Category Archives: Youth Ministry

Stop Kony 2012 in your Youth Ministry

If you’ve been in the youth ministry world for a while, it is likely that you were aware of Invisible Children before the #StopKony campaign blew up the internet yesterday. I didn’t know anything about the campaign until one of my youth posted the video on FaceBook yesterday at about 7:30am. A few clicks of the mouse and it was obvious this thing was taking off, so I decided we would talk about it last night. Unfortunately, we have a truncated schedule due to Lent, and over half of my kids hadn’t actually seen the video. But they had heard about “this  Kony thing.” So, I took up thirty minutes of our time and watched the video, which I hadn’t planned on doing. After that we had a brief discussion and then had to dismiss. Hopefully we will pick it up more later.

Until then, I have some random thoughts (sorry this is long… there are other good links to read at the bottom):

  • Sometimes white people can do good things in Africa. I’m well aware of the history of colonialism, racism, and oppression in Africa. I don’t take it lightly, and I think we have done harm in many places. I’m also wary of thinking that only (white) America can save the world’s problems. But to say that because we are Americans and because we are white (this is being touted as a white movement) that we are unable to do good in the world is myopic. It does mean we need to carefully weigh what we are doing and act thoughtfully, rather than triumphantly. But I am reminded of a man who once said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” It’s hard to sit idly by when we do have resources at our disposal just because we have a history of colonialism. The question is not “should we use our resources?”, but “what is the best way to use our resources?”
  • It’s “cool” to be on either side of the issue. Of course, most people are jumping on the Stop Kony bandwagon. And then there are others who are jumping on the bandwagon against people on the Stop Kony bandwagon.  So, don’t let yourself, your teenagers, or people you know think that they are sophisticated, thoughtful, and measured because they are opposing this campaign. Essentially, unless you don’t know anything about Kony, then you are on a bandwagon. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
  • I wish I was a pacifist, but I’m not. Some people are making a big stink over the fact that Invisible Children supports military action and that some of their leaders were photographed holding guns. The reality is that we live in a complex world filled with evil, and sometimes evil has terrible consequences. We’ve seen those consequences for 26 years with Kony. It’s been far too long already. He deserves to be held accountable for his actions. There will be likely be collateral damage, but I don’t see how inaction is the correct solution to the problem.
  • This isn’t the world’s biggest problem. It’s horrific, Kony needs to be brought to justice, but there are other things out there that kill more people and affect more lives. On the other hand…
  • This is one guy’s cause. God bless him for not resting. This is as much about the filmmaker, Jason Russell going to Uganda 10 years ago, making a promise to a young boy, and following through as it is about anything else. For Jason Russell, this is not an overnight sensation. This isn’t something that he found one day on the internet and decided it was worth changing his Facebook profile picture. He has dedicated his life to this. Many people would have given up long ago and thought that a regular person can’t help catch one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives. But he decided that he was going to use the skills and talents he has to try and bring about good in the world. And he’s been working at it for ten years. We have much to learn from him in that.
  • Pick a cause. Don’t rest until you’ve seen it through. That’s what Jason Russell did. It doesn’t have to be Kony. It can be malaria in Africa, economic development in India, workers rights in China, evangelizing Muslims, whatever. Just don’t bounce back and forth between all these great causes but never actually commit yourself to helping make something happen. So, if you are going to support this campaign, don’t rest until Kony is arrested, the LRA is gone, and there are structures in places to help rehabilitate those who have been affected by Kony. It’s about more than wearing a bracelet.
  • Awareness is good. Some people have said that raising white people’s awareness of Kony doesn’t do any good. I would say in general, that is correct. I would venture to guess that 99% of the people who did not know who Joseph Kony was until yesterday won’t do anything measurably constructive as a result of this. But, when you are educating millions of new people on an issue, chances are that a few hundred of them will own this as their cause and work with their lives to make it right. That’s a good thing. Sometimes the only way to reach the few is to broadcast to the masses and see what sticks.
  • Speech is an act. On the other hand, awareness and communicating what is going on does do something. I’m a subscriber to speech-act theory. Basically, it says that when something is said, it causes something to happen. It isn’t just an empty transfer of information, like moving data from one computer to another. Instead, there are effects of a speech act, and this video is definitely a speech act. So, to those who say that this video “doesn’t do anything,” I would disagree. But it’s probably too early to tell what it is actually doing.
  • Read up. As you are probably aware, there are detractors. And there are euphoric supporting teenagers. And famous supporting tweeters. So, do your homework. Here are some good articles:

I’m interested how you are approaching this in your ministry, what you plan to do with your group, and how you may participate on April 20.

High School & College Faith

My friend Noah is writing a book about transitioning your faith as you graduate from high school to college, called Face to Faith (you should go check out the website… he is posting blogs related to the book, and the best comments will be incorporated into the book). It got me to thinking about my personal transition from high school to college.

I’ve read the statistics: Sticky Faith, the National Study on Youth and Religion, Barna, and others. For me, there were two main things that seemed to make it a seamless transition from high school to college:

  • The expectation that Sunday was a day for church.
  • Getting involved in ministry.

Sunday is a Day for Church

This isn’t a very theologically or missionally rich idea, but I think for me it really kept me connected to the Body in college. Growing up, Sunday was a day for church. We rarely missed church. It wasn’t even really a question in my house growing up. There wasn’t sleeping in, there wasn’t going out to the lake, there wasn’t spending the night at friends’ houses and missing church (if we did spend the night on a Saturday, we either went with our friends to church or my parents picked me up Sunday morning).

It sounds a bit legalistic, but it wasn’t for me. It was an expectation. And I just grew to feel like Sunday was a day when I met with other believers, studied the scriptures, and worshiped. So, when I got to college, the most natural thing for me to do on Sunday morning was to find a church.

Get Involved in Ministry

During freshman orientation, an upperclassman shared with me about a youth ministry she was involved in with a small local church in a low-income town nearby. She asked if I’d be interested in being a part of the ministry, and being a youth ministry major I jumped at it. So, that first Sunday, I found myself in a nearby town of about three hundred in a tiny Southern Baptist church with a preacher who preached only from the King James Bible. On Wednesday nights, about seven other high school students and I helped out with their youth ministry program. I thought it made sense to attend worship there on Sundays, so I did.

It wasn’t a church I “liked”. It wasn’t a church that I would have sought out. It wasn’t a church that fit my mold or fed my needs. But it was a church where I was an important part of their ministry. I knew the kids, I knew the youth minister, and I thought that if I was going to be involved on Wednesday nights I needed to be involved on Sunday mornings.

Because of these two main factors, Sunday stayed a day of worship while I was in college. They say the first few weekends of a college student’s life will determine their churchgoing habits throughout college. If you want them to hit the ground running, then getting in a habit or weekly worship during high school and committing yourself to ministry were great starting points for me.

Help Me Win $500

My blog post “10 Things Youth Ministry Needs Less” was nominated for the best blog post of 2011 at YouthMin.org! Now, it is up to a vote to narrow down the 32 nominees to the best post of the year, with the winner receiving over $500 worth of goodies in “Books, iTunes gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, an Exclusive Deal for Orange Conference Registration, Web hosting and blog design, and who knows what else!”

Here’s how you can help: Go to the page, and if you think my post is worthy, vote for “Matt Cleaver” in the poll. The first round of voting closes Thursday, so get your vote in today!

Thanks!

The Gospel According to Chopin

Earlier this month I was taking a seminary class at Luther Seminary with John Roberto of Lifelong Faith Associates. During one of the classes, he showed us what may be the best TED video I’ve ever seen. It could be titled, “The Gospel According to Chopin” (by the way, I am in no way a classical music person, which illustrates the point even better). Watch it below… my thoughts follow.

Some intersections with the gospel & theology:

  • Discipleship is more like teaching the piano than passing on information en masse. Think about how kids learn to play the piano: a parent or a teacher sits down on the bench next to them one-on-one. They aren’t invited into a class when they hit a certain age and are expected to learn to play the piano.
  • We can “live into” realities that are not present.
  • Vision must be big & not incremental. Moving from 3% to 4% is not visionary. We should strive for 100%.
  • Stop emphasizing every note, but think about the long line from b to e
  • When other people’s eyes are not shining, who am I being to cause that? Not, what is wrong with them?
  • Our job is to awaken the possibilities in others
  • The conductor never speaks but engages all
  • We must believe in the outcome
  • One-buttock playing = passionate, consuming, internalized
  • His face showed he cared and was passionate.

What takeaways did you have from the video?

10 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Youth Ministry

http://flic.kr/p/7U24t8

Five years ago today I officially began my job as the Youth Director at Hope Lutheran Church, my first job after graduating from John Brown University in May 2006. I thought it would be helpful to reflect on what I learned over the past five years about myself, ministry, and my context. I reserve the right to add to this list.

  1. Theology still matters. While still an undergraduate I had a hunch that if I took youth ministry seriously as an act of practical theology I would be able to live with myself and still be “successful.” Others will have to judge me on my success, but after five years of trying to do theologically-grounded youth ministry I have no regrets. Youth ministry shapes the theological imaginations of our young people, whether we like it or not, so we might as well take that particular task seriously and embrace our roles as theologians.
  2. Being a good listener is better than being culture-savvy. Some people tend to think that in order to relate to teens you need to watch the TV shows the kids are watching, read their books, go to their movies, visit their websites, and on and on. I’ve found that simply listening to the youth in my midst makes me a teen expert.
  3. Listen to the wise sages. As I read books, blogs and magazines and watch interviews and listen to lectures, there are some voices that can only be described as having “weight.” The weightiest voices in my life have been those who seem to be filled with the most wisdom. There are often loud experts touting their methods (with acronyms) but before long their voices are drowned out by the next. Someone who speaks with wisdom stands the test of time. Three of my favorite wise sages to read and reflect on for ministry: Eugene Peterson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Parker Palmer.
  4. In faith formation, the local and particular trumps large, one-size-fits-all events. Since coming to Hope, we have never gone to a youth event with more than 300 people. On a rare occasion we will go on a retreat with a couple hundred other youth from the area, and even then I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness. More regularly, we have our own retreats planned and executed in-house. I can make sure the material fits into a comprehensive plan, I can make sure that my kids are interacting (instead of staring at a stage), and I can tailor each specific event to my kids. I haven’t seen any ill-effects from not attending huge stadium-style events and so I’ll probably continue to do without them.
  5. Good teaching comes from depth, not gimmicks. I have been told by different youth over the years that I am a “good teacher.” I seldom use curriculum and more times than not my “lesson” gets thrown out the window as the discussion develops around the topic or passage at hand. One unforeseen question can move things off track for the rest of the session. In order to mold a lesson on-the-fly, there has to be a deep well to draw from. I need to know scripture well, to be grounded theologically, ethically, and pastoral-ly in order to bob and weave through where God is leading us as we are studying the scriptures.
  6. I have to teach cyclically. I am just now beginning to really catch on that as new people join the youth ministry, usually as they get older, that I need to go back and re-lay some foundational teaching that I have covered in the past. My mind naturally keeps wanting to build on what I’ve done before, but as seniors graduate and new kids come in, I have to start over again.
  7. I have to read. This is a personal observation that helps me gauge my level of creativity, initiative, and depth. When I am not reading something, my whole ministry seems to suffer. There is something that is prodded within my mind and soul when I read that permeates everything I do. If I do not take time out to enter into learning and personal growth through reading I am almost certainly in a ministry “lull” within a few months.
  8. The dynamics of the youth ministry are constantly changing. As certain fads wear out, technology moves forward, and the actual students in the youth ministry change, the dynamics are always in flux. Certain things that worked with one group may not work with another. Just about every summer I have to rethink what the next year will look like given the teens that are in my midst.
  9. Denominations are dying. I have never been a part of a church that was a member in a large denomination until I came to Hope. I have learned much about denominations, especially the ELCA since I have been here, but it is obvious that denominations are dying. The world has changed, and future generations will not be nurtured in faith through massive bureaucracies.
  10. I’m a thinker, not a doer. I like to analyze, hypothesize, and dream, but I’m not so good at implementation. I need to work on this.

Here’s to many more years of learning.

10 Things Youth Ministry Needs More

Youth Ministry

flic.kr/p/91X1fV (creative commons)

My last post on 10 Things Youth Ministry Needs Less generated a lot more discussion than I expected. The comments left on that post were quite insightful, so make sure to go back and read the 43 comments if you haven’t yet.

But the point of my last post wasn’t to simply be a critic, but to make space for things that I think are really important. For example, if your youth ministry currently puts on a midweek worship service, how much time and energy would you free up for yourself and the other leaders in your ministry if you canceled it? I would expect quite a lot. So, if we’re going to be doing less of certain things, what kinds of things do we need more?

  1. Adults – Our students don’t need adults to teach them, they need adults who know them. And the only way they can be truly known is by making sure there are plenty of adults around who care about them and listen to them. Unless your adult to student ratio is 10:1, you could use more.
  2. Intimacy – I think we need to quit using the word relationships (“It’s all about the relationships”) and instead start talking about intimacy. We don’t need to do more activities to build relationships, we need to build more intimacy within our relationships. Intimacy tells what kinds of relationships we are trying to develop. If we are going to truly know the young people in our congregations, we are going to have to talk about things that matter, not just what happened at school this week. Having a 20 minute breakout group after a sermon isn’t enough time for our students to develop intimacy with other adults or students. You need extended blocks of time over the long-term to truly develop intimacy.
  3. Prayer – Prayer is a naturally intimate pattern of speech, so to develop intimacy with our students, we need to be praying with and for them on a regular basis. Again, time will be a necessary ingredient for prayers to develop beyond shallowness. (For more thoughts on prayer and intimacy, see Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson)
  4. Scripture – Scripture teaches us how to pray, how to relate to one another, and how to relate to God. Research shows that our students are typically very biblically illiterate, so we need to do our best to weave scripture in with whatever we are doing. I would caution against adding and adding Bible studies, because that could have issues of it’s own.
  5. Passion – Are we calling students to something worth giving their life for? Just a few days ago a 14 year old boy thought something was worth giving his life for when he blew himself up and killed 27 army recruits in Pakistan. Teenagers are naturally passionate people (i.e. your middle school girls & Justin Bieber) if they find something they think is worth their time. Somehow we must recover the passion in our faith. (See Practicing Passion by Kenda Dean for more.)
  6. Life Coaching – It seems to me that we assume that every student needs to do well in all their classes and then go to college and do well in all their college classes and then go get a job. What about the kids who is struggling in english, math and science but is a brilliant artist? Or what about the student who always struggles in school but who came into his own when you were building houses on a mission trip? Should we harp on them to get their grades up (and to concentrate less on the things they are actually good at) so they can go to college or should we encourage them to develop and express their natural gifts and abilities? I think we need to pay attention to the uniqueness of each student in our church and help them grow and mature individually, not encourage them to conform to our assumptions about the path everyone needs to take. (I’m not sure if “life coaching” is the best label for what I’m thinking about, but it’s all that came to mind. Suggest something better in the comments.)
  7. Integration – Youth ministry needs to think of itself less as a separate program of the church and more as a network of relationships helping teenagers grow in faith. As such, youth ministry needs to be better integrated with other areas of the church. When you encourage a girl to join the adult choir (or praise team) at the church and then you go and tell one of the ladies to make sure and take her under her wing, that is youth ministry. When you send a guy who is good with his hands with the men’s group to go build houses for a week instead of taking him with you to camp, that is youth ministry. When you cancel your normal youth group activities for a week to allow your students to lead VBS, that is youth ministry. The goal is to see people growing in Christ, not to see them come to your events & programs. We need to seek out ways to integrate students in ways that fit their unique gifts.
  8. Practical Theology – Since I said in the last post that we could probably do with less youth ministers, what role do we have in the meantime? I think one of the most important roles for a youth minister to play is that of the ministry’s practical theologian. Practical theologians make sure that the way we do things is congruent with theological convictions we hold. I have written about this before, and there’s a good article by Tony Jones on this subject in the January/February issue of Immerse Journal (at this moment, you can read it online).
  9. Originality – If all of the above things are happening–adults who intimately know students, prayer, integration, practical theology–then your youth ministry should look unique and be a fluid organism. Simply look around you and figure out what to do given who is there. Don’t try to conform who is there to what you do. Not every students needs a game/icebreaker, 2 upbeat songs, a serious song, a 15-20 minute sermon, and breakout groups to grow.
  10. Parents – You already knew this, though, right?

What else do we need more? Add to the list in the comments.

10 Things Youth Ministry Needs Less

Youth Ministry

http://flic.kr/p/4kCruo (creative commons)

There’s been some talk lately about the future of youth ministry. I’ve posted some of my thoughts before, but when I think about the future, there are certain things I’d like to see more and certain things I would like to see less.

Up today, ten things I’d like to see less:

  1. Youth MinistersAdam McLane has pointed out that there is an inverse relationships between the increasing number of staff and the decreasing attendance in churches over the last three decades. I’m not so sure adding more youth ministry staff will solve our youth ministry problems. As someone who is youth ministry staff at a church, I’m not so sure what to do with this. [Update: I did something about this and voluntarily reduced my hours at church]
  2. Worship Services – Many youth ministries have their own worship services on Sunday or Wednesday night. How many other people in your church, outside of the youth ministry, go to two worship services a week (Sunday morning and the youth ministry service)? If we don’t expect adults to go to two worship services a week, why do we expect youth to do that? Do we really need to do the same thing twice in one week? At a time when people are so busy, I think ministry would be better served by doing something different than Sunday morning. Let students get their corporate worship in on Sunday morning.
  3. Preaching – This is related to the worship services, since preaching is usually a main component in worship services. But more importantly, students need meaningful space to speak and space for authentic relationships to be developed. Neither happens during preaching. Again, leave the preaching to Sunday morning.
  4. Money – I know it is common practice to judge how much a church values its youth by how much money it spends on them. Why is that? Does an increase in financial resources translate into discipleship and evangelism? Is the spread of the gospel dependent on money? China, Africa, and South America seem to say, “no.” Also, see #1. Try cutting your budget by 10% every year and see what happens.
  5. Calendars – I had an interesting experience the other week. I was having a heck of a time getting students to show up to an event that was on the calendar. I gave out notice, told people about it, the usual. But due to extracurricular activities or something, I can’t remember exactly what happened, I think I ended up canceling the event. Then I found out that a group of students self-organized a Bible study with their peers through texting and Facebook in a matter of days. And a lot of people showed up. In addition to reinforcing #1 (they didn’t need an adult to coordinate or lead this), it also made me try and figure out a way to be more spontaneous with discipleship. I’m not sure how to go about this quite yet, but putting things on calendars isn’t working very well for me anymore.
  6. Programs – This goes together with less money and less calendars, but it also has to do with people’s (legitimate) continuing skepticism towards institutions. And what are programs other than institutionalized forms of discipleship? Discipleship is a personal and communal process, not an institutional program.
  7. Hype – Maybe I’m biased because I’m a horrible cheerleader, but I’m pretty sure that the gospel isn’t well-served by hype. To me, hype is irreverent. Hype wants to mask reality. Hype is afraid of the truth. Hype is good for getting people elected but tends to be short on results. Let’s jettison trying to drum up any hype surrounding our ministries or youth ministry trends in general.
  8. Games – Surely we don’t need more of them. So we could probably do with less.
  9. T-Shirts – In case you missed my previous thoughts on this, read them here. I’m kind of serious.
  10. Lock-Ins – Come on, we can all agree on this one, can’t we?

What am I leaving out? What else could we stand to use less?

[Don't like the negativity? Read 10 Things Youth Ministry Needs More.]

Is Planning Anti-Missional?

Since this spring, when I found out that my wife’s job was going to keep us in the area for another 4 years, I’ve been thinking about what I want the next 4 years of ministry to look like. A little while back I put together a tentative scope and sequence chart that outlines the major topics we’ll cover in our various aspects of ministry. I think it’s a pretty swell plan.

One of my goals is to read at least something from every book in the Bible during high school Sunday school over the next four years. I found myself torn because that meant a lot of good material had to be left out. And then I thought about the kids who were juniors and seniors and who wouldn’t get to experience the “full effect” of this comprehensive plan. I really wanted everyone to be able to experience the whole four years.

And then I realized that in order for anyone to be able to be a part of a plan like this, they have to be here at the beginning and see it through to the end. If they are not freshman, then they miss out. It seemed to me that planning this out made me take an anti-missional stance. The whole idea is predicated on people being here their freshman year. I was working under the assumption that if our group grows and people get involved as sophomores, juniors, or seniors that they won’t get the full benefit of the program. And I didn’t much like thinking that way.

I’m going to probably stick to the rough plan that’s been laid out simply to provide some balance and to make sure that we don’t cover the same things over and over. But what is important is to realize that it’s not the planning or the programs that make our break someone’s faith development. If someone connects with our church and ministry in their senior year, we have to continue to put the impetus of growth and maturity on sustainable relationships that will last beyond and outside of these programs. These structures only serve as a container within which to house and develop some of these relationships.

Or, at least, that’s where I’m at on this whole deal right now.

Does anyone else do comprehensive long-range planning and have the same struggles?

The Waning Adolescent Rite of Passage: Driving

After just reading Teen 2.0 last month, I read in this month’s edition of Car and Driver magazine that the Washington Post reports that only 30 percent of 16 year olds in 2008 received driver’s licenses, as opposed to 45 percent 20 years ago. Methinks the two are related.

I remember being so upset when I learned that my sixteenth birthday occurred on a Sunday because that meant I would have to wait one extra day before getting my license. I was peeved. Why did it matter to me so much? For one, I was (and still am) simply a car guy. There’s something about the confluence of engineering, design, style, do-it-yourself-ness, adrenaline, skill, leisure, performance, and camaraderie that occurs within the car and driving subculture that drew me in years ago and wouldn’t let me go. I admit that most teens likely don’t fall into this category.

But secondly, driving was a rite of passage. It marked a clear demarcation of increased independence. In those days there were no graduated licenses or restrictions once you passed your driving test at sixteen. We got a license, piled as many people as could fit in a car, and hit the road trying to time, to the minute, pulling into the driveway at night with our curfew. There was a load of independence and responsibility that was conferred instantly when we received a driver’s license. It seems like the kind of thing for which Dr. Epstein advocates.

Driving seems to be viewed as more of a practical necessity than a rite of passage, as evidenced by this young man’s comments in the Washington Post story. It’s almost as if teens don’t even want independence, they just want to get to their next athletic practice or student council meeting:

The senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring has a learner’s permit, but the required 60 hours of practice driving toward a driver’s license have taken a back seat to his Advanced Placement classes, the rowing team, the literary magazine and Web design projects. “It’s hard to spend all that time on driving when I can get places without it,” he said.

Conlon said this as his mother, Eva Sullivan Conlon, was driving him to the store to buy supplies for a school project; she ends up taking him places a few times a week.

The article suggests a few key reasons for this shift in the priority of driving in teens’ lives: increased academic and extracurricular loads and increasingly electronic relationships. Quite simply, it is difficult to find the time to take the courses, study the material, and get in the driving time necessary for acquiring a license on top of AP classes, club involvement, athletics, and fine arts. Add to that the fact that teens today are comfortable relating via Facebook and text messaging, and there is no imperative that teens get a license so they can meet up and hang out together. It’s easier, and common, to just meet up digitally.

I find all these trends troubling. Decreasing independence, increasing commitments to academic and extracurricular activities, and an increasingly digital and un-corporeal relationships seem like things that will have a long-term negative effect on our teens and our culture at large.

What shall we do about it? Car and Driver magazine is launching a Save the Manuals! (manual transmission) campaign. I don’t think it will be that simple, but I’m all for saving manual transmissions. No, there is something deeper going on here that is increasingly enslaving our teens to school and the digital world, and I’m not exactly sure what my role and the churches role should (could?) be in breaking this trend.

What is the church’s role in all of this? Isn’t it getting to the point when enough is enough?

Get a FREE Copy of Relationships Unfiltered by Andrew Root

[NOTE: THE FREE COPY OF THE BOOK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. 230 BOOKS GOT MAILED OUT. BUT READ BELOW TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET 40% OFF THE BOOK]

Below is a message from Andrew Root, Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, and author of the books Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Relationships Unfiltered, The Promise of Despair, and The Children of Divorce.

———————————————–

Hello Youth Ministry friends, I’m sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading, but I have broken transmission to offer you an opportunity.

I wanted to get before you the chance to get a free copy of my book Relationships Unfiltered. As the new school year approaches and you think about volunteer leader meetings and trainings I would like to suggest you take a look at Relationships Unfiltered. It’s written just for this setting with discussion questions and chapters filled with illustrations and stories–but also promises to get you and your team thinking theologically about your core practice this coming school year: forming relationships with young people.

Here’s what I can do: If you’ll email me (aroot@luthersem.edu) I’ll send you a free copy of the book so you can look it over and decide if it would be of help to you and your volunteers. If you’re interested in using it you can then go to Zondervan.com or Zondervan.com/ministry and type in the code 980752 in the “source code” box. Starting August 1 this will give you a 40% discount on as many books as you’d like.

And I’ll also offer this, if you do use the book with your team, I’m willing to do a select number of skype or ichat conversations with you and your team after getting through the book.

- Andrew Root

———————————————–

I bought a copy for all my small group leaders, so the 40% off offer is possibly a great way to save on a quality resource. If you do not have this book, you should at least take up the offer on the free book. I have posted my thoughts on the book in my post here and say:

In my mind, this is the book that every small group leader and mentor needs to read. I have said before, and this book confirms it, that although youth ministry is not easy, it is not complicated, either. In fact, it is fairly simple. It has to do with loving Jesus and loving teenagers. What Root does in this book is tell us what it looks like to love teenagers: focus on the who instead of the how. Root says that the first questions for youth leaders is not How do we get kids to church? or How can we influence kids to be better Christians, but the first questions should always begin with who: Who is this teenager in my small group? Who are the marginalized in our community? Who is Jesus Christ in the lives of these students? Root says that How? questions do not properly attend to the humanity of the individual and instead focus on method. Root argues persuasively against this by grounding his approach in the theology of the incarnation.