Why Higher Things exists…

…and
doesn’t do youth ministry like everyone else.  When we worship, we
worship.  When we work, we work.  And when we play, we play. 
Youth are perfectly capable of learning (and appreciating) what we believe as
Lutherans.  Youth can go to any old church out there and learn how to be
moral and just say no to peer pressure, and maybe there will be some cheesy
games and a rockin’ praise band to give you a meaningful worship
experience.  Higher Things encourages pastors, parents, youth leaders and
congregations to give youth some meat to chew on. 

We teach you why we
believe what we believe, and take an in-depth look at all of it.  We show
you, at conferences and retreats, that there’s a reason we worship with the
liturgy and hymnals like we do (you’d never mistake the beautiful pieces played
by the organ for funeral dirges either) – and get to see that you’re not the
only ones doing it.

That’s what’s going to keep you in the faith unto life everlasting. 
That’s where you find Jesus delivering His gifts of forgiveness, life, and
salvation for you TO you each Sunday.  Hearing the Word, having the Gospel
put into your ears, receiving His Body and Blood in the Supper…that’s where
youth need to be.  Youth don’t need separate, fun, entertaining worship and
ministry experiences that end when you become an adult.  Here’s the dirty
little secret that Pr. Bloghardt shared with me long ago: There’s no such thing
as youth ministry.  True youth ministry is Word and Sacrament ministry…to
youth.

 

Study: U.S. Christian teens tend to lose faith

DALLAS, September 22 (UPI) Six out of 10 U.S. teens involved in a church
will probably not continue their spiritual commitment into early adulthood, a
study has found.
    
The Barna Group, in a study conducted from 2001 to 2006, shows that despite
previously high levels of spiritual activity, many people in their 20s lose
interest in religious activities and often carry that apathy into middle age,
Associated Baptist Press reported Friday.
    
But the survey also found that 20 percent of people in their 20s maintain the
same spiritual activities like attending church, studying the Bible,
donating money and using Christian media they did in high school.
    
Nineteen percent of teens who did not participate in those activities remained
disconnected from the Christian faith in adulthood.
    
David Kinnaman, the research director, said some experts question whether the
disengagement is just a phase typical of that age or whether it is unique to the
current generation. Both explanations have some merit, he said, but ultimately
that debate misses the point.
    
"[The point] is that the current state of ministry to 20-somethings is
woefully inadequate to address the spiritual needs of millions of young
adults," he said.
    
On the other hand, ministry to teens is thriving.
    
According to the report, half of the nation’s 24 million teens attend some sort
of church-related activity each week. More than 75 percent discuss faith with
friends, and three out of five attend at least one youth group meeting at a
church during a three-month period.
    
All told, more than 80 percent of teens attend church for at least two months
during high school.
    
Kinnaman said teens are generally so receptive to matters of faith because of a
certain willingness to explore their character, try new things and establish an
identity.
    
"There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the
levels of disengagement among 20-somethings suggests that youth ministry fails
too often at discipleship and faith formation," he said.
    
As for those in their 20s, the transition from church kid to indifferent adult
happens most often during college. And for most adults, the disengagement is not
temporary.
    
According to the Barna report, even people in their 30s are less likely than
older adults to be active in religion. Just two fifths of parents in their 30s
regularly take their children to church, compared to half of parents who are
older than 40. One out of every three parents in their 20s does the same.
    
The Barna report isn’t all about a religious slip, though. When it comes to
identifying with a religion, 78 percent of 20-somethings maintain allegiance to
Christianity, compared with 83 percent of teens. Most young adults describe
themselves as "deeply spiritual" as well, the study found.
    
In agreement with several other recent religion studies, however, the Barna
study found that young adults feel little allegiance to a certain congregation
or denomination. Almost 70 percent of them think if they cannot find a local
church to "help them become more like Christ, then they will find people
and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church."
     People in their 20s were also as likely as older
Americans to attend "events not sponsored by a local church, to participate
in a spiritually oriented small group at work, to have a conversation with
someone else who holds them accountable for living faith principles, and to
attend a house church not associated with a conventional church."
     The solution to the dichotomy, Kinnaman said, is not
necessarily a youth ministry overhaul but a move toward developing sustainable
faith in young people.
    
Youth ministries should be judged not by the number of attendees or the
sophistication of events, he said. Instead, churches should focus on helping
teens learn "commitment, passion and resources to pursue Christ
intentionally and whole-heartedly after they leave the youth ministry
nest."
    
"Our team is conducting more research into what leads to a sustainable
faith, but we have already observed some key enhancements that youth workers may
consider," he said. "One of those is to be more personalized in
ministry. Every teen has different needs, questions and doubts, so helping them
to wrestle through those specific issues and to understand God’s unique purpose
for their lives is significant."
    
Another idea, he added, is to instill in teenagers a "biblical
viewpoint." That way, they’ll process life and its inevitable conflicts
through a godly worldview.
    
"This is not so much about having the right head knowledge as it is about
helping teens respond to situations and decisions in light of God’s principles
for life," he said.
    
Located in Ventura, Calif., the Barna Group collected data from interviews with
22,103 adults and 2,124 teenagers nationwide. Researchers used online and
telephone surveys within the continental 48 states.

Link
to the article online

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"Take up your cross…"

I
don’t think this is what Jesus meant.

There’s something just a little…off…about a woman who won’t give concerts
on Friday nights (because that’s the Jewish sabbath, doncha know), donning crown
of glitter and "crucifying" herself on a disco-ball cross.

No stranger to self-created controversy, particularly with regard to
Christian beliefs and imagery, it’s just getting old. 

Just like Madonna.

Super Human Powers!

I’m
a single mom, and I basically work two jobs.  One that pays my bills, and
another that gives me gray hair — both of which I LOVE.  I like being busy
and take on extra work when I see something needs doing and insist on the
highest possible standards of the work I do.  And I will wake the Chocolate
Tornado to make a late-night Walmart trip if (Oh, the horror!) I run out
of Diet Coke.

The only person I know who works as hard, if not harder, than me is Pr. Bloghardt.  He’s known by some to say that he thinks God sometimes stops
the sun in its tracks to give him enough time in the day to do all that he has
to do.  Supposedly, he doesn’t just get one can of Diet Coke, when he goes
to the fridge, he gets two so he can drink one on the way back to his chair.

Next year, at the FOR YOU
conferences, we have special Lackeys who have a very important job.  Keep
us supplied with cold Diet Cokes.

Then there’s my pastor.  When I arrived here at Mt. Olive, my pastor
drank pot upon pot of coffee.  He’d kinda coast his way through days,
wander in and out of the office when the mood hit him.  There was stuff
going on at church, but not a whole lot.  Now, all of a sudden this weekend
we’re initiating a new Sunday schedule, field-testing the LSB hymnal,
kicking-off Sunday School with a new opening (that he will lead in the
Fellowship Hall with all the families present).  He’s teaching adult Sunday
School, Lutheran Beliefs class on Sunday evenings, confirmation, and he has all
sorts of wild and crazy ideas about what to do next.  And as of yesterday,
he’s even filling in at the last minute and writing some Reflections for Higher
Things.

I came to Colorado when it was Lent, a very dark season in Madre’s world
because I had given up Diet Coke in order to more deeply ponder the sufferings
of Christ for my sins.  Oh, did I ponder!  Iced tea just is NOT the
same.  And then on Easter morning, I could rejoice again in the wonderful
gift from my loving Heavenly Father of Diet Coke (oh yeah…and eternal life
too, thanks Jesus!).  By the time I arrived at church for Easter breakfast,
I was on my second (or was it third) can.  Pastor made fun of me.  My
love for Diet Coke became the source of many a joke around church.

Today, I went into the kitchen at church to nuke my lunch and get a fresh
dose of cold, bubbly goodness in a can and noticed there wasn’t even a pot of
coffee on.  There also was no Diet Coke.  This strange phenomenon has
been happening with increasing frequency the last few weeks.  As I walked back to my office, I noticed a freshly opened can of Diet Coke on someone else’s desk. I was forced
to eat my lunch with full strength Berry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.  My teeth are
still uncurling from the sweetness.

Bloghardt commented to me this evening, after receiving an email about the Reflections,
that my pastor is wonderfully nuts to be doing all that he’s doing.  I
agreed, but what could either of us say, so are we.  What could be behind
it?

"I
think Diet Coke gives you superhuman powers."

"YOU’RE insane!" he laughed. 

But I betcha a Diet Coke, that deep down he knows I’m right.

What’s my name?

ROCK STAR NAME: 
(first
pet and current street name)

Tina Carina

MOVIE STAR NAME:
(grandfather/grandmother on your dad’s side,
your favorite candy)

Theodosia Heath

"FLY GIRL/GUY" NAME:
(first
initial of first name, first two or three letters of your middle name)

S Jud

DETECTIVE NAME:
(favorite
color, favorite animal)

Olive Owl

SOAP OPERA NAME:
(middle
name, city where you were born)

Judith Alexandria

STAR WARS NAME:
(the
first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 2
letters of mom’s maiden name and first 3 letters of the town you grew up in.)

Ostsarunew

SUPERHERO NAME:
("The",
your favorite color, favorite drink)

The Green Diet Coke?

NASCAR NAME:
(the
first name of both your grandfathers.)

Gerry Dale

FUTURISTIC NAME:
(the name of your
favorite perfume/cologne and the name of your favorite shoes.)

Grace Sarto

WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:
(mother/father’s
middle name and the next name you hear on the tv/radio/talk)

Louise Shalamar