Words matter and have the power to create and influence culture.
We all understand and know how deeply words, whether positive or negative, can affect the way we perceive and feel about ourselves.
Throughout history, words have been used to communicate and bring about movements for the good (the Civil Rights movement) and for evil (the political Nazi movement led by Adolf Hitler) that have forever changed the world.
As a youth minister, I know and understand how my words can be a catalyst in helping youth grow as followers of Christ. Now, I’m not saying that everything is riding on my shoulders (that would a major load to carry), but, what I am saying, is that, as an adult who mentors teenagers in spiritual matters, what I say can and will have a lasting impact.
This past Sunday was known as the “Baptism of the Lord Sunday” or “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.” This is a special Sunday where Christians all over the world reflect upon the baptism of Jesus and remember our own baptisms. In all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), we read that after Jesus was baptized a voice came from heaven that said, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life” (The Message). WOW! Such beautiful words! At the beginning of his ministry, this is the message Jesus hears; these are words that spark the greatest movement in history. After Jesus hears this affirmation from the Father, as Richard Rohr states, “You can’t stop him.”
As we minister to youth in our churches and in our communities, this is the message we must proclaim:
“You are a beloved son and daughter of God”;
and, not just a baptism and confirmation, but at every opportunity.
For many children and youth, they rarely, if ever, hear words of affirmation from their parents or other adults. For some, all they hear is a message of negativity and criticism.
We, as the church, have the greatest news to share, and, I believe, when we speak love into the lives of teenager;
When we proclaim just how important they are to God and us;
When the foundation of the the spiritual journey is the Good News of the Gospel;
When we breath these life-giving words over them,
world-changing movements will happen;
For, in these words, our true identity as beloved children of God is found and we all are forever changed.
Here is my most recent blog post originally published at http://www.brettwitcher.com
I love candy! (especially M&Ms)
I’m pretty sure that’s why Halloween is at top of the list for “my favorite time of the year.” If I could get away with it, I would be that 30 year old man who dressed up and went trick-or-treating. Of course, I don’t because that’s just creepy and weird.
Lucky for me, though, my church, Lane Memorial United Methodist, where I serve as youth minister is having a Halloween party (yes, I will be dressing up)! The church is located smack dab in the middle of the community’s epicenter for trick-or-treaters; so, we plan to setup a party to connect with folks in our community.
Last night, Lane youth participated by making candy bags to give out on Friday. A big thank you to Kathy Jackson, the greatest youth worker in the world (along with her husband Bill) for setting this up!
Packing candy…..pretty mundane work, right? Yea, probably…..
I knew packing candy into bags was not the most glamorous task, but I also knew this was much bigger and deeper than what the eyes could see.
This candy adventure was more than stuffing fun size M&Ms and Hershey bars into a halloween bag.
This candy adventure was a connection point; an interconnectedness adventure.
Sam Halverson writes in his book, One Body: Integrating Teenagers into the Life of Your Church, “A church thrives on interconnectedness and collaboration because humans thrive on such things. We learn from each other, and the more diverse we are the more we learn” (p. 31).
The mission statement of Lane is “Hearts for God, Hearts for People!” And, last night, our youth and all the members of Lane Memorial United Methodist Church, if we will pay close attention, learned another way that our communion can live out this mission statement together.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (NRSV).
It is a very easy thing to create “silos” of ministry. It is very easy to just simply give youth their own space and place in the budget. And, I do believe this things are important. However, it is vital, for both the growth of adolescences and the church, that we become integrated.
For youth, they learn:
1. The importance of worship-By worshipping together, we guide youth into discovering how all parts of a service (from the music to the reading of scripture) are forms of worship, the historical forms of worship, and the need for the body of Christ to gather together for worship.
2. New ways through old ways of being the church-One of my favorite experiences in youth ministry was getting to see a group of youth sit and listen to an older church member tell his story of being a P.O.W. during WWII. As a prisoner he was not treated well, to say the least, but (and this made me cry) upon his release, when his fellow American soldiers overtook the prison and set him free, he offered forgiveness instead of retaliation to those who had imprisoned and tortured him. I will never forget the things both the youth and myself learned on what it means to follow Christ from this story. Youth need to hear these stories, because it will help them see beyond themselves and gain a new perceptive on what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
For adults, they learn:
1. To think outside of the box-To become fully integrated, the church will need to be creative and discover new ways to reaching out. Youth will continually push the church to be “cultural anthropologist.” They will take us out of our comfort bubble to see how God is working in the present and how we can join that work.
2. It’s about relationships-Youth want and need to feel like they belong to a group. For them, it’s all about relationships, and it’s part of the developmental process. You can try all the gimmicks; you can have the best of everything, but if there is no sense of belonging, nothing will stick. They teach us that church without deep, authentic relationships is dead.
At Lane, we are on an integration journey. Last night was just one way that we are discovering how to be the church. How do you see integration taking place within your youth ministry and church? What else can we learn through integration? I would love to hear your thoughts!
General Purpose of Position:
Lane Memorial United Methodist Church is looking for a committed Christian man or woman who have a heart and training in youth ministry. The ideal candidate will be dedicated to build young disciples for Christ by developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to youth ministry (in the areas of group building, worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach) while serving as a spiritual leader and role model. We seek someone who understands the youth of today and is willing to incorporate new mean and methods but has a strong desire and commitment never to compromise the message.
Organizational Relationship and Supervision:
The Youth Pastor reports to the Senior Pastor for spiritual and ministry guidance. The Senior Pastor, in cooperation with the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, provides an annual evaluation of the Youth Pastor’s performance.
The Primary Task:
There shall be a comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of the youth ministry at all levels and in all ministry areas of the church. This comprehensive approach is based on the understanding of the primary task of youth ministry to:
-love youth where they are
-encourage youth in developing their relationship to God
-provide them with opportunities for nurture and growth
-challenge them to respond to God’s call to serve in their communities and world
1. Be an advocate for youth and educate the congregation about the hopes, concerns and needs of youth in the local church and community.
2. Help plan, develop, and implement all aspects of a balanced youth ministry in the areas of group building, worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach
3. Support and guide the work of the Youth Council or equivalent body in an annual process of evaluating the vision and goals of the youth ministry and directing monthly planning sessions
4. Mentor youth in developing their leadership skills
5. Be aware of resources for developing the youth ministry programming and participate in continuing education events and training opportunities
6. Recruit and train volunteers who work with youth in all aspects of youth ministry and ensure adequate volunteer support and adult to youth ratios.
7. Be a liaison between the church and other community organizations, people, and resources that relate to youth and youth ministries
8. Coordinate Sunday school curriculum for youth (grades 6-12) and recruit teachers in partnership with the staff and Senior Pastor.
9. Work in partnership with the pastor to help conduct Confirmation Class and provide leadership for confirmands, mentors, and parents beyond the classroom
10. Effectively reach youth in the community and develop a strategic youth ministry outreach plan
11. Communicate in a timely manner and as effectively as possible using all available resources (email, website, bulletin, newsletter, bulletin board, etc.). Ensure communication with church staff and leadership, parents, and the congregation as a whole.
12. Make yourself available to youth in a variety of ways (i.e. lunch at school, attendance at extracurricular activities, visitation, times of crisis, etc.
13. Work in concert with the gifts and talents of other staff members and maintain a teamwork mentality.
14. Ensure that the Child Protection Policy is observed in all youth ministry settings.
Qualifications and Aptitudes:
1. A bachelor’s degree in a related field is preferred.
2. Must have vision and a demonstrated ability to plan, develop, coordinate, manage and implement a youth ministry within the parameters of the United Methodist Church
3. Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, conflict management skills, and computer skills.
4. Must have a proven ability to work effectively with youth, diverse individuals, and teams of volunteers
To apply for this job, please submit your resume to Pastor Alan Combs, Lane Memorial UMC, 1201 Bedford Ave., Atlavista, VA. 24517. You may also send your resume electronically to sue @ lanememorialumc.org.
On Monday, we went to Morningstar Youth Estates. This is a place that provides therapeutical services to children and families in an effort to break a cycle of abuse and neglect. Here we two men Jim and Gill. They both were very into their jobs and loved it everyday. We raked leaves around the Chapel and power washed one the boys cabins.
Once all of this was done we got to hang out with some of the kids that were there. First of all, none of the kids here are ever alone…even when they are in the bathroom. Jonathan and I went into the gym to play a pick up game. There was one boy named Kenandos and he lived for the game. To me it seemed like it was the only thing that kept him busy so that he wouldn’t think about the past and what had put him in that position.
Finally we went to the library/study room where I got to help a boy name Tyler with long division. He was very smart and very chatty, which made us have a instant click. Tyler had been there since November, but seemed like he was doing well.
I saw God as soon as we arrived in Mr. Jim and Gill. Mr. Jim said that even though these kids were different and had problems they were loved by God and his job was to love these kids. Gill, was the facilities manager and had the patience of Job. He would take them fishing to help calm their nerves and he would just take them on hikes and let them climb trees and have fun!
Dashawn Hamlett ” DHAM”
Today we worked in 2 very different places and got an amazing experience from both. First, we met with a woman named Celia who works with FaithWorks. FaithWorks is a non-profit organization located in Southeast Georgia that does a lot of different things. They take in clothes or materials to make new items, they have a food pantry that gives food to people with not enough, they have a food distribution program, they have a homeless transition program, and they provide elementary school mentors to tutor kids. We worked in the textile recycling factory in the morning and we did things from sorting clothes into bags to ripping material out of fabric books. Later on we went to a Lenten Lunch at Celia’s church, First United Methodist, and chatted and listened to a Lenten speaker. When we were talking we heard about a garage down the street from the church and the local school that serves Zaxby’s chicken every Tuesday to members of the First United Methodist and Saint Marks Episcopal churches youth groups for free. They told us that they haven’t lost any money since they started serving the chicken. It was really cool and a good way to get kids more involved with churches. We left there and it was pouring down rain. We went to what Celia called the ‘bird boxes’ where people could drop off clothes or materials to be recycled. We loaded clothes from three boxes into our bus and into her van in the pouring rain until they were both full. I really saw God in all of us today because even though we were getting soaking wet and we all knew that we were going somewhere straight after it we all did our part and helped get all of the clothes out. After we said our goodbyes to Celia we went to the Boys and Girls Club. We split up into groups to play with the kids. Caitlin and I played foosball with these two boys named Ian and Thomas. Thomas was really quiet but a ninja at the game and Ian was super quick. They beat us by a lot at the end of the game and they all seemed to like the attention of our youth playing with them. At the end of the day we came back to the camp to eat dinner and we talked about all of our different experiences from the day. Today showed me that god is everywhere and is always with us.
Toodles, Rachel Branning
Greetings Lane Memorial!
Harvest of Hope has been a blast, we’ve created amazing memories and friendships while doing God’s work. We’ve spent the past few days gleaning, as you may or may not know is the biblical practice of harvesting the excess crops after a planting.
The produce we’ve gleaned hasn’t been anything extravagant or colorful, but merely plain potatoes. It’s hot, dirty, and tiring work that has left my body feeling like a potato sack myself. Despite the blazing summer sun, the lack of sleep, and the invasion of biting bugs, we’ve pulled through the past few days and gleaned over 23,000 lbs of potatoes that would have gone to waste. You may be asking, “Ok, so what do you do with them?” A food bank truck comes through and we load what seems to be endless mountains of potatoes onto the truck. As the pile slowly disperses, a great sense of satisfaction rushes through your body for you know you will have helped feed a struggling family.
The heaving gleaning work began a hot, muggy Monday morning. We drove out to Farmer Long’s field, and he was generous enough to harvest two huge rows of potatoes that we would deliver to the food bank. After bagging the potatoes, we loaded them up onto the truck. There were so many bags, we had to load some of them into our church bus, and Jason Slusher’s truck to deliver them ourselves.
Tuesday was much similar, except we went to a farmer we’d never gleaned with before. Instead of being given two rows to harvest, we had to scavenge up and down pre-picked rows looking for more potatoes. After gleaning, we’d come back to the wonderful sight of camp showers. After struggling with rusted shower knobs and a well deserved scrub, most of us napped or swam in the bay.
Wednesday, or otherwise known as Agency Day, was probably my favorite. Our church groups were distributed among “agencies” such as the Agape Children’s Center, and local food banks. Lane was sent to Lighthouse Ministries, a homeless center where the people who board there are able to get necessary needs to get back on track. Not much was asked of us except some yard work. Half of us painted the front porch, while the other half painted the back shed that held supplies. We also trimmed hedges, and trees around the center to spruce up the appearance. I really like working with the agencies because we get to witness up close what our hard work does for the local community. Also that’s beach day so we’re able to spend the rest of the afternoon catching some rays while keeping cool.
Thursday and Friday we went to theVirginia Tech research center and gleaned potatoes on their fields where the excess potatoes hadn’t been used for and experimental purposes. Let me tell you, there is no worse smell then plunging your thumb into a rotten potato. Many hand washings occurred after our mornings in the fields.
Friday night we all closed in prayer and a traditional custom at Harvest of Hope. We washed each other’s feet, and spent the evening in prayer. We reflected on the weeks events, and this being our last mission’s trip with Nikki and Shawn it was quite an emotional one. We will all miss them very much, but we know they will do great things for the church they are traveling to.
That concludes our week, Harvest is a great experience and I’m glad I was able to come.
After getting to camp we helped unpack the kitchen supplies in the trailer. Afterwards we went to our cabins to rest for awhile. We came back to the main house for dinner then worship. Worship was very unique the preacher (Don) was funny and didn’t make worship all quiet and boring. Instead it was very amusing and we felt involved, with his charismatic attitude he made it fun. After his sermon we watched a movie entitled “Remember Me” it was about little kids from other countries that had to work all day just to have a meal and still didn’t have enough to fill them up. At the end of the movie we got a bracelet of string because in the movie one of the little girls custom was to give you a bracelet for you to remember her by. Then snack and headed to bed.
We woke up at 6:00am and headed to the main cabin to have worship, then we had breakfast. At 8:00am we left for the field to glean the potatoes. The field was 45 minutes away and mostly everyone fell asleep (including us). Around 8:50am we arrived to the field. Here we met farmer Long and he told us about his family heritage and the different kinds of potatoes. Then we got to picking, it was easy going until we got rained out for about 15-20 minutes. We returned to the field but the rain brought HEAT. But we kept working hard. Then Mrs.Jackson and Sandy Albrecht brought us lunch and we waited for the food truck. We formed an assembly line to load the potatoes onto the truck, and at the end we ended up having 759 bags of potatoes which is equivalent to 7,000 pounds. When we got back to the camp we talked about how some of these people fall into poverty just because of natural disasters and other stuff they have no power over. So we went to small groups (that’s when you and a couple of kids from other churches go and talk about god/jesus). We put on a skit. Then we came back to the main cabin to put on a skit. After the skit we had dinner but, this dinner was unusual we had to take a number 1-3 and that was what class you were in. So if you got a one you had to sit on the floor this represented the lowest class, you got a bowl of rice and a glass of water (bring your own cup). If you got a two you represented the middle class, you had to sit on a stool at the table, you got a bowl of rice with beans and a glass of water. If you got a three you represented the high class, you got ham, purple mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, salt, pepper, and pink lemonade. Many people from the higher tables shared with the lower class. But in reality it isn’t as easy as walking across the room to give food to others. After HAM (Hunger Awareness Meal) we had worship, we talked about being blessed and we should give back to others that aren’t as fortunate.
Today we woke up at 7:00am and headed down to breakfast. After breakfast we broke into small groups again but this time we wrote down Covenants to help stop hunger once we get back to Lane. When small groups ended we had a break and then all got together the do Large Groups. In Large groups we read our Covenants to everyone that attended Harvest of Hope. We had a great time and it was a great event!
DaShawn Hamlett and Rachel Branning
This is the hardest blog I have had to write. As I contemplate the last 15 years where I have had the privilege of working at Lane, many
memories come rushing back. That is why this article is bittersweet. Nikki and I have recently felt God calling us to move to a new ministry setting. I have accepted a job at Wright’s Chapel UMC in Ladysmith, VA where I will be the Youth and Missions Minister, and Nikki has accepted a job to be a teacher at Madison Elementary School. We will make the move in early August. This was not an easy decision to make. We have loved our time at Lane. It was much more than a job to me. You all have really become like family to us. You were there when we got married and when we had our two girls. You took a big step of faith many years ago to hire me full time. All of those reasons and many more encouraged us to stay. A move was not something we were looking for. I have had job offers in the past but always felt God wanted us at Lane. When I got the call from Wright’s Chapel’s pastor, for some reason this one felt different. We took about a month praying and considering this opportunity. It came down to believing that God wants us to step out in faith and go outside of our comfort zone to make this move. I take great comfort in knowing that if this is God’s plan for my family, then He also has a plan for Lane.
I want to assure you that I will work hard these next two months to make sure this is an easy transition. We are not sure what is next for Lane, but
Bill and Kathy Jackson and Jason and Jessie Slusher have agreed to continue to volunteer with the youth so that the ministry can continue. There is no doubt in my mind that the youth are in great hands with these four. I will be working closely with the children’s ministry volunteers to ensure the same for that ministry as well.
There are way too many people to thank for this article, and I would prefer to thank you in person. But I would like to mention a few. First I want to thank Bill and Kathy Jackson for all they have done for my family and me. Their love and support of the youth ministry and us are beyond words. Lane Memorial is lucky to have them. Secondly I want to thank our pastor Alan. He made it clear he wanted me to stay, but showed grace in helping me to sort out God’s call on our lives. Lane is in good hands under Alan’s leadership. Lastly, thank you to all of you. Lane Memorial is truly an amazing church!
Our Youth will be participating in the 30 Hour Famine on May 18-19. Here is a blog post that I wrote for world vision. You can find the original post here. Click here if you would like to donate to our team!
First I must admit I have never participated in the 30 Hour Famine. I have been in youth ministry a long time and have heard of it. I have friends in youth ministry that love it. But honestly there are so many options in youth ministry and so many good causes to support that I just never thought much about it. I also don’t enjoy fundraising very much. Not to mention you can’t eat for 30 hours! Having said all of that there are two things that have changed my thinking and are the reason I will be doing the famine this year with my students.
- A youth minister friend of mine has been doing the famine for many years (10+). He has mentioned to me several times that I should consider doing the famine one year. I would always say maybe we will, but never did. Last year when he mentioned it I started asking more questions about it. He told me how it impacted his students and his entire church. He told me about the tribe games and the fun they had. He described the educational piece of the program and how his students are much more aware of hunger in the world. That caught my attention. Missions that focus on hunger and poverty education have always been an interest to me. Our youth ministry puts a lot of time and effort into hunger awareness and missions.
- That same friend was invited by World Vision to go Zimbabwe to see where money his group raised was going. Because of his recommendation, they invited me to go along as well. On that trip I got to see first hand that the money that was raised really was having a positive impact on the local Zimbabwe communities. I asked lots of questions about where the money went and how it was being used. If I was going to do this at my church, I needed to know that the funds we were raising were being used in a way that had long-term effects. I saw without a doubt that they were. Lives are being changed for the better and all of it is being done in God’s name. The impact was impressive to see. Money that teenagers are raising is being spent, in a country far away, to literally save peoples lives. Not just for today but for many generations to come.
I am sure it sounds like it takes a lot for me to try something new. Maybe that is the case, but I just like to be sure that if I am going to lead my students through something and ask them to raise money that it is a worthwhile ministry. There is no doubt in my mind now that it is. We will be aligning with the work that God is already doing through World Vision. My students and leaders will get to experience the feeling of hunger while learning about hunger around the world. The money they will raise will go towards long term life saving programs. That was enough to convince me. I’m still not looking forward to not eating for 30 hours, but I know now it will be worth it!
Upcoming youth events
May 5th– travel to Timberlake to watch the worship team. Meet at Lane at 4:15. Will be back about 8:30
May 12th– No youth (mother’s day)
May 18-19– 30 hour famine! We will meet at Lane at 7:30am. We will eat breakfast together and then fast until lunch on Sunday. On Saturday morning after breakfast we will volunteer with rebuilding together here in town and then spend the rest of the time together at the church. We will break the fast during the 11:00 service with communion and a lunch afterwards. During our time together we will be learning about hunger around the world with games, videos, and discussion. You need to bring an air mattress and sleeping bag and pillow. This is a fundraising event. All money raised will go to World Vision. Each participant is required to raise (or pay themselves) $40 with a goal of $100 each. The $40 will be due on May 5th. Everyone will receive a 30 hour famine t-shirt that you will pick out on the 5th when you turn in your money. The remaining amount that you fundraise will be turned in the day of the event. If anyone has concerns about fasting for that amount of time please see Shawn. There will be mandatory juice breaks during the event. You can donate online or sign up for the team here!
June 10-14– Vacation Bible School: We will need youth volunteers.
July 12-14– Jr. High Harvest of Hope weekend 6th-8th grades Cost $40 Sign up by May 19th
July 12-20– Sr. High Harvest of Hope week finished 8th grade-12th grade Cost $100 (Sr. highs will attend Jr. high weekend as youth staff) if you can’t attend Jr. high weekend we can try to arrange transportation to come up on the 14th for the start of the week long event. Sign up by May 19th
The weekly summer schedule will come out by the end of the school year! For questions contact Shawn at 258-1920 or firstname.lastname@example.org