Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Quotes

Since Monday is my day off (though today I have budget meetings at night - an annual, unavoidable event), I am instituting a simple blog post - Monday quotes.  One will be ministry related and the other, just because.  

So here we go:

What is excruciatingly clear is that, in a postmodern context, evangelization cannot rest primarily on dispensing Christian information.  Believing in God is not the issue; believing God matters is the issue.
The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry
Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me.... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.
Steve Jobs

Sunday, January 22, 2012


My sophomore year of high school I was in British and World Literature for my lit course. We had to do a research paper on a novel written by a non-American author. The intended length was 5-7 pages. After weeks of research, hundreds of index cards (all color coded, labeled, and hyper-organized), I turned in a 23 page paper on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. To be honest, this novel was and remains my favorite novel. However, when I handed in that paper, my poor teacher looked at it and shook his head. He told me no one who wrote more than 10 pages has ever gotten an A, so I shouldn't get my hopes up.

A while later we got our papers back. I broke that track record.

I didn't write this to brag, but rather point out a rather annoying personal habit - the hyper research and over-achiever resides in me, aching for a project to be let loose upon.

I mentioned I was musing over the state of the youth ministry. Accordingly, I want food for thought. Thus, I have a reading list of books to read or re-read (listed merely in the order they happen to be stacked on my desk):
I'm also highlighting articles I find online and in Group Magazine and Youth Worker (thank you to Evernote for helping to make that more organized).

I'd be curious if anyone out there has recommendations on what to read, comments on what I already have on the list, or any other thoughts you might have to share.

I have realized it is far too easy to fall into the day to day work of youth ministry and allow ourselves to believe that doing the work is sufficient. We must also be equipped. Spiritually we need to connect with God in our own lives. Theologically we must be sound in our understanding. Scientifically we must have an understanding of the way people in our ministries think, feel, and act (following some psychology feeds and Tweets is a great way to get this in understandable, reasonable sized doses). Administratively we need to have the best tools possible in our hands, on our computers, and shared with our leaders.

This research project is a chance to really dive into the theology, philosophy, and best practices of youth ministry though several points of view. Now I just have to get started! Time to get a cup of tea, open up a new Evernote notebook, and keep my dog off my keyboard.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More Recent Musings

I have fallen terribly behind on my magazines. I just read one from July/August. I finally got to the November/December Youth Worker Journal and encountered the article "From Bondage to Freedom: A Journey Toward True Discipleship in Youth Ministry."

This article was very striking for me. It hit both on the personal and professional fronts.

As a certifiable type-A, having a list like the one in the article for what a "successful disciple" is, is inherently something I want to embrace. I want to be able to put the list in my little book or on my Toodledo account and know that I did my 'disciple thing' for the day. Oh boy, that is so not the way to live as a Christian. I know that, but some days I just don't know it. You know what I mean?

Then there's the youth ministry. I do have many people looking for the youth ministry 'product.' How many at that event? How many on the service trip? What events do you have? Numbers and action plans dictate much. And those are necessary, but they are not the be all and end all. It is so easy and so tempting to believe that if we do have the right numbers and complete the annual action plans we are doing 'good ministry' and making 'successful disciples.'

Now, it is entirely possible that we are if we do those things. But Clark's points about the freedom offered to live in the grace and love of God being the source of our relationship with God and not the legalistic check list is so crucial.

Over the next six months I am working with the teens, adult leaders, and parents to evaluate where the youth ministry is and where it should be going. I want to look at the how and why, not just what and how many. This article on true discipleship is now one of our readings. I really want to examine the concepts of evangelization and discipleship in our ministries.

What sort of disciples are you forming?

Perhaps more importantly, what sort of disciple are you? For people will follow your life more than your words.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Musings of Late

With the new year, I have found myself musing over a few things. Partly due to the fact that burrowing into a spare comforter on my sofa is the only thing I want to do when it is 4 degrees outside, partly due to the exhaustion of the winter service trip, and partly due to the realization I've been in the youth & young adult ministry game for 8 1/2 years all at the same parish.

First, I would just like to share my general displeasure with the whole 4 degrees thing. You should never be able to use one hand to share the temperature. Okay, glad I got that off my chest.

I have spent the last two weeks going through the topic of stress. It is exam time and with multiple schools feeding into the youth group, that means several weeks of absolutely stressed-out kids. Factor in those who missed a few days (due to their school starting earlier than every other school) for the service trip and then those who leave on March for Life, and I am surprised no one has spontaneously combusted.

However, I am hardly one to cast stones when the subject is stress and worry. (If you knew me in the week before and during the service trip, you'd be understanding this!) When I ducked my head into a co-worker's office yesterday and she asked what I was doing, I said preping things on God and stress. Her response, "What do those have to do with each other?" My reply, "Nothing! That's the point." It was a flippant exchange we had as we both were getting a bit loopy (it is also budget time here in the parish and several major events on the horizon in the next two weeks).

After mulling the idea over, I realized that is the whole point. When we stress and worry, we are doubting God. If we truly believe we are children of God and truly believe what he said in Matthew 6.25-34, then what are we doing getting caught up in stress and fear and worry?

Besides giving me the core of Sunday's youth group message, this has given me much to ponder. I am far too quick to wallow in worry. I stress far too easily. Besides the sad seperation this causes between God and me, it also affects my interactions with others. It can also become a downward spiral that is challenging to break out of. The endorphins of stress and procrastination can become a substitute for the love of God. And that is no way to live.