For Youth Workers Post
“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for May 12–18, 2014.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“These words by Emerson are absolutely brilliant. I love this quotation because it points to the deep well of creative energy within each of us and to our potential to co-create beauty, life, and goodness with God. Nothing is like sitting before a blank sheet of paper or canvas and creating something that speaks to our feelings, thoughts, experiences, and hopes for tomorrow.
“Since I was a young child, my heart was always drawn to the joy of art. Creativity was encouraged in my home. My mother and father encouraged my sister and me to create songs, poems, plays, inventions, new moves on the basketball court, ideas for solving social ills. They taught us that as our bodies longed for food and water, our souls hungered for beauty and space to create. They encouraged us to be intentional about feeding that hunger.
“We all have a need to encounter beauty. As people created by a creating and re-creating God, who created a good and beautiful world, we all have the capacity and need to create. Providing space for young people to discover their creative selves and to be affirmed for their offerings is one of the best gifts we can offer them.” —Lanecia
MEET THE WRITER
Lanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am beloved, and I receive most of my days trying to discover the implications of this reality. I live in the tension of the “already but not yet,” with people living on and off the downtown streets of Houston, Texas, on the campus of St. John’s Downtown. I grew up in South Carolina. My days there, with a pastor as a father and an artist as a mother, shaped my understanding of the power of love and art to heal, to create social change, and to transform lives. After graduating from Wofford College with a B.A. in Sociology and Duke Divinity School with a M.Div., I served in local church ministry in South Carolina, England, and Tennessee before joining the Bread of Life, Inc. team in March 2011. I am an artist—a photographer, a painter, a musician, and a writer. I am currently serving as the Project Manager of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. for my neighbors living on the streets of Houston. Prior to the move to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for 13 years, most recently with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
STUFF YOU WILL NEED
- candles and matches
- a Bible
- instrumental music and a player
- broken down cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes
- acrylic paints, oil pastel pencils and/or permanent markers
- a variety of brushes
- paper towels
- cups for water
- plates to use as palettes
- butcher paper, old newspaper, or plastic to cover the space where the youth create
- pencils and pens
- scrap paper
- Print-Friendly Version of this session
Young people are inundated with the reality and experience of pain, suffering, darkness, and sadness. The church needs to provide them with space to feed their hunger for beauty and opportunities to feed their imaginations, to tap into their creative selves, and to connect with the creative energy of God, who loves them unconditionally. We add light to the lives of the youth we serve, and they become light-bearers in the world.
Another important need is for young people to receive life in a community that speaks truth to the lies that hinder them from reaching their full potential. They need to see their beauty as God’s creatures, who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and to believe they have something to give to the world. Incorporate the practice of affirming one another and expressing gratitude. Affirmation has a transformative effect on the way we perceive ourselves. In a fast paced, competitive, and critical world, young people need to learn to be still and to see themselves as people who have potential and are loved.
Here are some helpful resources for you to learn more about the importance of creativity and affirmation, as well as ways to guide young people in embracing these practices as a means of growing in love for God, neighbor, and themselves.
- Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens by Dorothy Bass, Don C. Richter. Be sure to read the chapter on creativity.
- The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
- The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit by Whitney Ferre is a great resource for fun art activities for groups or individuals.
- Taking Flight: Inspiration and Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings by Kelly Rae Roberts
- Links to Online Resources that Look at Faith and the Arts:
• Arts + Entertainment
• Altar Video Magazine
A great daily practice is to pray for those you are called to lead and the ministry you share with them. Carve out time before group members arrive to pray for your time together, for those who will enter into the space, for those who are not present, and for the life of your church community.
When people arrive, greet them, share a meal or play a game, and invite them to gather together in a circle. Place in the center of the circle a lit candle, signifying Christ’s presence. Then ask each person to answer this question:
Where have you noticed the presence of God today or during the last week?
After all the members of the group have spoken, thank them. Invite them to take time each day—through writing, talking with friends and family, or praying—to name the times they have noticed God’s presence.
Close your time of checking in with this prayer:
“Creating and Re-Creating God, thank you for giving us an opportunity to gather together. Thank you for the many ways you are present in our lives. Thank you for creating moments when we notice you and for providing opportunities for us to create with you a world that is beautiful, just, loving, kind, and good. Bless this space and the time we share. Amen.”
EXPLORING THE WORD
Scripture: Genesis 1:1–5, 24–31
Introduce the session: “We are going to explore the idea that we are created in the image of God and that we have received an invitation to be co-creators with God. Let’s start with our faith story and remember how it all began.”
Read aloud Genesis 1:1–5, 24–31. Invite discussion:
The first words of our shared story are these: “In the beginning, when God created” (Genesis 1:1, NRSV). Why is that sentence so important for us to remember?
What does it say about who God is and who we are?
What does it say about the world?
What does it say about our relationship to God and the world?
What does it mean to be created in the image of God and to bear the image of God? What are the features or attributes of God that we bear? (This one stumps us. We are visual creatures, and our minds quickly get blocked thinking only about physical attributes. Remind or teach the group that being made in the image and likeness of God, we have the capacity to reflect on God’s characteristics, qualities, and attributes.)
Say: “One of the capacities we have is the ability to create. We see right from the start that God is Creator. God creates good and beauty. Because we are made in God’s image, we also have the capacity to create what is good and beautiful. Too often we forget our abilities or become insecure because of criticism, lack of opportunity, or lack of encouragement. During the remainder of our time together, we are going to create and we are going to remember that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by creating art that incorporates affirmations.”
Explain that affirmations are positive words that lift up and acknowledge the truth about who are. For instance, we know from scripture that we are good because God created us and all that God creates is good; so an affirmation could be “I am good.” Here are some others:
- I am an artist.
- I am beautiful.
- I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- I shine.
- I am a good ball player.
- I am smart.
Invite people to add to the list.
Play some instrumental music. Provide pieces of cardboard and a variety of art supplies. Invite people to create signs that express, through color, design, and words, what it means to be created in God’s image. Ask them to choose a piece of cardboard and the supplies they want to use. Then ask them to spend a few minutes in silence, reflecting on what it means for them to be created in the image of God. Instruct them to come up with positive words that articulate this relationship. The words may be traditional affirmations (“I am . . .”), a verse of scripture, a favorite quotation, or song lyrics that express the idea that they are God’s good creation. Suggest they begin by writing the words on the cardboard.
Allow at least 20 minutes, giving the group 5-minute and 1-minute warnings.
Bring the group together. (If your group is large, you may want to ask people to form smaller groups). Invite people to show and, if they choose, to read what they created.
Then invite each person to say one word that describes his or her experience. Hopefully, it was fun, awesome, freeing, and all things good! Some may have found creating art difficult and challenging; sometimes the creative experience is hard. It takes some work to exercise creative muscles we may not have used in a while or ever before.
Invite people to leave their art or to take it with them. If pieces are left, come up with a fun and beautiful way to exhibit them.
SHARING IN PRAYER
To close the session, invite people to form a circle around the Christ candle.
Offer this prayer:
“Creating and Re-Creating God, we are gathered together in your name so that we may be of greater service to you and to our neighbors. We praise you for creating us with the capability to imagine and to create beauty in the world with you and for giving us creative energy to shine your light in the world. Help us to receive time to practice creativity, to encourage one another, and to speak words of kindness to ourselves and to others. Amen.”
TAKING IT FURTHER
- Don’t let this be the last time you provide space and time for group members to tap into their creative spirit. Think about offering art classes, workshops, or creativity retreats for the group and their volunteer leaders.
- Consider making an art gallery, creating an art space or studio for youth to connect with God through art, or having art shows to raise money for a cause your group supports.