Archive for adolescents

.:: A Prayer from Solitude for My Students

Posted in adolescence, disciplines, Prayer, spiritual disciplines, Theology with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Walter

One of the courses I teach is Spiritual Disciplines and a significant portion of that class is actually practicing the disciplines when it is feasible in class.  Today I got to share in practicing solitude with them as we dispersed across the green on campus and spent a hour in solitude on an amazing fall day.  Here is a prayer that I wrote for my students during this time:

My prayer for them is that they could be FULLY PRESENT with you God as we commune together in Solitude.

May the peace of Christ dwell in their hearts as they declutter their lives from the noise of the start of a busy week.

May they be taken to the dark parts of their souls and do the difficult work of self-reflection.

May they see you God in the delicate beauty of Autumn that is breaking through.

May their souls be still.

May they be taken from loneliness to intimacy as they experience Your Presence.

May the warmth of the Autumn sun be a gift and reminder of Your Grace.

Father, they are so busy-they had tremendous amounts of stress bearing down upon them–please come near to them in this time.

Give HOPE to those struggling with classes, grades, homework.

Give PEACE to those with problems with family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates.

Give HEALING to those with health issues and medical problems.

Give RELEASE to those with financial struggles, job schedule issues, and those who need just another hour in their day.

As they encounter Your Presence in solitude whisper into their souls that You are Fully Present with them.

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Summer Camp

Posted in Ministry, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2014 by Walter

My guess is that if you asked 100 students in youth ministries across the nation what their favorite part of the summer is, 99 of them would say CAMP!  There is something about getting away from all the noise that distracts us in our daily lives and being able to focus on those things that are really important…Faith and Friends.

I had the blessing of serving at this year’s Otter Creek Christian Camp as a staff member.  My responsibilities included writing the curriculum, training staff and participating in a Book Club. It was an AMAZING year.  I am constantly amazed to see how God shows up to camp. I lost count after counter over 52 weeks of camps and retreats in my youth ministry history.  Over a year of my life spent at camp!  What a rich, rich blessing!  I have been so fortunate to witness time and time again God showing up in some of the most expected ways:

  • There was one year we gave students over 3 hours of solitude time at FDC.
  • The 3 hour Concert of Prayer at SEMP in Seattle and it felt like 10 minutes.
  • When Lou Zamperini (of Unbroken fame)spoke to students at LDYR (both times).
  • Campfires at Teen Camp.
  • Counselor Devos at IMPACT Training where they SING.
  • Guys Night at the GROVE.
  • Watching “Invisible Children” for the first time at Wildwood Camp.
  • Witnessing to people one the streets at SEMP Portland.
  • Seeing student lead groups and speak at SoCal Retreat.
  • Doing Shalom Circles at the Unity Retreat.
  • Countless student-led devos.

Over and over, times where you don’t think anything will happen, God shows up in unexpected ways.  That happened this year at OCCC.  One night we had the students go on a short walk with their favorite verse from the Bible.  They ended up spread out in a field where we had a time where we worshipped by hearing the Word spoken out loud.  Imagine a field filled with 300 tiny lights illuminating scripture and hearing AWESOME verses being shouted out loud.  The lights looked light stars that were hovering over the meadow we were sitting in, but what was more breathtaking was hearing verse after verse being spoken.  It was HOLY.

It truly embodies the passage that testifies:

“For the word of God is alive and active. 

Sharper than any double-edged sword, 

it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

That night the Word of God as truly ALIVE as it was spoken, shouted, lived and experienced.  I feel in many of our communities of faith the Word is a nice companion that we enjoy a marginal acquaintance with, but we do not want an intimate relationship with it.  We do what we can to keep it at arm’s length.  We do not really engage it or wrestle with it.  It is nice if it wants to make an appearance in our lives every now and then, but don’t get too intimate.

I encourage you to ENGAGE with scripture in a new and intimate way today.  Maybe its reading it out loud, listening to it with greater interest, reading it as if the very words of life come forth from it, sharing it with another through text messages, talking about it with a friend, or living it in a new way.  Regardless of the way(s) you choose to encounter God’s Word today, I hope you are able to hear something new and fresh.  May you experience the Living Word this week.

.::Discovery as Faith Journey

Posted in adolescence, church, Life, Ministry, Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2012 by Walter


“People are better persuaded by the reasons they themselves discover than by those which have come into the mind of others.”

–Blaise Pascal

I came across this quote during a class on mediation I am taking this semester.  The goal of mediation it to help two parties who are in conflict come to a decision or solution on their own terms as opposed to having a third party make the decision for them.  In other words, a mediator is there to help them discover information rather the tell them what they need to know.  This got me thinking about how youth ministers and parents can become more of trail guides for teens and less of indoctrinators?

Again, this is an integral part of the adolescent process where students need to know that their choices matter.  Discovery for a teen gives them and their lives meaning.  You have heard the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water . . . but you can’t make them drink.”  As we work with teens we do need to give them tools and opportunities to discover for themselves.  Truth be told, I much prefer to tell teens what I think they need to hear rather than give them the freedom to discover truth for themselves . . . after all aren’t I the expert?(sarcasm)

I think this concept has several applications in the way we might do ministry:

  • Let students have substantive opportunities to learn Truth for themselves:  ALL of the best research out there* that is asking why young adults leave church or what keeps teens in the faith point to the fact of whether or not they had a safe environment to express doubt.  Do our ministries provide sanctuary where teens are allowed to express doubt and differing opinions on faith, God’s existence, sex, social justice, poverty, homosexuality, and other dangerous topics?  Another way of asking this question is to answer, “What are the topics that are ‘off limits’ in our church?”–Let’s talk about those. . . not to be controversial, but to give voice to those issues that are probably on the hearts and minds of our young people.
  • Do students leave our teaching with more Answers or more Questions?  I believe a good education gives you the tools to ask more and better questions rather than simply delivering the answer.  “The Bible says is, I believe it, That settles it.”  Is an attitude we may need to depart from in order to give our students the space and ability to ask difficult questions of faith, religion, the Biblical text, and more.  What kinds of tools are we giving our students that allow them to investigate and journey in their faith that will guide them to answers as opposed to spoon-feeding them with answers?
  • Can we say “I don’t know”?  Is our own faith as leaders big enough to have the confidence to appropriately express our own doubts and still allow God to reign?  Do we have to have an answer for everyquestion that comes up or can we simply say, “I don’t know.”  I am not professing allegiance to a blind, uninformed faith.  Rather, I think being able to say, “I don’t have every answer, but I am still searching” is far more authentic and communicates Truth better than a weakly formed, proof-texted apologetic.  Look at Paul’s own struggles with doubt in Romans 7.  Surely, if Paul is wrestling with these issues at the end of his ministry, surely we have the freedom (or necessity) to have our own doubts?

Those are just a few ideas…any others?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section…

*For more see Sticky Faith by Kara Powell, Soul Searching by Christian Smith, You Lost Me by Dave Kinnaman.