Lean forwardBy Trent Anderson, Community Life Team Member, from Newville, Pa.
During my time in the military we had an expression: "Lean Forward." It meant be prepared for the future and brace for the unexpected. In 2009 at the "Jesus, Justice, Jazz" Gathering some adult leaders were caught off-guard or not prepared to feed their youth group upon arriving in New Orleans. In the first days of the 2009 Gathering some participants found fast food restaurants that either had wait times of an hour or more or that were sold out of food. The city of New Orleans is making plans to handle our return but there are steps we can take to ensure our youth are not left standing in a line for hours on end waiting for a hamburger they can get back in their home town. In the modern age of technology there are two mobile applications that stand out above the rest and will make your time in New Orleans go smoother. The first is Yelp and the second is OpenTable; click on the links to see what restaurants each has in New Orleans. These two applications are available on most smart phones and both help make dining decisions easier. Yelp and OpenTable are free to download and use. Both offer a unique perspective of local dining but they are worlds apart in ease of use and fundamental purpose. OpenTable is the more streamlined of the two apps. It has an easy to use restaurant finder that works in conjunction with your phone's GPS, to help find places to dine locally. It additionally allows a user to search other locations. With a list of 191 other cities and regions it is an application that is useful beyond the city of New Orleans. The restaurants listed are rated in two manners, first they are listed by a star rating and second with a dollar rating. The star rating is developed by reviews from known restaurant critics and published restaurant guides such as Diners Choice and Toptable.com. These reviews are mixed with the reviews of the casual diner to help form a realistic review of a restaurant. The second rating is the dollar rating which reflects the estimated price of a dinner entree with one drink and a tip. The dollar break is as follows: $$ = $30 and under, $$$ = $31 to $50, $$$$ = $51 and over. Lunch at these restaurants usually costs 25 percent less. The "dollar" ratings are established by the restaurants featured and are updated frequently. This app has its pros and its cons. OpenTable works with the restaurants it features; therefore a diner can get deep discounts and coupons to a restaurant they may have otherwise overlooked. The second major pro is that OpenTable allows users to book reservations six months out. This feature can save group leaders a fair amount of headache by allowing them to build an itinerary early. The major flaw of OpenTable is that it only allows you to book reservations of $30 or more per person. This is acceptable if you and your group want to have one nice, fine dining meal while in New Orleans but what about the rest of your time at the Gathering? That is where Yelp comes in. Yelp is an application that was started in 2004 to allow users to rate and review any business, from auto parts stores to zoos. It is currently in over 66 major markets and growing into smaller ones. Yelp is a completely user-feedback driven application, while it does sell advertising space to businesses, the ratings and reviews are from real customers in near real time. Part of what makes Yelp special is that it is versatile. If you and your group want Chinese food one night while in New Orleans, Yelp has 84 locations listed within a mile of the Convention Center. Yelp lists every restaurant that a user posts a review for, from standing-room only diners to the five-star restaurants of the French Quarter. This feature is both a pro and a con. It allows users to be flexible with their dining options but at the same time it feels like opening a phonebook and looking at an endless list of choices. The pros and cons to Yelp are numerous. On the positive side, Yelp not only links to your smart phone's GPS to find your location but also interfaces with Google Maps to give you walking directions. It also lists restaurants that fall under the $30 mark set by OpenTable. Another pro is that Yelp allows you to search for cultural items such as the French Quarter Walking Tour and Jackson Square without using a map. The con to Yelp lies in its reservation-booking feature. Yelp has recently contracted with OpenTable to share their reservation software, so in essence you are taking more steps to book a restaurant and not getting the discounts that OpenTable has to offer. In addition to being more cumbersome in the reservation-booking process, Yelp only allows you to book three months in advance. This short coming may set you back and prevent you and your group from getting into a nice restaurant. The other con to Yelp is that some of the reviews posted tend to be rants about one diner's poor service or cold food. Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry know that there are off nights and unfortunately users must spend time wading through these bad reviews. In the end Yelp and OpenTable are very useful tools that should be added to every leader's bag of tricks. Just like carrying water and Band-Aids, these two mobile apps will become useful when you least expect it. Yelp will help get you to where you want to be and ensure that you have fun along the way and OpenTable will help you secure that one meal that may be the cornerstone of your group's Gathering experience. Why not download both apps and have your youth decide which they like better? In the end it is better to "Lean Forward" into the unknown and be prepared to walk as "citizens with the saints" than to spend time waiting in lines, missing all that the Big Easy has to offer.
Director's blog -- blogs.elca.org/youthgathering"So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:8) This verse from the second lesson on Sunday, October 23, 2011, jumped out at me. Youth and adults who attended the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering could have written that to the people of New Orleans. Whether they know it or not, through their presence in New Orleans ELCA youth and adults are modeling a way of being in mission that defines our church. This form of mission is about relationship-building, about deep investment -- emotionally, physically, mentally, financially and spiritually, and it is about self-emptying. This way of being in mission is called "accompaniment." "The ELCA Global Mission unit defines accompaniment as walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. In this walk, gifts, resources and experiences are shared with mutual advice and admonition to deepen and expand our work within God’s mission." Working within God's mission | Read more »
Citizens with the saints tour updateIn preparation for the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, people are gathering in over 20 cities across the country for a day of music, storytelling and worship. The citizens with the saints Tour features artists from the Gathering, including Agape* (David Scherer) and Rachel Kurtz. This is an event for your youth group that you won’t want to miss!What is it? A chance to:
To date, the tour has been attended by more than 1,700 youth and leaders and collected over $23,000 for ELCA World Hunger. With 11 dates still to come there is still time to catch the tour live. If you would like to contribute, you may do so here.Next adult training webinar:
Connecting to the congregationHave you lost the posters that your congregation received back in December? Did they languish on someone else's desk and never even make it to you? Do you want a poster with the new artwork on it to hang on your bulletin board? The ELCA Youth Ministry Network Tech Geek explains how to print out a tiled poster to replace the one you have, or maybe never had, in this article. Or order a Gathering banner from OldLutheran.com.
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