The “Next Generation” Is Still The Church

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I’ve been involved in church and youth group since 5th grade. I’ve been involved in a student leadership role since freshman year of high school. I write this article as an incoming college sophomore majoring in Discipleship Ministry and minoring in Children’s (and soon Youth) Ministry. I have had a fair amount of experience with and as youth in the church.

I believe in youth ministry, and I believe in this generation. I’ve seen kids and teens called to ministry, as well as experienced it. I’ve seen how a church can be changed when the youth are on fire for God. Despite all this, people are reluctant to work with youth. Youth ministry is seen as a job to have util you are “upgraded” to Pastoral Ministry. We call them the next generation, but is that really how God intended the church to be structured?

A professor in one of my first semester freshman ministry classes started the first class by putting a Bible on the front table.

“Anyone that can show me a passage where the family is split up by age for worship will get an automatic A in this class.”

Now as he continued to explain, this doesn’t mean we don’t need youth or children’s ministry. Instead, we should be thinking about why we do things the way we do. We often refer to children and teens as the “next” generation, or the future church, but when Israel was wandering through the desert did God call them “My people and their children, my future people” or were they all His people? The youth are part of the church now, where they are and as they are.

As of 2016, over half of teens that grow up in church end up leaving. This is definitely due to a lot of different things, but I firmly believe that one of them is the way that we differentiate between the generations.

To the youth reading this, you can make a difference now. So many people regret not making better choices when they were younger, or not getting serious about God until they got older. You have that chance now. Get involved in your church. Find a mentor. Read about the young people in the Bible, and the differences that they made. There’s not a certain age that you need to be to be part of the church.

To those involved in reaching out to and discipling these youth, keep going. Keep trying to get volunteers, keep trying to relate to “squad”, “lit”, and “fam”, and keep helping them get to know the amazing God that created and loves them. Don’t let your work feel unimportant, even in a world that likes to bash this generation, even with students that don’t understand the love you’re trying to give. Continue to believe in your students. Continue to help the church grow.

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5 Thoughts You Have While Packing for Youth Camp

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First, this post is sponsored by the cutest pineapple emoji pin I’ve ever seen! It’s going on my camp lanyard, and then will probably find a permanent home on one of my hats or backpack.

My week at youth camp starts on Saturday. This is my 9th year going camp, but my first year that I won’t be a camper! I’ve been helping with kid’s camp for the last 7 years, but now I’m working teen camp as well. However, whether you’re a camper or a worker, you probably have similar thoughts while packing.

1. Is this enough clothes?

Camp packing is different from any other packing, as there are so many things to dress for. Rain days, the hottest of days, water sports day, chapel services. All of these things can mean multiple outfits per day, especially when you factor in all the running around and sweating.

2. Is this too many clothes?

While it’s important to have enough clothes, no one wants to carry a heavy duffel bag to their cabin or try to squeeze everything back in at the end of camp. Balance is crucial.

3. Makeup? hahahaha never mind.

Some people manage to wear makeup at camp, but I’ve yet to understand how. Every year I try to pack most of my regular makeup routine, then realize it takes up too much space, then reduce to mascara, maybe eyeliner, and chapstick. All of which I’ll forget to wear until maybe the last chapel service.

4. Why won’t this bag close? That’s not nearly all my stuff!

Unpack, refold, pack, try again.

5. Is it time for camp yet??

If you’re like me, you pack a few days before camp starts. This means you go through all of these steps while you’re still counting down. This will mix these steps between days, Netflix, and procrastinating by writing, or reading, a blog post. (@ myself)

Good luck packing, and prepare for a great week of camp!

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College Decorating on a College Budget

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Before we get started, I want to thank Fairyshop24 for the tapestry mentioned in this list. (I sponsor them and ADORE this tapestry)

This is different from my normal type of post, but honestly dorm shopping was a really stressful thing for me, so I guess it still fits. I searched all over for the cutest decor and DIYs that fit my budget, so here we go!

1. Washi Tape

Honestly this is probably the cheapest DIY you can get. My roommate and I decorated our door practically every month, and Target almost always had wash tape and other decorations in the dollar section.

2. Amazon

Amazon is an incredible thing. As soon as you get your college email, you can sign up for Amazon Prime. This means free two day shipping for six months.

4. Multi-Use Items

The tapestry mentioned at the beginning is one of my favorite dorm items, as I can use it as a wall decoration, take it to the beach or the park, or use it as a light blanket. I also got stackable storage drawers that doubled as a bedside table, and then took many items that I already had at home. This reduced having to buy more, and also saved space.

5. Lights. Lights. Lights.

My roommate and I both dreaded the bright dorm lights. Our solution was to almost always leave them off, replacing them with twinkle lights, Christmas lights, and a few carefully placed lamps. Twinkle lights can be purchased for five dollars in the Target dollar section, and Christmas lights come at a pretty good deal in the summer. (Or just try to snag some from your parents. We had like five rolls.)

6. Canvases

Etsy. Walmart. Target. Thrift Stores. Your artsy friend. Yourself. These can add the real personality to the room. I made a few myself, but also found good ones at various stores. Try basic color matching if you’re going for a theme, but no matter what, find things that will make your room feel more “you”.

And there we go. My best tips for decorating your dorm, without blowing the money that could be spent on midnight pizza and fro-yo runs with your new friends. Comment your favorite dorm purchase or DIY so far!

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In the Midst of Confusion…

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Recently, I’ve been having doubts. I’ve been having doubts about my calling, my choices, and the direction that I’m going. In the midst of my doubt, God gave me permission to look back. We aren’t meant to be always looking back; it can prevent us from moving forward. However, I believe God gives us certain times to look back on specific things. In these situations He allows us to see how what I thought was a broken, tangled path to where I am was actually a distinct plan. (duh Ashtyn, God has a plan)

This story starts almost two years ago. It was the summer between my junior and senior year. It was my hundredth year working at kid’s camp. (actually my fourth, but you understand) I had my senior year in sight, and college plans basically ready. I was going to finish my senior year with the same people I started kindergarten with. I probably going to Lee for Psychology, but USM was a great backup. It’s so crazy how everything seems to be perfectly in place, but falls so quickly when God moves. I spent the week teaching drama, and helping with games and activities. This was my comfortable, happy place. However, the ministry team needed a volunteer to put on this crazy dinosaur costume for part of service. Of course, I was the only one small enough to fit into it. Now, all those that know me personally know that I prefer backstage. I dance in dramas at church as a form of worship, but even then I’m shaking. Acting is not at all my jam. But it happened. I loved it. After the service was done, they had staff in the alter to pray for students. As I stood praying, one of the girls from my drama group came to me. I prayed with her, and hugged her while she cried. To this day, this is distinctly what comes to mind when people ask if God has ever spoken to me. Although it wasn’t an audible voice, it was so clear that it may as well have been.

“This. This is how your future is meant to be.”

Specific moments from the past few days came to the front of my mind. I knew that I was supposed to go into Children’s Ministry.

The following year contained more changes than I could have imagined. A calling to vocational ministry led to me transferring from my safe, familiar school to a small Christian school because I both needed to learn how to be a leader and a servant. The degree in Psychology became a degree in Children’s Ministry, which became a Discipleship major with a Children’s ministry minor. Now, there may also be a possible Youth ministry minor, because sometimes even when we think we see the full picture, God sees so much more for us. The safety school? Yeah, I didn’t even apply because I needed to learn to trust God when He speaks to me.

All of these lessons were things I didn’t see immediately. In the middle of it all, I only saw confusion. I saw doubt from others, but especially from myself. I saw where I felt I was failing. I saw the aches and struggles that were actually growing pains.

I tell this story as encouragement. People often say “God works in mysterious ways” as some sort of comfort, but I find it more comforting to know that God will reveal His will to us and direct our path according to it. (Amos 3:7, Psalm 119:105, Hebrews 10:36) It looks like a messy puzzle right now, but eventually we see it fall into place piece by piece.

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Singleness…

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So this past week, my boyfriend worked with my roommate, and suitemates to surprise me by him coming home early for his spring break. He just showed up at my school when I least expected. It was honestly one of the cutest moments of my life. However, I’m not here to talk about how great he is.

The past year, I’ve seen so many friends get hurt in the mess that is high school and college dating. There is such a confusion and haze around dating, being “kinda a thing”, and when it becomes official. I’ve talked to a lot of girls struggling with guys that don’t deserve them. It’s painful to see how many girls wait around with boys that don’t value them, their time, or their emotions. Now I know guys face dating struggles of their own, but I don’t feel as suited to address that. So ladies, here we go.

 

  1. Your singleness does not define you.

When you go to a “ring by spring” school like I do, there is so much pressure to be married right out of college. (Or sometimes even sooner.) However, that isn’t the path for everyone. There is a plan for your life, and your calling doesn’t have to wait till you’re married. Your ability to have a joyful, God-directed life is not tied to your relationship status. Just because you haven’t found someone doesn’t mean someone will never come along, but don’t wait for that to make you happy. Your boyfriend/husband won’t be perfect and if you try to place your worth and happiness solely in finding and keeping him, you’ll both get hurt. Right now is the best time to discover your passions and who you are as a person.

 

  1. Know your standards.

I read a book that suggested categorizing what you want in a future spouse into two categories: negotiable and non-negotiable. Negotiable would be things like being musical, having blonde hair, or anything like that. Non-negotiable would be things like core values and beliefs, or general life callings. You don’t need to evaluate every guy that you know with this list, but if you’re considering getting serious with a guy, it’s good to know how they match up. A good basis for these standards is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” NIV

Can you put their name into theses verses? Are they patient and kind? Are they easily angered?Does he dishonor others? (A guy that is nice to the CEO, but not the janitor is not a nice guy.) Do you feel like you can trust them? Now no one is perfect, but if they are working to live this, they are heading in a good direction.

Now there are also some expectations that are irrational. If you’re expecting him to have a perfect body, constantly spoil you, and always know just what to say or do, then you’ll always be disappointed. There have been times that I’ve had to step back and apologize for letting my standards become too high, or for becoming too critical. However, if you’re looking for someone that won’t pressure you, won’t talk down to you, and will be honest with you, then you’re safe. I know sometimes it seems like those people aren’t out there, but they are.

 

  1. You DO NOT need to lower your standards.

Before I met Travis, I didn’t know what it meant to pursued. He has and continues to go out of his way to do things like open doors for me, make me laugh, buy me food (my love language ❤︎), and learning my interests and passions. In return, I try to do the same type of things for him. You can’t expect him to pursue you endlessly without you also putting effort into the relationship. Jesus called us to serve each other. If you’re both seeking selfish things from the relationship, then the relationship won’t thrive and you won’t be moving closer to God.

 

  1. Think about what you’re reflecting.

This isn’t true of every situation, but majority of the time you attract what you are presenting. You probably shouldn’t expect to meet a man that will be a Godly leader if you’re looking at a party, or flirting with guys you know aren’t good. Don’t even get me started on missionary dating… Become what you want to attract. Remember that 1 Corinthians 13 part? Now put your name in there. If you don’t feel like you’re reflecting love, then maybe you have some changing to do.

Growing up, I was told over and over to “chase after God with all you have, and the right person will be the one who can keep up.” So far, that’s proven to be unbelievably true.

 

  1. Recognize your value.

All too often I’ve been hearing girls upset about guys that don’t value them, and all too often these girls just put up with it. If you spend too long with someone who doesn’t value you, you begin to forget your worth. In college and high school, money can be tight. It’s understandable for a guy to not shower you with gifts and expensive things. However, quality time and listening cost basically nothing. Sweet notes cost basically nothing. Opening the door for you costs nothing. When you find a guy that is excited to be with you, these things will come easier. Understand that his love language is probably different from yours, and you may not immediately understand how you communicate love to each other. (For help with this, take the 5 Love Languages quiz! It’s my fave.)

 

  1. Finally, take this time to figure out who you are.

Travis and I have different interests. Some of those things overlap, but some don’t. Having your own passions should continue throughout your life, but it’s easier to figure them out now. A youth leader completely changed my perspective on dating when she said to me, “It’s important to understand who you are before you add someone else into the equation.” Dropping your entire life for someone is so unhealthy. Instead, find someone that you have some shared interests with, but who also appreciates and respects your individual passions. Sometimes in looking for your personal interests, you connect with someone!

Please feel free to comment any thoughts or experiences that you’ve had being single, dating, or in a relationship! ❤︎

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When the Mountains Aren’t Moving

Almost a year ago, I wrote my graduation speech. For those that don’t know, I transferred to a small Christian school for my senior year, and was one of the three person graduating class. Despite how small my school and my graduation was, this was still the biggest crowd I had ever spoken in front of. I would consider that speech to be a pivotal moment in my life. I chose to speak on faith, and moving mountains. I knew it was important, but I didn’t realize all that it signified.

I had grown up small, shy, and terrified of public speaking. I saw this as a mountain that stood in the way of my call to ministry. As I spoke of different mountains that had been moved in my life, I didn’t realize that one was being moved with every word I said.

As I had moved through high school and my senior year, God had been working on me. He put people and situations in my life that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Piece by piece, He built up my confidence and ability to speak. Piece by piece, He moved my mountain.

I think, all too often, we expect mountains to be moved immediately. We expect tower of Jericho crumbling, Goliath falling, mountains moving. It’s such a good thing that God isn’t limited to ways that we want Him to be. While He can move in grand ways, there’s something beautiful, gentle, and almost fatherly about Him patiently working with us. I think of watching a child learn to walk, the mother holding their hands as they find their balance, the father gently encouraging and guiding them into his arms as the baby works at their own pace to move.

Recently I’ve fallen into the trap of overthinking. I look at a problem and try to piece together how I can fix it, or exactly what I need to ask God to do. I’ve come to realize that He has the plan, not me. God will divulge His plan to me in His timing; my job is to rely on that. The song Do It Again by Elevation Worship has become my prayer.

Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall. But you have never failed me yet.”

I thought it would happen by now, but who am I to rush God?

I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains. And I believe, I’ll see you do it again. You made a way when was no way. And I believe, I’ll see you do it again.”

            This isn’t the first time He’s moved a mountain, and it won’t be the last. There will be times when we don’t feel God moving, but we have to hold tight to what we’ve seen Him do. We have to look for Him in the little things, and then we’ll see how He’s been moving in the bigger picture.

In The Silence

From my early childhood to almost middle school, I couldn’t sleep without music. I had my CD player going every night. I couldn’t stand the combination of darkness and silence, and I’d have nightmares before even being fully asleep. There was this fear of the loneliness that was equated to darkness and silence. It seems childish, right? Being afraid of the dark and afraid of the quiet is something we grow out of. What if I told you that’s probably wrong?

One of the concepts that most transformed my prayer/worship life came from a youth pastor when I was early in high school. He talked about how the church constantly has noise. He pointed out that rarely, if ever, do we have an alter call without music. We’ve been conditioned to be always hearing noise, and sometimes we are so focused on the noise (even if it’s worship music) that we stop truly focusing on God.

Recently, this concept has come back up in my life. I’m reading It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke. In the chapter I just finish, he addressed that exact situation. Our society glorifies busy. We keep our phones out or our music on to avoid “awkward silence.” Like me laying in bed as a child, we have become afraid of silence. Bethke references the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. When God speaks to Elijah, it comes as a whisper. Put Elijah into your modern shoes. When you pray, are you listening for God’s voice? Would God’s whisper be drowned out by the constant noise (physically or mentally) in your life? I think I would have to answer yes to the latter question. As I write, I have worship instrumentals playing, because the silence makes me uncomfortable. I pull my phone out as I wait for an appointment, or for class to start because the stillness makes me uncomfortable.

I learned today that the word sabbath in Hebrew means “to cease.” A true Sabbath isn’t something that really exists in our society for a number of reasons. Maybe Sundays are busy days for you. Maybe you have to work, or you have kids, or you have to study. Life is busy. I understand.

I challenge you, alongside myself, to set aside time to cease. Make time to be still and quiet in God’s presence.

Find time in your day and in your week to be alone with God. It seems almost impossible sometimes. It’s not. If I have learned anything in the past year, it’s that things don’t take our time, we give our time to them. We give our time to school, work, family, friends, or church. But are we giving time directly to God? Maybe you’ll have to take time from something else. That’s called sacrifice, and yes it hurts. It’s worth it though. Let’s take the awkward away from silences. Giving God our complete attention, taking away the noise to listen to His voice, has far greater value than we often think about. Let’s learn to find peace in the quiet.

Why Authentic Trust Is So Hard And So Worth It

     The past month or so has brought me through many ups and downs, mountains and valleys. That’s normal. That’s life. If I’m being honest though, the mountains felt very short, and there were so many low valleys. It seemed like as I kept going, I was moving slower and slower. I was weighed down. Reading felt like a check off my daily to-dos, and praying felt like a list of blessings and needs.

      On Thursday morning I went to Alternative Chapel, another check off my weekly to-do. As always, the service was “good.” However, the closing worship hit me deeper than it ever had in the recent weeks. As the words to It Is Well by Bethel Music came from my lips, it felt like a lie. My eyes were not on Him, and that didn’t feel well with my soul. As I lifted my hands in surrender and began to sing, I felt a sentence put on my heart.

      “Why are you trying to climb the mountains I said I would move?”

Now I wouldn’t say I had “turned away” from God. I hadn’t renounced my faith, or anything drastic. I didn’t have some dirty secret. I had simply fallen into a place many Christians seem to visit at one point or another. I had stopped authentically trusting God. I had begun to climb mountains that I wasn’t patient enough for Him to move. It wasn’t one specific moment. Day by day, I had just begun to think about everything I need to do more than I thought about everything He’s doing. I spent time dwelling on things I couldn’t change. I would tell God that I was laying things at His feet, then I would pick them up and keep walking. Worries, fears, to-do lists, hopes, dreams, plans. All the things I was carrying was weighing me down. None of them were incredibly sinful, but they were distracting me from the present. I was holding onto what God had told me He would handle. I was so focused on balancing what I was carrying that I wasn’t focusing on Him or on the opportunities that were right in front of me. I hope none of this sounds familiar, but it probably has at some point. Authentic trust is so hard.

I wish there was an easy fix. I wish I could tell you that laying things at God’s feet means that they are erased from your mind, that worry won’t poke at you, that there are no distractions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. However, there is hope. As a college student, laying down my fears and plans for the future seems impossible. It feels like questions about my major and my post-graduation plans are thrown at me every day. How am I supposed to survive after graduation if I’m laying my plans down at His feet? Well, the good news is that He has a great plan for my life. I have a (somewhat) of a plan too, but I regularly remind myself that my plan needs to be flexible. I have to continuously keep in mind that I have a Heavenly Father who speaks to and guides His children. My plan is being taken apart and molded into His plan. This requires us to be vulnerable to God. We’re not abandoning our dreams, because many of those dreams are given to us by Him. Instead, we’re giving Him permission to make the changes that He knows are best. These changes don’t always look normal to us, and they don’t always make sense immediately. That’s a big part of where the trust comes in. Sometimes trust isn’t expecting Him to just fix everything and perform a miracle. Sometimes it looks more like saying, “Okay God, tell me what I need to do and help me do it.” It’s His Will being done through us, piece by piece.

 

So, Life Hasn’t Begun to Screw Me Up Yet?

Those of you who are Facebook friends, or follow me on Twitter have already seen this post and my rant following it. This all took place last night, a night following weeks of me doubting my calling, struggling with hopelessness alongside my generation, and hearing of peers back home dying from suicide as well as other causes. Seeing this post being shared by an unnamed individual that I met through a church setting was basically my tipping point. I decided that I was done with allowing people to speak death and negativity over my generation. I’m tired of seeing teenagers struggling with mental health being told by miserable adults that it only get worse. It doesn’t have to. I’m tired of seeing boys struggle with porn and be told that 1. It’s normal and okay, or 2. It’s not okay, but fix yourself and don’t talk about it. Honestly, I believe that these aren’t new issues, that every generation before us has been put into this cycle too. Perhaps that’s become part of the transitioning to adulthood; accepting that it only gets worse. Maybe that’s why we’re on a societal decline.

Millennials are given such a bad reputation. Many headlines would tell you that we’re the technology obsessed, spoiled, politically correct, economy/government/society wrecking result of too many participation awards hiding in our “safe spaces”. Maybe that’s true to an extent. I don’t believe that any generation is perfect or horrible. We’re all just in different stages of life and we’ve all grown up in different worlds. I’m not growing up in the same world my grandparents did, and that’s okay.

To the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and the Generation Xs, we are your successors. (theatlantic.com) Whether you love us, or hate us, we will still exist. As you age we will become your presidents, your military, your pastors, and your doctors. All I ask is that you stand beside us. No, we don’t all listen or treat you with respect, and for that I am sorry. However, please help us learn from your generations mistakes. Let your legacy be that you continued to pour into the next generation.

When I wrote my original post, I was so angry, hurt, and bitter. Today, I was reminded that there are still adults that believe in Millennials, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful that I go to a school that believes in pouring into my generation. To all my readers, no matter your generation, in the words of One Republic, “You are the future, and the future looks good.”

(Citation: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/)

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