May Playlist–A New Chapter

‘“For I Know the Plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. Plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’

Jeremiah 29:11

This is a popular verse used this time of year for graduation greeting cards. We’ve worked hard on getting our youth to dig into the Gospel and claim it as part of their story; we’re working towards them getting that sticky faith that lasts a lifetime!

We are not God, so of course, we probably didn’t always make the right choices when it came to working with our youth. We may remember some decisions we made or words we said that have come back to haunt us or maybe even left our youth a bit confused. Weather it was planting the seeds or watering the ones that were already planted, we enjoyed every moment we were privileged to spend with them during this time. Luckily, if our youth let Him, God will go with them into this next chapter of their lives. We will continue to cherish the laughs and wonderful memories, we will remember all the lessons we learned FROM THEM, and we will continue to pray for them as they journey on. This month’s playlist is a prayer of the lessons that I/we hope made it past that backboard in their ears and went straight down to the heart (or up to their memory).

This is Not Goodbye by Sidewalk Prophets

“Cause this is not goodbye-it’s just “I love you” to take with you-until you’re home again”

While the complete message of this song may not be written for this context, the first time I heard it, I was brought to tears thinking of having to say goodbye to my senior youth this year. It’s not goodbye; we hope that they know we love them, and we’ll see them either here at their childhood home again, or up at our heavenly home.

Unfinished by Mandisa

“…that world I painted, where things just all work out. It started changing and I started having doubts…”

Mandisa’s personal journey that she points to in this song is a message in itself…but the lesson that it hardest to learn when we’re young is that the world is not easy. Stepping out of the bubble our parents/caretakers lovingly surrounded us with is scary and eye-opening…and there’s a good chance this is a time when our youth will have their first real struggles and start to doubt themselves. But we know that they ‘celebrate the truth, his work in [them] ain’t through, {they’re] just unfinished.”

 

I’m Not Who I Was by Brandon Heath

“…the thing I find most amazing in amazing grace is the change to give it out…”

Let’s just be honest here, it wasn’t all smiles and laughs…during our time with our youth, we will probably see each other’s not-so-loveable sides. Sometimes there is that one youth that may have made youth group a little more difficult than it needed to be at times. But we are called to give them grace…and if we did not get the opportunity to see what giving them that grace did during their time in youth, maybe we’ll see it someday…or maybe we can continue to pray that maybe this song will be their song someday.

 

Father of Lights by Third Day

“We magnify your name, we lift you up and praise”

We pray that our youth learned how to simply praise God! That they were able to experience that joyful peace that comes with giving your all in praising God.

 

Broken Hallelujah by The Afters

“With nothing left to hold onto, I raise these empty hands to you”

We also pray that they learned how to praise God even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when they feel like they have nothing left.

 

More Like Falling in Love by Jason Gray

“I need more than a truth to believe, I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes”

We can teach them how to memorize verses, memorize prophet’s names, the Fruits of the Spirit camp song…but I pray they were able to fall in love with how much God loves them. That they were able to feel that love and want to give it back in praise to God. Rules and lines are easy to forget…but to feel the consuming love of our Savior is unforgettable.

 

Well Done by Moriah Peters

“So when my life’s a leap of faith…”

Following God hardly ever is the same as what the culture tells them to do or what their friends tell them to do. But I hope they learned that the reason we follow Christ isn’t to be cool (even though we followers know it is 😉 but it’s so that when we finish the race of life, that God is waiting at that finish line saying, “Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant”

 

Let Go by DeWayne Woods

“Then He said you don’t have to cry cause I’ll supply all your needs”

Worrying about how to pay rent or pay for college or how to communicate with their parents when they don’t agree…adult life encourages a lot of worrying. I hope my youth learned to Be Still…and Let God do work! …even when I wasn’t always the best example of that.

 

Be My Escape by Relient K

“I’m stuck inside this rut that I fell into by mistake…”

Getting outside of that bubble, they may stumble and fall a lot at first. I pray that they know that Jesus is the only true escape from this life and they run to him instead of any sort of addiction. But I also pray that if they need someone to pick them up after a night of partying or other not-so-churchy activities, they know they can call me and I’ll still be here for them if they need someone even just to talk to.

 

Can’t Shut Up by Anthem Lights

“Love is coming now, we are free, we can’t shut up about it”

I pray that they get to the point where they fully commit themselves to Christ so much that they can’t stop telling others about how awesome He is and that they have the courage to tell the world!

 

That’s How You Change The World by Newsboys

“It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark”

They don’t all have to become pastors or church leaders…they can help bring the Kingdom of God here by simple things like treating the McDonalds employee with respect, pay for the next person in line’s order, speak kindness in any room, and be polite to anyone they pass.

 

No Longer Slaves by I Am They

“From my mother’s womb, you have chosen me”

I pray that they know they do not have to be enslaved to any type of addiction or self-loathing. They are a child of God and I pray that they feel the strength to overcome any obstacle because of their linage in Christ.

 

He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli

“I’d understand if you picked everyone before me, but that’s just not my story”

God created each youth for a purpose; they are not a product of a factory. God created each one of their personally. I pray they see and accept their incredible worth. I pray that they never question their existence or their purpose.

 

Be Thou My Vision by Audrey Assad

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise”

I pray that they strive to see God’s plan for their life AND that they strive to follow it.

 

All That Matters by Colton Dixon

“All That matters is that I matter to you”

I pray they do not strive to please humankind. I pray they find fulfillment in this fact that they matter to you, God!

 

On My Side by Kim Walker-Smith

“You are on my side, you go before me, you stand behind”

I above all pray they never feel alone, because they know that God is always on their side. No matter how far they run, no matter where they try to hide. God will always be there to fight for them.

 

Always,

~Ash

 

 

 

Ashley Litwiller is the pastor of youth and worship at Arthur Mennonite (IL).

Tune My Heart Playlist–Convention Ready!

Just think! 3 more months until a week in sunny Orlando!

Taking part of a small part of the planning process for convention this year gives me this idea that convention is FINALLY approaching and I am so excited!! The theme for this year seems to bring us back to the common core of our faith: the Love of God shining through us. Having Easter this month as well is an awesome reminder that Jesus’ entire life was a verb of love. Everything he did was to show God’s love to the world.

As we gather this summer, I am excited to rest in the biblical reminder of love in action. The songs this month I chose as a preparation for each of our journeys to Orlando reflect on different bits of love and the different ways it can be shown. There may be some songs I’ve shared before, but BOY do their messages go hand in hand with this month’s theme. Reflecting on the love of God for us, personally AND intimately, puts us in a stable and peaceful state of mind, which in turn can rid us of anxiety and fear that can appear when big groups get together. (Especially those of us who are introverted and big groups of people in any form exhaust us). We all come from different upbringings, different struggles, different achievements, different incomes, etc. The fact that we can come together means there are TONS of different gifts of showing love in one place! I pray that as we start finalizing our travel plans for our youth groups that we take the time to mentally prepare ourselves to put love into action with those we treacle with and owe who have travelled to be in community with us.

P.S. Don’t forget to show yourself a bit of self-care love before AND after Convention because if you aren’t loving yourself first, it’s a lot harder to show others love!

Look Like Love by Britt Nicole

“It’s up to you and me to leave a legacy. If we’re all they ever see…”

This song was the inspiration for the curriculum I wrote for my high schoolers this year. If we are truly to have our lives buried in Christ, then we got to start from the bottom. Start radiating love to all we meet, because who knows if we are all they ever get to see.

You Put This Love in My Heart by Keith Green

“You gave me no time to choose”

God put that love in our hearts from the very beginning. The excuse we use that we don’t know how to show love to others can be a very thin argument. Plus, we have a great handbook telling us what it looks like.

You Are Loved by Stars Go Dim

“We all need a little honesty…if it hurts, but you can’t find healing…”

Our youth just want to be loved. They doubt that no one understands them and that no one can love them because of how often they mess up. Can’t we all feel like that at any age?! They need our love…just like the people they meet need some love too.

Love With Your Life by Hollyn

“Don’t look to the left or right – you know the future’s worth the fight”

We can’t compare ourselves to those around us…you have to look within and know that God has called us to fight for him! Only he doesn’t give us physical weapons to fight with…he gives us the power of his love!

Love Broke Thru by tobyMac

“You found me in the darkness…wanderin through the desert”

When God’s Love breaks through a bubble of hurt and brokenness, it is a beautiful thing! And honestly, choosing to step out of the familiar bubble is a whole other battle…but we have to leave room for Love to do its work and watch God show off His Kingdom to us.

Common Ground by Julianna Zobrist

“Is this a bridge worth dying on…a hill to crucify upon?…Our bitterness will never save us…we’ve got to find some common ground”

I’ll be honest, I would’ve never found this song on any charts if I weren’t a lifelong cubs fan ( #GoCubsGo ) PLUS her husband was from my hometown area of central IL. But after checking out her albums, I was inspired. Let’s be honest with each other: there have been some hurtful things said and done from all corners of our conference lately. But our bitterness won’t save us…we need to embody the theme for this year to EACH OTHER if we ever plan on pushing others to love all those around us. And I for one don’t like it when my youth call me out for falling short on sharing love with others, so I know that if we want to lead our youth, we’ve got to stop beating around the bush, and start loving each other first.

When I Pray For You by Dan + Shay

“It ain’t gunna be easy; it ain’t always gunna be fair”

I strive to pray for each of my youth & their parents every night…even though they aren’t my own kids. But God does the work in them before anything he gives me to share with them…so I pray that they remember to rely on God when things get hard…but this song cut straight to my heart when I first heard it. Loving our youth is different and not always fair…but God has called us to love them.

Because of Your Love by Chris Quilala

“Hallelujah, I’m forgiven”

There are times we forget to show love or it’s just too dang hard so we fall short. But thank the Lord, he gives second and seventy seventh chances…keep striving to give love no matter how long it takes!

Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go feat. Audrey Assad by Robbie Seay Band

“I cannot close my heart to thee”

When we’ve loved and then felt deep hurt, it’s easy to close our hearts to certain people because of one experience. This updated hymn is a good reminder for us all.

Real Love by Hillsong Young & Free

“Love beyond my control…this is real love”

He never lets go…his is REAL love. Our youth are looking to be loved, but until they are shown the REAL love of God, they won’t know what love is supposed to be. Luckily, we are given the opportunity and privilege to share it with them.

Live Like You’re Loved by Hawk Nelson

“you’re working way too hard…he loves you like you are…it’s okay to act like you’ve been set free”

We are already loved! We don’t have to earn that, so it’s okay to get giddy about that! I’m talking like giddier than when you’re in high school and you find out your crush likes you too! It’s okay to look like you were given laughing gas because the love God has for us is so overwhelming at times you can’t help but smile….and smiles are contagious!! My junior highers started singing along to this song the first time they heard this…so I feel like it’s a good one!

What Love Really Means by JJ Heller

“Who will love me for me…not for what I have done or what I will become”

Some people have never experienced Love like God’s…they are the ones who can sometimes be the most needy, but they sometimes need an extra dose because they are a parched soul…and when they get a taste of that life-giving water, they cannot stop thinking about wanting more!

Love Take Me Over by Stephan Curtis Chapman

“God, please take all of me and fill me up with your Love”

This is a great prayer to begin your day with!

Oh How I Love Jesus by Chris Willis

“Because He first loved me”

This hymn is sung through the genres, plenty of awesome renditions…but this soulful version is so beautiful! Because He first loved us, THAT’S why we can love others! How cool is that?!

Loving You Is Easy by Chris August

“Loving you is elementary”

We can overthink loving others…but it’s natural. God weaved it into our being. Loving God & Jesus is just so easy once you know the whole story! Plus, youth love love songs! Here’s one that doesn’t mention physical attraction, which let’s be honest, is very hard to find these days.

No Greater Love by Smokie Norful

“The Son gave His life for me”

Song filled with John 3:16 kinda love…how much better can it get?!

Worth It by Francesca Battistelli

“not a feeling…not convenient…takes sacrifice..cuts like a knife..make you cry..but it’s worth it”

I will gladly admit that loving the way God loves takes so much energy and effort and it can really hurt…but you know what, God asks us to do it daily. And since I’m trying to please God and not others, I know it will be worth it!

 

In Christ,

 

 

 

 

~Ashley Litwiller is the pastor of worship and youth at Arthur Mennonite Church (IL)

March Playlist

Mission Trip Jams

As a music lover since the womb, I am always listening for the message of a song before I decide if I want to add it to my personal playlist. The trickiest playlist to add to for me is my workout playlist. Thankfully, lots of Christian artists have stepped up lately to give us a great beat along with a great message.

This past summer, I drove my youth to Denver, CO. A 16 hour drive there and 16 hours back. I knew that we would need a full playlist for the ride. I challenged my youth to send me their favorite songs to add to the playlist BUT they had to have a quality, appropriate message in them. At first, they told me it was “impossible” because every secular song talks about sex or drinking or drugs or violence somehow in them, to which I agreed that MOST do, especially songs that have a really catchy beat and melody. (Single Ladies?? One Direction?? Sam Hunt?? We could go on…) After the first 3 hours of the drive filled with awesome, uplifting and current Christian music that I had filled our playlist with the months before, they were annoyed and sick of them and found renewed energy to search for appropriate secular songs.

I’ve had moments where I am very discouraged by what I hear on my radio across the genres at times. BUT as followers of Christ, we need to strive to not participate in any enjoyment of the things that Jesus went to the cross for. This is something I am constantly striving to correct myself at and that includes my music playlists.

Sure… “It’s just a song, Ashley” my youth say….but these are the places where it starts. It starts on the surface level with movies, tvs, jokes, etc, and then seeps into our lives from there. I’m confident that there are still musicians out there who can share a song worth listening to EVEN IF it’s not by a ‘Christian’ artist.

For this month’s playlist, I went back through our mission trip playlist and grabbed 16 secular songs that, for the majority of the songs, got the youth to smile and jam out together despite their different tastes in music, or at least got a “yea, its fine” from the biggest cynic in the back. Granted, you will still have youth that you just can’t please with any music you chose, but I think it’s our duty to at least give them examples of how to interact with the culture around us, without giving up the Gospel.

I’m sure there are many more appropriate songs out there, these are just a few to get you started! Good luck and I’d love to hear any you may have to add to our playlist here!

 

 

 

~Ashley Litwiller, pastor of youth and worship at Arthur Mennonite Church (IL)

February Playlist

Faith in the Harvest

“Let us not become weary in doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

I received a Christmas present from a friend and along with it, came scripture cards. The main card that tied in with the present had this verse from Galatians on it. As soon as I read it, I burst into tears. My advisor at college repeatedly told us ministry students that it was very likely that we may not see fruit from our ministry for at least 5 years, maybe even never. We can spend every week sharing the wonderful gospel with these amazing youth we have…and the next day will go right back to the behavior we just discussed was not what the bible wants us to do! Maybe we see them learn and connect with the homeless on mission trips or get real with each other on retreat weekends…but the next week laughs at the kid in school who doesn’t wear brand name clothes and they pretend like they don’t know each other at school.

My grandpa was a farmer; now I never paid much attention to specifics because well I was a young girl who had other things to do (so those with more farming knowledge than me I apologize if some of this is not exactly accurate) but I do remember him planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. It was like clockwork; if he planted in the spring, there would be profit in the fall. What I never really paid attention to was what he did in the winter and summer. For some reason, I thought he just sat at home after he had checked on the cows in the morning. Then I thought of a faint memory of driving around in his old blue truck just staring out at dirt in the fields. Was he bored or wasting time before we got back to his house where we’d each grab a Twinkie for snack while I watched Arthur on PBS? No, he was also out there servicing the machines, checking soil, and all those other things while I chased chickens with my cousins. If he didn’t keep his eye on the weather and keep checking on the crops, there would be no harvest; that time of nurturing and waiting for the harvest was vital for the end profit. He had to have faith in the harvest.

The parallel to ministry is uncanny! We give devotions weekly and then we wait for the harvest. If only we had a guarantee we would see a harvest every fall, but that’s just not how it works. Our relationships with God are all on different clocks. Each of our youth will be close to God and distant from God at different times in their lives. There’s also a chance that we may never see a harvest in a youth. We may lose contact with them before the harvest is revealed in them.

This month as we talk about empowering and equipping volunteers, this is a vital reminder, not only for them but for all of us, that they may not see the importance of their role with the youth until years later. Sitting in the back, asking youth about their day, making sure the snack is out in time, hauling youth from place to place, going bowling or mini-golfing, being a servant to them…what does that have to do with ministry?! EVERYTHING!!!! I’d like to say it’s because I’m fairly new to ministry that I don’t know how to explain the importance of that to my volunteers…but I also think it’s something you have to experience before you truly can understand it.

So this month’s playlist is hopefully encouraging and affirming: Keep doing good works for when the time is right, blessings will be harvested for God and His Kingdom if we don’t give up! And just in case no one has told you this yet today: Good Job!

All your hard work has not gone unnoticed; thank you for all you are doing!

 

 

 

~Ashley Litwiller is the pastor of youth and worship at Arthur Mennonite Church (IL).

  • Priceless by For King and Country

We may look to other youth leaders and think they are doing such a better job than we could…but God has called YOU to be YOU! YOU have been chosen! You are so priceless and irreplaceable!

 

  • What Soldiers Do by Monk & Neagle

We each need that moment of instruction with our Daddy. We need to be brave for our church family. God is watching over us as we work and He’s waiting for us at the end of this world. Being a solider for the Lord is the daily task!

 

  • Tell Me by Carrollton

Sometimes we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere “with our best”. We just need that reminder that we are not alone in this work and God always knows what our heart needs to prepare us leaders for youth activities.

 

  • Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

Sometimes we feel like we are just speaking to dry dusty bones…but “we know there is more to come that we may not see” We will step into the valley unafraid!

 

  • Please Be My Strength by Gungor

Let’s be real, this work is exhausting! Constantly encouraging others while we don’t always get encouraged ourselves…we have to ask God to be our strength! Only his strength can do this work!

 

  • Overcomer by Mandisa

There will be struggles and we will probably fail once in a while as leaders, but stay in the fight ‘til the final round! It may feel hopeless, but remember, nothing is impossible for God!

 

  • Strangely Dim by Francesca Battistelli

We plan activities and the kids should love them, right? We dream up a great lesson and the kids just sometimes don’t connect. Fix our eyes on God and the end goal…all those worries of “did they get anything from that?” will fade. Have faith that God is working.

 

  • The Sun is Rising by Britt Nicole

Maybe you personally are just at a point in your journey that you barely have enough energy to heal your own wounds right now…the night only lasts for so long! There is a promise for the ones who just hold on. Lift up your eyes and see the sun is rising!

 

  • Worn by Tenth Avenue North

We tend to work ourselves raw. OH it’s for good causes, but we still don’t see the results yet. You are tired from the work set in front of you…but He gives us rest! The struggle will end eventually!

 

  • Because of Your Love by Chris Quilala

The uncrossable, unscalable, unlovable, droughts….we can do this job because of His Love!!

 

  • Walk By Faith by Jeremy Camp

Even when I cannot see the harvest, I will walk by Faith!

 

  • Keep Making Me by Sidewalk Prophets

Leaders are never perfect! We should never expect them to be perfect; God is still working on us too!

 

  • The Wonder Years by Group 1 Crew feat. Moriah Peters and Glory

God has called us to be present in this time before the harvest. Keep your focus on what is in front of you!

 

  • Something in the Water by Carrie Underwood

This song is a reminder of how AWESOME the harvest will be when it comes! Singing songs of Amazing Grace, not being able to wash the smile off our face, joy in our hearts, angels on our side! Trust in someone bigger than ourselves!

 

  • Great is the Faithfulness by Jordan Smith

This version is so fluid and comforting! Classic – God is faithful…all I need his hands will provide!

 

  • Always on Time by Tim Bowman Jr.

God’s timing is perfect! Trust That!

Playlist for Advent

While I was a youth, I never noticed that “Advent” was a thing. I’m sure my Sunday school teachers and parents talked about it…and I’m POSITIVE they mentioned it during church services that I officially didn’t pay much attention to. Our church is using the Advent material from Leader Magazine this year. It is titled: The Holy Way: Walking in the Way of God’s Heart. Being in that mindset, the songs in this month’s playlist all tie to the theme of having God’s Heart around the holidays.

I also thought I would share some of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs. While some of my youth enjoy hymns every now & then, most do not lunge for a hymnal at any time of year. When it comes to finding songs that will surprise them and helps them learn a new angle of the Christmas message, I’ve come back to a few of these songs. In the process, I found a few new songs that I can’t wait to try with them all!

I don’t have individual reasons why I’ve chosen each one this month, but you’ll see there is one classic song title in the mix, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Penatonix Christmas album was actually a Christmas present from one of my youth last year and I felt like that song does a great job of turning a classic message into something our youth actually love listening to.

I pray these will bless your advent moments, as well as any you may use for devotion helpers for youth group.

Merry Christmas!

Ashley

 

 

Ashley Litwiller, pastor of youth and worship at Arthur Mennonite (IL)

 

November’s Playlist: Stressed Out

I was that youth that was involved in everything in school. Volleyball, Basketball, Track & Field, Student Council, Junior Class Board, Yearbook, British Literature Club, Chamber Choir, Madrigals, Marching Band AND youth group and youth group activities. Ever since I was young, I had the opportunity to be a part of pretty much whichever group I wanted to. I was privileged and blessed. BUT I never wanted to have any part of travel sports after one summer with the travel softball team. When I grew older, I couldn’t work on Sunday morning because that was God’s time. And the only reason my parents let me work on Sunday afternoon, is because the rest of my week was filled with all those activities I was involved with. My group of friends I would hang out with changed based on which activity I was currently in because of scheduling. Today, I wouldn’t change anything because I chose to do that.

My parents never made me participate in an activity that I didn’t want to. They resisted the urge to push me to be better at something, put more hours into one thing so that I could get a scholarship, so I could get into the best schools, so I could…..who knows what reasons they had. (I did play volleyball in college, but Division 3 = no scholarships for activities) And I’m glad they did….because I do know that my friends whose parents pushed them in one activity, one area of their life, or maybe even had those parents who were trying to live their dreams out through their kids….grew to hate that activity OR made it an idol in their life OR completely shut out their family later in life. And throughout my career, my teammates that had played travel ball seemed to be missing that little girl insides of them that still loved just playing the game. I didn’t want to lose that little girl inside.

During that summer with travel ball, my parents WOULD NEVER let me skip the church service for a game. I could never skip out early for lunch with my friends…Sunday was for God and for family. Did I grumble and grown the whole day about that decision? Yes I did, I admit that. But what I didn’t see then was that my parents were reminding me that remembering the Sabbath was a gift. To take a time to STOP all of those activities and be reminded of who created me to be, who provided me with all those opportunities, THAT was more powerful than any skill I could have acquired from a school activity and I didn’t even realize that gift until after college.

After reading this book Overplayed, I just kept saying, “yea!….Yes!!!….ahhh YES! They get it! Can every single parent or leader read this book please?!” Our youth these days have a lot of pressures and a lot of responsibility and a LOT of expectations put on them. Is some of those things bad? No, not at all! What this book is saying to me is that we can’t let our goals, our passions, our dreams and OUR idea of what life should be….those things can never grow BIGGER or MORE IMPORTANT to us than Our Creator, Our Lord.

For this playlist, it’s a mix of this reminder not to overplay our youth, but also a reminder for us as leaders to pause and enjoy what God has gifted us with! To remind us to step back from our activities (because being in ministry, we have the tendency to do as much as we can…right?) to say it’s okay if we don’t achieve the American Dream! To remind us to enjoy the moments we have before they’re gone.

 

Ashley

 

 

 

 

~Ashley Litwiller is pastor of worship at youth at Arthur Mennonite, Arthur, IL. Email ashlit28@gmail.com to share your favorite songs to include in upcoming monthly playlists!

Why These Songs Were Chosen , and a great tool to use as conversation starters with your own youth groups:

1) “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots

“My name is ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think” Our kids are so stressed out! This song is popular because it is how a lot of our youth feel with all the pressures put on them at ages 14 & 15….before they can even drive!

 

2)  “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

“If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker” We only need to ask God to remove the chains of what we are slaves to, and he will wash us clean and set us free!!!

 

3) “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe

“Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life or do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make cause they’re the choices that make me” We can’t make our youth change their minds, we are not their parents. We can lay out what can happen with the different choices we make and pray that God speaks to them.

 

4) “Slow Down” by Nichole Nordeman

I added this song to remind us of how our parent feels about us. No matter what we do, they are cheering for us…they are for us! God is enjoying every step of our journey with us.

 

5) “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

“Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong….you’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.” We need to remind our youth that they are not alone, and we are here with them through these things that stress them out, but more importantly, God will be with them for life. Turn to the ultimate comforter!

 

6) “Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole

“Get it together…I put on the pressure, you can do better, be who you’re supposed to be” Our youth put pressure on themselves too. Let us remind them what they look like through God’s eyes!

 

7) “The God I Know” by Love & the Outcome

“I threw my hands up, worries down…no strings attached when he saved my soul…you gotta know the God I know” –Remember that God tells us that if we believe in Him and follow him, we need to leave our worries, fears, dreams, broken hearts, stressed out souls in from of the Cross. He gives us freedom in that!

 

8) “You Never Let Me Down” by Marvin Winans Jr

— “you picked me up when I was down…” When we lose a contest or fail on a project, we often start that downward spiral. But when we think we fail, God is still in control. He is there to pick us up or remind us how much He loves us

 

9) “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective

“Nothing is impossible with you” No matter what is overplaying you or stressing you out, God can concur anything. He is on your side….just ask Him forward and sit back and watch the excellence that will come!

 

10) “Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney

“It’s the same fight all over again” – These fights will continue our whole lives. Let’s remember who our Breath is!

 

11) “Let Them Be Little” by Billy Dean

“Let them hope, give them praise, give them love every day.”  Our youth are pretty awesome, otherwise we wouldn’t be youth leaders. We learn from them! Let’s remember to step back from pushing our goals for them just enough to see where God is leading them.
12) “Intentional” by Travis Greene

“All things are working for my good” This is just a great reminder that everything God has for us are for our good! His are better! Spend time with God to let him tell you what His plans are for you, for your youth, for your family.

 

13) The Well by JJ Heller

“I followed my heart and it led me astray….I was chasing the wind, I should’ve chasing you” Sometimes we get sidetracked on our own little side projects. Let us keep going to the Well for our wisdom and strength.

 

14) “That’s What I Love about Sunday” by Craig Morgan

— “Not do much of anything, that’s what I love about Sundays” Remember those times where you just relax in the joy of peace of mind, praising the lord with your church family, catnapping, taking walks, etc. Let’s not let our schedules get so filled that we forget to Sabbath and remember that He is in control and it’s okay to rest without it adding more to our resumes or college applications.

 

15) “King of the World” by Natalie Grant

–“I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed. I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye.” Our human nature tells us that if we don’t do something, it won’t get done! But our God tells us to be still and KNOW that He is God….not us. I believe the King of the World can handle much more than I possibly could dream of.

 

Tune My Heart

Sibling Rivalry:  October’s Playlist

 

Pastors are so wise and in control of their feelings and they never fight!…that’s what I used to think, before I became one. Now I laugh at my naive self!

I am passionate about the work God has laid before me and that passion…can be misdirected sometimes when my co-workers are also passionate about a different route God has before them.

Neither of us are at fault completely,we both feel God is showing us the true way, but we have to be open to working together to make sure the work in our office gets done. Whether that’s the weekly bulletin, the website updates, leading the youth game for the week, working the soundboard, the lighting in the fellowship hall, or how the lawn is mowed. Sometimes, those tasks clash and we butt heads.

Sometimes we talk through it, but sometimes we stuff those feelings down in a box that we’ll just keep hidden below. What happens when that box overflows and explodes?

All that hurt and pain can seem like it’s coming out from nowhere, but really, it just needs sorted through a long time ago. Even now as I write this, I feel the need to keep peaking over my shoulder to make sure someone doesn’t see what I’m typing as if it’s illegal to talk about this issue we all go though. It is not healthy to hide that hurt and pain from everyone, but we do need to be wise about who and when we do share those with others.

Each situation is different so there is no answer how to resolve each problem, but hopefully this playlist can bring comfort, peace and hope knowing that conflict with our fellow brothers and sisters happens, conflict is normal, and God is working through us still. As we enter into this month on The Gathering Place to talk about faith & politics, there is no doubt a variety of opinions and perspectives on how to engage politically both on a national level…and a denominational one. Be encouraged that God holds everything together, even if we can’t quite seem to understand it all yet. Conflict will surround us until Jesus comes back, so we not only need to accept that, but learn skills to resolve the conflict before it rips us apart.

Blessings to you as God works in you and those you work with daily.

Ashley

 

 

 

 

 

~Ashley Litwiller is pastor of worship at youth at Arthur Mennonite, Arthur, IL. Email ashlit28@gmail.com to share your favorite songs to include in upcoming monthly playlists!

Why These Songs Were Chosen: (and a great tool to use for conversation starters with your own youth groups)

Losing by Tenth Avenue North— “I can’t believe what she said, I can’t believe what he did” …have you ever said this to yourself? We are soldiers of God…but there are times when we start to fight each other over a variety of things. Whether they are right or wrong, or we were wrong or right, admitting we are hurt needs to happen.

Praise You In This Storm by Casting Crowns–Surely, working in a church means all is well all the time because it’s God’s work!! We are humans carrying out God’s work so not everything done will be completely of God. That is our goal, but we will fail every now and then. Before we get to working on the conflicts, we need to remember to Praise Him because this is also part of his plan.

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice–Withdrawal yourself from hurt/fear – Come to Jesus. Sing to Jesus your worries, frustrations. Come to Jesus, whether by walking crawling, or running, just get there!

Come As You Are by Crowder–IT IS OKAY to continually come back to God in whatever form you are. We often share that with new believers, but it’s okay, healthy even, to be open and honest with ourselves about our current brokenness.

Put It On The Alter by Jessica Reedy–Don’t hide your pain away. Bring it forward!!!! Before you can move on from the hurt, you have to LEAVE it there!!

Come to Me by Jamie Grace–“I’ll give you rest from your burden” God will give us rest, we have to come to him and ask for it!

Please by my strength by Gungor--Sometimes, God is using you to help others follow him and being that rock is tough job, but stay strong! Keep praying for him to give the strength you need!

No Man is a Island by Tenth Avenue North–“I Know there’s friction here, the struggle makes us new”. We feel that friction daily sometimes. Individually, we cannot bring everyone to Jesus alone. We can not do all the work alone. We are not meant to live this life alone and we cannot rely on ourselves to get all the work done. Recognizing that we need each other is a good place in reconciliation.

Love Restores by Shine Bright Baby— Any reconciliation work cannot come from a foundation of contract or former commitment, it has to come from the foundation of love that God is in our lives. This will take time to sift down too most times, but God can do this if we let him restore it all.

Eve of the Storm (feat. Gabe Real) by Ryan Stevenson— Through a time of conflict resolution, God remains in control guarding us and surrounding us in love. Feel His comfort and peace knowing this.

Forgiveness by Matthew West— “It’s the hardest thing to give away..and the last thing on your mind today..it always goes to those who don’t deserve” …..BUT forgiving can “clear the bitterness away, set a prisoner free…there is no end to what its power can do.”

Same Kind of Broken (feat. Moriah Peters) by Jason Castro–We are all broken at times…”but we all need someone to love us where we are”. So please take a moment to lay aside differences and love each other where we are!

Brother (feat. Gavin DeGraw) by NEEDTOBEATHE–“We get a little restless from the searching, get a little worn down in between” working through conflicts is not easy, it does not feel good; it will leave marks! But we’re working towards a end result of healing. The healing process takes all your energy…so let’s be there for each other during those things.

THE River by Jordan Feliz–Just let that hymn about going down to the river to pray wash you in Amazing Grace!! Let’s go there together, we will be changed and never be the same.

Beautiful Things by Gungor–All this pain..is worth it! God makes beautiful things out of dust!! We may not see it now, but the messy conflict, gardens will come out of the ground God is creating between us now.

Simple Pursuit by Passion–“God take us back, the place we began-the simple pursuit of nothing but you” This is our reminder to let everything fade but God! Ultimately, if we’re doing His work, than its Him!

Reign in Us by Starfield–Ever since I was little, the beginning of time frustrates me because I can’t understand it! God thought of me even before my parents met each other. God is all-knowing, all-powerful….so I definitely want him reigning in me if I’m going to go do his work. “Come search our hearts and purify our lives” “We cry out for your love to refine us…define us…to keep us blameless until you return.”

Bonus: Together by Nathan Geiser (Not On Spotify)   — http://noisetrade.com/nathangrieser/the-worship-project
–This was a song sang at MCUSA Convention in Kansas City. My youth and I loved it so much, we brought it back to our church and Nathan gave us permission to use his incredibly beautiful song and message with our church family. “I will sing with you my rival, will you sing with me?” No matter our conflicts, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and that will not change. So let’s act like it and let our Lord bring us together for his purpose, for His plan. Our personal plans/purpose/thoughts/beliefs are human…God’s way is the only way. He is our God.

(Plug for Nathan here – He is just starting out, and has a new album out that he is taking donations for to help with his work. Check it out!)

 

Introducing, “Tune My Heart” playlist

 

TGP Playlist, “Tune My Heart”:

Before The Crazy Kicks InAsh2

When we get asked what it’s like to be in ministry, especially youth ministry, one adjective I hear used is ‘crazy’…but quickly followed by others such as “incredible”, “life-changing”, and ‘the greatest gift’. As I considered which playlist to start out our year with, I thought of one current favorite song of mine. Francesca Battestilli sings of that quiet moment –the one before her kids wake up and the craziness of her day begins. She knows that quiet time with God is essential to caring out her calling every day. We all have distractions: kids, spouses, roommates, animals, neighbors, phone calls or internet. Whatever our distractions may be, we need to find a way to tune them all out for some much needed quiet time with God. Each of us need to find our own unique way to do that.

For me, music helps me tune out the world. When I am between morning devotions, and sometimes even after them, the way I tune things out is this: I wake up, turn on my playlist and get ready for the day. All the while, my mind tries to fast forward to things going on the rest of the day, and each song reminds me to focus in on the reason God created me and what I need to focus on: to keep God at the center of my day and remember this is HIS work, not mine.

Each song on this playlist represents a step in the process of morning time with God that prepares us for the day. I listen to this playlist in the morning before I head to the office, before a youth trip, or an important meeting, but you can use it whenever you wish!

 

1)      “When The Crazy Kicks In” by Francesca Battistelli

Like I said above, Francesca sings of that quiet moment before her kids wake up and the craziness of her day begins, she knows that quiet time with God is essential to carrying out her calling every day. We all know it’s going to happen, we can’t escape it; working in the chaos is what God calls us to do!

2)      “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz

The beat of this song is awesome because the verses, which speak to the “keep moving, keep rolling” attitude of our culture, are driven by drums and constant beat. The chorus then immediately stops and all you hear is a soft piano, which represents the quiet time with God. I used this to go with a sermon I gave a few months ago and I had many people of all ages tell me that it spoke to them…so that in itself reminds us we can never outgrow the chaos.

3)      “Lord, I’m Ready Now” by Plumb

Sometimes we know that we need to spend that quiet time…but we skip over it because we’ve got too much to do. This is a song to remind us to give ourselves an attitude check. If we get into the habit of fast forwarding through it, we don’t fully plug into God and the humble attitude we need to have when coming to God and when we go forth from that time with Him.

4)      “Outta My Mind” by Anthem Lights

We are educated people! We have a lot of great ideas! We are really excited for our next project! …BUT sometimes, let’s be honest – most times, God has other plans. So this is a reminder that we have to get out of our own way, out of our own mind, to let God be the foundation to all we do the rest of the day.

5)      “Burn It All Down” by Lexi

I instantly loved this song. Sometimes, what we think God has is store…is really of our own making. It’s a humbling experience to ask Him to ‘burn down’ our plans to let God build from the foundation and ‘leave only [God}”.

6)      “Blessed Assurance” by Alan Jackson

This brings me back to my roots with this old hymn (and the twang of country). “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!” No matter what I do wrong or miss, Jesus is still my savior. He chose to save me! No matter what happens the rest of the day, that fact will not change! Hallelujah!!

7)      “First” by Lauren Daigle

“Before I bring my needs, I will bring my heart” Before we start to ask God to help us with events of the day, I’m going to bring my heart to God because I want to find Him. Once we remind ourselves who God is and what he’s done, how can we not want to fully praise him?! To just rest in the moment of His glory!

8)      “Thy Will” by Hilary Scott & The Scott Family

Whatever we may think we want to accomplish today, let’s remind ourselves the God’s plan is better than ours. We usually learn that lesson the hard way. But by reminding us of this every morning, maybe we’ll listen more to him! (Hey, it’s worth a shot!)

9)       “Steal My Show” by tobyMac

This song was actually the first one I added to the list. My entire first year of ministry I would strive to be prepared 30 min before our weekly youth meeting so I could just turn on this song, lay flat on the floor, close my eyes, and remind myself to let the Spirit lead. If God wants to me to use the planned lesson, or even steer us in a different direction, LET him. It’s his stage, we’re just the microphone!

10)   “Hymn Mash-Up, Pt 2” by Anthem Lights

Growing up in my family, you didn’t even have to try to memorize the hymns because every family gathering with would sing “the best ones”. So as I grew, finding ways to mix up the melody but keep the message of them was something I found exciting! In our relationships with God, the quiet time with Him may look different as we age and as we grow in that relationship. Incorporating the new with the old is a way to make the transition better!

11)   “Fix My Eyes” for King & Country

As we move out from our quiet time into the world, the distractions will slowly but SURELY surround us so what an awesome reminder to keep our eyes FIXED on Jesus.

12)   “All to You” by Kutless

“I’m yours, here to reflect who you are” All we do will point to him. Every step we take points to him. One downsize of our calling is our steps are watched even more than others, so we have to remember this as we start walk into our daily lives.

 

13)   “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall)” by Shane & Shane

“You call me out upon of the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail” One thing I’m realizing as I draw-up things like sponsor ‘job descriptions’ because people always want to know what they are getting into. Ministry is not like that. God calls us to follow him blindly and sometimes we may see where he is calling us to, but we look at him like he’s lost his marbles because we aren’t qualified to do it. But something a wise mentor constantly reminds me is that “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” Trust his call for today! Let him lead you; trust him without borders.

14)   “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe

One quality I feel like we need to have in our daily lives is to care for the ones around us. Caring for others is a sticky business. Pain is part of that. “Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it all just falls apart…I will run to you cause I know that you are lover of my soul healer of my scars, you steady my heart” When the boat gets rocky and messy, trust him!

15)   “Ready or Not” by Britt Nicole feat. Lecrae

When you watch a child playing hide and seek, you can see them get a little impatient while the counting part happens…but then they finally get to shout it out and warn everyone they’re coming!! Their face lights up! This song gets me pumped for the task ahead of me. (This is also on my workout playlist.) Experiencing many different gym environments, one thing that is always a little awkward and sometimes embarrassing is when others stop to watch you do a certain exercise. I learned a long time ago that MOST of the time, looking different during a workout is completely normal. There are also times in our ministry where we stand out from the others around us. THAT’S SUPPOSE TO HAPPEN. Remember, God gave each of us different gifts and mindsets! While we should continue to have an accountability partner or group to keep us in check and keep the Kingdom of God as the goal, we also need to be ready to shine our light that may be a different shade that the person next to you. Don’t let your shine reflect the others around you; let it reflect the God that is in you! Live it Loud! “Ready or Not, Here I Come”

16)   “300 Violin Orchestra” by Jorge Quintero

My team in college had this song as the final on our warmup cd. It doesn’t have any words. To me, this song encourages confidence and a great walking beat out the door of my house as I move to start the day. As our time with God comes to a close for the time being, the confidence we feel after knowing that God will lead the way and he’s got this under control is pretty spectacular! Sometimes, words fail to represent that feeling. So a song with no words seems the perfect way to transition into the battlefield we call our office or our youth trip or our meeting.

 

I hope each of you can find that time with God and I hope this can be a helpful tool for you! If you have a song that helps you prepare for your day, please share! After all, this site isn’t for our platform. This site is a tool to pull the best helpful tools together and work towards his kingdom!

Blessings to you all! Time for the crazy to kick in!!

Ashley

 

 

 

 

 

Ashley Litwiller received my call to youth ministry when I was in high school and making my college decision. I took a leap of faith and went 6 hours away for school. God continues to keep His promises that he made. Now with one full year of part-time youth ministry under my belt, I’ve been able to experience the complex task God calls us to of loving the youth in our congregations. I am incredibly blessed by each youth and young adult I get to work with. Being a young, single, female pastor licensed towards ordination is not the easiest task God has called me too, but I love knowing I am following his leading.

My childhood in a rural village in central Illinois is where my love of song began. I have two loving parents, three younger siblings, and one very precious niece. I was born with a gift for music I’ve been told; most people in my family are. My grandfather led music for 60 years at our small country church. My dad is part of a southern gospel quartet, along with one of my aunts. My mom has sang her whole life as well. It is still common for us to roam around the house singing a tune. We would sing at ANY family gathering. Because of my upbringing, I have a deep love for four-part harmony, as well as contemporary melodies. Putting words together to form coherent sentences was never a strong suite of mine…but when a friend asked me how I felt about something, I could find some song to send to them and say, “THIS is what I mean!” When I would go through something difficult, I would make a playlist of songs to help ease the pain or increase the joy pouring out at the time. I’m excited to share with you all some of these playlists and even hope we can make new ones together. Email ashlit28@gmail.com to share your favorites.

 

Pentecost–Taking Courage and Delight in God’s call

As we enter into our theme of Sustainable Youth Ministry this month, I find it interesting that it is also colliding with the Church season of Pentecost.

The story of Pentecost always memorized (and terrified) me as a little girl.  Tongues of fire, wind howling–the Spirit’s presence comes. This Spirit transformed floundering fishermen and bumbling disciples to preachers and prophets.  Voices were found, gifts were transformed, courage, boldness, and power discovered. The Church birthed.

In sum, Pentecost brings life. But life comes through fire and wind. Growth comes out of the friction of heat and swirling of wind. Both fire and wind refine in their own way, consuming or shaking loose those things  which are not essential, making room for the Spirit’s re-creating presence.

Even Moses, who first discovered this God-Presence as a burning bush. On fire but not consumed. Ready with the call to reclaim life to God’s people.

By: Paul Koli

By: Paul Koli

In Exodus 3, where Moses encounters this peculiar bush, it reads, “Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!'”

Notice that before God speaks, God waits for Moses to notice God’s presence. This is an important characteristic of God: God chooses to patiently wait for us.

Friends, our lives as youth workers are busy.  We often feel the heat of the burn(out), as opposed to the heat of the Spirit’s flame. There are schedules to keep, programs to run, volunteers to coordinate, youth to manage. But sustainable youth ministry starts with us. It begins by us slowing down and taking notice.  It starts with us lingering to see where God is already blazing in our life and work.  As we “turn aside” (take notice) those burning bushes are in our own lives and remember again that God is near, new life blooms.

Perhaps that is why the color of this season following Pentecost is green, the color often associated with life and growth. “Green signals health and the presence of the invisible but powerful forces at work bringing earth to harvest. So with the fruit of faithfulness; It grows daily, unremarkably, into a harvest of abundant life for all of God’s people” (Susan Blain, Imaging the WORD, 21).

That is why the spiritual formation element of The Gathering Place is central. We must tend to ourselves if we hope to tend to the faith in our youth. Utilize the resources available to you here:  spiritual direction, retreat, contemplation via art.

Let The Gathering Place help you find that space to ‘turn aside’ and take notice.