Student Small Groups update (October 14th)

We had a great Wednesday night small groups!  High school attendance was average for this year while the middle school students had their biggest night yet!  The middle school kids all gave a big cheer to Sean and Raven who just got married this last weekend – talk about dedication to their small groups, they showed up this week!!!  Here’s a recap of the night with some discussion ideas for parents to use:

The middle school students covered the ‘Local and Global Missions’ lesson from SYM’s Active Bible Studies.  We focused on Matthew 22:37-39 (the great commandment) and Matthew 28:19-20 (the great commission).  We talked about local and global missions opportunities, from Sojourners Place, a homeless ministry here in Wilmington that our small groups work with, to praying for and supporting our international missionaries.  If you’re a parent of a middle schooler, here are some follow up activities and questions you can use this week:

  • What aspect of missions does your heart connect with most?  Why?
  • Is there something that you, or we as a family, could get involved with regularly?
  • Do you have a better understanding of some of the ways you can get involved in missions?
  • An idea for practical application: participate as a family in one of our church’s Third Saturday missions opportunities.  Dianna Shatley, our missions director, puts together local service opportunities every month that happen on the third Saturday of the month.  Check out our church website, for more information!

The high school small groups were in week three of a four week series entitled ‘Who am I?’ It’s a dvd series by Chuck Bomar that is absolutely amazing.  Each lesson features a ten minute or so video, followed by Bible study and discussion, all on the topic of finding our identity in Christ.  Ultimately, we are looking at different ways people are defined and some of the ways we try to define ourselves.  The focus of last night was moving beyond vocation – to help students move away from identifying themselves by their future job, their current role, etc., and see themselves and others as so much more.  Our identity needs to be rooted in truth, in how God sees us.  I like the way Chuck Bomar puts it, “Let your life be defined by your character as a follower of Christ.  Here are some follow up discussion questions from the study you can use at home:

  • What was the video about?  How would you sum it up?  What did you think of it?
  • In the video the following statement was made: “Doesn’t it seem shallow to let what we do for a living define who we are as a being?” What do you think about that statement? What do you think he meant?
  • Why do you think it’s so easy to gain a sense of identity in what we do for a living?
  • Read Ephesians 4:28. The context shows how believers should live differently, standing out from the rest of culture. What is the reason this specific verse says we should work or labor? How does this compare with our typical approach to working?

The Parent Link: Teen Edition

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I’m excited about a resource that’s new to us that we’re making available to parents of teens in our church!  The Parent Link is a monthly newsletter from Group that’s several pages long and includes reviews (movies, music, tv, games, etc.), devotional ideas, articles about youth culture – all sorts of relevant information for parents of teens.  I  like that it comes with two versions, a Word version and a Publisher version, both of which are completely editable and customizable.  I’m using it as part of a monthly email to parents; I actually add our calendar to the end of it and blast it out as one PDF file.

It’s all part of my goal of increased parent communication this year!  If you want to learn more about the Parent Link, click here!

Jr High Small Groups

Sweet! I just finished planning out this year’s middle school small group curriculum and had to take a moment to enjoy it!  In the past, we’ve let leaders basically do whatever they wanted and put the responsibility on them to find something for their group.  One of the things that I came away from this last year (I’m a couple weeks away from finishing my first year on staff here) is that the leaders would prefer for me to go ahead and give them something and let them work with that.  I’m kinda wired the same way, and I also like the idea of all our middle school students studying the same topics, even if it’s in different rooms, with different leaders and different spins.  It also makes it a lot easier to communicate what’s going on to parents, which is also a plus!  I settled on a combination of resources from Simply Youth Ministry for a couple reasons; the first being that they are excellent small group materials, and secondly (this was a big one), they come with permission to reproduce the heck out of them so I only had to buy one copy of each and now we’ll just used the included cd-roms to reproduce the handouts and leader guides, as well as make copies of the dvd sessions for all the leaders.  Very, very cool.

Throughout the year we’ll be using the 20 studies in the Active Bible Studies book.  It’s specifically written for middle schoolers and has a LOT of great ideas.  During the busiest parts of the year (the weeks before Christmas and graduation), we’ll be using two different five week dvd curriculums; the first is Jr High Bible Stuff Vol. 2, the second one is Jr High Tuff Stuff.  I’ve been impressed with all three resources and can’t wait to see how it goes this year!

All told, we’ll have 31 weeks of middle school small groups; the last night is a fun night, but between the above resources and a couple lessons from the Skit Guys’ You Teach Vol. 4 dvd, we’ll spend 18 weeks in study lessons, and 12 weeks with video based lessons.  We’re set for the year!  Definitely feels good to be able to say that!  Now I just have to tackle senior high small groups …

99 Thoughts for Youth Workers

I just finished reading Josh Griffin’s new book, 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers, and it’s great!  He’s the lead youth pastor at Saddleback Church (Rick Warren’s church), part of the Doug Field’s Simply Youth Ministry podcast crew and blogging king.  The thought that kept crossing my mind as I read it is that it’s kind of like the youth workers book of Proverbs.  There’s actually 113 thoughts, but whatever, I’m a youth pastor so I like getting 14 for free!  Basically, it’s split up into four big areas; Vision and Leadership, Programs and People, Small Groups and Events, and Everyday Ministry.  They’re short, insightful, and each thought is followed by a brief explanation of why it’s important.  Honestly, I as I was reading it I was seeing ideas for the program I lead, ways I can grow as a leader, and a solid resource that I’d love to get in the hands of all my volunteers.

As a resource for volunteers, it really shines.  It’s short, focused, easy to read, and full of solid advice and ideas that anyone from the lead person to the rookie intern could learn from.  What was really jumping out at me were the thoughts on parents; communicating with them, involving them, etc – definitely an area I want to grow more in and I felt like Griffin was giving me some solid direction!

All in all, I think it’s a great resource, definitely worth the $5 cover price (and if you order before the August 8th release, you get a free digital download – that’s how I got mine!), and a great resource to grab for your whole team as we roll into the new school year!

Praise Habit

David Crowder's Praise HabitI finally read David Crowder’s ‘Praise Habit,’ a book on worship.  His basic premise of the book was in expressing the ability and need to be worshipping in all that we do, not just Sunday mornings or during the songs we sing.  Much more of a holistic worship mentality.  The concept itself isn’t anything new, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant or important.

What makes this a great book compared to others on the topic is Crowder’s quirky writing style.  If you’ve ever seen him in concert or speaking, you know what I mean when I say that his voice comes through loud and clear on this book – the man knows how to capture himself on paper!  I loved his stories, metaphors, illustrations and memories all weaving in and out of what it means to put on a habit of praise throughout life.  A large section of the book is him expounding on some of his favorite Psalms and the worship that is in them – I looked at scripture passages in ways that I have never done before!

All in all, it’s a great book.  Easy and fun to read with a lot of thought provoking challenges and ideas.

Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community

Love is an OrientationLove Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community, the new book by Andrew Marin is probably the best thing out there that I’ve read on the relationship between the church and the gay community.  Absolutely fantastic book and a must read for any Christian!

I loved his emphasis on opening and sustaining dialogue – as opposed to the tendency usually seen to fight and set up battlefields.  What was so fascinating to me was the Biblical case for a loving discourse, without setting aside scripture or in some way compromising.  By elevating the conversation, he refers to actually having a conversation instead of the arguements and lines in the sand that normally seem to happen.  As I read what Marin wrote, I found myself over and over thinking this is what I’ve been looking for.  There is absolutely something broken in how the church as a whole in the United States has responded to and interacted with the gay community.  My frustration has always been that I am fairly conservative theologically, but even in that feel that the application of that theology has been misguided and directed wrong.  I feel as though we’ve had our priorities all wrong.  Is God more interested in making America a sinless haven or is His biggest priority the heart and lives of all His children?

But I digress!  The book is incredible.  Absolutely a must read, if for no other reason than to challenge your thinking.  This ‘issue’ isn’t going away and as a church we need to stop just reacting, demonizing those who don’t agree with ‘us’, and begin to seriously consider how Jesus would walk our communities and the responses that would come from Him.

Prepare Go Live review

Simply Youth Ministry and LeaderTreks have teamed up to create a new short term missions resource, Prepare Go Live!  I actually blogged about it’s release here, but now I’ve actually had some time to check out it, read the journals, play with the cd-rom, and in general go over it … and I love it!

Basically, it’s a devotional kit for before, during and after the short mission trip, specifically designed for student ministry.  The journals and leader guide are solid, well written resources.  I like that there are three seperate journals; one for before the trip, one for during the trip, and one with four follow up studies for after the trip.  Too many short term trips end when the trip is over without any real followup or application to life back at home.  This resource makes the follow up a significant component of the overall plan and I love that.

Ultimately, what makes this resource stand out in a resource world packed with mission trip options is the cd-rom.  It includes everything; PDF’s of the leader guide, the three journals, the clipart, t-shirt design files, posters, postcards, background images, letters and more.  It is packed with everything you need … and it comes with permission to print it up as much as you want.  I’m excited about that because I’ll be able to use this resource over and over in the coming years … without ever buying another copy of it or the journals!  We’ll print our own copies, I won’t be broken up when kids lose a copy, etc.  This is one I’ll definitely be coming back to over and over!

Terminator Salvation

Okay, I’m going to just come out and say it: I liked Terminator Salvation and enjoyed seeing it, but it wasn’t that great.

Here’s the deal.  I LOVE the first two movies.  They’re amazing.  Number three was good; didn’t compare to the first two, but it was good.  This one didn’t hold a candle to number three.

Now for some spoilers.

Maybe part of it was not having Arnold in the movie; the best five minutes in the whole thing was the CGI Arnold duking it out with John Conner (Christian Bale).  That part was awesome – pretty much made the movie worth the ticket price!

I think the fundamental problem came down to two issues for me.  One, that my wife and I both came away thinking there is no possible way that humanity could have survived in that future.  No possible way!  Their defenses were ridiculous, the machines were too advanced, too powerful and too numerous!  Impossible!

Which brings me to number two.  On the one hand the machines were overwhelming in numbers … and yet they only ever came after the humans one at a time!  What the heck???  John Conner is in the HEART of Skynet.  A bazillion machines all around and he is target numero uno, and they still only came at him one at a time.

And when did it get so easy to kill machines?  In the first three movies nothing would stop them short of melting them down.  Nothing.  Even machine vs. machine was a battle that warranted a whole movie.  Now the humans are gunning them down left and right, even going mano a mano with them and winning.

Finally, the whole Marcus thing.  Bizarre.  Didn’t really get it at all.

So, all that to say, I had an awesome time going to see it with my wife.  We enjoyed it, but thought it was pretty weak story-wise to the other films.  It definitely didn’t add anything new to the franchise.  Oh well!

Prepare Go Live mission trip pack

Simply Youth Ministry and LeaderTreks have teamed up to create a new short term missions resource, Prepare Go Live!  I’m very interested in it for a couple reasons; I’m a huge SYM fan – their stuff is always high quality, and I’ve bought and used mission trip resources from LeaderTreks in the past and have been consistently impressed.  They really know how to take the spiritual development side of the mission trip to the next level!

What’s interesting about this kit to me is the real emphasis on the follow up; there is a journal for preparing spiritually for the trip, a journal for the trip itself, and then a follow up journal for after the trip – which in many ways to me is the most important one of all!  If there’s no continuing application, it’s very easy for the students to forget to apply what they’ve experienced and learn to their every day life!

There’s a ton of resources included in the kit, but the thing that jumps out at me the most is the cd-rom.  It’s packed with resources, including the PDFs for each of the three journals and permission to reproduce the heck out of ’em.  So you have the option to buy the journals, or save some money and print them yourself – I love that Simply Youth Ministry consistently does that!  Anyway, read on for the ‘official’ product description or find it here:

Few things will bring the gospel to life for your students like heading out onto the mission field. Spending a day, weekend, or longer in service to God, for his love, and with people in need brings the calling of Christ vividly into focus. With this easy to implement 3-part missions trip curriculum, you’ll get everything you need to get your students ready (Prepare), devotions for the trip (Go), and follow-up materials (Live) to make their experience part of an ongoing, godly lifestyle. And what good would we be if we didn’t include helpful stuff for leaders to make the whole trip more fun for everyone? No good at all, so we’ve given you plenty.

1 Leader Guide with CD-ROM

5 Prepare Student Journals

  • Mission Includes Me
  • Mission is about the Kingdom
  • Mission is about the Team
  • Mission Never Ends

5 Go Student Journals: Study on the Book of James

  • Pushup Perseverance
  • Workouts Aren’t for Whiners
  • Discernment Dash
  • Tongue Crunches
  • Pushing to the Peak
  • Pushing to the End

5 Live Student Journals

  • The Journey Home
  • New Directions
  • Connected to a Cause
  • Life on a Mission

Files on the CD-ROM include:

  • Desktop Backgrounds
  • Slide Backgrounds
  • Ecards
  • Sticker Designs
  • Editable Letters
  • Editable Postcards
  • Promotional Materials
  • GO Luggage Tags
  • PDFs of the Leader Guide & all 3 Student Journals

Star Trek (2009)

star trekI saw the new Star Trek movie late Saturday night!  In short, I loved it!  It was a lot of fun, the space battles and special effects where the kind of spectacular action that Trek fans have always dreamed of, and the story was fast paced and riveting.  The rest of this post is will have spoilers … so don’t read it if you don’t want to know what happens!

I loved the scenes with Leonard Nimoy.  Absolutely loved them.  It was so fun to see him reprise his Spock role, and while it was just a few brief moments in the movie, they packed some of the best emotional punch to the film.  His interactions with young Kirk and Spock were great!

I’m still going back and forth on how I feel about these new films being an alternate timeline.  On the one hand, it’s a great plot device and frees them up to do whatever they want.  The destruction of Vulcan sent the message that nothing is safe here … which I do like.  On the other hand, it’s a little disconcerting that it’s not the ‘universe’ I’ve grown up with.  Either way, it’s a great way to reboot the series while still being able to claim that it doesn’t disrupt the Star Trek ‘canon.’

Chekov.  Ug.  Did NOT like the over acting on the accent.  It was too much.

Bones.  WOW.  The actor that played the doctor … he nailed it.  Completely!  Even his voice, his inflections, his tone … there were times I felt like I could close my eyes and think I was listening to Deforest Kelley (original actor)!

All in all, I loved the movie.  I missed the depth of story that some of the old films had – this one relied more on action, like most movies today, but at the same time, it was exciting to discover a new Star Trek universe!  Thanks to an opening weekend that made MORE money than they expected, and the fact that they had already green lit the sequel … I think we can rest assured that this film has definitely restarted a stalled franchise!