For those of us who have been in Youth Ministry before we were parents or even as we were parenting our own babies, we have a unique perspective on what it is like to parent teens. While being a youth leader may be easier in many instances, it has taught us some interesting lessons and helped us as we struggle with our own teens. We talk about these lessons in this podcast. Everything from understanding the emotions of transitioning out of high school, to juggling busy schedules, to handling life questions that teens tend to throw at us. We acknowledge the impact that the youth in our lives had on our children growing up and how those relationships have shaped who they have become. Being a youth leader has so many blessings. This podcast talks about one of the biggest as it shaped us into the parents we have become.
During the pandemic, young people were stuck in their homes, unable to go to school or socialize face to face with friends. However, they did find a place to “gather” that gave them a common bond. Tik Tok, a video-sharing app owned by a Chinese company launched worldwide in 2018 according to Wikipedia. It existed a couple years before the pandemic shutdown; however, Tik Tok launched into a frenzy of popularity, especially for those of us outside of Gen Z, after March 2020. In fact, if you ask a young person, they can reminisce about all the trends that happened each month of the pandemic. One of those trends since so many families were spending all day together, all ages began working together to create dance moves and other content for the app. Celebrities got in on the fun as well. Even though we were stuck at home without new movie releases or live concerts, we did get a peek into the lives of stars like Justin and Hailey Bieber and JLo through their personal Tik Tok accounts. There are a number of people who rose to Tik Tok fame in the last two years. Here are a few with the number of followers, in millions: Charli D’Amelio (126.8), Khabane Lame (117.2), Addison Rae (85.2), Bella Poarch (83.8), Zach King (66). For a comparison of stars: Justin Bieber (22.9), JLo (14.1), Will Smith (63.4). (Please note these numbers were at the time of publishing this, they go up by the thousands daily.)
Why should we, adults who live and work with young people, care about TikTok? We barely have time to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, why add another app? We need to be aware of the “world” where our young people are spending their time. While we do not have to live there with them, and be careful because TikTok can be a bit of a rabbit hole this is difficult to get out of, we do need to be aware of what they are watching and to whom they are giving their time.
By now, you hopefully have heard about the Devious Licks challenges that were going around in schools this fall. If not, Google it and take a look. It started as vandalizing bathrooms, and next was supposed to move to slapping teachers, video recording these and posting them on social media. Schools came down hard on offenders and hopefully, have put and end to the trend. A positive trend that start in response was Angelic Yields where students began putting items such as lotions, soaps and even a coffee pot into the bathrooms as their schools to oppose the vandalism trend.
A word of advice as well. TikTok, like other social media, uses an algorithm and will show you videos that match your habits. So, for instance I see videos about cooking, crafts, devotions and general soccer mom stuff. So, you will need to have a conversation with and possibly sit down next to your young person to watch their TikTok in order to be in their world. You may think that they will not want to share or will shy away from you being in their business, but the opposite is quite true. Many times, you will surprise them with your interest in their lives. Just watch and ask questions, do not criticize. If you view something you do not like or disagree with, ask the young person their thoughts or opinions and then respond with your feelings using “I” statements.
Take a listen to this podcast where a pastor, youth leader and I talk about all of this and respond to this growing social media application.
As October comes to an end, and we contemplate ministry this fall/winter, we are still faced with the difficulties of living during this pandemic in a very devasive political climate. For many church leaders, especially youth leaders, not much has changed in twelve months except the number of children and teens who are suffering from this virus. So, where does that leave us? How do we navigate a ministry when so many factors are in play?
While being out talking with youth leaders, many are struggling with similar roadblocks. Here are just a few:
- It is difficult to know who is even a part of the youth group.
- Volunteers are gone or those around do not want to give of their time anymore
- Feeling weary and tired. Being creative and finding new ways to reach teens is exhausting
- There has not been a break in 18 months
- Do we meet face to face? Outside or inside? Wear masks or not? Social distance at youth group?
- What does the future look like for youth ministry?
Here is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give right now. Through all of these questions, exhaustion and uneasiness. Keep the main thing the main thing. Work on relationships. Reach out to teens, their parents and volunteers. Do not worry about how many are showing up for face to face events at the church, keep track of how many interactions (text, social media, phone calls, cards and conversations in the community) you have in a week. Use your time to reach out to them and even meet them where they are (if policies and health permits). Do not keep the expectations we had prior to March of 2020 that our “youth group” happens at the church. It is time we move away from the old model for ministry and start to shape what discipleship with young people will look like post-pandemic.
We address some of these questions in this podcast. But I will continue to address these complications in this blog as we move forward into 2022. Please subscribe and check back.
Chasity and I discuss the book we are currently reading in our book club this month. It’s a great one! John Mark Comer takes us through his own struggle in finding quiet, peace and sabbath in his own life. He talks about hurry is not from God and how it can in face separate us from God. Take a listen, even if you haven’t read the book. You may be inspired to reflect on this hurried life we all lead and actually do something different.
We have monthly book clubs that meet the last week of the month. You do not need to read the book to be a part of the conversation. There are four different options and can be found here: https://www.eocumc.com/youngpeople/yln.html
You kind find the book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Ruthless-Elimination-Hurry-emotionally-spiritually/dp/1529308380/ref=sxts_b2b_sx_reorder_v3_customer?crid=2HVY059J268NZ&cv_ct_cx=the+ruthless+elimination+of+hurry&dchild=1&keywords=the+ruthless+elimination+of+hurry&pd_rd_i=1529308380&pd_rd_r=1be43837-fe3b-44e6-b14e-0697baaa612a&pd_rd_w=pCz2X&pd_rd_wg=bq6Qr&pf_rd_p=957bd7e3-74ac-4a2b-82e1-84ce13da595b&pf_rd_r=453QKFKMJ8J9321A3DQW&qid=1634746497&sprefix=ruthless%2Caps%2C331&sr=1-1-722db4e4-77fc-4fb6-8cee-654ad16ce1d5
Podcast: (Can be found on iTunes as well.)
Change is hard. We love the safety of the familiar. When we do things the same way, week after week, month after month, year after year, we know how to prepare and what to expect. But what happens when the world changes around us, even when we continue in the safety of our routine?
Our children are growing up in a very different world than we did, and it is time we develop new maps for them. I remember days of getting up in the morning, jumping on my bike, without a helmet, and taking off with my friends. I came home when I got hungry for my bologna sandwich only to take off again until the street lights came on. Adults talk about “the good ol’ days” all the time. But yet, we have created a world that is both expanding and shrinking where our maps and methods are antiquated.
Tim Elmore talks about the need for new maps in his book, “Marching Off the Map.” Ironically, he wrote this prior to the pandemic; however, it speaks even more into our situation today. Elmore does an outstanding job laying out the “Why, What, and How” for educators, coaches, youth leaders, parents and employers of the younger generations. With all the research and insight in this book, those of us leading young people are hard pressed not to change the approach we take to connect with those we seek to lead.
You can find the podcast where we talk about our responses and highlights of the book here. Do yourself, and the young people in your life a favor and read this outstanding book. It will open your eyes.
On the anniversary of the day our world began to shut down, I invited some of my crew to talk about what we have learned, how we survived and who we have become during this past year. We also begin the discussion about moving forward. The other lesson we share in this podcast is the importance of finding your “crew” to journey with you. No matter your profession, we have all been called. You crew shares in the call and supports you through it. Find your crew! It makes things like a pandemic way easier!
Two years ago today, we sent our son off to Marine boot camp. It’s a day I will never forget, and one I never want to relive. After his first year at college, he decided it wasn’t for him. He explored his options and decided he wanted to be a Marine. This took some getting used to, but we never said no which surprised him. He turned 20 during those 13 weeks of boot camp, and through all my tears and worry, I grew stronger as a person and a mom. I remember sitting down next to a colleague, a Marine Dad, the next day in a meeting, and he told me this may be hard now, but just wait for graduation day, it will be the proudest day of your life. Those words stayed with me, and proved to be absolutely true.
Looking back, it was exactly what he needed to do and the best decision he has made. He has learned a trade that, if he choses, will allow him to make six figures in the civilian world. He can take college classes while he is serving, and he can finish his degree, for free. We don’t know what the future holds or what he will decide for his career, but as parents, we are excited that he has options.
I share our story with you in this blog and podcast simply for other parents to see that college is not the only option or even the right one for every high school graduate. Sometimes it is the path taken because nothing else is considered or even accepted. Our son graduated with an awesome GPA, is quite smart, was studying engineering and playing soccer in college. But none of that mattered because he was not happy. We do have a few military family members, so we were not opposed to him joining; however, quite honestly, I was selfish and just didn’t want MY son serving. But now I proudly say, my son is a Marine. It’s still not easy. The amount of time we spend together is short. We are so thankful that at the moment is serves on U.S. soil. (I pray for those family members that are not a fortunate to say that.) We have hopes and dreams for our children the minute we find out we will be parents. Sometimes, our dreams for them do not line up with their goals. While this isn’t easy, there comes a point in their lives that we must believe we have raised them the best we can and it is time for them to soar. After all, they are God’s children first. God will be with them through it all, even those times we are not near.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
***Disclaimer…I do not intend for this post to be politically charged or meant to support any political biases***
Given the recent madness and violence in our country, I do not believe that it is ironic that this is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and that the Inauguration falls in the same week. As I have watched in horror the videos of everything that happened in Washington DC on January 6th, and all the social media rampage in the aftermath, I couldn’t help but wonder how our political afflictions gained priority over our Christian call.
I realize that because of our faith convictions, we tend to support one political party or candidate over another; however, how in the world, brothers and sisters, have we got to this place in our country? The amount of hate spewed at one another at one another on social media is appalling. We have allowed those platforms to be a place of hate for our fellow Christians for the whole world to see. How is this being a witness for Christ?
As we also celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King today, and his message of unity, be inspired by this quote from him. “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.” While he was addressing the importance of unity between races and ethnicities, I suggest that we also use his words to motivate us to seek Christian Unity no matter where our differences lay.
Let’s focus on some scripture to pull us back together. After all, we are on the same team and need to work TOGETHER to further the kingdom of God because we have been called by God, no matter your gender, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation, we are ALL CALLED. If you lead, live or work with teens or young adults, you can use this as a time of devotion with them or allow it to be a conversation starter. They are watching and learning from the adults around them, may we be a positive example for this generation.
John 15:16-17: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2015%3A16&version=NIV says that God chose us, we don’t choose Him, He picks us to go and bear fruit that lasts. Meaning, when we spread love, peace, kindness, gentleness, (Fruits of the Spirit: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%205%3A22-23&version=NIV) they last.
- What are some ways we can do this? Especially now we we can not always be with people physically?
- What are some ways to handle a situation with someone when we don’t agree with them?
- What are some ways that God has called you to spread “fruit”?
- How has politics and faith intersected in your life? Has your faith shaped your political views?
- This week is Christian Unity Week, how can we become a part of unifying Christians? Is it too big of a chasm for us to do anything about repairing?
- Since this is MLK Day, what do you know about his work that helped to unify people/Christians?
Prayer: (Modified for young people from the link below)
God of love, Jesus told us that you did not chose me, but I chose you. You pursue us, and invite us into a friendship with you. Show is how we can deepen this friendship with you so that our lives may be more complete.
God of live, you call us to be light in this world of darkness and to welcome those around us as gifts of your grace. May your loving gaze, which rests on every single person, open our eyes to loving one another just as we are.
God who gather, you weave us together as one vine in your son Jesus. May your loving Spirit move in us, no matter where we are or who is with us. Grant that we can come together in joy to praise your name.
God of one vineyard, call us to act in your love in all we do and say.
Touched by your goodness, grant us the ability to be the reflection of that love in our homes, schools, work places, and on social media. Use us to pave the way for bridging rivalries and overcoming tensions in our world.
Spend some time in silent prayer. Allow God’s grace to fill you as you rest in Him.
I always tell my kids when they go through a tough time or a set back in life to focus on the positive. Find the lesson you have learned and look at the good in a situation. Even in the depths of grief and despair you can find good. So, I decided maybe I should take my own advice, and dig deep to find the lessons from 2020. Here is my list, they are in no particular order and this is not exhaustive, as I am sure there are plenty more things I have learned, so I will continue to ponder. What about you? What would you add to this list for yourself?
- Don’t ever underestimate being prepared. I am typically someone who does plan ahead. I don’t like to wait to the last minute to pack, to plan meals, etc. But what I didn’t typically do was stock up on necessities, like toilet paper! 2020 taught me to be sure to have the bare necessities on hand at all times.
- Creating community is very important. We created all kinds of communities in various ways. One community that I am taking with me into 2021 and beyond is a small group of ladies we now call, “The Dream Team.” We were supposed to plan a Post Prom together in 2020, but instead we created friendships and bonded over the misery of the disappointments our 18 year olds experienced being seniors and starting college. 2020 gave me a great group of new friends!
- Family dinners are important. We always made time in our home for family dinners, as much as possible. The pandemic has given us so much more time to sit together and eat. Not only do we gather together, we also spend ample amount of time after dinner at the table chatting. Even though we are in the same home all day together, with work/school, dinner is still our time to catch up with our day.
- Church is more than Sunday morning worship. Everyone learned to accommodate remote worship. Church leaders have learned to be so creative! From live streaming worship, to drive-in worship and everything in between. But I think we learned that church has to be a verb. Neighbors taking care of neighbors, that is also church. Also, the amount of people that can be reached with online worship is far beyond anything we would ever see in a building on a Sunday morning, but if you are not creating community, worship isn’t going to be enough.
- Breaking tradition can be very refreshing. Nothing has been “typical” about 2020. But for our family, a high school graduation celebration became something that had to be reimagined. The Senior Parade (Seniors were in their cars driving a route around town) was such a fun event, and it would never have happened without the pandemic. I also had to scramble to recreate a long standing tradition of a youth conference that I help head up at work, and after almost 50 years, we pulled together a virtual event. These are just a couple things out of many traditions that were broken for our family this year, but we still made so many memories together!
- Time is relative and timing is everything. What day is it anyway? We all lost our sense of time this year! No one knows what day it is. and how in the world is it already the end of December? In a sense, time slowed down, calendars cleared and it felt like we had all the time in the world. The lesson I learned was make each moment count otherwise days slip by. We made a move this year, in the middle of summer right before sending our daughter to college, and it was by far a great decision. In the midst of it, I was going crazy, but once we sent our baby off to school, I was so happy to have a fresh start. The timing was perfect, and it gave me something to focus on other than a quiet, empty home.
- Creativity is exhausting. When the calendar cleared overnight, I had to reimagine my job duties. With that came a clean slate and a rethinking of what the future could look like for the ministry I’m charged with. All of that was actually excited and rejuvenating. However, it is taxing on the brain. It is easy to do the same thing, week after week, month after month. The calendar dictated my to do list. But once I was freed from that list, and could start reimagining, it became exhausting. I quickly learned to take some time in fresh air to clear my mind give myself some space to think and at times, daydream.
- Quiet time is more important than you think. If we spent time on screens in 2019, you could multiply that by 100 in 2020. With all of the time we spend in front of our computers, on zoom, our phones and mindless TV (Tiger King, need I say more?) quiet time became evermore important. I have always had a creative, crafty interest. Pandemic+becoming an empty nester=time to start hobbies again! I refinished furniture, started painting again, learned to make hot chocolate bombs and got a Cricut for Christmas. So, I plan on using some of my quiet time in 2021 to continue crafting!
- Tik Tok is a black hole. I have always tried to keep up on the latest social media apps and trends, it’s part of my job, but also a way to stay in communication with my own kids. So, I have spent too much time on Tik Tok, I admit, but it became a late night past time with my daughter as we laughed until we cried watching all the silly things out there. Memories were made together over Tik Tok, if you can imagine! (I might have even let her talk me into participating in a couple!)
- God’s got this, don’t stress about it. As we worked through what we thought was going to be a two week shut down, that ended up being two months that we thought would ease up in the summer and then all the sudden it was Thanksgiving, things at times became stressful. This year has taught me that I am not in control. Our lives changed weekly, and there was nothing I could do about it. But, God remain constant and steadfast. We still don’t know when the end of this will come, but knowing that with faith, we will get through this has brought some sense of peace.
These are things I have learned personally. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to stay employed, and our family has remained healthy. Not everyone has been as fortunate. So, please know we are praying for those of you who may have more heavy hearts and trials that you are facing.
Kathy Dickriede and Jason Hockran, two people I admire, join us this week on our podcast talking about their experiences in the mission field. They share their calls, passions and their personal stories of why mission work is important to them. Kathy talks about stepping out into the mission field is a risk-taking experience. In fact, she says, that we take risks right now, during this pandemic, by going out to eat or to the store. What would it look like to also take a risk to help others, even in this time of pandemic? They both reference their call to be in mission. Jason even refers to finding your identity in God through mission work. What a beautiful thought! If you have gone on a mission trip, or helped in your own community, you do walk away with a renewed sense of who you are and who God is. We also talk about the careful balance between helping without hurting, and the importance of preparing and debriefing, especially when taking young people out to do mission work.
Kathy references Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
I think it is important for us to ask ourselves, even in the midst of uncertain times, how is God calling me to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly? We may not be able to be physically together, but we can still serve others. Have you found ways to do this? It is easy to hunker down, in our homes, and forget that there are people, maybe on our own streets, that we can serve in some capacity. Advent is an excellent time to live this.
Be sure to think about how you will serve after post-pandemic. Below are some informational links you can look at to be inspired. After all, it is important that we each leave the world better than we find it.
Until next time friends, be well!
I reference a mission trip I went on with teens to West Virginia, that was Bramwell.
Full chapter in Micah: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Micah+6&version=NIV
East Ohio Missions: https://www.eocumc.com/missions/umvim.html
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission: https://www.umvim.org/
I referenced a mission trip to West Virginia, it was Bramwell, WV: https://www.bramwellwv.com/