Friday, August 31, 2007

Great ideas are always frustrated.

Last Sunday, we had our fall kickoff for the Youth Group. I've been spending a lot of time brainstorming and planning with my roommate, E, and let me tell you it is SO GREAT doing this with someone! No wonder people get burned out when they try to do ministry alone. We were created for relationships; it makes sense that we can do better work when we utilize those relationships. We've come up with some cool ideas for thinking critically about the culture and finding the truth in the things that we consume every day. A lot of my kids just like things because they are cool or trendy, but they have no idea what the songs or movies or tv shows are really saying. I'm far from thinking that we should remove ourselves from culture just because it isn't 'Christian,' but I want these kids to be able to identify what's good and bad about the culture. Last week I was talking with one of the seniors in the youth group, and she was telling me about a song she really liked called "Minor Prophets." Further probing revealed that she didn't know what the song was about, why it was called "Minor Prophets," or what the minor prophets are.

Anyway. On Sunday we planned a lesson using Acts 17, where Paul speaks to the men of Athens about the 'unknown god,' and quotes their own poets to them, etc. Basically Paul does what I want these kids to be able to do; he uses the things that the people are already familiar with to illustrate and highlight God's truth. Even the junior high kids were making some connections, the high schoolers much more so. BUT... the evening was a complete disaster.

I've always had some minor problems getting the kids to respect me. They like me, and enjoy talking with me and hanging out. But when it comes to discipline, I don't have the parental authority that makes them listen. I have two sisters in the group, one a senior and the other a freshman, and these girls in particular spend a lot of time with me. They are wonderful... but they are the worst about respecting me. They also fight, horribly. They both need to be the center of attention, always, and when they are together their need for attention clashes. I've decided to change the youth group format so that the junior high and high school overlap for an hour, so that I only have to do games and food once instead of twice. On Sunday night, the two girls decided to get into it and it was utter chaos. They were yelling at each other, the older tied the younger one's shoe to a basketball hoop, the younger told the pastor on her older sister, and I was barely holding on. They didn't listen to me, they wouldn't even stay in the area and kept wandering off. It made me look horrible in front of the other kids and the parents who were there to pick up their junior highers. I couldn't concentrate on the lesson because the one girl was incessantly talking about nothing. All in all it was an awful evening. I have to have talks with both of them before youth group again on Sunday, and I am dreading it.

Perhaps what made it so bad was that I was so excited about the lesson, so pumped about this year and what I want to happen with these kids. I was well-prepared and excited and I knew what I was talking about and eager to help the kids make connections. But it seems like every good thing is frustrated... Every time I come up with something great, something horrible happens. Kids fight, or they won't listen, or they just don't show up at all. Days like last Sunday, I wonder why I do this at all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Down Under?

Last fall, when I was long-term house-sitting for a family in my church, I discovered that they had a fantastic collection of books. Particularly notable to me were the Harry Potter books, travel writer Bill Bryson, and British novelist Alexander McCall Smith. The Harry Potter books were devoured in about a month, and the others were pushed aside for later. Although I wasn't able to read any of Bryson's books at the time, the name and subject matter stuck in my head. I just finished reading his travelogue of Australia, called "In a Sunburned Country." I think it's a rather impressively-sized book, until I remember that the only place I could get it at the library was in the large-print section.

I really, really liked the book! I don't know why I picked that one out of all Bryson's other books; I have no particular affinity for Australia. But now after reading the book, it is now on my list of places to visit in my lifetime. Since I'm running out of time (Panera closes in 15 minutes and I don't have internet access anywhere else) I will condense my "reasons I like Bill Bryson" into a handy list.

--He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. (I laughed out loud several times while reading.)
--He has a big vocabulary, and isn't afraid to use it.
--He often combines the two above mentioned items to underhandedly insult waiters and hotel staff where he has had poor service.
--All of his 'favorite' places in Australia were the out-of-the-way, quaint and charming, hidden gems of the country (continent?).
--He is acutely aware of his dorkiness, yet unashamed of it.
--He was able to combine his research about Australia and his travels in it into a funny, charming, and educational book!

Plus, Australia is just a stinking cool country/continent. Go read the book!