Faith Lab:Interchangeable


The past few months have been filled with computer issues.  We had a hard drive go at work with some really important data on it (thankfully it was backed up), there have been a couple of bad viruses that have gotten on a couple of others of my friends, the power connector inside the laptop, memory has gone bad, another bad drive in an xbox, even printers have been acting up. 

As I learn and dabble more and more with computer repair (because I calling repair guys is really expensive) I have come to realize that interchangeable parts are such a blessing. 

Working on my last project I thought about how we need to have interchangeability in ministry.  Maybe redundancy is a better term for it.  But how are we backing up our programming so that it will not crumble?  If you have something that takes you are another leader out of the picture for a week, month or year how will that impact the ministry. 

I am striving to be better at this and thinking about how to make more interchangeable (or place sharing) ministry.  One of phrases we talk about in camping ministry and in our Safe Sanctuary conversations it is: “don’t be the last to know.”  Always tell someone else what is going on, so that there are others who can fill in details or know what is going on.

How are you making your ministry redundant?

Faith Lab: Holistic Ministry

practical-theology-streetIn there new book “A theological turn in youth ministry,” Kenda Dean and Andrew Root Make a remark about the theological training in developing countries.  In the opening chapter of their text they speak abut the way first year theology students have a number of basic bible classes, maybe a leadership class and another highly theoretical class that rounds out their class list.  But in the Sudan there is a very important difference in the mentality of the class load which shapes the thrust of their ministry to come":

In Sudan, apparently, it’s a different story. To imagine God apart from on-the-ground realities of hardship, hunger and hope-to separate biblical Greek and Hebrew from agriculture and public health-is unthinkable. What took my breath away about the Sudanese curriculum was not the classes themselves, but what those classes suggest that ministry is for. What Sudanese pastors-in-training need to learn is not how to lead a church but how to stop people from dying. In Sudan, the church is a life-force. Those who lead congregations find living water in Scripture for their thirsty flocks while staving off threats like starvation, HIV/AIDS, malaria. As a result, theological education in Sudan dare not dawdle long in abstraction. It must prepare Christians to preach the gospel and to practice it by helping pastors learn to lasso holy texts for people who are literally dying for a story of resurrection.

Andrew Root;Kenda Creasy Dean. The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (Kindle Locations 85-90). Kindle Edition.

Student’ ministry should have the same kind of focus in mind.  It needs to be practical, so that our students can see the worth of fostering a strong spirituality.  Also, We need to make sure we are ministering to the whole person of our students.  We are not just teaching them about the theology of the Trinity, or the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation.  We are addressing issues about what happened when you like a certain guy in chemistry class and being present with them as their parents are having a tough time in their marriage. 

When is the last time you sat with your students and listened to what is weighing on their hearts?

The 85% Statistic is Back

 Activity-MonitorI saw this post the other week and I thought that it was really interesting.  It has been rolling around in my mind along with a quote from Kenda Creasy Dean that says that, “youth ministry is the R&D of the church.”  Makes me think about how youth are a great barometer for the health of the church.   Perhaps the exception to this is Churches like National Community Church in DC where 70% of the congregation is single twenty somethings, and in a very transient area. 

Take a look at the article, I found it to be some great food for thought.  Follow the link and scroll to the comments to read  other people’s thoughts on what Kara Powell wrote. 

You’ve perhaps heard the infamous statistic that 80-85% of people who become Christians do so before age 14.  We youth workers especially love quoting that data when we’re asking for a larger ministry budget.

There hasn’t appeared to be lots of hard data to back up that stat.  But maybe that’s changed.

Sociologist Dr. Christian Smith and his team at the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) have studied teenagers of all religious persuasions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Religiously Indifferent, etc.).  He reports in his new book, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, that 85% of those 18-23 who have ever made a commitment to God did so before age 14.

Remember, the study includes teenagers and young adults of all religious persuasions, and it’s not entirely clear from the book what students mean what they say they have “made a commitment to God”.

But nonetheless, this is the best data I’ve seen in a while that supports that 85% statistic.

The 85% Statistic is Back — and Pretty Strong Actually | Fuller Youth Institute

Guess Who?

guess whoOver the Christmas break I was able to watch as some kids at Katie’s winter break camp played games.  On of the games was a favorite of mine back in the day.  It was “Guess Who”.  This is the game where you try to guess through a process of questions and elimination which person your opponent has chosen.  There was always a little self-satisfaction as you swipe down an eliminated candidate with a thwack of the board.  The only downside was if you got a girl (there were about 4 in total )or someone with a hat (maybe 5 total).  Soon you would realize that the game would be coming to an end because of the lack of diversity in the game. 

Regardless of that, I saw the importance of coming up with good questions so that you could weed out the losers from the winner.  I think the importance is true with youth ministry as well.  We need to be able to ask great questions and follow-up questions to get at the heart of who our kids are. 

I have tried to come up with some of my thoughts about asking questions, but i would like to hear yours too.  I know that I am very bad at this and so it has taken some work and effort to get to the place where I am.  Here is my brain dump of question asking:

  1. Start slow: Start off with something easy.  Ask for some information about a student that isn’t really taxing and so you can get an idea of where they are located in life.
  2. Open a Door: Ask open ended questions where there is no “yes” or “no” answer.  This will make them think and give you something else to talk about. 
  3. Care by listening: Allow the conversation to build on what they have already talked about.  Don’t just ask your questions without thinking about what the students are saying.  Asking follow-up questions will show that you are listening and that you do care.  Having an adult really listen is something that many students lack in their lives and is meaningful. 
  4. Repeat:  Check back in with them the following week about something that they shared with you (a sporting event, test, birthday…).  I have to write these things down or I forget.  But, it is always cool when people remember what is important to you from week to week. 

What are some other ways you have found to ask great questions?

Bummer for the YM community


Marco is one of the most influential youth workers I have come across.  Recently he wrote the book youth ministry 3.0.  this has been a book that has provided me with some great reflection about the way that i am currently in ministry. 

Youth Specialties let him go as a result of a differing opinion as to where Zondervan would like to see youth specialties go.  I am anxious for what this means for youth specialties.  Yet, I know that Marko is going to find fruitful ministry along the next chapter of his faith journey. 

I am excited to see where God leads Marko and he is my my prayers. 

YS removes Marco from his position as the president of Youth Specialties.  The full Youth Specialties press release is right here.

Book Review: Unleashing God’s Word

As i have been thinking about the books that i have found useful there has been a torrent of books that i have thought about as I have begun to try and resource youth workers with some of the better youth ministry books. 

Unleashing God’s Word in youth ministry had been a really great resource for me in developing studies for youth, young adults, and adult study.  Also Shafer has some really great and unique thinking about ways that we can invite students to inductively study God’s word.  He outlines a number of different ways to read through scripture so that you can digest the text layer by layer. 

He also has a number of different suggestions for a scope plan so that you are not just studying the parts of scripture you or youth group prefers. 

Barry also has put the tools into practice through a collection of inductive studies.  I have the one he did on the gospel of John and it is very good.  I am always skeptical when there is a book about how to study the Bible because I tend to look for the author’s hidden agenda or theology. 

I would suggest that you check out this great resource. 

Final Grade: A