Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina)

Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil
Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil

“Read your Bible.” But how?

I’ve benefitted from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefitted immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information.

Lectio Divina means “holy reading” or “divine reading.” The idea is to deliberately reflect in God’s presence on God’s words, inviting God to echo his words in us today. The most classic formulation of this ancient Benedictine practice is the four-part: lectio (read), meditatio (meditate), oratio (pray), and contemplatio (contemplate).

I’ve also seen a slightly adjusted form, which I’ve used in groups and individually.  It goes like this:

    1. Read: What does the passage say?
    2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word)
    3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying?
    4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?

Lectio works best with smaller passages–a few verses from the Psalms or Proverbs… perhaps some words of Jesus or a Pauline prayer. Colossians 3:15-17 is a good place to start, if you’re new to the practice:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In a group setting, readers (four different ones) can read the passage out loud (slowly) before each of the four movements. Individually, one could just read and re-read the passage before each of the four movements.

I’ve also found benefit in doing the fourth “respond” movement creatively: maybe I respond not just seated through prayer, but perhaps there is a response through song or drawing or movement that I can offer.

There are other approaches to Lectio; it’s certainly not meant to be formulaic. But whether I do it in 5 minutes or 30 minutes, with a group or by myself, I find that I am always impressed with how much God’s Word/words still can speak today–if I quiet myself enough to listen.

More than 125 youth workers at Open Boston

Open Boston Worship More than 125 youth workers gathered at Gordon College on Saturday, February 2 for Open Boston. An initiative of The Youth Cartel, Open Boston brought together more than 20 speakers to lead sessions on topics ranging from student leadership and youth ministry innovation, to soul care and strategic relationship building. Interactive sessions enabled mutual collaboration throughout the day, evident from the event’s Twitter hashtag. An opening and closing session of worship served as bookends to the day.

Open Boston was preceded by Open Seattle and will be followed by Open Paris. The Open events are about “celebrating fresh ideas in youth ministry.”

I spoke about developing student worship leaders. Here’s the handout (PDF) I used.

A Few Thoughts on Leading without Authority

HeifetzRon Heifetz, in his Leadership Without Easy Answers, says, “The scarcity of leadership from people in authority, however, makes it all the more critical to the adaptive successes of a polity that leadership be exercised by people without authority” (183).

In other words, even though leaders should expect good leadership from those above them, they should perhaps not wait for it such that its absence affects their own leadership adversely.

I’m fortunate to work for a boss who leads well. But any person in a position of middle management should be prepared to lead effectively regardless of what leadership they see coming from “people in authority.”

And effective leadership requires proactivity. Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about being proactive as taking “the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen” (71).

I wonder whether we might at times fear taking on responsibility beyond what is in our job description, or beyond what our supervisors have explicitly asked of us. We may worry that we’ll do the wrong thing, or try to do the right thing but in the wrong way. Worse is not doing anything at all. Our work energies can always be redirected if misapplied; a mistake can always be tweaked and corrected.

But, as Heifetz points out, leadership and authority are not the same thing. Having a position of authority does not make one a good leader, nor does leading well require a position of authority. For organizations to succeed, workers at all levels–those with authority and those without–need to be proactive in their exercise of leadership. Lacking positional authority is not an excuse to do otherwise.

I’m Speaking at Open Boston in February on Student Worship Leaders

open ymIn a couple of weeks I’ll be one of a group of speakers at a youth ministry event called Open Boston. It’s February 2 and takes place at Gordon College.

From Open’s What to Expect page:

The content of sessions is firmly focused on ideas, concepts, and best practices for developing a youth ministry for your context. Expect presentations that cover issues around working with high school students, middle school students, and every combination of adolescents in your community.

The general idea behind Open is that we believe that the best ideas in youth ministry are “out there” being tried–right now–by youth workers just like you. But most other events don’t give those voices an opportunity to share what they’re learning.

Open is exactly the opposite. We exist to celebrate innovation, discover new ministry ideas, and hopefully inspire the collective us, the tribe of youth ministry, to dream about reaching students in new ways.

The session I’m leading is called “Raising Up Shouts of Praise: Developing Student Worship Leaders.” Here’s the writeup:

Worship through song is key to a community’s sense of connection to God and each other. God deserves our praise, and God delights in the praise of his people. What role can and should your young people have in leading worship? How can you recruit youth to lead worship, and train them to do it faithfully and effectively?

In “Raising Up Shouts of Praise,” Abram Kielsmeier-Jones will share some lessons he’s learned in developing student worship leaders: from big picture methodology concerns (like how to select a team; Biblical principles in which to train them) to nuts and bolts (like how to coach worship leaders in what to say between songs, how to help them find and teach new music). Abram especially looks forward to hearing others’ lessons learned that he might take back with him to his own worship leading context.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of this, both as speaker and attendee. Click here to read more about The Youth Cartel (not an actual cartel), who is helping to organize the event. Open Seattle happened in October; Open Paris is coming up in the spring. You can go to the Open Boston site to find out more.

Free youth ministry consulting at National Youth Workers’ Convention

Check this out:

Youth Ministry Architects is the official consulting service for the 2012 National Youth Worker Conventions in Dallas.

We’d love to connect with our friends and clients who will be attending the conventions. You can sign up to meet one-on-one with one of the consultants. We’ll listen carefully and do some creative problem-solving together. We’d love to come alongside you and help you build a more sustainable ministry. This service is being provided for FREE thanks to a creative, new partnership with Youth Specialties.

Though I’m currently on a bit of a hiatus from active consulting work, I’ve served as a Staff Consultant at Youth Ministry Architects. (And I wrote this study guide for Mark DeVries’s Sustainable Youth Ministry.)

Read all about the free consulting at the convention here. If you’re going to NYWC, I’d definitely encourage taking advantage of the chance to meet and talk with some of the fine folks at YMA.

Free PDF sample of Sustainable Youth Ministry Study Guide

Youth Ministry Architects has posted a sample .pdf of Sustainable Youth Ministry: The Study Guide, which I wrote as a resource for using Mark Devries’s Sustainable Youth Ministry. I’ve posted in more detail about the study guide here. Click here (PDF) or on the image above for a sample of the study guide.

Verses of Scripture to Pray for Youth

I’m convinced that one of the best things youth ministers can do is to pray for their youth. In fact, in my 10 years of church-based youth ministry, when people asked me how they could help the youth ministry, the first answer I always gave was: please pray for our young people.

God has given youth workers influence over the teenagers in their midst, but God changes hearts and reaches people before any of us ever do.

One of the best ways I have found to do this is to pray particular Scriptures over students. With some help from the mom of one of my small group guys some time ago, here is a compilation of Bible passages that can help direct our praying for youth and their families.  To use these prayers in a public worship setting, simply substitute the youth’s name into the passage of Scripture.

Sustainable Youth Ministry: The Study Guide

Probably the best youth ministry book I’ve read is Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. I liked it so much that I created a study guide to help youth ministers and other church leaders take teams of people through the book. The ideas Mark presents on how to build a sustainable youth ministry have the potential to transform churches, ministries, and lives. As I write at the beginning of the Study Guide:

I began reading Sustainable Youth Ministry shortly after its initial release, and by the time I got to chapter 3, I realized this was too important a book to read alone. After hearing Mark stress the concept of “key stakeholders” over and over again in the book, I wanted to bring as many stakeholders with me in the journey of implementing the systems of sustainability.

So in a recent youth ministry setting, I took notes as I led a team of youth ministry volunteers through the book–summary points and key concepts from each chapter, Bible verses and prayers centered around the themes Mark presented, and discussion questions. As I prepared for these weekly volunteer meetings, I had two thoughts:

  1. This sure is time consuming!  (but worth it)
  2. I’d love it if others could get the same payoff of coming to a meeting to lead folks through this book with questions and discussion points in hand… without having to do all the prep work!

That led to the creation of Sustainable Youth Ministry: The Study Guide. Sustainable Youth Ministry really is “too important a book to read alone.”

Mark’s book can be found here. The Study Guide (a downloadable PDF) is here. My good friend and former youth ministry partner Robbie Pruitt has written a review of the study guide over at youthworker.comhere.