Criticism happens.

Adults nod our head at that reality, knowing that it’s just a part of life. We’re “mature” like that.

Students, on the other hand, are still wrestling with realizing this.

We can argue that they haven’t grown up yet like we have, but maybe it’s something else… maybe the reason they struggle with it is because they haven’t yet let go of the idea (like adults have) that such antagonism shouldn’t be a part of life in the first place. They’re still doing a double-take and a triple-take full of shock and awe on something we’ve closed our eyes to.

hqdefaultIt’s one of the reasons why I appreciate actor Wil Wheaton’s thoughtful answer to a young girl who spontaneously asked him a question at a Comic Con event. She wondered if he could give her advice how to respond to her peers who call her a nerd.

Take a look at Wheaton’s response, noting the way he serves her through the wording and pace he uses to speak to her:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04WJEEb33CY

Any takeaways? For example:

  • Notice how Wil doesn’t toss in a lot of “um’s” into his response. He was speaking from a place of conviction. How did he get there? Is this how conversations happen between you and students?
  • The audience erupted with affirmation a few times, and other times didn’t. Wheaton didn’t seemed phased (no pun intended) by whether they did or didn’t clap… he obviously wasn’t trying to get their approval but address the girl. Again, is this how you handle what students present your way or are you going for a “high five” reply that makes you look favorable/slick/hip/whatever?

What can we learn from this in the way that we serve students through everyday conversations?

This video has made its rounds on the web since 2011. It is still a great conversation starter even though our students have no idea about Schoolhouse Rock.



It’s time to face the facts.

Less than 20% of the American population is attending church in a typical week. To get to the bottom of the declining popularity of church, When God Left The Building, a new documentary from Group Productions, gives a revealing look at a church that has seen its attendance plunge from 900 to 40, a pastor who doesn’t know who or what God is, and a faction of angry ex-members that devises a plan to take over the church.

But the film also highlights innovative new forms of church that are thriving. These range from a ministry in a Pennsylvania pub to an outreach in Los Angeles that brings joy to skid-row moms.

By the end of the film, viewers will EXPERIENCE HOPE and a refreshing glimpse into how faith may be pursued in the future. Director of When God Left the Building, Thom Schultz, says that people will see the following:

• Why today’s people, especially younger generations, are staying away from church.
• A church that lost its way after its people lost sight of its true mission.
• How dangerous discord brought a church to its knees.
• The inspirational story of a church that transformed its community.
• A congregation that dared to move from “we’ve always done it this way” to fresh, life-changing ministries.

The first screening will take place at the Lifetree International Film Festival in Colorado at the Rialto Theater in Loveland on April 12, 2014. There will be later screenings in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Watch the official trailer below:

To learn more and to purchase tickets to see this honest look into the state of the American church, visit www.WhenGodLeftTheBuilding.com, where you can also sign up to receive alerts for when a showing will be near you or to host a screening at your own church!

Check out the current screening dates and locations below:

Screenings_WGLB

Thanks for being awesome leaders in the church!

Amber / @youthministry

Many small churches suffer from this quickly-spread disease. It’s often caught in the parking lot after church board meetings. Starts out with a fever and is toxic to a youth ministry. The virus spreads quickly and soon the whole church suffers from different versions of the same illness.

Wondering if your church might have such a flu? Symptoms may include sentences that begin with:

“Well, the previous youth director used to…”

“I remember when the youth used to all sit together in church.”

“We used to have 30, 50, 70, or 100 kids here on a Sunday night.”

“I remember when I was in youth group, we used to…”

“We never had to pay for a youth director before.”

Other signs include constant comparisons to the “golden era” of some urban myth of a past youth ministry gone by or include questions like, “Where did that couch of my grandma’s go that I donated to the youth room 14 years ago?”

Remedy? Stop the spread.

Ask everyone to wash their hands of the “in the past, we…” phrases. If the flu continues to cause an unhealthy body, have everyone gather together to take a little sip of wine and piece of bread. The Great Physician prescribed it Himself. One dose taken with sincerity works in everyone to kill off that nasty flu.

- Stephanie



Unpacking Noah

Leneita Fix —  March 31, 2014 — 9 Comments

noah

****Warning: Spoiler Alert****  If you haven’t seen it,  or don’t want to know details, avoid reading on.

There has been a lot of controversy in the Christian community as whether or not to see the “Noah” movie. I thought we were prepped and prepared for what we would see and feel. The articles suggested that this movie account of Noah, deviated from the Biblical account a little. So many “details” are missing in the Scriptural account that we expected there to be some “poetic” license, but we felt like after seeing the trailer, the movie would do the story justice.

The movie is extremely well-made and acted. The cinematography is stunning. My fourteen-year-old put it this way,  ”It’s like when they make a movie of your favorite book, and they get all the details wrong. It’s a shame that it got so off course, because by itself the actors were amazing and it was fun to watch.”

On the one hand we see the depth of human wickedness. Genesis 6:5 tells us, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”  It is obvious in the portrayal of violence, hurt, and the strange post-apocalyptic wasteland everyone lives in. I can only imagine how horrific it must have been to hear the cries of the dying as the flood waters over took the earth, and then to be cooped up inside while it rained and rained and rained.noah 2

On the other hand, I spent 2 1/2 hours in confusion. It began when the rock-like “Watchmen” appeared with a story that totally deviates from who they are in Genesis 6, and ran through most of what I saw. (Tubal- Cain is in Genesis 4, but did not kill Lamech, Noah’s father.) I could pick apart the details, however, there is a great article I found answering questions around the Noah “controversies”  HERE.

It wasn’t the misrepresented facts that troubled me though. Does anyone remember the Noah television mini-series that also held Sodom and Gomorrah from years ago?  What hurt my heart was the representation of “The Creator” (as God is called).

The God of Noah and the people of the earth is silent, confusing, and distant. It misses that in Genesis 4, Seth and his son Enosh began to worship the Lord by name. Yes, it depicts Noah as a “righteous man” but it misses a key part to Genesis 6:9, “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”

Noah had a deep relationship with the Lord. God spoke with him clearly in the details of what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how to carry it out.  On at least two occasions in the account the phrase, “Noah did everything as God COMMANDED him,” is used. God closed the door to the ark, and GOD TOLD Noah when it was time to leave. He was close to Noah and clear about His desires.

Instead, in this account God is described over and again as being almost cruel. The Watchmen want to know why God stopped talking to them. Tubal-Cain screams at Him to say anything. Noah is left to his own devices to interpret God’s words and actions. It troubled me deeply though that Noah thinks he and his wife can override God’s will, and when they get it “wrong” it will nearly torment them to death.

My 13-year-old son summed it up this way, “If I was a teen who was struggling with my faith with God and I saw this movie,  I might give up on Him.  I would walk away thinking God is heartless, distant and down right cold. It missed the faith of Noah that held him because he knew God.”

So should you see it?  Some say a resounding, “YES!” so you can talk about it. Although, I had already re-read Genesis 5-9 by myself, with my children, and in my youth group to get ready,  I went back to my Bible again after seeing it. This is good. It forces you to really know what God’s Word does and does not say.  (Read it for yourself HERE.)

I would say this, be very careful about bringing the “unchurched” to see the film. The reality is when we see a movie “based on real events,” we take what we see to heart. There is a lot off in the film, and honestly the “themes” I expected to stand out did not.  Noah is supposed to be righteous, but allows a young woman to be trampled to death, almost kills his granddaughters, and lives in shame for a period of time? In addition, the graphic nature of the film can be difficult to watch. My 6th grader struggled with a lot of it, she spent more time with her eyes covered than watching it.

So what to say?  Weigh the facts before you go.  If you have a friend who desperately can’t wait to see it, then go and discuss it with them. If you are thinking this is the perfect evangelical opportunity, it’s not. The director is a self-proclaimed atheist, and it shines through in the back drop of the telling. In the end, I was struck with the realization that the best tool in telling people about Jesus is in relationship with them. For that matter then it’s time spent,  and really almost any movie can be a catalyst to a deeper conversation about God.

If I had to choose again I might skip Noah and see something else.

Have you seen it?  What are your thoughts?

Leneita / @leneitafix

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Thanks for loving students!

Jake Rasmussen and the SYM Team

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions



Best Dad Award!

Brandon Early —  March 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

I know and play with motion graphics a little but these home videos are beyond me. I would love having a motion graphics designer half this good on my team. I heard about these videos today on the morning news. Check out these videos that were put together by a dad for his kid to enjoy! #bestdadever

If you want to see more check out Action Movie Kid’s YouTube page!

So I was laying in bed last night thinking about this series on uthmin numbers (sad, I know) and a few more numbers popped into my head:

1) 3 Hours per 1 Hour: Want to figure how much time your leadership job should take? Here’s a formula I’ve always used: For every hour of actual programming or required times for you or your ministry, add another 3 hours for all the other stuff it takes to run the ministry. For example: Sunday school = 1.5 hours, youth group = 2.5 hours, weekly staff meeting = 2 hours. Total = 6 hours. 6 hours x 3 per = 18 hours. 18 hours (youth organizational plus the original 6 face-to-face) = 24 hours. This doesn’t have to be done just by the leader; volunteers can pick up some of this.

2) 1x Monthly: Small churches often ask what amount of programming is a good target amount to calendar. From my experience, one extra event (apart from the weekly stuff) is just about enough. Otherwise, too few kids are trying to cover too many events and the already sketchy critical mass number goes down even more. Here’s where this gets tricky: some youth leaders make the mistake of NOT counting church events as the 1x a month event. So take those church-wide things into account. For example,  include the Spring Church Talent Show or the Church Christmas Caroling Party. Your students can have great fun together at times like these AND its intergenerational, too.

3) 1x Weekly: To build the kind of ministry you want for your students, they have to see each other on a regular basis. Weekly is still best, though what that looks like may differ. I just talked with a church last night whose best attended youth program is Sunday school, so my advice was to put most of their youth “eggs into that basket.” Some churches can’t get students into Sunday school even if Jesus were teaching the class, but they can get kids out on Sunday nights. Make that your key discipleship time. You know what? I’ve never seen a “meet once a month” youth group that was ever able to gain any traction.

All for now, friends.

Stephanie