Friday, June 21, 2013

I'm Popular

Growing up, I often wanted to be popular.  I think that's pretty common.  I never was.

But now, at 31-years-old, I have arrived.

I am, hands down, the most popular person in my home.  Okay, there's only four of us.  But still, almost every second of every day I am wanted by a member of my family.  Often, I am wanted by all three at the same time.  This can be exhausting and frustrating.  It's also awesome.  

Everybody wants Mom to be proud of them, and I absolutely am.
Everybody wants Mom close by when it's time to go to sleep. 
Everybody wants Mom to listen to their ideas, their stories, and their feelings.
Everybody wants Mom to do something for them--fixing a snack being the most common request.
Everybody wants Mom to hold them when they're physically or emotionally hurt.

And, the day or two before a student ministry function, I become very popular.  I take more phone calls, texts, and e-mails in one day than I do in one month.  This used to frustrate me.  Now, I know it's coming, and I'm peaceful about it.  I'm actually happy to offer explanations and answers that calm anxiety and erase uncertainty.

I am finally popular.  It's not at all what I thought it'd be--it's better.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Power of Words

I have quite a lot of words.  They're not loud, boisterous words, but they're words nonetheless.  They are words that process situations, people, and feelings.  They help me think through my life and the way I work.  They also help me process others' situations and how they work.

I'm not careful enough with my words.  I often say too much.

A few months ago, a woman came to share with my small group.  (Hello, you; I know you're reading this:)  She talked with my freshmen small group about the struggles she and her son experienced when he was a teenager.  She and I communicated during her son's teenage years, trying to combine our forces, our love, and our wisdom to help her son.  We wrote e-mails back and forth, sometimes brief, sometimes lengthy.  We cried together on the phone.  She was, for the record, the most cooperative, strong mother of a troubled teen with whom I've worked.

She came prepared to my small group meeting, which didn't surprise me at all.  She had written out her thoughts and her experience.  Her typed notes were organized in a folder.  But that's not all that was in her folder. 

She had printed pages of our e-mail correspondence from the last seven years.

And I was struck by the importance of my written words.  And I wondered what, exactly, I had written.  I wondered if my words were compassionate, loving, honest, and supportive.  I wondered if they were selfish or selfless.  
Three of "my girls."  Look how cute they were:)
Last night a young woman posted on Facebook about a Bible study we had 7-8 years ago.  She was one of "my girls" who I led through the adolescent experience in a faith community.  I was floored that she remembered our discussion about technology and church from when she was a junior high student.  

I don't presume that I said anything profound that etched in her memory.  But she remembers the conversation.

How many small group conversations have I led in the last 12 years?!  I cannot begin to count them.  In the vast majority of them, I've said nothing insightful, profound, or lasting.  I have wasted lots of words, and I continue to waste lots of words.

I am fearfully overwhelmed by the idea that my words, written or spoken, could stick with an 8th grader until she's an engaged woman.  I am humbled by the idea that my words would be worth keeping to a mom struggling to be the very best mom she can possibly be in the face of difficult circumstances.  At this moment, I don't want to think about the words that have come out of my mouth in a preaching capacity and the influence they may or may not have had.

My prayer is to use my words wisely, to be aware of their significance, and to keep my mouth shut a little more often.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Student Spirituality

Being a student in a church looks different in the summer than it does the rest of the year.  September through May we meet in small groups every week to build relationships with peers and adults to aid in our spiritual growth, to read the Bible, to discuss our lives, to pray with and for one another, and to have fun.  We gather about once a month for a larger event--a bonfire, a shaving cream war, a game night.  We gather once a year or so for a WAY larger event like a lock-in with 200+ of our closest friends.

But in the summer we don't do any of that.  We put our attention, energy, money, and prayer into a summer mission trip.  This weekend about 90 of us from PCC's Powhatan and Westchester campuses will leave for Cherokee, NC.  We will spend a week building relationships to aid our spiritual growth, serving God by meeting his people's practical needs, worshiping in song and sweat, and making lifelong memories.

It will be awesome.

Then it will be over.

Eight days does not constitute a summer's worth of spirituality.

So what do we do?

I encourage you to step up your personal spiritual life in the summer.  You don't have much required school reading, certainly not everyday.  (Let's be honest; most of you will wait til mid-August to look at the assignment for summer reading.)  Your sports schedules aren't as crazy, and you even have a tiny break from band.  So, there's time to read your Bible.  There's time to pray without falling asleep.  There's time to meet with a friend to discuss how you're each doing in your relationships with God.  There's time to read a book about being a teenage Christ follower.

Here are some suggestions:

The tagline is "do more than survive your faith."  Thrive!  There are short chapters and questions for you to do this study alone or with some friends.

You may remember PCC's doing a series on The Circle Maker.  Now there's a version of the book for students.

Another book on prayer for students.  This one has very short prayer exercises for you to do for 30 days.

This has very short daily readings with a coordinating Bible verse.

I'll be reading the following book with a few students from my rising-sophomore small group.  (If you want to join us, then let me know--even if you're not a sophomore.)

Students, junior high through college, what do you do to grow spiritually over the summer?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Student Ministry Games

A few weeks ago, I followed a couple blog posts of youth pastors’ go-to games.  Here are mine:

1.        Trainwreck.  I fell in love with this game playing it as a college student.  It’s still my favorite.  It works great with a crowd of 20-40, but I’ve done it with many more and fewer.  Ask every student to grab a chair and put it in an inward-facing circle.  You, the leader, stand in the middle of the circle.  You say a sentence beginning with the words, “I’ve never…”  What follows should be true.  If you’re playing with students, then I also suggest saying that what follows should be PG or G-rated.  (Yes, I once had a student say, “I’ve never had sex.”)
Everyone sitting around the circle who HAS DONE what you’ve NEVER DONE, then gets up and moves to another seat.  (Now you see just how bad the sex comment was.  And yes again, some students got up.)  You’ll need to repeat that rule several times, and do a practice round. 

You cannot move to a seat right beside you unless it’s the only one available.  Once everyone is finished moving around, there will be a last person standing without a seat.  That person then says, “I’ve never…”

I’ve learned to have sample “I’ve never” statements on hand for the student who doesn’t know what to say.  It may or may not be true for them, but it may get them thinking.  A student can always just yell, “Trainwreck!” at which time everyone switches seats.  That should be used sparingly; it gets old quickly.

2.        Amazon Women.  I don’t remember where or when I first learned this game, but it’s stuck.  This is another game that requires absolutely no prep time, except maybe to tell girls wearing skirts not to participate.  It’s also helpful if they tuck in the fronts of their shirts.

All the males lie on the floor, in a circle, on their bellies, arms linked.  The girls have 3-4 minutes (you decide) to pull apart the males.  We’ve never done it.  I’m convinced Andrew Basic will break a guy’s arm before he lets go of it.

Then, you switch.  The girls lie on the floor, in a circle, on their bellies, arms linked.  The guys have 1 minute to pull apart the girls.  They’ve succeeded…many times.

3.       Two Truths and a Lie.  This is used often.  Again, it requires absolutely no prep time.  It’s a “mixer” more than a “game.”  It can even be inserted into a talk or message to get students up and moving.

You instruct students to get into groups; you determine the size.  I suggest 3-5.  Every person says three statements about themselves.  Two are true; one is a lie.  The others in the group guess which is which.  That’s it.  But every now and then you learn something new about a student, and even shy or reserved students will often say three sentences in a small group.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Intern

May 2001 I began serving in youth ministry.  I was a Summer Youth Ministry Intern.  That summer changed my life.

I am thrilled that beginning in May 2013, I am now mentoring a Summer Student Ministry Intern.  I hope the experience will help this intern discover God’s calling in his life.  I hope he’ll see God work in and through him in amazing and unexpected was.  I hope he’ll see God use him to forever change the lives of teenagers.  I hope this summer will change his life.

At least I’m going into this with realistic expectations:)

I am even more thrilled that PCC’s first-ever Summer Student Ministry Intern is Tanner Iglio.  Tanner has been at PCC since he was a middle school student.  A couple years ago, I had the privilege of dunking him in the James River.  PCC has watched God work in Tanner’s life as a worship leader, a killer drummer, and a leader in the student ministry.  Now that leadership is official. 

Tanner will build relationships with students, giving them an authentic picture of what it looks like to follow Jesus.  He will build into students with leadership potential so that they can join us in leading the student ministry at PCC.  He will connect students with students to provide for lasting ministry when he returns to Hampden Sydney College at the end of the summer.  He will lead our 90-person mission team in nightly devotion, worship, and reflection.

So, welcome Tanner to the PCC team for the summer.  Support him.  Pray for him.  Encourage him.  Have his back.  Help him discern how God has uniquely created him for service and leadership in the church.