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The Dreaded C-Word in Women’s Events

the-c-wordEvery time I see an invitation for a women’s event, I scan for the dreaded C-word (also known as the C-which-shall-not-be-named). It’s usually there, even if it’s sometimes disguised as a synonym, or merely alluded to.

The C-word is my exit cue to be honest. It’s a sure-fire sign that particular event is not for me.

There’s nothing wrong with women get all gooey eyed when they see the C-which-shall-not-be-named, don’t get me wrong. I have many, many friends who loooove the C-word. As a matter of fact, almost every Christmas I receive well-intended gifts sprung forth from C. And I appreciate them because of the love behind them.

But personally, I abhor the C-word. My fine motor skills suck, patience has never been one of my virtues, I’m a perfectionist in the extreme who lacks the skills to match reality with her vision, plus I’m way too goal-oriented to spend hours on something that feels like wasting time. I’m creative—just not with my hands.

My problem is that most women’s events include the C-which-shall-not-be-named however. Plus I’m kind of ashamed to admit how I feel about C. I mean, it has made my doubt my femininity, you know?

But after years of suffering in silence and anonymity, I feel it’s time to take a stand. It’s time to come right out and admit how I feel. I long to stand with others who feel the same way.

And while I realize us C-haters may be a minority, we need to be heard. We need a safe place where we can be ourselves. I mean, seriously, there’s trauma here people. I could be suffering from all kinds of nasty things from forced exposure to C.

So as a gesture to all you C-haters out there (you know who you are—and it’s okay, I promise you. You can hate C and still be a woman!), here’s my promise to you:

I do solemny swear that there will be no crafts at the Women in Youth Ministry Campference

My name is Rachel and I hate crafts.

There, I feel so much better now.


Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has over 15 years of experience in youth ministry in several countries. She’s an author, blogger, avid reader and a walking encyclopedia of completely useless facts. She lives in upstate New York with her family and is on the core organizing team of the Women in Youth Ministry Campference. Find her youth ministry blog on www.youthleadersacademy.com

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Why I’m Paying for Two Women to Attend the Women in Youth Ministry Campference Out of My Own Pocket

daring-640

When I was a senior in high school, my youth pastor was leaving to go to a larger church. And while I was sad to see him go, I felt okay about it because it was a no-brainer that we would hire Amy. Amy was a youth pastor whom we had come to know because she was working bi-vocationally at a smaller church down the road from us. She wanted to be full-time in ministry, had amazing gifts, knew us from some denominational events and wanted to come to our church.

I was stunned when she wasn’t hired.

When I asked the senior pastor why (I was new to the faith and didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to ask questions!), I was told Amy wasn’t hired because she was a woman. In a denomination supposedly pro-woman in ministry, we passed on Amy and not long after, she left youth ministry altogether. I think about her a great deal.

One of the things that has long troubled me is that the generation before me and my generation aren’t making significant investments in the women I see and believe God has called to youth ministry. I saw lots of us making space in budgets for internships that tended to go towards young men and we asked young women to consider children’s ministry. Honestly, it bothered me and I committed to doing my part to help the next generation of young people – men and women – to have opportunities to grow in their leadership and their ministry and have great mentoring from me and those I know.

For years now, I have pushed the churches I worked for to hire interns, both male and female. I have advocated camps and events find capable and gifted women to speak and share in front of my youth group girls AND boys. (One 20 year+ old organization said no one had ever asked that of them. The next summer they used a woman speaker I endorsed and recommended with amazing results.)

So when I saw that The Youth Cartel was creating the first ever Campference for women in youth ministry, I knew that I would support it. So this year, I am sending two amazing young women in youth ministry to the Campference out of my own pocket.

I am sending my friend Kristin, a former intern who is a spectacular youth worker, who fought her way through a traumatic first church job where her gender was sadly part of why she was treated poorly.  Kristin has gotten to a better place and I want her in the game for the long haul. And I am sending Katie, whom I met a couple years ago on a summer mission trip where I was speaking. I had brought along a young man in ministry that I am mentoring on that trip and after swapping some emails, Katie asked me to help her and her ministry by being a mentor to her.  That drive in ministry and her amazing gifts made it a no brainer to send her to the Campference as well.

So here is my challenge to you: who do you know who is an amazing female youth worker that needs this experience?  Who can you sponsor to be a part of this unique experience that the Youth Cartel is creating?

We need to be making investments in the next generation of leaders in youth ministry, and especially in the gifted and capable women who God is calling. I wish someone had done it along time ago to Amy.  She deserved better and I wonder what great gifts she would have brought that we have lost.

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Test..test…is this on?

If you’ve been in any sort of leadership role you will know the reality of being evaluated. It’s happening constantly. Parents are looking at you to see if you are trustworthy as a voice of reason in the life of their child. Teens are wondering if they can trust you with who they really are. Volunteer leaders are hoping they can find a faithful cheerleader who supports, encourages and cares for them as they invest their life in the lives of others. And while tests can sometimes help us evaluate the good, the bad & the ugly, at other times I wonder if they simply get in the way of our goal of defining meaning and purpose behind the ministry activity we are seeking to measure.

Over the years that I’ve been involved in youth ministry as a student, a volunteer and now a paid youth worker, I’ve discovered that there are 3 predominant themes that permeate the evaluation process from both a programmatic and personnel perspective.

  1. Personality
  2. Passion
  3. Performance

Here are some thoughts on how each of these themes burrow their way into the evaluation process.

Personality – This is perhaps the most contentious aspect of evaluation. It’s also the most subjective. Every person in the world possesses a unique personality and make up. Some personality traits are more endearing than others. Different environmental factors can enhance or detract from natural personality quirks. But at the end of the day, some people are going to like you as a leader and others aren’t. And they base a lot of their assessment on whether or not they can understand or interact with your personality.

It’s important to remember that the way you are wired is the way God intended you to be wired. As Creator, we must trust that God doesn’t make mistakes. We aren’t asked to be perfect like Jesus, we are asked to follow the way of life that He modelled for us. Perfection is unattainable for us as humans, and therefore we should never seek to personify it. Yes, we can grow in our understanding of ourselves and others, and in our ability to love one another, but we must recognize that we are intentionally flawed and yet still worth knowing and being known. As such, we cannot lament about different aspects of our personality that naturally connect us with people while disconnecting us from others.

Evaluation that is based solely on personality is always subjective. Sometimes it really is about you, and there is nothing you can do about it. Live into who God has created you to be while asking others to love you in the same way. If you hit an impasse in evaluation, you may have to embrace the reality that some personalities will never get along and it may be wiser to move on than to continue trying to create hope or change.

Passion – Passion is most easily defined as burden or hunger…although I do think the word suffering is appropriate to use at times. Passion asks the question: What drives you to move forward? Passion is also contagious. As people interact with you, are they experiencing our passion or are they questioning it?

Having passion doesn’t mean doing more or working harder. Sharing your passion means learning to communicate what drives you forward to lead the way you are wired and to do what you do as a leader. If there are questions about your passion, it may be because people don’t understand your personality, or it may be because what you are saying and what you are doing don’t link up.

If you have passion, it should be seen through what you do and heard through what you say. Sure, we all have our off-days, but is it our passion that drives us to move forward or something else?

Performance – While personality may be the most subjective element of evaluation, performance seems to be the most convoluted. The typical North American church defines success based on the bottom line reality of what is most easily measured (attendance, budget & income vs. expense). We’ve created different metric systems to try and bring clarity to our performance, but in doing so we may have unintentional creating recurring ripples of chaos that detract from the true goal of our leadership efforts.

It’s easy to say that performance should be defined by obedience and faithfulness. But how do you measure it? I will say this, if you are performing well according to whatever contextual metric is in place, questions about your personality and passion become less frequent. But if the opposite is true, questions about both become increasingly prevalent.

 

If these three elements are in play throughout the evaluation process, where does that leave us in our quest to evaluate and even define success? What do you think?

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What’s in a Name?

I remember the first moment when I found out I was going to be a dad. Mixed emotions of excitement, nervousness and joy flooded into my soul. The weight of responsibility of caring for and discipling a young child into adulthood became the focus of my thought power and energy leading up to the moment of birth (and beyond!). Of all the responsibilities associated with being a parent, none seemed as important as providing a great start for this new child by choosing the name they would live into.

My wife Bonny and I spent countless hours creating names for our children. We created a spreadsheet listing all the leading name candidates, researching their meaning and dreaming about what we hoped our children would live into in terms of values, character and aspirations for their future.

The day came where we met each of our three children and called them by name. In that moment everything seemed settled, new, hope-filled and amazing.

Fast forward a couple of years and these young little babies who are now young children are beginning to live into and own the name that they have been given. They respond to it when it’s called (for the most part…), they introduce themselves by it and they know how to write it. My kids are beginning to share who they are with others, starting with their name.

I often marvel at the power that names have in each of our lives. Working with teens I’ve seen firsthand the positive and negative effects of names or labels that have been placed on these kids by those who they trusted and cared about. How we speak to each other and what references or names we use matter. The grade 7 boy who is home-schooled is more than just a home-schooler. The grade 10 girl who has dated half the youth group is more than just the floozy. The student that lives in the rough part of town is more than an underprivileged kid.

The names we share with one another and we give to others matter. What names are you using to refer to the teens and families under your sphere of influence and care? Are they names that breathe life into their souls, or names that reinforce all the lies they may be tempted to believe about who they are? What’s in a name, and does a name really matter?

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Learning to Notice Marginalized Teenagers

Collectively, this talk took our breathe away. Marko and I didn’t know this was coming. But Gregory had all of our attention from the moment he took the stage.

More importantly than his presentation style, his talk left us with serious questions to ponder. 

  1. Do we have the eyes to see teenagers on the edge?
  2. When you recognize the warning signs in seemingly “normal” students, do you act?
  3. What does fearless dialogue look like in your context?
  4. How is interrupting hope talked about in your ministry?
  5. What does a miracle look like to the marginalized among you?
  6. What does it mean to surround young people with communities of reliable others?

Challenge

These would be excellent questions to process with people who care about teenagers in your ministry. Watch this video with your team and work through these questions. (Adults, student leaders, etc.)

We’d love to hear how this video has impacted your ministry. 

Join Us

This video is from The Summit 2012. We’d love to have you and your team at The Summit this November. We’re bringing together 18 brand new presenters to challenge and stir your imagination.

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Why you need peers

Yesterday, I hung out with a dozen or so youth workers for a half day spiritual retreat. It was a great day. I left personally refreshed and thankful to Brian and Danny for putting it together.

As we debriefed our time together several of the people in the circle shared how much they needed that time. It was inconvenient, it was in the middle of their work week, they felt guilty for taking the time away. But they needed it.

I couldn’t agree more. Each year I hear from lots of friends in youth ministry who have lost their jobs. Sadly, some lose their families. And as the screenshot above shows… some of them lose their freedom as a result of their mistakes. 

Youth ministry is a unique role in the church. We struggle to fit in. We sometimes struggle ourselves to want to fit in. And the net result is that a seemingly majority of youth workers feel isolated and lonely in their calling.

Lonely is a bad place to be as a leader.

It’s a little early to talk about resolutions for 2013. But let me encourage you: Resolve to get some peers in 2013. 

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You are needed in youth sports

The attack occurred Friday night at Holy Name School in Springfield, Mass., according to local TV station WWLP. After his son’s team lost in the Catholic Youth Organization finals, Timothy Lee Forbes punched the winning coach, then bit off part of his ear, said Hampden assistant district attorney Marie Angers. Several of the 10-12 year old kids, who had gathered on the court to shake hands, were knocked to the floor and left crying after the incident.

Source

You might have to read that twice.

  • Two teams make it to the championship game.
  • The winning team’s coach gets punched (allegedly) by the parent on the losing team.
  • The parent then proceeds to bite off part of the coaches ear. (Again, allegedly.)
  • Several of the kids were knocked to the down in the scuffle.

OK, now maybe you are confused by the title of my post. Why in the world should I get involved in youth sports? A guys ear was bitten off!

Actually, the two stories are only related by the idea that youth workers should get involved in youth sports. Whether its helping to coach your kids soccer team or stepping in as the head basketball coach at the high school. Youth ministry shouldn’t be bound purely to the activities we do through our ministry in an official capacity.

One easy way to get involved in nearly any community is to volunteer in youth sports. Some of my best youth ministry moments have occurred on the golf course as a volunteer coach. A few years ago I was walking up the fairway of the 7th hole at a local course with 3 sophomores. One guy said, “So Adam, when you pray do you like have to close your eyes or what? And do you really think God hears our prayers?

Moments like that aren’t all that rare. But they never would have happened if I hadn’t figured out a way to get involved in youth sports.

Just watch your ears.

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Follow The Leader Bible Study

To engage my middle school students to explore what it means to follow Jesus, I designed a simple Bible study where they had to read a pre-selected scripture passage and then use the questions provided to discuss what that passage may or may not be saying about what it means to follow Jesus.  But, of course, there was a catch.

All while they were conducting this Bible study, they were playing follow the leader.  Yes. The age-old child’s game.  Each group selected a leader that would lead their group anywhere in the Youth Center or on the church grounds outside.  All, remember, while conducting a Bible study.

Afterwards we debriefed about the experience.  One group recounted how difficult it was to hear the scripture being read.  It was easy to follow the steps and movements of the leader, but it was hard to hear what was being said.  While another group’s leader lead her group to a spot outside the Youth Center where she sat her group down and read the Scripture.  Then, they moved on with the rest of the game.

At the end of the night, these middle school students observed that following Jesus is hard sometimes.  And sometimes it’s hard to follow the leaders who are leading us in following Jesus.  Yet, they observed, at least they had each other.  They grasped and articulated the theological concept of community.  Faith is a journey and sometimes you don’t know where you’re going, but at least you have company.

Photo credit: Bicted via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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The Battle for ADD

As an outsider, I would guess that the annual conference for the American Psychiatric Association is pretty benign. Therapists present papers, take a few questions, and attend meetings to review the latest research. In the evening, in the conference late night activity guide in my imagination, I can see a few thousand therapists spend the evening looking at new couches in the exhibit hall. Perhaps there are active debates on the appropriateness of the smoking jacket while attending to a patient?

I don’t think of psychiatrists as fiesty. Nor do I think of them as looking for a fight.

But there is a fight brewing among the nations psychiatrists. And it could be both costly and damaging to our nations children. Specifically, the battle is over the hyper-medication of our children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. More specifically, the new volume of DSM may lower the standards and create several sub-sets of hyperactivity, making it even easier to give children psychiatric drugs for… being children.

“We are gravely concerned that if this is published as is in 2013, it will create false epidemics where hundreds of thousands of children and the elderly who really are normal will be diagnosed with a mental disorder and given powerful psychiatric medications that have dangerous side effects,” Elkins says. “That is not tolerable.”

Source

A December 27th article in Salon reports that nearly 10,000 therapists have signed on against lowering the bar for ADD diagnosis.

You read that right. 10,000 therapists are arguing against permission to write more prescriptions, schedule more therapy sessions, and make more money. The 2013 edition of DSM is trying to make it easier for them to diagnos ADD in children and adolescents and the professions are revolting.

What do you think? Are there more kids who are ADD than are being diagnosed? Or is ADD already too easily identified/treated? 

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End Child Trafficking at Son of God Orphanage

Recent developments in an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince have gotten very personal. In 2010, shortly after the devastating earthquake which killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians, Marko and I lead teams of youth workers and pastors to Port-au-Prince to help activate the Christian community to respond.

One of the early connections was the Son of God orphanage in Carrefour. (A sister city to Port-au-Prince, the actual epicenter to the quake) The man who ran the orphanage had a compelling story. He was a physician who left his practice to take in street kids. But money had run out and the earthquake left many additional children orphaned. With no income from his practice left, the children were in dire need.

Many groups went to this orphanage. Followed by tons of money given to help care for and repair earthquake damage. When I was at the orphanage in July 2010, leading a team of youth workers from around the country, red lights were going off all over. I knew of two major efforts to improve conditions at the orphanage, I knew deliveries had been made, I’d seen the pictures/video and talked to people who had made them. And yet the food, clothing, and goods weren’t there. It’s one thing for the story to have changed so significantly… I blamed that on a fluid situation and different translators… but things weren’t adding up. Where was the stuff that had been delivered? Why weren’t things better for the children?

That said, and an important note, all of the 75 or so children we encountered were healthy and well fed when I was with them in July 2010.

More friends visited the orphanage again in December 2010 (including two who had been there in July with me) and came back with a much different report. There were a lot fewer kids there and many of them were sick. We all scratched our heads about that. I remember having conversations with friends, “Maybe relatives pick the kids up for the holidays?” Their adoption customs are different than ours. An orphan doesn’t always have no parents or family, there are times when you leave your child at an orphanage for a time because you can’t afford to care for them.

I don’t know the details of what happened from December 2010 until now. But I do know that a consortium of non-profits and churches did an investigation which documented neglect, starvation, disease, physical & sexual abuse, and illegal trafficking of children. In July 2011 the man who ran the orphanage was arrested and is currently in prison for selling a child as part of a sting operation. (But, even after that, the kids weren’t removed from the orphanage. His wife continues to run it to this day!)

It’s impossible to know what’s happened to the young children I played with and our team danced with in July 2010.

But I know I can use my voice to take action today. 

Please read this update from Adventures in Mission head Seth Barnes. And take action. Whatever you can do. Help us act now to shut down the Sons of God orphanage and get these kids to safety.