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    Youth Ministries Blog

    Pastor John's Blog

    Sunday
    Sep012019

    Under the Hood

    To the adults who live in close proximity of a teenager:

     

    Have you found yourself asking: “What were they thinking?”  If you have, you are in good company!  I, too, have asked that exact question.  We are not the first and nor will we be the last people to ask that question.  Teenagers are so astounding—sometimes they are astoundingly thoughtful and amazing—sometimes they are astounding ridiculous and infuriating. What can be the most frustrating is you never know which teenager you are looking at.  

     

    In the last 10 years, research has ramped up studies of the teenage brain.  Adults are more than curious about what is happening under the hood. The mystery of the teenage brain causes adults to ask questions like “Is my son’s brain even on?”  —as if as if there is an On/Off switch that can be toggled on one second and off only 10 minutes later.  The teenage brain is a serious mystery for so many. Even those who think they have the teenage brain figured out get surprised!  And just when you think you have hit a stride, there is a bump in the road, or maybe it feels more like a crater.  

     

    Well, guess what?  Their brains are turned “On” and it’s functioning just the way God designed it to function.  I often find myself reading articles relating to the “Mysterious Teenage Brain.”  For some reason, I think, If I can just think like a teenager—I can help them grow closer to Jesus.  There is some truth to that statement, but not as a matter of thinking like a teenager.  It is more about understanding what is happening under the hood.

     

    One of the first articles I read, that made sense, on the teenage brain explained why students make decisions that seem irresponsible to an adults.  It focused on the development of the frontal lobe and logical steps teenagers take to get to their conclusions.  The research was clear—the brain develops well into the mid- to late 20’s.  The article almost chalked up irresponsible decisions and behavior to an under-developed brain.  I was not okay with the excuse, “I did that because my brain is still developing.” Although it is true, it cannot be an excuse for irresponsible behavior and decisions.

     

    In more recent reading, I have found a new and fresh look at the way God shapes the brain.  Instead of understanding the teenage brain (by extension the teenager) as being moody, impulsive and irresponsible—as a problem to be solved, we ought to seek to view it as a wonder to behold!  I found a refreshing, new and exciting opportunity.  An opportunity to challenge my own thinking as an adult.  With these new lenses on, seeing students as a wonder to behold, God’s creativity is expanding my own view.

     

    Adults need teenagers in their lives and vis versa, teenagers need adults in their lives.  Having young people in my life challenges my “in the box” thinking so I am not trapped.  Young people help me find the excitement and joy in life God intended for us to experience. Not a life without limits, but a life willing to explore.  A life willing to take risks and not care if I fail.  More often than not, young people challenge my theology exploring the truth about God!

     

    The best part of the deal is, adults help teenagers too.  The truth of the matter is experience and wisdom go a long way.  Saying no to thrills and risks that put others in unnecessary danger is responsible—the adult brain can systematically see the difference (or at least we should).  Together, God’s design for community is for young people and adults to grow together—learning and challenging each other to explore God’s good work for all of us.  

     

    If you’re interested in learning more about the teenage brain, here are a couple good places to start.  

    1. Understanding Teenage Brains, with Mark Oestreicher (podcast)
    2. Understanding Your Teen’s Behavior, Focus on the Family (broadcast)

     

    Blessings,

    Pastor John

    Associate Pastor

    Monday
    Oct302017

    Giving Thanks

    'Tis the season to be thankful!  For us at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church, that means creating Thanksgiving boxes with San Diego Military Outreach Ministries (MOM). These boxes are complete Thanksgiving meals for lower level enlisted military personnel.  We estimate that over the past 17 years, our partnership with M.O.M. has provided well over 1975 Thanksgiving meals.

     

    Each Thanksgiving box will be delivered to a military family and includes a gift card to the local supermarket to purchase a turkey, an assortment of canned and fresh vegetables, rolls, a pie for dessert, and a hand-written Thanksgiving card wishing each family a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.

     

    All this does not magically happen.  It takes more than 100 man-hours, generous sponsors and lots of prayer.  This year we reached our goal of 175 meals sponsored in record time!  For this we are seriously giving thanks (answered prayer!).  Not only are we giving thanks for the 175 meals sponsored and those who contributed to the goal, but we are also giving thanks for all the families who will receive a box this year.  We receive comments every year from families who receive a box.  Here is what a few people have said:

    “Thank you so very much for the Thanksgiving box it a major blessing for our family.”

    Another family said:

    “Thank you for helping my family during the holidays! Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! Many blessings.” 

    This year we did something a little different, we gave a sample box to a family for some immediate feedback.  This is what they said about this year’s box:

    “This box was my favorite so far.  All items can be used at one dinner or throughout the next few months to help out with weekday dinners. Thank you for having this ministry.  I’m so thankful for Graham’s heart for the military!”

     

    Although we reached our goal in record time, there is still work to be done.  If you are interested (and why wouldn’t you be) in helping assemble each box—consider this your invitation to join the party.  On Tuesday, November 14th the fun will begin.  There are three phases that make this event a seamless success. 

    • Phase 1:  This phase begins at 5:00 p.m. in the Parish Hall.  This involves working with our middle school students to sort, organize and creatively build several magnificent architectural masterpieces!
    • Phase 2:  This phase begins at 6:15 p.m. outside of the Parish Hall.  This involves preparing food, setting out tables, plates, napkins and helping feed all our volunteers.
    • Phase 3:  This phase begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Parish Hall.  This involves working with our high school students packaging, sealing and stacking all 175 boxes!

     

    If you are interested in sponsoring a box you can do so online, or mail a check to office (attention: Thanksgiving Box).  If you are interested volunteering at one of the phases, give me a call any time (619) 435-6860 x103 or shoot me an email pastorjohn@gmpc.org

     

    We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday to continue giving thanks!

     

    Blessings,

    Pastor John

    Associate Pastor

    Saturday
    Jul012017

    Changing Gears

    Lots of people are making their way to the beach to enjoy the warm sun and cold water.  We’ve officially kicked off the summer with our first trip to Forest Home (Creekside) with our middle school students and launched our first beach day.  We can officially say, summer is here!  As everyone is changing gears from school to vacation, the youth ministry staff is in the midst of changing gears as well.  

     

    As you many have heard, Amber Cuadra is getting married in October!  YEA!  We could not be more excited for her and Micah Fischer as they enter the covenant of marriage together.  We first met Amber about two years ago and boy we were impressed.  Over the past two years Amber has been a vital part of the Youth Ministry staff.  But now it’s time for Amber to change gears to follow God’s call in her life as she and Micah start a new chapter as husband and wife. 

     

    Amber’s role as the Youth Ministries Administrative Assistant was filled with so many opportunities to work with parents and students.  Amber managed all the online forms for Forest Home Winter and Summer Camp.  She also organized our Big-5 dinner and Crosswalk snack schedule.  Amber worked very hard to make sure all communication about events and details were sent out to all our families.  In all of these, she even made time to lead a small group of high school girls through the book of Proverbs and the book of Galatians. 

     

    In life, there are lots of opportunities to change gears.  With Amber changing gears, we will be left with a small hole in our hearts.  The reason I say small hole is because Amber may be resigning from her official staff position, but she has developed such a wonderful relationship with parents and students, she will continue as a Crosswalk volunteer!  So the way we see it is, we are getting the best of both worlds—we get to keep Amber and Micah on top of bringing a new person on staff to the Youth Ministry department. 

     

    So much of changing gears requires listening to the still small voice of God.  We look for the marvelous acts of God to direct us or we expect to hear a booming voice from heaven for direction, but all too often God’s voice is a whisper (1 Kings 19:12b).  As we continue to search for a new Youth Ministries Assistant, we ask you to pray for God’s voice to clearly call the right person for the job.  And, if God’s voice is prompting you to considering joining the team click here for the official job description.  Or, if you know someone who would be interested, we would love to meet them and discern the Will of God together. 

     

    In the meantime, like Amber and Micah, we will trust God while the gears change.  We will trust God to speak and point us in the right direction—much like the prophet Elijah!  

     

    Congratulations to Micah and Amber!  May our Lord bless you and keep you.  May he make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May he lift his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

     

    Blessings,

    Pastor John

    Associate Pastor

    Friday
    Apr072017

    Tickets to Thailand

    Tickets to Thailand?  What are you talking about Pastor John?  I’m glad you asked.  In my last posted, we looked at how the world is impacted through relationships.  First, it starts with our relationship with Jesus, which impacts our relationships with each other.  Through these same relationships, you were invited to join us in the fundraising dinner extravaganza.  Club Blank and Club converge received a $100 each and were challenge to make a difference in their schools, communities and even world.  So, we’re offering you a “ticket to Thailand.”

     

    As the students work diligently to host a fundraising dinner to send the Mowad family to Thailand to serve Jesus—the Mowads said, “We would love to have you come join us!”  It would be amazing to the see the fruit of the labor.  To actually see first-hand what the Mowads were doing would be a tremendous blessing.  When the students heard the invitation, they were too excited.  And, I’m sure if you wanted to visit the Mowad family in Thailand, you would be more than welcome (let me know if you’re interested and I will connect you with Matt and Bethany Mowad).  But, if visiting Thailand is not something you’re interested in, but you would like to experience the culture, get your tickets to the Project25 dinner.  There is limited seating—so do not wait.  And, when we say “experience the culture,” that means Tessna from Swaddess Thai Restaurant in Coronado is preparing the entire meal, so you know it is going to be good. 

     

    If you already have tickets to the dinner—hold on to your seats.  The students are planning a silent auction which will included, authentic Thai cooking lessons for 6, Thai language lessons, hand crafted “Ellie-phants” (by our very own Ellie), tickets to Lamb’s Players Theatre and so much more.

     

    Blessings,

    Pastor John

    Associate Pastor

    Friday
    Mar032017

    Get It

    Working alongside of students is one of the most fulfilling aspects of ministry—especially when they just “get it.”  Over the past three years, we have seen students impact our worshiping community, our Coronado community—especially their peers—and the world.  Watching students who have a passion for Christ and the Church is one of my favorite things in the world—they just “get it.”   

     

    This year for Project25, both clubs at CMS and CHS are partnering with the Mowad family as they follow God’s call to Thailand.  The Mowad family accepted a call to work with Cadence International with the goal of equipping leaders with the Gospel and developing a stronger Christ-Centered presence in Thailand.  All this sprang up from students caring for one another, then came the vision sharing.  Through the relationships, the Mowad girls have in the youth ministry, the Club Blank and Converge students are all in.  Now there are 80 middle school students and high school students with a shared vision to see the Mowads fulfill their calling and for the Kingdom to continue growing—they just flat out “get it.”

     

    The best part of it all—it’s easy!  The Kingdom is growing because of the relationships with Jesus Christ and the relationships we have with each other.  People talk about being only 7 degrees of separation from everyone in the world—and that might actually be true.  But what I can tell you is true is God wants us to live in relationship with each other and with Jesus.  From there, the rest is easy.  Mountains will move, more people will see the blessing of following Jesus and the Mowads will be in Thailand! 

     

    It does not take courage.  It does not take a college degree.  It certainly does not take being a pastor—it takes a willing heart and “getting it!”  You’re probably wondering what “it” actually is.  Well, that’s easy too.  Jesus is calling us to be in relationship with him and with each other serving one another.  For the students that get it—I praise God every day!

     

    Thank You Lord!

     

    Blessings,

    Pastor John

    Associate Pastor