When clean is icky


This weekend when I needed to wash a couple of dishes at church I ran into the this bottle of Dawn.  Well it was Dawn at one time and now I am guessing it is a mixture of a couple of different detergents.  The picture doesn’t do the brown colored soap justice.  In reality it looks more like a poorly brewed beer than dish soap.

Some times being made clean is very unappealing. Think about trying to give medicine to an infant.  As we look to advent, the manger and beyond to the cross my heart always sinks a bit about the messy way God has given up everything so that we may be made clean. 

Resource: Youth Leader Stash

youth laeder stash

After listening to a podcast this week I found youthleaderstash.com it is a great site that is chock full of wonderful game and talk resources.  I don’t know how I didn’t know about it before this, shop but now I am glad that I do.  Take a peek and tell me what you think about it. 

Faith Lab: Messes

american thanks

I came across this picture this week.  I thought about how this is not at all the feeling of thanksgiving day that I have ever seen.  First there is no disorder, mess, or stress in this picture at all. 

If there was a picture that captured your thanksgiving what would it look like?  The closest to this picture my family ever got when I was growing up was when we went to our house in Canaan Valley WV and we went to THE BEST thanksgiving buffet ever.  It had all of the fixings and then some because the owners were Italian and added their favorite Italian dishes to an already full offering.   There was no prep, on clean up and no stress. Yet there was also little appreciation for the effort that went into the special meal.  There was no conversation while in the kitchen making the mashed potatoes or cleaning the dishes. 

When I think about student ministry there have to be times where we prep and clean together because often that is where transformation happens.  If there are not messes that need to be cleaned up then something isn’t right.

Few verses in scripture get to the heart of ministry like Proverbs 14:4

4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

In student ministry talk this could be translated into “a church without youth will stay clean, but don’t expect to have a crop of young disciples in the coming years.”

Student ministry is messy.  Stuff breaks, spills happen and buildings are heavy used (but hopefully not abused).   In the end seeds are planted and disciples are made and the world is changed.  If you don’t want to deal with the messiness of ministry (keeping your stable clean) that is fine, but find another line of ministry. 

In the mess there is transformation.   Handing over leadership to youth is a risky and messy business but everyone is much richer for it.  It is a blessing to see the students making decisions about their future because of their faith.  I know that some of the most meaningful conversations I have had is when a young person discerns a call they feel on their lives because of how God has moved in their hearts.  I think back at the time we have shared, the silly games, the tears shed, the jokes and the thoughtful reflection and realize I wouldn’t change a thing. 

The next chance you get, go on and get messy!!

Faith Lab: Asking

7-questions-to-ask-your-financial-plannerThis week I have been immersed in the scripture for this week’s sermon and I have been fascinated by the way Jesus asked such great questions. I think this is in part because in the past couple of weeks I have found myself searching for the right words to say. 

But I have noticed that Jesus doesn’t really give a lot of quick fix answers throughout scripture.  Rather he asks leading questions that would cut to the heart of the people that he was talking to.  Here are 7 powerful questions that he asked that will shape the foundation and understanding of who God is and how we interact with God:

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

I have been trying to ask better questions but there are times where I am still aloof as to where the conversation needs to be directed.  Other times I default back to my “fixer” mentality of making action steps and following through with a plan.  But, when we take time to follow through with asking better questions the people we are talking to can personalize and grow in ways that our giving them the answers cannot do.  Also, questions that involve critical thinking then gives them some tools to cope and work things out when you are not around.

Here are some tips from an article I found about asking kids great questions:

However, effective questions communicate interest, help students feel known and loved, and even guide them to life change. My frustration and failures finally forced me to rethink my approach to connecting with students. I identified a few question-asking goals and
developed filters through which I put every possible question.

Insider questions. An insider question gets behind what’s easily apparent.For instance, if you see a student with a cast on his or her arm, the typical question would be, “How did you break your arm?” It’s a fi ne question, but the student has already answered it a thousand times. An insider question might be, “How did your parents react when you broke your arm?” This question gets me inside the mind or heart of a teenager instead of focusing on the event itself. Normal questions may break the ice, but insider questions get students telling you about the story underneath the “safe” typical answer. So, don’t waste time asking obvious, typical questions. Go for the good stuff .

Follow-up questions. When a student shares something with you, make
a bridge to a deeper question. For instance, “Wow, you won your baseball
game? That’s amazing.” Then, take a deeper path: “How does practicing during the week impact your homework?” “How do your parents respond to
that?” “What would they say if you quit?” The follow-up questions are always easier than the first insider question. Follow up with additional questions, and show that you care about the answers. Take an interest and keep digging with more questions.

Build on what you learned. When you’re with students, make sure to
comment on your last conversation together. Remembering conversations
is as important as remembering names. Linking to past discussions
communicates that you have a genuine interest in their lives. When you
remember what students tell you—even if you forget a couple of details—
you strengthen their belief that you value them and that talking to you isn’t
a waste of time.

One final piece I would add is not to give up.  If the first, second or third questions seem to fall flat keep trying.  If you get a middle school boy to say more than 4 words that is a huge victory many times.  I have thought conversations were failures, and then a week later the student’s parent will say, “My kid can’t stop talking about your conversation and how great it was.”  Like many other things great questions may just plant seeds that will not take root for some time, but be encouraged. 


Faith Lab: MOVE!!!

ap1_steamroller-300x164Sometimes in ministry leaders have to know when to get out of the way.  We spend a lot of time equipping those who we are in ministry with.

This weekend as I was going to sleep during our “Homeless For a Night” event my mind went to the way that our students really stepped up and planned a ton of the event themselves.  I checked in with them from time to time in and got updates about the progress that was being made.  We worked through road blocks together and had real joint ownership over things. 

One of the hard parts about letting go of ideas and control of ministry is that they might not happen the way that they were originally intended.  But, every time we have an event where our students give the primary leadership and vision they come out better than anything than I or our adults could do on our own. 

When there is momentum in a ministry (see the Faith Lab: Momentum post) sometimes the best thing that we can do as leaders is step aside.  Some things will turn out great and others will not.  We are called to rejoice with our students and congregation when things go well.  Also helping our young people to “fail well” is a part of discipleship and getting out of the way too.  We will not let the students in our ministry fall flat on their faces if they have a misstep, but perhaps once in a while we need to be the net that catches them when they fall rather than bailing them out so that the misstep is not noticed.  I love the times where I can debrief with our students and we can always learn from what went well and what we can improve on. 

It is hard to get out of the way and much more relational to come beside the congregation and students and learn together, but well worth it in the long run. Besides our goal in ministry isn’t seamless programs is it deep discipleship. 

moments before

DSC_0002I have my tent set and ready to go.  We have less that 30 minutes before the students come for our Homeless For a Night event and I am really excited about what all we are going to be doing.  Smile

I always get nervous at this time before an event.  Pray for the students, our guest speaker, our leaders, the community, and all of those who struggle to get enough to eat and have no place to call home.

Here are some fact s about hunger from our area.  Thanks to one of our students for finding them.

82 children in Middletown live under the poverty level
1,140 people in Frederick face homelessness every year
Nationwide, 3.5 million people experience homelessness
1 in every 190 people use a homeless shelter at least once a year
The main cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing, while the next three biggest causes are mental illness or a lack of needed services, substance abuse or a lack of needed services, and low-paying jobs
42.8% of all homeless people are disabled, mentally or physically
Between 1999 and 2005, crimes committed against homeless people has risen 30%
There are about 51,000 homeless people in NYC
The Frederick Cold Weather Shelter provided for 234 people in 2009
Homeless students are 1.5x more likely to perform below grade-level in reading, 1.5x in spelling, and 2.5x in math.

Chris: Domesticated


On Thursday Katie went to Princeton for a conference for young adult ministry.  This has left me and Eden home alone.  Today we had the whole day to play and be dad and daughter.  It was really a blessing to have the time to spend with her. 

This morning my domestic switch must have been flipped.  Before Katie went to NewDSC_0380 Jersey she stocked up and got food ready and set clothes out for us.  Well just clothes for Eden, I still dressed myself.  In light of that I did some laundry this mourning, vacuumed, did dishes and picked up the house.  Then I started to cook.  Eden and I made mac and cheese (the fancy kind), some “turkey feathers” (chicken tenders dusted with gluten-free honey chex, delicious), and finally we made some turkey sugar cookies. 

It was such a great morning and then we played outside and we were one the swing for a ton of time.

We miss mom, but is was a great day to hang out with my Eden.