indeed longing for the Church to be a safe place for them to wrestled with complex issues.

elephant

Top 5 youth ministry sites & resources

Here is a very simple list of my personal Top 5 websites for youth ministry ideas, resourcing, training, and networking.

The Youth Cartel  http://theyouthcartel.com

Barefoot Ministries   http://barefootministries.com

Youthfront  http://youthfront.com

YouthSpecialties    http://www.youthspecialties.com

Sparkhouse  http://wearesparkhouse.org/

Poll question: Advent?

background3

Over the past few years I have noticed a resurgence of liturgy and Church calendar celebrations, especially in nontraditional type churches.

Our church follows the Church Calendar seasonally and a liturgical calendar weekly.

Lent (before Easter) and Advent (before Christmas) have been two major inroads for churches and youth ministries to participate in “traditional” forms of worship and celebration.

So, my question is simply…in your church or ministry, do you intentionally celebrate Advent?

What is the Youth Cartel?

Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood (maturity).[1] Definitions of the specific age range that constitutes youth vary. An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals could exist at all ages.

Often youth is associated with vigor, freshness or immaturity

cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products. Cartel members may agree on such matters as total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories,  establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these.

These two definitions really have little to do with the Youth Cartel…

However, this new organization does specialize is providing innovative resources to youth workers of all kinds with their moto “Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry”

The founding partners are two of the leading youth ministry voices and have years of experience speaking, creating, writing, and working with teenagers.  They are wacky, funny, in love with Jesus and teens, and progressive enough to speak into the future of youth ministry. Here are brief bio’s on Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane.

http://theyouthcartel.com/about/team-bios/

I deeply appreciate their passion for youth and youth workers and ability to speak into the lives of many in diverse contexts.  I have the privilege of partnering with the Youth Cartel in hosting Open Paris this spring.

For more information about The Youth Cartel including resources and events please visit their website:

http://theyouthcartel.com