Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sunday Night in The Loft

Well. . . .  we weren't in The Loft.

A few years ago we looked to "un-busy" our calendar of activities and events and focus on our weekly youth group gathering.  With extra curricular activities, sports, rec league, drama (as in play practice), jobs, homework, students are plenty busy and they don't need more busyness, in fact some of them probably need to slow down.  I think our culture is producing this need to keep busy feeling, I don't know what to call it.  This is just my humble, yet professional, opinion.

This doesn't mean we don't do special events and activities but they are few and far between and when we do the event has a purpose beyond let's just have a fun outing.

This week our church is housing our homeless community for the week.  Our guests arrive Sunday evening and stay through till Sunday morning.   We feed them a hot breakfast, pack a lunch, and feed them a nice dinner.

So rather than try to juggle around the space we decided to meet elsewhere with the youth.  So we did.  We went bowling!  I know it doesn't sound super spiritual and yes we didn't open the Bible at the bowling center, but ministry happened:

  • We interacted with more students than we have in a few months.
  • Students brought friends who don't go to church, we had several guests.  The guests had fun and will hopefully return this Sunday.
  • Leaders were able to spend some time with a handful of students as each lane had adult leaders involved.
  • Meaningful conversations took place.  Ministry happened.
  • It mixed up the "usual".  We did something different at our normal meeting time.
  • Students were excited to be there and it was a chance to plug the Super Bowl party for this Sunday.
  • A huge amount of cheese fries were consumed and pizzas.
Look for opportunities to break away from the "usual" and design it in such a way that students interact with each other and even more importantly with the adult leaders who are investing in their lives.  You never know, a kid may go play laser tag as an introduction to your youth ministry and end up coming to know Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Death in the Family

This is Sasha.  Twelve years ago my dalmation died of old age.   Twelve years ago I said, "I'll never get another dog."  If you've been there you know what I mean.  Well, that lasted 2 weeks.  I was driving down the road and in front of the pet store there was the humane society with a bunch of puppies staked out on chains in hopes of people adopting them.  I saw this puppy with a huge head and paws.  I did a U turn.  An hour later I was a dog owner again.

Our dog was part of our family.  I made sure she realized she was a dog and not a human.  When I would wrestle with her as a puppy my wife would ask why I was putting her in a headlock and pulling her tail and grabbing her ears (it was playful not painful).  I explained that one day we might have kids and I want her to be tolerant of kids messing with her.

Two years later our eldest man-child came along.  She became his friend.  She was a pillow, a horse, a companion in the backyard.  She would step between us is she sensed discipline about to happen.  She protected him.  Sasha was part of our family and our children loved her.

Last week for the first time, in my ten year old's life, we found ourselves hugging and both crying together.  I've held him many occasions when he cried but this time it was different because I was crying right along with him.  His buddy, Sasha, died that evening. 

For the first time our children were dealing with death on a personal level.  So if you haven't been there yet here is what we did, not saying this is the perfect way or the best, but here is how we handled it.

We cried together.  She was a family member.  Our home would feel totally different to our children because they never experience life in the Lawrenson home without her. 

We shared together.  The next night at dinner we talked about our favorite things about Sasha, best memories.  We printed off a pic for my son to hang in his room.

We are having a memorial service.  Hey, I'm a pastor, I can do that.  We ordered a little plaque to put in the backyard.  We will place it and talk about our good old dog. 

Kids are resilient.  The twins bounced back that day.  My eldest lost his roommate so this is taken him a bit longer but he's doing great.  They have even talked of getting another dog but we are gonna hold off on that for a while.  So they have handled their first "death" well and I think this is a good experience for them since we never know when we will have to deal with a death.

So no more vet bills, buying dog food, trips to Pet Smart.  But I'll miss her laying at my feet, sitting by the fire pit with me, barking at the UPS truck, and the low, "I'll tear you to pieces" growl", when someone came up our steps.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New to The Loft

One of our volunteers made this great cell phone charging station.  Students can use it to charge their phones and if they are texting when they shouldn't be we will confiscate their phone and be nice and charge it for them until youth group it over.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Last Night in The Loft

God reveals himself to us in:
Jesus Christ

His word

This is what we tackled on Sunday night in The Loft:  Not just how God revealed himself to us but also how that impacts our lives today.   What are you going to do with the knowledge of the fact that God wants a relationship with you?

After a short 20 minute message our students dispersed to the PODz (small groups) for about a half hour or so.  In their PODz they did more digging in the scripture as well as discussed how God revealing himself to them impacts their lives. 

Two thumbs up on this installment of Knowledge.

The question may come up, especially if you are on staff, "Shouldn't you be writing your own stuff?"
A.  God's word is not "my own stuff"
B.  Others have done a lot of work to put together awesome studies, curriculums, etc. that would take months for me to prepare.  Many of them are way more intelligent than I.
C.  This allows me to invest my time in other areas of the youth ministry.
D.  I take the curriculum and don't use it straight out of the box.  I tweak it to fit who we are, where we are at, where we want to end up.  So there is a bit of re-writing and editing I do each week.
E.  If the wheel works why try to recreate it?

After our PODz we had Hang Time in The Loft with the football game on the big screen and flat screens.  We served up Totchos!!!!!!!!  Think nachos made with tater tots.  How can you go wrong with that one?  We had nacho cheese, home made queso and bean dip and guac, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapenos.  It were good!

This Sunday night our church will be housing the homeless for a week so we are moving our regular youth group gathering to the bowling alley and encouraging our students to bring students who don't have a church/youth group family to come along with them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Last Night in The Loft

Last week we launched into Deep Discipleship with LeaderTreks by working together on session #1 of Knowledge. 

This week I thought we would change things up a bit.  I created a 6 station Names of God interactive experience.  We started at station #1 - discovering what our own name means then went from there to 5 more stations to learn the names of God and to see how God's character is shown in his names and how those names can impact or influence our daily lives and relationship with God and others.

Each POD (small group) went through all the stations starting at #1.  I dismissed a new POD every 7 minutes, so the PODs had 7 minutes at each station.  Some stations involved scripture reading and discussion, other stations involved an activity, such as writing your name on the name of God that means the most to you where you are today, etc.

I received good feedback and it's always good to change things up and take a break from the "normal" routine or layout of a youth group gathering.

We followed that time up with Hang Time featuring crock pot bacon cheeseburgers.  BACON!  How can you go wrong?  Lots of fun fellowship and games and a great time discovering more about God our Father. 

This Sunday we dive back into the Knowledge study and session #2 - "How do we know about God?"

Monday, January 5, 2015

Last Night in The Loft

Last night in The Loft . . . .

We opened up with some give aways by taking advantage of cheap Christmas clearance stuff.  Sent some lucky winners home with a gingerbread house kit and some of those over sized super fat candy cane sticks.  Sugared em up!

I then taught for about 20 minutes giving the intro to our series on knowing God.  This series, Knowledge, is the first installment of our strategy to use 2015 to help students drill down deeper into their faith and be disciples.  We are looking forward to how this will go hand in hand with our other discipleship strategy that I will reveal in a February post.
If you want to know more about Deep Discipleship check out LeaderTreks for the details.  Lesson one was great! 

We followed the teaching time with about 35 minutes of small group time.  Students read scripture and discussed more about knowing God.  A few great questions came out of this study time together.  I took the introduction lesson and dissected it a bit to create a teaching time followed by small group time and customized it to fit our time frame and layout of our youth group experience. 

After our POD time was over we had Hang Time and during that time the cheese quesadilla bar was wide open.  This year we plan on doing more food than just chips and cookies.  I'm looking forward to what we can pull off with our budgeted amount for food each week.

This coming Sunday we will be doing an interactive experience on the names of God.  Looking forward to putting this together and hearing from students afterwards.

New Site is up and Running

My new web site which now hosts my blog posts is up and fully functional. You can check it out at andylawrenson.com . There is also a ...