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To  be honest, I’ve kind of shyed away from trying to convert people.  I guess I was burned out from years of evangelistic ministry, coupled with the realization that God saves people, not me.  And the organization I work with isn’t in your face preachy, which I appreciate, but the downside is that sometimes the “personal relationship with Jesus” thing gets pushed to the back of my mind.  I think about how the kids I work with need love, education and justice, but….Jesus?  Yeah, I guess they need him, too.

But, yesterday, as I was counseling a kid I found myself frustrated because I didn’t know how to help him.  He wasn’t having family problems, things were fine at school.  He was just kind of being a jerk and doing and saying inappropriate things.  When I got home I realized  that this kid needs Jesus.  He’s not being abused or neglected, but he needs a heart change.  Only having a relationship with Jesus will transform him to not want to make dirty jokes or be mean to people.  He needs a new way of thinking. I can mentor him and encourage, we can educate him, but the thing that will transform him is Jesus.

So, I guess I’m praying for salvation for this kid. Not because of fear of hell fire and brim stone, but because he needs to be transformed.

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I’m not a paranoid right winger, but I have to admit I haven’t heard a lot about “Christmas” this holiday season. I recently went to a teacher supply store to look for bulletin board decorations that said “Merry Christmas.” And you know what? I couldn’t find any! I thought that was kind of weird.

I definitely want the kids I work with to know that Jesus is the reason for the season. We started laying a foundation for Christmas back in October, as each week in Bible class we’ve been learning about Jesus – how he came to earth, what his life was like, etc. And we’re also doing the following activties:

1. Advent Calendar

Explaining to the kids every day what we’re waiting for, excepting, hoping for, celebrating – the arrival of Jesus on December 25th. (Yes, he’s arrived already, but you know what I mean.) I bought a Advent Calendar house at a thrift store and in each little door is a scripture and thought about Jesus and a surprise (piece of candy, money, balloon). The kids love it and remind me about it when I forget. 🙂 This is a simple, easy way to remind the kids every day that Jesus is the reason for Christmas.

2. Telling the Christmas Story Interactively

Our interns got a bunch of props together and told the Nativity scene while the kids acted it out. Afterward, they asked questions and clarified points. The 3rd and 4th graders seemed to really *get* it, too. It was a special time.

3. Writing about the Christmas Story

We found booklets on the internet with pictures of the Nativity scene that they can color and also write about what happened. It’s a good reminder, but also using literacy skills! And they can take it home and re-read it later.

4. Christmas Crafts – Building a Manger

I previously linked to a website where you can find a bunch of different ways to make a Nativity scene. It’s fun and Biblical!

It might seem like we’re overdosing on the Biblical narrative of Christmas, but I don’t think it’s possible. If you use a variety of ways to communicate the message, the kids won’t be bored.

At our Christmas party we’re still having a surprise visit from Santa Claus (even though I don’t think most of the kids believe in him anymore) because I think it’s important to keep imagination alive. It’s an important part of childhood! But, I want the kids to have a foundation and ingrain in them the reason Christmas started in the first place, you know?

If you have any ideas how to remind kids that Jesus is the reason for the season, leave a comment!

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I was searching the internet for ideas on how to make a Nativity scene for our afterschool program art class and came across a great website called Artists Helping Children. It has about a dozen different options of how to make a Nativity scene using different forms of art media. I wish I had discovered this website first – I would’ve saved a lot of time!

The finished result :

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We taught a lesson last week on how Jesus is the most important thing. Apparently H. was listening because at school the next day, on a Thanksgiving turkey art project, he wrote, on his own accord, “Jesus is the boss.”

Jesus is the boss.

It makes me happy to know the kids a) listen to what we tell them and b) think about it when they’re away from us. H. came up with the phrase “Jesus is the boss” entirely on his own.

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Last week I attended the Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry hosted by the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Seminary. It was in Hendersonville, North Carolina at a beautiful camp ground called Kanuga. I went for a two day retreat and then for an additional four day conference.  It was nice to get a break from city life and be surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  North Carolina in the Fall is one of my favorite places to be.   It was also great to be challenged theologically with speakers like Kenda Creasy Dean, Rodger Nishioka, Mark DeVries and others.

About 70% of the conference was applied to church ministry, but I still learned a lot. I met amazing youth directors from around the country and was encouraged by their service and dedication to young people. It was a good week.

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

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Values

Ouch!

Via ASBO Jesus

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