Imitating Incarnation

When Jesus “moved into the neighborhood,” he set an example for us in how to effectively work with others. We recently celebrated the Advent season and gave special attention to Christ’s first coming, second coming, and continual presence with us. Following Advent, we celebrated Christmas – the incarnation – when the Son of God entered our world and became the Son of man. He became one of us. For those striving to disciple young people, it is good to take a new look at John 1:14 and note how Eugene Peterson interpreted the verse. It gives us a good point to focus on as we strive to follow Jesus’ example. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind... Read the article

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Examining the Walls

Do you know the social, emotional, physical, and spiritual condition of young people in your community? Nehemiah had a BIG challenge. Jerusalem, the religious center for the Jewish people, was in ruin, and God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the Holy City. After a period of mourning, lament, and prayer (Nehemiah 1:1-11), he petitioned the Assyrian King, emperor of the region and conqueror of Israel, to lead an expedition to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-10). When Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem, what did he do to begin his monumental task? Did he start calling contractors to get quotes for the work? Did he gather the leaders in Jerusalem and show them his blueprints? Did he call the insurance company to see if the walls were... Read the article

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Who Do You Say That They Are?

We should not label children (or anyone) based on a snapshot of their life. Rather, we should remind them of their true identity in Christ. For two years, I served as the director of the Boston ArtScience Prize, a project-based innovation program for high school students that helped them turn their ideas into reality. We served hundreds of young people from seemingly every walk of life at Cloud Place, a modern artist studio/scientist laboratory stocked with the latest creative tools and equipment. In the ten-year history of Cloud Place and the ArtScience Prize, there was never a physical fight. Those who care for high school students understand the significance of that statement. When talking with a group of educators and youth workers, I... Read the article

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Tell the Story…

...but remember that each Bible story centers around Jesus. Think of the story of Noah’s Ark. What comes to mind? Maybe you thought about animals marching to the ark two by two and seven by seven. Perhaps you thought about the rain that fell for over a month. Or, maybe you imagined a dove with a branch in its mouth. Did you think about how the story of Noah’s Ark connects to Christ’s redemptive work? Most people familiar with the story do not, and I think the cause of this can be found in how we were taught. In admonishing a group of Jewish leaders, Jesus explained: You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come... Read the article

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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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