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Unpackthis This blog is a meeting place for folks interested in helping adolescents develop a vibrant faith. My name is Andy Sahl, I am the Director of Youth Ministries at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas. We are using this blog mainly for our parents and volunteers, but all are welcome to converse.

12 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Another Resource- Every Picture Tells a Story

12 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Social Networking and Middle School Students

Social Networking and Middle School Students

Mark Oestreicher, a veteran youthworker and youth ministry guru, has a great article about how to handle social networking with the middle school students we work with.  Here’s the money quote?

A Rule to Live By
Here’s a rule I try to live with as a middle school youth worker: I never want to join the cultural juggernaut rushing young teens into adolescence. I want them to be content being immature for a while longer. I need to continue to be pleasantly surprised by kids who are naïve in the ways of the world. I aspire to be an incarnational youth worker who meets young teens where they are, not an attractional youth worker who posits lies about coolness and growing up.

Read the full article here

22 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Working from a Theology of Abundance

Working from a Theology of Abundance

It’s easy to get trapped into thinking about what we don’t have or what we could have or what the neighbors down the street have. A theology of Abundance focuses on the blessings of God all around us. The post below speaks well of the tension parents find themselves in this time of here. Here’s a money quote:

Most of us feel a push-pull tension at Christmas. We realize our kids have a lot, but we don’t want them to miss out. Many of us buy generously for them, even if it stretches us financially, because we want them to have every advantage.

But as we hinted in other posts this week, if we’re not careful, our kids can walk away from Christmas thinking they’re entitled to whatever we gave them, or even be disappointed if their gifts don’t measure up to expectations.

How do you manage this tension as a parent?

Here’s a link to the full post.

Also, check out this link (also in the full blog post) to give some perspective on Abundance.

15 December 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Would you rather?

15 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

The Advent Story on Social Media

We have done a Bible study with our kids twice this Advent season that has them re-tell the Advent story using Facebook.  It’s been a fun way for them to enter the story in a new way, and think about this story from the perspective of teenagers.

Here’s a fun video that tells the advent story using the internet, social media, etc.  It’s a fun little “Bible study” for you.

08 December 2010 ~ 3 Comments

Highs and Lows

Every small group I work with always opens with highs and lows; what was the best part of your week and what was the worst part of your week.

Kids are at first a little taken back by the question and it takes a little teeth pulling by the leader to get anywhere, but it doesn’t take long until they walk into the meeting room and say “I have a high, I want to go first!!!”

Highs and lows are about more than complaining or bragging.  When we share our highs and lows we are sharing prayer requests, we are talking about the work of God in our life, and we are naming the places in our life that are painful.  In addition, it’s a very structured way to stay away from the “curriculum” for the first couple of minutes.

Here are a few keys I’ve found to highs and lows over the years.

  • check in on past highs and lows, especially big ones (friend in hospital, etc)
  • You need to be pretty stern about sharing only one of each, otherwise kids go nuts
  • Highs and lows are a great place to call kids by name, and important way to say “you matter”
  • Think hard about sharing your own.  The group will follow your lead on what you share.  Be careful about what is appropriate (too open).

08 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Facebook and Bullies

Here’s something to make you anxious…

A good article from the New York Times about bullies on facebook. It takes a while to get to the good part where parents talk about how to address the parents of the bully.

If you found out your child was being bullied on facebook, would you approach the other parents? The School? The other kid?

Another good story in the article is about a 9th grader who was the victim of a “false profile,” that is someone made a fake page representing him. A good anecdote that we need to be monitoring facebook even if our kids aren’t on it.

Here’s the link to the article, free registration required.

01 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Social Media is about more than bullies

I rarely watch the news anymore.  I typically hear about news that is important on twitter while waiting for a meeting to start or sitting in the Doctor’s office.  I also typically read in depth articles that are linked to those tweets, and I keep up on the lives of my friends, friends I don’t know personally, and some thoughts by some off the worlds deepest thinkers.

Tomorrow I’m attending a training about using social media as a church, and I stumbled across this video.  Above are just a few of the great uses I’ve found for social media.  Good or bad, it’s changing our world.  We can be scared by that or we can see it as the new printing press.

One of the questions I have is how can we support parents in this social media realm.  My sense is that Saint Michael parents are fairly sophisticated with technology, so I don’t want to bore anyone with a simple presentation, but I would love to share what we know about this technology.  What would be helpful to you?

01 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

10 Commandments of Discipleship

10 Commandments of Discipleship

I’ve recently made a new friend Paul Martin, a youth director from Alabama.  We’re in a learning cohort together and I’m regularly impressed with his insight and comments.  He’s recently blogged the ten commandments of Discipleship at his blog Being Ministry.  I’ve copied them here, because they’re that good.  Thanks to Paul for the great work and insight.

My guidelines and promises to myself in discipling others:

1. Thou shalt not bring thy own stuff into the relationship and make everything about you – So many times I see people do this and do it myself. Something the person I am discipling says triggers something I remember about my own life. It’s OK to share a story, but this can get out of hand quickly.

2. Thou shalt come prepared – Arrive early, having prayed, spiritually nourished and emotionally stable. Everyone has bad weeks, but that should be the occasional occurrence, not the norm

3. Thou shalt wait – Don’t come into the meeting with lots to say before you even make eye contact. Things may have changed since the last meeting, or you might just need to listen. Don’t arrive with your guns ready.

4. Thou shalt not wait – Don’t be afraid to jump into a situation that needs clarity, needs interrupting, or needs your help. You have been invited into that if you are in a discipleship relationship. Don’t flinch.

5. Thou shalt not make this into therapy – Discipleship, though it may look like it at times, is not therapy. The only counselor that should show up is God’s counsel.

6. Thou shalt not call out every problem you see – Often there are lots of issues going on all at once. It’s like golf, you can’t focus on your grip, your stance, the position of your arm, your backswing, your head, your eye contact, and the many other minutia at the same time. Don’t over burden disciples with all that they need to work on. Give them one thing, or two.

7. Thou shalt not condemn when you don’t see the progress you wished for – It’s not fair or helpful to show too much disappointment in someone’s working through their problems. They know they didn’t measure up this week. They need safety and support, and they came to you for it.

8. Thou shalt not micro-manage – Too many suggested solutions create co-dependance and enabling behavior. It feels good to be needed, but don’t cave to giving all the solutions. Let your disciple start coming up with their own solutions.

9. Thou shalt always challenge AND affirm – One of these is completely ineffective without the other. Both need to be present for a consistent movement forward.

10. Thou shalt have faith in God to do the work you can’t – You can’t make the real changes. Those are God’s realm. Be faithful to what you are called to. Don’t try to be God, and don’t take credit for God’s work. Just be faithful.

24 November 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Advent activities with your family

Advent activities with your family

A few years ago there was this PDF document floating around the internet that was what someone thought Jesus’ Facebook page would have looked like during holy week.  It was full of funny, accurate, gritty status updates from “Jesus”.  In a strange way, reading through that fake Facebook page got me ready for Easter.  It was my unexpected Lenten discipline.

This week we’re sending you a resource that we hope creates a similar experience for you.

To help you spark faith conversations with your teen,  we are sending you a poster with “advent tweets” on it. You should be receiving the full mailing this week (with resources for kids ages 0-18 in the same packet).

There are a variety of ideas included on how you might use this resource such as texting one thought to each other per day, or sending it around the dinner table and having kids pick the one they like.

One thing to think about with this resource is to tape it into a cylinder so that it stands up on your table or counter.  This way it will take up less room, and be read much more frequently.

Faith conversations with parents and other family members have a huge impact on the faith development of youth people.  We hope you take advantage of this tool and it’s our prayer that it serves to prepare you to celebrate the birth of Jesus.