Monday, April 30, 2012

Advice for a Woman

If I could tell a woman anything:
I would tell her that she doesn't need to be validated by a man. That she is validated by God, and God is so much more important than what any human thinks of her.
I would tell her that she has intrinsic value. She has value because she was created in the image of God, not because of what she looks like, dresses like, sounds like, or what she does. She has value just because she was created.
I would tell her that sometimes our earthly fathers don't treat us the way they should have, and that leaves us feeling empty. Don't try to fill it with the love of other men, you will only be left feeling more used, and more broken than when you started. Fill it with the Father who will never leave you or use you, who wants to make you whole.
I would tell her to look inside herself and fall in love with herself. To find things that she loves, that bring her joy, that build her up, and to do those things. To experience those things.
I would tell her that instead of wasting time comparing yourselves to other women, take the time to love them. Take the time to get to know them, and you might find out that they are just human too. You might even find a friend you were too busy comparing yourself to, to get to know.
I would tell her that the only way to be whole and complete is to realize that the opinion of man doesn't matter, only the opinion of God and your opinion of yourself.
I would tell her that the romantic comedies are wrong, that it doesn't take a man to complete you, it just takes God. It takes 2 whole people to create a healthy relationship, not 2 halves. A whole person doesn't need a romantic relationship, and when you realize that, the romantic relationships become the blessing they are supposed to be, not something you are dependent on for survival.
I would tell her to think with her heart and her head, for both are important, but never listen to the lies in your head, that tell you you aren't good enough, pretty enough, strong enough, or whatever enough.
I would tell her she is loved, and that she doesn't need to run off somewhere to find herself, she just needs to draw close to the heart of God.
I would tell her to serve others, because that is one of the best ways to draw close to the heart of God, to see God face to face, and thus, find yourself.
I would tell her to pray, because that is the most powerful thing anyone can do.
I would tell her to measure her life by the lives she has touched, and not the number on the scale or inside her dress.
I would tell her that life is beautiful, even when it rains, because rain brings growth and beauty in ways we can not see in the storm.
I would tell her to hold on, because when the storms do get rough, the plants that survive are the ones with deep roots.
I would tell her to have deep roots. To bury them deep in the word of God.
I would tell her we all make mistakes, we've all made mistakes, but it's who we are today that defines us, not what we did yesterday.
I would tell her be strong, be confidant, be a leader. The world needs more strong confidant women, it already has enough super models.
I would tell her, if you are a mom, be the best mom you can be. If you aren't but wish you were, our value does not come from our ability to bear children any more than it comes from our dress size.
I would tell her, if you are an auntie, be the best auntie you can be. If you aren't an auntie but wish you could be, adopt a neighbor kid, or tutor. There are ways to invest in the kids of tomorrow, family isn't always blood, it's love and heart.
I would tell her, if you are a friend, be the best friend you can be. If you aren't a friend, be one, and you will be amazed how many friends you end up with.
I would tell her, if you are scared, don't let your fear over come you. Be strong and courageous. Stand firm in your faith.
You are loved. You are valuable. You are created in the image of God. You are amazing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

So your daughter wants to date my son?

A response to

 1. You must love Jesus and others. A relationship with God isn't about legalistic rules and how long you read your bible, it's a journey that is about loving God and others. Though we want you to have good spiritual disciplines, we understand you are a teenager and that this journey of faith takes many twists and turns. We understand that you will make mistakes, but that Jesus is big enough to handle all of them. We also want you to be moving towards a faith that is your own, and not a faith that is your parents. We will ask you how you have served others, been kind, and had compassion, because the truest test of faith is an outflow in your life, not how long your devotional time is.

 2. We trust that you will make the right decisions in regards to purity. If you have questions, come to us, and talk to us. We'd rather have you talk to us, then continue to make mistakes you feel you have to hide. We also understand that teen girls want to have sex as much as teen boys, both of you need to make decisions that are good and right. It isn't up to one of you alone.

 3. We'd like to get to know your parents. We will have them over for dinner some time. If you don't have a great relationship with your parents, we understand. Not everyone is blessed with the perfect home, it's the choices that you make now that matter, not your parents' choices.

 4. Our son will pay for things, but he doesn't have a job. He is a teenager. His top priority is his school work, church, and being a kid. He has his whole life to work, he doesn't have his whole life to be a teenager. He is responsible and will buy you dinner, but don't expect him to spend thousands of dollars on you, you are after all, only in high school.

 5. If you want to friend me on Facebook you can. Nothing should be posted that you wouldn't want me to see anyway, but it is weird to have the guy you are dating's mom as a friend, I completely understand.

 6. Your sexy underwear is your business, but if I see it, it becomes mine. I really just don't want to see it.

 7. Teenagers dating are trying to impress the other person, if you are nagging, belittling, rude, gossipy, or self-righteous, I will talk to you about it. I not only want the best for our son, but the best for you too.

8. I am my son's pastor, and his mom... I don't need to meet your pastor to determine the type of Christian you are, or the type of character you have, I can tell that by your life. If I'm curious about what you believe or are being taught, we can have a conversation about it.

 9. Love is a complicated thing. It may seem silly to us that you have strong feelings, but those feelings are real to you right now. We'll try to limit our eye rolling at your puppy love, if you promise to take things slow and think things through.

 10. We trust that you can be alone with our son, we know we can't monitor you 24/7 anyway. We understand that girls are just as sexual as boys, and that both of you have to make the decision to have self control. We trust you until the trust gets broken. In our house their are certain rules, outside of our house, you need to make the best decisions for both of you.

 11. We don't make threats or physically harm people. You are a teenager, and it is our role as adults in your life to help mold and shape you, not threaten or harm you.

 12. We don't tell our son who he can date, because we've raised him to make good, and godly decisions without us dictating every little thing he can do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Hate Youth Ministry Games

I'm not talking about some obscure metaphorical mind game, I'm talking about real, literal, games. Games that are messy, that are clean, that involve teams, that involve individuals... all of them. I'm really not a fan. Every youth ministry internship I did played these crazy games. The kids would be split into teams, or individually have some sort of activity. They did this... every single week. A couple of things seemed really odd to me, first, why do they feel obligated to play games every week? It seems like a complete waste of time, to scour the internet for a new idea, and a waste of resources to spend who knows how much money on that food/shaving cream/string/baloons/whatever, only for it to be thrown out less than 10 minutes later. Second, half, if not more, of the students would be sitting on the side, refusing to play, while all the time being told by the youth pastor and the volunteers that worked with them that playing the game wasn't optional. They were told and harassed that they didn't have the option to sit on the sides, so if they actually listened and decided to play, they were absolutely miserable. Lastly, what does playing games have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Is there some part of scripture that I missed, where Jesus and his disciples were out playing poop deck? When Paul was out planting churches, was there a lost scroll of how he played chubby bunny with the new church leaders? When I became the youth pastor, vs. just the youth ministry intern, I decided intentionally to chuck the weekly game playing out the window. Do we ever play games? Of course! We play games at lock-ins, in the summer time when our schedule is different, or when we have fellowship times that are set aside for that, but we don't have organized game time on a regular basis. This was an important decision for me as a youth pastor. First, I don't like to waste my time or resources. Both are vitally important to me. If I have extra time I want it to be spent investing in students, I want it to be spent praying or studying, and quite frankly, sometimes I just want my time to be able to browse Facebook, read a book that's completely unrelated to ministry, or watch a TV show. My time is precious, and sucking it into hours of time preparing something because "it's what we've always done" seems silly and wasteful to me. The other side of that is the resources. I have seen youth pastors talk about their huge budget, and so "we might as well buy this".... It drives me crazy! There are so many things a youth ministry budget can go towards... some examples, scholarships for teens to go to camp/missions trips/retreats, outreach projects that the teens can do in the community, buying food for the youth ministry, using it to purchase something that outlasts you in the church (new carpeting in the youth room, a new dry erase board), or maybe use it to buy support packs for your parents, set up a scholarship fund for your high school grads.... I could go on. Granted, some people have budgets they have to use for something, but trust me, there are other ways to use it than buying 48 cans of shaving cream to spray all over each other in 10 minutes of soapy fury on the front yard of the church... maybe you could buy plants for the front lawn and plant them together instead. I also do not understand why we insist on forcing students to participate in something they don't want to do. Theologically, I think this is a horrible way to connect students with God. What does that say to them about a relationship with Christ, if their relationship with the youth ministry is one where they are forced to do things they hate? That may seem silly, but last time I checked, God gives us free will to follow or not, yet we get all bent out of shape when a student doesn't want to play a silly game. Granted, there are rules that need to be followed (don't jump off the church roof, don't play in the baptismal...) and the rules are important for them to learn and understand, but let's be honest, if the Senior Pastor got up on Sunday morning and asked us to play freeze tag for 15 minutes before the message, most of us would refuse to do so as well, and I think you would be justified in doing so. That's a completely different situation than running across the pews. I also think that students days are scheduled enough for them. They have to go to gym class and play stupid games, and be told what to do... they hear it all the time. Maybe what they need instead of a game is 15 minutes, where they can just talk with friends and adults, without someone telling them "Don't talk, we are doing this now." Finally, being a disciple of Jesus isn't about a competition. It isn't about who is the fastest, who is the strongest, or who can eat the most gross stuff without throwing up. It's about being radically sold out to Jesus, and loving him and those around you. I think we might see more disciples if we did things together the disciples did actually do with Jesus. 1) Eat together. Instead of having game time, we have dinner together. It gives all of us a chance to talk about what happened that week, and gives us time just to fellowship without feeling obligated to participate. We laugh, we talk, and some kids even play games (go figure!). Nothing is forced, nothing is mandatory, it's just a way for us to live life together. 2) Pray together. Take time to pray for one another's needs. Take time to pray about things that affect the whole church. Take time to teach students to pray out loud. It's important that the youth pastor, or senior pastor isn't the only one they hear pray... that they are given opportunities to pray, and learn that they can do it. 3) Read scripture together. Don't just do a quick devotional, but actually open up Bibles. Teach students how to find things in the Bible. Don't just put the verse on a screen for them, but give them a bible and have them learn to find things. Ask them questions about what things mean, ask them how those verses affect them now. This should be an opportunity for them to learn and grow. 4) Lastly, live life with them. DOn't just ask about what is going on in your life, tell them what is going on in yours. When we make dinner, we make it at the church and the kids help us... they cut up fruit, they stir soup, they take things out of the oven. We do normal every day things with them. We tutor kids before youth group. We hang out with kids, and do dishes with them after youth group. These all seem like mundane things, but they are every day things. Things we do as adults. Things that aren't optional, and we have to learn to be disciples in the midst of our every day things. Games are fun, and they are great at the right time and the right place, but I fear that we have forgotten why we do what we do in the first place, when they are a part of our every week youth ministry life. Are we here to create kids who view christianity as fun and games, or are we here to make disciples?