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Flood – A Pastoral Prayer   Leave a comment

Here is my pastoral prayer from worship today:

God of all creation,

In the beginning, your spirit hovered over the face of the waters. There has not been a time when you have abandoned us.

As we sit here now, the Bible stories we learned as children about great floods have gained new meaning in our lives. We are reminded that, throughout history, you have been faithful to bring your people through floods and across deep rivers.

As we sit here in the safety of this sanctuary, in this dry place, we are reminded of the countless people who are now without shelter of their own. Rain down your comfort and peace on those in need. In the months that come, bring healing to the brokenhearted.

We pray that you will bring out the best of humanity, O Lord, through this crisis. May the hearts of all be softened as we look beyond all the trivial issues which have divided us, and reach for ways to care for one another with your great love. Let the softening of hearts begin within us right now.

When we are faced with storms in our own life, whether it be literal storms or the pains of illness, grief, depression, hurt or loneliness, remind us of your faithfulness. You promise that when we pass through the deep waters, you will be with us. Forgive us when we neglect to depend on you.

We praise you that, from the beginning, you have been the source of living water for us. With hope from you we can dance in the storms.

As your people, lead us to acts of mercy and compassion. Help us to make justice roll down like waters, and  righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Well up within us, O Water of Life.

In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Finding the Common Ground   Leave a comment

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

Which side are you on? Would you say you are on the left or on the right?

As I look through my Facebook friends, my community, my congregation, my extended family – there is so much pressure to pick a side on all the issues. Which issue concerns you the most today? Racial violence? Discrimination? Gay marriage? Immigration? Refugee Crisis? Climate change? Poverty? Employment? McGregor vs. Mayweather?

No question, one glance at the news and you know there are plenty of reasons to be up in arms about something. There are sides that are right and sides that are wrong. We view the world through our personal perspective and cannot understand how anyone can be outraged in a way that is different than our own flavor of outrage. Clearly, your side is right and the other side is wrong, right? It’s tough when people you genuinely love, family members even, feel compelled to share opinions that seem so hurtful and wrong to you. It’s crazy making when total lies are passed on as truth, and no one seems to be questioning things.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just tired of feeling like I have to pick sides on issues, and feeling I need to be either outraged or fearful all of the time. There are definitely reasons to be outraged. I feel manipulated by the news, whether it’s fake news or real news. It’s just exhausting.

But what if there is another option? What if we don’t have to be divided about everything?

As a pastor, I serve a wide range of people. I mean a crazy wide range of people. In my congregation, I have gun-carrying NRA members sitting near pacifist gun control advocates, LGBTQ couples and allies sitting next to gay rights opponents, self-identified liberals and conservatives…name a division, it’s in my congregation. I tiptoe through this socio-political minefield as a pastor and pray to bring God’s words of hope and truth in a faithful, God-honoring way. I try to find our common ground as humans and Christ followers in the midst of a media culture that is determined to instill fear, hopelessness and division.

Finding common ground is an uphill battle, friends, but not an unsurmountable one.

What is our common ground? We worship a God of hope. A God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us. A God who brings redemption to oppressed people. As Christ followers, we can know the deep peace, love, and grace that is offered freely to us. As forgiven people, we have the power and freedom to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We can be a people of hope in a culture that really needs it.

We also have a beautiful opportunity to love others through trying to understand their perspectives. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can bring steps closer to reconciliation by opening our hearts and minds to hearing how God is at work in the hearts and minds of others. We can listen to one another for the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. I’ve found that the more I listen to people who are different, really listen, the more I have to see our common humanity. Divisive “issues” slip away when we see the humanity in others.

Let’s go listen to one another in love.

Blessings,

Erin

  • Who do you need to reach out to in order to understand their struggles better?
  • Who can you invite to coffee/lunch/dinner this week to get to know better?
  • Where do you find hope?

 

A New Space   Leave a comment

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It’s time for a fresh start.

Hi, it’s Erin and welcome to my new space for sharing my thoughts, prayers, hopes, dreams, ideas and more.

Why a new blog name? I have a lot of roles in life nowadays – Christ-follower, Wife, Mom of four, artist, United Methodist Deacon, missions pastor, spiritual director, self-care and soul-care advocate, friend, speaker, writer and more, so “UM Youth Worker” just wasn’t covering all of the bases. “Mission and Art” seems to capture more of what I am about.

I don’t know about you, but I believe the world needs more spaces filled with hope. I believe in creating those spaces both within people, and within the world around us.

In this little corner of the internet I hope to share reflections on Scripture, life as a pastor/mom, soul care, life as a deacon called to Word, Service, Justice, Mercy and Compassion, recent mission and ministry adventures, and lots of artwork from mixed media and watercolors to journaling and more. I hope you’ll jump in and have conversations with me in the comments – you’re invited to share your heart here too.

Hope you’ll join me for this journey of both Mission and Art.

Stay tuned for more.

Blessings,

Erin

Posted August 17, 2017 by erinjackso in Uncategorized

Inspiration in a Single Bluebird   Leave a comment

What inspires you? Here’s a little something that inspired me.

Erin Sloan Jackson Art

I have been enamored with this bird silhouette for a few weeks. It all started as a picture in a book on bluebirds. Longing to master sketching birds, I drew the bird several times in my sketchbook. I just love the freedom of spirit that a bird in flight represents. We really are meant to soar, you know.

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I cut out the sketch I liked best and have been using it as the starting point for three pieces so far:

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I love that a single photograph has transformed into so many versions.

What about you? What inspires you? Which dream are you pursuing?

Blessings,
Erin

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I love you, Lord…But I AM MAD AT YOU!   4 comments

This is an article I wrote for The YouthWorker Movement, thought I’d put it here on my personal blog, too:

 

Are we failing the students in our youth ministry by teaching them to be too polite to God?

I recently visited a different mainline church’s youth group program.  During the lesson time, the youth pastor asked the opening question, “What are different ways we can pray?”  The room contained a wide range of students from goofy 6th grade boys to mature 12th grade girls, so the maturity of answers varied a little, but the gist was: Prayers in church, silent prayer, singing praises, spending time in nature, prayer with movement, liturgical dance, writing down your prayer, reading the Bible, saying grace at dinner…and so on.

While listening, it occurred to me, all of the prayers we tend to teach and model to youth are very polite, reserved even.  And maybe even a little fake.

When I’m honest, there are times in life when I don’t feel polite at all.  When tragedy strikes and it’s on the news – innocent children murdered while at school, civilian hostages being shot and killed in a Kenyan shopping mall – the emotions I feel are shock, horror, sadness, grief, anger.  When I lost my job, I felt wounded, betrayed, stunned, hurt.  I’ve silently grieved the loss of unborn children lost through miscarriage.  These emotions boiling inside of me are neither polite nor reserved.

Learning to cope with strong, often changing emotions is one of the biggest challenges a teen can face.  If I reflect on my adolescent years, emotions I felt then were similar to the ones I feel now, more intense even.  I clearly recall specific times of anger, pain, grief, doubt, disbelief, betrayal, abandonment and more ugliness.  As a teen, I did not know much beyond my own personal experience and emotions.  What is different for me now is I have a faith mature enough to recognize that, no matter the circumstance, God is still good and God is still in control.  Teens don’t all know that yet.  Is there a way to help them deal with pain and anger and other strong emotions by teaching it is okay to feel these emotions, even to pray toward God with them?

What if we taught that it was okay to be real, to even yell at God?  

Here is how I introduced the concept recently:  In this clip from the classic movie, The Apostle (1997) you can see an entirely different model of prayer, one I know that my United Methodist senior highers had never seen before.  In case you haven’t seen the movie (it’s really good), what you need to know is the main character, Sonny, is a preacher that is a complicated, imperfect character.  He just lost the church he started and his marriage is falling apart.

(Follow this link if the above clip doesn’t play for you: http://youtu.be/q5v5DOEF45E)

I showed this movie clip to my senior high Bible study last week, followed by questions on how they have seen people pray.  Well, no one had even imagined yelling at God before.  In church we tend to focus on the pretty parts of the Bible, but if you take a close look, there is a lot in Scripture about struggle, anger, pain, grief, jealousy and more.  We followed the clip with a Bible lesson on the wide range of emotions found in the book of Psalms, having the youth read to themselves.   Youth reflected on their week, read Psalms from the list in the lesson that spoke to them, prayed and then wrote their own psalm prayer.  (Here is the complete handout I used: How to Use the Bible to Improve Your Prayer Life, adapted from to “Holy Things for Youth Ministry“ by Brian Hardesty-Crouch.)

Maybe United Methodists in general are never going to feel comfortable with actually yelling at God, especially in front of others, but maybe we should.  What I learned through this Bible study is that there are deep emotions going on in the youths’ lives, even on an ordinary Wednesday school night.  We fail our students if we don’t teach them that it is okay to be honest with God.  Sometimes honesty is a painful thing, yes?  By giving a method to pray about their emotions, by giving permission to be honest and to deal with hard things head on, healing and growth begin.  By teaching how the Bible can give practical help in times of struggle, students learn to turn to God’s Word for guidance.   The youth and I also learned that they are creative and can make parts of the Bible their own story.  My prayer for you is that you can model honesty with God, even when the truth hurts.

Blessings,

Erin

Questions:

What other creative ways have you or your church taught about prayer?  About dealing with emotion?

Is there someone you know whose life would be changed if they knew it was okay to yell at God, to release their anger and hurt?

Students Doing Ministry   Leave a comment

I am teaching a class this week at the SMU Perkins School of Youth Ministry called “Giving Them the Keys – Creating a Student-Led Ministry Culture.”  The basic idea is that youth directors need to change the way they approach youth ministry altogether.  Instead of youth directors creating programs for youth to attend, youth should be using their gifts and talents for ministry themselves.  I believe students are fully capable and ready to do ministry and a youth director’s job should be to come alongside and coach youth into the youth’s own ministry.

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I am having an amazing experience teaching, but what’s even cooler is the email I received this week from a high school senior named Lara.  A little about her – Lara is one of the mentors in our pilot of Just One Starfish.  This means that once a week Lara volunteers an hour or so to be a mentor and just spend life together as a positive role model for an at-risk upper elementary school girl.  In her own right, Lara is a talented, amazing, wonderful young woman of God.

Lara is also one of the most talented young photographers I’ve ever met.  With this post, I’m giving you a sneak preview of one of the most beautiful photo shoots I’ve ever seen.  The model is Lara’s mentee with the “Just One Starfish” mentoring program.

I think you’ll agree – God is at work here transforming the lives of young people, one person at a time.

This just makes my heart smile and I had to share.

12 Ways to Make a Youth Christmas Party More Meaningful   Leave a comment

Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about.

[shouting in desperation]

Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.*

 

I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  Hard to believe the show was created in 1965 – it gives me chills every single time when Linus shares the real meaning of Christmas.  Even Christian youth leaders are guilty of forgetting about the real meaning of Christmas as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle and commercialism of the holiday…or in the stress of planning a fun Christmas party.

So what about your annual Christmas party?  We all know how to run a mean white elephant gift exchange, right?  But what else can you do at your youth Christmas parties to make the experience more meaningful?  Here are 12 ideas to add more meaning to your youth ministry party:

1. Watch the Charlie Brown Christmas – I already mentioned being a fan.  You can show the entire movie or just the clip above and talk about it.  What do your youth say that Christmas is all about?  What is the meaning of Christmas to your youth?

2. Have an Ornament Exchange  Instead of a traditional gift exchange, have youth bring a Christmas ornament to exchange this year.  Have everyone sign and date the ornament they brought and each year the recipient can remember the youth ministry time together.  Even better, Make Ornaments. Check out the post I wrote last year for easy ornament and gift ideas.

3. Act out the Christmas Story – No doubt your church has probably had a Christmas pageant.  Maybe some of your youth were cast as Mary and Joseph back in the day.  Challenge youth to create a skit about the real meaning of Christmas.  Here’s a free example script for youth I found online.

4.  Birthday Party for Jesus – Have a birthday cake for Jesus’s birthday.  Sing the birthday song.  Talk about what Jesus would wish for if He was blowing out his candles.  Would He wish for peace, love, kindness?  Ask the youth – What can you do to make Jesus’s wishes come true in the next year?  As part of the party, Give a Birthday Gift to Jesus Christmas is about Jesus’s birth.  Have youth give Jesus a present by donating a gift to the needy.  Challenge the youth to donate something that they still like – there is more meaning in giving away something nice than giving away your old sweatshirt you didn’t really want anymore anyway.

5. Bring your Christmas party to the doorsteps of the elderly or shut-ins or go to nursing homes (call ahead).  As you plan your party, call a local shelter or talk to a pastor about the needy in your community.  What are the greatest needs in your community?  From canned goods to clean socks, collect the items most needed and deliver them personally as part of the party.  Consider singing traditional Christmas carols and handing out Christmas cards and candy canes while you’re there.

6.  Wrap Christmas Presents for Others Have elderly or busy parent church members bring gifts and wrapping paper to the church.  The youth can spend party time wrapping presents.  This also works as a fundraiser idea.

7. Nativity Scavenger Hunt Armed with digital cameras, have teams of youth find elements of the nativity to photograph.  Or the team that finds the most nativities in a certain time limit.  Inspire your youth by sharing Mark Oestreicher’s blogpost of the 42 worst nativities.

8. Gifts of Prayer – Have youth spend time in prayer, even writing prayers on cards to give to others as gifts.  What are the youth thankful for?  Who needs prayer this Christmas time?

9. Give Alternative Gifts – You can support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) by collecting money donations and purchasing from the UMCOR Alternative Gift Catalog.  Rethink Christmas http://www.umcor.org/christmas

10. Sing Christmas Carols by Candlelight – Close your Christmas Party with some time of worship and singing.  Instead of “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” opt to sing traditional hymns and carols about the true meaning of Christmas.  End with “Silent Night” and a prayer.

11. Cards for the Military (if by Dec. 7) We’re pushing the last minute deadline to send cards to the military this year, but consider checking out the Red Cross for ways to support the military.  http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes

12. Nativity Story Gift Unwrap Game  If you have a large group and the steal-the-gifts-gift-exchange format doesn’t work, or if gift exchange time is short, consider using this Right Left Nativity story to exchange your gifts instead.

Instructions: To play this Right Left Christmas Game, form a circle and pass the gift(s), (candy, prizes, etc.) to the right when you hear the word RIGHT and to the left when you hear the word LEFT. When the story is over, the gifts belong to whoever is holding them.

In those days, Caesar Augustus decided to count everyone LEFT living in the whole Roman world. Joseph LEFT, taking Mary with him RIGHT to his town of Bethlehem to register.

When they arrived, there were no rooms LEFT. All of the inns in Bethlehem were RIGHT full. There was just nowhere LEFT for them to stay. Finally, someone offered to let them stay RIGHT in their stable.

Mary was pregnant and while in Bethlehem the RIGHT time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a boy RIGHT there. RIGHT there in a Bethlehem stable, the Savior of the world was born. Mary wrapped him with LEFT over strips of cloth and laid him RIGHT in a manger.

Some shepherds who lived RIGHT near Bethlehem, were out at night RIGHT in their fields watching over their sheep. RIGHT then, they saw a bright light. The light was so bright that they had to close their eyes. When they opened them again, a beautiful angel was standing RIGHT in the sky RIGHT above them with his arms LEFT opened wide. The shepherds looked RIGHT at each other and were LEFT feeling very afraid.

Then the angel spoke RIGHT to them. “Do not be afraid. I’m RIGHT here to bring you the good news LEFT for all people. Today RIGHT in Bethlehem a baby has been born, He is the RIGHT one, the one that will save the world. You will know the RIGHT baby because He will be LEFT wrapped in cloths, and laying RIGHT in a manger.”

RIGHT then, a large group of angels appeared RIGHT there, and they said, “Glory to God, and peace be to all people LEFT on the earth.”

The shepherds were LEFT amazed and excited. They had to go RIGHT away to see this baby the angels were talking about.

They LEFT as fast as they could, and soon found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus RIGHT were they angels said they would be. The shepherds fell RIGHT to their knees when they saw Jesus, and were LEFT filled with joy that they had found the Savior. They stayed for a short time and then LEFT . As soon as they LEFT they began shouting RIGHT in the streets and telling everyone LEFT in town about what they had seen.

RIGHT after Jesus was born, wise men traveling RIGHT on their camels noticed a very strange star RIGHT in the sky. They knew that the RIGHT One who would save the world had been born.

RIGHT away King Herod got very worried. He assembled all of the important people LEFT in the area and asked them where this baby had been born. The people replied, “RIGHT in Bethlehem.”

RIGHT then King Herod called the wise men to meet with him RIGHT away. He asked them to go and find the child RIGHT away. “RIGHT as soon as you find Him,” he said, “ tell me, so that I can go to Him RIGHT away and worship Him.”

After the wise men spoke to the King, they LEFT to find the baby. They didn’t know RIGHT where the He was, but followed the star LEFT in the east until it hung RIGHT over the place where Jesus was. When they found Jesus, and they bowed RIGHT down and worshiped him.

RIGHT after that, they opened the gifts they had brought Jesus… gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they LEFT to find a place to sleep for the night.

That night the wise men all had the same dream RIGHT as they were sleeping. They were not to go RIGHT back and tell King Herod where they had found Jesus. King Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was jealous of Him. So, the wise men LEFT for home another way so that Herod would not know the RIGHT direction they had come from. They also decided RIGHT then that they would not tell King Herod anything about what they had seen.

When the wise men LEFT , an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Arise, take Jesus and Mary, and run RIGHT to Egypt. Joseph got up RIGHT away and woke up Mary. She quickly picked Jesus RIGHT up and they LEFT in the middle of the night for Egypt where they would be safe.

RIGHT after King Herod died an angel appeared again RIGHT away to Joseph and told him to go RIGHT to a place called Nazareth. And that’s RIGHT where Jesus grew up.

 

Hope this list inspires you to think about ways to make your youth ministry celebrations more meaningful.  As you move closer to Christmas, our prayer is that you personally find the joy that is in the real meaning of Christmas.  You are a blessing.

Be blessed,

Erin

Questions:

Do you have an Annual Christmas party with your youth ministry?

What other activities have you done to make the Christmas season more meaningful for your youth?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

 

*Sources: Charlie Brown Christmas Quote: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/quotes?qt=qt0272807
Nativity Gift Exchange: http://creativechurchideaattic.blogspot.com/2007/11/christmas-party-games.html

 

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Here’s my latest article for The YouthWorker Movement. Would LOVE to hear your ideas/comments. -Erin

Posted December 5, 2012 by erinjackso in Uncategorized

7 Thrifty & Easy Gifts to Celebrate Your Inner Artist this Season   Leave a comment

“We are all artists in everything we do.  Art is creating; it is our link that makes us like God.  All you have to do is look at any form of nature to know that God is the greatest artist of all.  He gives us beauty in his creations to inspire us to find the artists inside of us.  Art isn’t just about painting or sculpture.  It is in everything from how you organize your life to how you communicate with the world.” – Bethany Jane Andrews Hoey

Killing a little time, I ran across this Facebook status update, “Make things for Christmas this year not simply because of economics, but because you’ve forgotten that you are an artist.”  So who would have guessed – maybe the Facebook newsfeed is the new way to get inspired.

Now, I don’t define myself as an artist.  In the world of arts & crafts, I certainly lean toward the passably-crafty-at-best end of the spectrum.  But why not spend a little time unleashing your own creativity or the creativity of your youth this season?  

Here are 7 really easy & thrifty gifts you (or your youth) can make this year:

1.  Handmade cards.  Grab a piece of card stock, cut it in half and then fold that in half (any direction is okay).  Voila!  You have the beginning of a card.  There are a jillion stickers and stamps and products you could buy to make a card, but the favorite one I ever received was a hand-drawn stick figure with a santa hat and a heartfelt message.  You could recycle images from old Christmas card fronts as well.  How cool would it be if the youth made cards for the seniors or the pastors in your church?

2. Favorite Memory Drawing.  Think of a friend and a favorite time together – maybe it was a special worship time on a retreat, for example.  On a plain sheet of paper, draw a picture representing that memory.  This doesn’t have to be impressive art here – think Shel Silverstein or Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Frame your art when you are done.  On the back of the frame, you could write a personal message about your friendship.

3. Start an annual ornament tradition.  For the last several years, I’ve crafted little ornaments for each of my youth.  The idea behind an annual ornament is that if they stay involved in the youth group, by the time they graduate they will have 6 ornaments of their own to put on their first Christmas trees as young adults.   There are tons of ways to make an ornament, here’s how I did mine: First, I found matching plain wood cutouts, usually with a meaningful symbol like a cross, angel, star, etc.  I spray painted them white, drew the date & a little verse or symbol on the back with a ultra fine permanent marker, tied on a ribbon.  (I have a weakness for glitter so I added that, but it’s totally optional.)  Although I made mine as a gift for the youth, you could also have the youth make them as a group project or tie it in with an advent lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marbled Ornaments.  Here’s a really easy ornament that youth could make, but make sure it’s youth who can handle breakables.  You’ll need clear glass ornaments & craft paint in a variety of colors.  Remove the metal cap & drip paint into the opening of the ornament.  By slowly turning the ornament around, the paint coats the inside of the ornament.  You can add additional colors until you get the marbleized effect you like.  A little paint goes a long way.  For best results, let the ornaments dry overnight before replacing the cap.

 

 

 

 

4. Time capsule ornament.  You’ll need a clear plastic ornament that you can open (available at most craft stores), strips of colored paper, optional small photos & mementos, ribbon & tape.  Write down favorite memories from the year on strips of paper, or even favorite Bible verses and wishes for the future.  Fill the clear plastic ornament, tape it shut and tie it with a ribbon.  Add the date on the outside.  If you happen to know someone with a little one having a first Christmas, this is a great gift.  This might be a cool New Year’s Eve project as well.

5. Cookie baskets.  Or really any kind of homemade food.  Include the recipes for an additional nice touch.  (Feel free to send me one.)

6. Homemade Coupons.  A meaningful way to tie the idea of serving others to Christmas is to make service coupons for gifts.  Have youth brainstorm ways they could help out their loved ones & make coupons.  Would they be willing to shovel the sidewalks for other church members?  How about offering to clean the kitchen without complaining?  Youth could put them in a decorated envelope.  (I’d suggest making coupons good for “Staying after the New Year’s Eve lock-in to clean up,” but that’s just me.)

7. Write a poem, compose a song.  Everyone has different learning styles, different gifts.  Celebrate the creative genius in your youth by having them write poems or songs.  Or write a song yourself, make a YouTube video of it & share it with us.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting about two dozen emails a day from retailers this week trying to get me to buy something no one really needs for Christmas.  Why not give a gift of your own creation this year?  And if you do, share some pictures with us!

What other creative gift ideas do you have?

 
Erin Jackson is National Director – Community & Care for the Center of Youth Ministry Excellence and the YouthWorker Movement. She is a veteran & certified youthworker as well, and loving her current role as a volunteer Senior High Bible Study teacher.  She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis, three kids and a dog. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/
Follow @ErinJackso

 

 

 

Just One Starfish Mentoring Begins   Leave a comment

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers about our new ministry endeavor, Just One Starfish.  This is such an exciting time!

A quick update: God has been opening doors left and right for this new ministry!  We have our first team of 12 mentors (representing 3 different churches and 4 high schools) trained and ready to begin mentoring at our first elementary school, Blanton Elementary.  (Thank you to Alley Cats of Arlington for donating a meeting space for our training!)

It was really special to tour the school with the mentors last week and to see the positive reaction faculty and staff had to the mentors. God is doing big things at this elementary school and it’s humbling to be part of His work.

Prayer Request: Will you take the time to pray specifically for these 10th-12th grade young adults and their 4th-5th grade elementary school mentees?  The student pairs will meet for the first time starting next week.  Here are their names:
Mentor and Mentee:
Lara K. and Emily M.
Will R. and Adrian R.
Morgan K. and Joana S.
Katie K. and Blessing N.
George T. and Edwin A.
Alex S. and Jose Jr.
Emily W. and Coraima V.
Bailey B. and Angela M.
Steven H. and Samuel V.
Kaitlyn J. and Angela O.
Hannah J. and Oralia M.
Landry P. and her unnamed 4th grade girl that God is selecting for us right now 🙂

Next steps/prayer requests:
  • Now that we’ve got our first team of 12 youth in place, we will begin talking to more youth ministries and schools about expanding the program.
  • High School Students Can Apply Now for Our Second Team of Mentors: Just One Starfish Mentor Application
  • I meet with the CEO of an incredible Student Ministry organization next Thursday about aligning our organization with theirs – please pray that God’s will be done in that conversation.
  • On October 26-28 we will be putting together our new website with the generous, talented help at Dallas GiveCamp.  Please pray a special blessing on those volunteers.

I have full confidence that it is because of your prayerful support that we’ve been able to accomplish all that we’ve done so far.  Knowing that you had been praying about our match-ups and letting the Holy Spirit do His work, we let the young adults select the mentee who’s name most spoke to them (a beautiful selection process.)  I can hardly wait to see what God has in store next!

Thank you so much for your faithfulness.  Can you help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends/Facebook contacts?

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4 Critical Signs of Youth Ministry Burnout   3 comments

Is it burnout or just a funk?

In direct sales, you know right away if you’re succeeding or not – you either have the sale or don’t.  In sports, you know if you scored or not, you can measure your stats to gauge success or failure.  You can measure or see the results of your work in physical labor jobs, even jobs like accounting have an output you can see.

Youth ministry is one of those professions that has a lot of “gray areas.”  You’ve spent the last several months and years pouring your heart into your ministry.  You’ve stayed up all night at lock-ins, retreats.  You’ve worked long hours to be there for your youth ministry.  You’ve done the work.  Have you been successful?

It depends, did someone just schedule a 4 hour meeting on “improving your numbers”?
Did a parent just stop you to say thanks for how much you have impacted their child?
Did a youth just direct every profane word they know at you, because you caught them smoking a joint?
Did more than one youth in your group decide to go to school for seminary?
Did your own child just complain about “you like the youth kids better”?

On any given day, what you do may not directly tie to how you allow yourself to feel at the end of the day. You are in control of what you do but, you are not in control of the results that you may feel on a daily basis.

Here’s the good news: God calls us to youth ministry to be faithful, not impatient for worldly success.  You’ve been faithful.  But maybe you’re working too hard at trying to be seen as successful.  Or maybe you’re just working too hard.

You’ve heard that if you don’t take care of yourself in youth ministry, no one else will. You can get youth ministry burnout.  This time of year, it’s common for youth workers to be tired, discouraged or “in a funk.”  How can you tell the difference between a temporary downturn and serious youth ministry burnout?

If it’s a temporary downturn, give yourself a break.  Return to the basics like prayer, sabbath, rest, personal time, exercise and eating right.  Find friends to talk you through things.  Have fun outside of youth work.  Seek pastoral support – and you might need to look outside of your church for this help.

If you think you might be in burnout mode, seek help.  How to tell the difference?

According to crisis intervention research*, there are 4 main areas that burnout affect: behavior, physical, interpersonal, and attitudinal. The following are the things that can be effected in each category:

Behavior:
– abuse of alcohol/illicit drugs
– difficulty coping with minor problems
– loss of enjoyment
– dread of work
– increased irritability/impatience
– losing things
– suicidal or homicidal ideation/attempts
– reduced work efficiency
– PTSD-like symptoms (post traumatic stress disorder)

Physical:
– chronic fatigue
– insomnia
– muscle tension
– panic attacks
– weakened immune system
– flare-ups in preexisting medical conditions
– weight gain or loss
– changes in appetite

Interpersonal:
– withdrawal from family and friends
– difficulty separating professional and personal life
– decreased interest in physical or emotional intimacy
– loss of trust
– loneliness
– allowing clients (pastors/parents/youth?) to abuse your professional boundaries
– ending of long-lasting relationships
– difficulty coping with minor interpersonal problems

Attitudinal:
– boredom
– guilt
– depression
– pessimism
– helplessness
– survivor guilt
– grandiosity
– sense of meaninglessness
– self-criticism

The world needs good youth workers.  Your role as a youth pastor has the opportunity to transform lives. But the world needs you to be healthy.  Your youth and your family need you to be healthy.  If too many items on the lists above sound familiar, it may be time to take a break, reevaluate and seek help.

Be blessed,
Erin

Questions:
For the veterans, have you gone through times of burnout? What got you through it?  What advice would you give to youth workers who might be experiencing burnout symptoms?

Is there anything you’d add to the list of burnout symptoms?

What do you do to stay healthy in youth ministry?

About Erin Jackson

Erin Jackson is National Director – Community & Care for the Center of Youth Ministry Excellence and the YouthWorker Movement. She is a veteran & certified youthworker as well, and loving her current role as a volunteer Senior High Bible Study teacher. She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis, three kids and a dog. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/
Follow @ErinJackso

Originally published for The YouthWorker Movement, 5/8/2012.

*(Source: Cooper, J. (2010). Essential crisis intervention skills. In L. Jackson-Cherry and B. Erford (Eds.), Crisis intervention and prevention (pp. 55-71). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, p. 70.)