They Loved Me – They Really Loved Me.

springhillI spent a week at 5th and 6th grade camp.  I think I’ve done that almost every year since I WAS a 5th and 6th grader.

As I walked down the hill from my cabin last night, I could hear sponsors trying to call the kids to order; trying to herd those cats into their respective cages. And just like that, I was transported back to Spring Bluff.  The ringing of the bell meant it was time to head to the next thing.  And the flashlight of Brother Bill signaled how much trouble we were in for being out of our cabins!

Brother Bill – a true saint departed – roamed those grounds all night with his flashlight…sometimes masquerading as the pitching mound on the baseball field as the moon reflected from his rotund, white T-shirt clad midsection.  He roamed because he loved us.

Mitch and Cindy – our ‘parents’ in almost every sense of the word – allowed us each a small glimpse of a healthy happy family, whether we needed it or not.  They laughed with us.  They cried with us.  And now that I’m a youth pastor, I know how much they prayed for us.  They prayed because they loved us.

Larry, Julian, Burt, David, and 100 other partners in crime – my youth group ‘posse’ – tolerated, tortured, and sometimes teased….more than any of us ever should have.  And we listened to each other.  We listened because we loved.

And that small, round older lady – our ninja grandma whose name I cannot recall but whose face I still see clearly – made us clean our own tables, do the dishes again if we did a bad job, threatened us with a wooden spoon when we needed it, and treated every condition we ever had with water, band-aids, patience and a fierce kindness.  She bossed because she loved.

I don’t remember a single camp theme.  I no longer have any of the awards I got (not even Mr. Underpants…or whatever it was.)  I can’t even remember how many times I went to church camp as a kid.  What I do remember?  Those people loved me.  THEY changed my life forever.  Because they loved me.  And when you spend a week at camp, you become a lover who changes lives.  Never forget the role you play…it can rewrite legacies.

Youth Ministry Tips I got from the Grammys

sara-bareilles-carole-king-grammys-brave-beautiful-mashup-at-grammys-2014-videoI love me a good awards show.  It doesn’t matter if I’m ‘into’ what’s being awarded or not.  (Like half the awards shows I watch I don’t even know what they’re for!!)  I like to watch so I can smack-talk the whole time.  One day, I want to have my own ‘can you believe she wore that’ show on some second-rate cable channel.

So, last night, I dutifully tuned in to the Grammys.  And I spent ample time on Facebook being silly and making jokes and marveling at the fact that Metallica got old and Willie Nelson is still alive.

But I also took away an amazing word-picture of what I believe most churches are missing in their youth ministries.

The Grammys has taken to some pretty amazing live performance mash-ups.  Techno with balladeers.  Concert pianists with metal heads.  Rap stars with rock stars.

But one of the more poignant performances in last night’s show was given by an old/new mash-up. Sara Bareilles joined forces with Carole King and gave us this amazing performance.  At the end of the performance, Ms. Bareilles is very obviously enraptured with this music icon and honored to have played alongside her.

We’re missing that in youth ministry when:

a) We just throw curriculum in the hands of leaders and say ‘teach this’.  Every leader has an experience to share – an expertise to wield – a story to pass down.  Make sure you teach them how to do that – and then give them space to do it!

b)  We only use one age group to lead.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction to assume that only 20-somethings and few hipster 30’s can get the youth ministry job done.  Age is a crown of glory – and if we aren’t utilizing leaders from every generation, we aren’t doing church biblically.

c)  We get caught up in our current culture and dismiss the cultures that have come before.  One of the most beautiful (and sometimes strange) parts of the 2014 Grammys were the unusual duets and trios comprised of artists from seemingly opposed musical genres.  It was a little messy at times – but it made for some very compelling performances and an awards show that was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.  To do less in our youth ministries is very one directional.  (pun definitely intended.)

So take a youth ministry lesson from the Grammys – and enlist a grammy or granddad to participate in the student ministry.  Mix it up.  Make a beautiful mess.  And see if your students don’t respond a lot like Sara did at the end of her riffs with Carole – giddy, enthralled, and amazed!