Their Voice Matters

When our young people speak, are we willing to listen even when their ideas are unfamiliar or different from how things have been done? I call it the “vacant stare of obligation.” It is the look that comes across the face of a young person sitting through a Sunday meeting that does not reach them. They are completely disengaged, but they feel the need to endure the meeting with courage and dignity. The young person either believes in Jesus and feels obligated to be in church, or an adult has told them that they should want to be in church. Whatever the case, those who suffer from this condition struggle to connect because nothing in the meeting was designed with them in mind. While songs can be sung about their bravery in trying to... Read the article

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What Do You Believe?

When I was young, I was told the story of “The Little Engine that Could.” There are several variations of the story, but in essence a small engine had to pull a long train over a mountain. The train’s original engine broke down, and all the other engines, for one reason or another, refused to help. Despite its size, the little engine stepped up to save the day. As the little engine was pulling the massive train, it began to struggle. In those tough times, the engine kept repeating the mantra “I think I can, I think I can” and eventually brought the train over the mountain. The story is meant to convey the power of hard work and belief in oneself. I always thought about how terrified I would be to be riding on that train! For my... Read the article

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The Playful God

 Games, humor, dance, singing, and unadulterated silliness are basic human needs. Peekaboo! Ready or not, here I come! Row, row, row, your boat… How did reading these words make you feel? Perhaps they made you feel nostalgic or excited. Maybe you felt a longing for a simpler time. Whatever it was, hopefully it reminded you of childhood. For me, it reminds me that human beings are wired to play. Play is so important to child development that the United Nations designated it as a human right for every child. Games, humor, dance, singing, and unadulterated silliness are basic human needs. Therefore, it is interesting that Jesus, the ultimate human being, is rarely portrayed as fun or playful when presented to children. It is... Read the article

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Taking on the Tough Questions

If handled well, tough questions can provide you and your young people a tremendous opportunity for discipleship and growth. “If God loves me, why did he let my father die?” William was a quiet, shy young man and rarely spoke. I was a youth pastor at the time, and he regularly came to our weekly meeting with his sister, Ellie. Despite my best efforts to make them feel like they belonged, every Friday evening, they sat in the back and barely spoke. Every Friday, I would sit down next to them and ask them “getting-to-know-you” questions and crack corny jokes. This time was like the other times except that William and Ellie’s dad had unexpectedly and suddenly died of cancer two weeks before. When William’s father got the... Read the article

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The Gift of Rest

Have you ever gone an extended period of time without sleep? It’s awful! My wife, Afrika, and I have two wonderful children who are around 12 months apart. While they were both in diapers, they decided to stagger their schedules. Neither child could talk, so I am not sure how they coordinated their efforts. Nevertheless, our daughter Serena would be quite active during the day, but she would sleep through the night. Our son Cairo was relaxed during the day, but would fight sleep like his life depended on it. As a result, my wife and I were sleep deprived for a couple of years, and there were many days where I thought I could lose my sanity. If you are a parent or guardian, you can, no doubt, empathize with this level of exhaustion. Most... Read the article

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What Mr. Peters Taught Me

What would youth ministry look like if we helped youth and young adults identify and use their gifts? I love working with young people. Prior to becoming a pastor, every job I’ve had from the time I was 16 was working with or for young people. Serving youth is a passion and one of the main ways I have participated in the work of Jesus Christ. The seed of this passion was planted in the fourth grade by an extraordinary educator. My teacher, Mr. Peters, made learning fun. He put his all into his lessons and made every student feel known. He was the first teacher to show an interest in me, and he placed me in the Gifted and Talented Program (as an adult, I have concerns about the equity of Gifted and Talented Programs, but I am thankful for... Read the article

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It’s Time to Talk About Trauma

An important step in helping youth deal with trauma is to be a listener like Jesus. One day while Jesus was addressing a crowd, a synagogue leader named Jairus begged the young rabbi for help. Although he had status in the Jewish community, he unashamedly pleaded with Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus agreed to go with Jairus and the crowd decided to go as well. The spontaneous parade plodded along until Jesus brought the procession to a screeching halt. While dozens of people pressed in on him on every side, he turned around and asked who touched him. The disciples were incredulous because there were people everywhere. It was soon learned that a woman who suffered for 12 years with a bleeding condition touched Jesus’ garment with... Read the article

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Contextualizing Jesus

Youth Vision Jesus was a master storyteller. He communicated profound truths using images easily recognizable to his audience. He was able to make his message relevant and immediately applicable. A good example is found in Luke 13: Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Luke 13:20-21) Given his profession as a carpenter and the roles of men and women in his day, Jesus probably did not make a lot of bread. However, he knew enough about making bread to speak about it in detail, and he was able to use it to make a point about the kingdom. The kingdom, unnoticed and under the surface, would... Read the article

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Children are the Now

The statement “children are the future” has become so common that it is a cliché. As someone who works with young people, I have said the phrase more than a few times. I always said it with the best intentions to audiences of well-meaning adults who sagely nodded their heads with me. My desire was to convey how children are precious and worth our care and investment. I wanted my audience to understand that children will one day grow up to fill the shoes of the leaders, thinkers, and makers of our time. While these statements are true to some extent, they are incomplete. In an effort to paint a picture of the future, I overlooked the present. I inadvertently was sending the message that children were valuable only because they... Read the article

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