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.
We have been able to work closely together to grow Something to Eat™ into something unique that not only provides food for those who are hungry but challenges young people to lean into the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25.
The best part of this video is that it features Larisa, who is much better looking than Jeremy and the dynamos in their relationship.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares a parable in which he says, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." The righteous ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?..." And the King replied, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
This teaching of Jesus fires my imagination and provokes a response. What are we doing in this to literally minister to Jesus himself by serving others? Desiring to shape young people formationally as disciples of Jesus in the context of this teaching we started Something to Eat™ several years ago. By the end of this year young people will have raised money and packaged well over two million meals for those lacking proper nutrition in Haiti, Africa, Central America, the Philippines, and also throughout the USA where millions of people are dealing with food insecurity everyday.
We have developed amazing collaborative partners such as FH and Generation Alive. We've had incredible support from foundations, donors and others who believe that it's not only part of God's mission to "give them something to eat" but who are also passionate about discipling a generation of young people to follow obediently in the way of Jesus.
This weekend, I'm working with my dear friend Jeremy Affeldt, who has provided deep vision and passion for Something to Eat™ , to package 250,000 meals. The cool thing is that the teenagers packaging the meals are from East Palo Alto. Most people know Palo Alto as the home of Google, Facebook, the Silicon Valley, the wealthy land of the innovator and Venture Capitalist. On the other side of the highway is East Palo Alto, a place that many people have written off. But that is not the story that these young people are embracing. Through the opportunities provided by organizations like Able Works, these young people are leaning into a different story, a story that mirrors the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25. Pray for us this weekend.
Pray for young people who want to not only give something to eat to those who are hungry but also want to stand up for the stranger and push for immigration reform; shine a light on the naked and end the scourge of sex trafficking; and cooperate with God's mission in the world in hundreds of other ways that bare witness to the reality that a day is coming when restoration will be completed and God will get God's way on Earth as in Heaven. This is a generation of young people that according to some of the latest research by Barna are more faithful than any other age group to speak up for Jesus and the Gospel.
In Matthew 25, Jesus was not giving an exhaustive list of the things we should be about in order to come alongside the "least of these." What are ways that you can minister to Jesus directly by serving the least of these? Listen deeply and allow God's Spirit and your imagination to open up the possibilities all around you.
Everyone gives lip service to helping without hurting. We all know about toxic charity. But your mission trips and your service projects still don't look any different. And every summer we bypass our own city's blighted neighborhoods on our way to help out another city with theirs.
This summer, do justice right. Come alongside vulnerable neighborhoods and bear their burdens with them. But go deeper. Unearth the tragedies that have been inflicted upon them. Learn how they got that way and what we can do to heal these wounds by more than good intentions. This summer, join a Youthfront Missional Journey in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas or at our newly-reopened site in Croc, Mexico where we'll help your church move from charity and mercy to justice. Talk to one of our staff today.
Several months ago I was asked by Dr. Fred Edie, Associate Professor of the Practice of Christian Education at Duke Divinity School to write an article for an edition of the Liturgy Journal in which he was serving as guest editor. Here is how he approached me, "At the Dallas National Youth Worker Convention I snuck into several prayer times led by members of the Youthfront staff. I was impressed by their passion and, obviously, by their attentiveness to a rule of life rooted in liturgical prayer. Since this is not your mom and dad's evangelicalism (or youth ministry, for that matter), I was deeply curious about how this vision took root, how Youthfront, an organization with an historic Evangelical heritage, their staff and other young people are engaging with it, and why they imagined it is an important way of being in youth ministry in the present age. Can you write an article telling the story of how this came about?”
I entitled the article, A Liturgical Transformation. The first 50 people who click on this link can download a free copy.
Over the last several years, I, and Youthfront have recieved criticism for challenging young people to cooperate with God's Mission in the world to bring restoration and redemption as a significant part of their Christian Formation. Doing works of mercy and justice have been criticised as being a replacement for evangelism. I can't begin to tell you how often we've heard a label of "social justice" attached to us as a criticism. Most of the time, I've, we (Youthfront) absorb the criticism and continue to do what God has called us to do. But, to be honest, it often stings because it comes sometimes from friends, or former staff of alumni who want things to stay how "they used to be." For sure, I, we no longer train young people to engage in evangelism that starts the narrative with the fall of humanity into sin. The story starts with God creating human beings in the image of God and that is good news. Yes, the story includes the sinful fall of human beings. We are all broken and in need of the work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who brings redemptions and ultimately the restoration of all things. We who know Christ are called to cooperate with God's movement to bring about the restoration of all things - our broken relationship with God, our own broken relationship with ourselves, our broken relationship with others and our broken relationship with the entire cosmos. Fortunately, those who have been critical because they believe their culturally shaped understanding of Christianity is the "only truth" are being exposed more and more as having a theology that is more nationalistically and politically inspired. Those who are embracing a more robust understanding of Gospel and the life of Jesus Christ who believe that Jesus didn't come just to get us into heaven when we die but to pick up our cross (not a democrat cross or a republican cross, and certainly not a rich cross or an American cross) and follow Jesus, bearing witness to the good news, to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God. This gospel is one that young people are willing to give their lives to, and YES, they are engaged in evangelism. Here is the just released data from the BARNA Group. Take note, "Millennials are the only generation among whom evangelism is significantly on the rise."
All that follows in the rest of this post is from the Barna Group from their report on The Most Evangelistic Generation.
They've been called "the social justice generation," and for good reason—Millennials are actively taking up the cause of the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow. Yet the most common critique leveled at this surge in social compassion is that it comes at a great expense. Sure, skeptics argue, they might feed the hungry and free the captives in this life, but what about the next? According to this view, Millennials are elevating physical needs over spiritual needs and forgoing evangelism altogether. Yet the latest Barna research reveals this is not the case. In fact, in answer to the question of evangelism on the rise or in decline, Millennials are a rare case indeed. While the evangelistic practices of all other generations have either declined or remained static in the past few years, Millennials are the only generation among whom evangelism is significantly on the rise. Their faith-sharing practices have escalated from 56% in 2010 to 65% in 2013. Not only that, but born again Millennials share their faith more than any other generation today. Nearly two-thirds (65%) have presented the Gospel to another within the past year, in contrast to the national average of about half (52%) of born again Christians.
Youthfront Camp West is perfect for upper elementary and middle school age students! We are passionate about bringing youth into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ so we do camp in a way that allows authentic discovery and growth for each camper. We do this using three primary values...
Fun. There's no denying that a huge part of being a kid is having FUN. We believe one of the best ways to worship God is through wholesome play. A typical camp day holds plenty of time for activities like swimming, a high ropes course, theme nights, paintball ($7), riding ATVs ($7, ages 12+), the Blob, karaoke, sand volleyball, water sliding, and more!
Environments. We provide an atmosphere where students grow in their relationship with God while having a blast in an environment specially tailored to their needs. Time and space is carved out for students to connect with their creator through play, worship, community, scripture, solitude, prayer and reflection.
Community. We are about learning and living in community. Doing so sparks greater passion and pushes us to think more deeply as a result of being in community. We also surround students with adults who have an overflow of an intimate relationship with Jesus as they share life together and build meaningful relationships.
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.