teen ministry

Review: Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things
By Alex & Brett Harris; Foreword by Chuck Norris

Teens have been deceived. The teenage years aren’t the time to party and be kids. They’re the launchpad for the rest of your life. “The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility… They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now” (13). In Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris explain why so many teens have bought the lie and how they can make a difference – by doing hard things. Join the rebelution.

For what this book is, I’m pretty impressed. Two teens (nineteen when they wrote the book) talk about how low expectations have shackled their age group, and how to get past it. They talk about how the entire idea of “Teenage years” is so new, and in the past people the ages of thirteen and older were adults tasked with very adult responsibilities… and they changed the world. They share the stories of Clara Barton and George Washington. They point to how we often live up or down to the expectations put before us. (more…)

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The End of Sunday School

We have a problem.

We’re a smaller church. While we certainly do have a fair amount of children (and a glut in the 3-5 grade range), we don’t have a lot of them. And many of their families don’t attend every week. Sure, they’re regular in church, but not every single week. What that means is that sometimes the Sunday school classes will have one child. Sometimes they’ll have eight or nine. It’s been a real problem for the teachers to know what to prepare for.

The knowledge ranges within the classes are also amazing. Some of the kids can tell you the Bible stories well and faithfully; others seem to have never heard of that Bible thing ever before. On top of that, some are voracious readers, while others in the same classroom can barely write their names. I realize that this range is typical in a school classroom, but in a Sunday school room where you’ve only got the kids for an hour a week, that range can make things so very, very difficult.

Our goal is to connect kids to Jesus. We want them grounded in God’s Word, knowing both Law and Gospel well, even if they never use those terms. However, our current model of “an hour a week after worship” doesn’t cut it.

Last night I met with my education chairman. And we’ve decided that we will no longer offer Sunday school. (more…)

Review: For Young Men Only

For Young Men Only : A Guy’s Guide to the Alien Gender
by Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn

Girls are weird. Maybe you’ve noticed. And they’re even weirder when you and they are teenagers. Just strange. Maybe if someone talked to a whole bunch of them and explained what they said in normal words – you know, like the words guys use – there’d be hope. Well, good thing that Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice wrote this book! They interviewed 1,000 teen women and wrote their findings here, lining up several ah-ha! moments.

First off, I’ve loved every book in this series and I highly recommend them. For Men Only and For Women Only helped me, personally, in both my marriage and in my professional life. I didn’t even know this particular book existed, and when I saw it I snatched it up. Did it stand up to the good ratings of the others?

Mostly! (more…)

Alone in a Church

“Why is it people I scarcely know know how to talk to me better than anyone at my church?”

She asked me that. She’s a young adult trying to connect at her home congregation. (Yes, I asked her permission to quote her, anonymously.) Her perception is that no one in her home congregation cares about her, nor do they care about their surrounding community. They insist on doing things the way they have always been, without any further examination. They don’t reach out, especially if it means breaking out of a very narrow comfort zone. And for her and her needs? A lot of shrugging. Connecting with her? Whatever.

She just came back from a conference where she vaguely knew… two people, I think. And she connected with them more and better than people she’s known her whole life at her congregation.

This is a problem. (more…)

Why did they become atheists?

He had Scripture. It was all right there, plain as day. He already believed in God, but had a hard time putting things together. Now, he wasn’t a dumb man. Not in the least! He was in charge of a very important governmental office – the treasury of a kingdom! You don’t get that job by being dumb. It takes intelligence and wisdom! But God’s Word… that was difficult to understand.

He was riding home from a religious obligation in Jerusalem. He wanted to know God more, so he read his Word. (Incidentally, the fact that he had a private copy of some of the Bible also spoke to this man’s wealth.)

He read from Isaiah: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

Again, this man was smart. He knew how the world worked. He already believed in God; he didn’t suffer from a heart hardened against God’s Word. There was no language barrier; he understood the language. And though he was visiting from another nation, there’s wasn’t an immediate cultural barrier that kept him from understanding the words in front of him.

But he still didn’t get it. (more…)

Connecting through Sadness

sadness-sadness-inside-out-38695257-814-526

Is it ok for Christians to be sad?”

The teens looked at each other and me, not sure how to answer the question. I sat somewhat in front of them, though we were really in a circle. We’d just finished watching Inside Out, and it was time to show them that it wasn’t just movie night.

And I took them to Psalm 13:

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

for he has been good to me.

(more…)

“What does ‘Crucifixion’ mean?”

Christ crucified

“It says, ‘They crucified him.’ What does that mean?” The kid’s in fifth grade. He looks confused. He has no idea what he’s just asked.

I love teaching these teens. These teens in the center our congregation hosts and supports with three others from our city. Every day there’s a Bible study, and this week we’re covering Jesus dying on the cross. And many of these kids… they have no background in Christianity at all. They don’t know.

I described how they would send a nail between the two arms of the bone, locking it in place. I try not to get too graphic – these are kids, after all, but I also don’t want to pull my punches. A hard line to walk. (Sometime let me tell you about the fallout from the abortion presentation I wrote about last time.) I talk about crossing the feet and sending the nail between the heel bones.

We talk about the soldiers gambling for Jesus’s clothes.

We talk about Jesus, even in extreme pain, honoring his mother. “Who do you usually think about when you’re in a lot of pain?” I ask.

“Me?” one of the girls responds.

“Yep. Me, too.” I answer. “But look at Jesus. Who is he thinking about? Wow. Just wow.”

And they’re right there with me. (more…)

Ashes on the Cross

photo

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Yesterday at our teen center, I explained repentance. To a bunch of teens that had no idea that Noah was from the Bible a few months ago, to teens that have no experience at “church,” I told the story of David and Bathsheba. I talked about the depth of sin, the stunning revelation of guilt, the even more stunning announcement of forgiveness, and David’s reaction to all of it. And then, I explained how for many years Christians have shown the state of their heart – their complete sorrow over their own sin – by putting ashes on.

The teens wanted to put ashes on that second. (more…)

One-Minute Worship and the Teenager

Sometimes teenagers can be really stupid. I think you may know this. And yet, sometimes, God grants those teenagers some wisdom.

Today, for teen Bible study, I told the teens we were going to watch an entire church service. I asked them to look for:

1. Something that was right.
2. Something that was wrong.
3. Something they wanted to try.
4. Something they never wanted to see at our congregation.

And with that introduction, we watched this video:

Now, before anyone freaks out, the pastor did that as a joke. If you want more commentary on the video itself, check out the commentary from this excellent Bread for Beggars post.

So, what do you think the teens said? (more…)

Sin, Weakness, or Just Untalented?

“Would you say we’re good at being a family here?”

The church president nodded at my question.

“Families know each other, right?”

Again, the nod.

“How many of the confirmation students from about a month back can you name?”

Silence.

“If we want to retain teenagers, we need to build bridges. They need to know we care. That we’re family. It’s easy to give up a place as boring, but it’s harder to give up people. If we’re a Christian family, we have to be their Christian family, too.”

“Hey, it takes two! If they want friends, they need to come to me!”

I nodded. “I expect mature Christians to act with more maturity than teenagers.”

Well, he was unhappy with me.  (more…)