Archive for the ‘UMC’ Tag

Mission and Art Workshops   Leave a comment

Not too many years ago, I was struggling to find my sense of identity. Much to my surprise, I uncovered a wellspring of joy when I was given the opportunity to put a paintbrush in my hand. I fell in love again with painting and creating, and the process helped me to discover my way in ministry. There is something soothing, healing and empowering that can be found in the act of creation. For me, a path to lightness and health was uncovered through art. What a joy it is to be in a ministry that allows me a space to use my gifts and talents – I now have the privilege of guiding others on this journey through “Mission and Art Workshops.”

For the last few weeks, it has been a joy to lead weekly art workshops in our local Salvation Army shelter. The shelter is a haven for families, and many of the residents have also found themselves to be in dark places, struggling to find their own identities.

Each resident’s story is different, and I hope to get to learn the stories in time. Many of the women here are homeless because they have fled unhealthy relationships, domestic violence. The shelter creates a safe place to land temporarily as these parents begin to rediscover their individual senses of identity.

This is where the “Mission and Art” ministry steps in. As we gather together, we share small stories about our lives and get to know one another. We pray, read Scripture and create. We talk about really important things and we laugh about silly things. It is a sacred space for women to gather. So far we have played with mixed media art, acrylics, and watercolor painting.

 

The rules are simple here:

  1. Accept that you are an artist. We were all created in the image of a creative God – we are each inherently creative!
  2. Have fun and play.
  3. Be kind to yourself and others. No criticizing words for your own artwork or for others allowed.
  4. Do art for the process. Know that you will create whatever you were meant to create here – and that is enough. There are no mistakes, no mess-ups, no perfection allowed.

It is my prayer that through our times of creating art together, the women of this shelter will enjoy moments of celebrating their innate creativity and enjoying one another’s company. May the work be empowering, healing and stepping toward wholeness.

 

 

 

 

Here are a few examples of the beauty that is being created here:

If you have been inspired by this post and would like to learn more about the Mission and Art ministry, feel free to contact me at erin@nwumc.org. Be blessed today!

7 Soul Care Practices You May Need Today   Leave a comment

I can’t even look today.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even bring myself to look at the newsfeed today. I have seen enough to know that the news cycle is devastating. This morning my sweet husband told me all I needed to know to know that this will be a news cycle filled with heartbreak, pain, theories, hurt, blame, politicizing and brokenness. There will be images of the aftermath, biographies of the deceased. Today’s cycle will be inevitably be followed with posts of division, conspiracy theories, differing political arguments about gun control, violence, mental illness, and more finger pointing. My soul can’t take this today.

Instead, I humbly offer to you 7 soul care practices you might need today:

  1. Avoid the media/your newsfeed for a while. I understand the temptation to try to understand how something so unspeakable could happen. There is a primal need to understand evil and understand threats to our well-being. But taking in too much bad news will inevitably hurt your soul. I am hanging on to these words from Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
  2. Go for a walk. Take time to enjoy nature and to appreciate the beauty around you. Where do you recognize beauty? Is it the sunshine? flowers? birds? breeze? Take a deep breath and enjoy this, never taking it for granted. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
  3. Consider the goodness of God. When facing evil, it may be tempting to forget the goodness of God. What is it that you know about God to still be true? God is still good, God is still love, God is never leaving nor forsaking you. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
  4. Spend time with a friend or with family. This is a good moment to call a friend to talk to them. Eat a meal together. Just be around people who care about you. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
  5. Give and receive hugs. This would be a good day to give hugs to people. We need physical comfort and care. Be sure to hug your loved ones today. “Let us love one another.”
  6. Pray. Maybe this should be the first one on a list for soul care because prayer is essential for your soul’s wellbeing. Don’t just post that your “thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” spend time quietly devoted to prayer. Pray for peace, pray for comfort, pray for an end to senseless violence. Pray continuously. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
  7. Work for justice and mercy. We might not be able to help in the specific situation today, we do not have the power to undo the evil that has already happened, but we can find small ways to work for justice and mercy in the places around us. “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I wish I could end this post with an explanation about why bad things happen to good people. I wish I could explain why evil exists. I just don’t know the answers, but I do know that we will be okay. We can have hope for the future. We need to hang on to that hope today…and we need to love one another.

Who needs to hear a message of hope from you today?

Be blessed,

Erin

Retreated: 2 Things Learned This Week   Leave a comment

This week I retreated to a camp in Glen Rose, Texas, for three days of spiritual retreat. Going on a minimum 3 day spiritual retreat is a requirement for my ordination in the United Methodist Church. I had a lot of flexibility on how the retreat itself would go.

Inspired by the TED Talk I heard from “planet walker” John Francis, I decided to incorporate silence and not using a vehicle as part of my retreat.

Two things I learned in the process:

1. It is relatively easy to be silent when you’re by yourself, but it is a challenge to be around people without feeling pressured to say something. For most of my time away, I was on the camp by myself. I went for a long walks, I hiked through the forest, I spent time creating art and reading. I was quiet.

In the silence, I was able to rest. I was able to just be, just listen. I noticed things I might have overlooked – the smell of dew in the morning, the sound of deer as they scamper away, even the sound of a bird’s wings flapping. I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired.

On the few occasions I walked in to town, people were friendly and I felt compelled to speak. The person I talked to the longest, an elderly man in an antique store, seemed lonely. While a vow of silence seems like a noble idea, sometimes small talk is a compassionate act.

2. Sometimes I have to consciously choose to feel safe. One of the hardest parts about being by myself, especially as a petite female, was getting over feeling anxious about possible dangers. I had to let that fear go in order to feel at peace. The fears of unknown dangers, especially while walking alone at night in the dark, cluttered up my thoughts.

Once I made the conscious choice that I was going to feel safe, I could enjoy nature fully. I was able to pray and sing like no one could hear me. It was only then that I could fully experience God’s presence.

I think it’s worth mentioning that living in a culture that feels dangerous even if the dangers are not real makes spirituality more difficult. When I walk alone at night, a part of my brain is constantly on the lookout for possible attacks, alert for sudden movements around the corner. I cannot be the only woman who feels this way. It’s a bit heartbreaking to have to choose to feel safe. My hope is that by mentioning it we can all work together for more peace, working to create a culture of safety. (Maybe you were expecting me to learn something more profound, and I did learn other things – I spent a lot of time reading, studying, writing and creating. There will be more blog posts to come.)

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ” 2 Timothy 1:7

Project 365: Day 80 Psych Assessment   Leave a comment

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Continuing on my journey toward ordination, today I took the ministerial candidacy psychological assessment. Over 500 true/false statements about myself and my psyche, 30-something complete-these-open-ended-sentences about my family system and beliefs, and 185 online personality assessment questions concluding with logic reasoning and math (I think that last part was to see if my brain could still function after 3 hours of stress).

I underestimated the mental exhaustion I would have, but hours later I feel normal. Now I’ll just have to wait for the results to confirm that I’m normal I guess.

Posted March 21, 2014 by erinjackso in Personal Blog, Photo Blog, Youth Ministry

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Project 365: Day 36 SBUMCSHBS   Leave a comment

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As a lifelong United Methodist, I love a good acronym. I present to you SBUMCSHBS, pronounced s-bum’-ick-sh-bis. Teaching Wednesday night Senior High Bible Study is one of my favorite parts of my week.

Bonus: It’s also my weekly Texas Youth Academy reunion with Jake.

Tonight we talked about how God communicates with people. We came up with these ways: through Jesus, through other people, the Bible, nature, letters, prayer, burning bushes, music, situations, feelings in our gut and voices in our heads. And the occasional donkey.

How have you experienced God’s communication?
Where have you heard or sensed God?

Project 365: Day 18   Leave a comment

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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I love that we live in a diverse community and that my children have friends of a wide variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. We have so much to learn from each other. Diversity is a beautiful thing, including gender.

Today I had more than one conversation about becoming a woman in ministry. My friend Jake sent me this article about the backlash to a UMC ordained elder who happens to be female: this article: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4617205/. Then, when I was at a birthday party today, a male pastor from another denomination was a little surprised when I mentioned that I was on the track to ordination at my church. My thoughts were later rounded out by listening to a Sheryl Sandberg TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html)

It’s fascinating (frightening, disappointing, shocking? I’m not sure on the right word) to consider that women religious leaders face so much more than a glass ceiling even today. I wonder in how many professions that it not only is challenging for female leadership, but even has people claim it’s biblically wrong for woman to lead. By pursuing ordination as a deacon, the ministers of service, love and justice, I may be stepping into a fight that’s bigger than I can now comprehend.

I wonder if MLK, Jr. would mind if I amended his quote to read “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and sisterhood.” It’s worth fighting for justice – something I especially realize when I consider my daughter’s future.

Where have you learned to value diversity? When have you had to stand against injustice?

“Women should be silent.” What?!?! A Bible Study on 1 Timothy 4   Leave a comment

It was bad luck for the Baptist denomination that I happened to join my high school friend for Sunday School on the day they were studying the part of Ephesians that mentions women should be submissive to their husbands.  This was my first impression of what a Baptist church was about, and that word “submissive” did not sit well with me.  I was raised with an “anything boys can do, girls can do better” mantra forever in my head, it’s possible I was born thinking that way because I don’t remember ever thinking differently.  So what was this about a woman’s place and being submissive?  WHAT?

No United Methodist Church I had ever attended preached on women being submissive to men.  I had had several female pastors in my life, my own aunt is a UMC pastor.  So what was this about a woman being submissive?  About not being able to teach or preach?  This first impression of a Baptist denomination was hard to swallow.  I wonder, what happens to our own youth when they visit their friends’ churches?

Years later, I have a different understanding of the Scripture about the roles for women.  And I relish my role as a senior high Bible study teacher.  If we can create a place where youth can safely wrestle with even the most controversial parts of Scripture, we can give them a faith foundation that won’t be rocked as they’re exposed to different theology.

We are currently studying the book of 1 Timothy in my Senior High Bible study.  Have you read through 1 Timothy lately?  I chose the book of 1 Timothy because I knew that 1 Timothy 4:12 says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”  That’s a verse young people should know, right?  However, I was tempted find another book to study once I read through the book, or at least to skip chapter 2 because of the whole “women should learn in quietness and full submission” part.  I remembered those early impressions from my own youth – would I be doing the same to the girls in my own class?  We took the whole book on anyway and I’m glad we did.  I might add, if you choose to tackle this with your group, it might not hurt to read Jeremy’s article about not getting fired first.  Make sure you have support with you when you’re delving into the controversial & know your youth.

The fun part: During the more controversial part of the Bible study, I had the boys sit in an inner circle to study the Bible with me.  The girls sat outside the circle and were able to take notes but not speak.  You should have seen the reactions – there were furious notetakers and a few angry glares from the girls during the process – and I’m pretty sure more than one boy’s chair got “accidentally” kicked from behind.   It’s a lesson we won’t soon forget.

Take a look for yourself: [download id=”4″]

Obviously, I took this on as a woman in youth ministry.  If you’re male and you try this session, I would love to hear how it goes!

Blessings,

Erin

Book Review: Taking Theology to Youth Ministry   Leave a comment

It’s both comforting and annoying when you read a book and get a sense that the author jumped in your head and thought your thoughts for you, but that’s how it went for me when I read Andrew Root’s new book, “Taking Theology to Youth Ministry”

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Andrew Root, well, let’s just say he’s a big theology kinda guy.  He has a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary and is an associate professor at Luther Seminary in Minnesota.  He thinks eye-opening thoughts and says profound things about youth ministry in particular, so he’s the go-to guy about youth ministry theology…plus he’s young and cool and talks about growing up watching television.  We can relate.  I met Andy last year at the SMU Perkins School of Youth Ministry, and he was genuinely a nice guy.  But what I like best is that Andy is also a great storyteller – and that’s how this book comes across, as a great story.

“Taking Theology to Youth Ministry” explores thinking theologically about youth ministry from the approachable perspective of a youthworker named Nadia.   When I started in youth ministry, like probably most new youth workers, I didn’t really understand what the word “theology” even meant, never mind what my own personal theology of youth ministry was – so I could relate to Nadia’s journey of discovering what she believed to be the real purpose of her ministry and her role as a youth worker.  Her journey is the journey many in youth ministry travel – except that she gets past the points of frustration to true meaning and purpose.

Through Nadia’s story, the book explores what is the purpose of youth ministry.   Nadia discovers that youth ministry itself was not born out of theological needs but because our culture had segregated students into grades and age groups, so ministry began to reflect that trend.  Although there is no historical or biblical precedent for youth ministry, and even if the field has a reputation for not being serious about things, it is still a place for theology.

As youth ministry evolved into a profession, the standards for youth ministry evolved as well. As Nadia discovered, when she was a hired youth worker, people expected her to be able to explain the purpose of her ministry in a professional, purposeful way.  In my experience, the larger the church and the more professional the congregation, the more pressure there was to perform and be “successful” as a program.  Like many youth workers, I planned my programs with a popular, easy to articulate, purpose driven model.  Root says:

“Too much purpose-driven theological reflection in youth ministry has been more fodder for candy shops than dangerous wrestling, because it views theology as a bunch of biblical bullet points used to sweeten our intentions, rather than a call to examine our motives in the light of God’s judgment and grace.”

The danger of this pressure, is that it rewards having a plan or presentation of ministry without necessarily requiring deep reflection on God’s call for the ministry.

Another danger is in feeling the pressure to be “successful” as a program in order to make different camps in the church happy.  When you looked deeper, the visions for youth ministry and standards for success for the people around Nadia divided into three primary motivations: keeping kids good, involving kids in service and passing on the elements of our faith tradition to kids.  

The motivations in themselves are not bad, and being able to articulate the purpose of your ministry is a good thing.  “But maybe a problem created by this professionalization is that it encourages us to ignore our motives, as opposed to actually doing ministry from the location of our motives, from the core of our own being.  We get confused into thinking that the heart of youth ministry is organized calendars and vision statements rather than having the courage to seek to become part of God’s action in the world, which always exposes our motives.”

As I reflect on my own journey in youth ministry, I have struggled with pressure to “grow the program” and to do ministry the “right” way.  But growing numbers would never be enough and there isn’t just one right way – so many different parties bring different expectations, motivations and standards of success of failure to the table, there’s no way to make everyone happy.

“If youth ministry isn’t about keeping kids good, making them into something, or passing something on, then what is it all about?  I contend that at its core youth ministry is about participating in God’s own action.  The purpose of youth ministry is to invite both young and old to participate in God’s action.

It’s about participating in God’s own action.  I love that.  It’s exciting to think about what youth ministry would be like if we could set aside the pressure to perform and just figure out what God is calling us to do next.  Us.  With our own God-given gifts and passions being used to their fullest, instead of trying to beat ourselves up for not being enough.  There is freedom in being able to articulate your purpose as a ministry this way.  It could be, after prayer and reflection, your youth ministry takes off in a totally different direction.

There is so much more to write about in this book – and a cool part is that the appendix has discussion questions for each chapter.  It would make a great book study with fellow youth workers, parents and youth in your ministry or the rest of the church staff.   If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts!  We are all in this together.

Questions:

As you plan your fall programs and move forward, how will you reflect theologically about your ministry?  What difference will that make?

What does it look like in your context to participate in God’s own action? 

What standards of success or failure does your church use to measure youth ministry?

 

Be blessed,

Erin

 

Posted April 26, 2013 by erinjackso in Youth Ministry

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