a new endeavor: “coaching” social media

I am excited to embark on a new adventure working as a “coach” for Social Phonics…the social media brainchild of Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt.

I have known both guys for a number of years and was thrilled to see them branch out and create an organization to assist the church in its mission by “training pastor, ministry leaders, and non-profit leaders in the use of social media.”

Here is a brief blurb about the organization from the website Socialphonics.com

“Social Phonics, a division of JoPa Productions, is the premier organization training pastors, ministry leaders, and non-profit leaders in the use of social media.  Through our Social Phonics Boot Camps, Social Phonics Summer Camp, and our certified Social Phonics Coaches, we provide hands-on training that immediately empowers leaders to harness the power of social media.

We are convinced of the incredible power that social media have to connect people to one another and to churches, ministries, and organizations.  And we are committed to staying on top of the latest developments in social media so that we can keep you and your organization up-to-date.”

I have been an advocate of all forms of social media and networking for a while.  Though no “expert” by any definition, I have both personally and professionally seen the impact and influence from effectively utilizing these online tools.  My own church and youth ministry has benefited with more public exposure and community connectivity through social mediums such as Twitter, Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

Personally, this here blog of mine has led to teaching classes, traveling and training youth workers, speaking engagements, and a book contract.

You know that old adage from that hair growth company “I’m not only the president…I’m also a client”?

I am proud and honored to be a “coach”, simply because I really do believe in the power of social media and the ability of all church people (paid and volunteers) to leverage the influence of the internet for the greater good of God’s kingdom work.

Anywho…..

I have included the announcement about the new coaching program:

About our Coaches

Here at Social Phonics, we’re thrilled to have five new Coaches on our team.  You can read about them and what they’ll be doing below.  They’re all great and highly qualified individuals to help you and your organization maximize your social media footprint.

One of their duties will be to expand the number of Boot Camps we’ll be offering, beginning in the Fall.  If you’d like to host a Boot Camp in 2011-2012, please drop us an email and let’s start that conversation.

Our Certified Coaches

We have added five new members to our team.  Please welcome them:
Adam Walker Cleaveland
Kimberly Knight
Mike Baughman
Wendy Johnson
and
Dan Haugh

Each of them is perfectly suited to join the Social Phonics team.  They’ve got extensive experience in both social media and in the church.  You can read about each of them, and see them, on our Coaches Page, but for now, here’s a little teaser on each of them:

Adam is a pastor, runs one of the most popular Christian blogs in the blogosphere, and designs websites…

Kimberly has pastored a Second Life Church for several years…

Mike wowed his church staff with a successful Facebook Ads campaign for their Christmas Eve service…

Wendy has parlayed her work as a denominational communications officer into her own business advising small churches…

And Dan parlayed his youth ministry blog into a book contract.

So, as you can see, this is a great group!  They’ll be doing several things as Certified Social Phonics Coaches, including running Social Phonics Boot Camps around the country beginning in the Fall.  They’ll also be offering one-on-one coaching and consulting contracts with churches, non-profits, and individuals.

Contact us to set up an appointment with the Social Phonics Coach in your region.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

If any of you happen to be interested in attending a Social Media Boot Camp or having your institution (church, seminary, college, denomination) host one, send me an email at dan@socialphonics.com

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Hooked on Social Phonics

Last week I was able to attend a Social Phonics social media boot camp put on by JoPa Productions and hosted at Andover Newton Theological School.

Boot camp info

Here is a brief blurb about the training from their website:

“In our one-day Social Media Boot Camp, veteran pastors and social mediaistas, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones will guide you through the basics of the most popular social media services, including blogging, Facebook,Twitter and free broadcast media. You will learn how, in just three 30-minute periods each week, you can dramatically increase your communication to members of your church or people interested in your organization and, even more importantly, to those who have the potential to visit your church or business. Most importantly, we’ll help you determine your own social media philosophy, so that you’ll know exactly why you’re going online each week.

Imagine getting real-time feedback from your parishioners as you prepare your sermon, spreading the word about a church outreach program without buying a newspaper ad, or posting a YouTube welcome to new neighbors in your community. Imagine hearing what customers are saying about your business or organization.

All of this is possible, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, we’ll make it fun!”

Tony Jones instructed and taught this group of pastors, leaders, congregants, and educators.

I highly recommend attending or hosting this training seminar as it applies to everyone ranging for technological novices to those considering themselves social media junkies.  Both basic and advanced ideas and training was presented in a way that clearly made sense and was applicable.

Topics and Tech covered included:

The rise of importance, relevance, and influence of social media.

How to increase your reach and message via social media platforms and devices.

Effectively communicating and connecting your congregation and audience.

Getting your name into the community with maximize exposure and minimum cost.

Twitter, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, U-stream, and Blogging

I consider myself fairly adept with technology. I have a growing blog, Google profile, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube account, etc and I was surprised at how much I still did not know.

Even in the past few weeks, Facebook and Google have added excellent features to help track web traffic and simply makes things more convenient, and none of those features I had previously known or used.

I also learned some great ideas to help improve my blog feeds and reader accessibility.

You can stay current (and even be ahead of the curve) by attending this boot camp.

The day was fun, affordable, learner-centered, and extremely interactive.

We are hoping to have JoPa come to the NY area and host a boot camp for our area.

Church denominations, all pastoral staff members, public and private educators, communicators, and anyone else looking to make an impact in today’s (and tomorrow’s) society must be up to date with technology and the use of social media, and the Social Phonics boot camp is a great way to get started.

SocialPhonics on Facebook

Follow SocialPhonics on Twitter

FirstThird days 2 & 3

Day 2

Ok, I must admit that I slept in Tuesday AM.  But..from what I heard it was a great morning!

There was a coffee and conversation time with Rollie Martinson followed by a lecture from Kendra Dean on the importance of youth work.

In the afternoon, Tony Jones lead another table talk time with Andy and Kenda focussing on Andy’s theological project and premise of hope in despair. Kenda’s discussion on passion was facilitated by Doug Pagitt.

There was plenty of group participation and collective brainstorming around these issues.

*Interesting note, that Tony specifically asked the audience of youth workers to give a concrete example of their theology in action, namely what is one particular thing that we do because of our theology?

No one raised a hand in response!

It seems we have moved so far away from programmatic youth ministry that we are afraid to admit if we still play games, do retreats, lead mission trips, etc…

As a side note, I personally believe that programs and traditional structure in youth ministry can still work, they just have to be contextualized and theologically thought through more than presently.  We cannot, nor should not, base our programs from a book we read or simply because we used to do that while we were in youth group.

It is imperative that we critically ask the question, “Why are we doing this?” and what is this…. (insert name of activity or program)  saying about our theology and what we believe the gospel to be?

The creators of First Third had a brilliant idea for dinner.  They sent out 10 discussion groups to 10 different restaurant locations around the Twin Cities. Each group had a host (conversational facilitator) and a guided theme.  The cost of the meal was included in the registration.

The topics diverged as much as the choice in food.  I choice to link up with a fellow blogger and heck of a guy Jake Bouma at a burger and beer joint called The Bulldog  The Bulldog

12 of us sat around a table with some great food and beverages discussing theological questions and concerns that have come up in our youth ministry, or our own personal journeys.

It was fascinating to hear the many different perspectives and views represented across the table. Not to mention that the Rooster burger was heavenly!

In no other conference would this mixture of youth workers gather together for community.

I ended the night with two other youth pastors at a cigar lounge where we discussed the future of youth ministry (what will the issues be ten years from now?, just how contextual does youth ministry need to be?, what will our roles in church be reformer or revolutionary?)

Day 3

The last day began with (I suppose you could call it a presentation) on Spark house and their new innovative approach to rethinking confirmation.

Sparkhouse resourcing

I was very impressed with their vision, as well as resources and would recommend checking it out.  Even if you do not teach a formal confirmation class, it is one of the better holistic, creative, sensory, and theological “disciplship” resources I have seen.  You will want to check out Re:Form curriculum @  Re:Form

You will also want to check out some of their innovative teaching and discussion starter videos @ Sparkhouse videos

FirstThird attendees all then participated in chapel at Luther Seminary and I was blessed by the message from Kenda Dean, the worship, the hymns, and the holy Eucharist.

Kenda then presented Lecture #2 on the translating of our faith across generations. She offered some profound and inspirational thoughts on what it could mean to share our faith in both word and deed in the way that invited all to participate and receive.

Some rules for translation:

The best translators are people not programs

Translation works best in community

Translation can threaten those in charge

Through her talk, she both challenged and encouraged us to “Imagine the world as though the kingdom of God is at hand”, and to “Imagine the world is better than it is and live as though it were possible!”

Kenda posed the question, what if our job is not to convince young people that Jesus is alive but rather to live like it?

Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after our taco buffet lunch and missed the last discussion session, but I am sure that the Twitter feed and #1st3rd will fill me in.

I will write up a brief recap and final thoughts later.

FirstThird: Theological Dialogue on Youth Ministry

I’m spending the first half of this week attending and participating in FirstThird, a theological dialogue on youth ministry with Kenda Dean and Andrew Root.  Follow our conversation on Twitter and #1st3rd

This academic/theological forum is being held at Luther Seminary in conjunction with JoPa productions, SparkHouse, and a few other organizations.

The first session or (better stated) collective discussion was

Theological Dialogues in Youth Ministry-

Each speaker had 3 minutes to share his or her thoughts about a particular word and its association for youth ministry

Tony Jones described “theological”  as being both first order as well as second order mode of thought and reflection.

“Everything is inherently theological” and this should radically transform the way we see youth ministry, since the very practice of youth ministry is theological.

He described “theology” not as an academic pursuit, but rather as the nexus of divine action and human activity (intersection)

Doug Pagitt was next speaking about “dialogue”

He envisions truthful dialog as having a beginning with no end in sight.

It begins with an attitude of vulnerability, humility, and openness.

Dialogue is unscripted conversations with no agendas getting in the way of where the conversation can go and how its flows.

Kenda Dean described “youth” as faces; real people in real places.

It is the very paradigm for being very human.

An open-ended future of possibility= youth, and by definition that articulates what Christianity can be as well.

Andy Root concluded the round table chatter with his thoughts on “ministry”

It is not about what we do, rather what God does.

Ministry is not practices and procedures.  Rather, it is fundamentally a theological work

Youth ministry cannot be about making kids good or getting students to buy into certain agendas.

Youth ministry is to participate in God’s own action in the world with and for young people

All the participants then divided up into conversation groups around the church to discuss collectively  each of those four words and report back.

As a group, we can all see that all 4 words are interconnected and interrelated.  They blend into each other in a mysterious, beautiful and powerful way.

A film study  on the film American Teen concluded the day 1 happenings, but naturally this was followed by continued late night pub talk.

So far, I have been very impressed with the relational structure, interactive learning platforms, and leadership.  Clearly this is not presented as a teacher-student enviroment full of lectures by the “veterans” or “masters”

It feel like a family getting together to discuss our thoughts and learn from each other.

More updates to come tomorrow on days 2 & 3 as well as a final review/recap when I return to NY.

Updates from Dan

Greetings!  (I love saying that word…it seems so…I don’t know….old school European or something)

Anyways, I wanted to write a quick update on my writings.  I will be taking a short 3 month break or so from my personal writings and thoughts while I work on the upcoming book project God is Loud.

I do have some interesting thoughts and blogs in the making including the following categories

Youth Ministry/Personal:

Why I stopped witnessing

Spread too thin?

You never know who will walk through your doors

Lessons learned from college football

A fresh up of inspiration

Actions speak louder than words (and often beliefs)

Book reviews:

Sustainable Youth Ministry

Presence Centered Youth Ministry

The Blue Parakeet

The Youth Ministry Survival Guide

and…the “Shift” series parts 8-10.

So stayed tuned ladies and gentlemen for those posts plus many more in our next episode.

However, the exciting news is that I will be switching gears for a bit and using this blog as a springboard, launching point, and collaborative laboratory for the God is Loud project.

I am working on a time-table and talking with Chris Folmsbee and Barefoot about deadlines, but hopefully this will be finished around graduation time (making for a great gift for your seniors…they don’t have to know it was free!)

I hope to post one chapter at a time and then for around two weeks get input, examples, writings, etc.. from youth workers.  We will then process them all and use what we can (while taking every thought into consideration) and expand and edit the chapter until completed.

In order not to confuse things, I will refrain from posting my usual writings and articles.  However, if and when articles are published, I will simply add a link to those.

I will be out in the Twin Cities, attending the First Third conference held at Bethel Seminary.  Andrew Root, Kendra Dean, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Mike King and others will be on hand leading the discussions of theological foundations and implications for the future of youth ministry.  Should be great!  I will hopefully post a few blog updates from my time out there, and after that will be posting the God is Loud materials.

So there you have it.

Thanks for your support, partnership, and participation in the months to come.

Postmodern youth ministry…a review

I first read Tony Jone’s book Postmodern Youth Ministry during my last year of undergrad studies. I realized quickly that it was a groundbreaking book for youth ministry, but I never fully realized at the time how important and influential this book would be.

I recently re-read the book and it shocked me to see just how relevant this book is for today’s youth ministry, and especially for tomorrow’s youth ministry. I still believe that for the most part, youth ministry culture has not fully caught up to what Tony was experiencing and writing about nearly a decade ago.  Looking back, this book was even more profound and prophetic than I had originally thought. Here in the northeast, we are very much witnessing the phenomone of postmodernity and its effects and influence on society, culture, worldviews, education, and religion.  I’m not convinced  other parts of the country have been struck with this reality, but they will in due time.

Tony’s opening thought “The day my world changed” was brilliant and true. In youth ministry, we cannot just claim that Jesus is Lord for everyone. In postmodern thought, that belief may be true for us, but cannot be an objective absolute truth for everyone.  Truth is relative and subjective, and this is visibly seen in today’s teens. (I realize that many will have major issues with the above statement. I am simply explaining the cultural realities surround postmodernity…whether you like them or not is another issue)

The first few chapters are a wonderful summary of what postmodernism is, how it came to be, and what its effects and influences are. Such ideas include that skepticism and cynicism rule the day, the argument that no text has an actual meaning because each reader imports meaning into the text; question everything; objectivity is out while subjectivity is in; never make lists; pluralism and tolerance are key; there is no Truth with a capital T..and ideas such as these.

Tony writes, “The students with whom we work were born into a culture in transition, and children born today are entering a thoroughly postmodern world. This is not to say that all students will adopt postmodern traits, but postmodernity will be the reigning school of thought, and postmodernity will be the reigning culture when our students arrive at college.”  Living in the northeast, I can vouch that this is true and failure to understand and acknowledge this will do much damage to churches and youth leaders.

Now, many might perceive the above characteristics to be negative and starkly opposed to the Bible and kingdom of God living…and to some extend I agree. However, postmodernism also brings with it some values that are highly biblical and kingdom of God minded.

Postmodern values:  experiential, spiritual, relative, communal, creative, environmental, global, holistic, authentic.

“Postmodernity may afford us the ability to recover some aspects of authentic Christianity.”

A missionary dives into culture headfirst and swims around, learning, perceiving and discerning.  A postmodern world demands that we admit that our contexts influence and shape us- that we be honest about our own subjectivity and we use those influences to benefit our communication of the gospel.  In my experience, in order to reach and effectivley ministey to postmodern students, one has to be a bit postmodern…or at least understand and appreciate it.  One’s aim cannot be to change or destroy postmodernism, but rather to work from within to bring about transformation within the system.

Tony implores youth leaders to shift toward authenticity. Our students want real, more than relevant. They don’t want worship services. they want worship experiences.

Students don’t want to be tricked into attending a meeting at someone’s house or a warehouse only to find out later that there’s a hidden agenda of saving their souls.  Andrew Root has written much about this issue of relationships vs. influence.

Additionally, students today are experiential, participatory, image-based and connective–everybody else is rational, passive, word-based, and highly individual.

Dan Kimball chimes in the discussion with saying, “the more blatantly spiritual our services and the harder we worship God, the more we will see postmodern youths connecting and responding to the gospel.”

Its not about watering down the message and creating seeking friendly environments.

Its also about a shift toward transcendence.

Postmodern youth ministry strives to promote students to feel they are entering sacred space when they walk into the room.

By taking this approach (which in many ways is contrast to the seeker sensitive mega church model), students get the strong impression that they are taking part in something unique, sacred, and eternally significant when they come to youth group.

I remember my years at Gordon College.  Every Sunday night our chapel turned into Catacombs, and we worship through icons (images), ancient hymns, silence and meditation all by candlelight.  These were incredible moments of touching the transcant and encounting the mysterious Divine.  Especially in the busyness of finals and athletic and social life, I needed these evenings to refresh my soul.

Every year, for the past eight years, I have been attnending the Youth Specialatiies National Youth Workers Convention.  Most years, they would transform spaces in the convention center to make a prayer room, labyrinth, and offer Vesper services.  Having not come from a faith tradition that promotes these, at first I was skeptical.  But having experienced the sacred, it has truly transformed my worship.

And now, with my own students, we bring in many comtemplative practices and create sacred space.   Some of our biggest “outreach” evenings will be for our prayers stations and spirituality spaces.  Students want to tap into their spirituality.  We should be open and willing to provide environments for them to do this in a Christ centered way.

Postmodern youth ministry also shifts the emphasis on evangelism

Tony writes, “In the postmodern context, it could be said that we ought to first evangelize experientially and teach the content of the faith later.  After all, Jesus says to his disciples Follow me!- not, Do you accept me as your personal lord and Savior?

“In modern Youth ministry, reductionism showed in our proclivity to purchase a program or curriculum, or take our kids to a really hyped up rally rather than do the long, hard work of building relationships and sharing Christ over time.”

Postmodern YM stresses the importance for a long-term discipleship. seeing it as a journey, and not a one-time close the deal event of conversion.  For too long, youth pastors have been counting conversions rather than counting conversations.  Coversatiions take time and devolope into relationships.  Relationships bring about community and transformation..which lines up more to the biblical example we have.

Teaching is re-imagined as well.

Instead of scripted talks and didactic teachings every week, Tony argues that we must facilitate discussion and dialogue.

We don’t need to try to convince or prove certain truths to students.

Rather, we can invite this pre-Christian student to experience the truth of Scripture by inviting him or her into the life of our community.  I have written about this shift. To read more see the link below.

Shift from facts to experience/encounter

“As pre-Christian students experience biblical love, and as they’re exposed to the stories of Scripture, the Bible will begin to take on “truth value” for them, and after time they will find the Bible is indeed a metanarrative into which every human being’s story in written.”

Postmodern YM allows students to first Belong to our community, then Behave by participating, and allowed time and grace as they come to Believe.

By comparision, traditional youth ministry often required the right Beliefs and Behavior before students could really Belong.  And we wondered why we weren’t making a different in the community and reaching unchurched teens!

Tony provides a great section about the web of belief and evangelism and how apologetics have been done in culturally appropriate ways that need to be done differently in a world which absolute, foundational truth is being overthrown.  How this works itself out is still in flux, but I do believe the way (method) and content (message ) of our apologetics and evangelism must change when doing ministry to postmodern teens.  I will attempt to write about this specifically at a later time.

In a postmodern world, we must exhibit authenticity and integrity as we teach students the essential truths of the faith.  If we oversimplify things, they will be blown away when they go into college or the working world and find that life and faith are not as simple as we lead them to believe. Better that they’re confronted with the rigorous complexities of faith now, in a community of faith where they can ask questions and work through spiritual dilemmas

Chris Folmsbee and Barefoot Ministry offer a great model for this approach:

Simplicity- Complexity- Perplexity- Humility.

For too long, youth ministry has intentionally tried to keep students in the Simplicity category by providing a simple faith and really not allowing much room (or time) for questions and doubts. We shied away from difficult passages and stories and offered cliche and trivial Bible answers to really tough questions and situations are students faced.  And then, they go offer to college and, in light of knew knowledge and experiences, everything they grew up learning seems to simple to be believable anymore.  Has this happened to anyone?

One of my favorite sections of the book contains a great chapter entitled The How of Discipleship

Tony shares his plan for catecissms and the spritual formation (education + trasnformation0

Re-reading this chapter causes me to rethink my plan for spiritual formation and to strive to teach not only bible, but history, doctrine, ethics, etc…

Included in Tony’s plan were the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, Apostles Creed, the sacraments, early church history, Old Test, New Test, Worship, Prayer, Missions and Outreach, denomicational distinctives…all combined within a structure of service, community, and hands on experiences.  Imagine restructuring your Sunday Am “Sunday school” (a.k.a babysitting and online curriculum) and have a real purpose and plan in place.

“Every church has to find a regular method to disciple its students appropriate to its local culture, its denominational heritage, and the congregation.”

At my church, I am currently in coversation about doing just this which the possibility of offering either a 6-month or 10-month class for all incoming freshman and a similar type of thing for outgoing seniors.

We would also combine such ancient practices such as lectio divina, the labyrinth, the spiritual disciplines, etc..

I’ll keep you posted on our progress, but I have thanked Tony for pushing me towards this thinking.

The last section of the book discusses relooking at how we view (and talk about) the Bible.

Doug Pagit’s voice is heard in the pages when he writes,  “The Bible is the nonfiction storybook of God’s interaction with his people.  It’s the lens through which we look at the world- not simply the object we study.”

J. Heinrich Arnold writes, “You will never be able to prove- even to yourself, that Jesus exists. Belief must be an inner experience.  As long as you try to prove the object of your belief intellectually, your efforts will stand in the way of such an experience.”

We read the Bible with our own lens that are fashioned by our surroundings. To try and say that we come to the text objectivity is self-deceptive.

In postmodern youth ministry, instead of trying to defend or prove the Bible (especially to the postmodern mind where objective Truth simply doesn’t exist), we must reclaim the Bible as narrative.

Tell stories.

A great job description for future youth workers could read something like this.

Youth pastors: Brings the Bible to life for students.

We do this so they can fully enter into the story and then have their lives changed and transformed by the story, kind of like that 80’s movie The Never Ending Story

What if  everything we did as youth workers was focussed on the goal that we might be conformed to Christ’s image!  No more measurements based on numbers or size of budget of staff.  And our annual review, the senior pastor would ask, Are you and your students being conformed to the image of Christ?

That is ultimately the goal of postmodern youth ministry.  The goals is the same (or should be) of all types of youth ministry.  The difference resides in who we are trying to reach, acknowledging that the realities of postmodernity necessitate that how we do it and what we say change and adapt to the culture…adapting for the result of transformation!

In conclusion….

Tony is attempting to do this in a postmodern context. In many ways, he is a missiologist and practical theologian.

If you do not understand postmodernity, you may not understand what Tony is trying to do.  If you are thoroughly emerged in a modern mindset and worldview (and no one is claiming that to be bad mind you), then you may in fact question and disagree with Tony on many levels.

Personally, I am glad that people like Tony Jones has a passion to reach a particular people with the gospel of Jesus.
Though his methods and message may be different than where many of us have come from and feel comfortable, it needs to be that way in order for a genuine and culturally approcatiate encounter with God to take place in the hearts and lives of postmodern students.

I am glad to hear that Tony is desiring to get back involved in youth ministry on some level whether speaking, teaching, or hopefully some more writing. (I personally think his heart has always been there)

As a final side note:  One of the great aspects of this book is that Tony was among the first to include commentaries infused within his content.  Authors such as Brian McLaren, Mike Yaconelli, Kara Powell, Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, Leonard Sweet, and others offer their opinions, critiques, and unbiased views on Tony’s thoughts.

shifting our physical space in youth ministry

Ascetics makes a difference in youth ministry. What I mean is that where you meet and what it looks like impacts effectiveness. Now, I am not going to get all Martha Stewart on you and argue for garden-fresh and pleasing aromas and certain hues of earth-tone colors for your window dressings.

Over the past 10-20 years in youth ministry there was a move from the small to the big.

Youth pastors rallied together in their desire to move out of the youth room and into the fellowship hall (and progressively into the Sanctuary and then maybe….a local gym)

Personally, I would envision having bleachers full of students looking down at me, or me looking up into hundreds of faces (if I were teaching at a local theater)

Throw in maybe a fun skit, heavy use of media, and lots of loud music and free prizes.

It resembled a mini youth conference..and a school assembly morphed together.

Is that really what our students yearn for?

We must ask ourselves how often each week are students being taught at and being spoken to.

Think about their environments at school.  Teacher in the front of the classroom, instilling knowledge and facts to silent students all sitting in rows.

old-classroom

At home, the setting may be less formal and structured, but their parents still bark orders at them, telling them what to do and what not to do.

Now, I am not saying that either ways of communication and education is wrong, or necessarily out dated. However I do believe that by the time our students come to us on a Wed or Friday night, they are sick of it.

Where is the dialog, interaction, and participation?

At school they are instructed to face forward looking at the back of each others heads..kind of looks like church on Sunday morning.

No wonder why kids seem to hate both!

Could it be that today’s students do not learn best in a stagnant, uncreative, and individualistic environment?

Today’s church must rethink its structural set up for fear of losing these upcoming generations.

Take the example of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. At first glance, I had to admit that their “church” resembled my youth room in many ways. Plenty of couches and chairs in a circular pattern. The speaker, Doug Pagitt, sits on a stool in the center and makes himself, and his message, very approachable during the teaching times. People are encouraged to interact with the message, ask questions, and be creative and conversational in their response. And, probably most importantly, is that everyone is humanized. They sit in a way that looks the other person in the eye and promotes physical contact and touch.

solomons-porch solomons-porch2

A bit different than the “sit 3 inches away from every one on the cold hard pew”…type of atmosphere that you and I may have grown up with..and sadly still exists in many churches today.

Nowadays, youth groups must celebrate and work back towards the small.

Youth rooms (old couches and half broken chairs) are not such a bad thing after all. Maybe we should thank those elders who vetoed our youth budgets all those years!

Now, if you really can’t fit in your (used to be a janitor’s closest) youth room anymore, then perhaps you really do need a bigger space to meet.

However, trying to jam pack more and more students into an already over crowded room (just so we can justify needing a newer and bigger youth room)…I’m not so sure that is a really good thing anymore.

Growth is good, don’t get me wrong. And many times, you will naturally grow numerically without having to try very hard.

But a word of caution for you: Don’t change your approach because you are growing.

Find new and creative ways to keep the eye contact, open dialog, interaction, and student participation alive in your meetings. Bleachers and movie theaters are probably not the best idea for that.

Lastly, I believe it is also important to find ways to utilize current space and transform it into sacred space. Much has been written about this topic and I would recommend the following resources. (listed a bit further down actually)

I will simply say that without too much effort, you can permanently transform places into sacred spaces for your teens. Or, a few times a semester turn your youth room or fellowship hall (or whatever space you meet in) into something new and different. Create atmospheres that allow for the mysterious, transcendent, and wonderful Spirit of God to be experienced in fresh and memorable ways by your students.

Teenagers these days are very into spirituality and mystical things, and while we don’t want to make Christianity into a trendy New Age cult phenomena, there is definitely a historical precedent to these ancient practices. So, in some ways it is nothing new, but rather a return to tradition.  (at least you can tell your parents and elders that!)

The Sacred Way– Tony Jones

Contemplative Youth Ministry– Mark Yaconelli

*Sacred Space:A Hands-On Guide to Creating Multisensory Worship Experiences for Youth Ministry

by Dan Kimball and Lilly Lewin

http://aidanslegacy.typepad.com/lillylewin/2004/09/stumbling_towar.html  (Lilly Lewin’s blog)

*http://www.creativeprayer.com/index.php?blog=2 (an index and description of great prayer stations)

http://www.labyrinth.org.uk/

(youth specialties always does one of these and you could probably do in a fellowship hall,  sanctuary without pews, or a gym…and might actually be the best use of a gym you could find)