We are one of the few churches that does Vacation Bible School from kids all the way up to Seniors. It makes for an interesting week, where I as the children’s pastor don’t really get near the kid VBS because I am spending all of my time in the Youth VBS. We sort of run them as two separate events that just happen to be going on at once, but it is neat to have a place for older siblings when the young ones are coming to VBS.
Anyway, a week with students is both really fun and also really tiring. The keep spending time together and as such get more and more annoyed at each other and I keep teaching, but after 5 nights it is easy to tune me out. I think a 4 night youth version would actually work out better, but it is what it is.
I said all of that to say how much I love my job. I love getting a chance to interact with students and teach them, and share the truth of God’s word with them. Tonight I even got to wash a few of their feet as we talked about John 13 and Jesus proving his love for us. On a week to week basis we normally have smaller groups and I do more teaching that preaching. During VBS our group size nearly doubles and I spend more time preaching which is always fun. We also get out of the building and go and do other fun things (tonight we went to a Ninja Warrior style gym) so I get to see students in new ways.
All in all it is just an amazing thing that God would let me lead and teach students. I have felt his strength, his words, his presence, and his amazing blessings this week. I am blessed beyond what I deserve to be able to do what I do for a living.
My wife and I went to our local art house theater today and watched the Mr. Rodgers documentary. It was brilliantly slow and exactly what someone would want in a Mr. Rodgers documentary. Really in our crazy messed up time where everyone seems to be trying to out yell everyone else it is just refreshing to watch a life lived deciding to be quite, a life dedicated to listening to others and to proclaim a message of love.
I think for me the biggest takeaway as someone who works with students and children is to remember to listen to them. To remember that their feelings are valid and important, which of course I knew, but sometimes when you look at things through adult eyes you forget about things from a kid’s perspective.
Anyway, it was a soft, beautiful movie and was something that I felt like I needed in the middle of this crazy summer.
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.
An evangelist who came to our church when I was a youth would read this verse before he sent us out in cars to bring people to church. He would add a little to the end each time he would say “till my house is full and sloshing over.” It was a long time before I realized that wasn’t part of the actual verse, but the idea has stuck with me.
We are getting ready for Youth VBS. It starts on Sunday and runs through Thursday and it is a whirlwind of activity, singing, and Bible study. There are always a smattering of new people involved and every now and again someone shows up who hasn’t been around before and sticks around for the long haul.
This year I am praying for that and more. I don’t normally put my prayers out into the world. I don’t want to have to explain God if He doesn’t answer, but today I am praying for all of them. I am praying for every last student in our community who is lost. There are a whole bunch of them. If we bring in just a small portion of the people that don’t have a church home we will have to go outside and have our lesson, but I am still praying for all of them. I want the gospel to be presented to lost people. I believe that the gospel, the promise of Jesus, the love of God for us, all of us, is what people need to thrive in this world and to be with God in eternity, so why should I pray for anything less.
Lord, I want all of them.
That is my prayer today, so I am going to head out and get our portable sound system ready so we can move outside if we need to.
So last week I was at kid’s camp (which in and of itself is a remarkable thing and should be discussed, but that will be later). At camp I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on Twitter and Facebook. I would spend the morning checking out a couple of headlines, but I wouldn’t pull out my phone all day and read through my feeds.
It was about the 3rd day when I realized that unplugging for that stuff actually lowered my stress level.
You see my feeds are interesting. My Facebook feed is primarily people from church life and so it runs very, very conservative. The stress I get from there mostly is the stress that comes when someone you respect posts a subtly racists picture with a whole bunch of facts that actually aren’t facts and I am left trying to decide if I should explain the truth to them.
My twitter feed is actually very liberal. I tend to follow a bunch of celebrities, media personalities, and new organizations. So this means that it leans further left. The stress there comes mainly from feeling like I can’t fix any of the problems and that as a Christian I feel this deep desire to help people who are in pain, and there are a whole lot of people who are upset and angry. My stress also comes from the fact that I believe (even though I know it isn’t true) that the right words and right argument can make a difference and help any situation. So I get stressed trying to find the words to say to make situations better.
But honestly after being away from it all a week I realized just how much those feeds add unneeded stress to my life. In the end I can’t help the people who are willfully ignorant and just repost whatever picture with some text on it they see. I also can’t help explain that all Christians are not evil and that all of us don’t hate you or think you are a terrible person.
So instead of chasing down the things that I can’t fix I am committing to work on the things that I can.
And most of those things require looking up from a screen and doing something in the real world.
Today was one of those staple youth group events, the trip to the amusement park. This is something I have been doing for pretty much all 20 years of ministry, and really don’t quite understand how it fits in with the overall vision, but it is fun.
In many ways the amusement park trip is a leftover from the days when parents expected the church to entertain their kids and come up with activities and such, sort of like a social club. But in some ways it is a unique opportunity for kids to invite their friends, and for me as a youth minister to get to see new people.
The problem is there is very little chance for interaction and there is an almost 0 chance that the gospel will be shared. Maybe that is my fault. Maybe while we are all standing around praying for the trip I should throw in a testimony and the Roman Road. But that ain’t how I have been doing things, so in the end it becomes a fun trip with a few brief chances to interact with students.
So what do you think? Is the Youth Group Amusement Park Trip still a viable part of ministry? Do you have any ideas on how to make it something that is more effective in fulfilling our mission?