Good morning parents!
Last night the middle schoolers ate some hot dogs, Eli led us in worship, we talked about the importance of sharing our stories even when it's scary, and ended the night with some dodgeball!
After we all had some food and gathered up, Eli challenged us to worship authentically. Sometimes worship can feel like we are just reading words from a screen, but it is so much more than that. After singing “yes and amen,” Eli led us in some prayer and we hopped back into our series on spiritual habits.
This week we looked at Mark 16 and reflected on what it must have been like to be one of the 11 when Jesus appeared to them. Before he went to them personally, he appeared to Mary and she went to tell the disciples about it, but they didn’t believe her. Jesus appeared in a different form to two of the disciples, and when they went back to tell the others they didn’t believe them either!
Finally, Jesus appears to all of them while they are eating and challenges them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We talked about how that challenge still applies to us today, and how sharing our story is a powerful way to share Jesus with others.
We broke into our debrief groups, and finished off the evening by playing some dodgeball!
Next week we will round our series out by talking about worshipping with our lives!
Have a great week!
Good morning parents!
Last night we ate pizza, played some games, sang some Christmas hymns, and learned about Advent!
After some quality time playing pool and carpetball, Eli led us in some Christmas themed worship to set us up for our lesson surrounding Advent! We sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, Joy to the World, and Silent night, and our students are steadily getting a bit louder when we worship!
As we moved into our large group teaching, we spent some time talking about the origins of the advent season we celebrate. The early church would spend the 40 days leading up to the feast of epiphany in a time of fasting, prayer, and confession before celebrating Jesus' birth and baptism on January 6th! Somewhere in the middle ages this tradition was modified by protestant pastors to specifically include the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas, and the Dutch reformed church further adapted it in the 1600’s to the celebration we are used to today.
The wreath and candles that we light are beautiful reminders that we live in a world where Jesus has already come, the battle is won, and that He is coming again! The candles symbolize hope, faith, joy, and peace while the central candle represents Christ. We spent the last few minutes of our large group teaching talking about why Advent matters, and how it can be a helpful reminder in a world that is incredibly busy around Christmas time.
In our debrief groups we discussed whether or not observing seasons like advent are helpful or not, and how we can practically celebrate the joy that is offered by seasons like advent.
Next week we are having our year end Christmas party, and then we will take a break for a couple weeks and I will see you all in the new year! Thanks as always for checking in
Happy Monday friends!
Last night in youth group we ate some grilled cheese, prayed for our pets, and talked about how Fortnite and MI football aren’t long lasting sources of hope!
After some quality time playing games together we gathered for prayer and dove into the last week of our “With you” series! This week we focused on the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, and how Eli was able to give her hope in a particularly dark time. We went off the rails a bit talking about things that we are hopeful for, with things like “a dub in Fortnite” and “MI winning the rose bowl” coming up more than once. The part of the night that stood out to me most was when I asked students how they would respond if someone came up to them and said “I feel hopeless.” The first response was “invite them to play fortnite,” but I doubled down and tried to get to the core of where our hope lies.
We live in a world full of hopeless people, especially given the last few years and all the garbage that came with them. We sit across from people every Sunday morning who are struggling with feelings of hopelessness, but we rarely know what to do about that. In my experience hopeless people rarely ask for help but we should know with absolute certainty where our hope lies, and be ready to invite others into that hope if the chance arises.
One of the questions I like to ask myself as a “heart-check” is “If someone were to look at the last 24 hours of my life, would they see where my hope lies?” What differentiates a student who doesn't know Jesus from a student who does? If both go home from whatever sport or extracurricular activity they are involved in, slog through homework, and then jump on fortnite or social media to pass the time… not much. Maybe their attitude? A quick prayer before a meal? Surely there is more to following Jesus than that!
We ended our large group time by reflecting on 5 practical ways to help our friends who need hope. I encouraged the students to pay attention to their friends and look for signs of hopelessness, ask honest questions, listen well, pray for them, and finally take care of themselves in the process.
We spent some time digging into where our hope truly lies in debrief groups before heading home!
Next week we are going to take some time and reflect on advent and the hope of Jesus before having our year end party on the 18th!
Thanks as always for checking in! Have a wonderful week!
This past Sunday at youth group we were blessed by the Ritsema family with some excellent food, had some laughs, prayed for snow days, and learned how to be a good friend to those in need by looking at Elijah!
The third week of our “being with” series took us back to 1 Kings 18, where we read about Elijah and the widow. At first glance, some of our students thought that Elijah was a bit of a jerk for asking a woman for food in the midst of a drought. Especially considering that she was gathering sticks to go home and cook the last little bit of food that she had for herself and her son, Elijah’s request seemed a bit tone deaf. As we kept reading and students saw that Elijah was being used by God to provide for this woman, it started to click for them. Not only did Elijah ask for some food, he also stayed with the woman and got to know her before moving on.
After digging into the Bible I asked if any students knew someone who might be “in need.” It’s easy to take our basic needs for granted when they’re met, especially when most people around us are in the same boat. Most students couldn't think of anyone they knew who might not know where their next meal was coming from, or didn’t have a house, but admitted that those people certainly existed around them. We face an even greater challenge in West Michigan where asking for help is still stigmatized, so finding ways to help people in need when they don’t want to ask for help in the first place requires us to seek those people out.
We spent some time in debrief groups talking about how to help people while maintaining their dignity (not with those words exactly :) and how we can be thankful for the way God has provided for us.
Next week there is no youth group, because we get to meet instead! The following week we will be wrapping up our series on being a good friend to those who need hope!
Thanks for stopping by!
Last night we ate pancakes, played some board games and Mario Kart, Eli led us in worship, and Julie Amshey taught us how to be a good friend to those who are lonely!
Last week in youth group we discovered some giant bags of pancake mix in the youth snack closet, and this week we put those to good use! Unsurprisingly, chocolate chip pancakes were a hit. After some quality time laughing and playing together, Eli led us in worship, I led some prayer, and Julie continued our series on being a good friend to those who are struggling by reflecting on the story of Ruth and Naomi!
I was sick last week and steadily losing my voice, so Julie saved my life and offered to teach our large group! She took the time to tell a more modernized version of the story of Ruth and how Ruth stuck by Naomi even when she was lonely and pushing Ruth away. After a famine forced Naomi and her family to move from Bethlehem to Moab, her husband dies and her two sons get married to some Moabite women - Ruth and Orpah. Tragically, Naomi’s two sons also die and the three women are left to fend for themselves. Lonely doesn’t even being to describe how they must have felt!
Naomi decides that there is nothing left for her in Moab, and tries to send her daughters in law back to their mothers. After much weeping Orpah returns to her family, but Ruth tells Naomi that she isn't going anywhere. Naomi tries to reason with her, saying that there will be no men for her to marry! If your students came home and told you that “Ruth wouldn’t marry a cow,” this is the context. 😀
Ruth refuses to leave Naomi in her loneliness though, and says “wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay,” and the women set off to Bethlehem. To make a very long story short, Julie explained that God provided for Ruth and Naomi, even in their loneliness, and Ruth eventually met Boaz. Many generations later, a pretty important descendant of Ruth had some letters written about him. That descendant was Jesus, and one of those letters was 1 John.
She explained that in that letter, Christians are told that they have the Holy Spirit, and are never truly alone. Beyond that, we were made for community and are called to be there for each other - especially when we are lonely.
We broke out into our debrief groups, and talked about some of the practical ways we can show love to lonely people, especially at school. My group seemed to think that loneliness could be cured by laughter or distraction, so we dove a little deeper into how to actually address the root problem of loneliness. Reaching for youtube or minecraft can temporarily feel helpful, but authentic connections with other people who love Jesus are some of the best medicine for loneliness.
Next week, we are continuing this series by talking about how to be a good friend to those in need!
As always, thanks for checking in and feel free to reach out with any feedback you might have! Have a wonderful week!
Last night in Middle school we kicked off the night with some board games, hang out time, and our usual assorted snacks. I was reminded again how the shared experience of middle school is defined by Fortnite, and laughed with some of our ladies playing “what do you meme.”
Before jumping into our lesson we took prayer requests and spent some time praying for parents who were traveling and for a good week :)
The new series we are in should carry us through the end of the year, and focuses on being a good friend to those who are struggling. We kicked off by talking about strong emotions and how being a friend when someone is experiencing “big sad” (as the students put it,) is hard. I asked if anyone was willing to share about the most sadness they had ever felt and, as expected, all the answers revolved around the loss of a family member or pet.
Grief is incredibly complex, even for adults, so we talked about some of the things that helped and didn’t help those students in the midst of their grief. Sometimes people with good intentions say things that don’t really help a grieving friend like “God needed an angel!” or “Everything happens for a reason!” or “I know exactly how you feel.” Those things may come from a place of care or compassion, but they often don’t do anything to meaningfully help a person who is grieving. In order to learn how to actually help, we cracked open the book of Job.
Job had it all - he was wealthy, happy, healthy, and blessed with a large family, many animals, and a lot of land. As you probably know, it doesn't stay that way, though. Job loses his animals to thieves and death, his children to a natural disaster, and his wife tells him to “give up, curse God, and die.” In the midst of all the grief he was feeling, his friends came and in chapter 2 we read about how they cared for him.
Job’s friends worked together to comfort him, sympathized with him, showed up for him, and empathized with him. We talked about the difference between sympathy and empathy and how Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went beyond feeling bad for Job, and they entered into his sadness with him by tearing their robes and pouring dust on their heads. They proceed to sit in silence with Job for a whole week because they knew that there were no words to help their friend, and they offered simple presence instead.
While it might not be helpful or practical for us to tear our robes and pour dust on our heads in today's culture, the gift of a listening presence for our friends who are grieving certainly is. As we moved into debrief groups we made it a bit more practical and brainstormed ways that we could offer that kind of help. Something like a text or a call to let your friend know you are thinking about them and willing to listen is powerful, and remembering to be patient and have grace for people as they grieve is important.
We will continue this series next week by talking about how to help those who are struggling with loneliness! One final reminder that this upcoming Saturday is our Walk Thru the Bible event! We would love to see you there!
Thanks for checking in and have a wonderful rest of your week!
Happy halloween parents!
Last night in youth group we had some pizza, played some board games, learned a hymn, and wrapped up our series in James by talking about fighting for peace!
We began the evening by eating some Peppinos and hanging out for a bit before gathering for some worship. Eli led us through “Be thou my vision” and we found out rather quickly that it was unfamiliar to 90% of the students, so we learned a new hymn! :) After worship we paused for prayer, thanked God for His provision, and dove back into James.
We ended our series on living radically for Jesus in Chapter 4 and spent some time reflecting on what it means to be peacemakers. All of us have been in fights before (whether verbal or physical) and we know how hard it is to stop fighting once we start. We start fights for all sorts of reasons, but James boils it down to our “desires at war within us.” If we desire what we don't have, we tend to fight. If we focus solely on our needs or wants, we fight. If we are hurt, or scared, or feel out of control…we fight. James makes it clear that Christ followers should not live this way though.
We jumped back to the end of chapter 3, and took a look at the context for James’ strong language on fighting. He ends the previous chapter by calling for us to be peacemakers. When we find ourselves in fights, Jesus calls us to make peace. We spent some time in debrief groups talking about how that might look in practice, and challenged students to avoid fights with friends or siblings, and if they can't avoid them entirely, fight for peace instead of fighting to “win.”
Next week we are shifting gears a bit to a new study called “with you” that focuses on how to be a good friend to those who are grieving, lonely, in need, or need hope. That should take us right to the end of the year, and I’m excited to dive in!
Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful week
Happy Monday parents!
Last night in D-groups we ate some mac n’ cheese, spent time in prayer, talked about the value of the Sabbath, and then did our best to practice some Sabbath rest and delight!
The weather last night was amazing, so after some quality time outside playing crossnet and spikeball, we gathered to pray and have our large group time! After prayer, I opened with the question “what is Sabbath?” We finally concluded that Sabbath was a day of rest, but when I asked “what is rest?” things got a bit quiet. A brave soul eventually shouted “sleep!” and while they aren’t wrong, that's not all that rest can be! So I rephrased a bit, and asked “If you had a whole day where you could do anything, what would you do?” That got a better response, and answers like hunting, minecraft, and scrolling through instagram came up. When I asked “How do those things glorify God?” things got a bit quiet again :)
I wanted to make sure that our middle schoolers were also grasping the concept that Sabbath is more than a single day, so we transitioned into the Bible project video. This video does an incredible job of showing God’s intent for Sabbath, and the layered significance of the number 7 as it relates to Sabbath for the Israelites.
Every 7th day was Shabbat, but that's only the beginning of the story. The Sabbath is just one of 7 festivals that the Israelites practiced each year, each one anticipating and celebrating rest. Every 7 years, the people of God would let the land rest, forgive debts, and liberate slaves. Finally every 7x7 years, on the 50th year, they celebrated the year of jubilee, and restored land that had been lost, and took a whole year to look forward to the ultimate rest offered by Christ’s coming.
So we reflected on that for a while before I invited them to take the remaining half hour and delight in God, the beautiful weather, and the people that were with them.
I’m finally getting to the point where I know names and faces, and I am so hopeful for the relationships that will be built between students, their leaders, and God. As the schedule has leveled out a bit, I am heavily considering moving to a weekly youth group format for more consistency as the structure we hoped would pan out in D-groups hasn’t quite happened. I’ll try to keep you all in the loop as to when that shift to weekly youth group and more intentional discipleship offerings elsewhere actually happens.
Next week in youth group we return to James to talk about fighting for peace!
Thanks for checking in! I hope you have wonderful, restful weeks!
Good morning friends!!
Last night in youth group we defused some bombs, had even more slushies, played some dodgeball, worshipped and prayed together, and talked about taming our tongues! It was a full night!
One of my favorite party games to play with youth groups is "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes." Its a game where one person is the "bomb defuser" and a group of people nearby called "bomb experts" use a manual to tell the defuser what to do to defuse the bomb! It's a game that requires clear communication and teamwork under pressure, and that fit in really well with our lesson for the evening! If you want to see the game in action, this is a great video!
After a few successful defusals, we went upstairs for some dodgeball!
After heading back downstairs, Eli led us in some worship!
Our large group lesson focused on James 3 and taming the tongue, and we talked about how impactful our words can be. Most students could remember a time where someones words hurt them, and the brave ones admitted that they could also remember a time they used hurtful words. We talked about some of the metaphors that James uses to describe our tongue, (a horse's bit, a ship rudder, and a small spark that can start a forest fire.) Even though our tongues are small, they are immensely powerful things, and our words matter! James reminds us that the words we say are a reflection of what is in our hearts, and that the same tongue should not bless God and curse people who are made in his image.
Our debrief groups went well, and we reflected on how different life might be if people didn't use their words to hurt one another. We thought it would be a whole lot better!
Next week I will be preaching in the morning to close our "Breathe" series, so we will turn back to the Bible Project in D-Groups to talk a little more about the sabbath! You can preview our video here!
Thanks for stopping by and checking in!! Have a wonderful week!