How one youth leader stopped being a chief counselor of fun and discovered something better.
"Teens have the ability to do theological reflection and to connect their faith to issues of justice."
Teenage girls navigate a tough landscape. There are tools the church can offer them.
From 1925 till the war broke out, it is nearly impossible to find a period when Bonhoeffer was not working with children or teens.
Buildings and grounds can be leveraged to support a church’s mission—and to extend its presence in the community.
We youth ministers have often tried to make our ministries cool enough to compete. But every teen knows that the church is not cool.
As youth become more and more attached to their digital gadgets, Christian camps are grappling with how to resist the power and presence of this technology.
Riding a bus full of rowdy, screaming teenagers can be hazardous and should be attempted only by trained professionals. Since I am a youth pastor, I am often blessed with this ministry opportunity, which usually involves walking through the bus to keep the conversation to a dull roar. I usually learn something about my students in the process. On one of these trips, for example, a student asked me, “Why do you do this?” “Well,” I said slowly, “when you were a baby, your parents brought you before the whole congregation to be baptized. On that day, we made a promise to you and to God.”
What is missing from the camp portrayed in Jesus Camp, or at least from the film account of it, is the fun. In my church camp days, I enticed non-Christian friends to go to my camp by telling them how much fun it would be. My counselors taught me how to canoe, how to fake fart, how to belay up a rope and how to flirt with girls. The counselors were college kids who were “on fire for Jesus,” but they loved me for myself—not as a future foot soldier in the jihad for America. That’s why I accepted their faith. If it was faith in Jesus that made them love me and others and allowed—no, encouraged—an unbridled pursuit of fun, I wanted in and I wanted to tell others about it. I still do.
Cramming more than 50 high school students into a small room for a Bible study is challenging, but getting them to talk about sex is not. When the hand of one 15-year-old boy shot up in the back of the room, I braced myself. “Is masturbation a sin?—I really gotta know.” I was proud of him—using a word like sin is hard for a teenager.