New Beginnings

65200_4274680513885_1874540289_n

Three years ago I was blogging pretty consistently. I had a tumblr that I used a lot and before that I’m sure I had a blogspot, livejournal; you name it, I’ve used them all. They were great documentations of the seasons of my life. I was able to put into words what I was going through as I waited through moments God had me in. I’m really glad I documented those moments. That I put into words what I was feeling during those seasons so I could look back and see how much I’ve grown or even how strong I was in those moments. They seemed silly at the time, but I’m glad I didn’t delete all of them so I could look back and remember snapshots of the past of where God has had me.

This is a new season, which is why I’ve started this writing again. While the season may have started over two years ago, I have remembered how important it is to document these moments. So here’s to being consistent in sharing what we are doing in ministry. Here’s to events that have failed and huge ministry moments I never thought I would experience. Here’s to praying over kids who are hurting and laughing on trips that I never want to end. And here’s to serving a God that trusted me with a Calling I never knew would take me to where it has.

Change for Change

So as some of you know, last February our Student Ministries program did an event called “Change for Change”. We had a night of prayer and worship as we educated our students about the Human Trafficking Industry. It was an incredible night, as we raised over $1,000 in change. We watched as students brought in their life savings for a great cause. While there was some motive (I had to get cornrows and Mackay had to shave his head. Let’s not ever talk about this again), our kids came through in a big way and I think it ranks as one of my favorite moments in ministry.

change

The money raised went to the A21 Campaign through the End It Movement. For those of you that don’t know, A21 prosecutes traffickers and strengthens the legal response to human trafficking. They also provide legal counsel to every victim that comes through their program.

We are switching it up a bit and have decided that we could outdo last year, especially if we had more time, so here’s what we are doing:

We’re still rolling with Change for Change (get it, because you “roll change”? ugh…nevermind), but through our small group ministry. Each group has received a container that will collect money for the ministry/nonprofit of their choice. One month from today, each small group will turn in full containers. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!

So each small group will choose what they will be raising money for and collect change as they meet each week in February. PLUS the group that raises the most amount of money will win a dinner for their small group AND the ministry they chose will be blessed. Yeah, we’re excited too.

change 2

So here’s where you can help:

Know someone in a small group? Or know someone leading a small group? (isn’t that person awesome? they put a lot of time into that, so thank them even if you don’t have a student in the program. they’re working hard to make better disciples in our church) Or don’t know anyone at all, but really want to donate change?

You can help by donating to one of our small group’s “containers”. Maybe they’ll even invite you to the dinner if they win! Just kidding…kind of. Maybe, I don’t know.

Anyways, you get a chance to be involved. Some of the nonprofits our groups have chosen are Lowcountry Down Syndrome, American Cancer Society, and two groups will be raising money to buy clothes for children who are in foster care.

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for those in need (He talks a lot about that, but this is just the chapter on my heart right now). We aren’t perfect at doing this, but we are going to continue trying to live out the Gospel to the best of our ability. Bit by bit, we will be the change.

Worship Arts: Youth Band

Last year, we launched a new program called Youth Worship Arts. The hope is that it will grow and students can use their various gifts to serve in youth group and church. Right now we have a youth band and a set design team. A mix of middle and high schoolers serve on both teams. The hope is that as we grow, we’ll be able to add a tech team and drama team.

Our band has come a long way in the year. We’ve gone from having students who *kind of* played an instrument, to having them play each week and even play in our contemporary service.

While I want to say that we are learning new songs each week, it’s taken us a while to master our current set list.

Here are our top five picks for worship:

Set a Fire (We don’t go this long, but  it’s definitely our favorite)

One Thing Remains (We don’t do the “ou”s, but we do about this tempo)

Come Thou Fount (that drum solo, tho…ouf)

Whom Shall I Fear

This is What You Do

Honorable mentions:

How He Loves (we can’t help it, we know it too well)

All My Fountains (this takes a little work, but we pull it off every once in a while)

Volunteer Gifts

So I know it’s 2014, and 2013 should be “so last year”, but I want to take it back a month and show off our awesome Volunteer gifts from Christmas.

It can be incredibly difficult to buy for volunteers. We wanted to get them something practical, but at the same time it should be something they want to use. And we have to do this all on a pretty limited budget.

We do have some budget though, so if you have the money to do this, it’s definitely worth it.

Image

I’m all about using Pinterest for ministry. I’ve found some of my greatest ideas from browsing DIY stuff. So when I started coming across variations of gift packages, we created this idea.

Here’s what our leaders got:

A Nalgene (any water bottle will do). You can customize your order (any size or color) on http://www.nalgene.com.

We also personalized them. Created some nifty stickers and branded them specifically to our ministry.

Image

Candy. Because our leaders are sweet. Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. They are sweet. But really, we gave them candy because it’s tasty. And it helps fill the water bottle.

A free drink at Starbucks. Yeah, it’s only one coffee. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve only needed “one coffee” to get through the day and had the blessing of a gift card to help me out.

Gum. Because they’re fresh. Like breath. Ok, that’s lame and definitely a joke.
Really, it doesn’t have to be gum though. I found something practical that I knew they’d use that’s >$1. So gum, chapstick, sharpie pen (those things are awesome).

So that’s it. Pretty simple stuff, but we’re proud of it.
Note: Our sticker designer is Amelia Jamerson. She’s our Communications Coordinator and does AWESOME design work. I’m a pretty big fan of her stuff.

Lunch Raffles

Image

This past Sunday we tried out a new idea for 2014 and we’re kind of loving it.

Lunch Raffle will happen each week and I’ve decided it’s basically the opposite of the Hunger Games.

So each student signs a nifty little piece of paper when they walk in the door. They put:

their name
their grade
their school

At the end of youth group, we’ll draw names and whoever gets picked will get lunch the following week from Mackay or myself. Um, super easy and super awesome.

PLUS: the more you come, the more your name gets put in the jar. KIND OF like how Katniss was bound to get picked because…well, you know.

stills-hunger-games-effie-katniss-large-msg-132371026086

BUT, no one dies during lunch raffle and you won’t go hungry because we’re bringing you food.

A bonus for us: sometimes it can be awkward going to a school where you only know one or two kids. But when you bring food, everyone’s happy.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

four reasons why we are LOVING theme nights

Photo Jan 12, 5 37 29 PM

KFC & UMYF started something new in September. Once a month, we have a theme night. What is a theme night? It’s basically just a crazy take on traditional youth group. We still have worship, games, and a lesson. We just theme it!

Last month our theme was Jimmy Buffett Beach Bash (of course it was, it was only 19 degrees four days earlier). Our Worship Arts team decorated the Fellowship Hall with surfboards, beach balls, and sea shells and students dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and a socks/sandals combo that could take any “vacation outfit” you’ve ever pulled off.

Photo Jan 12, 6 53 55 PM

Here’s why we love it:

1. It is a great opportunity for students to invite friends.

Youth group can be kind of intimidating. Sometimes students may not want to invite friends because they’re unsure about what’s happening that night, or sometimes because it is just hard. When you give youth group a theme, it hypes up the energy and makes students want to show off their community of believers. We are loving that theme nights have given students a chance to reach out to their friends and invite them to see what they’re a part of.

2. It is giving our Worship Arts team a chance to serve.

We have an awesome team of middle & high school students that come every week at 4 pm and help set up for youth group. They are able to use their creative gifts to design the room for youth group. When we give them a theme, it gives them a chance to come up with creative ways to decorate the room. When we had 80’s night, they made life-size rubiks cubes and when we had our Christmas theme they made a photobooth. We have incredibly talented students and it’s been awesome watching them put their gifts to use in the church.

Photo Jan 12, 5 45 24 PM

3.  It is a chance for our students to celebrate being young

We believe in challenging our students to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. But we also believe there needs to be a fun effect to that sometimes. When we theme something, EVERYTHING we do brings the theme into play. For instance, our games were “beach themed”. We randomly selected several students to come up front and do “spontaneous” tasks that we gave them. A 7th grade girl had to rap about pineapples for 30 seconds while a senior had to pretend to be a crab getting attacked by seagulls (the seagulls were played by two trained leaders. No students were harmed in this activity). For dinner, we had “Cheeseburger’s in Paradise”, and our lesson was about “Charting Our Course” for the New Year. Which brings us to our fourth favorite thing…

4. We do not ever sacrifice a chance to learn on a theme night.

We want our students to grow in their relationship with Christ, and YES we love to have fun, but we recognize that there’s a serious side to that relationship. Middle and high school present a lot of challenges for our students. Challenges that they are facing every day and they need a relationship with Christ now more than ever. They are figuring out what they believe and who they want to be and sometimes they need to hear a message that is sculpted to where they are and have a chance to discuss it with a leader afterwards. We still get to provide students with that on a theme night.

Our next theme night is Pajama Jam, February 23rd. This will be a night of cozy sleepwear and intense pillow fights. Students can come in a comfy pair of footie pajamas and bring their favorite teddy bear or baby blanket (promise, we won’t make fun). Really excited to try Strobe Light Pillow Fight that night too.

sixth grade freedom

Photo Oct 12, 11 29 07 AM

In October, we took about 30 middle schoolers to Orlando for a weekend of FUN. No homework, no projects, no phones (that was a new one…such a struggle). JUST FUN.

One of the reasons I really love this trip is because it helps the students bond with one another and hang out for three days. They build new relationships and it makes the transition for new students easier. We only had two 6th grade girls (some girls were a bit cautious about a weekend away from home that involved rollercoasters…completely understood), but those two girls were responsible for one of my favorite moments of the whole weekend.

On Saturday, we spend the day in Islands of Adventure. The students can roam the park with a friend or with a group with the condition that they make their two check-in times throughout the day. The first check-in time was before lunch so they could pick up their meal voucher. Most of the students were there at 11:30 on the dot and several of them had been traveling with the leaders. The two 6th grade girls though were running late. Not too late, maybe ten minutes? But still, I got a little worried. Mostly that they were lost or stuck in a line for some ride they weren’t quite sure they were ready for.

At about 11:40, two of the soggiest 6th graders appeared before me, shaking, but grinning from ear to ear. They both explained that they were sorry they were late, but they were busy riding Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls SIX times in a row. Um, that’s awesome. I wasn’t even mad.

It got me thinking about the first time I really got freedom to roam a theme park freely. I grew up as an only child, so it’s not like I ever went with my family and told my parents I’d meet them somewhere in a few hours while I would ride every ride I could. And not that the times I’ve been to a theme park I’ve had to go without riding what I wanted to (or having to ride something I didn’t want to, ahem…everything). So I put myself in their shoes (which were sopping wet for the next 7 hours we were there). I’m at Islands Adventure as an 11 year old and I have finally gotten the freedom I’ve always seen on every Disney Channel show on the air right now (like, do those kids even have parents?). What do I do?! RIDE RIPSAW FALLS SIX TIMES IN A ROW. Wet hair, don’t care…right?!

I love watching the choices that our students make on their own. It helps us understand what is really going through their mind. The truth is, yeah, they can seem pretty complicated, but at the end of the day sometimes they just want to ride their favorite ride six times in a row! And why not?

SIDE NOTE: Other favorite moment of the weekend? Taking the same group of students to DisneyQuest, a five story interactive arcade and finding two 7th grade boys in the lobby playing with a payphone. Seriously, dude? I could have taken you to a truck stop for that.