I’m looking for ways to increase sales for our Scrip program, one of three ways we pay for Short-Term Missions around these parts. I’m starting to work on two publicity pieces for people:
- A new “What is Scrip and Why Should I Care?” type of brochure. There are still lots of people who don’t know much about the program I imagine.
- A Christmas Scrip flier.
So I’m looking for some help:
- What are questions you have about Scrip?
- What are things people who’ve never heard about it would like to know?
- What gift cards are especially important to have in stock at Christmas?
- What would make cards sell better at Christmas?
Really, any ideas you have for raising awareness and/or sales, I’d love to hear them, so post them in the comments, please!
Rooted starts up soon. This Sunday is our informational meeting for students who are interested in participating. I’m excited about it. Last year we looked at Philippians and we had a great time working through the book together.
This year we’re going to be working in the Psalms. In specific, we’ll hit these:
- Psalm 1 // Torah
- Psalm 119 (selections) // Torah
- Psalm 73 // Wisdom
- Psalm 95 // Praise
- Psalm 74 // Lament
- Psalm 84 // Zion
- Psalm 32 // Thanksgiving
- Psalm 116 // Thanksgiving
One of the joys of Rooted is that we get to work through the Bible in more depth than Sunday School and really dig in. It’s also an opportunity to teach kids how to study God’s Word. I’m looking forward to another great year in God’s Word with our youth.
If you’re in High School (or your child is), the informational meeting is this weekend after church. It won’t be very long—maybe 30 minutes at most—but it’s useful in helping students decide if they want to participate.
I didn’t tell our High School students about our “Super Series” concept we’re currently working through at church. The idea is simple: everyone at church “rowing in the same direction” as we study the same topic across all age groups, from worship to Sunday school to Life groups.
I wish I could say it was part of some sneaky test to see if the kids caught on, but the truth is, I just forgot to mention it. So we worked through a “Families Matter” a week ago, then “Communities Matter” this past Sunday, just like everyone else.
Yesterday at Sunday School, Laura Ciminelli says “Hey, this is what the daily devotions have been about this week!” Yup. I guess she passed the test I didn’t intentionally give. This tells me there’s some real strength behind this idea. So fun to see her make the connection on her own, too!
We had what we’re now calling a “Prayer Party” last night for Jennie with our youth group at church. Here’s how the name came about:
On the way to the Lake yesterday, Kelsey was telling me about her experience at camp this year. She told me that she had mentioned some other counselors that she had been at a prayer party just before leaving for camp. The prayer party was a special gathering we had to pray for Annie as she was getting ready for her 2nd surgery.
After a little bit of ribbing and laughing, one of the other counselors asked what that meant. Kelsey told them how we get together and pray for youth who are having surgery. It usually involves goodies of some sort, gifting a blanket to the youth who is having surgery, then laying hands on and praying for them and their family.
After hearing the description, the other counselors expressed how they wished their youth group did the same thing.
It’s funny how “traditions” get started, but the Prayer Party is a fun one for us now. It’s great to see God working through them. And I imagine He might even feel like it’s a party when His kids come together to lift one another up in prayer.
Several days after our return, I’m back to what might be considered “normal” for my summer schedule. As I look back at this Workcamp, here are a few of my thoughts:
- We were able to stop in Piqua, Ohio, site of last year’s Workcamp, and remember what God did through us in that place. What a joy it was. My van didn’t figure it out until we were on the road leading to the school. Piqua is a bit of a Spiritual Memorial for us. We told some stories of God’s work in Piqua and shared things we thought the first-timers should know as they start their first Workcamp. We can’t do it every year, but it was great to do it this time.
- This was our longest drive for Workcamp in a while. About 32 hours total when we were all finished. Car rides are some of the best times as people get mixed around and get to know one another better. We drew seat assignments at random with the help of our VBS Bible Buddies, colored paper and Airheads that were sent to us as a care package.
- These were our worst living conditions ever at a Group Workcamp. Some highlights:
- Our girls were packed wall-to-wall with barely any room for luggage.
- Some girls combined sleeping arrangements to save space. This meant three girls on two air mattresses.
- There were no windows in most rooms, combined with little cooling from the air conditioning. Fans made it tolerable, but not great.
- We had cold showers built of PVC pipe and tent material.
- The gas to the kitchen was turned off because the church failed to pay the bill. This meant some creative cooking, including waffles for 100 people from a single toaster, corn in a microwave then kept warm wrapped in foil and my personal favorite: spaghetti cooked in a coffee urn.
- As you might imagine, this led to some struggles for us. It’s hard to have a positive attitude about the living conditions, especially if you’ve been on one of these trips before but as Kelsey pointed out, we were still living better than the average person in Haiti.
- After the initial shock, our youth did remarkably well at keeping a positive attitude and not letting the conditions ruin the trip. If anything, we are much closer than when we started, partly because of the conditions.
- This is by far the most emotional trip I have ever been a part of. Without going into lots of details, it’s sufficient to say that we were (and are!) pushing through a dip (see image below), both as individuals and as a group. Satan was definitely trying to get a foot in the door, but our God is bigger than Satan, and already victorious. And because He’s victorious, we are victorious. Satan cannot stop what God is doing.
- I believe our group is coming out of this trip closer together than ever before. It’s amazing how God works these things out. I believe we are on the brink of an amazing time in youth ministry, or Satan would not be trying so hard to break it up. I wrote about big things coming back on May 22, 2008. I feel like we’re getting closer to that new thing. God is preparing “a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” It’s exciting.
- I’m so proud of our youth for rallying together through this dip. It would have been totally understandable to let the accommodations and other issues ruin this trip, but they didn’t let that happen. We chose to focus on God instead of our own circumstances.
- Our after-event was one of the best ones ever. Whitewater rafting is just plain fun, but it was even more fun with this group. At least three people were a little anxious about this part, and all three came on the boats and loved the experience. It was a great group-building event at the end of a long week. We had purchased a waterproof camera to document the trip, but we left it at the church we were staying at. Once again, our group kept a positive attitude. We took lots of “pictures” with our hand-camera. People would pose and someone else would snap a photo with their hands. We even did a group shot with the “timer” so everyone could be in one together. Megan put them all in a photo-book for us. Stop by my office and I’d be happy to show it to you.
And now, I leave you with some photos. First, we have the photo video via Animoto, then some of my pictures on PicasaWeb.
WordPress is not playing nice with the video. Click here to see it at Animoto’s site.
We leave for Workcamp today. We’ll try to post updates here as we are able. You can for sure get updates on my Twitter feed: Twitter.com/JasonTheDCE.
Here’s our Workcamp T-Shirt for this year. Big thanks to Randy for the design:
Our Workcamp shirts are becoming something of a spiritual memorial. After we’re back, they remind us of the work we did in a particular city. We can remember what God has done in the past and look forward to what He will do in the future.
I went with a few youth the other day to check out the evening program at the Reach Workcamp that was staying on Grand Island and working in Niagara Falls. This is the camp that our visiting youth group friends from Joliet, Illinois were attending, so we took up their invitation to check it out.
It felt a lot like our camps usually do. There were some differences, but I think our kids would enjoy the experience. Here were some of the differences I noted:
- “God sightings” from the day were shared from the crowd instead of from the stage. Felt more like a community of believers this way.
- Not only did the youth write care cards to other students, but they also wrote to their resident. Loved this idea.
- Participants had prayer partners on the trip. It’s unclear whether these were from their same church or not..
Of course, the biggest thing for the youth that came out of visiting a different Workcamp is that they are more excited for ours to come. I can’t wait either.
Or does He? We’re continuing our Urban Legends series at Sunday School this weekend looking at the statement “God wants you happy”. It’s a tough one to think about. Does He want us happy? Or does He want us full of Joy? And is there a difference for people today?
Tough question. Looking forward to our discussion this weekend about it. What are your thoughts? Does God want you happy?
We’re doing a series in High School Sunday School called Billboard Top Hits. Youth are able to vote one week for one of six songs, all at the top of a different Billboard Music Chart. In addition to looking at themes brought out by the music, we’re trying to teach our youth to be discerning when they listen to music or consume other forms of media.
The first week we did it, we looked at You Found Me by The Fray. We used this excellent Bible Study from St. Thomas the Apostle Life Teen. It’s amazing how much the story parallels Job’s experience with life.
This past week we looked at Dead and Gone by T. I. Lots of great stuff to examine in that song also, even though the lyrics have lots of ****’s in them. You can hear the song on Grooveshark if you’d like, then follow along with the study we did.
Up next: Know Your Enemy by Green Day.
Last night, we celebrated our 8th Graders who are getting ready to make their Confirmation this Sunday. It’s a special day in the lives of our students, so we celebrate them at a special banquet every year. Everyone gets dressed up and we put on an amazing spread of food for families.
Each year, we get comments about how great the event is, but especially about the food. That’s all thanks to Mike Hangen and his crew of helpers. This year, that was Anne Miller and Kathy Figini. (Kathy #1 of Kathy, Cathy, Kathy, Cathi, Kathy fame.) The team outdid themselves again this year!
Another special piece of the banquet is that our High School students serve the meal to the 8th Graders. Megan, Shannon, Hope, Kelsey and Anna were our serving crew this year. It’s fun to see them serve, but especially fun for this event as they wait on the “Rising Freshman” as they are starting to be called.
The best part, however, is this is an opportunity for students to get some one-on-one focused time with their parents. Just like with Everyday Faith: My Bible and the Senior Blessing Event, we want to provide opportunities for families to have special moments with their children. For many of the kids, this is probably one of the few times when they’re able to be the sole point of attention for their parents.
As promised, here’s a picture of the wonderful lunch we had yesterday at the Senior Blessing Event:
Despite the rainy weather, we were still able to do the prayer walk for Crossroads Sunday School as planned. We made a few modifications so we wouldn’t have to go outside, so we were still able to hit most of our topics in appropriate places. It was fun to see the students walking along and praying in the church. I think lots of people were wondering what we were doing at first!
After church, we celebrated Kelsey and Kay with their families as part of our Everyday Faith Senior Blessing event. We had a great meal prepared by the Canfield family (I left the camera at church, so you’ll have to wait for the photo). Then we did an activity with the families looking back at their journey together and remembering God’s work in their lives.
In between was all kinds of craziness that involved a police officer, a paramedic, two EMTs, and two separate cases requiring medical care. Both people were checked and released and should be just fine. Still, makes for a crazy morning! So proud of all our people who jumped up to help.
Each year, we tithe from all the money we raise in Student Ministries. We believe it’s important to model good stewardship to our youth. This year we had $320 from Scrip to tithe. Here’s what the youth decided:
- Relevant Worship Ministries: $89.28
- World Vision: $93.12
- Children of Israel Orphanage in Haiti: $137.60
We did the division as part of our Encountering God series where we’ve been looking at spiritual disciplines. We wrap up this weekend with prayer.
Today at Sunday School, we started our new series on Encountering God. The series focuses on spiritual disciplines, part of an annual emphasis on the topic of habits for spiritual growth. This year we are spending one week on each of the following:
- Time in God’s Word
Mark Driscoll has a great post that summarizes this discipline. In an effort to make the study more “hands on” this year, we’ve issued a challenge to the kids to spend 30 days with Jesus. There are 30 days between today and Easter, not counting Sundays. So each day, students will be reading a story about Jesus. You can follow along if you’d like. (This chart [and others] comes from Zondervan; our version just adds the dates we’re reading it.)
Each Sunday, we’ll check in with the youth to see how its going and what they’re learning. You may also be interested in a series I wrote a while back about reading the Bible.
At rooted this past weekend, we looked at Philippians 4:4-9. Here’s what it says:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
While talking about verses 6-7, we got into a conversation about prayer and worry. One student challenged whether or not prayer really helps with anxiety. The argument was that the project/homework you’re worrying about doesn’t go away when you pray, so you’re just losing that time to work on things. How does that help? I shared something Luther once wrote:
I have so much to do (today) that I should spend the first three hours in prayer.
I challenged this student to get up an hour earlier one day to pray and see what happens.
Then we got into verse eight. It led to a side discussion about the things we fill our minds with. The question was asked, “Is listening to Taylor Swift wrong?” No. But it also isn’t best. Something doesn’t have to be bad for it not to be the best thing for us. The best would be to fill our mind with worship music that glorifies and praises God instead of secular music.
My struggle is less with music and more with television. My “Best” would be not watching TV and spending that time reading the Word instead. The same student from earlier offered to make a deal with me. She’d wake up early three days this week to pray for an hour if I’d skip the television shows I normally watch and read my Bible instead. (Except for American Idol, which was a trade-off for two days where she has an extra early start to the day)
Sounds like a deal.
So this evening I skipped House and 24 and read 1 John all the way through and ready most of the study notes for the book. Tomorrow I get to watch American Idol, but I miss Heroes on Netflix and The Mentalist. Wednesday I skip Lost and Friday I skip Doll House.
So far, I don’t have the shakes. Just in case you were wondering…
Whenever the team planning something changes, there’s an adjustment period. Our Famine planning team doesn’t include Christi this year, as she’s moved to Michigan. Christi was our ace organizer and especially gifted at arranging the servant event portion of the Famine.
I am exceptionally not gifted in this area. To complicate matters, our Famine is being held on the national famine dates for the first time in several years, so we’re competing with lots of other groups that want to help at food-based ministries.
So we’re trying something new this year. Instead of helping out at several places, we’re going to work with Relevant Worship on a project they do on a regular basis. We’ll be making lunches and taking them downtown to distribute to hungry kids. It will include a prayer walk through some neighborhoods, with some Relevant people as guides so we know where it’s safe to go.
So thankful for Ian’s efforts to make this new service project happen!
We had 16 youth come out for the LaserTron event. Fun stuff, but quite exhausting. It amazing how tiring it is for this old man to walk around the LaserTron arena and shoot people. Still, quite a fun day. We came back to church after shooting each other to play some Dodge Ball and the tried our hand at Lost at Sea. None of the youth were able to get rescued, so be careful letting them sail across the Atlantic.
We started a new series at Crossroads Sunday School yesterday focused on Habakkuk. I chose the series based on the sub-title. It was one of many options to fit the specific goal I had in mind: To spend focuses time working on a single book of the Bible and working through it in it’s entirety.
There are a limited number of books that we can do this with and not take forever doing it. Habakkuk is already shaping up to be a great topic as it focuses on something many of us struggle with: The question of whether or not God is fair. We’re using Craig Groeschel’s material as a starting point. The teaching videos take a long time to download, but they’re really good if you want to follow along with the basic teaching.
By an almost 5:1 margin, Birthday Wishes is my most popular post. In fact, it currently makes up 11.7% of all hits to my blog. I can only assume it’s because of the file name (birthday-postcard) that shows up frequently in Google Image Search.
We’ve just about run out of the postcards from the previous post, so it’s time to order more. Here’s the new design:
The hand shot, Love and Care, was purchased through StockXpert. Because of copyright issues (I think there are issues… They won’t answer my question.), I’ve added the watermark to the image here. The back is an updated version of our current postcard design to include the address for the church and the FTSM text on the Compass as a watermark in the background.
Eventually, we’ll have 3-4 different designs that we’ll use so we can rotate through them each year to avoid sending the same postcard every year to students.
Wonderful wonderful evening at the Spaghetti Dinner/Talent Show this evening. We’ll end up with less money this year than last because we didn’t have any silent auction items, but we sold about 20 tickets more than last year based on early estimates. More importantly, that’s even more people who got to experience our awesomely talented youth.
The acts included:
- Laura – Stand-up Bass
- Jen – Read a poem she wrote
- Shannon – Clarinet
- Kelsey – Singing
- Luke – Electric Guitar
- Sarah – Viola
- Jennie – Tap Dancing
- Kay – Guitar/Singing
- Jake/Anna – Cello/Violin
It was a wide variety of acts and all were just a joy to behold. I don’t have any video of the event this year, but I think I saw Sue out in the crowd with her fancy new flip video thing. Maybe she’ll post some for us to enjoy.
For two years now, we’ve made a master calendar for all youth events. I like the idea because it helps parents plan ahead. The down side is that when you forget to include something on the master master calendar (the one that includes all my personal and non-youth related church stuff), conflicts arise.
One such conflict is happening next week. I forgot to include my National Youth Gathering planning meeting in the master master calendar. So it means I won’t be at the Baptismal Remembrance event for our Cornerstone Youth, nor will we be doing a winter camping trip with the High School. The Crossroads youth probably are ok with that since we’re doing Lasertron instead.
I’m really frustrated with myself for the scheduling conflict, and not looking forward to the trip. In addition to missing a cool youth event, I’ll also be missing 4 days of Addison’s young life. My first (of many, I’m sure!) time away from Addison will undoubtedly be difficult. Please pray that I’ll have a better attitude about going on this trip!
I spent about an hour at Williamsville North today with the Bible club after school. One of our students asked me to come be a part of it as an “expert” who would answer the students’ questions. It was a fun time with them. Here are some of the questions we talked about:
- Is ___ the antichrist?
- What languages (and why those?) were used in the Bible?
- What’s with all the strange stuff in Revelation?
- Do people who commit suicide go to hell?
They had a few others, but these filled most of our time together. I felt good that this student had a place where they could interact with other Christians in the public school. I’d love to go back and do it again sometime in the future.
It’s been a very busy—and good—weekend. I spent Saturday morning with Abby, Anna and Randy at the Bon-Ton selling coupon books, plus saw some of Heide as she was shopping. (Glad she was there because I wanted a new shirt/tie and have no fashion sense, so Heide helped pick out the one I was wearing Sunday.) We sold 46 books in 2 hours on Saturday morning, plus we sold 14 on Friday evening at the store. Not bad.
Then it was off to church to finish getting ready to preach on the Trinity. It’s funny how God works. I wasn’t entirely happy with the sermon because I felt there was so much more to get into but there just wasn’t time. Yet I got more people talking to me about this one being great stuff than any other it seems. The Spirit must have been transforming my words between my mouth and everyone’s ears.
After worship, I stopped by the Scrip table to help Pam close up shop. It took a long time because we sold almost $8,000 worth of Scrip. No, really. Our previous high was probably not quite half that. The last order we placed gave us a 7.9% return rate. This one should be lower because there were a lot of Wegman’s cards in there. But even at a conservative 3%, we’ll still make $240 in profits. That’s more than a third of the cost of a Workcamp trip. Awesome stuff!
Next I left for the Stone’s house to do rooted. A strange day with many of the youth suffering from sleep deprivation because of some sleepovers resulting in late nights. Still, fun to be with them. Then there was a quick dinner with the Stone family before our Life Group meeting, which was also a fun time. It was the first time our entire group was together in months.