Learning to Pray Together


At our Youth Worker Network meeting in March, we talked about praying with and for our youth. One of the topics we discussed was how we help our youth group learn to pray together – here are the suggestions…

  1. Ease prayer into your routine. At first, even one minute of silence can feel like an eternity to a fidgety 13 year old. Start slow and have your group try out quiet prayer a little bit at a time. When you first try a prayer circle, let it be brief. It’s a new skill set and young people need to learn it gradually.
  2. Let prayer be superficial if that’s where they are. I have spent my fair share of time praying with kids for the Kardashian that is having a baby or for a football game outcome. There is no reason to reject these prayers – maybe a young person is seeing how you’ll react, but the important thing is that we are willing to pray for the things that are on their mind. This won’t last forever.
  3. Teach students to hold the space even if they don’t need it. At the beginning of every prayer circle, I tell students that they might not need this right now but someone in this circle does. People of faith hold that space for each other and respect the needs of others. We can honor the time even if we don’t personally need it right now.
  4. Eventually, your most mature students will trust the space. Older students, or more mature ones, that are willing to share in the prayer time are an incredible gift to the whole group. That student can really set a tone for the rest of the group to follow and can bring depth to your group prayer.
  5. Model, model, model. I sometimes have to do some major self talk to stay present to the circle myself (when I can hear distractions happening) but I try to stay focused on the prayer so that students can see what that looks like. I hope if I am not distracted they will be less distracted. This has varying degrees of success.
  6. Be consistent and be spontaneous. Make group prayer a regular and predictable part of your routine so that your young people will come to expect it and even rely on it. And don’t be afraid to be spontaneous! Change up where you pray, who prays, if its off the cuff or read off a page. Hold hands or don’t, sing a song or don’t, have silence or don’t. Try new things, see what captures your groups attention.

What rituals or traditions does your group have around prayer? What has worked for you?


Policy for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults


If you are keeping track of the news around Michigan lately, you know that we are in the midst of a heartbreaking abuse trial surrounding the actions of Larry Nassar, a sports doctor connected to Michigan State, United States Gymnastics Association, the Olympic gymnastics program and Twistars gym in Dimondale, Michigan. The stories are sad and troubling and the courage of these young women is inspiring.

I have found myself drawn to the story, for a number of reasons. First, I have a son who is in his first year as a competitive gymnast so I spend a fair amount of time at his gym and am learning a lot about this sport. Second, I have spent a lot of time around teenagers over the last 15 years and care deeply about their physical and emotional safety. And third, as Michigan United Methodists we are getting closer to being able to offer our new training for our newly merged Policy for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults. Trainers are being trained and in 2018, it is the goal of the conference to get all adults working with children and youth and vulnerable adults authorized to serve in compliance with our new policy.

If you have been certified before in either conference, the policy will look pretty familiar. We are updating some language (authorized, instead of certified, for example) and using the policies previously adopted by the West Michigan Conference and the Detroit Annual Conference to craft the Michigan Conference policy.

Many of you have contacted me about getting a training set up for your volunteers and I hope to be able to get trainings in every District before too long. Currently I am waiting for a list of the available trainers. Once I have that, we will get started getting these set up and publicized. Thank you for your patience!

As you know, our policies are in place to protect both young and vulnerable people and the adults that work with them. The policy also guides our actions if someone should report abuse, so that appropriate follow up and reporting can take place to ensure incidents are taken seriously and not allowed to become patterns. Let us learn from the current headlines to put our children youth and vulnerable adults safety above all else.

Thank you for all you do to provide safe, fun and meaningful experiences for young people!

Nominate a Student for THRIVE 2018

Thrive logo final-2It’s that time of year again! As soon as we start a new year we start figuring out the summer calendar!

Nominate a student or two from your youth group to attend THRIVE Youth Leadership Academy in July at Lake Louise! This is an experience for high school youth that are ready for the next step in leadership and discipleship.

This will be our fourth year, so we are starting to get this figured out 🙂 Students spend time in classes on leadership topics as well as Bible Study, do projects, have time for self reflection, and also go to the beach and kayaking. The group is 12-18 students and the friendships formed are rooted in United Methodist fellowship and values.

I hope you will consider sending a student from your congregation to join us!


Nominate a student by using this form

Churches are asked to cover, or help cover, the students coast of $260

THRIVE starts late afternoon Sunday July 15 and ends in the morning on Thursday July 19

Ideally students would be completing 9th, 10th or 11th grade but incoming freshmen or graduated seniors are welcome.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Youth Worker Network 3.0


Registration is open! Youth Worker Network 3.0 will meet January – June and September and October in 2018. We meet on the second Tuesday of the month from 10 am to 2 pm. People from 2016 and 2017 are welcome to return, although some content will be repeated. The meeting location will be determined by who signs up – I will attempt to find a central, or rotating location.

Registration is $300 per church and you can bring as many people as you like on that one registration. Be in touch with me about numbers so I have enough lunch!

Here is the registration link 

I hope you will consider joining us!!

Connection 17


Thank you to all the adult leaders that brought youth to Connection 17 in Mt Pleasant last weekend! We had about 170 youth and adults gathered for worship, teen talks, workshops and a concert, as well as great food and fellowship! We had a great time.

We were grateful that Bishop Bard was able to come and join us for lunch as well as a group photo.


Managing Anxiety

In our Youth Worker Network session for September, we talked about anxiety. As adults hello-my-name-is-anxiety-1we deal with varying degrees of anxiety all the time. As Youth Workers, we see young people dealing with anxiety too. It’s a good thing to wrap our heads around.

We looked at a chapter in Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection”. In each chapter of this book, Brene Brown looks at something we need to cultivate and something we need to let go. In this chapter, she focuses on cultivating calm and stillness and letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle. I recommend the entire book o anyone that is looking to grow in their self awareness and balance in life. This chapter, in particular, encourages us to be aware of what lessens our anxieties.

What are the routines, people, structure or places that ease your anxiety? Meaning, what are the things you can do in your life to be best prepared for stressors that come your way? We talked in our group about what we can do to be ready for what comes our way.  Some people talked about morning routines – making the bed, clearing the counters before work, walking or running. Some people use a mediation app to slow their breathing down and find some calm. Brent Brown calls these our “foundations of calm” and they are different for everyone. Knowing what will help us mange the unpredictable anxiety of our day is key to staying less anxious.

Our anxiety levels cannot help but play into the tone we set in youth group. How are we bringing calm to that space? Many of our youth are stressed out or dealing with anxiety when they come into the room for youth group – how is our space and our program helping them manage that? It starts with leaders who are anxiety aware – we can create safe and calm space for our young people. This does not mean boring 🙂 We can still play crazy games and have a lot of fun. This is about the tone we set because of the balance we have created in our own life.

Feel free to share your thoughts!