How to prepare to hear youth champion choosing love?

Youth Worship 2017 LogoThis weekend, the Youth in grades 7-12 will lead worship at both Greenwood on Saturday evening and downtown Sunday morning. Why should you make sure that you and the kiddos attend one of these services?

Three reasons:

  • Little kids need to espy big kids in action. (Hey, I get to do that some day!)
  • The viewpoint the Youth will promote is wise: Choose Love.
  • There will not be any Cool Disciples workshops for grades 1-6 this weekend!

Do you suppose the “open door” in their logo, parodies to a degree, that old TV show Let’s Make a Deal – where contestants picked either door number 1, 2 or 3?  (The Bible story the Youth will reference does have three characters making choices about showing love.)

But choosing love is not random. And it is more than just choosing to love and care for someone else – it also involves choosing to allow God to love us!

This door opens two ways: to receive God’s love and to show love to others.

A little preparation for worship may be helpful. (And certainly a debriefing afterwards!) How about using three ways – all involving stories and song. (Something I’m sure that we’ll hear lots of in worship!)

the number one  The Parable of The Good Samaritan is depicted in artLet’s start with a review of a familiar Bible story: The Good Samaritan.

Read the story in Luke 10:25-37.

Which of the three in this parable that Jesus taught – the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan – chose a loving response to the beaten man by the side of the road?

What were the risks that each person faced? Why do you suppose the Samaritan chose love?


the number two  The cover of the book Forever Young by Bob DylanNext, how about a storybook based on a song? Forever Young by Bob Dylan (yes, THAT Bob Dylan) for ages 5 – 10, is about a young boy who is given a guitar by a street singer; his story shows how a gift to another can impact countless lives. (Ann Arbor District Library has this book. See if it is available!)

Do you suppose a simple act of giving (and loving) can still have an impact in today’s world?
Do you think it is better to give love or to receive love? Why?

the number three  And the third choice is a song by Pete Townshend: Let My Love Open the Door. The Youth have been learning this song and we’ll hear it this weekend.

Consider how these words could be God speaking to us, reaching out in love.
“I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say
Let my love open the door
It’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
There’s only one thing gonna set you free
That’s my love
That’s my love
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door.”


The Youth from FUMC at Soulfull Retreat 2017
Youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, 2017

Come experience the youth as they share their faith in music, drama, and liturgy. Members of the senior class of 2017 will share their journeys with the congregation. (Always a tear-jerker for me!)

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Photo credits:
Choose Love logo designed by Wendy Everett. Group photo of youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, by Peter DeHart, © 2017. Used by permission.
An icon of The Good Samaritan, photo by Ted, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0). Orange Numbers in the Public Domain via

What happens when jubilant children lead us in worship?

cast of the Jonah musical

We experienced a treat this past Sunday: kids leading us in worship!

Children in worship, the Cherub Choir doing the response to Psalm 8Children executed all parts of worship – ushering, conducting the Call to Worship, playing hand chimes, singing in choirs, and reading scripture. Here the Cherub Choir — representing our youngest — provided the musical reply to a responsive reading of Psalm 8.

Baptism Tucked into the service, was also a baptism of a young child. An appropriate opening to the musical that the kids put on about the story of Jonah! In a baptism, the sprinkling with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, signifies a new life and becoming a child of God. Did Jonah experience his own sort of “sprinkling” to help him see his faith journey?

Being baptized means you join in our community of faith. One of my favorite parts of a baptism is when the pastor takes the child down the center aisle amidst everyone — parents usually in tow — where the congregation repeats their promise to nurture the faith of the child being baptized. Surrounded by love!

Baptism in the center of the congregation

On to the musical portion of the service! The Children’s choirs presented “Oh Jonah!”

You know the story: Jonah is a reluctant prophet who at first chooses not to follow God’s instructions. He ended up in the belly of a big fish.

I like how the kids portrayed Jonah (dressed in red) as being “inside” the big fish — surrounded by kids who were the “whale.” That’s a group of angels in orange, hanging out near by to offer guidance to Jonah.

Jonah in a big fish watched over by angels

This is a story about choices and responsibility. When he was “spit out”…with gusto, it was a second chance!

Jonah is almost spit out   Jonah is spit out of the big fish

This time Jonah went to Nineveh and gave the people God’s message. (Look at all of those cool Ninevehites!)

Jonah goes before the King of Nineveh

How does the story turn out?

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Photo credits:
I created Oh Jonah from a claymation video by Riley Marchand, shared under a Creative Commons License on YouTube. (I altered this screen shot to make Jonah appear much smaller than the big fish.)
Rest of photos from my archives.

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What motivates you to get up every morning?

Youth Worship logo 2016Surely you’ve seen those on-line tests which reveal the Disney Character you are? (Or which Super Hero, or which Disney Princess?) These quizzes can be fun but if you are ranked as Belle, or Mulan, or Prince Charming, does that help you to know who you truly are? Does it push you to get out of bed in the morning?

What is your identity?

Identity is our sense of who we are in relationship to other people. Various elements affect our description of ourselves, including biological, cultural, psychological, and social.

Is there a spiritual side to our identity?

You bet there is!

Did you know that you were born a spiritual person?

(It’s the way God made us.)

some of our youth, 2015
    Some of our youth gather in a heart shape!
Join us this weekend as we explore this topic in Youth-led worship at FUMC. We will not be holding any Cool Disciple workshops on Saturday at Green Wood or downtown on Sunday, for grades 1st – 6th, so plan on attending this service!

How about a little pre-worship preparation? Around the family dinner table? (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) And de-brief afterwards!

Here are some potential discussion points/activities:

puzzle piecePlay a dinner table game of Twenty-Questions, focusing on identifying people.

chatting iconAsk your table guests: What words would describe who you are?

What if we describe ourselves as a violin player, but then, later on, we can no longer afford to play violin? Or what if we say that we are an athlete, but when we get older, we may no longer be able to participate in sports? How can it help to broaden our focus in thinking about who we are — to think beyond what we do, or what we look like?

chatting iconWhat words do you suppose Jesus would use to describe you? (Acknowledge the feelings expressed.)

I’m thinking that when we allow Jesus to define who we are, we get a much fuller picture!

open bibleHere is one way that is appropriate to see ourselves… Get out a Bible and read this verse from 1 John 3:1:

Open quoteSee what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are!

chatting iconHow does it feel to know that you are a “child of God” – something that you never have to worry about growing out of?

“wiseFor older kids: How can we use the notion of being a child of God to protect us from society’s push to own the next best thing or to be the biggest money-maker?

“iconHere’s a potential “Write it on the fridge” project… Write on the top of a piece of paper “What I Want To Do In My Lifetime.” Allow family members and household guests to add their ideas.

Reflections from SoulFull Retreat
On the SoulFull Retreat this spring, youth answered a different sort of question.
“Reflections from SoulFull Retreat

I’m looking forward to hearing what the youth have to tell us about their identity!

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Photo credits:
Youth photos used by permission; rest of photos from my archives. Clip art from

Give your family a gift. Will you make a new habit?

This coming Sunday, Rev. Nancy starts off a new sermon series on Stewardship. The scripture passage will be Matthew 25:14-28, which happens to be our story for our next Rotation!

Here’s a suggestion for giving your family a gift…

a couple with coffeeAttend the 9:30 service and then, leave with the kids after the children’s time.

The kids head to class and you grab some coffee.

(No, that’s not the gift.)

It’s a little known factoid that coffee is ready in time for the choir members to imbibe. (You may need to look in the kitchen. Please be sure to make a donation for your coffee during Connections time.)

Find a quiet place to sit for 40 minutes. Though space on Sunday mornings is at a premium, wander about, you’ll find a spot. Catch up on your reading. (Please keep your chatting to a hush in a space like the Social Hall where a class is being held.) Then at 11:15… (here comes the gift)…

Attend worship as a family.

Use these discussion questions to debrief the service:

  • What was your favorite part of worship? Did you have a least favorite part?
  • In the Bible story, how much did the master give to each of his servants? (Answer)
  • What did the story mean by a “talent?” (Ans: In Bible times a talent was a measure of the weight of a precious metal.)
  • What did each servant do with what the master gave him?
  • How did the master feel about each servants choice?
  • Today we use the word “talent” to mean our abilities. Go around the table and identify an ability – a talent – of the person on your left.
  • How do you suppose God feels when we use our skills to help others?
  • How do you suppose God feels if we “hide” our talents?
  • What skill or talent would you like to develop? What do you feel you need to do to start?
  • God gave us our talents. God gave us everything we have! What prayer can we say to thank God for all of our wonderful gifts.

Perhaps you’ll start a new habit every Sunday during this sermon series.

Photo credits:
An edited photo of coffee for two by Nathan Walker, who has released this photo to the Public Domain. Offered at

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Prepare to worship (Yes, WITH your kids)

This weekend, if you are not at Family Camp, join us in worship with your family. There will not be any Cool Disciples workshops for 1st – 6th grades. But don’t let this cause a panic!

How about a little preparation before worshipping as a family?… To make it more meaningful for your kids. Use this material to discuss the service before and/or after-the-fact.

Try it! Equip your kids to experience worship. Try one (or all) of these blue arrow ways!

Seasons of the church year - Lent, Ordinary Time, etc. displayed as a pie chart

a blue right arrowIntroduce the start of a new Church Season.
(But don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it!)

In the Methodist tradition we have “Church Seasons” that separate our Liturgical Year. Each season focuses upon a different aspect of our Christian experience.

I wonder what season we are in?

Did you know that we have been in the season of Eastertide—or Easter Season—covering the 50 days after Easter? Well, this Sunday is the start of the shortest Church Season! It lasts one day! It’s called Pentecost. Pentecost is celebrated by Christians as the day when God’s Spirit was given to his followers.

a blue right arrowRead the Bible story we’ll be hearing. 

Want to know more about Pentecost? Why not read about it in the Bible? Pentecost was (and still is) a Jewish festival. It so happened that the disciples of Jesus were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrived.

There are two times during our worship service on Sunday when we will hear scripture. The first time will be during the “Call to Worship.” We’ll be alternately hearing and saying a portion of Acts 2:1-4. Practice reading this as a family. Choose one person to read the non-bold words and everyone else reads the bold words… just like we’ll be doing in worship.

QuoteWhen the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Other ways to “read” this story: Use the Beginner’s Bible, or watch the first 2 minutes of this video, or watch a portion of the video series “What’s in the Bible?” shown below. (If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)

a blue right arrowThings to do in worship…

Once you are in church, ask your family to check out the bulletin to see what church season we are in.
what season is it - Pentecost

Compare that to last week’s bulletin… (Pardon my rather tattered looking bulletin from last week).
what season is it

Also ask: What do you notice that is different looking in the Sanctuary? (Hint: Look for changes in the colors used in worship – the cloths (called “paraments”) that cloak the altar or hang from the pulpit, or are worn by the clergy. (For Pentecost the color is red!)

a blue right arrowPonder the sermon topic. 

The title of the sermon to be given by Rev. Doug is “You Can’t Handle the Truth.” I’m wondering what that has to do with Pentecost? Perhaps this is where the 2nd Scripture reading comes to play. Read John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15. This deals with Jesus promising the coming of the Spirit when he is no longer present with his disciples. The disciples’ were undoubtedly confused! Do you ever question whether Jesus is with us? (it’s okay to feel this way.)

a blue right arrowListen to the hymns. (And perhaps sing them at home!)

Listen to “Surely the Presence of the Lord.” We’ll be singing the first verse of this hymn as a response to the Unison Prayer.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place;
I can feel his mighty power and his grace.
I can hear the brush of angels’ wing, I see glory on each face;
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

Practice singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We’ll sing this one when the younger kids go off to Sunday’s Cool.

a blue right arrowPractice praying.

Pray this prayer: God of Grace, you sent the promised gift of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the women, upon Mary the mother of Jesus and upon his brothers. Fill your church with power, kindle flaming hearts within us, and cause us to proclaim your mighty works in every place, that all may call on you and know life abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

See you in worship!

Photo credits:
View the pie chart of church seasons that I created.
Arrow clip art by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay, released under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

Youth Worship: Be Still & Know That I Am God

This coming weekend the youth lead worship.

Youth worship 2014
Youth Worship downtown 2014

Why should this be a do-not-miss event?

  • Young kids need mentors – mentors beyond their parents; mentors whose shoes they will one day wear. Watching the youth (kids in 7th-12th grade) allows your kids a peek at their (potential) future self.
  • We’ll hear about being calm in situations that look far from peaceful. God is always with us!
  • We encourage attendance on Saturday and Sunday by not holding any Cool Disciples workshops.

Youth Worship 2015 Logo

This year’s theme for Youth Worship is from Psalm 46:10a

Open quote mark Be still, and know that I am God.

How about a little bit of discussion before hand? And by all means afterwards too! How about at the family dinner table (or wherever your family gathers). Use these discussion points:

  • Sit still! When did you last hear that command?
  • Why should we be still?
  • What are ways we can be still? (Be calm, quiet, silent…)
  • What are situations where being still can be especially important? (Bird-watching comes to mind. What about listening for God?)
  • How do you suppose being quiet enhances our ability to hear God?
  • What are ways we can help ourselves “be still” – both our bodies and our minds? Some ideas: Going to a quiet place. “Emptying” our mind of worries. Holding a particular item from nature such as a pine cone or a rock. Breath prayer
  • Should we be thankful for conditions which require us to be still? (I know. I know. You can’t wait to be active again, but I’ll bet now you’ll be able to think of something to do while you are waiting!)

What ideas do you have for being still? Perhaps you’ll meet God.
Youth on the Soulfull Retreat
Youth on the Soulfull Retreat, 2015

Photo credits:
Photos & logo design by FUMC members, © 2015. Used by permission.

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Choosing the good road

This Lent at FUMC, as a congregation we are walking once more to the cross and to Jesus’ resurrection. Along the way we are looking at “road options” that Jesus and his disciples chose along their journey. How might these same decisions be open to us? Which road will we take? Will we recognize the best choice – the good road? Let us journey together this Lent as we “Walk The Good Road.” See you in church!

Last weekend Rev. Doug Paterson’s sermon on the “Good Road” series spoke to the quandary that the “The Good Road is Not Always Smooth.” I don’t think he mentioned David and Goliath, but he could have.

When the road is not always smooth, perhaps we are facing a giant.

Cartoon painting of 'The Scream'

Perhaps that giant, creating yawning potholes in our path, is…

  • A conflict with a person — family or friends or teachers or co-workers or bullies…
  • A situational problem — I can’t figure out math, my grandfather is dying, my dreams don’t seem to be happening…
  • Peer pressure — I’ve got to be the best soccer player. I’ve got to be in the in-crowd. I’m worried about having a bad-hair-day. I’ve got to have a bigger house/car/phone. I’ve got to be thinner/sexier/smarter…
  • Or maybe the giant you’re facing is you! You want to change but you don’t understand why you do the things you do and how to be transformed.

This last one is my current giant! My giant says to me “Carol, who are you to be speaking about faith?” “Who are you to make decisions about Sunday’s Cool?” “Who are you to be a leader in a Christian educators organization with thousands of members?”

It would be easier for me to back away from my giants, letting them win. Sometimes the road we must choose is harder than we would like.

The Good Road is ever before us. Will we recognize it when we see it?

Can I trust God’s definition of me as Imperfect, God-seeking, Confident, Child-of-God, One-who-has-work-to-do?

Thankfully God is always with me (regardless of the road I choose). But I also know that I am called to move in the direction of faith. But how? Here are some ideas:

Intentional Practices for growing faith:
  • Remembering: Where and when has God been with me in the past?
  • Provide a platform for lingering together, for the asking of questions, and for finding hope. Encourage the expression of ideas and inquisition. (Ask: What do you think about ___?) Honor with attention and thoughtfulness.
  • Spending time alone with God. Perhaps practicing a bit like this.
  • What scripture can I learn so that strengthening words roll off my tongue? (How about this Rotation’s Key Bible verse?)
  • A "shrine" of things that invoke the memory of God's goodness

  • What visual reminders will I place in my path? A cross here, scripture written on an index card there? Set up a spot in your home that is designated as a “quiet spot.” Fill this space with objects that invoke memories. Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions. (Photo on right is such a spot set up at the Nelson home around Easter time.)
  • As well as the usuals: communicating with God through prayer; learning God’s advice by reading the Bible; strengthening my relationship with God through worship; serving others. (Read more here.)

Which of these practices will you implement in your family this week?

Photo credits:
Cartoon “Scream” by Prawny. Used with permission from
“Shrine” photo from Chris Nelson. Used by permission.

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To the mother who was so embarrassed…

I’ll bet you cringed when your child sighed loudly at all the wrong times in worship this morning.

Did his twitching, I-can’t stay-still-I’m-a-kid, bother you? Were his seemingly constant, questioning whispers so distressing?

Please know: It didn’t bother me!

Really. I welcomed his presence.

I'm bored

I’ll bet you wanted to melt away at the number of sheets of pew note papers he doodled upon. Or the way he dragged at your arm and gave you those sad eyes.

No matter! I rejoiced that I shared your pew!

I saw good parenting in action.

He may not be able to tell you who was a major (or a minor!) character in the Bible story, or what sort of music was played during the service, or list the finer points of the sermon. The important thing…

He was there! He watched you worship!

He held the hymnal with you when we all sang and followed along with his finger on the words. (At least for the first few hymns).
He heard everyone pray together the Lord’s Prayer.
He saw the offering plate encircling the Sanctuary.
He was vigilant when the pastor lifted his arms to invoke the Benediction.

He was learning about worship.

So, don’t be embarrassed! And please keep bringing your child to worship. It’s your job as a loving parent. Keep up the good work!

Love, Carol

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Photo credits:
Bored child adapted from a photo by Stephanie Jones on Flickr, under a Creative Commons License.

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