Good morning parents!
This past week was a doozy. I'm sure most of you have heard what we have talked about at IMPACT, so let me quickly talk about Sunday school first!
Kevin talked to us about having conversations with unbelievers and how we don't have to proselytize to be effective evangelists. Lots of conversations will happen naturally if we are loving the world like Christ, and we can be an incredible witness for Him every day. Only one more week of Organic Outreach!
This was also day 2 of In God's Image for 2019. We talked about dating and how Christ followers should assess the relationships they are having with the opposite sex. We touched on how pornography is no longer considered a primarily male problem, and how we have ways to help with that as a church. And with topics like this, there was definitely some disagreement. Here is what I proposed in a nutshell. Buckle in :) (if you don't have time to read it all, just hit the bold stuff for an idea!)
Students today live in a world that is saturated by sex. Sex sells products, it indicates desirability, and it has become more normalized than ever before. Imagine that every child born from this moment forward were to have glasses that overlayed their vision with entertainment and advertisements. By the time these babies grew up, it would be seen as normal to have these glasses, and comparatively weird if you did not. I imagine it is not all that different for our students right now, with things like social media and the advertisements that surround them. Why does this matter?
If you were to be one of those children who was given glasses at birth, you wouldn't even know that what you were seeing or experiencing was not "normal" by the standards of the previous generation. I think that I sounded a little crazy to our students this past Sunday, because I was trying to point out the not-normal nature of what they call dating.
Maybe I am naive to think that things were not this way when I was in high school, but it certainly seems that the term dating now encompasses a set of societal expectations that are pretty different from when I was in school (less than 8 years ago!) Students profess love to one another regularly, probably without any idea of how God designed love to look. Kissing seems more casual and doesn't seem as shameful to do in public. Heck, the musical the Zeeland High Players just put on decided to forego stage kissing and just have the actors kiss for real. Students who are in a dating relationship today are expected (or feel expected) to give one another a fairly high level of physical affection. This was the case for me as well, but it seems like it is more intense now. As I walk through the halls at the high schools, there are students doing things with one another that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing with my significant others, much less in public.
So I began our lesson last week by asking why we date. We date people to get to know them, to figure out what we like in future partners, and to enjoy the feeling of being desired. I threw a curveball, and asked students why we couldn't get everything that present day "dating" has to offer without the exclusivity and expectations of a dating relationship? After all, you don't need to be dating to get to know somebody, or even identify things that you are attracted to in them. And if all of those things are possible without the possibility of heartbreak and the reality of physical temptation, why would you place yourself in a commitment like that?
An exclusive relationship ends one of two ways, no matter what; either you break up, or one member dies. So as we think about that in the context of dating (even high school dating), there are some questions that naturally are raised. Questions like "Is this person someone who I can spend the rest of my life with?" and "Would I want this person raising my kids someday?"or "Does this person challenge me to be a better follower of Christ?"
At this point you may be thinking "Noah, they are just kids, chill out man." I wouldn't blame you. It's possible that even you as a parent might disagree with what I told the youth two days ago, and that is okay. Maybe my perspective and intent would be helpful. I remember the regret I had over emotional and physical steps I took toward girls that would not ultimately become my wife. I remember the conversation that I had with Dynelle after we started dating (after getting to know one another as friends ;P) where I told her that there were certain things I would not be able to do with her for the first time. I was devastated. I want to protect our students from that same devastation. Culture is getting more and more casual about sex and physical affection by the day. If my encouraging students to ask these hard questions early prevents them from falling into the mindset or trap of casual sex or physical affection, I will have succeeded.
Even rereading what I just wrote sounds harsh, but I think reality is harsh sometimes. The notion that the person you begin dating at 15 will be the same person at age 25 is ludicrous. High schoolers need to grow, and hopefully they are growing with a strong system of support and not basing any of their worth on a dating relationship.
If you've made it this far, you're a trooper. I feel a little like I just word-vomited a lot of thoughts on a page, and I could have missed something or come across as rude when I did not intend to. If there is anything you want to clarify, tell me, or just give general feedback please email me. I would love to hear what you all think of this (specifically the fathers who don't want their daughters dating until 30, I feel like we would get along.)
In God's Image is always hard to do well. How can I properly stress the importance of healthy relationships without coming off as a prude and remaining helpful? I hope at the very least it has caused some conversation at home this year. If it hasn't, ask your child what they thought. It might be interesting :)
Next week we are inviting the 8th grade students to join us for IMPACT and our end of year fiesta! After that, all incoming freshmen will be invited to all summer events that will be on the calendar later this week!
Thanks again for keeping up with what we are talking about. Ill throw my lesson plans here again so you can see the madness that is my lesson planning style, and see the heart behind it all.
This past week in High school, we continued our journey through Organic Outreach with Kevin Harney. This week we were challenged to be praying for people, as well as with them. There is incredible power in prayer that we can tap into. We are presented with opportunities to pray for and with others every day, but our own shame often gets in the way. Kevin challenged us to look for those natural opportunities to pray for others and to act on them when they present themselves.
Impact was the first week of In God's Image, and we covered what I would call the "basics." I will attach a copy of my personal lesson plans so you can see my notes and everything if you would like! We talked about how God made men and women differently, how we think and process differently, and how we work well together as a result. We talked about the covenant of marriage and how seriously God sees the joining of man and woman, and how special the creative act of sex is within the context of that relationship. We addressed how sex is supposed to be a good thing, and how the church has maybe not done the best job of talking about it openly in the past. We also touched on homosexuality and non-binary genders and how we are to respond to them as Christians. We have split into different gendered groups in the past to talk about dating, but I don't think we are going to this year.
We will instead be focusing on taking a "long view" of dating, and how to protect yourself as well as your future spouse. I may be biased, but being a lunch supervisor at the high schools has made me acutely aware of all the pressure students face to be in relationships. So much of what I see will surely be regretted later in life, and nobody seems to be talking about the lasting damage that physical intimacy can cause.
Alongside dating, we will also be addressing pornography and its affects on the brain, as well as its effects on relationships. There is no greater problem within the modern church, in my opinion. It is destroying our young people and compromising otherwise healthy marriages. Here are some statistics that might help open your eyes to the severity of the problem:
What has historically been regarded as a male-only problem is very clearly not any longer. We will be tackling this head on next week as well.
If you could be praying that God works as we have these extremely important discussions, that would be fantastic!!
As always, thank you for stopping by!
If you would like to join us in prayer this week, you can find our prayer requests HERE! Thank you!
Good morning parents!
This past week in Sunday school, we were challenged to pray with unbelievers. That may sound crazy, but Kevin was quick to show is that we have opportunities every day to invite those who don't believe into prayer with us. It struck me that someone who is willing to invite unbelievers to pray with them probably needs to be comfortable with a lot of other things first. They need to be comfortable praying with other believers. They need to be comfortable praying aloud. They need to be comfortable praying at all (and a shocking number of believers are not), and they have to believe that prayer is worth it. We live in a culture that feeds off embarrassment and makes us feel badly if we do something that might mar our outer facade. Prayer is a good thing, but public prayer tends to be something that even the most devoted Christians shy against. Our challenge this week was to become a better pray-er. Maybe that just means praying personally. Maybe that means praying aloud just by yourself, but whatever the case, it cant hurt any of us to talk to Jesus a little more this week!
During Impact we continued our BASIC series by Francis Chan, and we focused on fellowship. Something that is completely unique to the Christian experience is the idea that all those who believe are co-heirs and our adopted brothers and sisters in Christ. This is an incredible gift if we lean into it. Being able to know that a group of people see you for the value you have in Christ and not for your faults or the things that you offer them is a beautiful and foreign thing in today's world. The fellowship we have with one another here on earth is just a foretaste of the fellowship we shill share when Christ returns, but it's still a beautiful gift we should lean into.
Next week we will be starting In God's Image! We will start be recognizing that God made men and women differently before spending some time the next week breaking down what that means for dating as a Christian!
Thanks for stopping by!
Good morning friends!
Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot to report on this week :( Our Sunday School hour was a congregational meeting, and Impact was cancelled for the second week in a row due to weather.
For what it's worth, we are still planning to move into our in God's Image material on March 10-17. This year we will again be focusing on being fearfully and wonderfully made, and how we are supposed to view dating in a world that places so much emphasis on having a significant other.
Thanks for being such wonderful supporters of your children and this youth group! I appreciate all of you!
Good morning friends!
This past week in Sunday school, we continued to learn about Organic Outreach and specifically raising our "heart temperature" one degree for the lost. The idea behind Kevin's teaching was that we can all identify if we are loving the lost well. He uses a scale of one to ten to designate this, and his challenge was to find a way to raise your temperature by one degree. If you are at a 4 don't think about being a 10, just try to get to a 5. To simplify it even further, Kevin (and I) want people to think a little more about evangelism. Not tons, but just enough to where you might consider changing a patter of though or a behavior to be more loving to those who don't know the Gospel.
IMPACT was cancelled due to weather and my crippling fear of students driving home in the dark and in a whiteout! We will also be going through In God's Image in March as usual. Right now we are planning to talk openly about the differences between men and women in light of how God made us, and how that can be practically applied to dating in a high school context.
Thanks for stopping by again!
Good morning everyone!
In Sunday School this week, We talked about the "law of love." Kevin Harney challenged us to love those around us better. When we look around us at our fellow people, we should see them as precious because God sees them as precious. This is difficult in practice though, because we tend to be a tad bit judgmental. Those that look different, act different, or believe different are generally a bit harder to love. Kevin encouraged us to see others as valuable and worthy of the kind of love that God has for them. This mindset instantly makes us more likely to do evangelism, as we want people we love to know the good news!
At youth group, we listened to our good friend Francis Chan again, who challenged us to examine what we believe about the Holy Spirit. It's no secret that the RCA isn't exactly famous for its emphasis on the Spirit, but FRCZ does a pretty good job of reminding us that there is something special about having God inside of us. We challenged the students to think about what their lives would look like if they let the Spirit truly lead. We recognized that often times this is much easier said than done, but it is definitely worth it in the long run.
Next week we will continue both of these series!
Thanks as usual for checking in!! See you next week!
Good morning friends!
This past Sunday in our Organic Outreach class, we talked about "the two degree rule." The basic premise is that most churches (if they are honest) tend to direct the majority of their programming inward. What I mean by that is most churches focus their money, time and effort on those who are already believers and within the church. The two degree rule doesn't suggest forming new programming that is outreach focused, it instead encourages churches to shift the existing programming two degrees outward. If we do meals on wheels for our church members, why not elderly people in our community? If we have a class or a speaker that would benefit the community as a whole, why not invite everyone? I think the students responded pretty well to this message, and i found it to be fairly convicting myself.
IMPACT was a weird one. We only had about 12 students in attendance becuase of the super bowl and festivities surrounding it. Every year I challenge the students to imagine what it would look like if they were as interested in their faith as they are in the superbowl or the events surrounding it. Having half the group absent this year made me chuckle a bit, considering my message would have probably been most applicable for those that didn't attend! Not that I judge though, it is the superbowl after all (the worst one in the history of superbowls, but a superbowl nonetheless.) So those that were there had a good time relaxing and eating pizza!
Next week we continue with Organic Outreach and the BASICS series by Francis Chan!
Thanks for keeping up to date!
Good morning parents!
I hope all of you are safe and warm today!
This past Sunday, I invited the youth to come to the congregational update and hear about the new structure that is in place at FRCZ. We have talked at length about Winning on Purpose and the Accountable Leadership model, but this is the first time we are seeing the fruits of its implementation. If you weren't able to attend the update, I will do my best to give a short summary with a little bit of character :)
At FRCZ, Jesus is the head of our church. Everything we do as an organization and a congregation should be about moving people closer to Jesus. We do this by making disciples who make disciples. At the top of our chain of command is the Administrative consistory. They set the boundaries for what the staff can and cannot do as we go about accomplishing our mission and keep the lead pastor accountable! This frees up the lead pastor to focus his or her time on preaching and serving as the go-to guy for the staff. He or she will be the person that I can look to to understand where my ministry is and help me if necessary. The staff are now the leaders of their own teams and E teams are looking a little different. They still meet regularly, but now its not necessary for every E team to have a staff member on it. Those teams will meet as often as they see fit and have the ability to directly address the lead pastor to propose ideas.
All that to say, I think this is very good news. I think this give me and the other directors at FRCZ a new sense of responsibility and freedom within our programs and it feels great. I will be able to surround myself with members of our congregation that are passionate about youth ministry and who are comfortable being truthful with me. This will allow for some of my previously shelved ideas to come out, so look for some fun events in the near future!
During IMPACT, we again watched Francis Chan's BASIC series, and talked about the simple challenge of being a Christ follower. Often we tell ourselves that we are following Christ, but we only do so when its convenient or when we are in trouble. The current tend in America away from Christianity is alarming, but it makes sense. We have people who attend church every Sunday and live fairly moral lives, but do so for all the wrong reasons. We need to see a generation of believers who are serious about emulating Christ, reaching the least of these, and living their faith on a daily basis. I encouraged your students to think of ways that they could being to "move closer to the center" in their faith day by day. All of that can have a tendency to instill a little bit (or a lot) of guilt, so we ended with the beautiful truth of Jesus Christ crucified. All who are in Him no longer need fear condemnation.
As usual, thanks for checking in and sticking through this huge wall of text! Have a wonderful week!
Good morning friends!
This past Sunday started to feel like we were hitting a really good groove again for me. Some of our students aren't thrilled with the format of the Sunday school teaching because of the longer videos, but I really believe in the material, so we are going to try and tough it out for the moment. Speaking of Sunday school, we talked about 7 simple mind shifts that we can make in order to be more effective as a church in evangelism. Kevin (the author of Organic Outreach, and the person who we watch speak every morning) is very familiar with West MI culture, and makes some really good points about how we normally think about evangelism. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please feel free to join us next week! There is no reading or prep needed on your part!
Impact took another turn as I keep trying to find or develop curriculum that our students benefit from, but wouldn't scare away those who may not have already accepted Christ. We tried out the "Basics." series by Francis Chan this week, and I loved the simplicity of the message. The title of the video we watched was "Fear God." Francis reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and that our culture is slowly backing away from the idea of this fear being anything more than awe. He proposes that the fear we should rightfully have of God is a form of proper terror, and then we should take equally deep solace in the fact that every time we see someone encounter God (or an angel, or some other heavenly being) the first thing we hear is "Do not be afraid."
We may tend to minimize the glory of God and fail to see how "big" God truly is. The "bigger" God is to you, the more aware you become of the kind of grace we have been shown, and the greater your gratitude. The same goes for fear, I think. The more you realize how great God is, the more you realize that you should be obliterated in His presence. This naturally causes fear, but it also makes the words "do not be afraid" that much sweeter.
We have our winter weekend coming up, and that means no Impact next week! Thanks for checking in!!
Good morning friends!
This past Sunday was super full! We started a new Sunday School class with the adults called Organic Outreach. The teaching format is a little different than your students are probably used to, but after asking them how they felt, it seems like this class will be a good fit for us. The lesson this Sunday can basically be summed up by saying "Its not about you." One of the phrases that stuck with me from the video was "The truth of God's word will never change; everything else is up for grabs." It is intended to expand our view of how evangelism is done, and I think its a pretty hard thing to live into practically. As we keep encountering hard truths, I hope we can keep our hearts open to being challenged to do outreach more often and more naturally.
Impact was fun too! It was right after our parent meeting (which went super well too!) and Nancy McCleery bought us pizza! We sat and talked briefly about Elijah and some of the things that he is known for, and we hope to continue that conversation next week! After we are done talking about Elijah and his faith, we are moving to Elisha!
Thanks for checking in again! I appreciate you all and the support you give your students, as well as the support you give the youth group as a whole. See you next week!
I'm Noah. I do High School things. Expect this page to update every Tuesday morning!