On Monday, November 3, the youth got together at church to make 6 giant batches of chocolate chip cookies (don’t worry, we cleaned the kitchen)! Then we gave them away to people walking by the church, students on the Corner, and employees and patients leaving the hospital. What a great way to spend the day off from school: spreading a little bit of edible joy and love on a Monday afternoon!
On Sunday after church, the youth headed to Riverview Park for an aptly named Afternoon of Awesomeness. After sharing a picnic lunch outside on the most beautiful day God has graced us with this fall, the fun began.
There were team competitions. Boats were made from aluminum foil and tape, and raced down the Rivanna River. Impressively, one boat even remained intact! Relays were attempted, with the sole purpose of getting each team over the finish line in absurdly hilarious fashion…. How would you attempt to get a team of five people across a field, letting only 4 feet and 2 hands touch the ground?
Then there were challenges for the whole group. Do you think it’s possible to fit 10 teenagers into a circle 1.5 feet across? They didn’t either…. at first! But through lots of varying input and ideas, many failed attempts and re-attempts, the group managed to get everyone on board, and stay balanced there long enough to sing a rousing rendition of The Muffin Man. I’m not sure anyone knows why we chose this song to celebrate.
We had the chance to discuss the importance of trusting each other and trusting God, and explored some of what the Bible has to say about this (not always what you would expect)! And finally, each of us had the chance to live out that trust, falling backward off a picnic table into the waiting arms of the rest of the group. Though initially some of us were hesitant, everyone had the chance to experience the thrill of falling, and the reassurance and support of being caught by 20 or so outstretched arms.
It was fun! It was a chance to get to know each other in a different environment, and celebrate strengths and abilities in each other that we didn’t necessarily know were there. It was a chance to laugh, and then fall over, and then laugh some more. It was an opportunity for some of the younger members to let their voices be heard, and lead the group toward success. It allowed the group to affirm each member, quite literally catching her as she plummeted to the ground from atop a picnic table. It was a chance to eat two entire packages of Oreos over the course of the afternoon. It was a chance to fellowship in God’s creation on an absolutely beautiful day.
Did I mention that it was awesome?
This Sunday, October 5, the youth will gather after church to share a meal, and then head to Riverview Park for an afternoon of team-building games and challenge activities. We’ll make and race boats, see how many people we can fit in 2 square feet (let’s shoot for EVERYONE), do trust falls, and get everyone up and over an invisible wall, all while learning the significance of trusting God and trusting others. Come join us! (We’ll return to the church by 3pm).
There is also a brief youth parent’s meeting this Sunday, immediately following church, in the choir lecture suite. We’ll discuss upcoming events and sign consent forms for the year! See you there!
An Open Letter to the Youth of UBC:
Well, this is it. I’ve handed over the keys and turned in all my receipts. By chance, I came across a quote by Azar Nafisian, an Iranian writer and professor of English literature best known for her book, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – that best sums how I’m feeling right now:
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Reading Lolita in Tehran
It’s not a sad, mad, or other highly charged emotional feeling (those are the bottom of the pond) – but it is strange. I know that we’ll all continue to be friends and see each other around town, in school, or on Facebook – but it’ll be different. I would almost equate it to the same feeling I had when completing the Harry Potter series. I was big into Harry Potter and as it so happened I was, regretfully, going to be at camp when the final book came out – so I asked Ellen, ever the dutiful girlfriend, to mail it to me. She did. Between the designated camp times and late into the night I would read – page after glorious page. And suddenly… it was done. It was great, amazing, and inspiring. I laughed, I cried, and then – all too quickly – it was over. I would have to find something else to give my energy and attention to…
I remember how all of my campers were riddled with jealousy and upset that their parents wouldn’t mail them their own copy. I remember how they would ask to borrow it just to get a taste of what laid in store – it was really a great allegory for drug addictions. But secretly, behind my dropped comments about what may or may not have happened and hidden under my exclamations that it was the best book I’ve ever read – I was actually envious of them. I envied the journey – the thrill of experiencing it all again for the first time and I felt… strange.
And that’s almost exactly where I am now. Feeling accomplished but somehow lost. Knowing that my heart has expanded exponentially over the past three years with love and hope for every single one of you – knowing that through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit we have accomplished so many great things together – knowing that you will continue to do wonderful and holy things – I am still so very very envious. To watch you grow, learn, mature, engage, and outwardly demonstrate your faith will forever be one of the greatest chapters in my life – and I simply don’t have the words to express my unending gratitude.
And so here’s the part when I talk about how much you’ve grown and changed – and then say no, it’s me that’s grown/changed the most. I’ll follow it up reminding you of all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished on mission trips, your impeccable leadership, and how mature you all are in your faith. I’ll wrap it up with some standard quote from somebody’s graduation speech about making the most of the time you’re given and then knock it out of the park with a bible quote… because after all, this is church stuff we’re talking about.
But we know each other too well for all of that – don’t we…
So, there’s this:
Which is perfect because even though we’re saying goodbye for now – we’re all going the same way…
As the youth leader I often struggle with ideological practice of having everything we do relate back to a religious idea or practice. I will ask myself, “Does this further the Kingdom of God?” Most often the answer is a resounding YES! But as I strolled through the Wal-Mart aisles picking up dish soap, a few buckets, and tarp – I couldn’t help but think that the 45-foot-super-awesome-slip-and-slide might just be for our own enjoyment.
Ultimately, we could have connected our journey downhill to the concepts of hope, courage, and God’s divine protection. Like – I hope I don’t break my leg, or I will take courage and get a running start, or “Oh Mercy!” this is super fast (Jesus, take the wheeeeeeel ♫)! We could have also used it as an invitation tool to help facilitate other youth joining our group – which we tried! There were a few neighborhood children that came over to see what we doing but I think they were too overwhelmed at all of the awesomeness that was taking place and really only came over to get a closer look. A small number of my other neighbors also came outside to openly view our craziness, but most stayed indoors away from all of our giggling and screaming – I imagine they were all peeking out of their windows like Jimmy Stewart’s character L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries in the movie Rear Window, waiting for one of us to slip up (pun intended).
It wasn’t all fun games though… well… yes it was. There was pizza, water balloons, water slingshots (although they didn’t work too well), card games, some sidewalk art, and of course the biggest slip-and-slide in Charlottesville (at least for today), and after all was said and done there were only a few grass scratches and bumped knees – but as I explained to the kids, that’s how you know you had fun! And honestly, that’s really what it was all about – having fun. And you know what else? Having fun is great. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m fairly sure 9 out of 10 doctors recommend having fun on a daily basis.
Now, if only we could find some biblical basis for all the fun we had…
(insert dramatic pause)
Boom. King Solomon comes through.
Yes, according to rabbinic tradition, the book Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his old age and I quote:
Ecclesiastes 8:15: So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. (NLT)
There it is.
So much of what our youth have to look forward is not always going to be fun – being an adult is hard. You can ask one, I’m sure they’ll tell you all about it! Jobs, money, bills, work, etc. Think about the first things that adults talk about when they see each other! They are very rarely in the market for having some fun. There’s a great quote from the children’s book The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that illustrates the adult conundrum:
“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get an idea of that house at all. You have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $400,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
Now, I’m only 30 years old – but this already hits home with me and speaks to how I sometimes view the world.
Thankfully, I have a job – well, 2 jobs actually – that keep me young. I am regularly reminded of the necessity to not take things too seriously or get too upset about the adult method of doing things and I am so very thankful that in this moment, on this day – we can fly down the hill and roll over backwards with laughter. Thankful that we are able to create memories that will bring a smile to our face when we’re feeling down and when we’re working hard – because, ultimately, God does want us to work hard. I dare say he needs us to work hard – we are told that the mountain is steep and the path is narrow.
So for now, while we can, let’s have some fun.
Tonight we started a new tradition. I gave each youth permission to take one of the ceiling tiles in the youth room and personalize it with their names and a bible verse. The bible verse could be one that applies to their lives right now, one that they hope will apply in the future, or it could be a “birth verse.” A birth verse is kind of a kitschy idea but the premise involves aligning your birthday with a chapter and verse from a book in the bible. For example, my birthday is September 1st, so I was looking at the first verse of a ninth chapter (9:1). I settled on Romans 9:1 – I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit. I really identified with this one as it touches on my role as the Youth Coordinator and how I approach my relationships with all of the kids. It’s also a lot better than Nehemiah 9:1 which reads- On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.
Now, I recognize that there may be a few critics of the youth personalizing anything in the church, but I assure you this was not an unseemly undertaking. You see, over the last year and a half I have often heard Michael preach or talk about the history of our church. I have repeatedly heard the story of how the bank moved in and our congregation had to ban together to raise the money to purchase the church. I heard about the decision to stay and be UNIVERSITY Baptist Church and how the congregation felt there was a purpose and calling to be located so close to the campus (grounds). Today, I heard Michael preach on the importance of the cornerstone and it reminded me of the connection that so many in our congregation have to this building. They are invested in it (literally). They have a history here. Their children were born into this church community and have been nurtured to adulthood only to then have their own children now become a part of the congregation. The walls and pillars are richly coated with the memories of the saints that have gone before us and many in the church experience the same comfort and solace that we would expect to find in our own homes.
So, what does this have to do with the youth taking the ceiling apart….? Simply this: The youth are making their own memories. The way I see it is – there’s no great crisis or concern that will underlie or define their church experience (hopefully). They will grow up, go to college, and possibly move away to accomplish great and wonderful things. We hope that they will remember their time at UBC with fondness but in reality they may not have the same connection to this church that some our members have had in the past, or still have today! The world is getting smaller and we can no longer expect our youth to always come back and pick out a permanent pew for the rest of their lives. In fact, if we look at our current membership – we can already identify this gap forming.
By allowing our youth to personalize the ceiling tiles, we are helping them become invested in this building. They get to say, “Look. That’s me.” When they set off into the world, there will always be a piece of them that will remain here. There will always be a marker of their time, and a tangible connection to this part of their lives that will forever connect them to this place, and by extension, to the people that are here. I want the Emily Morrises, John Browns, Audrey Millers, and Thea Cheuks to all bring their own children back to that 3rd floor and show them their tiles. I want them to be able to tell their children about what they did, and who they knew, and how God was with them through all of it! I want people to visit our church and see that we have a living history – one that’s not only retold around the tables on a Wednesday night, but one that is actively happening. I want new families to come in and see that ceiling, and know that their child will get a tile, that their child will make memories here, that their child will know a faith community, and their child will forever be connected to the family and house of God!
This is their cornerstone. This is a way for them to identify and recognize that they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s special possession.
I would like to encourage everyone to visit the 3rd floor when we’re done. If you’ve ever been a member of the UBC youth, then there’s a tile for you. Even if you weren’t in the youth group – if you have found family here at UBC, or if you want to create a memory – then there’s a tile for you too. Come see what God is doing and come see how his word is speaking to the hearts and minds of our youth.
Every spring the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia sponsors about 4 different mission weekends at locations all over the state. This year, our youth attended the one located in Blacksburg, VA.
When we arrived on Friday evening we were greeted with the castle-like campus of Virginia Tech, which prompted many UVA inspired comments and discussions from the youth about what we would all be wearing tomorrow (i.e. a Cavalier shirt or something else that was specifically blue and orange instead of maroon and orange)! We made our way up the street to Blacksburg Baptist Church which sits directly across from the Tech campus in a very much the same way our own church sits in relation to the UVA campus. We stepped out of our cars and stretched before being welcomed and herded down into their fellowship hall to an outstanding dinner of burgers and hotdogs. Everyone from our group was really just excited to see that we wouldn’t be eating pizza and we quickly devoured our meals. The evening then moved into a time of worship and we gathered in the sanctuary for prayer and song. We were also excited to meet our work team members and get into our work groups for the next day.
Once our rooms at the Super 8 motel were sorted out, we all pretty much went to sleep, but since the first night in a hotel is always the roughest there were a few that ventured out early in the morning to track down a Starbucks. We traveled back to Blacksburg Baptist and heard a very moving story from Mark Snipes that provided some perspective for the day. One of the big take-aways from his sermon was that “it’s not about reaching down to help someone up to where you are, but recognizing that we are all equal in the eyes of God and it’s about meeting people where they are to be Christ to them when and where they need it.”
Our Youth were split up into 6 different groups and sent out to worksites all around the great Blacksburg and Christiansburg area. For most of the day our youth worked on the following projects:
- Wheelchair Ramp/Platform – An elderly woman had been “trapped” in her home for about 2 years and had no means to get outside her house without some serious assistance. She had paid someone else to build her a ramp about a year ago and while they delivered some materials to her yard, they never even started on the construction. Working alongside a “Hearts & Hammers” program we built a ramp from her side door down into her yard. Another group worked to dig out a reasonably sized hole so that a concrete pad could be poured that would allow another woman to easily access transportation at her home. They also did a large amount of cleaning and yard work.
- Retreat Center / Households – There is always much work to be done when any outdoor area is opened again in the spring, and our youth worked to paint and clean up a retreat center for the local community to use. There are also many people that need some assistance with painting, yard work, organizing, or general cleaning tasks around their homes and our youth were there to help them as well.
- Pregnancy Center – We sent a group to a Pregnancy counseling center where they did a lot of cleaning and organizing. They also helped in stuffing envelopes and assisting with the mailing of information and materials that will hopefully be helpful to women who are struggling with difficult decisions.
Our Saturday concluded with a very filling pasta dinner and another worship service. Once back at the hotel we all debriefed and shared our experiences from the day and then most of us went to bed…. J
Sunday morning we rolled out to our final service at Blacksburg Baptist, worshiped with their 8:30 morning service members and made our way back home. A very successful trip for all involved!
It is only through the continuing support of the members at UBC that these types of opportunities can be offered to our youth. Not only are they growing and moving along their own spiritual path but they are also positively affecting the lives of all the people they interact with along the way. Thank you for your support of the youth ministry!
There will be a brief meeting — 12:15 – 12:45 — Following the church service on January 12th. We’ll meet in the Choir Room on the 2nd floor to discuss a few things about 2014 and turn in/fill out updated Youth Activities Consent forms. The forms can be found at the bottom of the Youth’s Church Webpage if you wish to complete it ahead of time.
For our gift exchange this year I would ask that we do a Dollar Store Christmas! This means that everyone is allowed to spend $1 and should bring the greatest thing they get for a buck! Questions? Contact Phil Woodson.
We will meet at Fashion Square Mall – Red Robin Entrance. This is time for the youth to do their own holiday shopping & we will also be shopping for our snowflake kids – so youth should bring funds for personal and charity purchases! Questions? Contact Phil Woodson.