So yeah, it’s been two years since I’ve taken a break from this writing thing. I took a year and a half stint of taking on more of a management role at my “side” job, found out my hubby and I had a little one on the way, and have spent the past 10 months adjusting to life and ministry as parents! As Spring brings with it the ideas of a fresh start, I figured it might be time to do the same with this blog! If you’re going to the Momentum Youth Worker Conference in Worcester coming up – I’d love to meet you and chat there! Part of the reason I’m re-launching this is to have a place where I can connect with people I meet there, and share some follow-up thoughts on the sessions I’m leading. No promises on consistency, but I hope to share the ideas that bounce around my head in a way that can start a conversation with friends and strangers alike! Stay tuned!
Scheming a “dream” Ministry Conference??? March 11, 2014
Well, this is slightly off-topic for the series I have been writing on, but this strange thought popped into my while sitting on the lifeguard stand sometime in the 5am hour the other morning while I was covering a shift for one of my staff.
This is a little interesting that I was thinking about this because I seeing on the web site that one of the major national youth ministry conferences says its “coming to a city near you in 2015” So perhaps my mindset isn’t too far off on this topic after all.
With maybe one or two exceptions, the “Big Time” National Youth Ministry conferences seem to be offering many of the same seminars that I went to when I attended my first big national conference in 2005. There are many of these “classic” seminars that do need to keep being offered because they are timeless and more practical than what most experience in Bible College or Seminary. While there are some seminars that have stuck with me, it’s the energy, the meaningful worship, the laughter and joy in performance artists. I have been blessed by set up quiet spaces for reflection were great places to find ways to make room for soul care in these times as well. Getting to hear from people who are doing some amazing things for the Kingdom in the general sessions is always one of the biggest blessings.
I have certainly been blessed by them, but it makes it harder when considering the financial investment of traveling to and from these conferences. Being from New England the region deemed too expensive for Groups to host the big conferences there’s always lots of long travel involved. I know that often those general sessions are becoming accessible via live streaming these days. These are amazing conferences, and I’m bummed that I missed out on a chance to attend with my registration fee waived. The time of travel, and the cost of a hotel are a big part of what forced me to stay home. I know I made the right choice, but when I see my friends tweeting all of the great moments I’m missing, I know awesome things are happening, and these conferences have significant meaning.
I also think about the past two Open source youth ministry events that have happened here in the Boston area. Despite them being smaller, no “big time” recording artist leading worship, or touring drama groups heading up the general sessions I have discovered seminars that have been much more meaningful, thoughtful, challenging, and contextually appropriate to the life of doing ministry in New England. The connections that I’ve made have been more meaningful because they are with people I am likely to run into again, and have more reasons to stay connected together. It is clear that people in our area are hungry for what an event like this has to offer compared to the flashy nationally branded events that are often too cookie-cutter to fit into the quirky nature of small church ministry where there are fewer paid youth workers, and little to no training budgets in most churches. The past two years, it has been these events that are huge highlights of my year, and have had equal, if not greater impact on me in my life of ministry.
“What if” …. We could put the strengths of these two styles of youth ministry conferences together? The simulcast format seems to be a thriving way for people to be part of great conferences and training with little to no travel involved. What would it look like to combine the personal/practical impact of local open source seminars with the high energy and encouragement of the general sessions from the big national conferences? Any dreamers/schemers want to put our heads together on this?
Am I just getting too carried away with this? Like whoever created the Bacon Bowl? (which, btw, should have been marketed “Bakin’ Bowl” to represent its ability to bake anything, while still highlighting bacon… but I digress) My worry is that any attempt to combine the blessings of both of these types of events would end up canceling out some of their strengths in the process. Like a TV character science nerd who wants to create a dog-opus. But then I think of the Labradoodle – which became the perfect blend of a poodle’s non-allergenic hair and the pleasant personality of a Labrador. Maybe I should just leave well enough alone. Maybe I need to get a dog….
What do you think?
Examples of Multi Sensory Worship in Scripture March 10, 2014
As we continue exploring the importance of unleashing our imaginations when it comes to helping people of all ages encounter Christ, it is important to realize that incorporating creativity into our worship isn’t some fad or gimmick. It’s based in the gift of the senses that God has given us, and we see how God uses these senses in how the Israelites are instructed to worship. We see all through the Bible that through God’s faithful servants, we are taught with words, but those words are often form beautiful and powerful images which provide a strong metaphor connecting a spiritual reality to a tangible earthly reality so that the message leads to a place of better understanding… OR sometimes they lead us to a place where one might not understand fully, but elicits a desire to dig deeper. A verse that I continually return to is Psalm 34:8, “Taste and See that the Lord is Good. Blessed are those who take refuge in him.” As we look to the Biblical text, we read how God SPOKE the earth into its shape and form. God is our creator, God spoke this earth into being. God’s words didn’t produce more words, but this glorious creation- which includes all of us – each created in God’s image. We are therefor co-creators with God. As we read the Gospel of John, Jesus is the WORD yes, but God’s word takes on FLESH and being. God didn’t just want us to hear words of God’s promise through the prophets, God wants us to know and experience this truth. Let’s look at examples from the Old and New Testaments of worship that took place in moments when words would simply not do justice as a way to respond to God’s Glory.
In 2 Samuel 6, we read of the journey of the Ark of the Covenant. Upon its arrival in Jerusalem in the tent that David had made for it, David was so moved by this pivotal moment that words would not do, the only praise that seemed enough at that moment was dancing. The ups and downs of all that it took for this moment to come were great and gut wrenching. David, who we know well though his Psalms is a man of many beautiful words of prayer and praise to the Lord. For David to be in a place where words are not enough speaks volumes of this time of worship that David experiences.
In Luke 7, we read the encounter of Jesus in the home of Simon, when a woman present comes to Jesus, kneels at his feet, and her tears fall to his feet. This moment is very sensual. She anoints the feet of Jesus with her tears, kisses, and perfume, wiping his feet with her hair. Others present wonder at Jesus’ allowance of a woman known as being “sinful” to come to him in such an intimate way. Jesus praises her for her faith, and tell her that her sins are forgiven. What was lacking from those who offered praise to Jesus simply in words, Jesus sees in this woman whose words are not recorded in this deeply personal and physical encounter. Her words were not what was important in this moment of worshipping Jesus. Her actions are what mattered most.
What other passages of the Bible stand out to you when you think about worship and learning that goes deeper than words?
What lessons about God are too hard to fully understand when we only use words to teach them?
When was a moment in your life that words were not enough to express our hearts to God?
3 Myths About Creativity In Worship & Learning February 26, 2014
As I continue my series on providing Imaginative Encounters with God, we move from some initial thoughts on why using all our senses matters in drawing those we minister to, as well as ourselves closer to our glorious Creator; to some myths that tend to come along with the term “creativity”. I’d love to hear some other myths you’ve come across when it comes to the word creativity.
Myth #1 Creativity is Synonymous with Artsy.
That is, what is often considered to be artsy. Things that are pretty, involve craft kits, and that would be the envy of everyone on Pinterest.
Confession: I don’t even have Pinterest envy, because I’ve been to scared to even go near Pinterest out of my fear of being overwhelmed by all the ideas I know I couldn’t accomplish.
Creativity doesn’t have to be pretty to have an impact. As far as I’m concerned, the messier, the better! It’s about using our imaginations to problem solve, and to discover was to ensure that learning and worship are interactive and engaging in ways that go beyond words- but it doesn’t have to be the perfect drama production, neat little craft kits, or a beautiful mural. It doesn’t mean that something should be overly elaborate requiring fancy supplies. Creativity is at its best when we turn ordinary objects and use them in not so ordinary ways. This can be in games, lesson illustrations, or even in worship practices. Just because you hear the word creativity- that doesn’t always mean its time to pull out the art supplies. Sometimes, yes! I hope that we all utilize visual arts in our ministries, but creativity is not just about art projects.
Myth #2 Creativity is Girly
First of all, I think that we need to stretch our definitions of masculinity, and the Church should be a safe place for guys to feel safe not to have to live up to what mainstream media deems “appropriate masculine behavior” However, this ties into the first myth about creativity and artistry. We can find engaging ways to utilize the senses- and even use art projects that relate to the ladies and the gents without taking the guys too far out of their comfort zones that they disengage!
Myth #3 Creativity in Teaching is Only for Kids
As we work with teens and adults, we assume that as they grow in the ability to handle abstract thoughts, the need for hands-on learning is no longer needed. Just because the ability to handle abstract thoughts exists, it doesn’t mean that simply listening to sermons and reading texts will be the strongest learning method for all that we are serving. When we use the senses all we teach can then be solidified and have a longer lasting impact on all- kids, teens, and adults alike!
Are there any other myths about creativity in learning & worship that you would add to this list?
Providing Imaginative Encounters with God Series Intro! February 18, 2014
I recently had the honor to share some thoughts about providing imaginative encounters with God at Youth Cartel’s Open Boston. (More thoughts on that great experience in later posts) Since my slides were more of a guide for me to stay on track giving my presentation, I am fleshing out the sections of my presentation in a series of blog posts on the topic! Here’s what I hope to explore in this series:
~Myths about creativity in learning & worship
~ Scriptural examples of multi-sensory teaching and worship
~Great resources to help with the WHY we should engage the senses beyond just written and spoken word
~Some important Do’s and Don’t’s to consider as we engage our students and congregations
~A forum of great ideas that have been shared and experienced in a variety of settings over the years (most recently at the Open Boston Seminar I led)
My mission to empower ministry leaders to take steps in towards engaging their faith communities with imaginative learning and worship has its roots in my childhood. I was blessed to be brought up in the liturgical traditions of the Episcopal church, where I truly think all the sitting, standing, kneeling etc. was exactly the type of environment which allowed me to engage with what was going on in church in meaningful ways from a young age. We didn’t do all the singing all at once, and then have to sit and listen to one person talk up front for the rest of the service. We sang, we prayed with congregational responses, we heard scripture (again with more congregational responses). We stood, we sat, we knelt. The Gospel text was read from the middle of the center aisle. I was known as a little one to even start dancing in the aisle during hymns- and people let me! At the church I attended in middle and high school, the prayers were led from the center of the sanctuary, not from the front. We also had the occasional use of incense – truly helping all of our senses to be engaged in our worship experiences. The place I grew up learning about God the most was at a Christian summer camp where staff and campers alike spent time learning about God through creation, through community, and utilizing all the of the creative means we had access to being at a great camp facility! As I’ve grown, I have been extremely blessed to discover myself in different communities filled with people who have wonderful imaginations that help them discover ways for others to experience all that God has for us in the five senses we’ve been blessed with in addition to the written and spoken word. The list of amazing mentors who have helped shape my understanding on this topic goes on for days. I can’t take too much credit for all of this, but to praise God for allowing me to find the right ministry and educational partners for the right seasons of my life!
When our whole beings are able to sense the wonders of our glorious Creator- how much more heartfelt would our worship be?
When we are able to experience the love of Christ with fresh perspectives that go beyond words-
how much deeper could our walk with Jesus become?
Join me in this great conversation!
Attempting a “Faithful Comeback” to the blog! February 11, 2014
Well… that was a long hiatus from writing, honestly, I do miss it quite a bit. Later in this week, I will begin a new blog series based on what I taught in a workshop at Open Boston this past weekend. Right now, I want to give a brief update on what’s been going on leading up to me finally re-launching this blog.
Jumping into the world of actually feeling like a “grown-up”
Masters degree, turning 30, taking a temporary (but not as temporary as expected) aquatics director position at a local Y. I became an official member of the local Young Life volunteer Leadership team. I got a few more chances to preach at my church while my Pastor was away. I am connecting with New England Regional Leaders with the National Network of Youth Ministry. My husband and I just bought a house (!) and I’ve been blessed with the honor of being part of the speaking team at Open Boston this year. All while still serving in my part time ministry position! I was so worried about what to do after graduating seminary not having to spend hours on trains, in my car, in class, reading, and writing papers, I think I overcompensated a bit. I’m working that out now, and figuring out a better balance. Trying to do a better job of following my own advice I wrote in previous posts. That being said, I have also generated a better sense of vision for this blog, and how I could it as a resource for others on this journey of a life of following Jesus, especially (but not limited to) those in ministry! Here’s some thoughts on what I want to write about in the months to come- any suggestions or offers of guest posts welcome! Also- if you want a guest post for your blog- don’t hesitate to ask!
Coming up on the blog:
Imaginative Encounters with God: A Series on Multi-sensory learning and worship
Dealing with Trauma in the Midst of Ministry: How can we be best prepared to support students and families in our ministries who are dealing with trauma.
Revised and Continued Reflections on the Events surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombings
My leap into the world of Young Life ministry!
Thoughts on the unique small-church nature of ministry in old New England churches.
Any other suggestions?
The Days That Followed- A ‘Boston Girl’ Reflects- Part 2 August 2, 2013
In the hours and days that followed the attacks at the Boston Marathon, So many mixed feelings went through my head. This was especially so in light of other events happening in our country and around the world. My frustration with mass media began to set in through lots of different ways. While I understand that it was important to keep our community up to date, I wasn’t prepared to see all the major news networks set up camp in Boston. This post is about my first day spending time back in Boston after the bombings and my personal experiences.
In all the tragedy, some of us wanted to have some moments distracted by our favorite TV programming for a laugh or to. I don’t know if the major networks outside of the Boston viewing area got to see their regularly scheduled programming, but we didn’t. Even in non-Boston news networks, we only heard about what was (or at that point, WASN’T) happening in Boston. The racism and hatred floating around the internet (without any known suspects yet, mind you) was soooo frustrating. I was encouraged to hear from friends who were okay, who were seeking a place to vent and share prayer requests, and to cheer one another up. My BU School of Theology Community was amazing during this time. So many were caught up in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, saw and heard things they hope they never have to face again. I can’t imagine what may have been going on in their hearts. But we used social media well to hold one another up in love. One professor suggested a positive way to honor the significance of what happened. Dr. Shelley Rambo brought forth the idea that we should wear our running shoes all week as a sign of standing together in love, and running towards justice and peace. Upon hearing that a BU grad student was one of the victims, I took some old running shoes to bring to leave as a tribute at Marsh Plaza- the heart of the BU Campus in front of the Chapel. Mind you, I wasn’t expecting this to become as big a deal as it kind of/almost did.
Wednesday morning I head into the city like “any other Wednesday… except it wasn’t” to use words my friend Shawn used to open up our BU weekly chapel service later that day. I went into the city a little early so I could walk a bit- It honestly felt great to be back in Boston. After getting over the initial surprise of it, I was comforted by the heavy presence of National Guard and Police somewhat heavily armed. I had my old running shoes, and grabbed a few things to put together to leave at Marsh Plaza. The problem with news media swarming the city was that it had been two days and there hadn’t yet been much in the way of updates, so somehow I was so caught up in being grateful to be joining my BU STH beloved community, that I must not have noticed the reporters lurching (literally) in the shadows of BU Central Area at that moment looking for a good story about. As I went to place my tribute, I looked up and saw a swarm of reporters all around me. They started hounding me with questions and snapping photos and honestly it was one of the most awkward moments. Apparently my picture was in a number of NYC news sources the next morning. They even made a bit of a scene, as some of them weren’t all that respectful as they tried to cover our chapel service. Somehow, I found that my name got tossed around the media pool, and some creeper from the Boston Globe even managed to hunt down my BU email address to ask me about the tribute I left. I gave all the credit to my BU STH community in my reply, but by the end of the day, false rumors of suspects and arrests gave them something to gnaw on for a while.
Nonetheless, that time in Marsh Chapel together with our beloved community, was more meaningful than words could really describe. I was incredibly grateful to see everyone safe. It was a powerful experience to realize the depth of what happened by looking into the eyes of many who were downtown when the explosions happened. I admit, I call myself a “Boston Girl”, but I live outside the city far enough that I can’t fully imagine what my friends who lived in the city and were in the city that day were going through. Our love for one another grew even more this week, and it carried us through the tough moments, and it is a collective voice that tried to be a voice of hope, peace, and love in these seemingly dark days.
In all this- other events around the country and globe challenged me to consider what it meant to have a healthy perspective on what happened in Boston. That’s what I hope to consider in my next post.
Boston area friends: What moments stood out to you in the moments and days after the explosions?