Friday, February 5, 2010

Take-Everywhere-On-Retreat Bag Contents

You have to be prepared, right? The contents of the bag that I will be carrying around all weekend this weekend at our Jr. High Retreat will contain the following:
  • Duct tape
  • Cable ties
  • Bible
  • Pens/Markers
  • Insurance Forms
  • Cell phone
Which ones are for emergency, discipline, or personal enrichment I'll let you figure out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fun announcement

There are some Sunday mornings that I just can't be in Sunday school, but there's some important stuff going on that they should know about. I put together this little video to capture their attention and communicate my information (which can be pretty challenging in middle school ministry).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Default Devotional

I've been realizing the past few weeks how great it is to always have a devotional that I can default to when I'm stuck in a rut or between other devotional studies. Mine is "My Utmost for His Highest," by Oswald Chambers. I picked it up (once again) after deciding that a larger reading plan wasn't really feeding me like it used to. After a couple weeks into My Utmost, I feel refreshed and nourished by the Holy Spirit.
So what makes a good Default Devotional? Here are a few things I came up with...
  1. Short amount of reading. You can always go longer with something short, but you can't always go shorter with something long. The short readings allow you to "take a break" from long devo readings without taking a break from devos.
  2. Continually challenging. I've read a lot of these one page thoughts before, but feel challenged in a new and fresh way each day.
  3. Moves you to prayer. Usually when a devotion style gets tired for me, it's because I am focusing on what is being said to me instead of what I have to say to God. My Utmost always pushed me into an honest time of prayer because the time would feel incomplete without it.
  4. BONUS: Take-anywhere format. I didn't think this could count as an actual criterium, but it is definitely a bonus if you can take it wherever. This way you can give your devo life a zap without being tied to one spot. It really helped me when I saw that I could buy My Utmost as an iPhone app, and take it with me everywhere.
Anyone else have a default devotional?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Learning about me from me

As I have finally hit a strong rhythm in our 2-year middle school teaching cycle, I am loving going back and tweaking some of my old series and lessons, and I'm loving what I'm learning about myself:
  1. I have grown as a teacher. Illustrations, practical applications, use of video, etc. When I look back at my lesson plans from two years ago, there is no doubt in my mind that I have grown as a teacher. In the last few weeks, there have been entire lessons that I've thrown out and rewritten to get more practical, more relevant, or more middle school appropriate. The topic stays the same while the presentation shifts dramatically.
  2. I have impressed myself. While there have been weeks in which my "tweaking" has turned into rewriting, there have also been weeks that I've read past lessons and been touched by the truth in them. Then I think, "I wrote this?" And I'm super happy once again that I have a 2-year cycle that keeps taking the best and making it better.
The final goal is always to present the truth of God's Word in a clear, tangible, and age-appropriate way to Middle School students. Every year I feel like I'm getting closer to that goal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pavlov's Dogs

I was reminded today of the famous Pavolv's dogs experiment I studied as a freshman in college. (Warning: brief, non-scientific summary of something scientific)
Pavlov fed dogs everyday for a little while. Then he started ringing a bell before he fed them for another while. Then he would just ring the bell and watch them salivate, waiting and expecting food.

I've been in middle school and high school ministry for 6 years. I just ate a slice of pizza here in the office, and got really anxious for youth ministry.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Surviving and Thriving in a Middle School Retreat Weekend

As our Middle School Ministry is gearing up for our Winter Blast Retreat weekend, I am trying to help our leaders make the most out of it. They are coming over to my house for a hearty meal tonight and I am sharing with them the following survival tips.

Set Boundaries

  • Quickly. Don’t wait until their behavior bothers you. Set the rules during the good times, then enforce as needed.
  • Not too tight, not too loose. Students shouldn’t feel like they are on a short leash the whole weekend. They should have room to roam, explore, and test; but they should also know their limits ahead of time and be allowed to fail while it’s still safe.
  • Example: If you stay up all night, you still have to go to the sessions.
  • Be consistent. Don’t make exceptions because the kid is cool, bribes you, uncool, or anything else. Every rule is fair if it is communicated and consistent.

Include everybody. There will be other churches at the camp, maybe even in your cabin. Make them part of your group. Let your actions teach our students.

Respect everybody. Don’t make fun of the kid that actually wants to sleep. Don’t let yourself fall into the Jr. High Boy pattern of making fun of everybody all the time. Don’t fall into the Jr. High Girl pattern of talking bad about the other girls when they aren’t there. Let your actions teach.

Be prepared to stay up late Friday night. They have been waiting for this for months. They will be eating extra sugar, drinking extra caffeine, and set to sit still on a bus for 2.5 hours. They will be up late.

  • Encourage/challenge the extra energetic to more energetic activities (also encourage showers afterward).
  • Try to avoid all-nighters, though this is quite the badge of honor for Jr. Highers.

Take advantage of one-on-ones. Walk to/from session. 2-player games. Opportunities to talk to your small group students will present themselves, especially if you are looking for them. Make the most of these times to follow up on previous issues, comments the speakers made, a noticed poor/great attitude, and lots of encouragement/compliments.

Expect more openness. Students tend to open up more when they are away from home. You need to expect it and look for it.

  • Show that you can handle it. Don’t freak out or rush to bad advice. If they are pressing for answers you don’t have (or more information than you feel comfortable giving), you can always use the phrase, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Stay calm and listen, maintaining eye contact is huge along with other body language openness.
  • Thank them for sharing and offer prayer.
  • Follow up the next day/opportunity. They most likely will show awkwardness towards you, not sure of how their openness may have affected your relationship. Be sure to show love, but also make sure that your relationship doesn’t begin to revolve around this one issue (don’t let a single issue define them to you).
  • Report appropriately. If this is an issue that needs to be brought to somebody in charge, don’t wait! If you’re not sure if it does or not, than it does.

Be a hero. Jr. Highers frontal lobe development is far from completely developed, leaving them with a lack of foresight and an inability to plan well. Make up for it by utilizing your developed frontal lobe.

  • Bring an extra towel, extra blanket, or extra hygiene items. Jr. High boys are new to hygiene in general, and may not realize that 12 hours of Dodgeball requires a shower, which requires soap and a towel. I have purposefully packed an extra towel on every retreat for the past 5+ years, and it has been used every time. Jr. High girls are new to their menstrual cycle, and often embarrassed about it. If this happens on the retreat, be prepared to share! This will elevate you to “hero” status for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Things We Don't Talk About

As I look at the areas of struggle for Middle School (and High School) students, and the areas of silence for the church, I am seeing a disturbing amount of overlap.
  • cutting/self-injurious behavior
  • self-image/personal identity
  • sex
  • pornography
  • dating
  • drugs and alcohol
  • homosexuality (currently realizing)
I look at that list and I look at my teaching list, and a weird feeling of disconnect hits me. I think of the last year of sermons I've heard in the main service, and I take another blow of dissatisfaction. It seems like the solutions we as the Church have come up with to these problems are to teach on them once a year and move on. Are we trying to combat the never-breaking messages of the media, peers, and celebrities with a 3-week series?

I've decided to change my approach to teaching on these issues. I will touch on pornography, cutting, drugs and alcohol, and more in every lesson I teach. I will work them into small group discussion questions. I will make these specific issues part of my vocabulary more than the usual Christian jargon of "discipleship," "saved," "pressing in," and other weird Sunday school sayings.

The Middle School students that are part of this ministry will know what the Bible says about these issues: not because of a once-and-done series, but because of the regular, purposeful discussion of the way these issues relate to God, our worship of him, and how he has designed and desires us to live.

This will not be easy. I want to work both smarter and harder to make this meaningful, not repetitive; relevant, not dogmatic; convicting, not churching; encouraging, not hindering.

Will you help me?