I could just as well have pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it directly into the middle of our students while screaming "DON'T RUN, JUST TALK ABOUT IT!"
This topic is particularly heated in our present culture, but the questions that we have looked at over the last 2 months have intentionally prepared us to have this discussion well. We started by affirming that we can trust the Bible, and that it serves as our foundation of truth as Christians. The last question we walked though (can I be a Christian and believe in evolution) was a sneaky "introduction to hermeneutics," that we will immediately put to the test with this question!
Just for clarity's sake, the Alliance of Reformed Churches official position is as follows - "We maintain that there are two theologically acceptable positions regarding the interpretation of ordained offices. One position ordains women into the ordained offices of the church. The other limits the ordained offices in which women can serve. We respect each other and each other’s congregational choices regarding the nature of ordained leadership."
Furthermore, the material we are using is intentionally designed to not lead us to a particular answer, so we are still very much in the “exploratory phase.” The majority of our students felt that this was an important issue and had an opinion, but few could explain where in scripture that opinion was grounded. Next Sunday I will have a huge powerpoint that tries to address the spectrum of beliefs surrounding women in ministry and the home in the most balanced way possible. I’ll make sure that it gets posted here on the website as well so that you can all take a look at it :)
The goal of these conversations remains building a Biblical foundation for our students, and encouraging them to talk to you while “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). In my experience, wading into topics that dredge up deep opinions causes students to seek you out as parents, and better still, motivates them to read the Bible for themselves. If you ever have any questions about what is being taught or the methodology, I would sincerely love the opportunity to talk with you!!
As always, thanks for taking the time to check in, and have a wonderful week!
Good morning friends!
Last night our high schoolers ate pizza, made new friends, and talked about our hopes for the coming year!
We had our usual 15 minutes of hangout and eating time before migrating into the garage room to do some introductions! I was so encouraged by the number of new and returning students! We took some time to share our names and our most irrational fear in three words or less (I said giant toilet snakes, but some students were very vulnerable and shared things like “suddenly being alone.”)
After that we jumped into our usual practice of sharing prayer requests and praises. I really value corporate prayer, so our students “claimed” the praises and requests and we took time to pray for one another.
After that, I shared a little about my hopes for the year and my heart for the students. We are going to be diving into some deep questions this year, and I wanted to set the tone a bit. My goal as a youth pastor is not to create a bunch of “theological copies” of myself. Rather, I hope that through the kinds of conversations we are going to have in the coming weeks, students will learn to think critically and successfully articulate what scripture has to say about some of the most pressing questions they face. It is far more valuable to have a student who can biblically defend why they believe what they believe than a student who just believes whatever comes out of my mouth.
I confessed to them that one of the greatest challenges I face in leading high school youth ministry is selecting curriculum. The vast majority of the students that come to youth group have some sort of faith background (Christian homes, Christian schools, etc.), and I am blessed to have that foundation to build on. However, it would feel arrogant for me to assume that I know what these students need or want to learn when I genuinely have no idea what it is like to be a teenager trying to put Christ first in 2023.
There were some good responses to the question “what do you want or need to learn about,” but even if there aren’t immediate answers I hope that the students feel the need to take their faith into their own hands. We talked briefly about the Leviathan in the OT, considered what questions in our Can I Ask That material were most interesting, and I prepped them to come back with ideas next week for our question box 🙂
Regardless, next week we are going to dive headfirst into the question “Does the Bible contradict itself” and it should make for some very interesting conversation!
Thanks for stopping by!
Happy Monday parents!
Last night we ate pizza, prayed, and finished up our Christian Sexuality series by talking about friendship and dating.
Relationships are increasingly complicated in a digital age, and our students generation is the first to grow up with ubiquitous social media. The video this week focused on a Biblical definition of intimacy, and circled all the way back to identity in Christ. It cautioned students that if they do date, it should be for the right reasons. The reasons they cited were all healthy (things like discovering what kind of character traits you are looking for in a spouse), but came with the HUGE caveat of maintaining healthy boundaries. If I wanted to summarize the entire video, I'd say that it cautioned students against forming their identity on anything other than Jesus. If we base a piece of our identity on a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even just a platonic friend, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
After the video we took a few minutes to imagine the perfect "dream couple." The students named them Brian and Regina, and I asked them to list the benefits that Brian and Regina experience in their relationship. You can see the results of that below :)
When that was all done, I simply asked which of those benefits were only available in the context of a romantic relationship. The only one we identified was a sense that they were heading toward a marriage relationship.
Every other benefit that comes from being in an "exclusive" romantic relationship is also available in healthy platonic relationships. This doesn't even take into account the potentially negative expectations that come with being in a relationship, or the very real emotional pain students feel during a break-up.
We ended the night by reflecting on the year as a whole, and talking about some of the hopes that we have for the summer.
It has been an absolute honor to walk alongside your students this year, and I can't wait to keep getting to know them better. I know that God is going to do amazing things in and through these kids, and I am so grateful for the time and investment you have poured into them. It shows!
The summer schedule is being finalized this week, and I will make sure to post that here when its complete!
Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you all around :)
Last night the high schoolers ate spaghetti and ice cream, made some new friends, and covered some FAQ’s about the LGBTQ community!
We had our usual food and fellowship time before migrating to the garage room for prayer requests and corporate prayer. Our video for this week featured Preston Sprinkle himself answering questions like “Can someone be gay and a Christian,” and “what about people with intersex conditions?”
Again, this would be an awesome week to take 20 minutes and watch the full youth video if you have time. Preston does a fabulous job of breaking down some of the most challenging questions from a Biblical perspective.
This entire series essentially circles back to the topics we covered at the beginning - the authority of God and Scripture, and our identity as image bearers. If we were truly and completely rooted in our identity as image bearers, most of these questions answer themselves. The more difficult questions center on how we respond to people who sin differently or more publicly than we do.
If we think of Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery, we have a clear Biblical template of how we should respond to these kinds of things. Jesus is presented with a woman who was caught in the middle of a very socially unacceptable sin. He challenges those around Him to first look inward, and determine if they have the “moral high ground” to pass judgment on this woman. All of the bystanders recognize that they are not sinless themselves, and leave one by one. When they are gone, Jesus extends grace to the woman, does not condemn her, and encourages her to “go and sin no more.”
This is the kind of radical obedience and extravagant love that we are striving for. Jesus first encourages us (the ones presented with the sins of another) to first look at ourselves. We are to recognize that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, cementing Him as the only one worthy to pass judgment. Out of that humility, we should not condemn our fellow sinners, but we should spur them on towards Christlikeness. If we fail to do any of those things well, we fall into the temptation of either placing ourselves in the judgment seat, or failing to call one another to the standard of Christ. Both are equally unacceptable.
In a world where the boldness of both sharing Jesus’ love and calling one another to repentance seem to be in short supply, this is a very thin line to walk. That's not surprising though, Jesus warned us that the path was narrow, and the journey of a Christian was not an easy one. No matter where the cultural pendulum swings, we must always seek to live like Christ, and walk that line as best we can.
Next week, we’ll round out our series (and the official program year!) with a short conversation about friendships and dating!
There are still some summer events in the works, and once those are finalized you can expect to see those on the calendar! I’ll make sure to send an email with those too :)
Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week!
Last night in high school we ate pizza, prayed, and tackled one of the most controversial conversations our students face - transgender identities. If you would like to pray with us, you can find a running list of our prayer requests here!
There is so much that I could write about this topic, but I think that watching the mentor video from this week's curriculum sums up all of my thoughts better than I could here. If you have access to the curriculum, simply log in and select the mentor video for session 8 - transgender identities.
To try and make a very nuanced and difficult conversation short - we believe that God created humans in His image, and He created them biologically male and female. Our culture has complicated this by leading us to believe that certain behaviors, interests, and tendencies are stereotypically masculine or feminine. In the process of finding identity (especially in a digital age) students typically look for some quality within themselves that sets them apart and makes them special to build the foundation of their identity.
If a student who was born female finds herself interested in things that are stereotypically masculine (football, G.I. Joes, cars, etc.) we would maintain that those interests do not detract from her image-bearing-female-ness. That's a mouthful. We would say that none of those hobbies or interests call her God-given identity into question. The complication comes when students are tempted to believe that interests, external appearance, or inner perception take precedence over their identity as an image-bearer.
There is a very real sense in culture today that struggling for a cause or perceiving oneself as oppressed in some way lends meaning or credibility to their identity. There is almost a sense of pride in struggling, and this is the case for all people across sexual orientation or gender identity. I'm sure this also adds to the difficulty of resting in our identity as image bearers. Jesus already struggled on our behalf, He paid the price, and before we even took our first breath delighted in us.
The video encouraged students to keep their identity as an image bearer at the core of their being, and to express the extravagant love and radical obedience of Jesus in the process. Too often we are tempted to treat those who sin publicly or differently than we do as if they are somehow “worse” or “lesser.” The Bible is clear that ALL have fallen short, and that we will all be held to account. The journey of sanctification starts in many places, and Romans 14 reminds us that “to our own master we will stand or fall.”
As that relates to people who identify as transgender, we are called love them. Matthew 22:37-39 makes this clear, but we are fallen people and the corporate church has often failed to do this well. Our transgender brothers and sisters are image bearers, worthy of love, and fallen just as we are. We maintain the authority of scripture, and believe that God’s design in creation was intentional, good, and included biological sex. We strive to preach that truth in grace. In the same breath, sin comes in all shapes and forms, and at the end of the day we all throw ourselves onto Christ's mercy. Thank God for Jesus.
Next week we are talking about LGBTQ questions, and you can find a link to that parent page HERE!
If you have any questions or want to talk more about this, I would love to meet with you! Thank you all for engaging in these topics with your students!
Have a wonderful week!
Good morning parents!
Last night the high schoolers ate some pizza, worshiped, prayed, and spent some time talking about intimacy and singleness!
After snacking and catching up, we gathered for worship and Eli led us through a few throwback songs, we took prayer requests and prayed for one another! If you would like to pray with us, you can find a running list of our prayer requests here!
After prayer, I spent some time setting up our video about singleness and intimacy. I grew up in a small (like 60 people small) reformed church in Hudsonville, and one of the things that was culturally assumed was marriage. People would make jokes and play matchmaker with perfectly neutral intentions, but that actually began to shape what I thought a Christian’s life should look like. I began thinking that the “peak” of Christian life was owning a home, having a Christian wife and (at least) 2 Christian kids, and a good Christian dog. Singleness seemed to be a negative statement about a person's worth or desirability, and it was clear that the highest levels of intimacy (specifically physical intimacy) were only available to me in the covenant of marriage.
Paul's words to the Corinthians about singleness seemed like a nice suggestion, but never a true replacement for what I felt marriage would bring. The video did a great job of making it clear that our worth and our capacity for intimacy is not based on another person's desire - even in a marriage relationship. Our culture tends to uphold marriage as a kind of uber-good, where we perceive that things will be better or easier, or we will be more fulfilled if we get married. This is certainly true for some people, but it is not the only path towards those things.
After that we spent some time trying to define intimacy, and show that marriage is not the only avenue towards it. Our modern concept of friendship and sharing in one another's lives is kind of stunted, and the hyper-individualism of our society makes it hard to imagine finding meaningful intimacy outside of marriage. Instead of thinking that marriage is option 1 and singleness is option 2, I simply encouraged students to pursue Jesus first.
Next week we are tackling a heavy topic in the form of porn and masturbation. I am especially passionate about making sure that our students understand the way that pornography affects the brain and the damage it causes to relationships. Beyond that, it is the primary driver behind sex trafficking and I hope to talk about all of these things as bluntly as possible without making it terribly awkward.
I would strongly encourage you to check out the mentor video if you have access to the curriculum, and the parent page for next week can be found HERE!
Praying for all of you as we continue to engage this topic!
Have a wonderful week!!
Happy March! This year is flying by!
Last night in high school we ate some pizza, discovered that the downstairs microwave won't pop popcorn, and talked about God’s design for sex and marriage!
After eating some pizza, we gathered for prayer requests and prayer. If you would like to see our prayer requests and pray with us, you can do so HERE!
After that we dove back into our Christian Sexuality series to talk about God’s design for sex and marriage!
The video for this week talked about sex as a “whole person” experience - physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is a good gift from God designed for procreation, pleasure, and to bond people within the covenant of marriage. It’s important that we make the distinction that God designed sex as a good thing, because especially within Christian culture, our students may hear a message that says “sex is bad.” When they hear that message, (from you as parents, the church in general, or even their peers) it becomes very jarring when over the course of a single wedding day that message completely reverses and sex is suddenly great!
There is also a risk in allowing students to feel like marriage is the only option for intimacy in life. I worry that our students already base a part of their self-worth on how “desirable” they perceive themselves, and view marriage as the chief end of desire. We took some time to describe the depth of “choosing love,” which is not contingent on emotional infatuation. I am more in love with Dynelle today than I ever have been, because each day we “choose” each other, and try to put the other first. This is not an easy task, because people are not always easy to love. This is a kind of love that is not often represented in Hollywood films or Disney movies. “Prince Charmings” and "happily ever afters" don't exist, but that’s not a bad thing! The kind of love that is displayed in those stories is so much cheaper than the kind that is born out of God’s design. When you invite someone to join you in the crucible of life, in your deepest highs and lows, it is far more beautiful than the cheap, untested, and circumstance-dependent kind that is often seen in the media.
This is obviously a huge topic, and we didn’t fully flesh out all the things we wanted to. Over the course of our next few conversations I’m sure that the topic of marriage will continue to crop up, especially as we talk about singleness next week.
I’ve also offered your students the opportunity to write down any questions and stick them in a Question Box. I want to offer an anonymous and low-pressure way for them to ask questions they might have about anything we're talking about. We haven’t had any questions thus far, so I will bring some examples of past questions next week to continue encouraging them to use that resource.
Speaking of next week, we will be talking about singleness and intimacy! You can find the parent guide for that HERE, and if you have access to the course material I would encourage you to watch the mentor video before next Sunday!
I’m praying for you guys, and I hope that this series has generated some great conversation at home!
Thanks for stopping by!
Last night in High school, we ate some lasagna, talked about dating, worshiped and prayed for one another, and then jumped into our lesson on shame and forgiveness!
Even though it has been a couple weeks since we began our Christian Sexuality material, we are still very much in the “foundation building” stage. Whenever we approach topics that have the potential to raise strong emotions or opinions, it is vital that we begin by establishing God and Scripture as the authorities that we are looking to. Since that was where we started a few weeks ago, but the second most important thing I want your students to hear as we approach a topic like this is that there is no place for shame or condemnation in the life of a Christian.
As we talk about God’s design for sex and marriage next week, I’m certain that students will be faced with the reality that they may not be living into that design. Certain sins (especially sexual sin) are seen as “worse” or at the very least more socially inappropriate, and this has the potential to bring a great deal of shame with them. Whenever a person sins and is overwhelmed by shame, they tend to bury that feeling inside them, and believe the lie that says “because you did a bad thing, you are a bad person - you are not worthy of forgiveness.” Conviction is meaningfully different, because it says “I did a bad thing, but I am redeemed - and those things are not fit for a person who seeks to follow Christ.”
Conviction is born of the spirit, and does not come with the baggage or lies that shame does. It enables a person to say “Jesus paid the price, and I am still a work in progress.” Shame is of the devil, and Romans 8 reaffirms that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The good news of the Gospel is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is no condition like “once we were good enough, or tried hard enough, Christ reluctantly decided we were worth saving.”
This is a truly foundational distinction and as we prepare to talk about God’s design for sex and marriage next week (and all the ways that our world has distorted it), the last thing in the world I want for our students is to feel overcome by shame and thereby misunderstand the Gospel. Jesus spent His time on earth eating and interacting with the most socially unacceptable sinners - tax collectors, prostitutes, and people that were labelled unclean. He makes his love, grace, and intentions crystal clear in Luke 5 by saying "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
If God and Scripture are the authoritative bedrock we are building on (and they are), then the cornerstone of this series must be the Gospel and a right understanding of our relationship to God. God, by the unthinkable sacrifice of Jesus, has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. This does not remove the worldly consequences of sin, but it leaves no room whatsoever for the paralyzing shame that tends to grip us when we sin.
You can find the parent page for next week at this link, and I will continue praying for you and your students as we talk about God’s design for sex and marriage!
Have a wonderful week!
Last night in high school Evan ate a pig in a blanket whilst wrapped in a blanket himself (blanket-ception?), took prayer requests and prayed for one another, and then we kicked off our series on Christian Sexuality by talking about the authority of God and Scripture!
Whenever we approach a topic like human sexuality (or any other “hot button” conversation for that matter) we have to start by affirming the authority of the Bible. If we try to have this conversation without this common foundation, it has a high chance of quickly devolving into opinions and anecdotes instead of helpful conversation.
We took some time to watch the student video, and then I spent a few minutes outlining some of my hopes for this series. I sincerely hope that this series will serve as a way for our students to hear the beautiful and biblical truth that they are God’s image-bearers, and when we fully understand that it changes everything - especially how we view sex and sexuality.
I also don't want this series to seem judgemental or critical. Statistics show that about 54% of students between the ages of 15 and 19 have had some kind of “sexual experience.” While those may not be 100% accurate for our group, the last thing I want is for a student to leave this series afraid that they are irredeemable or unforgivable. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and his plan for sex is a good one that we tend to mess up often. Next week we are going to continue laying the theological foundation for this conversation by focusing on shame and forgiveness, how conviction is different from shame, and how forgiving ourselves is often harder than believing that God has forgiven us.
At the core of this, I feel compelled to teach this material because I love your students, and I wish someone had offered this kind of grace-filled yet unwavering truth to me when I was in high school. If we keep things like porn or masturbation as “unmentionables” in our homes and churches, we can be sure that they are being mentioned elsewhere.
You can find the parent page for next week at this link, and I will be praying for you and your students as we navigate this topic together!
Have a wonderful week!
Last week in youth group the high schoolers ate lasagna, assisted in a prank, and reflected on God's calling in their lives!
After a quick bite to eat, we gathered up a wild amount of balloons, and finished up a loving prank on Pastor Eric that the middle schoolers started. If you’d like to read the backstory to that, feel free to go check out the middle school weekly debrief :) Regardless, it was a huge success.
After that we gathered to pray for one another, and dove into Matthew 10 to talk about how Jesus prepared his disciples to go out into the world. If you take a moment to read Matthew 10, you’ll find that it’s not the most hopeful or encouraging scripture in the world. Jesus' call to his disciples was not an easy one, and that same call rests on our lives.
High school is a unique time of finding purpose and meaning, and that tends to go hand in hand with seeking God’s call on our lives. As students discern where they feel God calling them, it’s important to remember that following Jesus is a journey and not a destination.
With all the cultural pressures that exist on our students, the volunteers and I took some time to share about some of the ways that we are still wrestling with God’s call ourselves. We assured them that no matter what they feel called to or gifted in, if they live their lives for the glory of God, they are following a path towards Jesus. Luke 10 records an interaction Jesus has with a teacher of the Law where we hear the simple but profound call to love God and love others (and make disciples). No matter what your students do after high school, if they do it with God at the center, and with a love for people, and try to make disciples along the way - they are on God’s path.
Next week we begin our Christian Sexuality curriculum by talking about the authority of God and Scripture! If you would like access to the entire curriculum, please email me and I will send you an invitation to view that! Otherwise, you can see the parent page HERE!
Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week!