Monday, November 19, 2007

"Failed" Youth Group Event

This weekend our youth ministry held its first lock-in on-site at the church. On Friday i expected the next 72 hours of my life to be some of the busiest and most stressful i'd ever experienced. I had to finish getting ready for the lock-in that day, try to stay awake and clear-minded throughout the event that night, grab some sleep the next morning, attend a friend's wedding on saturday afternoon and evening, spend the rest of the evening cleaning up for the weekend, put the finishing touches on my sunday school lesson that night, try to get some more sleep, teach, worship, prepare another lesson, teach, come home and try to relax, try to get a good night's sleep, try to take a day off on monday, and then start the week all over again on tuesday.

It's now monday evening, and it's amazing how differently the weekend turned out. The lock-in went really well for about 3 hours, and then had to be ended early due to sewer problems. This meant that we got to accomplish most of what we had hoped to with the lock-in (i.e. connecting with the teens in the community), but with the added bonus of getting to go home and go to sleep early. The massive amount of clean up that was going to be required resulted in us skipping the wedding. Even though we spent most of the day at the church, it was a lot of fun (for me) because it meant hanging out with people and doing work that wasn't too difficult. The sewer still wasn't fixed by saturday night so Sunday school and youth group both got cancelled. This meant that i didn't have to work on any lessons on saturday, and that i'll have a lot less work to do this week since i've got two lessons half-ready that i wasn't able to use this weekend. Which means that i'll actually get to take a few days off for thanksgiving this week, which i wasn't sure i was going to be able to do.

It's just amazing to me how God can do things so incredibly unexpected. We never know what's getting ready to happen. I'm not sure that God allowed the sewers to back up to make things easier on me and some other people in the church (and maybe its sheer arrogance that i even think it's a possibility), but it just reminds me that we never know what God is going to do. Which means that no situation is impossible, because even when it look like something has to happen, it might not (think Red Sea). And when we worry, we never know if what we're worried about is even going to happen. Same thing with fear. Life is just predictable enough to get us in the habit of predicting it though, and i guess i need to always remember that anything could happen at any moment.


Ok, i take it back. I just couldn't bring myself to feel good about starting a blog series whining about commercials. Any way i cut it it's still complaining, and i think if Jesus had a blog He wouldn't spend His time griping about commercials that disrespected him. Of course, he would have needed a blog and a television, or else he wouldn't have any commercials to complain about. Unless he went to a friend's house.

So if you are an executive or a marketing professional, I politely request that you respect the essence of Christmas in your holiday advertising. But beyond that, i don't think there's anything constructive i can say.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stupid Holliday Commercials

I'm going to try to do this one lovingly, without spite or bitterness, but i think i'm still going to do it. Tis the season of one of my pet peeves - really lame Christmas commercials, and i plan to chronicle this year's crop here. For me, it's the ones that have nothing of Christmas left in them. My favorite from last year: "Happy Honda Days." This year's first installment: "Happy Holi-duh" (Hundai's new favorite word is "duh.")

For some reason i don't mind companies using Christmas to sell their product, as long as they leave some shard of the real thing intact. Something about love, or families, or giving, miracles, anything. Just more than a choir singing "duh duh duh duh duh, duh duh, duh, duh." This is a day that celebrates an event held sacred by about a third of the world's population. Can we show it a little respect, please?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm friends with Jesus . . . on Myspace

The other day one of my teens alerted me to the fact that Jesus now has a Myspace page. Or He has at least one of them. It wouldn't surprise me if there were several of them out there. The one she found was created by someone who won't reveal their own identity, but they state in a blog post that they made the page so people could add Jesus as a friend. Its actually kind of a cool page, with a couple of quotes of Jesus from the gospels under the "about me" section. (You can see the page here.)

It seems like he or she has a pretty solid Biblical understanding of who Jesus is and is trying to represent Him accurately, so i added "Jesus" to my friends list. I'm not entirely sure whether this is a meaningful way of acknowledging (and promoting) my Savior on my page, or if having Jesus on my friends list will just cheapen Him and annoy the people who visit my site. But, the first option seems more likely, so I've made him my "top friend." I'd imagine some people will roll their eyes and think I'm being excessively churchy, but isn't that the same reaction we always get whenever our faith causes us to stick out?

Anyway, I'm curious to see what other Christians on Myspace will do. What would you do?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Talking points

Today i got a blog post in my email that linked to another blog post, and together the two of them gave one interesting piece of advice - how to steer an interview in the direction you want it to go even when you can't choose the questions you'll be asked. Both posts are by Penelope Trunk, and the first one tells what talking points are, and the second one explains better how to use them.

The quote i found most interesting was this:
When President Bush walks into a press conference, he doesn’t worry what journalists are going to ask him because he already has the answers he’s going to provide — no matter what the questions are. Such answers are called talking points.

Politicians want to frame an issue, so they listen to a question and then decide which of their talking points they’ll use to answer that question. In this way, each question they’re asked is an opportunity to get their own points across.

Her main emphasis is that this is a good tool in job interviews, but it seems like it would be really useful for youth ministers in a lot of situations - anywhere that we want to present ourselves well and get our message across clearly, like when someone is asking us why a particular ministry is worth the time/money/effort/mess/hassle/noise.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time sensitive

Hello again,

I got this update from Tim Schmoyer's blog and thought some of you may be interested:

Seminar on Teen Internet Hangouts tonight!

Tonight I’m teaching a seminar for my youth group parents on teen Internet hangouts like Facebook, World of Warcraft, YouTube and some upcoming sites to be aware of. In order to help equip others who are interested in learning more about this, we’ll also have a live video feed online where you can watch the seminar and even interact through the adjoining chat room. It all starts at 7:00PM central time. If you’d like more information about what we’ll cover in the seminar, check out my previous blog post about it.

Watch the video feed using this direct link to the video feed or the embeded stream below.

Youth Culture Notes

Some things take entirely too long.

Every month i put together a few excerpts from articles on the internet that i think would be educational for our youth ministry's adult leaders. Whether due to the difficulty of the task or just my perfectionism, the time it took to compile the last one seemed to far exceeded the good that will be done by them reading it. So, since i can't go back and invest less time in it, i figure the only thing to do is make it available for more people so maybe it will do more good and come closer to justifying the time spent. So i'm posting it here for your enjoyment and (hopefully) education:

Youth Culture notes – 11/4/07

Maine middle school to offer birth control - updated 10:27 a.m. EDT, Thu October 18, 2007

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- After an outbreak of pregnancies among middle school girls, education officials in this city have decided to allow a school health center to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11.

King Middle School will become the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available, including birth control pills and patches. Condoms have been available at King's health center since 2000.

Students need parental permission to access the school's health center. But treatment is confidential under state law, which allows the students to decide whether to inform their parents about the services they receive.

There are no national figures on how many middle schools provide such services. Most middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13.

"It's very rare that middle schools do this," said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care. [. . . .]

Supporters said a small number of students at King are sexually active, but they need better access to birth control.

"This isn't encouraging kids to have sex. This is about the kids who are engaging in sexually activity," Richard Veilleux said.

Excerpts from

The Teen Film Revolution

by Troy Lanier and Clay Nichols

[The producer] leans over the director’s shoulder “Two more takes. Period.” The director rolls her eyes and walks over to the lead actor. He’s well-known with the crew for his stage work, but in this scene his gestures are about to knock the camera over. The DP takes the bounce board out of a grip’s hands and puts the light where he wants it: “Right here, okay?” The grip looks sheepish, stepping back in to take the board.

It’s a pretty typical set for an independent short. Except that none of the players here are over the age of 18.

Not that teens making movies is big news. Lately, however, they’ve been growing more ambitious. They don’t just want to make a funny home movie. They want to make a real movie.

Festivals, summer camps, schools and non- and for-profit organizations promising to support the work of teen moviemakers have mushroomed. Moviemaking is finding its way into high schools, too. While it hasn’t replaced the school play just yet, some programs put up a good fight.

Kids used to save up to buy a car. Today, at least one kid on the block saves up to help his parents with the camera. Many parents will plunk down the change themselves, assuming that moviemaking has to be more constructive than, well, almost anything else teens do. Maybe it will even get them into college. Austin senior Carleton Ranney, labeled a “Moviemaker to Watch” by the movie-savvy Austin Chronicle, won the gamble. He will be attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City and majoring in film.

Many festival directors have observed that the top tier student films are improving, too. Although most kids can’t afford a boom pole or shotgun mic, they are paying close attention to sound and light, taking their cameras off auto mode.

Many adults fret that reading is on the decline while media consumption is up. Perhaps there is some consolation in the increasing levels of media literacy expressed by these young moviemakers. They are experimenting with a new digitized visual language and are finding their own voices. They may be just a bunch of kids fooling around—or they may just be revolutionizing the industry. MM

Excerpts from

A Consumer’s Spot for Apple Grows Up - October 31, 2007


THE idea that you do not have to be a professional to create a good commercial is becoming widespread, in a trend known as consumer-generated content. Leave it to Apple to — paraphrasing the company’s old slogan a bit — think differently.

A television commercial for the new iPod Touch from Apple, which began running on Sunday, was created by the longtime Apple agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. But it is based on a commercial that an 18-year-old student in Britain — an Apple devotee named Nick Haley, who says he got his first Macintosh when he was 3 — created on his own one day last month.

Late last week, Mr. Haley’s spot had been viewed 2,131 times on Among the viewers, Apple executives said, were marketing employees at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., who asked staff members on the Apple account at TBWA/Chiat/Day to get in touch with Mr. Haley about producing a professional version of the commercial (which, truth be told, had the same look and feel as many of Apple’s other ads).

He traveled to Los Angeles in October, in his first visit to the United States, to work on a broadcast-ready version of his spot with creative executives at TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Consumers creating commercials “is part of this brave new world we live in,” said Lee Clow, chairman and chief creative officer at TBWA Worldwide.

“It’s an exciting new format for brands to communicate with their audiences,” Mr. Clow said. “People’s relationship with a brand is becoming a dialogue, not a monologue.”

Excerpts from

Joy's Summary of “User-generated content”

OK, I couldn't find a satisfactory explanation of this on the web to quote, but basically “UGC” is anything that the consumer produces that helps sell the product. This ranges from customers making commercials, to people designing their own Myspace page (which Myspace makes money off of by placing ads), to people uploading their own videos of products on those products' webpages, to portions of a site's content being submitted by users (ie Amazon book reviews & tags). It's apparently a huge buzzword in marketing and is being used by all sorts of product brands, websites, and TV channels.

It's not exclusively used when targeting teens, but when it is, the idea is that young people will be more likely to watch content created by other young people, and that the excitement of having their own content displayed will encourage brand loyalty as well as word-of-mouth advertising.

P.S. after i wrote this i saw Tim Schmoyer's blog post with his notes from a lecture by Walt Mueller about the way teens are marketed to, it contains some revealing information about why brand loyalty is so important for companies to establish - you can check it out here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Juggling "Excellence" vs. "Acceptance"

I don't know if larger churches have an easier time with this one, but at least in my experience with smaller churches there is always an issue of how picky to be when choosing volunteers - especially in the music ministry. Alan Nelson wrote a post at about this - it's not really long and i'd appreciate more examples, but it offers some good ideas. Check it out here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dreams & Intelligence

Last night i had a dream. Actually it would have been this morning between 5:30 (when Phil got up to take Kodiak out) and whenever Phil and i finally woke up. It was really long and centered around my vain hunt to find the perfect new purse. The purse part wasn't really surprising, i've been thinking about buying a new one, and the way i took forever to make a decision in the dream is only a slightly exaggerated version of what would have happened in real life. But the thing that surprised me this morning as i woke up was all the extra details: the conversation of the two guys who were sitting in the purse section at KB toys and discussing how someone they knew had stolen a car and were now selling it; and the details of the Bible commentary video that came with one of the purses. Both of these were so original. Neither is entirely surprising - i had seen a car for sale yesterday, and if you were going to try to sell me a purse throwing in a Bible commentary would possibly be a good move, but the dialogue and the images in both situations were truly original. It really surprised me to think about the creative potential of my unconscious mind - that it could write script for an original composition and compose new images. One of the birds in the Bible commentary video was something that, as far as i know, I've never seen before. It had an unusual beak and that was part of what the commentator was talking about. And that was only one element of the video. My mind drew on elements present in it but created something truly new - the video, the conversation, the design of the purses.

I don't think you could claim that my dream was formed without intelligence. The pieces didn't just fall together at random - they were assembled. The conversation and monologue made sense. It just amazed me that my mind had such abilities, even when running on autopilot.

Last weekend i gave a short presentation on creation and the problems of evolutionary theory to some teenagers at a retreat, and one of the points on my notes was that the physical brain doesn't create or house the mind. Supposedly, even if evolution could explain where the brain came from, it can't explain the mind because the mind isn't something physical and therefore couldn't have been formed by anything in the physical world. I don't know enough about neuroscience to be able to verify that for myself, but either way, i don't think the mind could have been formed without intelligence. The fact that it is intelligent, that it can take disconnected elements and put them together to create something both new and meaningful, tells me that undirected, natural processes and random chance could not have put it together. Think about it, random forces couldn't have created my dream. Its obvious my mind knew what it was doing - it understood how to form language and it knew what were normal patterns of behavior for the characters. It knew that it would take me forever to find a purse. If something as common and comparatively simple as a dream obviously required intelligence, wouldn't the formation of something as complicated and capable as a mind require intelligence as well?