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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.

24 January 2007 ~ 1 Comment


Those in youth ministry experience the busy schedules of young people, particularly high school students. Sports that used to become “recreation” are now club teams, honors classes have become high pressure AP classes, music now means private lessons, and dare I say youth group now means leadership team and peer ministry and band leader for many young people. Often youth ministers hear the busy schedules as an excuse for students not attending activities. Often I design youth programs as respite from their busy schedules, giving them a chance to rest and connect.

Time Magazine currently has an article that argues that these packed schedules are not the worst thing in the world.

The idea that kids should slow down and trade electronic pleasures for pastoral ones is a fine example of transference. (Aren’t you really the one who wants to lose the BlackBerry and go fishing?) But there’s not much evidence that the ways childhood has changed in the past 25 years–less unstructured play, more gadgets, rough college admissions–are actually hurting kids. Just the opposite.

Are we imposing our own wishes on the lives of our kids with wanting to slow down? I certainly would agree that those kids that are super scheduled seem to be very high functioning. In addition, I see over-scheduled kids do seem to have a lot of fun when they do get a chance to relax.

The one problem I would have with the article is that they cite psychosocial factors such as teen pregnancy and suicide rates. While it’s certainly commendable that kids are doing better on psychosocial measures, I think that is a little bit like saying I’m smarter because I took a class that made my SAT score go up. Are these measures really the best way to analyze a teen’s health?

24 January 2007 ~ 0 Comments

Training Volunteers

We’ve had a number of conversations surrounding the training of volunteers. One of our peers (the Tom Experience) talked about training volunteers in clusters during times and places that worked for them such as dinner at someone’s house, after church on Sunday, at Starbucks Saturday morning. These clusters might be as small as two or as many as 8.

As I put the finishing touches on my large group volunteer training I dread the numbers that will show. We will likely have 50% show up, and that will be a rushed group ready to go home and get ready for the Bears game. We’ll serve them some food and thank them for coming, and the training should be pretty good, but the large group one shot deal is a huge hurddle.

At what point are we enabling volunteer apathy and at what point might we be too heavy handed with our high expectations in terms of training?