The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Monday, January 29, 2007

Warmth in Winter 2007

This past weekend, I was with 10 of the high school students from the youth group at the Tennessee Conference's Warmth in Winter event. It was a really interesting weekend for me because it was my first large conference event as well as my first retreat with these high schoolers. For us, it was a good time, even though we commuted to the event from our church, whereas in the past, they had stayed downtown at a ridiculously swank hotel.

Here are some things I have learned:
1. I can't turn off my critical meter. I am now about 18 months away from having helped plan, lead and been in ministry through large events but I still look at things and go "I wouldn't have done that" or "I would do that differently" etc.
2. The students God has placed in my care are a little spiritually gun shy. What I mean is that when we would reach a particularly meaningful spiritual moment, their initial instinct is to run, flee or shut down. I am praying hard that they would realize that fear and fleeing is keeping them from deeply understanding the love of God. And I still love them and see God working in them...
3. I miss having close relationships with students. I am only 7 months in here and I came in a time of immense challenge for us as a church. It has hindered me in regards to building relationships with students. (I will freely admit that this is a bit of a cop-out.) But it was good to get to know them more and deeper and I am praying God will bring some fruit out of it.
4. Warmth in Winter has a legacy. It has been going on for 26 years and it shows. There were some fantastic things that I really loved and the chances that the event planners took. And there were things that felt like they were just holding on to because "we've always done it that way." On the whole it was a good event and I thought the speaker was very good for the most part.
5. It was the right call for us to keep our junior highers at home. I just think the large and the big would have so overwhelmed them that they would have lost the spiritual significance. Our own junior high retreat is a much better option for us.

Well, I am already back at it. A friend of some of my students died in an accident over the weekend. So please be in prayer for us and for the family of Alex.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Living in Big Orange Country...

Okay, so I do indeed very much dislike the Tennessee Volunteer fans here in the great north of Nashville. It is just wrong to go to Cracker Barrel and see rocking chairs that are in that heinous orange color. However, I do have to say it was kind of cool to see that the UT head men's basketball coach got together with some of his players and went to a UT women's game. Shirtless.

That's right, Bruce Pearl, a grown man went shirtless and painted orange. And I got to say, I admire that. Here is why: it means that he is a real guy, capable of goofiness, fun, excitement and doesn't take himself too seriously. If I was an 18 year old kid trying to decide who I would want to play for, this guy may be the one. You can read about it and see a picture (if you are into that sorta thing) here.

And speaking of SEC basketball, did anyone else see the end of the UGA-Alabama game? Holy cow, that was some horrendous officiating. A shot clock violation that wasn't, a jump ball that wasn't called and the final basket involved one player having 3 different pivot foots without dribbling. (We generally call that traveling...) Regardless, I do love Georgia's coach and team and grit. They make me proud to be a Bulldog.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movie Review: Children of Men

Ever since I saw a trailer for Children of Men I have been waiting to see Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film. (His previous work includes films like Y tu mamá también and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.) And I must say, it has been well worth the wait…

The basic premise of Children of Men is that the world has plunged into chaos, with Britain being the only place where some form of civilization and government has survived, though they are waging a war against illegal immigration. In the midst of this (and perhaps the cause of it) the human race has gone infertile. There have been no new children born for over 18 years. And in the midst of that, Theodore Falon, who is played by an amazing Clive Owens, is suddenly finding himself in a situation with what may be the first human birth in two decades. I don’t want to say too much else, as I don’t want to ruin the plot but the movie is amazing on several levels.

First, the movie does a healthy balance of giving details but not too many on how the world is and has descended into chaos. Some reviews of the film I read complained of wanting some more back story on how the world got to its state. I simply think that such a desire is too overreaching. What matters is that Cuarón through his lens makes us believe that such a descent has really happened. Imagine if suddenly we knew the human race would die out in 100 years, at best. Lots of things would stop happening- things like environmental concerns, cleaning up after yourself, etc. The world portrayed in this film is frightening because it is so realistic in regards to human nature. Simply put I found myself watching the film and realizing the far reaching implications of the state of humanity through the images that are shown. That move in storytelling has to be a remarkably difficult one to make work but it is done flawlessly. So while we may all want a clearer and stronger idea of what got the world to this place, I think the focus on showing what the world really is like was the right and most excellent focus.

Second, there are some remarkable performances in this film. In particular Michael Caine’s portrayl as a recluse with a silent, near catatonic state is really, really well done. It is a stellar cast of both known and relatively unknown actors that works well .

Third, while some of the film deals with some political statements, it isn’t done in a way that overwhelms the content of the story. The statements made are part of the larger story and in way feel like propaganda pieces that divert one from the story.

Lastly, there are scenes that are particularly moving. I don’t want to say much about those scenes as some talk would ruin parts of the film. Needless to say, Cuarón is an amazing storyteller and filmmaker. I think this film may be among my top 10 of all time and certainly is the best movie I have seen in theaters or on DVD this year. So I would thoroughly recommend this one for your viewing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Youth Ministry Moment: the Barefoot Disciple...

So I am going to start a new series of posts about different youth ministry memories. Having been called by God to make a living doing youth ministry for nearly a decade now, I have quite a few memories. Sometimes these posts will be funny. Sometimes they will be sad. All will be true. And I hope they help me process some of the things that God has called me too. Something that happened this week sparked this memory…

I moved to Waycross, GA in the spring of 1998. I had just graduated from college and after having barely lived on the salary of being a student intern for Young Life, God gave me a great opportunity to move to Waycross and work at a church doing some of the relational work of Young Life and the discipleship work of the church.

One of the students who was in middle school then was a young man named Joshua. And to say that he was shy would be a massive understatement. In fact, Joshua was so shy that when his parents would come to Sunday School and drop him off, he would go hide in the empty carport of a house that our church owned. And it stayed like that for a couple years…He was nice enough to me, I was nice enough to him and he didn’t really connect or fit in.

Then suddenly, it changed. I mean, radically. Joshua went from being this kid on the sidelines to being the dream youth ministry student: real, God-seeking and open to others. He became one of those lynch pin kids that God uses to build and grow a group, just like God sometimes uses adults. It was out of the blue.

So about a year into this conversion of Joshua, we had an experiment going on in the church's Sunday night service. Once a month, the youth band would lead and I would speak and it was radically different from the other three weeks. (This service was a vestige of days gone by. Cokesbury hymnal singing and lots of other traditions. And it was all retired senior citizens (20 or so) and youth (40 or so.). One time a youth asked the pastor why he sometimes talked about living your faith out in the workplace on Sunday nights because all the people there were either in school or retired. The pastor had no good answer and not long after that we started doing the once a month youth nights.)

So on one of these Sunday nights it is really clicking. The worship is amazing, students and parents are really getting into it and, as I play guitar and lead from the front area, I see Joshua in a conversation with TC. Now, TC was notorious among the youth group and church because he was the classic “it should be like the good ole days” guy at this church. Any change, anything different, anything that stretched us and TC was grumbling. (And sometimes yelling at me in front of the youth group. But that is a different story.)

So Joshua and TC are talking. Now, I am singing and worshiping and couldn’t hear what is going on. But essentially what I saw went something like this:

TC says something. Joshua replies. TC says something else, clearly agitated. Joshua says something else. TC starts talking with his whole body, clearly immensely frustrated. Joshua pulls out his Bible, reads TC something. TC goes ballistic and leaves.

So we finish the service and things were great. Afterwards, I ask Joshua what happened. And the story essentially goes like this:

In the middle of a worship song, TC came up to Joshua and asked that Joshua put his shoes back on. Joshua politely refused and went back to worshiping. TC tried to explain to Joshua that “good kids” wore shoes. Joshua again refused. TC begins berating Joshua for not wearing his shoes indoors and for desecrating the church fellowship hall, etc. Joshua pulled out his Bible, did an short Bible study on Exodus 3, where God calls Moses to remove his shoes because the ground he is on is holy. Joshua explain that for him in these moments of worship, it was holy and he was choosing to do likewise. At that point, TC wigged out on him and Joshua ignored him.

So on that day I was reminded that wisdom isn't an age dependent quality and that we should be careful because sometimes youth can lead us. And for what it’s worth- the next time the youth band led worship, we opened with a killer version of “We are Standing on Holy Ground” without instruments that led into Matt Redman’s “Holy Moment.”

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday Stuff for 1-7-07

So I am going to try and do a Sunday report of what happens each week in youth group!

So this Sunday was what I am going to call “The Gambler” Sunday, because sometimes you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. What I mean by that is that in the life of a youth ministry, you have to know when to push a little bit and when let it ride. I felt like this Sunday was a Sunday to push a little bit. At the start of a new year, there is a natural opportunity to ask students to evaluate. So for my push, I decided to try and shake up their idea of who Jesus is.

In the current context where I do ministry, the students seem to have a “Jesus and...” worldview. What I mean by that is that we like Jesus and if Jesus wants to come alongside of us and be a part of our lives, that is great. But a Jesus who moves and changes us is a little scary and not quite the Jesus that we like.

So for this week’s lesson, we focused on the story of Zaccheaus from Luke 19. I talked about how Jesus surprised the “churchy” people that were around him and doing what God called him to do. Then, I read a short piece from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where the children are trying to figure out who Aslan is before they meet him. The long and the short of it is He isn’t safe but He is good! And then I read a piece from Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution where he talks about making the decision to follow Jesus wrecked his life, meaning he suddenly was challenged to live life in a powerfully different way.

All in all, message wise, I thought it was good, solid through and through and had their attention.

Other elements:
We started playing a game in the gym. It was pretty cool and I probably let it go on a bit too long. I am working on my game list for the next 10 weeks or so and then buying the stuff I need. Been winging in a bit too much lately.

After the talk, I also budgeted 15 minutes to have them share ideas for this year. I want to move us from a place of this being a youth group that they attend to being "their" youth group. They need a little more sense of ownership than they have had. Somewhat fruitful...

No music. I have to figure out a way to effectively bring in worship to what we are doing. The lack of technology (we can’t even find a bulb for our overhead projector) is probably something that I am letting be more of a daunting task that should. (Plus today, had a projector that looks like it could have worked for us and with a price point I could buy out of my pocket but I didn’t find it in time! Dang!) I miss worship with students…something I am working on.

What’s next: Lots of basketball games to attend this week, which I am looking forward to. They have been great networking opportunities with some parents who don’t have church families. Plus the kids have really noticed my presence at them. This week I have to sort out confirmation stuff and get it out to parents once it has been run through the clergy. Next Sunday we start a series called “God Who?” that looks at the Trinity, a concept some of the students here seem to be a bit fuzzy on. Working hard to find video clips to help with those lessons, so if you have any ideas, send them my way!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ah yeah...Friday randomness...

Some random Friday thoughts...
1. Been growing a beard. I will have to shave it for Sunday but I have learned that I theoretically could have a beard if I had like 6 months to let it grow. One day I may be like a Grizzlie Adams youth pastor. It could happen...

2. Starting a new series this weekend called "God Who?" My partner in crime wrote this first two lessons and I am working on the last two. Week one is a great beginning where we talk about the doctrine of the Trinity. The next three weeks will be be about the Father, Jesus and the Son. It is a back to basics series but I am hoping it will be a great fire starter for our group.

3. Coming off vacation and having spent time with some of my family, it is always tough to get back in the flow. So today I just made me a list of stuff that I can do without much thought, just in order to be productive. Seems to have worked some. And today I got a fantastic poster from some middle school girls who had a sleepover at their Bible study leader's house. It was a great pick me up and a reminder that I am making a difference. (And lately I have been doubting that last part.)

4. Warmth in Winter is coming! The church I currently work at is in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church and the largest youth event they do is called Warmth in Winter. So this year, we are taking high schoolers. I am really looking forward to the event because I have no real responsibilities other than keep everyone "safe and sound" and I am hoping to bridge the gaps between some of the kids going and myself. That happens January 26-28, so I'd appreciate some prayers.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Shocking Revelation...

I just discovered that the kitchen down the hall from my office has a coffee maker that is hooked up. And there is a spigot that gives hot water all the time.
The feeding of my hot chocolate addiction just got easier...

Praying for Passion

So first off, happy New Year everyone. I started 2006 thinking I had a fairly accurate idea of what I would be doing over the course of that year. Boy, was I wrong! But I enter 2007 confident in God's ability to lead me and my willingness to follow.

But this post is about something totally different.
When I started as a youth minister in Waycross, GA, I was hit hard with the reality that I wasn't really connecting and growing through the worship experiences at my church. And somehow, I stumbled in the website for the Atlanta-area singles ministry called 7:22. And through that I began to be exposed to the teachings of Louie Giglio. And God used that to encourage me, challenge me and make me different from what I was.

Louie doesn't teach at 7:22 anymore; but his heartbeat has always been for college-aged folks. And one of the main things he does is leading Passion, a movement that targets college folks and challenges them to grow in faith and to ultimately become the force that God uses to change the world. I have been blessed to be involved in several Passion events, including One Day in Texas, where I went with a couple of my old youth from Waycross and their new youth director in a rented Cadillac. It was an amazing experience.

All of that to say, this week, 20,000+ students and college-aged folks are gathering in Atlanta at Phillips Arena and the World Congress Center to celebrate who God is and to turn their hearts back towards Him. So let's add our prayers to the prayers of those that are there, that God will continue to raise up and change people who will ultimately change the world.

(PS- they are posting the main session from Passion '07 for people to view. The videos are up for a day and can be watched at