By Jen Howver on May 22 2009 | 3 CommentsSo as it's getting summer-like here in IL, I'm starting to remember what tank tops and shorts look and feel like. The hoodies and sweaters are being packed up and we're finally getting some time outside to bask in the vitamin D. Now, for those of you who live in warm places where you never have to get your hoodies and sweaters out, this may be a foreign concept for you...but it's an annual ritual for the rest of us who experience more than one season a year. The thing this warm weather has gotten me thinking about is the struggle so many youth groups have with the summer wardrobe choices of some of the girls in their ministry. Whether it's at a weekly youth group gathering or the weeklong summer camp (where you also have...brace yourselves...bathing suits!), chances are there are a few girls who are wearing things that make some adults blush and a lot of the teenage boys stare and perhaps even drool. So what's a youth worker to do? I once heard Heather Flies talk about how she handles the issue of modesty and wardrobe with girls, especially in the summertime. (If you don't know Heather, she's a rockin middle school pastor in Minnesota.) She was talking about her rules, which sounded pretty hard-core to me, but seemed to work for her. Girls were not allowed to wear two-piece bathing suits, and their tank tops needed to have straps as wide as two of Heather's fingers across the shoulder (meaning, no spaghetti straps). But the thing about Heather's rules that I really appreciated was the way she explained the reason behind those rules. She tries to help teenage girls understand modesty and think about how their choices may affect the boys around them. While we all know at least one girl who is dressing a certain way ONLY because of how it affects the boys around them, it's possible that a lot of these girls hadn't thought about it very much. So, I don't know if Heather's "rules" are the best approach. But like I said, they seem to work for her ministry. I am curious to know how other people out there handle the issue. Is it even an issue in your group? If so, do you even address it? How?
By Jen Howver on May 22 2009 | 3 Comments
By Jen Howver on May 21 2009 | 6 CommentsIt's a fair question. Some of you may recognize my name and others may not have given it a second thought. I've been around the YS world for a few years now in a wide variety of roles, some of which I will tell you about now. I worked at YS as a marketing manager from 2003-2005. While there I made NYWC brochures & promo videos, started YMWomen with my friends Ginny Olson & Kara Powell, made some magalogs, and ate lots of rolled tacos at Sombrero, just down the street from the office. I loved being at YS so much, that even after I left, I kept working with YS. I left in 05 so I could start my own freelance writing & marketing business and prepare for life as a mom (which is a long story...but didn't actually happen until 2007 when my husband Jay and I brought our daughters home from Ethiopia). If you ever hear me talk, you might recognize my voice as "Jen" from all those audio podcasts YS did before Adam came along and started making really cool video ones. Also, I'm the co-author of the book Secret Survivors (with my friend Megan Hutchinson), which released last fall. (Shameless plug: check out the Secret Survivor website here.) So after all that, if you still don't know who I am, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Jen Howver. I'm a writer & marketer living outside Chicago. I'm a veteran volunteer youth worker who's about to jump back into middle school ministry (and I'm totally excited about that!). I'm the mom of two hysterical girls who are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 and keep me busy. I'm dealing with an on-again/off-again addiction to Diet Coke. My favorite movies include "Sixteen Candles" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and I'm a huge fan of Ethiopian food. I've been a drummer in a garage band and I've tap danced in a recital (both while in my 20s). I tend to ramble at times... I overuse elipses... and I love youth workers! I'm glad to be here with you...
By Jen Howver on May 21 2009 | 6 Comments
By Jen Howver on May 20 2009 | 3 CommentsGetting back to the worlds of Kara Powell and Brooklyn Lindsey, here is the highly anticipated second half of the story. This is the juicy part where they talk about juggling their ministry and their husbands, and the ever-important issue of taking care of themselves. (And if you somehow missed the first part of the story, check it out here.) So, without further adieu... Q: How do you and your husband balance the parenting time/roles you play as you balance your ministry career and your family? K: The key for us is that we cherish our evenings together. We try to be done with all of our work, including work around the house, by the time the kids go to bed. So once the kids go to bed, it’s our time to be together. B: It sort of just happens for us. Maybe we should talk about it more but we don't. My husband takes care of Kirra during the day and I try to spend as much time as I can with them during the night. We've gotten in tiffs about who has to be the heavy and put her to bed, but that's just because neither of us wants to be the one to say goodbye or make her cry. I think that's normal though. As long as were both giving and taking and doing our best to think of the others needs when we can—we'll do well. Q: How do you make time for your relationship with your husband? K: In addition to what I’ve said above, we also try to go away for 1-2 nights every few months. That really fuels our romance and our friendship. B: I try not to do anything work related after work unless he's buried in a book or working on a sermon or something. Then, I hop on my laptop to write or think or read. We have a subscription to NetFlix so we usually always have something to wind down with. We also try to get a sitter every now and then for something special. Q: How do you make time for yourself? K: That’s actually the toughest of all, and something I’m working on. I take a Sabbath every Sunday and I try to have some extended prayer and worship time on that day. I also am committed to working out three times a week, and that’s good time for me to be by myself. But honestly, that’s a piece I’m still trying to figure out. B: This is where I struggle. I do make time to work out, at least a few times a week. And, I try to get lost in a book a couple of nights a week. But other than that, I'm not doing the best in this area. Part of my growth has been learning how to not feel guilty for not always going and doing. Accountability is the best thing for me right now in this area because I need to make more time for myself. Q: What advice do you have for new moms who are working to attempt a similar balancing act? K: Don’t compare yourself to other moms. Prayerfully figure out the pace that God has designed for YOU to walk in. B: Don't buy the lie that you can find balance. I don't believe there is such a thing. Maybe you can find something close, but there is always something that isn't quite right—and that is ok. What we can have is peace. Everything doesn't have to be perfect. So what if the thank-you cards don't get sent and you end up just saying "thanks" to everyone who came to the party. Life is a constant ebb and flow and we adjust as it changes. Adapt your rule of life to your style and your family’s personality. If it works for you do it, if it doesn't, try something new. The good news: God never leaves us hanging and will guide us whenever and wherever. Q: When you first became a mom, how did you know that you were called to be both a mom and a youth worker? K: Well, I knew God was calling me to do a youth ministry and I knew God was calling to be a mom. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I have had the blessing of having a strong dual sense of calling. B: It was just something I knew at a gut level. I wanted to do both from the moment I became pregnant. I had no idea how it was going to work out—or that I would be so emotional after Kirra was born—but it did and is still working out today. Q: How often have you showed up at work with baby puke on your clothes (whether you knew it or not!)? K: You bet, and I’ve worn non-matching socks once. It comes with the territory. But I don’t take myself too seriously, and that helps me take it in stride. B: How about showing up for work every day toting a not-so-stylish, vinyl, blue breast pump bag. My co-worker didn't even know what it was for about three months. All he knew was that I disappeared into the bathroom for ten-minute intervals every couple of hours. It was a bit awkward at first, but then I got comfortable with my new life and it didn't bother me what others perceptions were. A parting thought from Kara: Part of what has been enormously helpful to me is to have mentors and friends who are juggling ministry and motherhood. I’m in regular contact with many women who understand my struggles and can encourage me and give me advice. In the same vein, my husband and I are committed to sharing life with a handful of other families, and we are walking the soccer-team-boy-scouts-swim-lesson journey together. I can’t imagine my life without those mentors, friends, and other families. A parting thought from Jen: It’s hard to read these answers and not relate, even though my full-time job is not in youth ministry. And I can’t say for certain, but I’m guessing there are even a few dads out there who can relate to the struggles of juggling family and ministry—and doing it well. (And I’m wondering, does Kara live in a time zone that has more hours in the day than mine?!) I think the thing that was most poignant to me was the fact that both Kara and Brooklyn struggle with making time for themselves. Don’t we all?! But really, what will we have to give to the people in our lives who we care about if we aren’t getting ourselves filled up somewhere along the way? So my challenge to you (and to myself!) is to take time—no, make time—for yourself this week. And next week. And the week after that. Whether it’s time with your Bible or time in a bubble bath or time with a pointless, entertaining book, make sure you’re giving back to yourself, too. Your family and your students will thank you for it. (Well, they might not actually say “thank you,” but they’ll think about saying it!)
By Jen Howver on May 20 2009 | 3 Comments
By Jeremy Del Rio on May 18 2009 | 1 CommentsUPDATE, 5/20 I’m overwhelmed at the early response to the “Love is an Orientation Virtual Book Club” experiment. In 36 hours, more than 125 people have already joined! That’s a little larger than any book club I’ve ever participated in. On second thought, I’ve never actually been in a book club before, so that’s a bad comparison. Let’s just say, it’s a lot larger than I expected. Should be fun. The first two discussion topics were posted today, and neither one requires that you have actually read the book yet. Let’s call them preliminary topics, generated solely by the invitation to join. 1) What Conversation? 2) Is “Agenda-less” even possible? If you haven’t entered the fray yet, please do so here. _________________ ORIGINAL POST Call this post an online experiment, but I can't remember anticipating a book as much as Andrew Marin's debut, "Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community" (InterVarsity Press). So, for me at least, the book's release is worthy of experimentation. My anticipation mounted for at least two years after meeting (NYWC 2008 general session speaker) Marin through Urban Youth Workers Institute and hearing first hand his passion for reaching a community most Christians dismiss as unreachable. Add to that the timeliness of the topic -- gay marriage, anyone? -- and the opportunity to wrestle with a fresh perspective on it, and the book's release feels, well, fresh. The book's cover, for its part, promises no more of the pungently stale entrenchment of cliche Christianity/ese, which by itself is worth celebrating. *Grin.* So here's the experiment. Create a virtual book club wherein interested Christ-followers and non can wrestle with the topic together. Who should join? Anyone willing to read and discuss the book, who also cares about:
By Jeremy Del Rio on May 18 2009 | 1 Comments
By Brooklyn Lindsey on May 18 2009 | 6 CommentsYesterday, I took my high school leadership team to a local middle school to do an event. I drove our church van only four miles to the school in the Florida heat. About one mile into the journey I realize that the AC wasn't cooling--just blowing hot air to make a nice fiery furnace of church van smell and human bodies. At one point (after the van was parked of course), I decided to put a vinyl sign on the windshield to advertise our after-school event. The windshield wipers seemed a little stuck and melted to the windshield but it was a passing observation. During our event the Florida sky decided to crack open with the first of many summer storms. As we were finishing up, flash flooding begin to occur and we had to re-load the van with equipment in the rain. One of our students opted to jump out of the van before we took off to make sure all of the doors were shut because an interior light was on when we departed and we could only imagine how much fun that might be if the church sound gear flew out the back while driving in a storm. So Caroline tries to close the side door and the weather strip that's hanging from the door keeps getting stuck in it. Caroline is getting soaked as she re-slams the door shut for the fourth time and I'm laughing because it's just too funny. She gets back in the van and I drive the van forward toward the church. That's when I hear a subtle screech. As I'm faintly remembering that the wipers had been smoldered to the shield-- the wiper blade flies off and we are forced into using one blade. At this moment, I remembered why I love youth ministry. It's the vans. It's always been the awesome vans. What's your church van story?. We promise to laugh (and cry) with you. Cheers!
By Brooklyn Lindsey on May 18 2009 | 6 Comments
By Shawn Michael Shoup on May 18 2009 | 7 CommentsI've been seeing videos from a service called Xtranormal pop up here and there and wanted to check it out. This could have some cool youth ministry applications. Here's what they say about the service on their site:
Xtranormal’s mission is to bring movie-making to the people. Everyone watches movies and we believe everyone can make movies. Movie-making, short and long, online and on-screen, private and public, will be the most important communications process of the 21st century. Our revolutionary approach to movie-making builds on an almost universally held skill—typing. You type something; we turn it into a movie. On the web and on the desktop.Is what they say as easy as it sounds? Well, you'll see rather quickly that I'm no J. J. Abrams, but I was able to quickly -- in about ten minutes -- throw together this little video for your viewing pleasure. All it takes is typing in a script, dragging and dropping in some physical reactions, picking the background scene and music, and clicking publish... Kind of fun, huh? Youth group announcements, anyone? Give it a try!
By Shawn Michael Shoup on May 18 2009 | 7 Comments
By YS on May 15 2009 | 3 CommentsWith just a few days left until we relocate to our new offices we are now looking to sell even more stuff! The Mystery Box sale helped us ship out about 1500 pounds of Youth Specialties resources to youth workers around the world while helping us raise about $3000 for San Diego-based Reality Changers. Believe it or not that barely made a dent in all of the stuff that we need to sell as we downsize to our new building. Mandy Helton, our brand new office manager, has done a phenomenal job helping us sell a lot of things on Craigslist. Now its time to sell the stuff that can't be shipped so cheaply or just didn't sell on Craigslist. We have a wide variety of books and resources, computer cords and accessories galore, electronic equipment, office supplies, office furniture, fake plants, artwork, and tons of items that fit in the category of "miscellaneous." Here's the skinny! Date: Friday, May 29th Time: Starts 9:00 AM - we hope to have everything sold by lunch Place: 300 S. Pierce Street, El Cajon California What to bring: Cash/check (no credit cards) A car/truck/van/bus/semi or your vehicle of choice. Everything you buy has to be taken at the time of sale, we can't store or ship anything. Who is invited: This is open to the public. Our hope is that local youth ministries will come and stock up. After all, there are a few benefits with putting up with YS in your neighborhood. If you don't live in Southern California but know a youth worker who does, help us out and please let them know.
By YS on May 15 2009 | 3 Comments