30 Hour Famine Recap

  1. Here’s a recap I wrote up for our youth ministry’s 30 Hour Famine event- I posted this via Storify.
    When students first showed up to Hope Church in Everett, WA on May 18th, they walked in the door and checked in. When they checked in they received 1 cup, a “tribe” to be in, and a disability.
  2. The cup had to be kept the entire event, symbolizing the limited resources often available for those in destitute poverty. The “tribe” they were a part of was their group that they were a part of, each tribe was named after a country World Vision is working in. Finally, each student had a disability that they had to work with during certain activities over the weekend- this was representative of the disabilities that many malnourished people have to overcome just to get food. A sample of the disabilities: healthiness, weakness imposed by hunger, weakened knees, partially working hands, muteness, and blindness.

    One of the first things each tribe had to do was to create a flag for their tribe.
  3. After the tribes made their flags, they had to head outside to erect their shelters for the night. The activity was centered around cardboard- a staple for many low-income shelters. This was filled with much “creative bending of the guidelines” with some teams using rope, trees, fence structures, and even one team lead by one Mr. Mike Lee breaking out PVC pipe and powertools.
  4. After the building of the shelters, we had a short juice break, then we engaged in “Disabled Kickball” where we had a game of kickball in which every student was effected by their disability. The blind were definitely at a disadvantage during this particular event!

  5. Students standing in the kicking line
  6. Pastor Beau provided hilarious commentary.
  7. After Disabled Kickball, we had a couple of relay races to get water into a pitcher using only one small cup. This represented the often difficult journey to fetch water that many have to take in poor countries.After the relay race, we learned about many of the issues that affect those entrenched in poverty and how World Vision has been able to address many of the systemic issues that developing nations face. After watching informative videos (and some not so informative. WE spent some time watching HomeStarRunner videos) we settled in for the night. Some students chose to sleep in the shelters they built. Others chose to sleep in the building. And some who slept outside deserted for the inside.That morning, those who slept outside were awoken rather abruptly thanks to Pastor Beau and the crew blasting some classic 90’s music, blowing air horns, and rushing the shelters were people were sleeping. The rest of the day was spent busily cleaning up the church and preparing for the days events.

    We split up into two groups: one group headed down to Seattle to pass out sack lunches to homeless folks, the other group did a canned food drive by going door to door asking folks for contributions.

    The Seattle crew went to Pioneer square where all of the sack lunches (close to 150 of them) were gone within 5 minutes. Then they met a group from another church that was providing lunch for the homeless and sharing the Gospel with them. We helped out by cleaning and singing Amazing Grace with them.

  8. The canned food group was able to bring in over 400 pounds of canned food! An impressive feat indeed! The food was donated to the Everett Food bank, so we were able to provide direct relief for local needs as well.The whole event was a huge success. Students were able to raise money (EFC youth raised over $200!!!) and awareness for global poverty, but they were also able to help with local poverty and hunger, which is also a massive issue. Overall, 30 Hour Famine was a powerful testimony of the ability of students’ making a difference in the world by being Jesus with skin, and bringing the life of Christ to their community and world.Blessings,

    Max

  9. Update: The official 30 Hour Famine twitter account Retweeted this article. Many thanks to Pastor Beau and crew for putting together such a great event!
  10. 30HF
    Thanks for sharing your weekend with us! Great ideas for Famine Leaders! RT @maxwellamooney: 30HF recap here: http://sfy.co/11gn #30HF
    Wed, May 30 2012 17:05:11

Millennial Ministry

As a youth pastor, one of the things I have to always be conscious of (and fail at this far too often), is how the average Millennial views the world, and what things are significant and important to them. Ministry is a very challenging and even more rewarding experience in which you get to walk with young(er) people in the journey of life, and watch them grow and change into adults.

To any person who is interested in youth ministry, simply wants to understand youth (the Millennials, people born/raised around the new millennium)  a bit more, here is a fantastic infographic that is quite enlightening.There’s more after the jump!

Millennials
Created by: OnlineGraduatePrograms.com

The most significant parts, in my opinion, is the “what each generation says sets them apart.” If you notice, there are some common threads between generations- some ideals passed down from one generation to the next. For the Gen Xers, technology usage is a common thread, and thus should be common ground on which to meet millennials. Notice that while music was such an important part of the Boomer generation (Woodstock, anyone?) as well as with the Xers, it has even more significance for the Millennials.

This is why music is so essential to ministry- I’ve had people suggest that music is just a side issue and not a main area of focus for ministry, but music is HUGE. Students base their whole social structures around music. For instance, when I was in high school, almost all of my friends were people who like rock or heavier music. Granted, my heavy music tended to be Christian, but it illustrates how meaningful music was in my life. One of the first questions I used to ask people was what type of music they liked. Oh. You like post-hardcore? You are automatically awesome to me. Because your tastes in music immediately put you within a culture and a type of person.

The Social Networking aspect of things is super important as well. But there are some caveats. A rather interesting dynamic has been evolving in the world of social media lately. With Facebook achieving intergenerational adoption, many younger people have been either abandoning it, changing how they use it, or supplementing it with something else.

This article, entitled, “Facebook is for Old People” (link), captures the sentiment of many youth- that their online personal space is being invaded by their parents. I can share the sentiment. Social media has its own sort of unspoken code of conduct that almost everyone beyond the Xers, and even many of the Xers, completely destroy anytime they update their statuses. I’ve seen very, very, few Xers use social media well (I’m talking around 3 or 4 out of my social networks that exceed thousands of people), and many students are simply escaping to other platforms.

If you have a heart for student ministry, I highly suggest you sit back, observe how social media is used, and then wade in carefully. There’s little worse than watching somebody try too hard to be relevant, but there’s also little worse than watching somebody completely disregard your way of life.

I hope this is good info for anybody curious about youth, youth culture, or youth ministry. If you enjoyed this, or found it helpful, please like, share, and comment on this post.

The Path less travelled

A blossoming social network, Path, has made some significant headway in the social networking scene

As anyone who knows me well has already figured out, I really like social networking. I think it’s one of the things that will come to define my generation and I’m always interested in ways to utilize social media and to do it well.

It can be an extremely powerful platform to influence and shape, as significantly more people adopt and adapt to an online social presence. Particularly in the area of youth ministry social networking is essential. There is some discussion amongst youth pastors about appropriate usage of social networking, but except for a few detractors still holding out, youth workers have largely agreed that ministry must also extend to the social network scene.

And for good reason. Social networking has this unique vantage point of a person’s life- you’re able to simultaneously see how a student interacts outside of church (if they choose to add you as a friend, as some of my students choose not to for strategic reasons) and you also get to know them better. Social media, though not a perfect representation of the whole student, allows you to glimpse perhaps a different side to your students, and allows you to get to know them better.

Beyond the ministry benefits that come with social networking it has also been incredibly effective at connecting families and friends who experience distance problems (sometimes benefits… let’s be honest here). People have become increasingly mobile in the past half a century- families are often spread all across the country now and thus are unable to connect. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have been able to connect these families, even at a fairly basic level, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons they have been so wildly successful. My immediate family, for instance, is spread across 3 states, sometimes reaching 4 or 5 states, so social networking helps connect us at least a little.

Enter Path- a relatively new social networking system that markets itself as an online journal. Social networking sites and corporations have had a huge problem tackling the monster that is Facebook. The problem for startups is that they have to figure out a niche that they can fill that Facebook can’t, and more importantly, won’t be able to fill. The problem that a lot of corporations face is that even if they innovate and do things well, Facebook can simply “borrow” their ideas and simply port them over into their already massive user base. This has been the way of Google Plus- they had some really great ideas, great design, and decent execution, but all it took was for Facebook to simply take their ideas and plug them into their already huge user base. What happened is that people had no motivation to change to Gplus because their network was already on Facebook.

But Path is not doing the same ole thing. They definitely use foundational social networking principles- the status update, the picture uploads, the location, the music, etc. but there’s something different about it. I just picked it up a couple days ago and I’ve already found myself using it way more than I’ve ever used Google plus. Path is unique though, in the sense that it only allows you to have up to 150 “friends” in your network, although it has been raised from 50. It is also a smartphone only platform, which although is still a niche right now, more and more people are moving to smartphones, and as user base increases, mobile phones have the unique capability to do for real what social networks have done in the virtual- connect people. With check-in systems where you can see who’s near you in real life, it allows you to connect to people within your immediate physical location.

A lot of people put Path in the same category as Instagram- primarily as a photo sharing application. Though Path definitely has some of the same capabilities like native filtering and blurring (much better than Instagram’s for the record), I don’t think that’s necessarily the best shelf to place Path on. Path 2.0, as the current platform is being called, has a unique opportunity to change things with a couple of smart marketing techniques. They’ve described themselves, almost in passing, as a mobile journal. This is where they will really succeed if they press this. Because right now, although I only have like 2 friends on Path, I find myself using it a lot. Because I use it like a JOURNAL. It functions as a catalog of what I do, so one day I know I’ll be able to look back on where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and I can track my progress through life. HOW COOL. Facebook has tried to capture some of this idea with Timeline, but they haven’t marketed it correctly as such.

But Path feels more like a personal, private journal, where I can post more intimate details. I can post family photos and videos. I can put up status updates that aren’t like my Facebook or twitter updates. I like it. It’s much cleaner than Facbeook, as Facebook is going the way of Myspace in that people are all game crazy, and ads are everywhere, and everything is getting messier. I will probably adopt it more strongly than any other new social networking site. It fits. It fills something that other networks haven’t for me.

If you haven’t checked out Path yet, try it out. It’s a free App for iOS and Android. It’s clean, it’s beautiful, it’s innovative, and it’s useful.

About a Boy- Themes of Christian Discipleship

 

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is called Youth Discipleship. It’s been an engaging class that I’ve very much enjoyed- especially because it has immediate implications for me, since I have the privilege and honor of discipling some awesome youth at EFC. One of our assignments for class was to watch the move “About A Boy” and analyze how it may relate to Christian discipleship. I submitted my paper and my professor, knowing I do a bit of blogging, encouraged me to adapt it for a blog post, so here it is.

The move stars Nicholas Hoult as Marcus and Hugh Grant as Will, the main characters of this dramedy about the evolution of a relationship between a socially awkward boy (Marcus) and a man (Will) who seemingly has it all. Interwoven into the tapestry that composes the plot are a few bright threads that bring a subtle critique of the American individualism that disregards the needs of others, the struggles of an essentially parent-less boy (he has an absentee father and a self-absorbed, hippie mother) caught in the throes of a vicious social atmosphere, and the blatant apathy of of today’s adult male towards familial responsibilities. This scenario is now the norm for Christian youth workers, and we must adapt and learn to address the issues facing us today. There are 3 main principles that show promise for Christian leaders to draw principles of discipleship from: 1.) the vacuum caused by absentee fathers, particularly for boys, 2.) the mimicry process that occurs in relationships, regardless of intentionality, and 3.) the mutual transformation that occurs in discipling relationships.

Within the last five years or so, there has been a lot of research regarding the male decline in society- which has lead to the question of how the church ought to respond appropriately.  “About A Boy,” clearly shows traces of this theme, as the lead character Will has no job, no commitments, and dates casually (going so far as to join a single parents’ group to pick up the ladies). Similarly, Marcus’ father also rejected his responsibilities to his son and comes around only for holidays. This leaves Marcus with very little idea of how to relate to society, except from what he has learned from his “crazy hippie” mother. This leads us to ask, how can we help fill this gap in students’ lives, particularly the boys with absentee fathers/male role models. Much of our job is not only to teach them about Jesus, but now includes teaching them what it means to be a man in an evolving world that seems to be rejecting any sort of masculinity of old.

An interesting part of the movie is how Marcus picks up Will’s mannerisms and demeanor. Marcus begins to glean social cues from Will’s interactions- even if Will did not intentionally go about teaching Marcus societal expectations. Human beings, but particularly young human beings, are naturally mimics. Infants learn by observation and mimicry, they do not understand language yet, so traditional oratory learning is impossible, it’s all mimicked learning. This means that the actions of Christian leaders will likely be passed on to our students- both the good and the bad. This is a powerful tool that can either lead to particular harm or good- if used well, a leader can do positive discipleship simply by being rather than actively pursuing a goal. This leads to stronger affirmation for the student because they do not feel like a project, but rather feel like a valuable human being. Alternatively, however, students can also mimic the negative actions of leaders, which can lead to negative growth in students- thus leaders must be conscious that their actions have behavioral implications for their students.

Finally, this movie clearly illustrates the transformational nature of discipling relationships- not only the character/intellectual transformation of the student, but the transformation that also occurs for the teacher. Not only does Marcus go from the nerdiest kid on campus who gets others beat up for merely hanging out with him, but Will also goes from being the guy that hits on college girls in the bar to bearing the guilt and shame of humiliation with Marcus during the school talent show. Will’s sacrifice of character in that scene has faint echoes of the sacrifice and humiliation of Christ on our behalf. This is the distinguishing factor that separates Christian leadership from other leadership types. Most corporate leadership encourages leadership that ensures the dignity of the teacher isn’t lost- that he/she maintains their power. Christian teaching, as Will picked up on, is based in serving. It requires us to get messy, to get deeply involved with the needs and desires of our students. Much like Christ had to enter into the human condition in order to bring redemption and to teach us the value of life, Christian leaders should make sacrifices in comfort and position in order to ensure the spiritual well-being of our students. Christian discipleship, then, often transforms the teacher as much as it changes the student. When we can model the love Christ has for us, it grows us and teaches us that much more about the nature of Christ’s sacrifice.

The Yo-yo Gospel?

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Yes. The Yo-yo Gospel. Sure, it may sound ridiculous but hear me out.

Lately, in a fit of nostalgia and more probably, childlike glee, I have had a renaissance with the yo-yo. I was first introduced to the yo-yo in the second grade when I saw some kids on the playground with the Yomega X-brain. I begged my mom to get me a Yomega Fireball and she finally caved. I came home from the mall with my newfound source of joy and ripped it open. When I finally removed the pesky packaging from my coveted prize I quickly put the end of the string around my finger and in one fail swoop managed to tangle my precious yo-yo in a rat’s nest of frustration. But, over time and with much practice I was able to finally throw a yo-yo and get it to do the most important of all things- to sleep. You see, the sleeper is the foundation for almost every trick you can do with a yo-yo.

After a while I developed some significant skills with my weapon (legend has it the yo-yo developed as a weapon in the Phillipines), at least I thought so anyway. I could walk the dog, go around the world, rock the baby, scale the Eifel Tower and even ride the elevator. After a while though, I lost interest in my yo-yo because I encountered a few problems. Number 1 was that I was in second grade, thus the maintenance regimen for my yo-yo was dependent upon my mother’s subsidization, number 2 was that tricks got increasingly difficult, and number 3, finally, was that my yo-yo strings broke while performing around the world indoors and I broke one of my mother’s favorite picture frames. Whoops.

Life moved on and I duly forgot about my yo-yo. Then I encountered it again through my students at EFC. I saw them doing some crazy tricks and asked if I could see their yo-yo. To my surprise I found that yo-yoing is similar to riding a bike. My wife was shocked that I had this secret “talent”. So I got a yo-yo and I am now able to do some pretty advanced tricks.

Between homework assignments I will intersperse some yo-yoing. This means I get lots of practice… cause I have lots of homework. Anyway while I was doing a particularly involved trick called Cold Fusion I got to thinking. I realized how absurd it was that I’m doing such a complicated thing with string and a piece of metal/plastic.

See, the yo-yo is extremely simple. It’s a classic toy- one that has been around for centuries and has entertained even my grandparents. The basic premise is that a circular object descends down a string and returns back up the string. Fun. Simple. The yo-yo is a giant paradox. It is simple enough for a child to pick up and use and complex enough for the masters to baffle everyone with.

The Tuesday after next I will begin a new teaching series at Praxis Youth Ministry. I will be teaching through the book of John. The book of John is the yo-yo Gospel, for it is simple enough that a child can understand what it says and complex enough to have warranted the largest body of Biblical scholarship throughout history. This Gospel is perfect because it is a great entry point for anyone and it is deep enough to keep even the most seasoned Christian on their toes. When you read through John’s account of Jesus life, you WILL encounter Christ. You cannot get around it- Jesus is the center of John’s Gospel. It teaches us more about the person of Jesus than any other body of scripture, in my opinion.

John begins his narrative of Jesus with the beginning. He takes us on a journey through the magnificent work of Christ and the story of His redemption of humanity through history. It begs us to ask ourselves where we fit within the narrative of salvation. How is the story of Jesus continued with us? John’s Gospel will ask these questions of us- even if they are just implicit questions.

So I want to encourage you- if you’ve never read the Bible before, start with John’s Gospel (4th book in the New Testament, about 3/4 of the way through the whole Bible). If you’ve read through the Bible more than once- read John’s Gospel again. Meditate on it. Let the presence of the Word saturate you in the Gospel story. If you are just checking out Jesus for the first time- John is a great place to start. If you’ve gotten a little distracted from your relationship with Christ by the busyness of life- John is a great place to re-encounter Christ. If you’ve been a faithful Christian for a long time, John has a wealth of spiritual depth to discover and mine.

Let us ultimately remember the words of John (The Baptizer), “He must increase, I must decrease.” Amen.

Attractional failure?

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Ministry models- every minister has one, even if they don’t call it a “model” or whatever.

Regardless of what you call it, every church leader or pastor has a philosophy of how church should be done. The two predominating models right now are the “missional” model and the “attractional” model.

The attractional model is, well you guessed it, geared at attracting people to church. The idea goes that church, for a lot of people- particularly youth, is super boring. So a lot of people don’t want to come- so we beef up our aesthetic, often times develop a “brand” for our ministries, slap logos on lots of stuff, send out mailers and door hangers, maybe even do a little TV and radio marketing. Generally, we try to make church feel hip and appealing to people who’ve never been to church before. You might attend an attractional church if you regularly hear the following phrases: “We won’t make you do anything weird” or “no perfect people allowed” or “hey! our church is hip, please come”… well maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. You try to get as many people through the doors as you possibly can.

The missional model is, similarly guessable, geared toward sending Christians into their communities to do service for others. The idea for this model is that service is the main way non-Christians can be reached. There is usually a heavy emphasis on relationality and authenticity. Missional churches tend to focus on “local missions trips”, be very small group oriented, have dialectic rather than didactic teaching focuses, and to be all about social justice issues (sex slavery, poverty, famine, lack of water etc).

It’s really easy to paint one side as more Christian than the other. You might also be thinking… man, that was a big strawman of the attractional model. When you paint it like that, it sounds so shallow.

Let me say this first: I love attractional churches. My last few years have been spent studying “attractional” churches and how they do things. Why? Because they’re effective. That being said, there is something to the missional model. Which is exactly what most churches recognize. The thing is, there are some bloggers on the web that are insistent on making this an “either/or” situation rather than a “both/and.”

In my personal experience this has been more from the missional guys. This battle is raging particularly strongly within the realm of Youth ministry, because there has been a lot of talk amongst the community of youth ministers about how effective youth ministries are.

Look to a website like rethinkingyouthministry.com for a good example of some very missional ideas developing within the community of youth leaders. The thing is, for the past 50 years or so, youth ministry has been almost ALL attractional with very little missionality to it. If you’ve ever been to a youth group you know the drill: lots of pizza, lots of games, lots of events, lots of noise, and lots of media. Youth ministry has been all about getting people through the door for a long time. But we are starting to realize that this simply has not been effective. We hear statistics like “80% of faithful youth group attendees will leave the church in their 20’s to never return.” Though there is some disagreement about just how true that statistic is, it’s not so far off-base that everybody is screaming. Most youth pastors and leaders intuitively know that it’s right. So there has been a serious questioning of the attractional model youth ministry has developed.

Youth pastors are growing disenchanted with the lock-ins and the paintball trips, and the trips to the mall for some shopping. They want to start implementing discipleship and theological reflection into their ministries.

This is good and healthy. We need to reevaluate how our youth ministries are run. We need to evaluate why we do the things we do and evaluate what we do. At the same time, we also need to learn caution and discernment when we do this rethinking. My fear is that instead of intentionally thinking through everything we do, those of us in ministry or training for ministry are going to end up just reacting to the current ministry culture rather than developing a robust ministry strategy.

The way that many pastors and youth pastors are beginning to go is almost just a full sprint in the opposite direction of attractional models. They aren’t just trading in their X-Box controllers, they’re throwing them at the TV’s and making a run for it. They’re trying to tear down the entire attractional model. The attractional model is often just considered corporate Christianity in the worst sense- using people as simple objects to be won or lost. I think that this attitude is just as bad if not worse than just attractional churches.

What we need is not to react to perceived wrongs within church culture. What makes ministries ineffective is more than simply retention rate- it’s also conversion rate. This is why we don’t just need one model, we must simultaneously utilize both models if we are going to have effective ministry. The churches that are growing at phenomenal rates- the churches that are growing, not just by transfer growth but by conversion growth as well are using both the attractional/missional model. Churches in the Seattle area like Mars Hill, The City Church, Eastlake, Puyallup Foursquare, etc. are all wildly successful not only in getting new Christians but in developing disciples. To me, Mars Hill in particular has a very committed, intellectually robust congregation that is serving oriented. But from my experience of attending Eastlake for a year or so, there is no church that puts the emphasis on serving the community like Eastlake- but it’s also so attractional your grandma might have a heart attack if she walked into it. But man, does Eastlake serve. I’ve heard Ryan Meeks say, “if you’re a Christian and you aren’t serving here, please find another church.” Probably not quite that nicely, but that’s essentially what he said. This is brilliance. Another thing Eastlake hammers is growth groups, which most churches have now, but they are a very integral part of Eastlake’s ministry.

In the realm of youth ministry, we need to rethink how we do ministry, but that doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Don’t just abandon the lock-ins, the X-Boxes, the pizza and the games. Integrate those things with a more robust discipleship method. Don’t just give super basic, spiritually shallow messages, but at the same time don’t make it so exclusive that non-Christians feel out of place, even though you may have a bunch of nice kids there to say nice stuff.

The fact of the matter is kids are so stimulated in their lives today that we need to meet them where they are. That sounds like a missional statement… but it’s advocating for an attractional model. Because we don’t just need one thing. Kids need to be entertained to reach them- but we also need to teach students the value of silence and other spiritual disciplines. We need to make week day services fun and exciting- but we also need to develop community for students. We need to attract students to our churches and ministries with cool sermon series names, branding, and advertisement, but we also need to send missionaries into schools. People have life changing encounters both in the big worship services and when their friends model the life of a Christian for them.

The simple fact of the matter is: students are different. Some are reached by relationality. Others are reached by games, flashing lights, loud music, and a good presentation of the Gospel. When we consider how we do ministry, we have to be careful not to reject traditions just because they’re traditions (for you hipsters we gotta be careful not to pick up dead traditions just cause they’re dead too).

There is definitely something to be said for reconsidering our approaches to things. There is a problem though when we react rather than move forward intentionally thinking through every little thing we do to reach more people.

I want to end this with a tweet that Rick Warren posted. “Jesus used BOTH attractional and missional evangelism. To the unbeliever he said ‘COME AND SEE!’ To the Christian he said ‘GO AND TELL!'”