Tag: Article

Beginning in Youth Ministry: Remaining in Adulthood and Maintaining Boundaries

Beginning in Youth Ministry:

Remaining in Adulthood and Maintaining Boundaries

By Daniel Griswold

 (This is the original copy prior to publication in The Advocate Newspaper of the United Methodist Church in South Carolina)

You are at a retreat with an audience of young people, ages 12-17.  Their expressions have no emotion whatsoever, and it is clear that the group is assessing whether they’re going to trust you or not.  You haven’t been a pre-teen or teen for a long time, and you’re a bit terrified.  Earlier, you had thought about some of the most memorable moments in your growth in faith, and for some reason nothing much came.  You’ve searched the scriptures and no word searches for “Youth Ministry” bore fruit.  It is clear that the parents of the church wants you to connect as soon as possible, so you’re going to do what generations of youth ministers have done before you – something stupid is about to happen.

Will you climb some impossibly steep cliff to wow them?  Will you eat a mixture of Tabasco sauce, dog food and Hershey’s syrup to prove your undying love for their souls?  Will you take a paintball for the team? Will you give them permission to jump out of the car in traffic or allow them to investigate a corner where someone swears they saw an alligator?  Will you laugh at crude jokes, or sneer at one group to gain favor with another group?

I’ll tell you, all of these things are stupid things, and I’m not sure what it is about youth ministry and our innate desire to fit in that short-wires the ability of some folks to remain acting like adults.  As youth workers, it is clear we need to be mindful of a theology of wisdom.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:9)

While I believe that there is a place for a bit of controlled chaos and creating memorable experiences that bond the group, it is also important that the leader of a group be exactly that, a “Leader”.  The leader or leaders are responsible for not only safety, but also the deep growth of a group.  A youth ministry mentor of mine, Dean Borgman, often says, “You can’t lead others where you haven’t gone yourself.”  So we have to ask a few questions that have deep implications for us as adults ministering to the young.

(1) What is our purpose as ministers to young people?  I believe it is to nurture lifelong disciples of Christ.  We partner with the Holy Spirit to grow young saints who will impact the world and better it by engendering the Gospel. Then,

(2) If young people reflected my actions, who will they become?  In the Youth Ministry textbook, “Starting Right,” there is a call to discern your “Theological Rocks” which build a foundation for your young people as they try out the Christian life.  Is your ministry Jesus focused? And is nearly dying falling off a cliff to impress and entertain, one of them?  Probably not.  Jesus didn’t do that – He was very intentional.

Maybe you’re not that young stereotypical crazy youth minister, but perhaps you’ve compromised on something that you knew wasn’t right.  You may also be running a “self” centered group based on your own personality rather than the awe of God.  It might be time to take a few moments to align yourself with God’s spirit.  Ask yourself, if I really believe that Jesus is with me, right now, and that he is among us when we gather with our youth, then how should we act and what ways will we live out this high calling as Christians?  Is there a new covenant we need to make between our young people and ourselves?

Personally, I’ve discovered a love for good games of Ulitimate Frisbee and dodge ball (which incidentally blew out my shoulder for 8 months last year), but we do it after prayer, a meal, and a devotion probing the scriptures.  I’ve found that most kids get deep discipleship over time, that I’m not just their youth leader and fellow journeyman on earth, but I’m also their prayer warrior, their conversational theologian, their listening counselor, and I take seriously the call to be their protector.  That means implementing a Safe Sanctuaries policy and adhering to it, that means keeping them off the roof of the car, and that means we’re modeling the fullness of life they can have in the future.  Let’s take the long road and build a foundation of stone.

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Pastor’s Corner: Was God Born? The Concept of Eternity and a Great Mysterious God

Grasping God’s greatness is an adventure of the mind

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A recent letter by a child to God asked, “God, how were you born?”That same question came up last night with a group of middle school students. I remember grappling with this thought myself; the notion of an ultimate creator being created is a natural one.We are all born into this world. None of us has ever not been born — unless you are an extremely unique creature. So far everyone I have met has had a birth date, and there have been witnesses, so no one has been able to claim otherwise in spite of the fact that we don’t remember our own moments of personal genesis.

The notion that God has no beginning and also no end is a mind twister. I remember having the concept of eternity explained to me in my early years this way: A dove holds a feather in her beak and is able to fly from one end of the known universe to the other end. In the middle of the universe, there is an iron ball the size of Jupiter. The dove grazes the iron ball with the feather each time it passes. On the day that the iron ball is completely worn down to nothing by the dove’s feather, that is the day that eternity has just begun.

That last part usually takes a moment to sink in. Understanding that God has no beginning or end, and is the Alpha and Omega of all things in our own universe, is hard to grasp. It takes a bit of appreciation of mystery, and yet the concept draws us in. Those who do good wish to have an eternity, in order to do the most to better mankind and the universe. The evil genius wants an eternity to destroy what the good people build.

The stories of the ancient gods, who were very human in their frailties, seem to be about their longing to go on epic adventures without the worry of one day dying. In wisdom literature, the book of Ecclesiastes says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, in a reply to the letter of the child I mentioned previously, tried to respond for God in his own words and simply said, “But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!” The response is quite charming and full of grace and love to a 6-year-old named Lulu.

Grasping the greatness, or “big-ness” of God is a great undertaking. This is an adventure of the mind and a journey of faith. The box we build to put God into continues to break, even as we learn what God has put in the box for us to see. That is why I love the Scriptures. That is why I love the continued action of faith in the lives of people who express the eternity of God by doing great and wondrous things.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Overcoming Fear of the Monster: Building a Common Language for Discovering God

Turn the corner to find an ally in God

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sometimes I feel as though my life were a cartoon, like “DuckTales” or “The Gummy Bears.” Both are Disney cartoons I frequently watched back in the day, mainly because the characters often took off on adventures, searching for treasure in some long-forgotten place. Jungles, deserts, caves and old temples were opened and explored. I’ll never forget the surprised looks on the adventurers’ faces as they encountered mummies or some other Indiana Jones-like booby-trap. Those looks of fear made me feel as though I shared in their impending disaster.

 

The Gummy Bears would merely bounce around until they either stunned the enemy or passed him. In “DuckTales,” Scrooge McDuck, the eccentric millionaire, and his nephews would usually run and scatter, hoping to run from the issue and regroup later to make a plan. Whether the reaction is fight or flight, standing in a situation with unknown results is terrifying, even in a cartoon and especially for the children watching and waiting through three minutes of commercials to find out the eventual resolution. Every cartoon used this mechanism, though, to keep kids biting their nails, waiting for that next harrowing moment — all the while selling us sugary cereals and cool new sneakers.

A recent conversation about faith reminded me of this fear last week. I was on a dock, getting to know some really cool new people, when it came up that I work at the local Methodist church as a youth director. Our conversation turned to the apprehension many have about religion and faith in general. I often hear about the division of science and faith. Science being the discovery of truth and reality through the use of hypothesis, empirical testing and the creative aspect of formulating new ideas for intriguing problems with the goal of filling in the gaps in human knowledge.

I do think this dichotomy is false. In fact, I think those who believe in God have an imperative to discover how his creation is ordered, and in this process of testing truths, we gain a greater understanding of the universe and begin to see the brush strokes of a greater genius.

But with new discoveries being made daily, religion can be like that scary monster around the bend. Each generation turns a new corner ,and they find something big that has been generated by people and their experiences and thoughts on God over millennia. Any conversation on belief in God often seems convoluted, and the first response can be to turn about and run. Running doesn’t solve the problem, however. Eventually you have to come back to the same issue. A plan is necessary.

One day, each generation will have to walk into the face of the “monster” and find out if it is real, and, if so, is it benevolent or something to be fought. Sometimes fear is irrational and needs to be tested in the face of truth. Other times, fear helps us assess properly and soberly our reality, our place in the situation, our plan to move forward, and our method of proceeding.

I’ve found that the monster we tend to fight or run from is not God at all. It is merely a scarecrow built by others, or a trap we have put out ourselves to keep all the bad stuff away. The adventure cannot proceed unless one turns that corner toward belief. And once this is done, you’ll find you are not alone.

Even in the most anxious moments, God is an ally, not an enemy.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

I find it refreshing when people open up and find language for their journey, regardless of their views. I like to share mine as well, and in the end, let the truth of reality be something we all strive for together.

Read more of The Island Packet (here).

 

Showing People Unfiltered Love Regardless of Our Imperfect World

Loving People in An Imperfect World

By Daniel Griswold

(Shortened and published in The Island Packet)

No matter how many times I promise myself that I will not look into the comments section on “Religion” articles, I always end up meandering down to those nether-regions for a look, though it is more like a journey.

In my Google News aggregation of articles I have specific sections for “Religion”, “Theology”, and more specifically “Christianity”. Often articles from smaller papers across the country come up and are mostly opinions, and I tend not to read those. But when the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, or our local Island Packet has a topic in Religion, I often bite and seek other’s perspectives on faith. These articles are often well thought out, but like all things internet, the final word goes to the conversation below the article – and that is where things get messy. Interesting? Maybe. Explosive? Often.

I’ve noticed certain strands of arguments being played out in culture are mirrored in the comments and they tend to take the same form on every article though combined in different ways depending on the commentators.

One person types, “We’re praying for all the people in the hurricane.” A second person responds, “Don’t bother praying. There is no God.” Another person posts some scripture, maybe John 3:16, then an argument breaks out about The Crusades and how Christ’s followers haven’t been loving enough.

Then it gets interesting – this is the gold that I look for – even as my stomach churns at many frustrating jabs back and forth, eventually people start telling their personal stories. These stories are the identities behind the anonymity and the reader sees why people believe or do not adhere to a faith. Hurts from the past surface, abuses of religious folks on the powerless in childhood are told, frustration and anger with institutions bleed to the surface in what is hopefully a cathartic experience for those who have harbored stories of injustices.

The arguments continue but between the heated posts, those with positive experiences explain why they believe. Often personal experiences of God’s presence, or His overwhelming love are shared. Stories of broken people being brought into a good faith community and being restored to wholeness through peace, love, mercy and the overflow of hope – these folks find fulfillment in God’s arms and contrast to the darkness that others tell. The joy is apparent, but it is clear that those who tell these faith stories wonder about other faith communities that would allow harm.

Both types of stories build a narrative that show how while some are healed in faith communities, others have found continued hurt and pain. The question from both sides is “Why?” If God exists, then why do we still hurt? Why do we hurt each other? Is this God’s fault? Is this our own making? Who’s going to fix this mess? Who is going to fix me?

Whether online or face-to-face, people seek justice. There is a basic human desire to bring about a balanced scale for all people despite the forces that bring about evil in the world. The Egyptians called this sense of the good “ma’at”, and the Pharaohs, like all, would be expected to live holy lives without lies and deceit. An unjust king could bring about famine and war, but like all people, errors happened.

One reason I love reading the Old Testament in the Bible is that the Israelites wrote down their experiences with God warts and all. Other cultures struck out the bad stuff, especially personal failures of leaders. One story that fascinates me is of Moses, a murderer redeemed, who never entered the Promised Land himself because he himself had moments of doubt in God’s power.

Their stories showed the imperfections of people and how easily even the best hearts can become corrupted – bringing hurt on those around them, even loved ones. They knew a few things about religion and desired to be perfect like God is perfect, but messed up big time– and still wrote it down!

Perhaps the reason I keep reading the chaotic comments is that I see the back and forth of my own faith in those words. My conversations with God often mirror the questions I see, because there are mysteries that remain mysteries, and people in and out of religion continue to act badly.

As people of faith, we can continue to fight evil in ourselves, in the church, other institutions and in the world, to live out Isaiah’s call to “Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed,… (Isaiah 1:17a),” living holy, good lives so that all people see Jesus Christ for who He is without any filters, just glowing with God’s eternal love.

Daniel Griswold
Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC
danielgriswold@gmail.com
twitter name: dannonhill

Apple Rumors Before the Announcement at 1 PM – Iphone 5? Iphone 4S? Both? Here is a Rumor Roundup

 

JUST ANNOUNCED, IPHONE 4S is Upgraded IPHONE 4 – My PREDICTIONS WERE RIGHT (read below)

Ars Teknia, Live Feed of Apple Event.

THE IPHONE will receive a new iteration today when Apple goes live at 1 pm today in Cupertino.  Rumors and speculation have swirled and it seems that there are some big chunks that have some validity.

Rumor 1: An Iphone 4S will be released, basically a beefed up Iphone 4, with the Ipad 2’s more powerful chip and upgraded software and an 8 MP camera on the back.  (This rumor seems likely.  Apple does need to retain the Iphone 4, and since it doesn’t require a major redesign, they could put some better parts in, have very little R&D costs, and have excitement around a cheaper to mass produce handset with a proven record of popularity to continue to challenge Android.)

Rumor 2: Sprint has paid 20 Billion dollars to buy up inventory and get the Iphone 5 exclusively, basically betting the farm on the cult of Apple.  (Not likely.  While they are dropping some big change, exclusivity for Sprint isn’t going to happen.  Apple needs as wide a swath as possible to continue the proliferation of IOS, and limiting it to the distant 3rd carrier, Sprint, would be a disastrous move, even for 20 Billion bucks, and considering how much cash Apple is sitting on, $20B isn’t really scratching their back that much.  Sprint is merely buying in and ensuring they aren’t left completely behind, for a huge amount of money for them. Also, this rumor came out yesterday – probably just attention seeking with a big “?” for buzz.)

Rumor 3: The Iphone 5 will come out slightly thinner, with curved glass and a wider screen.  It will be more powerful than the Iphone 4 (close to the 4S rumors, probably using Ipad 2 specs and better camera), and will have IOS5 (like the 4S rumors).  (This rumor is not as likely as the 4S, but probable.  It is hard to determine what Apple will do here.  In the past, Apple has released an Iphone, then Iphone 3G, then Iphone 3GS, then the 4.  Whether Apple calls it the 4S or the 5, I believe it will be the same phone.  If Apple follows their track record, they will release it with the name 4S – but that would seem unsynchronized with the IOS5 aesthetically.  If apple decides to make marketing easy, they will release the phone as the Iphone 5 with OS5, thus maintaining a big ol’ “FIVE” on everything they’re pushing.  It certainly would be prettier.)

Rumor 4: Apple will release an Iphone 4S and the Iphone 5 simultaneously.  One for the low end low cost market to combat cheap Android sets, and one to retain the crown of awsome-ness and blow everyone away with the Iphone 5 as a global minded handset for every carrier.  (Not likely but would be cool.  Apple is still doing well selling the 3GS and could just drop the price on that beast of a phone to nothing OR firesale the old Iphone 4’s.  While I would love to see a beefed up yet cheap Iphone 4S and the 5, it doesn’t seem likely – too much retooling for one announcement.)

Other Rumors – Apple will announce their new Voice Command Software, which better be good.  Controlling your device better with your voice would be a godsend for multi-taskers, but watch out for people who don’t know how to turn their phones to silent response – remember NEXTEL’s walki-talkies – we better not get a repeat of that kind of noise pollution in the public space.  ALSO, Apple will talk about their iCloud which they have been prepping pretty hard and opening server farms for.  This is Apple’s future and they will expect to have a positive response. This will simultaneously make lives easier for people who sync laptops, phones, desktops and televisions; AND Apple will be able to worry less about hard drives in their future devices (who needs a 10 Terabyte drive when you can keep most of your junk in the cloud – access only the 32 GB’s you need at a time).  This will keep devices like the Macbook Air and the Ipad/Iphone momentum and smallness on the go.  LASTLY – Apple will talk a lot about Twitter and Social Media integration.  They’re launching an Iphone Texting app similar to Blackberry’s ability to communicate between RIM devices, and word is they have placed Twitter into everything in IOS5.  Will be fun to see.

Looking forward to the Event at 1 PM – be ready for a news deluge – which is sure to be fun.  Woot!

Sacrificial Love Wins

Genuine love of others a key ingredient to stronger

communities

Published Monday, September 5, 2011

Why do we love and care for others? Some would say that love is just part of the process of evolution: Someone once killed his neighbor, and because others did not want to be killed as well, they banded together and punished the murderer. People saw this punishment and deduced that killing is wrong and that the tribe is a stronger unit when people look out for each other.

This is a hypothetical but plausible scenario if we look at how things work today and use our intellect to explain what happened eons ago in human history. The problem is, though, we weren’t there.

As a person who studies religion and is a follower of Jesus Christ — which, believe it or not, is a choice I made after rational inquiry and finding satisfying evidence that God is acting in the world even today — I have spent much time reading through the many millennia-old written document of humanity’s interactions with God.

There are two strands that I always make light of when learning about the history of love as recorded in Scripture. First, I look at what humans were doing, and second, I look at what God is doing. The two are often very different. Human morality, even in the Bible, is very relative and focused on the self — and, in this view, the account of morality as hypothesized in evolution is probably true.

In fact, in Canaan, when the Hebrews began moving into the promised land, the cities were independent states, engaged in trade, alliance or war.

The city-states had kings. Codes of laws were variously applied so that each person did what he or she thought was right, and when that infringed on another it was up to the king and his governmental officials to bring balance and fairness. It was an imperfect system, however, so long as people continued to look out only for themselves.

God’s interaction with this economy was devastating to the local way. At Mount Sinai, Moses received the Commandments. These 10 precepts shifted focus from the human self to two others. First, love of God; second, love of others. It was more than just tolerant refrain from stepping on toes. It was a way to change the human heart toward a more divine economy. God’s words united the Hebrews, and God’s strength helped them as they left Egypt and assimilated the warring city-states.

Humanity constantly has to relearn this basic principle, and it is something each of us has to grapple with every day. Will we love ourselves and only contract with others toward a peaceful truce? Or will we give up our rights and give ourselves 100 percent for God and for others?

Christians look to Christ and see this sacrifice made completely real. The cross is a symbol of God showing us the way. Reclaiming the world by inserting light into the darkness and showing that selfishness will not prevail.

John says: “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.”

In the four gospels we see the son of God give up a stable life, devote himself to healing the sick and feeding the hungry, become betrayed by a close friend for money and then willingly accept an undeserved punishment to turn the tables of justice toward grace and forgiveness rather than legality and containment.

For those with and without faith, God’s economy has huge lessons with an efficiency that can only come when people genuinely love.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.com.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2011/09/05/1781273/genuine-love-of-others-a-key-ingredient.html#ixzz1Yhgf3lbu

Exponential Growth of Technology is Owed to Growth in “More Good People”

Technology is amazing … but then again, so are people

Published Monday, August 22, 2011

The rise of technology and its integration into everyday life during my own lifetime has astounded me.

When I was born, the Internet did not exist. When I entered elementary school, I learned how to move a green pixelated turtle on a screen using complex computer code. Later I learned how to find my favorite video game magazine on the newly founded World Wide Web when I visited my dad at work. In middle school, I took computer study skills and learned how to manage life through typing and computations. By high school, I was using Adobe Photoshop for graphic design. Now, I study the Bible using tools that incorporate texts going back millennia, which have been digitized and placed within a program to do what the Library of Alexandria must have done ages ago.

This progression only took a few decades.

Some people react to the rapid changes in culture with fear, others accept it wholeheartedly and find their identity in the mobile devices and electrons. Most people, though, just wait until something becomes useful to them and then buy products that are easily explained and implemented. This is probably the reason the iPod and iPhone from Apple have been so successful and why other platforms are catching on to the importance of ease of use. You use your finger and have access to your contacts, can make a phone call, listen to music, watch a video, browse a website and level a shelf all using the same device. The buttons are easy to press, and things happen.

If it works in everyday life and business, then it’s a winner.

A friend of mine brought all this to my attention a few years ago, exclaiming that life has completely changed all because of technology. I thought about that for a bit and something occurred to me that really changed my thinking on the inanimate world of silicon.

In our world, what is the most changed factor in the growth of technology? Likely, the first response would be knowledge. Knowledge and ideas make advances possible, and the Internet spreads knowledge to the ends of the Earth.

But there is more.

The most important ingredient to progress and change in the world is not these inanimate things written down or placed in a plastic box with a screen.

In our world, the center of all our advances and growth has come from one thing and that is this: There are more people living on our planet now than have ever been. There are more people thinking about solutions to problems than have ever been. As minds are freed up to tackle issues, and brilliance is allowed to flow like water — the real ingredient to our advance as a species — more people do more good things.

Ideas flow as a river from the many centers of human thought. Without people, there would be no technology.

In the first book of the Bible, God makes two people and tells them to multiply and become rulers of all living things. In the first and second chapters of Genesis, humans are caretakers of the Earth and the resources within it. Later Abraham, the father of the Israelites, was promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashores (See Genesis 15-17). He took that as a blessing and held on to that promise.

As the Earth reaches 7 billion people, we have challenges concerning food distribution and our proper relation to the environment. Many face starvation across the globe.

The promise to Abraham inferred that they would be a light to the nations and a blessing to all the peoples of the Earth. If we have been given the blessing of more people and knowledge increases exponentially and our devices have become more and more entertaining, we have wasted our promise if we do not take our responsibility as a growing humanity to help solve the problems of homelessness, hunger, disease and lack of education.

The only real technology is more people, and the best way to make that a good thing is to make sure everyone has opportunities to contribute to the greater good.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2011/08/22/1765526/technology-is-amazing-but-then.html#ixzz1W3N2iH5e