“So, if the “Zombie Apocalypse” occurs, what skills will you bring into the new future?
It was a confusing question. The family was sitting down for a picnic dinner and my young adult children were playing a game called Zombie Apocalypse. It was “What can you contribute to the general good?” sort of game… which is not an uncommon young adult sort of question. What did zombies have to do with it? A staple of horror films, zombies are formerly dead characters walking this world mindlessly attempting to consume the life and flesh of the living.
My eldest daughter explained her understanding of the game, “We’ve grown up with so many real-life villains — from Columbine to the 9/11 terrorists to Hurricane Katrina to British Petroleum – that zombies pretty much reflect them all. The game reminds us that we must all share what we have with one another.”
The zombies of my own youth came to mind, the back-up dancers in Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller.” As dancers they were choreographed to be slow and stilted in their gate, emotionless in their steps, and slightly menacing.
This summer, youth ministry programs around the nation will be taking young people off to summer youth conferences, leadership camps, and work-camps helping those in need. During these summer days, they will attempt to live out the model of the early Christian Community, devoting “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
In these moments, they will experience the Church that Pope Benedict XVI discussed in his instillation homily in 2005. As a Catholic, I was emboldened when he proclaimed “…The Church is alive. And the Church is young.” As these young people return to their own church communities, this is a good time of assessment for us. Are they returning to a Church that is alive and young? Or might it scarily resemble the slow, lifeless, faith of the undead?
As faith communities, there are many things that we can do to ensure that the vitality and vibrancy of our Church.
> We must find more ways to inform, form, and transform the faith of parents. They are the first witnesses of faith for young people. Whatever kids understand about the Church was likely both taught by and caught from their parents.
> We must make a commitment towards greater inclusion of young people into the ministries of the Church, especially within our communal worship. We must work towards inclusion in our worship and engaging “the life” of young people into it.
> When we do minister with young people, we must find ways to elicit their energy, passion, and skills towards making a meaningful difference in the world. Pope Benedict encourages young people to make “definitive choices” regarding their lives and faith and we should do the same.
As Church, we need to recognize that young people are fully ready to engage against that which is perceived as assaulting civilization with hostility towards human life. Young people must recognize the Church as alive and young; we cannot risk sending them the perception that we are a lifeless zombie culture.
From their summer experiences, hundreds of young people will be returning to parish pews this summer and will look at the Church through new eyes and ask “What can you contribute to the general good?” Our response must match the rhythm of their lives, expressive in our response, and slightly reassuring for the future. Let us consume the fullness of life together with the One who came who that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)
D. Scott Miller is the coordinator of adolescent Faith formation for the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He blogs at www.catholicYMblog.com
Really great and accurate portrayal of modern church in this clever video from the DRIVE Conference. Ouch!
I’ve been gone a lot from our high school ministry recently. All good things – but mission trips, conferences, vacation and events all take their toll on the decision-making ability of me as the leader. As I’ve gotten back up to speed, I’ve tried to be keenly aware of these potential drawbacks of the disconnected leader:
Poorly informed decision-making
Being absent or disconnected results in making decisions in haste or in ignorance without all of the information. If you feel you’re being pressured into a major decision, you might need to table it. Too many rushed decisions have become regrets. Be decisive, don’t let indecision paralyze you, but make sure you’ve taken the time to gather the details so you are making the right call.
Lack of clarity / purposeless
In your absence, people make decisions without you – and they should! And while I love leadership at all levels and the decentralization of authority, a disconnected leader runs the risk of personal agendas appearing and potentially the purposes becoming less clear. Make sure you’re not the bottleneck and design your student ministry so you can be gone once in a while, just make sure there’s enough clarity to hang on until you get back.
Team morale dips
You’re the team leader, and many look for you for the optimism that fuels them toward goals. Being gone too much sends a signal to your team that you’re not “in it with them.” There are responsibilities (and privileges, honestly) that do carry me away from my team, but there’s a lot to be said for a leader who gets their hands dirty.
Here’s the zinger: you may be present but still be disconnected. Being present isn’t enough! Too many disconnected leaders are physically around, they just aren’t invested in their team’s lives. I want to be a leader that is present, connected and empowering all of us to accomplish our goals.
We read Bible stories to our kids about every night as part of our bedtime routine. Chores, PJs, teeth, stories, Bible stories, prayer, zzzzzz. Even though our kids aren’t that old, we’ve gone through quite a few different children’s Bibles in the process – and we’ve recently fell in love with our most recent acquisition, The Jesus Storybook Bible.
Zondervan gave everyone who attended the Radicalis Conference a a free copy – I happened to be backstage with Mark Driscoll and he mentioned it was his family’s favorite book. So, we took it home and started reading that night – and I have to tell you, it is super. I put on my “narrator” voice and don’t want to stop it is so fun, clear and inspiring. Really good stuff – if you’ve got little kids, you’ll wear this Bible out.
Weekend Teaching Series: Simply Jesus (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Jesus is forgiving, and we can experience and share it personally.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Understandable Message: We based this series on Simply Amazing, a series that Doug Fields taught in our adult services a couple of years ago. Each week we teach through an event from the life of Christ, this week was on the woman caught in adultery. Jake and I taught this weekend in two parts – the first half of the talk was about Kenya and how we are Jesus on the earth until He returns, and how a study of the life of Jesus will help show us how to love and live for him. Jake had a great big story up front that really captured everyone, and a great walkthrough of the story.
Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students were highly involved this weekend – greeters, band, control room, cameras, lights, sound and testimony. Several new weekend adult volunteers joined the mix as well, great to have more adults in the room on Saturday night especially.
Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a couple of games from NBC’s Minute to Win It. We usually don’t play such physical games in high school services (though we work hard to have some element of fun for sure), but had a total blast with these and the students seemed to be really enjoying it. We played Face the Cookie and Bottoms Up. More details on how this could be used in student ministry here.
Music Playlist: KIDS, You Deserve, Thank You For Loving Me, It Is Well, Came to My Rescue
Favorite Moment: Don’t have a specific moment, just really happy to be back after being gone almost a month between the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and our trip to Kenya. Good to be home!
Up Next: STORIES (1-off)
I am back from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2010 in Chicago! It took me a few days to recover from a packed weekend. I learned a lot of tips and youth ministry ideas, but the biggest thing I learned was this: Every involved youth worker should go to a conference like this. Here are 3 reasons why.
A time of learning – I learned a lot. There were so many opportunities to take a class on a subject that will help me to stay in ministry for the long haul. SYMC offered classes on marriage, volunteer training, games, counseling, conflict resolution, preaching, & teaching. I chose the Helping Hurting Kids track and I benefited from probably one of the least discussed topics but one of the most influential problems all teens face — teen depression and addiction. I believe we all need to learn more if we are going to help teens through their adolescence.
A time of encouragement – The worship and camaraderie I was able to participate in was very therapeutic. I met many people I have had the honor of speaking to online through the SYM Podcast. Getting to meet Doug, Josh, Matt, and Jana in person was awesome. It felt like seeing old friends for the first time in a long time. I also got to meet Andy B in person after so many emails for products. I also met new people like D.C., Matt K., Rick Lawrence, Tom, and many others. Tim Timmons really encouraged me through his worship leading and a few of his songs are STILL stuck in my head.
A time of rest – Youth Ministry is T. O. U. G. H. with a capital STRESSFUL. Dealing with tough kids, tough parents, boards, elders, pastors & ministers can take a lot out of you. We don’t tend to take time for ourselves because we are so committed to getting it right as often as possible. We overwork ourselves to the point we lose much of our drive and passion. Taking a weekend to listen to others who are doing what you do and understand your faith, love, passion, hurts, and struggles can only benefit. I felt loved on. It had been 7 years since I had been to a large convention like this. I forgot how much I needed it. Now that I am back, I feel stronger. There isn’t a huge list of things to tell people about the conference itself other than the encouragement I received. I did come back with this though: the passion and desire to help hurting kids. I think that was worth the admission alone.
Mike Lewis is the Youth Minister for the Westside Church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon. He writes a blog that might be worth reading at www.bigmikelewis.blogspot.com and will gladly be your friend on Facebook, too.