Over the last week, our student ministry has done both of our middle school and high school Christmas parties! For us, that means time to hang out, Christmas cookies, and a lot of group games! We decorate our gym with a lot of Christmas colored lights, Christmas music, and Christmas inflatables (giant Santas – stuff you would put in your front yard – it’s easy to set up and tear down!). It’s a night all about fun! Two things we added this year that we haven’t done in previous years:
We bought a Christmas photo backdrop! This was GREAT. Everyone wanted to get photos in front of it! I brought a nice camera, which meant everyone was good with me taking the photos! Here’s the backdrop we got.
We called it an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party … and SO MANY kids wore festive outfits. It was amazing!
Overall, the games were a hit and we had a blast. Here’s what we played, which group played it (they all would work both groups … I have fun changing it up), and the links to find them:
Santa’s Naughty List; Middle and High School. This one just released! It’s a ‘Wheel of Destiny’ game on Sidekick that comes up with punishments (Christmas themed dares) for kids who end up on Santa’s Naughty List!
Santa’s Feud; Middle and High School. Using the ‘Survey Says’ app in Sidekick, I put together a ‘Family Feud’ style Christmas game. This has become a tradition at our Christmas party – kids LOVE it! There are a couple great ones already on the DYM store.
Exchange It! Middle and High School. A new twist on the classic White Elephant game! Using the wheel of destiny, kids are rotated all around the room until you decide to let them open the presents! I modified the different cues to line up with my group more, but this game is a winner.
Christmas Movie Madness; High School. I love this game! I played it with the whole room; kids threw their hands up if they knew the answer, I called the first one I saw, and if they were right they got candy.
Jingle Battles volume 2; High School. Stupid fun, which is my kind of fun. I had everyone stand up, move to the side of the room they thought would win, and then sit down if they were wrong. It took about five rounds to get to one winner!
Our student ministry has been posting short devos called “Insta Devos” to our Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s been a fun way to see students interact with scripture and share their insights with one another. This week, our youngest – Zach – who is moving up into the youth group in a few weeks, did one as well! I’m super proud of him … it’s my favorite Insta Devo!
Last March we launched the Renew Student Conference, a local discipleship event hosted at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church, with two goals; (1) to get young people from all over the region in the same space worshiping and learning together, and (2) to see it led by voices from leaders from a variety of churches and student ministries.
Our first year was a big roll of the dice. The goal was to see if we could 150 people to come out; that felt like the threshold for pulling the trigger on future years. We brought in Illijam, a hip hop artist, and the Skit Guys, as well as invited four local youth workers to teach and two local student worship bands to lead worship.
We were blown away by the response; 19 churches participated! 320 students and youth leaders came out! We had an amazing two days … and learned a LOT about how to organize a conference event and where we could improve.
The 2020 Renew Student Conference is going to be March 6-7. It’s still five months away, but I’m starting to get really excited. We’ve added breakouts this year which opens the door to getting a lot more local youth workers leading, as well as more opportunities for teens from different churches to connect. With Andrew Stanley coming to do a comedy set and Propaganda (!!!) coming to do a concert and be one of our speakers, it’s shaping up to be an even more amazing year. I can’t wait to see how it comes together!
This photo was taken almost ten years ago on a service weekend in Philadelphia. I stumbled across it last week; it has a lot of emotions tied up in it.
It was a fun moment. I love Rocky, I loved getting my picture at the statue, loved having fun with these students, loved seeing them serve. I was their new youth pastor and excited about the future.
A few years ago I attended the funeral for one of them. A few weeks ago, I performed a wedding for one, and a week ago I officiated at the funeral for another. One of the best moments followed by one of the worst moments.
Ministry is full of joy and heartbreak. A long youth ministry tenure only heightens that. It is a gift to involved in people’s lives, to be invited into their best and worst moments. It is energizing and exhausting. It’s often times overwhelming, but I’m thankful for the calling.
Melissa and Zach pulled off a massive surprise for Heather and I at the fall retreat this year; we had no idea they had been collecting videos, notes and pictures from current and former students and leaders to put together a video (see above) and a memory book to honor our ten years at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church (August 24th marked the official ten years since I had started). It’s not often that I am that caught off guard or speechless!
All that to say, I really, REALLY appreciate everyone who contributed to it and a huge thank you to Melissa and Zach for making it happen!
The summer series on Apologetics is a wrap! I enjoyed putting together this adult class and am really happy with how it all turned out. Overall, I hope it was a great resource for people, and ultimately, helped those who attended have a greater understanding of the scriptures and their calling to be a part of God’s plan for reaching the world. The audio and powerpoint/handouts are all available for those who want to revisit the series, or dive into weeks they missed:
If you’re in our MyBrandywine system, you can access the handouts and powerpoints through the Summer Series group.
We just concluded a series a couple weeks ago in our Sunday morning high school group that I had a lot of fun putting together. Over the course of three weeks we tackled the question of faith and science. For me, there was a basic, underlying purpose to the series as a whole; we know that, depending on the survey, something like 60-80% of young people disappear from the church when they finish high school. We also know that the number one reason given for this is over the issue of science and faith; that for many young people, their church’s present it as an either/or scenario, that you can only choose one. And when they see compelling evidence for scientific claims that conflict with what their church’s taught them growing up, they feel like they don’t have a choice. My goal was to help reframe the question, to give students room to reconcile faith and science without dictating a ‘right’ answer.
I’m a nerd, so yes, I lifted the title, and the weekly titles, from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I also used Doctor Who and A Wrinkle in Time as well. More importantly, I drew on a LOT of theologians who have done far better work on this topic than I ever could to help shape the content. Here’s what the three weeks looked like (click the title to hear the audio):
The Ultimate Question: We kicked off the series by wrestling with the question of whether or not we are asking the right questions when it comes to faith and science. What is the ultimate purpose of scripture? Does our cultural values give us unexpected bias while we read these ancient documents?
Don’t Panic: We continued the series by taking a closer look at different theories of origins, ancient cultural values and beliefs, and Genesis 1. Is it possible to have different beliefs regarding origins and still honor God? How would the ancients have understood the first chapter of Genesis, and how should that inform our reading of it? Whatever you do, don’t panic!
Mostly Harmless: We concluded the series by comparing the creation narratives of humanity in Genesis 1 and 2. How do we explain the dramatically different order of creation found in these opening chapters of the Bible? In exploring how the ancients would have understood the Hebrew terminology used in both accounts, reconciling the two accounts is possible.
Anyway, it was a fun series to work on … and I’m hoping to continue to refine and adjust the content in the years to come.
This past weekend was my tenth (!!!) winter retreat with Brandywine Valley Baptist Church; it was definitely one of the better ones! We had a great time. I actually went into the weekend a little worried; the weather was so mild in the weeks building up to the trip that there was no snow on the ground and the frozen pond … wasn’t frozen enough to play on.
So we changed it up. Saturday morning the group went on a hike to the top of a nearby hill, which they were surprised by how much they loved doing. That afternoon we went to an indoor water park; always a big hit in the middle of winter. Our theme for the weekend was “Run.” We had some fun with the children playing signs in our region that bear a striking resemblance to our intern, Zach, pointing out that they aren’t “no running” signs, but rather, alerts that someone IS running. That for us, those signs are now a reminder that we are running after Christ. We even made stickers and shirts to give out as reminders and prizes, which were a big hit.
All in all, it was a really fun weekend. The messages really seemed to flow together and the teens seem to resonate with what they were hearing. It was the largest turnout we have ever had – we literally ran out of beds and maxed the place out! And no injuries! If you want, you can check out the photos on our Facebook page.
We had our annual student ministry winter retreat this past weekend … which meant we needed to have rules! I’m too tired to post a weekend recap – but it was a good trip! The weather started off mild, but we got a few inches of snow Saturday night so it all ended with a snowball fight!
The other week I finished teaching through the book of Lamentations in our Sunday morning student hour. It was a part of our larger, seven year teaching plan that includes walking students through every book of the Bible. It is a fascinating book, one I have not been able to stop thinking about. Essentially, if you’re not familiar with it, it is five poetic laments written and/or collected by the prophet Jeremiah, which the Israelite people would gather each year to read out loud together as they processed their grief from having been utterly defeated by the Babylonians. They had lost their independence, their capital had been destroyed, and perhaps the most devastating to their identify, the temple had been reduced to rubble. Over the course of three weeks we explored three significant themes that are throughout the poetry of Lamentations; God’s judgement, God’s compassion, and God’s sovereignty. What is particularly powerful about Lamentations to me is that it does not wrap up with a happy ending; they are still just as ruined at the end of it as they are in the beginning. The writer(s) are brutally honest with their pain, their loss, their suffering and their grief. And its final words – recited together as a community annually – ends with the question of whether or not God will help them or has He completely rejected them.
It’s powerful because it puts into words what so many of us feel during our times of suffering but are often times afraid to speak. Lamentations gives us permission to take all of our pain and suffering in its fullness and bring it out into the open to God. It gives us words to our heartbreak. Ultimately, it is a powerful lesson on how to grieve, something that I think our culture does not do well at. We tend to bottle things in, to celebrate those who are able to get back to normality quickly with comments like, “Wow, he’s handling it really well,” when in reality, that burying of pain is the opposite of handling it well.