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thESource is a free online resource provided by The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Youth Ministry Office. thESource exists to provide Jesus-centered resources for those at work with youth in the Lutheran congregation and beyond.


  • thESourceunPluggedSummer 2011

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 1 6/20/2011 3:53:21 PM

  • Photos on the cover and above were taken by Rebecca Rutan at the 2010 National LCMS Youth Gathering. Photos on page 7, 19, and 20 were taken by Amanda Singer at the 2010 National LCMS Youth Gathering.

    Youth Ministry...Is centered in Jesus Christ...given in bap-tism...nurtured through the proclamation and study of Gods Word...strengthened through participation in the Lords Supper.Supports young people as full members of the church today as well as the church of the future.Challenges young people to take a role in shaping the churchs mission to the world.Is a part of and not apart from the congrega-tions life and mission.Equips youth to utilize their God-given gifts as faithful disciples.Speaks to the full range of life issues of youth in the congregation and the community.Is person oriented.Is family inclusive.Is congregation based.Is outward focused.Is ministry to, by, with, through, and for youth.

    During the summer of 2011, thESource featured articles on each of these statements. Read several of those articles in this issue and QGPRUHRQOLQHDWZZZ\RXWK(6RXUFHFRP

    Connect with LCMS Youth Ministry online:Web sites

    Social MediaFollow us on Twitter:[email protected]@[email protected]@youthESource

    Like us on


  • featuresA Part of, Not Apart From 7

    Life Issues and Youth Ministry 13

    The Prepositions of Youth Ministry 17

    Equipping the (Young) Saints 19

    Ministry to One 23

    blogs Servin Lovin Praisin 2

    Snark, Crackle, Pop Culture 12

    Game Guru 22

    Betwixt: Middle School Ministry 28

    tools & resources Girls Bible Study 3

    Guys Bible Study 5

    A Prayer Litany for Youth 10

    Can I Use It? Book Review 11

    Skit 26


  • by Brian StewardCans for JesusServin Lovin Praisin

    We are very blessed at our congregation to have a food pantry. Each year we feed over 10,000 people out of our pantry...thats right...more than 10,000 people each year come into our church and receive a grocery sack full of food as well as the Gospel message of Jesus Christ!

    Every day the pantry is open, guests come in and meet with our Care Ministry Director. She discuss-es with them where they are at both in their life and their walk with the Lord. She shares with them Jesus words of love and forgiveness and also reads Scripture and prays with them. When appropriate, we gift them with a Bible or devotional book. So, not only are we feeding the hungry, we are feeding the Spiritually hungry as well!

    Our pantry is supported by donations from our generous members and friends. It is also support-ed by other organizations that either donate food to us or sell it at a very deep discount. One of those organizations is Foodshare, and every year they do a community-wide event called Can-a-thon.

    The Can-a-thon is promoted by many of the ma-jor businesses in the community, including the television and radio stations as well as the newspa-per and grocery stores. One Sunday a year, youth groups, church groups, and individuals go into the community and collect non-perishable food items that in turn are donated to the local food pantries.

    I bring this up because I have found that some of the greatest servant projects you can do are the ones right in your community! No matter where you live, there are people who cant afford as much food as they need. Wherever you live, there are people who have fallen on hard times and they need help. Our youth group not only participates in the Can-a-thon, but we also go into the commu-nity a few other times in the year to collect food from our neighbors for our pantry. This not only gets our kids and our congregation out in the com-munity, but it lets our kids know that there are many people in the world who have very little. Its a great lesson for them because they are learning that they have been given much, so they should give much as well!

    Whether its collecting cans for the needy, or another project or cause, I encourage you to go into your community and help. There are so many people who need help and encouragement, and you can be the one who brings hope to them, and that is the certain hope we have in Jesus! Today He is calling us to serve, love, and praise Him in our communities!

    Get more ideas on how serve, love, and praise at

    Brian Steward grew up in DeWitt, Iowa, and graduated from Concordia University Chicago. He has served as DCE at Zion Lutheran in Na-perville, IL, and currently serves as Director of Youth Ministries at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Peoria, IL. Brian has been on the 2010 and 2013 LCMS National Youth Gathering Mass Event Teams. He has a heart for the lost and a strong passion for youth ministry, which started after he DWWHQGHGKLVUVW

  • 3For Girls: Opposites Attractby Lauren Nietubicz

    Bible Study

    Opening:Option 1: Men vs. Women:

    A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the garbage, answer the phone, 1.get the mail A man will dress up for weddings and funerals. A woman will do laundry every couple of days. 2.A man will wear every single article of clothing he owns before he will do his laundry. If Gloria, Suzanne, Debra, and Michelle go out for lunch, they will call each other Gloria, 3.Suzanne, Debra and Michelle. But if Mike, Phil, Rob, and Jack go out for a beer they will affectionately refer to each other as fat boy, Godzilla, peanut-head, and useless. A man has six items in his bathroom: a toothbrush and tooth paste, shaving cream, razor, bar 4.of soap, and a towel from a hotel. The average number of items in a typical womans bathroom is 437. A man would not be able to identify most of those items.

    Option 2: Download the PDF of this study at to see option 2.

    StudyThere are obvious differences in men and women. One of the most important things, in any relationship, is to understand the other person and honor how they recognize love. Dealing with Women Ask the group: in general, what are some ways that women feel loved? After a few thoughts are shared, discuss the following OpennessZH ZDQW PHQ WR VKDUH WKHLU IHHOLQJV WKHLU GLIFXOWLHV

    We want full responses (not random grunting while watching TV) UnderstandingGRQW WU\ WR [ XV MXVW OLVWHQ +XVEDQGV JHQHUDOO\ DUH EHWWHU EXLOW WR DQDO\]HJLYH DQVZHUV DQG XOWLPDWHO\ [ WKH VLWXDWLRQ DW KDQG


    Esteem$VN ZKDW GRHV WKLV PHDQ WR EH HVWHHPHG"To feel honored and cherished. We want a husband to speak highly of us in front of others. We want encouragement, praise, and kindness. We want someone who notices something different about our hair or clothes.

    Dealing with Men Ask the group: what do you think are some characteristics of men (dealing with how they feel loved)? A woman who completes himAsk the group: Why do you think thats important?

    Read Genesis 2:18. 7KH ZRUG KHOSHU FDQ DOVR EH WUDQVODWHG WR FRPSOHWHUThe differences in men and women are intended to complete each other For example: a wife may be better at scheduling, while the husband relies on spontaneity. Another example: a wife may be more social and talkative, while the man is more serious and reserved. To complete someone also includes accountability. How do you think the two go together?

    Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. :KHWKHU LWV D VSLULWXDO VWUXJJOH D PRUDO WHPSWDWLRQ RU D GLIFXOW WLPH KDYLQJ WKH RWKHUperson present and willing to understand and support is crucial.

  • 4A woman who admires himAsk the group: why do you think this is important for a man? Although he brings into the relationship his own talents and weaknesses, success as the head of his family depends largely on what KH QHHGV IURP KLV ZLIH FRQGHQFHWhile women want esteem and honor, for a man, little is more devastating than to be viewed as incompetent by the woman in his life. No matter how successful or FRQGHQW D PDQ PD\ VHHP KH VWLOOdesperately needs the appreciation and support of his wife. Show him you need himAsk the group: how can a woman show she needs her husband?

    Read Galatians 6:2. Scripture reminds us of the importance of having someone come alongside to help. We all want to be and feel needed. ,WV LPSRUWDQW WKDW D PDQ IHHOV WKDW KH IXOOOV D SXUSRVH LQ \RXU OLIH 7KDW KH VRPHKRZmakes the woman in his life feel safer, better, and more beautiful than she was before.

    He needs to know that his masculine presence makes a difference. Read Genesis 2:18-25. 0HQ DQG ZRPHQ DUH GLIIHUHQWWKDW LV FRQUPHG HYHU\ GD\ RI RXU OLYHVGod forms and equips us both for various tasks, but all these tasks lead to the same goal- honoring God. As discussed earlier, its important in any relationship to see the others gifts and needs and learn to respect those.

    ClosingPray as a groupasking God for guidance in all relationshipsthat we might learn to recognize and honor the needs of the other. Further discussion possibilities:

    Finding the hero in your husband: $VN WKH JURXS ZKDW GRHV LW PHDQ WR QG WKH KHUR LQ \RXU KXVEDQG"The hero in your husband is only his ability to imitate Gods attributes. 7R QG WKH KHUR LQ \RXU KXVEDQG \RX PXVW NQRZ WKH *RG \RXU KXVEDQG ZDV FUHDWHG WR LPLWDWH$VN WKH JURXS ZKDW GR \RX WKLQN KDSSHQV LQ D UHODWLRQVKLS ZKHQ D ZRPDQ GRHVQW QG WKHhero in her husband? 7KHUH LV D WHQGHQF\ IRU D ZRPDQ WR HLWKHU QG LW HOVHZKHUH RU WR EHFRPH KHU RZQ (LWKHUcauses distance and can greatly weaken a marriage.

    Spend some time reading or summarizing the story of Esther. $VN KRZ GLG VKH QG WKH KHUR LQ KHU KXVEDQG" :KDW VSHFLF WKLQJV GLG VKH GR WR VKRZ VKHrespected him? She completed him by giving him a different perspective. She also admired him by showing respect in the way she approached him in front of others.

    Read Proverbs 14:1 Just as Esther, a woman is to use the gifts God has granted her to empower and uplift her husband.

    Lauren Nietubicz was born and raised in Texas and graduated from Concordia University Texas in 2005. Lauren and her husband Chris are blessed to live in Houston where she serves as the High 6FKRRO

  • 5E\$GDP*ULIQFor Guys: Godly MenBible Study

    Opening:Who is it harder to be patient with...your mom or your best friend?Why do men often fail to treat women with respect? Why arent we braver and more honorable when it comes to pursuing, romancing, or breaking up with a girl?Biblically every Christian woman is your sister (even your girlfriend) unless she is your wife. If that is true, how are you doing at treating women the way you are supposed to treat them?

    Rank these manly responsibilities. 1 being easiest for you, 10 being hardest. As it pertains to his sisters (women), a man shouldBBB SURWHFW KHU IURP VHOVK DQG SHUYHUVH PHQ___ defend and build up her public and private reputation.___ assure that she has what she needs and if she doesnt, provide it.___ encourage her in her relationship with the Lord.___ set for her, an example of a Godly man.___ build her up as a woman of God.___ get to know her heart and encourage her Godly desires.___ treat her with respect.___ gently correct and assist her when she is in the wrong.___ be honest and open about your care and concern for her.


    StudyRead 1 Peter 3:7.

    How are we supposed to treat women?:K\ GRHV WKH VFULSWXUH VD\ WR WUHDW WKHP OLNH D ZHDNHU YHVVHO RU OLNH SRUFHODLQ"Is it calling them weak? Is it calling them precious?

    Read John 12:1-8. Christ is the ultimate example of manliness. When someone started picking on Mary what were Jesus words? How does Jesus treat women? Share a moment when you should have told another man who was not respecting a woman to OHDYH KHU DORQH"


    Look through this list of dating situations and label whether these are the activities of a boy or a man. Some of these may seem ridiculous, and I agree. But they do happen and so the question is then,

    why? As you go through this list as a group, discuss the motivations for why a man or boy might act WKLV ZD\ 7DNH QRWH RI KRZ PDQ\ RI RXU ER\LVK EHKDYLRUV DUH VHOVK DQG FRZDUGO\

    In the pursuit of a godly womans heart...______ meet her face to face and ask her if you can take her out to get to know her better.______ tell her a dirty joke to try to make her laugh.BBBBBB VORZO\ QG RSSRUWXQLWLHV WR VHH ZKDW VKH LV OLNHBBBBBB SLFN RQ KHU LQ D VDUFDVWLF EXW LUW\ ZD\______ get her number off facebook and send her a sext.______ read every piece of information about her thats available online, look through all her pictures, and fantasize about dating her.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 7 6/20/2011 3:53:41 PM

  • ______ come up with creative ways to let her know you think she is interesting and worthy of being pursued with care.

    ______ talk about how other guys she knows are jerks. When dating a Godly woman

    ______ let her set the boundaries on KRZ IDU LV WRR IDU DQG WKHQ

    test the limits.______ set the standard for purity and talk about it openly.

    ______ avoid meeting or hanging out with her parents.

    ______ seek opportunities to ask her questions about things she cares about and encourage her in things shes gifted at.

    ______ if she asks you to, go to church with her or pray with her.BBBBBB QG DQ ROGHU PDQ WKDW \RX WUXVW WR KROG \RX DFFRXQWDEOH WR EHLQJ VHOHVV DQG SXUH LQ \RXU relationship.

    ______ tease her about things that she is sensitive about.______ be quick to apologize when something has gone wrong.______ if shes ready for sex, youre ready.______ keep your eyes open for someone hotter who might be interested in you.______ dont let her talk to other guys.______ talk to your guy friends about her physical attributes.BBBBBB WU\ WR QG RSSRUWXQLWLHV WR VHUYH KHU ZHOOWhen breaking up

    ______ just stop talking to her.______ sit down with her face to face and explain the situation.______ tell a friend to tell her.______ text her that its over.______ leave her a voicemail. ______ blame her and hold a grudge for how you were wronged.______ tell your friends what a great girl she is and how unfortunate it is that it didnt work out.______ even after youre broken up, check in from time to time to see how she is doing, if it is okay with her.

    ______ warn her new boyfriend how terrible she was as a girlfriend.

    Closing2IIHU *RG SUD\HUV IRU WKH JURXS DERXW EHLQJ PRUH OLNH &KULVW DQG OHVV RI D VHOVK ER\ 7KDQN *RG IRUHis forgiveness for your past mistakes.


    $GDP*ULIQOLYHVLQ7H[DVZLWKKLVZLIH&KHOVHDDQGWKHLUGRJ&KDUOLH+HKDVEHHQOHDGLQJPLQLVWU\with teenagers professionally and as a volunteer for more than a decade. He attended Concordia University Wisconsin and Fuller Theological Seminary. He served for 6 years as the Director of Youth Ministry at Lamb of God Lutheran Church. He is currently a public high school teacher and a volunteer leader in the student ministry at the Village Church in Flower Mound Texas.

    6UnPlugged 2011.indd 8 6/20/2011 3:53:43 PM

  • 7A Part of, Not Apart From

    by Will Hanke

    As a kid I couldnt wait to be part of the church. I saw what adults did and anticipated the day when my chance would come. I knew my time then was to go to church and Sunday School with my family. During my college years, when I returned home, I got involved in TNT (Tuesday Night at Timothy). It was a Tuesday night youth event that I designed and helped run. This was the UVWWLPH,ZDVDEOHWROHDGDFKXUFKSURJUDP$V,ZDWFKHGLWSURJUHVV\RXWKbegan to attach to the event itself. A drama was created with a high level of interest and participation.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 9 6/20/2011 3:53:45 PM

  • a youth leadership team. The value of a leadership team in youth ministry lies in watching youth grow in leadership, utilizing their creativity and energy in a positive ZD\ WR EHQHW \RXWK PLQLVWU\ DQGthe church at large. This takes the heart trained in Sunday School and FRPPLWWHG DW &RQUPDWLRQ WR D QHZlevel of outreach and evangelism. Begin watching for those youth during the middle school years who you can see and develop as potential leaders. Creating a connection and encouraging their faith commitment will help them stay involved in youth ministry, not to mention increasing the number of those who hear about Christ as they bring their friends along.

    If the mission of the church is to save the lost and strengthen those who know Jesus already, then providing the opportunity for youth to get involved in this mission and YLVLRQ HDUO\ ZLOO EHQHW HYHU\RQH ,Wopens the youths eyes to the needs of the grocery checker or the guy behind the fast food counter and provides the training and events geared to ask, Do you know my -HVXV" ,I \RXWK FDQ VWHS RXW GXULQJthese early years, imagine where the church can be as they move toward adulthood.

    The world is hungry to devour our youth with corrupt and unhealthy practices during their high school years. The fast paced world can distract them and demand their time, keeping them outside the main focus of Jesus as their Savior. &RQUPDWLRQ SURYLGLQJ D UP8

    Youth Ministry is...apart of and notapart from thecongregations

    life and mission.

    A cultural switch was taking place. Youth who once wanted to be entertained by programs were beginning to be a part of running and leading those same programs. The youth appeared to care about making a difference in the world. The years of simply watching as adults taught and being forced to wait to lead was over. Not using the youth was a waste of valuable resources.

    Our culture was beginning to accept that youth wanted to make a difference right now. If the church would not allow youth to KHOS LQ VRPH SDUW WKH\ ZRXOG QGsomewhere else they would be valued. The youth made a mental switch from wanting to listen and wait for another program, to being a part of developing it. Church leaders watched it happen across the country with a renewed heart for missions, and teams committed to helping others. The rise of the Servant nature was taking over.

    Church leaders should take note and see this new heart as a great way to move forward by developing

    IRXQGDWLRQ LV WKH UVW VWHS WRputting them on track. High school ministry, sometimes viewed as a youth night, develops relationships formed around the growth of faith and the desire to share that faith. This will help them to put LQ OLIHORQJ +RO\ +DELWV 6RPH RIthe greatest habits of addiction are created in those teen years when pain and insecurity surrounds them. By encouraging Christian youth to strengthen their faith, they can know a security that will never go away or cause them the pain other unhealthy habits create.

    This newfound heart can be a thriving ministry for the church. Seeing your youth involved in bringing people to Jesus and watching as they strengthen those who know him already is amazing. 7KHLU KHDUWV DUH RQ UH WR KHOS WKHworld change. That servant heart is the heart of Christ. Christs overwhelming love for others, when they least expect it, is amazing. In a culture where youth are questioned because of their age and challenged about almost everything they do, the church can be the place to embrace them.

    Our opening event to a high school ministry is a red carpet event. The leadership team has worked to plan this event and create a welcoming atmosphere for high school youth. While the world discounts youth and makes fun of them or tells them they are too young, we embrace them. We remind them they are loved and teach them the love of Jesus and how to share it. Jesus continued to love all ages. The heart of Christ was to guide all people to follow him and share his mission. When the youth are incorporated into the mission of the church, they potentially help guide those older than themselves to see a new vibrancy and way to share Jesus. It is a life-changing picture that encourages everyone.

    Rev. Will Hanke serves as a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Ellisville, MO.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 10 6/20/2011 3:53:45 PM

  • UnPlugged 2011.indd 11 6/20/2011 3:53:45 PM

  • 10

    Leader: As we pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs, we pray especially, dear Lord, for young people, for those who know You and for those who don't, for those with whom You have blessed our church community and for those not yet a part of Your family. Let us pray to the Lord . . .

    Left side: That our teens and their friends would know Your love, Your grace, and Your mercy;

    Right side: That they would be equipped to live whole and hopeful lives;

    Left side: That they would be encouraged and cared for;

    5LJKW VLGH 7KDW WKHLU OLYHV ZRXOG EH OOHG ZLWKthe love of family, friends, neighbors, teach-ers, and others who genuinely care about what is best for them.

    Left side: Cause their families to be strong, sup-portive, caring, and loving.

    Right side: And bless them with mentors and guides who help them negotiate the chal-lenges of life.

    Leader: Lord, bless the young people in this faith community with an abundant measure of Your grace and equip us as church to be a faithful conduit of Your grace and love to them:

    /HIW VLGH 7KDW WKH\ ZRXOG EH IDLWKOOHG DQGfaithful by the power of Your Spirit;

    Right side: That they would live each day blessed and renewed in the assurance of their bap-tism;

    Left side: That they would know Your truth and the freedom that comes with it;

    Right Side: That they would grow in Your Word and in its power for life and salvation;

    Left side: That these young people would be equipped in sharing and caring for each other within the congregation and out in the broader community;

    Right side: Bless them in their love for each other in Christ and through them, cause them to be a blessing with others.

    Leader: We pray, Lord, for Your people every-where:

    Men: For the young and the old, for men and women;

    Women: For those who know you and for those who don't;

    Men: For those who labor and for those without work;

    Women: For the education and training of children and young people growing toward maturity;

    Men: For those with homes and for the homeless;Women: For the well and for the well-being of

    those who are sick;Men: For those who celebrate with friends and

    for the lonely and those who mourn, that they would be comforted.

    Women: For the well fed and for the hungry;Men: For the rich and for the poor;Women: For victims of abuse and for those bound

    up in the terrors of addiction;Men: For those who celebrate freedom and for

    those who dream of being free;Women: For people here and for people every-

    where;ALL: For children, youth, young adults, the

    middle aged, and the old.Dear God, have mercy and grant all people Your

    peace for Jesus' sake. Amen.Leader: Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend

    all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    ALL: Amen.

    A Prayer Litany for Youthby Terry Dittmer


    UnPlugged 2011.indd 12 6/20/2011 3:53:45 PM

  • 11

    Follow: Walk in the Rhythm of Jesusreviewed by Katie Thomas

    Can I Use It? Book Review

    If you are looking for a practical, in-depth Bible study that will encourage high school youth to XQGHUVWDQG WKH VLJQLFDQFH RI GHYHORSLQJ D FORVHintimate relationship with their Lord and Savior, then Follow: Walk in the Rhythm of Jesus by Kevin Johnson (Zondervan/Youth Specialties 2009) is an effective resource for you.

    Follow contains 20 Bible-based lessons which help draw teenagers deeper into Gods Word, offering an insightful look at who Jesus really is and what it truly means to take up your cross and follow Jesus in your everyday life.(DFK VWXG\ LQFOXGHV YH VHFWLRQV VSHFLFDOO\

    intended to guide you, beginning with Scripture DQG FRQFOXGLQJ ZLWK UHHFWLYH VXJJHVWLRQV RQhow to apply what you have learned to your daily life. These sections include: Start, Read, Think,Live, and Wrap. At the beginning of the lessons, \RX ZLOO QG D FRQFLVH %LEOH YHUVH RQ D VLQJOH SDJHdesigned to sum up the main point of each lesson.

    Start introduces the topic and begins to paint a picture of a personal, loving Savior with the hope of instilling this image in your mind.

    Read includes the Scripture passage, giving you the option to incorporate this into your lesson for teenagers to follow along or just for your convenience.

    Think includes contemplative questions designed to provoke the teenager to further examine the topic.

    Live offers questions to motivate youth to live out what they have learned about Jesus.

    Wrap draws all points together and attempts to unite them with the Gospel.

    After Wrap, each lesson includes supplementary sections titled, More Thoughts to Mull and More Scriptures to Dig. These sections provide additional questions and passages that help the participants dig deeper into Scripture.

    One of the most intriguing aspects of this FXUULFXOXP LV WKDW LW LV VSHFLFDOO\ GHVLJQHGto challenge high school students to delve deeper into Scripture and creatively challenges the participants to examine their personal relationship with Jesus. This curriculum shifts your perspective, transforming biblical text into D YLYLG SLFWXUH OOHG ZLWK OLIH DQG D QHZIRXQGappreciation and understanding of Christs life and His teaching.

    I recommend using this curriculum with spiritually mature high school youth as the content is rather deep in nature. To gain insight into Christ and to grow spiritually by connecting with Christ on a real level, this material is effective, especially if taught in a home, small-group setting led by adult mentors or the DCE. 7KLV FXUULFXOXP ZRXOG DOVR EH EHQHFLDO WR Dhigh school student who is ready to take their relationship with Christ to a new level and is searching for a Bible study to explore on their own.

    Overall, I did not see a need for extensive PRGLFDWLRQV LQ RUGHU IRU XVH LQ 7KH /XWKHUDQChurchMissouri Synod. Some of the questions tend to be a bit law-heavy and need to be rephrased to integrate a better balance of law and Gospel. This would require very little time and minimal preparation for those leading the study. I liked this study because it is very careful in ensuring that its topics are useable in all denominational settings. It is also applicable in addressing the questions all postmodern high school teenagers have concerning Christ.

    One addition that could be incorporated into the curriculum would be to include technology based off the discussion questions in the curriculum. Depending on the church, this could be done in a variety of ways. Due to this generations love for Facebook and Twitter, I WKLQN LW ZRXOG EH EHQHFLDO WR SRVW D TXHVWLRQbased off the curriculum for them to tweet about and share with their friends.

    This curriculum will help high school youth better know Christ, and will encourage a closer walk with Him while helping them to understand the importance of walking in step with their Lord and Savior. You will not skip a beat teaching this FXUULFXOXP DQG , WKLQN \RX ZLOO QG WKDW LW LV LQperfect harmony with Biblical teaching and the message of the Gospel.

    Find more book and curriculum reviews at

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 13 6/20/2011 3:53:45 PM

  • 12

    by Julianna ShultsEmotional vs. Physical PainSnark, Crackle, Pop Culture

    My friend walked up to me at recess with the news. The look on her face was a mixture of sympathy and reluctance as she explained that P\ UVW ER\IULHQG RI RYHU D PRQWK KDG GHFLGHGto break up with me. As a seventh grader, it was P\ UVW KHDUWEUHDN DQG LW ZDV GHYDVWDWLQJ 1R ,didnt really talk to him outside of school, except to sit next to him when our group of friends went to movies. Okay, I didnt really talk to him in school either. Our relationship consisted of passing notes, talking in a few stolen minutes after school, and telling other people we were dating while actually interacting very little. Yet somehow the month felt like a lifetime, and I remember crying over his loss.

    As an adult, I look back and wonder what hurt so badly. What we had could hardly be construed as a serious relationship. We barely knew each other. Yet, I still remember the hurt just as vividly as any other physical pain Ive experienced. The HPRWLRQDO KXUWV SHRSOH LQLFW RQ XV DOZD\V KXUWjust as much as the physical ones. Now research is showing us why and how.

    Columbia University recently published new research suggesting the emotional pain of a breakup may trigger the same parts of the brain as physical pain. In the study, 40 people who had been intensely rejected received brain scans while shown pictures of friends and then pictures of their exes. While they looked at pictures of their friends they were directed to think of a happy memory, but while they looked at their exes, they were directed to think about the breakup. Then the participants underwent the same scan while their forearms were exposed to heat, similar to

    the pain felt while holding a hot cup of coffee.What they found was that the same area of the

    brain became active when the participants felt the physical pain as when they felt the emotional pain. In fact, these two types of pain shared more regions of the brain than previously thought. The researchers believe studies like these can help to devise ways to help people who have gone through a serious loss or rejection and help us understand how that kind of emotional stress affects people physically.

    As I read the study, my thoughts went to how very differently I treat my teens breakups from their physical pains. When someone comes in with a broken wrist or stitches, I immediately show my concern and compassion. I provide medicine to those who need it, and would never ignore an injured students cries for help. Yet, I have been guilty of treating my teens breakups as something petty and inconsequential. I may ask them what happened and listen as they share their story. Yet, I am more dismissive and likely to throw a meaningless platitude their way than I should be. This study speaks to how painful a broken relationship can be, and I should be as eager to show concern and compassion when they are dealing with a breakup as I am a broken bone.

    Teaching students to deal with emotional pain is just as important as teaching them to deal with physical pain. One is not more serious than the other. We live in a sinful world and that brings with it a host of broken relationships. Our bodies are clearly wired to feel the pain of those broken relationships. God gave the answer to the sin and brokenness in our relationships when he sent Jesus to die on the cross. Finding healthy, God-pleasing ways to comfort and reconcile the emotional pain of those broken relationships is just as important as dealing with physical pain.

    Perhaps next time a junior high student talks with me about a breakup, I will be more aware of just how painful a broken heart can be.

    Read more pop culture articles at

    Julianna Shults is a DCE currently serving in children and youth ministry at St. Paul Lutheran in Chicago. She drinks entirely too much coffee, only does her dishes when absolutely necessary, knits, writes, and is unapologetically nerdy.

  • 13

    Life Issues andYouth Ministry

    by Emily Norman

    In my brief time in youth ministry I have learned an abundance regarding youth culture and ministering within it. Communication is constantly changing because of the advances in technology. Families are broken in more ways than ever EHIRUHZLWKWKHPDJQLFDWLRQRIVRFLDOLVVXHVWKDWDUHEHFRPLQJPRUHSUHYDOHQWand common place in our society. But the one thing that has not changed is the way that we minister, that is, in building relationships.

    In order to gain a better perspective on this subject, and to provide a well-rounded discussion, I interviewed three DCEs: one with years of experience and great insight, and two who are just starting out, but offer fresh outlooks shaped by their varied immersions.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 15 6/20/2011 3:53:52 PM

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    Interviewees: Scott Rauch, Trinity Lutheran

    Church in Peoria, Illinois - 25 years plus one year of internship

    Rebekah Freed, First Trinity Lutheran Church in Tonawanda, New York - DCE Intern

    Julia Mueller Currently serves in internship placement and as a missionary in Riga, Latvia, with LCMS World Mission :KDWLV\RXUGHQLWLRQRI\RXWKPLQLVWU\",I\RXKDYHVHUYHGPRUHWKDQYH\HDUVKDV\RXUGHQLWLRQFKDQJHG"Why or why not?

    Scott: Youth and adults serving together for the glory of *RG KDVQW FKDQJHG EHFDXVHit encompasses everything I understand our lives in Christ to be about just from a youth ministry viewpoint.-XOLD , ZRXOG GHQH \RXWK

    ministry as the investment in the lives of young people in the name of Jesus Christ. It is not just spiritually guiding, or providing activities for them to do. It is walking with people as they journey through this time in life referred to as 'youth'.

    Do you agree with the VWDWHPHQW

  • 15

    discern the world with whatever tools they can come up with. We can provide a safe and educated setting for discussion and action in regard to the full range of life issues.

  • UnPlugged 2011.indd 18 6/20/2011 3:53:57 PM

  • 17

    The Prepositions of Youth Ministry

    by Jay Reed

    3DVWDK-D\\RXJRWDUDFLVWFKXUFK:K\GRQW\RXOLNHEODFNSHRSOHKHUH"The kid asking me the question was Cliff, a seventeen-year-old African

    American teen who showed up at our church one Sunday. He and his two brothers had been attending off and on for a month or two.

    I listened as he explained the charge: the lack of people of color in our church, RXUZKLWHSHRSOHPXVLFWKHZD\VRPHRIRXUFRQJUHJDWLRQH\HGWKHPZKHQthey were going through the cookie line after service and a few other things he noticed that I had never thought of. Looking at our church through his eyes, I realized he had a point. Not that we were intentionally racist, but that to people QRWOLNHXVRXUFRQJUHJDWLRQDOFXOWXUHZDVPRUHFORVHGWKDQRSHQ

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 19 6/20/2011 3:54:00 PM

  • 18

    For a lot of youth, many Lutheran FKXUFKHV SUHVHQW D FXOWXUH WKH\ QGLQFUHDVLQJO\ GLIFXOW WR UHODWH WR OHWalone embrace and become part of. The question Cliff was posing to me is the same one we often face from youth in our congregations: Is there DVLJQLFDQWSODFHKHUHIRUPH"&DQ,WDQGEHORQJKHUH" My encounter with Cliff sent our church on a journey to answer that question.

    If you are challenged by that question from youth both within and outside of the church, I have a SUHSRVLWLRQ IRU \RX $FWXDOO\ YHprepositions that helped us re-focus how we do ministry. I heard these kicked around in my early days as a DCE and used them off and on in mission and purpose statements. But as a result of my discussion with Cliff, they took on fresh meaning and purpose.

  • 19

    Equipping the

    by Steve Jorgensen(Young) Saints

    One of the core practices of a congregation is to equip the saints for faithful service in the church and in the Great Commission. Paul reminds us of our calling in Ephesians 4:12: to equip his people for works of VHUYLFHVRWKDWWKHERG\RI&KULVWPD\EHEXLOWXS7KLVHTXLSSLQJLVQRWlimited to just what we might consider mature adult believers but to all who are called into Gods family, including youth and children.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 21 6/20/2011 3:54:10 PM

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    Why is This Important?Being equipped to serve is

    extremely important for adolescents as they journey into adulthood and solidify their identity and values that will shape how they live. The state of adolescent culture contributes to the urgency of this task as it constantly UHLQIRUFHV D PH RULHQWDWLRQ (YHQthe psychological development process that a teen experiences tends to make youth self-focused as they begin to differentiate from their SDUHQWV DQG JXUH RXW ZKR WKH\ DUH

    The best thing we can give our youth during this stage in life is the opportunity to connect with something bigger than themselves. Our task is to engage them in a life that serves God and others, using the gifts that God has given them.

    A Biblical BasisPaul tells us in Ephesians 2:10,

    For we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for XV WR GR +H PDNHV LW FOHDU WKDWsince we are redeemed in Christ, God empowers us to do these good works. Its important that we remember that serving or good works are not just something on our WRGR OLVW EXW UDWKHU DUH D UHVXOW RIbeing created in Christ.

    Some Practical IdeasSo how do we encourage this to

    happen? How do we equip the young saints?

    Connect Bible lessons with action.When you teach on a particular topic RU 6FULSWXUH JLYH WKHP D VSHFLFway to practice it. For example, when teaching on a parable of Jesus such as the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) or the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), give them a practical way to serve those in need. Take them to help serve a meal at a community soup kitchen, collect coats and blankets for the homeless and deliver them to a shelter, or visit someone in a nursing home. This can be an effective teaching tool as its very important for an adolescent to connect life with Bible truth.

    $YRLGWKHWHPSWDWLRQIRU\RXUministry to be entertainment-based. Sometimes it feels like we have to compete for a student's time. It is true we can attract students with fun games and attractive events (and these can serve well as an open

    GRRU IRU IULHQGV RU XQFKXUFKHG DVwell as create opportunities to build relationships). However, if thats the focus of our ministry, we run the risk of communicating to the kids that church and Christianity are just additional venues in which the purpose is to be amused.

    Make sure your ministry has regular opportunities for mission and service. The fact that you regularly do mission trips, servant events, or service projects communicates what your church values. They also help students discover their giftedness and skills in practical ways.

    Involve them in congregational ministry. Volunteering in the church isnt just for adults. Youth can regularly serve in areas such as Sunday School or VBS as well as greeters, lectors, and musicians. This can be a powerful experience as they learn about what it takes to work in a ministry, and it provides an inter-generational experience where they can witness to others using their gifts in service.

    Building the FutureA congregation that values its

    youth in these ways will help them discover who they are as Gods handiwork and help develop the gifts given to them. This can, in turn, cultivate in them a desire to serve God and His people rather than revert to the culturally dominant mindset that focuses on self. Finally, this will also help them stay involved in church as they transition into adulthood. The Augsburg Youth and Family Institute found that youth who developed and practiced their giftedness by being involved in service and assimilated into leadership during their youth were more likely to be involved in church and have a vibrant faith life into adulthood.

    Steve Jorgensen has been in youth ministry in Lutheran congregations for over 20 years and currently serves at Pointe of Hope Lutheran Church in Blue Springs, MO. He has been married to his wife Nancy for 21 years and they have two WHHQDJHGDXJKWHUV(PLO\DQG$P\

    Youth Ministry... equips youth to

    utilize their God-given gifts as faithful disciples.

  • UnPlugged 2011.indd 23 6/20/2011 3:54:15 PM

  • 22

    by Sean CramerMarble MuchnessGame Guru

    Theres a certain sweetness in keeping games simple. Sure, there are groups of people who love strategy games, and will take hours to do so (Im a Settlers fan myself), but when planning activities for a large (more than four) group of people, simple is always sweeter. Lots of rules can bog down momentum, and frustration can occur when the same questions are asked repeatedly. In addition to all this, complex games take more set-up, props, and time to prepare. For these reasons, this game is very simplistic in inspiration. Enjoy!

    Props: Marbles of varying sizes (look online if \RX FDQW QG WKHVH ORFDOO\

    Set-Up: 6HFWLRQ RII D VDIH ]RQH EH LW D WDEOHor a couple of chairs/cones forming an area.

    Play: Give each player a marble, and have them immediately close their hand over it. Tell participants that they are free to go to the safe ]RQH ZKHQ WKH\ DUH FRQGHQW WKH\ KDYH WKHlargest possible marble.

    If they want to trade, however, they may walk XS WR DQRWKHU SOD\HU VD\ VZDS DQG H[WHQGWKHLU FORVHG VW :LWK WKH RWKHU KDQG WKH\ VKRXOGextend an open palm. The other player has to oblige, and coordinate their hands with their SDUWQHU RSHQLQJ WKHLU SDOP XQGHU WKH VW DQGSODFLQJ WKHLU VW RYHU WKH RSHQ SDOP 2Q WKH FRXQWof three, players swap marbles, quickly closing WKHLU VWV RYHU WKH PDUEOHV DQG FRQWLQXLQJ XQWLOthey feel they can go to the safe zone.

    Continue play until everyone is in the safe zone, or until most of the players are.

    Possible discussion questions:What was the experience of swapping marbles like?How did you rationalize taking a risk to swap?What did it take for you to decide to enter the safe zone? What does taking a risk look like in life? How does transitioning to high school or college compare/contrast with this activity?

    Extra Ideas:If time or resources dissuade you from using marbles, consider using three or four decks of playing cards. Only use 4s through 8s, and on each of the cards, rank them. Gather all the 4s and number them 1 - 12, etc. Tell players that if they swap the same card as another, the higher the written number, the higher the value (so a 4 with a 10 on it beats

    a 4 with a 3 on it, etc...) Continue play in a similar fashion.After play, have players arrange themselves in order of smallest marble to largest. Then have them get into groups by color, or pattern, or size, etc.Get paper towel tubes, magnets, and glue. Cut the tubes in sections length and width ZLVH DQG FUHDWH SLSHOLQHV IRU WKH PDUEOHV WRtravel. Hang magnet glued tubes on a fridge or other magnetic surface, to have an activity that will remain in your youth room.Have a marble themed party:

    Take some marbles and make bowling SLQV 8VH D VKRRWHU PDUEOH WR VFDWWHU WKHPGuess how many marbles in the jar.Teach a classic game of marbles, and play chinese checkers.For younger kids, get cups of paint. Put a piece of paper in the bottom of a shoe box, and roll color coated marbles in it to create works of art.Marble cake!

    Get more game ideas at

    Sean Cramer graduated as a DCE from Concordia University, River Forest and served DVD3URJUDP$VVLVWDQW$VVRFLDWHDW&DPS/RQH6WDULQ/D*UDQJH7;$IWHUPRYLQJEDFNWRKLVhometown near Rockford, IL, Sean currently works with developmentally dsabled individuals. $VLGHIURPDZDLWLQJD&DOOLQSURIHVVLRQDOministry again, Sean enjoys volunteering, reading, playing games, exercising, and observing his dog be absolutely resistant to any new tricks.

  • 2323

    Ministryby Derek Broten

    to OneHow many people are in our youth group? WellJust one!How many times have we engaged in conversations with other

    youth ministers, pastors, or church members trying to determine the effectiveness of our ministry by the number of kids who came to our last event? How do you get so many to come to your Bible Study? Why did only four people come to your four-day fasting event, and where was the pastors kid? Did you know that the church across town has 5,000 NLGVFRPLQJDQGWKH\IHHGWKHPZLWKRQO\WZRSL]]DVDQGYH0RXQWDLQDews? These types of conversations can be haunting, frustrating, and keep you awake at night, and they are misplaced.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 25 6/20/2011 3:54:23 PM

  • friends with one event feeding the next, and we couldnt have enough events on the calendar because kids were engaged.

    As I look back I notice a key difference between then and now.

    Youth didnt have as many other things going on in their lives that I had to compete with. Its easier to attract youth when they have a choice between coming to the juggling lawn dart outreach event or going to a movie with friends. Today, they have eight to ten other things that are competing with the church event. What do you mean you are choosing your choir trip that is


    Youth Ministry is... person


    In our youth ministry we have wrestled with these questions and with what we believe is a culture shift changing the way ministry should be perceived. The hard thing about any shift is changing the mindset of a culture. It reminds me of my youngest daughter who seeks great comfort in her stuffed elephant that she calls Elle. The more scared she gets as things change around her the more she seeks that Elle for comfort. In youth ministry we can be the same way, clinging to the things we have always done, and despite the shift in culture, clinging even tighter to our Elles.

    I was brought up and trained in the youth group mentality that doing dynamic programs to attract large numbers and forming strong relationships create a great youth group. Even the questions we ZRXOG DVN HDFK RWKHU UHHFWHG WKDW

    How many people are coming to \RXU \RXWK JURXS" 0DQ\ RI WKHexperiences that we set up seemed to connect with youth and their

    taking a ten-day cruise to Alaska to sing to orphaned penguins over our VLOHQW UHWUHDW"

    It was in light of this cultural shift that we started to change our perspective on ministry to maximize opportunity. We felt like the days of youth group were slowly fading and thus with much prayer changed our mindset to a Ministry of Ones. We have a ministry to this one, to that one, and dont forget about that one who doesnt come a lot. Each of our ones has such different needs that it is not possible to meet them all with a single program and a few random events.

    This type of thinking has a lot of push back in our corporate mindset where numbers reign and serve as proof of how effective we are. However, that doesnt always translate well into ministry. We are trying to change the scorecard as Reggie McNeal suggests in The Present Future. When someone asks us how many people came to our three night lock-out we simply UHVSRQG -XVW RQH

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 26 6/20/2011 3:54:23 PM

  • 25

    There was this one whose family is splitting and doesnt have a strong PDOH LQXHQFH LQ KLV OLIH

    There was that one who is struggling with self worth and identity.

    There was that one who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit in the midst of her deep questions and searching.

    We cant forget that one who gave up his 127-hour streak of playing Call of Duty to be at this event.

    I love that this one who was forced to come by his parents actually cracked a smile and felt cared for by the end of the second day of no sleep.

    However there were some we missed with this event:

    We had that one who is gone again this weekend with traveling baseball.

    There was this one with no desire to be in this church and is wrestling with some major life questions.

    There was that one who typically comes to everything but according to her facebook status broke up with her boyfriend this week.

    This type of thinking has shifted our mindset from numbers to individual needs and crafting ministry opportunities around those needs. Our focus is not on having the biggest youth group in our community, but on meeting

    needs and connecting with youth where they are. Our main goal is not to have them feel a part of the youth group community, but to have them feel a part of the Kingdom community.

    It reminds us when our attendance is low at an event that we have more time to spend meeting youth where they are at and creating deeper relationships. The more we can connect with them, the more their needs are revealed to us. It changes our mindset from trying to determine what events bring them to our turf (youth group) to how we meet their needs on their turf. How do we minister to the ones that drop RXW DIWHU FRQUPDWLRQ DQG UDUHO\step back into the church?

    This has led us to spending more time on Facebook, sending text messages, making phone calls, and focusing intentionally on a ministry to one. It causes us to equip and recruit other adults to join us in that ministry to ones so that we can be more effective and readily available when needs arise. This week we only had eight youth at Bible study, but I connected with eight others on Facebook, prayed with ten others through text messages, and commented on nine other status updates.

    With all that said we have not eliminated our programs as they do connect with a certain group of individuals who need that safe place. Programs are part of ministering to the ones, but in shifting our focus to Ministry to Ones we are reminded that Gods Kingdom is much bigger than the youth group. I wonder if our church council would ask Jesus,

    How many people are in Your .LQJGRP"

    Well, there is this one, and there is that one, and this one here...all ZKRP , GLHG IRU DQG ORYH GHDUO\'HUHNLVDQ$VVRFLDWH3DVWRU

    with an emphasis on Senior High Ministry at Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury, MN. He enjoys the variation of Youth Ministry and creating caring community inside and outside of the church walls. He loves spending time with his wife and three kids, playing most sports and sitting on his deck with a good book. One of Dereks great joys is having coffee with people talking about life and our walk with Jesus.

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 27 6/20/2011 3:54:24 PM

  • 26

    The ABCs of God the Fatherby Mark Englehardt


    (1 and 2 are talking to one another, playing a letter association game, 3 walks in on them)

    1: All-powerful as in He can control the wind and the waves, you know, like when Jesus calmed the storms.

    2: Good. How about this one? Breath as in He gave the breath of life to Adam at creation.

    1: Thats creative. Oh, hey, creative as in Hed have to be creative to create the platypus what is that a duck, a beaver, an otter? Did you know the platypus is also poisonous? Its got a self-defense button on its foot that shoots venom into its predators! How creative is that?!

    2: No kidding? Thats cool. Okay Ive got an easy one death defying as in you cant keep Jesus in the tomb; Hes God!

    1: Ive got an easy one too eternal He was, is, and always will be.

    (3 enters and hears 1 and 2 talking)

    3: What are you guys doing?

    1: Oh were just messing around. Were going through the alphabet and trying to think of words to describe God, and then you have to give an example to back up your description.

    2: Yeah. Right now were on F.

    3: Oh, well thats not hard; how about Father as in Maker of heaven and earth, He has made me and all creatures; He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.

    For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

    2: Show-off.

    1: Wow, I didnt know that about you.

    :KDW" 7KDW , NQRZ WKH PHDQLQJ WR WKH UVWarticle of the Apostles Creed?

    1: No, I didnt know you were a family man, with house and home, wife and children.

    (2 laughs with 1)

    3: Very funny.

    1: No really, I think thats pretty cool actually, that youve got that memorized.

    3: Its no big deal; we had to do it for FRQUPDWLRQ , MXVW UHPHPEHUHG LW WKDWV DOO

  • it simply because He loves us. I know that I can trust Gods promises to me. He is an awesome, amazing, incredible God.

    1: Wow, that was a great statement of your faith!

    3: Yeah, that was awesome! Now whos the show-off?

    2: Whatever. Come on, were on letter G. Whose turn is it?

    1: I got this one! G. Grace! Because of Gods grace we dont get what we deserve, instead we get all the cool things you were just talking about, AND, best of all, we get eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

    3: Nice!

    (all three begin to exit on the following line.)

    2: Very cool. Okay, Ive got H!...

    (all three are off stage now)

    End scene.Find more skits at

    2: I think its amazing! I have a hard time memorizing anything! Now, ask me what God the Father does for us, and I can tell you that in my own words, but I could never rattle off the meaning like that.

    1: Okay, what does God the Father do for us?

    2: Huh?

    3: Go ahead. Put it in your own words.

    2: What, now?

    1: Yeah, sure. Why not?

    2: Well, okay, here goes. God the Father is just one part of the Triune God. In fact, the Apostles Creed talks about all three parts of the Triune God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God the Father is our creator. He created each one of us. Not only did He create us, but He also created everything! As our Father, He takes care of us. He gives us everything we need and more, emphasis RQ HYHU\WKLQJ +H JLYHV XV IHHOLQJV DQGemotions, He gives us our brain to be creative with, He gives us family and friends; did I mention He gives us everything? The cool thing is that He doesnt do this because He has to; Hes not obligated to, He does


  • 28

    by Cassie MooreThey Think Im CrazyBetwixt: Middle School Ministry

    When I tell people that I work full-time with middle school students, the most common response I get is this: Oh, geez, I dont know how you could possibly do that. Middle school kids are ZD\ WRR FUD]\ IRU PH

    Im never quite sure if I should be offended by that statement or not. If you think about it, LW GHQLWHO\ LPSOLHV WKDW , DP WKH FUD]\ RQH IRUZRUNLQJ ZLWK WKHP ,P FRQGHQW WKDW VRPHGD\Ill come up with a good comeback.

    Anyway, I recently spent an entire weekend with over eighty middle school students at a retreat. I learned some valuable lessonslike the fact that I can no longer function on just a few hours of sleep, and that you should never PHQWLRQ WKH ZRUG SUDQN WR PLGGOH VFKRRO NLGV ,woke up the next morning to a hallway bedecked with toilet paper, shaving cream messages on the wall, and couches piled on top of each other.

    Watching these boisterous kids climb over furniture and scream like hyenas prompted me to step back and think about them seriously. I vividly remember what it was like to be in middle school. Youre squarely caught between an adult world and a child world, and you know you dont TXLWH W LQWR HLWKHU RQH , UHPHPEHU OLNH LW ZDVlast week the struggles I had with friends, parents, VFKRRO DQG VSRUWV RQ WRS RI WU\LQJ WR JXUH RXWwho I was and where my life was headed. Its daunting.

    As youth leaders, we need to know everything we can about our kids, so we can best learn how to work with them and help them grow in their faith. Heres a quick glimpse of what exactly were dealing with when we talk about your average middle school student:Physically:

    Middle schoolers are dealing with the headaches of growth spurts and puberty. Muscle development is just starting, and along with that is a budding interest in the opposite sex. Theyre starting to become more aware of their physical appearance, and the frustrations of acne are just becoming reality for many of them. I like to play a fun game in my head, called Wait-And-See-How-Many-Kids-With-Glasses-Get-Contacts-Before-7KH\*HW7R+LJK6FKRROVR IDU ,YH SUHGLFWHGcorrectly nearly every time. Socially:

    This is the time in their lives that friends

    are often the sole focus of living (in their own minds, that is). Popularity and acceptance are huge issues every young teen deals with. The LQXHQFH RI WKHLU SHHUV LQFUHDVHV EXW DW WKH VDPHtime, the desire to be more independent kicks in. 7KH UHVXOW LV D FRQLFWHG DQJVWULGGHQ PLGGOHschooler. They want to be trusted and considered responsible by their parents and other leaders, but they havent yet mastered the art of self-discipline. Intellectually:

    This is one of the biggest challenges of middle school ministry, because not all kids are advancing intellectually at the same pace. Kids at this age are transitioning from concrete to abstract thinking. For instance, concrete WKLQNLQJ ZRXOG VD\ 5RFNV VLQN ZKLOH ZDWFKLQJa rock fall to the bottom of a lake, while abstract thinking would reason, Rocks sink because WKHLU GHQVLW\ LV JUHDWHU WKDQ WKH GHQVLW\ RI ZDWHUMost middle schoolers are idealistic, and are just starting to develop more complex problem-solving skills. They soak up knowledge like a sponge, and are hungry to learn as much as SRVVLEOH +RZHYHU WKH\UH GHQLWHO\ VWDUWLQJto question what theyve been taught, and need rational explanations for why they do what they do in order to keep doing it. Emotionally:

    Middle school is an emotional roller coasterthey regularly vacillate between being giddy, expressive, moody, sad, melancholy, excited, and a whole slew of emotions in between. They are more expressive about their emotions, especially as they relate to their struggles with self-esteem, friends, and other frustrations. Most kids are so excited to have an adult taking an interest in them that theyll blab just about anything without much prompting, so it doesnt take a whole lot to get students sharing their emotions quite openly. Spiritually:

    Personally, this is one of the biggest joys I have in working with middle school ministry. These kids are just starting to apply spiritual principles to daily life, and theyre rearing to act on what theyve been taught. Theyre constantly looking for ways to tie what theyve learned together, and often Ill hear kids relating what theyve experienced at school that day to the Biblical principles were talking about. At the same time,

    UnPlugged 2011.indd 30 6/20/2011 3:54:30 PM

  • 29

    theyre beginning to question the faith of their FKLOGKRRG DQG PDNH LW WKHLU RZQ IDLWK ,WV D ELWof a scary time for adults, because these kids are often full of questions and doubtssometimes things we cant even really answerbut its important to let them wrestle and reason through this season in their lives.

    So, how can we best work with these complicated but amazing young teenagers? I have a few suggestions for effective middle school ministry:

    Set boundaries early, and stick to them. Middle schoolers will always try to test your boundaries, to see how far they can push you. Set clear expectations and rules, share them with your students, and keep themdont let their constant nagging change your decisions. Ive been on trips where students nagged me for days about the same things, but my refusal to cave in and cater to their whims makes a bold statement about who I am: Im the adult in charge, who loves them enough to do whats truly best for themnot whats going to make them happy at the moment. They see that, and will respect you for that.

    Since kids are growing and changing very rapidly (and at varying rates), an activity that one student might like is one that another might hate. Keep your activities varied, and try to include some kinesthetic activities, where the kids are DFWXDOO\ GRLQJ WKLQJV /LYLQJ OHVVRQV DUH PXFKmore effective than any lecture.

    Additionally, keep things moving rapidly. Generally, students have a minute of solid focus per year old they areso a 12-year-old can focus well for 12 minutes. That doesnt mean switching activitiesit means breaking up the routine with music, conversation, handouts, getting kids up and out of their chairs, doing a game, adding some auditory or visual elements, a song, moving around in the roomanything to keep the kids out of a routine. And, try your hardest to avoid pauses, since thirty seconds of dead time means youll spend several minutes trying to get them re-focused.

    Middle schoolers need to feel safe and unthreatened. Since they are dealing with a lot of physical and emotional changes, they dont tend to like games or activities that single them out. Avoid doing things that draw attention to individuals, deal with speed or strength, or make kids nervous beforehand. Try to plan things where all the kids participate, instead of just one kid.

    Also, kids in this age range respond well to a diverse mix of leaders: parents, high school and college students, young adults, and older adults. Dont be afraid to have a lot of variety in your

    leaders and volunteers. And, dont be discouraged if your middle schoolers laugh at you. Theyll relate to you better when youre in a humble posture, and theyll appreciate that youre willing to share some of your embarrassing moments, not just your accomplishments.

    The time that you and your leaders spend with the kids is what theyll really remember. They realize that youre investing time and energy in them, and they appreciate thateven if they GRQW HYHU WHOO \RX WKDW

  • UnPlugged 2011.indd 32 6/20/2011 3:54:36 PM