YouthWorker Movement http://ywmovement.org Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:11:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 http://ywmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/YWM-logo-150x150.png YouthWorker Movement http://ywmovement.org 32 32 Leaving With Grace- How to Successfully Leave Your Church In Times of Transitions. http://ywmovement.org/leaving-grace-successfully-leave-church-times-transitions/ http://ywmovement.org/leaving-grace-successfully-leave-church-times-transitions/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:51:50 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8499

LEAVING WITH GRACE.
By: Cody Bauman
Completed on 03.06.2017

3 months ago, I was asked to write this article; and although I have given a range of excuses why I didn’t have it done yet; the truth was it’s just not a fun topic to write about. You see three months ago I was once again in my transition and I didn’t want people to see the pain that leaving yet another group of amazing students was doing to my heart.  Leaving a ministry behind, is never something I look forward to; but desiring to advance my career, pay the bills, or offer a more stable situation for my family, seems to have moved me more times than I wish to count.

Every time you are given a chance to reach into the life of students and walk with their families through the adolescent world they live in; you are given a chance to be real.  In my opinion, that is not something every profession is allowed to do in our world anymore.  So leaving that real encounter that merges at the intersection of Sharing God’s Unfailing Love, Supporting students on their turf, and being the master of all things a youth minister does; seems to bring a large bag of mixed emotions.

MIXED EMOTIONS ARE REAL, AND PAINFUL.

No matter if you are leaving by your own doing or from some other party telling you its time to head to a new chapter; it is important to remember that you have ALWAYS been a safety net and calm water in the students crazy life and they will need you to continue to do that now more than ever.

Yes, you will want to tell people what is really going on, and you will want your side of the truth to be told, but that is not always what is needed.  I would like to offer you a few suggestions here on how to make the most of your exiting.  Remember if you are leaving a ministry that has any substance at all, then you need to lift this ministry up, not tear them down while you are leaving. In a few weeks you will be gone, you will not have to deal with all this anymore, stay strong, and do the very best for the Students you have poured time and energy into.  Remember if you leave it better than you found it, then no one should be able to blame you if something goes wrong in the future. You can still build your legacy.

  1. 6-12 Months.  I never leave a church without having a 6-12 month plan in place for my volunteers or staff.  If you can have 6-12 months of curriculum for Sunday Mornings and whatever evenings your ministry has in place; then the ministry can really co-pilot until they find your successor.  Copy, items, provide materials, etc. Remember to lift up not tear down.

  2. Give it All Away. You should also plan to leave a copy of every single document and flyer and item you created while you served at your church.  My favorite way to do this, is by getting a google drive account.  Upload a copy of everything that your successor could possibly use.  Then all you have to leave on the desk is a piece of paper that says start here and the login information. Remember You Do this For The Students.
  3. Successor??? That is correct when you pack your stuff, no matter the reason, you have to help the volunteers and students you leave behind be successful.  If you take all the documents and shred them or wipe the computer off cause you are hurt.  You are not shoving it to the senior pastor or personal committee chair.  They will never look at that laptop.  You are hurting the students. You are hurting the future of the program that you have poured blood, sweat and tears into.  Help the next person build off the ministry you created. They will probably change it eventually, but really they need to spend the first 3-6 months just trying to get to know the students, not writing curriculum.
  4. Be Politically Correct.  The truth is there are many churches that would just assume that you disappear, especially if you are let go.  It may take some major negotiating to even be able to say goodbye to your students.  If this is the case, then you CANNOT use this as a springboard to criticize the higher powers. You MUST use this as a time to tell students that you still love them and that more importantly God will always love them.  Also use this to assure them that a plan is in place to make sure that THEY will still have a ministry.
  5. The Truth. There are going to be people who you want to tell the truth to. If you feel that you can better their lives or the future of the ministry by them knowing what happened; then ask them to have coffee away from the church and before saying anything make sure that what you say to them can stay in confidence.  THIS IS NOT GIVING YOU PERMISSION TO DUMP ALL YOUR PROBLEMS ON THEM OR TO RIP THE CHURCH INTO SHREDS. The truth is your closest people, especially if they have become your friends, have probably already checked on you long before you talk to the students.
  6. Just Don’t Do It. Do Not, Do Not, Do Not use social media to slander the church. It is not healthy and makes you look foolish. It also shows an unhealthy side to the church to the students. I know that students already know that flawed people run the church, but you want them to feel welcome and that their church is a safe place for them to be.
  7. You Are Not Jesus. You are expendable. I realize these words can hurt.

  8. Contacting People After You Leave, especially students. This is very simple but incredibly hazardous to the future of the youth program if you do not handle it properly. This is also my biggest transitional pet peeve. Sorry, you are no longer the youth worker, so you must leave this world and these people behind… it’s really that simple.  Whenever I have left a church, when I have that closing meeting to say goodbye, I say something like “If you want to talk after I leave you will have to contact me.”

    If a student or parents contacts you, then I do not think it would be a problem for you to answer their questions. Don’t tell them that your entire sad story every time they call. Be an adult and keep your laundry put away.  Again, if they ask you something you do not need to lie, but you do not have to tell them all the details of your new life, if they do not ask.  Keep it simple and peaceful.  Remember you were a “pastor-like figure” in their lives before, so you must always be that way, if you are contacted.

    But if it comes to matters of the church or to how to deal with conflict within the youth, you must tell them to ask the current youth worker. That is no longer your turf.

  9. Why you should move away. Or at least attend a different church.  Being in the same place is not only unhealthy for you, but it is unhealthy for the students. If you are planning to stay in the same house anyway; then you need to know it is likely you will see some of the same people.  But it will feel awkward now, because you do not have a common thread with many of these people anymore.  It actually is harder on your family and now your former students if you stay connected in your church. You do not carry that same role anymore and students many times have no idea how to separate you from that place. Also, if you previously would have invited youth to your birthday parties, that idea is no longer acceptable.  Remember you are no longer their Youth Worker.
  10. Breathe. Yeah this sucks for a while…possibly a long while.  Find a group of people who you can talk to. Hopefully you have friends that are outside of the church. If you do not, then please find a licensed counselor, another youth worker, or outside person to speak to.  You may have amazing friends inside the church, but they are to involved in the situation to be able to look at it from an outsiders viewpoint.

I realize that typing all this on a sheet of paper does not make it easy.  There is a great book that helped me through one of my hardest transitions.  The book is called “Moving on. Moving Forward”  by Michael Anthony and Mick Boersma.

PROVERBS 16: 9(NIV):
IN HIS HEART A MAN PLANS HIS COURSE,
BUT THE LORD DETERMINES HIS STEPS.

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Texas Youth Academy http://ywmovement.org/texas-youth-academy/ http://ywmovement.org/texas-youth-academy/#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2017 21:49:05 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8475 “Texas Youth Academy is something I think about daily, and not lightly at that. I can truly say that TYA changed my life because of the impact it had on me and my passion for ministry and the Bible. I realized the approaches I’ve taken to ministry and the thoughts I have on theology have been shaped due to my experience at TYA. It has caused me to think about God’s will for my life and how I can make a difference within the church as a part of the body. The things I learned at TYA are things I never want to let go of which is why I want to continue to expand my learning in seminary. TYA is my family and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.” – Former TYA student. 

What Is Texas Youth Academy?

For two weeks during the summer, a group of high school students, specialized mentors, seminary professors, artists, musicians, and others come together in Central Texas for the Texas Youth Academy. Students participate in an intensive encounter with Christian life that strengthens their calling into ministry and boosts their confidence that God is shaping their future in radical and exciting ways.  

Each day includes worship, Scripture, study, small groups, service projects, art, and Communion. The current sophomore, junior, & senior students that are selected to attend learn about the Christian faith with faculty members from various seminaries. They practice this faith with other youth from across the state and a pair of dedicated adult mentors. 

Why Texas Youth Academy?

The Texas Youth Academy exists to deepen discipleship through theological education, spiritual formation, and Christian community.  It is ideal for leaders in your youth group that are willing to challenge themselves to grow deeper in their faith or are feeling a call into ministry, either ordained or laity.  Another student said, “During TYA God was calling me to go outside my comfort zone.  Afterwards, I felt a calling to take further responsibility within my church.” More information and applications for both students and staff can be found at texasyouthacademy.com.

If the Texas Youth Academy doesn’t work into your students schedule or travel plans, there are a variety of other diverse (theologically, programmatically, financially & geographically) through the Lilly Youth Theology Network (youththeology.org) or the Foundation for Theological Exploration (http://fteleaders.org/networks/theological-programs-for-high-school-youth)

I believe that all of us are trying to grow so that we can help our youth and families grow.  Texas Youth Academy and other theological programs help in supporting the groundwork laid by your local churches, for the future of the Church.  It aids in encouraging, identifying, and supporting these passionate leaders of the Church.

This was a guest post written by Eddie Erwin, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the Texas Annual Conference. 

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Why We Celebrate Christmas http://ywmovement.org/why-we-celebrate-christmas/ http://ywmovement.org/why-we-celebrate-christmas/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 16:00:00 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8453 When I was a young boy I heard a lot of things and I remember them from time to time. One of the statements that I remember hearing is:

Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

I remember hearing this and not really thinking anything of it other than what it clearly implied. That the reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus, the Christ child was born. As I have grown in my faith and walk with Christ I have begun to question things that I heard when I was a young boy, as we all should.

As believers in Jesus we tend to sometimes say things and believe things that we “think” are biblical, but they aren’t. Even if they aren’t biblical, they sound like something that would be in the Bible and a part of them are true, and yet another part of them are not. The parts that aren’t true are dangerous to our witness and this is one of those half-truths.

No, Jesus is not the reason for the season.

In fact I am more than confident that Jesus would agree with me on this, because Jesus knows that the reason he came was not for himself and that is what that statement implies. That Jesus only came for His benefit, which of course we all know is just not true.

Jesus would say and I believe is clearly saying through me in this blog post that You and I are the reason for the season. Jesus didn’t come for himself or to gain anything, but solely came for your gain and my gain.

He came so that we would recognize a far better way to live.

This Advent season I hope you know in the depths of your heart that you are that important to Him. He loves you and I like there is only one of us to love.

No matter what you receive for Christmas this year know that the only part of you that is needed is the great love that God has for you. That is why we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

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Social Media in Youth Ministry http://ywmovement.org/social-media-youth-ministry/ http://ywmovement.org/social-media-youth-ministry/#respond Mon, 19 Dec 2016 16:00:04 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8431 Greetings Youthworker Movement! It’s been a long time, but I am so excited to be back writing, a passion of mine. Since last writing here at the Youthworker Movement I have moved ministry settings and am now serving at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church. In my new setting of ministry, I have been reminded in this ministry setting, the vast influence that a certain model of communication has on our lives and the lives of the students in our Youth Ministries.

When was the last time you tweeted? Posted on Instagram? Sent a Snapchat? Since this morning the teenagers in your ministry have used one or all of these outlets multiple times, in fact, current research shows that:

92% of American teens go online daily, including 24% who go online ‘almost constantly.

Let the following infographic from Teen Safe: Protecting the Most Valuable Treasure explain further:

teensafe-socialteen

 

At the core of our calling as youth workers is communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Layman’s translation: We communicate. We communicate a lot!

We do Sunday School, Sunday Nights, Wednesday Nights, Bible Study, Mission Trip, Worship, and many other great things in our youth ministry context. In every one of those settings, we are communicating. We now live in a culture where communication is constant; it never stops which puts us in a predicament. How do we communicate the life worth living, life in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with everything else that is being communicated? The sobering fact is that every second there are around 6,000 tweets posted on Twitter.

6,000 per second! 

What many have tried and failed in doing was demonizing social media, and that is just not working. That failed very quickly, and more and more youth become more and more disinterested in church. So, we must come to terms with how we are going to effective use social media as a tool for communicating the gospel. I wanted today to give you two quick things that you can do right now to help you in this regard.

Get a Youth Ministry Instagram Account – If you don’t have one already, you need to set up an Instagram for your youth ministry. You can find the one that I manage at @heightstumin for the Student Ministry at Arlington Heights UMC. This is our major hub of information that we share with our students. We send all kinds of gifs for laughs (appropriate ones of course), encouragement pictures, promo graphics for retreats coming up, videos of worship, testimony videos of our students, and we are constantly flooding this account.

Why?

Because that is where they are all the time. You communicate to and with your students where they are and in the language that they are speaking.

Connect this Instagram account with Facebook and Twitter – There are a lot of social media options out there, and some are great and safe and others, not so much. So I would suggest you stick with the top 3. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Once that you have created an Instagram account for your youth ministry, connect that account to a youth ministry facebook page and a twitter account.

  • Download typorama, adobe spark, or the Bible app to create encouraging pictures to post on instagram. These apps enable you to choose a photo background and put text on top of the background. The Bible App with Youversion.com creates daily bible verse insta-ready for you to post. (other apps of interest are ultratext, wordswag, and I am sure many others. My preference however for my posting are typorama and adobe spark).

The Facebook Page is not really for students; it’s a P.R. move to show the parents and other people in the church what the youth ministry is doing. Some youth will check it, but most won’t because Facebook is where their parents and grandparents are. The Twitter, however, is another place youth congregate for the fast pace nature of sharing tweets.

After you have done that begin sharing all you can through Instagram to these other media outlets. Whenever your gatherings are during the week really post all you can to these accounts. The more you share, the more they will see, they more they will likely share and invite friends to join them and you in ministry.

social-media-resources-580x244

Final thing, I am teaching a Social Media Strategy Workshop at Spark Youth Ministry Conference in January and would love for you to come so that we can continue this conversation and learn and grow together in how we can use social media as a tool and not so much a hindrance. At this workshop, we will discuss in more specifics how you can setup your own social media strategy in your ministry setting. You can register for Spark Youth Ministry Conference by clicking

You can register for Spark Youth Ministry Conference by clicking here. We have lots of great workshops coming this year and you don’t want to miss this!

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How to get published in youth ministry http://ywmovement.org/get-published-youth-ministry/ http://ywmovement.org/get-published-youth-ministry/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 19:50:21 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8415 I remember many moons ago attending a huge youth ministry conference and saying, I want to be the presenter on stage publishing articles and books and being super cool all over.  I contacted a couple big publishing houses and found a less than hospitable reaction to a youth worker with about a year and a half of experience wanting to write for them.

Since then I have had a bit more success writing online articles for several different places (including this one) and publishing curriculum for four general church agencies of the UMC as well as a monthly column in a major UMC magazine and a book or two.

I don’t say that to toot my own horn, but to say that I know the ropes of this thing and if you want to follow the path I did (I’m sure there are many others that end up in this place), it may lead to your desired destination… or not.  Either way, if you continue past this point, it’s your own fault.

Step One:  Turn Back Now

Seriously, you may think you want to do this, but you don’t.  It requires a lot of late nights, a lot of failure, and a lot of work in general.  You will discover awful things about yourself.  You will discover ego sensitivity you had no idea existed.  You will discover a lack of ability to complete what you want to complete, and worst of all you will discover how little you really know about youth ministry and life in general.

That is why I say turn back now.  Unless you can’t.  Unless you’re like me.  My problem is that I love writing.  I love finding just the right way to describe a difficult idea or a poetic turn to a piece of prose that brings out the art in the description of Chubby Bunny.  The only way this works is if you have an uncontrollable urge to write.  If not, just quit.  It’s just your ego talking and you will be very frustrated.

If I’m completely honest, it’s probably your ego talking either way, but if you like writing, you might have a chance.

Step two:  Write and Read

Writing for publication is like the ego stroke for what you love to do anyway.  The only way you can hope to get the publication validation you so deeply desire is to get better, and the only way to get better is to write and read other people’s writing.  Carve out time every week to write something and even more time to read.  Whenever you have a chance to do a retreat, write the curriculum yourself.

And if you really hate yourself, start a blog and let the entire world tell you what they think in the comments. Don’t worry, for a while it will just be your mom commenting and she will be pretty nice. She’ll mostly tell you about the missing comma in the second sentence of paragraph 3, but at some point some random person will link to it and you will get an onslaught of “fun.”

Step Three: Figure Out What You Actually Know

Look, you never know everything, and should not offer advice on something you haven’t had a couple years’ experience doing.  On the flip side, there is always something you actually do know.  If you are just starting out in youth ministry, you know the rookie game really well.

When you have no experience you can write about all your firsts.  You can share what is difficult about having no experience and little training.  All of those can be helpful for people who are in the same boat as you, and they can be helpful to the old people who have gotten stuck in their ways and forgotten what it was like to have the rookie feels.  Then after you have five or six years under your belt you can start writing more authoritatively in your field.

Don’t forget to lean into your other experience.  If you worked for three years as a guest relations employee at an amusement park, you have a good bit of experience in diffusing angry people, listening and referring to your manager.  All of that works in youth ministry too.  An article about how to diffuse an angry customer/parent works!

Step Three: Beg for Legit Feedback

Once you have actually written some things (and by some I’d say 50 blog posts or several pieces of retreat curriculum)  Take your best stuff and start sending it to the people you read asking for advice.  If you like their writing style, a quick email saying something like “I really liked your article on _______ and used it with my volunteers.  I’m trying to get better at writing myself in hopes of being published some day.  Would you mind reading it and giving me some feedback?”

Most non million-seller writers know this stage of development and are willing to give you something back. When you get their feedback, believe it.  It will most likely hurt. It may make you doubt whether or not you should be writing.  If they only say positive things, they are being nice.  Don’t believe them, and don’t ask for more advice.  If you want to throw away your computer after reading their response… that’s the good stuff.  Close the email.  Take a break and relax.  Then, go back a day or two later and believe everything they say and figure out how to fix it.

Step Four: Work for Free

Once you have something you think is really good, send it to some of your favorite youth ministry sites and ask if they would be willing to publish it for free online.  Once they say yes, follow up with an email offering to write more regularly (for free).  They’ll likely give you a chance if they liked your first piece well enough to publish it.

Then, follow up your first piece with a second one that is hopefully better than the first.  This is important, because if you just fire off something at a much lower quality, you risk losing the chance.  A second strong article/resource will show them that you have the chops to produce consistently good (maybe not great) content and they can rely on you.

Step Five: Roll Free into Money

Once you have a couple publications on a third-party site it’s time to try a couple low-level publications.  Don’t start with Christianity today or Rolling Stone.  Find a lower-level magazine and work on a piece that seems to fit their style.  Then, send the email to one of the editors with a list of your other publications.  They may not read any of them, but the goal is to show that someone else has looked at your work and been willing to associate it with their brand.  Your list of publications will be the key in getting them to open the attachment.

Do all this enough and you will succeed at getting paid very little for a whole lot of work and pain!  Congrats!

Bonus tips:

Don’t Save Good Ideas

I don’t know why this is, but once you start saving good ideas, you turn off the good idea switch.  If you have a good idea, write it and publish it wherever you can.  If you hold it thinking it will be the one you write for your first paycheck, you are fooling yourself.  Ideas have a short shelf-life like an open bottle of wine.  It’s good to let it breath for a bit, but if you leave it out too long it will end up tasting like vinegar once you write it.

Find an Editor You Hate

The best editors are the ones that you hate the most after reading their comments.  Really.  Writing is like creating a precious baby.  Then you pass off this beautiful thing you love to someone who tells you it’s nose is too big and the birthmark you thought was adorable is a tumor that you are going to have to cut out yourself.

It’s true.  Every word they say.  Every comment they make.  That’s why it hurts so much:  they are pointing out the actual weaknesses in the thing you created and love.  Believe them, hate them, and then ask them to look at your second draft.

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The Need for Art in Youth Ministry: Art as Mission http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-art-mission/ http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-art-mission/#respond Mon, 09 May 2016 17:18:56 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8350 IMG_9826This is the third of three articles regarding the need for art in youth ministry. In previous articles, we explored how to create a prayerful art workshop and how to introduce Bible journaling. This post addresses how to use art as a form of mission.

Our culture is all too often rushed and consumeristic, and as a church, we have a unique opportunity to create sacred times and spaces for art and creativity to emerge. The act of creating something not only links us to our Creative God, it can also lift spirits and empower the powerless. I have been inspired by the art outreach ministries of The Art Project Houston and the art program of The Stewpot in Dallas, programs that are introducing art to people in times of crises in order to bring about healing and hope. These long-term art programs offer the time and space for people who are homeless or otherwise in need to create and work through their thoughts in art. The programs empower people not only through the process of creation but also through fundraisers and even job opportunities. While these mission programs are amazing, they may be beyond the average youth ministry’s scale, especially for a ministry that is beginning to incorporate art. With that in mind, here are a three simple ways to introduce art as a mission project for youth:

  1. Sell Student Art as a Fundraiser for Missions. Youth are innately creative. Tap into this creativity by having students create artwork with the intention of selling the art for missions. An easy way to start is to have students search on Pinterest for ideas of low-cost, painted crafts your ministry could duplicate (Here’s a pinboard to get you started). Another idea is to purchase small canvases, basic colors of acrylic paint and low cost paint brushes from your local craft supply store. Students can paint inspirational artwork, words, or phrases. Consider connecting the artwork to a theme that relates to your intended mission. To sell the items, either set an affordable fixed price or have a silent auction, allowing congregation members to bid on the artwork with proceeds going to the mission fund.
  2. Host an Art Camp for the Community. Instead of just having a traditional Vacation Bible School this summer, host an art camp. Have students and adults work together to teach local children art fundamentals such as the color wheel, drawing with dimension, poetry writing, whatever gifts your students would like to share. Invite both your artistic and non-artistic students to participate alongside the children. The most important outcome of this kind of camp is for children to build a positive connection with another Christian leader, and students get the opportunity to be role models. Provide a safe place to create and a few snacks. (Here’s another pinboard to get you started.)
  3. IMG_9823Host an Art Workshop in a Nursing Home. Painting parties with a host that teaches guests step-by-step to make a specific painting are popular and relatively simple to recreate as a mission experience. Whether it is a nursing home, homeless shelter, special needs group, or another oft forgotten community, your youth ministry can build relationships and create community through art. A few tips for success: Always practice making the artwork and guiding someone through it ahead of time to make sure you know how much time it takes to create at a relatively slow pace. Introduce the workshop by explaining that the goal is not perfection but to enjoy the process. This is ministry, so open in prayer and if possible, tie the artwork to a devotional. Have youth both lead and create alongside others. Allow for at least 30-45 minutes of set up and clean up plus 90-120 minutes of painting.

 

With the basic supplies you may already have around the church, even just paper and craft paint, you can open opportunities for creative expression. I hope you have enjoyed this three part series on the need for art in youth ministry. I would love to hear your stories and see pictures if you have found ways to make art a part of your ministry.

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On Keeping Quiet and Feeling Alone: A personal story for Mental Health Awareness month of May http://ywmovement.org/keeping-quiet-feeling-alone-personal-story-mental-health-awareness-month-may/ http://ywmovement.org/keeping-quiet-feeling-alone-personal-story-mental-health-awareness-month-may/#respond Fri, 29 Apr 2016 21:17:45 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8345 13092114_10153901325918429_8689639014697790441_nby Laura Coward

A few years ago I met with a new personal trainer at my gym. Without any races coming up, I was having trouble sticking to a workout schedule. At least, that’s what I told him. We spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting laughing about the worst workouts/exercises we’ve paid to do, and then we verbally went through my medical history.

“Any injuries?” No. “Heart disease?” No. “Diabetes?” No. “Depression?” Silence.

As I started to nod my head yes, he’d already started filling out an answer on his clipboard. “I’m going to go ahead and guess NO,” he laughed. “You seem pretty upbeat.”

I’d been ready to tell him that the reason I was sitting in that room was because I needed help. For weeks (months?) all I’d wanted to do was sleep. And eat. I couldn’t motivate myself to work out. Every day felt like wading through a fog, and my limbs felt like they were battling quicksand. I couldn’t remember what those endorphins from running felt like.

I wouldn’t tell him about the crying. The loop running through my mind that I was a disappointment, worthless, unloveable, and deserved to be unhappy. I wouldn’t tell him that sometimes my brain tried to convince me it would be easier if I just weren’t here.

So I said nothing. I’d been assigned the role of the happy, lighthearted client, and I was going to play that role for him. I’d show up at 5:45 for our 6:00 a.m. sessions, and I’d fake being wide awake and energetic. I’d complete any sets without complaining, and he started giving me more and more challenging exercises to do. And soon, I started to feel like that girl again. My confidence grew, my spirits lifted, and everything felt lighter. “Maybe I’m not depressed,” I thought.

Then, after a particularly difficult and low night, I overslept and missed my session. I awoke to a text message and missed call, and I knew I should text my trainer immediately to apologize and reschedule. I didn’t. I waited a day, and I felt horrible the entire time.

The next session, I showed up right at 6:00. I wasn’t chirpy. I wasn’t smiling. “Hey, you okay?” he asked. “You don’t seem like yourself this morning.” Tears slipped down my cheeks and I just shook my head. I worked out in silence that morning, without any chit-chat in between sets. This was someone who already knew my most personal details – good grief, he was weighing me every week! – but I couldn’t let him see that I was hurting. That I didn’t really meet the image of me I thought he had in his mind.

I canceled my next appointment and then stopped training. I was hoping if I worked out hard enough, I could trick my brain into getting better. But I couldn’t. I was so disappointed in myself for standing in my own way.

So I shared with a few close friends that I thought I might need to talk to someone. I’d reached the point where I couldn’t manage these feelings on my own. And slowly but surely, with the right therapist, the right medication, and the right support system, the fog started to lift.

Those things were all game changers for me, but the biggest game changer was transparency. The more we can talk about mental health, the more we can de-stigmatize it. Almost 10% of the population battles depression. Tens of millions of people. And many of us keep quiet, feeling alone.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone! If anyone is struggling, I’m here to listen.

Depression often looks like someone crying. Someone who is exhausted. Someone who is withdrawn. But just as often, it looks like someone who is smiling. Someone who’s organizing happy hours and trying to keep busy. Someone who’s running from activity to activity, so they don’t have to be alone with their thoughts. There’s no one face to it.

Pay attention to yourself, and pay attention to your friends and family. Let them know they’re not alone.

And thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone.

13077389_10153902115478429_1965101223_nLaura is a writer and non-profit fundraiser who lives in Dallas, Texas. She has a journalism degree from Texas A&M University, and she is active in The Writer’s Path at Southern Methodist University. Laura loves music and travel, and tries to combine the two whenever possible. She’s also mildly obsessed with her 2-year-old Corgi mix, Corbin. Her current church home is Munger Place Church (a UMC Congregation in Dallas, Texas), but she’ll always have part of her heart at First United Methodist Churches of Richardson and Dallas.

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The Need for Art in Youth Ministry– Part Two: Bible Journaling http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-part-two-bible-journaling/ http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-part-two-bible-journaling/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:09:42 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8334 920664_10153994827709732_2971360774022692905_oThis is part two of three in a series on the Need for Art in Youth Ministry. In my last post, I pointed out that everyone is an artist, explained the importance of having art in ministry, and outlined the basics of how to plan a prayerful art workshop with youth. This post explores one of the biggest new trends in arts and crafts, Bible journaling, and gives ideas on how you can introduce the process to your youth ministry.

Definition: “Bible Journaling” is a term used to describe the drawing of pictures or words in a Bible, usually a specially designed Bible with wider margins or thicker pages, in order to illustrate the passage. Ideally, the process of journaling helps people to better understand and remember Scripture. In general, the process of Bible journaling includes reading a passage, highlighting words or images that stick out, sketching a picture or words in reaction to the text, and coloring or painting the picture.

Bible Journaling is not for everyone for three main reasons. The first reason is that the process includes drawing in a Bible, and writing in a Holy Bible is a stumbling block for many people. For this reason, it often helps to have a special Bible designed for journaling separate from your usual Bible. Providing a journaling Bible for your students may be cost prohibitive. Secondly, while Bible journaling is designed to bring people closer to God by creatively studying the Bible, if you are not careful, it can become more focused on the ego/talent of the artist. There are thousands of pictures of Bible journaling on social media, which makes it questionable if the hobby is about personal devotion, or trying to get affirmation through Instagram likes. (On the other hand, posting pictures can be encouraging to others and a blessing.) Finally, Bible journaling can be difficult for perfectionists who fear “messing up” as the write or draw in their Bible. Before you begin, you need to give yourself permission to trust the Holy Spirit, have fun, and to allow the process to help you grow closer to God. The goal is not to create an artistic masterpiece, but to enjoy the creative experience.

How to Introduce Bible Journaling to your students

Suggested supplies: Copies of a Scripture passage for each student, pencils, pens, colored pencils, watercolor paints, paintbrushes, crayons.

As I mentioned, Bible journaling is not for everyone, however the process of reflecting artistically on Scripture can be easily introduced in a youth ministry meeting. Instead of beginning with journaling in a Bible, print out copies of a passage of Scripture on paper, making sure there is plenty of margin space. Open the activity with prayer, specifically asking for the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of the Scripture. Have the passage read silently and aloud, allowing for plenty of time to reflect on the passage. Instruct students to underline, highlight, or circle words, phrases or images that stick out. Students then creatively draw, color, write, and react to the text using the pencils, markers, paints or crayons provided. Watercolor paints are a fun and affordable medium to use that allow the words to still be read through the paint. Finally, allow time for students to share their journaling if they would like to share. Close in prayer.

The point of Bible journaling is to bring students closer to God through reading and reflecting on Scripture. The process of creating art may open up a fresh perspective and encourage students to dig deeper into the Bible on their own. If you or your students would like to learn more, here is a link to my Pinterest Board with more Bible journaling instructions and ideas.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Bible journaling with youth.

Be blessed,

Erin

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Free Weekend Retreat Curriculum on Transforming Lives http://ywmovement.org/weekend-retreat-curriculum/ http://ywmovement.org/weekend-retreat-curriculum/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 15:31:59 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8314 2013-06-24 09.28.11

This is a series created for a weekend retreat a few years ago.  It was a great series and offered our students a chance to not only see transformation, but to also offer transformation. You could also use it as a 3 week series on transforming lives. As always the Youth Worker Movement encourages you to always review the curriculum and make sure it fits your needs.  This curriculum was created by Cody Bauman our Audio/Visual Director here at the Youth Worker Movement. You Can Find Cody’s Contact info at the end of this post.

Week 1 or Session 1:
Transforming Self: 3 Graces & How God Transforms us!

Week 2 or Session 2:
Transforming Those Around Us: How we are directly being used by God to Transform the People around us

Week 3 or Session 3:
Taking our Transformation to the World: How God uses those who we have changed to transform the World

 

You are Welcome to share this.  Let’s Do Ministry Together!

Blessings on Your Journey  -Cody

Transforming 3 week series

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The Need for Art in Youth Ministry: Planning a Prayerful Art Workshop http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-planning-prayerful-art-workshop/ http://ywmovement.org/need-art-youth-ministry-planning-prayerful-art-workshop/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 17:32:51 +0000 http://ywmovement.org/?p=8326 art suppliesWhether it is part of a youth retreat, worship service, or the focus of an entire evening of youth ministry, creating art can transform, empower and heal people. The act of creating something is a tool in ministry that connects us to our Creator in unexpected ways. This post is the first of a three-part series on how to incorporate art in youth ministry. 

The Need for Art as a Tool in Ministry

You are an artist.

It is likely you read that, laughed and thought something like, “I can’t even draw stick figures.” I suspect this because I hear youth and adults alike deny the truth about their artistic abilities almost every time I begin an art workshop. Ask small children to draw anything and they will jump in and give it a try, but something happens often during late elementary school. Our confidence as artists begins to fade as we compare our abilities to others’ or get a less-than-perfect grade on artwork.

Our culture does not value quiet reflection in general, and often sees creating art as a waste of time. Each of us was created in the image of a creative God, yet this side of our nature is often put aside for more “practical” pursuits. In ministry, we have the unique opportunity to draw out the spiritual sides of our students through creating art. The process of creating something is often spiritual, rejuvenating, healing and fun. By intentionally including prayerful art in your ministry plans, you can equip students with a new way to connect to God. This post will give you a basic overview of how to plan a prayerful art workshop for your students.

Planning a Prayerful Art Workshop

A “Prayerful Art Workshop” is a time designed specifically for creating art as a form of prayer. This is a Spirit led process in which artists are encouraged to pray, reflect on a passage, and then create art such as a painting. Art could include anything from drawing or painting to poetry writing. The amount of time you need depends on the type of art being created although typically I recommend about an hour for junior high students and 90 minutes for senior high students.

Organizing a space for creating art needs to be thought out ahead of time. Each artist will need access to art supplies, and a table or place to work that is prepped for potential spills or messes. Cover tables and floors with butcher paper or plastic table covers. If easels are unavailable, consider putting tables up on their sides to use as makeshift easels. Be mindful of music and lighting to create a space for quiet and reflection.

art night table easels

Instruct students ahead of time to wear clothes that can get dirty or provide old shirts as smocks. Gather your art supplies ahead of time. Supplies may include something to paint on like butcher paper, canvases, or blank paper, tempera or acrylic paints (red, blue, yellow, brown, black and white), paintbrushes, plates to use as paint palettes, cups of water for cleaning brushes, paper towels, pencils, and Bibles. You may want to include idea books, stamps, markers, hairdryers to dry paint, glue, magazines, etc.
Connecting to God Through Art

The goal of prayerful art is not to create a masterpiece but to connect to God by trying to sense how the Spirit is moving you. Begin by setting the tone that this is a safe place to play with art and by giving artists permission to create. I begin by having students write the phrase, “I am an artist.” Ground rules include having an open heart, having fun, no put-downs, and no comparing your art to others.

Before beginning, explain the supplies that are available and the guidelines for the art time. Make clear where art supplies can be found and show examples of art that you or others created ahead of time. The time is spent like this:

  • Pray. Specifically pray that we can connect to God and sense the Holy Spirit through the creative process. Read a portion of Scripture such as a Psalm slowly, asking students to listen for words, phrases or images that come to mind. (5 minutes)
  • Create. Instruct artists to begin sketching or painting after hearing the Scripture, beginning with whatever words or images came to mind. (45-70 minutes, depending on project size and age/maturity of group)
  • art shareShare. A very meaningful part of this process is sharing what you have created with others. I reserve the last 10-15 minutes for small groups of 8-10 people to share their artwork and say a few words about it. Close with prayer and everyone helps with clean up.

Since incorporating art into my ministry, I have known many young men and young women who regularly turn to creating art as a way to connect with God. As you consider introducing art to your students, I encourage you to practice the process yourself. Enjoy your own time of growing spiritually through creating and you will inspire others to do so. I would love to hear how it works out for you – feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Blessings to you and your ministry,

Erin

Questions:

Have you used art as a spiritual practice in your own life?

How have you incorporated art into youth ministry?

What ideas would you share? What roadblocks?

 

 

Upcoming Articles:

The Need for Art in Youth Ministry– Part Two: Bible Journaling

The Need for Art in Youth Ministry– Part Three: Art Mission

 

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