Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

26 Jan

Online Article-Foot Washing: A Vision for Mission Trip Leadership

Posted in Uncategorized on 26.01.12 by Merlyn

Published at Youthworker Online (A part of Youthworker Journal) January 2012

Foot Washing: A Vision for Mission Trip Leadership

Like many youth workers, one of my favorite parts of doing youth ministry are mission trips. They are powerful, fun, and incredibly effective. It is an amazing opportunity not only to learn and serve, but to have the kind of time with our youth we wish we had all throughout the year. In most of my ministry contexts, mission trips have been one of the most significant programs in the youth ministry. The power that comes in serving others is unquestionable, and the impact and importance of service for children and youth is only increasing. Recently, all significant books in the area of youth ministry discuss about service.

Over the years, the most important image from Scripture that casts a vision for mission trips in my own life in ministry is the story of the foot washing in the Gospel of John. The power and implications of this text are far too deep and wide to fully examine in this article, but it’s a text that all Christ-followers, especially those serving in ministry leadership positions, should carefully examine and reflect upon. Every mission trip under my direction has included a foot-washing service, usually towards the end of the trip. For the majority of those trips, the foot-washing portion of service has been conducted exactly the same way. During the service, I personally go around the room and wash the feet of each and every youth and adult leader from our group. After washing their feet, I take some time to pray for them. It’s a prayer I trust the Holy Spirit to provide, but I also take time all week thinking about how I can best pray for them. After finishing washing the feet and praying for each person on the team, I invite the team to what I call ‘open bucket time.’ I tell the team (youth and adults) they can use the next several moments to continue to pray, but also if they desire to wash one another’s feet. Some of my most meaningful moments as a Christ-follower, a leader, and a youth worker have happened during this time. Whether it is watching youth reconcile with one another by washing each other’s feet, siblings engaging in the intimate act of foot washing with one another, or having youth wash my own feet, the power, humility, and intimacy is overwhelming. I cannot take credit at all for this service or this model, as I (and we), are simply imitating what Christ did in the upper room for His disciples. We are simply honoring his call to ‘wash one another’s feet.’ This moment in the upper room is one of the most intimate moments in Scripture. Foot washing is a powerful imitation of Christ. It is the physical expression of what our lives as Christ-followers should be. It is the image of what missions and service should be all about. Our culture and our youth are perhaps more narcissistic and entitled than ever before, yet we desperately crave community. We need meaning and significance, we need to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves, and we need to know that what we do and who we are makes a difference in the world. In this simple act of foot washing, Jesus has given us an answer to all of these challenges and needs and as long as our heart is focused on the God of the universe who got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of his disciples, we will find an answer to all these needs and more. We will find a model for discipleship, service and leadership that can and will change the world.

As a Christ-follower, leader, and youth worker, there is no greater act for me than to get down on my hands and knees and wash the feet of those I love, serve with, and lead as we all seek to be imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ. The foot washing is more than just a powerful moment to be imitated; it is a model and vision for missions and leadership in the church and the world.

Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 13 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (

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19 Jan

Product Review: Evangephobia

Posted in Uncategorized on 19.01.12 by Merlyn


Published in Youth Worker Journal- Date: TBD


Evangephobia Curriculum and Devotional

Simply Youth Ministry

Group Publishing, 2011, 120 pp., $29.99 Curriculum, $8.99 Devotional,

Finding the tools to help youth workers talk about evangelism, the sharing of the good news of Jesus, is not an easy task, yet the curriculum Evangephobia and the related devotional assist youth workers in reclaiming evangelism in youth ministry.

Evangephobia is a four-session curriculum addressing evangelism by Greg Stier from Dare2Share Ministries. With lessons covering the fears, motivation, the steps and benefits of evangelism for youth, this product includes a DVD with four 5-6 minute lessons, a CD containing discussion guides, many resources and other tools for using the curriculum in a youth ministry. I cannot think of a good youth curriculum on the market that covers evangelism like this one. It would be very useful to any youth ministry desiring to address this important topic with their youth. With relevant, easy to follow topics, the curriculum addresses the key issues related to evangelism. Short, clear, helpful and relevant DVD clips utilize scripture, story and personal examples. Tools for leaders, promotional material and discussion guides allow this product to be used in a variety of youth ministry settings and could be used in almost any youth ministry program with relative ease. One lesson is not likely to fill more than 30 to 45 minutes of a program, however, and may not be as effective with junior high youth. It would be a great choice for any youth ministry looking to cover evangelism in a relevant way with their youth in a manageable time frame or for youth ministries looking for a short small group curriculum.

An additional product, a devotional containing 30 devotionals for youth on evangelism, can be used in conjunction or separate from the curriculum. It would work well with small groups or with youth who are seen as leaders. It is very simple to follow and is not time consuming. Most youth would be able to use the devotional with ease, but it would be more effective in conjunction with the curriculum product.

As a whole, this product would be especially helpful for evangelical churches seeking a quality curriculum on evangelism. I would not recommend this product for churches that do not emphasize an evangelical approach to salvation, such as some mainline churches. Additionally, this product may not work well in settings where many youth do not have a clear conversion story to share. I would gladly use this product in any ministry setting professing a theology consistent with the curriculum.

Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 13 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (

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12 Jan

Product Review: Grapple

Posted in Uncategorized on 12.01.12 by Merlyn

Published in Youth Worker Journal- Date: TBD

Grapple Jr. High: Three Big Questions

Simply Youth Ministry

Group Publishing, 2011, 123 pp., $29.99,

A challenging aspect of youth ministry programming is finding the right curriculum to use with your group, particularly junior high youth.  It can be frustrating to find easy to use, relevant and Biblically sound curriculum that does not require a significant amount of editing. Junior high is a critical time in the faith formation of these energetic youth.

Grapple Jr. High: Three Big Questions is a twelve lesson curriculum for junior high youth. The lessons address a variety of relevant questions organized around three topics: God, others, and self. This product includes the book with the twelve detailed lessons and resources, a CD containing a team guide, leader guides, and student guides for each of the lessons that can be easily distributed to leaders and students. Also included is a DVD, which contains 2-3 minute video clips used in the lessons.

This curriculum would be very useful for junior high programs in most ministry settings. The topics organized around the great commission are relevant and diverse. This comprehensive tool provides a hard copy of the lessons as well as electronic versions, tools and resources that can be easily used and reproduced for leaders and youth. The well-organized lessons provide a variety of activities and approaches to the lesson that engage the various learning styles of youth. Each part of the lesson varies in length to help break up the lesson while providing focus for the topic and question addressed. The video clips are short but may seem too infantile to some junior high youth. This curriculum provides more lesson material and ideas than will be needed for most youth programs, which means youth leaders will need to select which parts of the lesson are most helpful and relevant. This product would be a great choice for youth ministries of all types and sizes looking for quality, relevant, theologically and Biblically sound lessons for junior high youth providing all of the tools that paid or volunteer youth workers would need to lead the lesson. This product would be helpful for youth ministries who are seeking to address relational questions junior high youth face. I would not recommend this product for youth ministries in need of a curriculum that can be implemented without any preparation or planning. I would recommend this product for use with junior high youth and plan on using it in my own youth ministry.

Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 13 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (

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