In 2012, hundreds of leaders, ministers, volunteers, parents, and students gathered in Washington, DC, for “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” (CYNKC) a groundbreaking gathering about spiritual formation, young people, and the future of the church. After the success of this event, CYNKC founder Dave Csinos launched Faith Forward as a not-for-profit organization aimed at continuing the movement that began at that seminal event in Washington. Faith Forward is an ecumenical Christian organization that brings together forward-thinking leaders in children’s and youth ministry for collaboration, resourcing, and inspiration toward innovative theology and practice.
It’s with this vision in mind that Faith Forward will host its 2014 gathering in Nashville on May 19-22 (www.faith-foward.net). By bringing together pastors, Christian educators, youth leaders, denominational representatives, parents, and allies, Faith Forward will deeply explore what it means to really form sustained faith in youth and children. The 2014 gathering will be really unique. Events include:
· Presentations from an all-star lineup of speakers, including yours truly, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Andrew Root, Sandy Sasso, Anne Wimberly, Melvin Bray, Mark Yaconelli, Ivy Beckwith, and many others
· Unique workshops offered by cutting-edge practitioners and leaders
· Music led by Aaron Niequist and Sharon Irving
· A spoken word performance by teens from Southern Word
· Resources and exhibits from all sorts of organizations
· Opportunities to forge relationships across denominations, traditions, and perspectives
Join me and many others in Nashville as we re-imagine children’s and youth ministry, May 19-22. Visit www.faith-forward.net for more information and to register.
On April 3rd, Andrew Zirschky will be our guest for a day of conversation, learning and theological reflection. This year we featured a session in the Theology Track at the National Youth Worker Convention led by Andrew entitled Communion Beyond Connection: Youth, Social Media, and Christian Sociality in an Age of Networks. This session was a highlight so we are bringing it to our Kansas City area youthworkers.
Social media, text messaging, and other forms of technology-driven interaction are changing the way adolescents and young adults craft identity and find community. Through “selective sociality” in a culture of “networked individualism” teens write their own identities and communities into being — a process that increasingly leaves them lonely and anxious.
Andrew will help us explore changes to adolescent understandings of personhood and social connection and will consider opportunities for a faithful response by Christian communities. The training will happen at Second Presbyterian Church (318 E. 55th St KCMO 64113) from 9a to 1p.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to register.
The word advent means the coming or arrival of something important. Advent is the season when the church celebrates the coming or arrival of Jesus. The Advent Season is all about anticipating the arrival of "God with us" as a human being born in Bethlehem. Traditionally, Advent is celebrated on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Youthfront invites you to join us during this Advent season by participating in this Journey to the Manger, a guide available to you through download.
Suggestions for observing Advent together as a family:
1. Create the right atmosphere. On Sunday night, turn down the lights, light some candles and play some soft Christmas music. Gather your family together in a comfortable room and sit close together.
2. Go through the appropriate week's lesson provided in this guide.
a. Set up the manger scene as described for that week
b. Read the assigned Scripture with quiet enthusiasm. Consider taking turns reading each time.
c. Select some questions that seem to be most appropriate for your family and discuss them together.
d. Engage in the activity together. Be sure to read through the activity beforehand so that you are prepared. (Note - week 2 the activity is before the Scripture reading and discussion).
e. Read the closing prayer.
f. Sing a Christmas song together.
3. Enjoy a favorite family snack together. Consider choosing a snack that is usually enjoyed only during the holidays. Over the years it is fun to see how your family comes to associate that snack with Advent and Christmas.
The most important thing to remember is that being together is the most important thing! Don't try or expect to create the perfect evening (especially if you have a two year old or an adolescent!) It is not about perfection but being present to God and one another. Expect that there will be fidgeting, bizarre questions, distractions and maybe even some fighting. That is all OK. Know that what you are doing matters deeply and will be remembered. It will shape and form your family for years to come.
I must admit that I choked up watching this video of Actor Ashton Kutcher speaking onstage at the Teen Choice Awards 2013 at the Gibson Amphitheatre on August 11, 2013 in Universal City, California. Love it. Gives us more of this celebrities and grow up.
From now until May 4, 2012 you can get a free digital book entitled A Mother's Journey of Love, Loss and Life Beyond, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple. Let me explain my connection with this book.
Recently, I received an email from Jennifer Scalise, a mother who
wanted to share a story with me about her daughter, Brooke. Just a few weeks after Brooke’s second summer
at Youthfront Camp West, while on vacation with her family, she was killed in a
negligent accident caused by a tour operator in Costa Rica. This senseless tragedy became national
news. Ultimately Brooke’s mom
wrote a book about her story.
Jennifer has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, Good Morning America,
and World News with Diane Sawyer to tell Brooke’s story.
In her book Jennifer describes
how their family did not go to church but Brooke had gone to camp (at
Youthfront) and had become involved in church. Brooke had become increasingly vocal about her love for
Jesus Christ. Her mom spoke about
how gentle yet consistent Brooke was about her faith in God. The book chronicles the process of her
family’s discovery of Brooke’s deep faith and love for Jesus Christ by reading
her Youthfront Camp Journals after her death. As I read Jennifer’s book A MOTHER’S JOURNEY of Love, Loss and Life Beyond, I
found myself moved to tears on more than one occasion.
summer that Brooke died was the summer we focused on Jesus’ parables in Luke
15. It was amazing in the
book to see Brooke's own handwritten words in her Youthfront camper
manual. She wrote about her life
with Jesus. She revealed how the
parable of the Prodigal Son had impacted her. In the camper manual we had the picture of Rembrandt's
painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son. Brooke’s mom included this picture in her book and wrote
about it, “We found a picture of The Return of the Prodigal
Son by Rembrandt, on which Brooke had written “God” with an arrow to
the man depicting God and then “me” with an arrow to the son kneeling in front
of God. We were shocked Brooke would think this way and would have viewed
herself as the child kneeling in front of God.”
I told Brooke’s mom, “We get to serve thousands of young
people and minister to them. We try to do this with a generous posture
that creates space for their humanity. Too many camps and churches try to
force young people into a confining human-created mold when what is really
needed is an environment that allows young people to lean into their own God
shaped humanity. Brooke definitely embraced Jesus Christ and allowed her
spirit to be set free by God's life-giving spirit.
Brooke’s mom continues, “Much
later, a friend looking at the picture discovered something I had missed.
Brooke had also drawn and circled a distinctive mark on the back of the head of
the son (the person she felt depicted her), a mark in the exact spot and in
accurate proportion to what I would later learn was the most severe of Brooke’s
injuries, and ultimately, the cause of death. Stunned, I moved in a fog for
days after finding this, overwhelmed by the magnitude of what it proved.
all surprised me. Brooke and I were extremely close. She had always confided in
me about everything. Our love was so strong. I have many letters that she wrote
to me in which she tells me that I am her best friend and we shared a bond like
no other. But, as close as we were, I will admit that I was shocked to find out
I was not what mattered most in her life. As we pored through what were now the
greatest gifts of my life, I found a sheet that she had filled out at school,
titled ‘Explore Your Future.’ Under ‘Who do you look up to?’ Brooke listed God,
Jesus, and my parents. Under ‘What is important to you?’ she had written: ‘God,
my family, and friends are all important to me.’ Not many 12 year olds would
write this on a school worksheet in a public school. Seeing this and the other
documents made me realize how her love for God was greater than even her love
for me and that she viewed herself as God’s child first. As devastated as I
was, it gave me peace knowing Brooke was with who she loved most.”
Brooke’s family is thankful to Youthfront for introducing
her into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. I am also thankful that Brooke’s story also involves an
extension of God’s grace into the life of the entire family. This happens all the time. This is our mission and Brooke’s story
is one of thousands of beautiful stories of young people transformed by Jesus
Christ through Youthfront’s ministries.
Youthfront partnered with Generation Alive and Able Works to mobilize
450 high school students in East Palo Alto to package 100,000 meals for
our Something to Eat™ initiative. East Palo Alto is divided from Palo
Alto by a freeway. Palo Alto is a very wealthy area fueled by the
success of the Silicon Valley. Apple, Google and Facebook are some of
the corporate success connected to Palo Alto. East Palo Alto lies in
stark contrast to Palo Alto. About 65% of the residents of East Palo
Alto are Hispanic/Latino, 16% are African-American, and 10% Pacific
Islander/Asian. Several years ago, Michelle Pfeiffer starred in the
movie Dangerous Minds as a teacher, teaching a classroom of East Palo
Alto high school students whose lives were being destroyed by drugs,
gang involvement, illicit sex, crime, etc. For a young person, living in
East Palo Alto can still be a dangerous reality. In the few months
before our Something to Eat™ event several young people were killed
through drug and gang violence. The names Something to Eat™ and
Something to Drink™ come from Matthew 25 when Jesus led us to imagine
that when someone is hungry or thirsty and we give them food or water it
is the same as giving food and drink to Jesus.
than 450 young people from this under-resourced community moved outside
of the dominating and destructive script many of them feel trapped in
and instead worked to raise money to provide food for those around the
world who are suffering from starvation. Most of these young people
have grown up with a script that imprisons them into thinking that they
are stuck forever in a story that centers around poverty, drugs, gangs,
crime and violence. I wish you could have been an eyewitness to what
happened in this Something to EatTM event. We worked hard all day and
yet, these teenagers didn’t even want to take a break. We stopped for
short five minute breaks throughout the event to talk and reflect on
why we were doing what we were doing – information about the world
hunger crises, about the importance of taking care of each other along
with inspirational thoughts. We had local artists perform Street Poetry
that was uplifting and spiritually rich. It was amazing to see what was
The East Palo Alto Police Captain spent the day with us. He was so
enthused that he was on the phone talking to the news media reminding
them that they were all at the recent murder scene involving young
people and they needed to come and see the good things young people were
doing. I got into a conversation with the Police Captain, an East Palo
Alto School Board member and a former mayor of the city. We talked
about how important it was to provide the opportunity for these young
people to participate in an alternative script to the broken scripts
that they had grown up with and ensnared by. We agreed that these young
peoples’ imaginations were being unleashed and this has the potential to
alter their life scripts forever. It was also cool to learn that the
Police Captain grew up in Kansas City and had served our country for
many years as a presidential appointed U.S. Marshall
Albert Einstein declared, “Imagination is more important than
knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and
understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”
I believe Youthfront’s mission to bring youth into a growing
relationship with Jesus Christ happens because we embrace the most
powerful script of all – the Gospel. The Gospel unveils a story that unleashes the imagination of those who have
ears to hear. The Gospel story has the power to render other scripts
impotent. Think of Jesus’ own disciples. They fled in fear when he was
arrested. They witnessed his crucifixion. They were hiding in a state of
dreadful trepidation. And when a few of Jesus’ followers, mostly women,
went to his tomb the Gospel story breaks forth with the declaration “He
is not here, he has risen!” Still the disciples hid in disarray and confusion. Although a few were convinced
that Jesus Christ was resurrected, some, Thomas for instance still
didn’t have the imagination to believe that the Gospel proclamation that
Jesus was risen could be true. And then he saw Jesus. Thomas declared,
“My Lord and my God!” I believe the Christian story properly told
stirs the imagination of the listener.
Yesterday I saw The Perks of Being A Wallflower. The movie is based on Stephen Chbosky's novel by the same name. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is beginning his freshman year carrying the weight of a tragic middle school experience and not expecting high school to be any better, the desire for friends, the hope for a first love, and a dark cloud of emotion over the deaths of a friend and aunt. Charlie falls into a friendship with a group of seniors who are all dealing with their own issues.
The cast is wonderful, filled with notable actresses/actors featuring Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Mae Whitman, Joan Cusack and Paul Rudd. Logan Lerman as Charlie makes anyone watching the movie surely remember the awkwardness of coming to age during the adolescent experience.
So here's the thing, the movie is 102 minutes long and based on the first 90 minutes of the movie I would have recommended the film for youth workers to see because we take our vocation seriously and we want to study culture and the adolescent experience (see trailer below).
However, it is the final approximately 12 minutes that totally rocked me and led me to write this post to encourage all youth workers that this is a must see film. I don't know if the film touched things deeply personal or if I was just watching this at the right (or wrong) time but the movie reminded me that hope can spring forth even in the midst of our tragic lives. The Perks of Being a Wallflower also reminded me why I haven't been able to walk away from the vocation of ministry, especially to youth and their families. I think our youth ministries are filled with the kinds of young people portrayed in this movie. The movie also demonstrates the importance of caring adults (Paul Rudd as English teacher) in the lives of young people.
I don't believe I've spoiled anything with this post. I just want you to see it. Maybe you won't be caught as off guard as I was but if you see it you will thank me.
If you are attending the National Youth Workers Convention in Dallas you will notice the lanyards with "LaCygne" on them. You will probably overhear youthworkers talking about LaCygne. So, what is LaCygne? Great question, in fact below are links to frequently asked questions about LaCygne.
Please click any question below to see a detailed
AND as a SPECIAL BONUS, HANG OUT WITH AYME's DISTINGUISHED CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR, KENDA CREASY DEAN.
What is the future of Christian
proclamation in a society increasingly driven by networked technologies
and 140-character communications? What place does preaching to young
people have in such a society, and what form might it take? How might we
move from mere sermons and “youth talks” into affecting the lives of
I'm excited to participate in this important Conference. COME JOIN US.
You can receive a 20% discount by entering this code - preach