Hulu hoops? Check.

Ball Jars? Check.

Jet Puff marshmallows? Check.

8″ knobby balls? Check.

Must be retreat season.



Playmeo Is A Great Ministry Resource

I purchased an annual subscription to Playmeo last week and used two of their activities on my first Sunday of the program year. I’ve been a subscriber to Mark Collard’s YouTube channel for over a year now. I’ve taken countless activity ideas from it. I sent his “Facilitator Tips” series to the rest of our youth staff as a resource.

It felt like time to pay for value.

I am increasingly aware how much of ministry work is facilitation with groups–small and large groups, groups of adults, youth, children and a host of combinations thereof. A tip top toolbox of facilitation skills and resources is really important, because our work is always calling on us to lead groups of people, and doing that well allows those groups to experience growth and learning.

People like Collard make their living at this and at training people in it. I am an enthusiastic acolyte.


Moving From A Room To A Landing

We moved our little unstructured all-youth-bagel-time out of a room and onto a landing, and it seemed to make a significant difference. Previously, parents would accompany younger students to the room and then hover nervously by the door as they crossed the threshold and immersed themselves in an intimidating teens-only gaggle. Then they would slow walk away. They rarely came in; it was not a space for adults.

But I think there need to be some spaces in church life for youth and their parents. Turns out we had one staring us right in the face.

There is a nice, open, landing that leads to that room where we’ve been hiding the youth bagels. It’s technically a “library,” but nobody’s sitting in there reading Tillich. There are comfortable chairs and low tables. It’s an inviting gathering space into which we were not inviting people to gather.

We added a few hightop tables and set the bagels right in the middle of the landing. Bingo. Youth, parents, staff, and volunteers all mixed together. The door to that room was open, and some students took to it. Fine. On the whole, the experiment did what I hoped it would.

It’s just one week, I know, but it’s enough to do it again next week.

Adding Church Staff Is Not A Puzzle

Bringing someone new onboard your church requires time and energy. Introductions and explanations are a particular kind of work required to ensure that the new person has the information and relationships they need to get started well.

Those introductions and explanations aren’t just one-directional though. In the same way that the new team member needs to understand how things work at the church and who to approach for different things, the church needs to understand the new team member and how they work.

If all we’re doing is fitting new parts into a system, transformation will elude us. We need to allow the new parts to exert some influence on the system they’re joining. It’s not a puzzle. We’re not simply looking to fit a piece into a precisely designed space. It’s more like a dish that needs a new ingredient to flavor the whole thing.

That includes you.

Human Work

Ministry is human work: connecting, listening, challenging, encouraging.

It can feel like technical work: counting, planning, reviewing, arranging.

The technical work makes space for the human work.


A late blog post in the afternoon because I slept through my morning alarms

One of the things that people who work with youth in churches care a lot about is that those youth have close relationships with each other. We call it bonding.

I wonder if we don’t actually mean something else though. I wonder if bonding is not so much a goal of our ministry with young people as it is a byproduct. I wonder if the healthy thriving community of Christian disciples that we are trying to form is not held together more by common values and aims than it is by close personal bonds.

That’s all I have for today. I slept through both my alarms.

Nine Key Findings from The New Commonsense Media Study of Teenagers And Social Media

  1. Social media use among teens has risen dramatically since 2012.
  2. Only a very few teens say that using social media has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves; many more say it has a positive effect.
  3. Social media has a heightened role–both positive and negative–in the lives of more vulnerable teens.
  4. Teens’ preference for face-to-face communication with friends has declined substantially, and their perception of social media’s interference with personal interactions has increased.
  5. Many teens think tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices and say that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships, and sleep.
  6. Teens have a decidedly mixed record when it comes to self-regulating device use.
  7. There has been an uptick in teens’ exposure to racist, sexist, and homophobic content on social media, ranging from an increase of 8 to 12 percentage points.
  8. Some teens have been cyberbullied, including about one in 10 who say their cyberbullying was at least “somewhat” serious.
  9. Social media is an important avenue of creative expression for many kids.

Check out the full report here.

The interaction of key finding numbers five and six are where it’s at for me. Most of the teens I work with are not blind to the forces driving their device use, and many express a sense of disappointment that they aren’t better about using them less. But they don’t know how. Seriously, if I’d had a smartphone at 15 I would have been lost; 42 ain’t exactly killing it.

This research feels important for youth ministry.

To The Preachers Still Denouncing Tolerance in 2018

You’ve been saying for as long as I can remember that “tolerance” is the spirit of the age, the dominant cultural value that your flock must resist in the name of Biblical authority. But you’re not paying close enough attention. You’re misreading virtuous acceptance and welcome as tolerance of that which is vile and using that critique as a shield to hide behind. Worse, you still appear uninterested in the people doing the tolerating or being tolerated. That makes you look lazy.

At the same time, you are failing to notice a rising intolerance among those you experience as only “nonbelievers.” They are less tolerant of you for sure, a posture you have not missed and have not failed to decry as a threatening of your religious liberty. But you’re missing the bigger picture. Religiously motivated exclusion is increasingly rejected today as part of a larger cultural complex tied together with racist and sexist strings. Yet you remain unwilling to examine that complex and your part in it.

If “intolerance” is still your go-to homiletical punching bag in 2018, you need to up your game.

Good Work

Your work feels routine most days, or if not routine, then at least manageable–to you. You know where the invoice slips are and that September is the month to book a venue for the spring retreat and who to send the worship bulletin to and by when. Once you’ve been at this awhile you’ve got the major blocks of your work in hand and it all flows like normal.

That’s the time to try to explain it to someone new.

The simple exercise of talking through the annual events calendar, for example, and describing why each event is on there, the major tasks required by each one, ways you changed events last year, and so on, is sufficient to remind you just how much is involved in all of this. You’re not conscious of it anymore, but the work you’re doing is complex and you have mastered major parts of it.

Good work.

First Day Jitters

Your first day is one thing. Someone else’s first day is another entirely.

On your first day, you only have to worry about the impression made by one person: you. On someone else’s first day, you have to worry about the impression made by everyone.

On your first day, you experience everything for the first time and are in control of your reaction. You manage someone else’s first experience of everything on thier first day and have zero control over how they react.

You present yourself as a competent professional who is worth the investment on your fist day. But you must present an entire organization on someone else’s first day so that they feel, right away, that working with you is worth their investment.

Someone else’s first day feels like a test of whether the work you’re doing is exciting to someone new. The rule surely applies here too: begin as you intend to continue.