So, What’d You Do At Work Today?
The best book I’ve ever read regarding student ministry is a book called “Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church” by Kenda Creasy Dean. I use it as a text in training our staff.
Yesterday was one of my training sessions with Kristy. We were going over the last chapter and it gave me a chance to review some deeply held beliefs I have about ministry and it sparked great discussion with Kristy which oozed into a conversation with Nathan. It was a highly provocative and inspirational discussion, too. Those adjectives generally don’t describe me, so I surround myself with good people who can do them for me.
Yeah. That happened at work.
Yeah. I still dig the student ministry gig.
Anyway, I thought I’d let you guys in on our discussion with the quotes that provoked it and a few thoughts of my own on each one.
The first quote:
“In fact, ministry to youth in any culture calls for radical discipleship, for Christian witness also grows out of an unshakeable conviction that Jesus loves us enough to die for us and calls us to love in equal measure. This is how adolescents want to love and to be loved; they yearn for the utter fidelity, the all-surpassing transcendence, the total communion that promises ’till death do us part.’ No passion–personal, political or religious–overrides Christ’s ability to make good on this promise, for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveal God’s indefatigable mercy, immeasurable purpose, and undefeatable love.”
A few thoughts:
“Radical discipleship.” I find this a challenging statement because there’s a great deal of things about my ministry that aren’t necessarily “radical” but somewhat beneficial. So, some questions that come to mind would be along the lines of “How can an in-home small group be ‘radical?'” “How does a large-group Sunday School class become “radical?” It has to be more than teaching with a video clip or candles with acoustic music or breaking into small groups. What is scary to me is that I view “radical” to mean teaching truth unashamedly and unapoligetically in creative and innovative ways, authentic worship experiences through a variety of practices, prayer as an attitude we sometimes verbalize, and true fellowship. Maybe even meals together.
This quote is also the best way I know to describe to the preceeding generation what the younger generation wants in “church.” I know whenever the word “emergent” is used it freaks people out, but the younger generation wants these very things: Unshakeable convictions about Jesus Christ. Communion with fellow believers in meaningful and authentic ways. Passionate (not necessarily emotional) friends who sharpen and encourage them. As a member of the “preceeding generation” it would behoove us all to start asking how those phrases will “flesh out” before anyone born before, say 1985. We’d also do well to start asking what our current congregation is doing that doesn’t fit those bills and get rid of those, and then start asking what we need to be doing NOW to create communities that look like this one. There’s things we do well and things we need to work on for the now, and there’s things we do well that will serve us well in the future and things we need to work on that if we don’t correct will hinder us in the future. In no way do I view that as a negative critique, but rather an honest evaluation of where we are and where we’d like to be.
The second quote:
“Cultural pressure not to ‘overdo it’ cannot contain the passion of God. The adolescent transformed by God’s passion cannot supress it or ‘tone it down’ without compromising the ecstatic reach of the Holy Spirit. This young person discovers that Christ has made her into someone capable of toppling some of society’s most cherished ideals, beyond the Christian community and even within it.
Conformity, therefore, is never the outcome of Christian practice; oddity is the outcome of Christian practice. Youth ministry is not about the corporate mimicry of Jesus. It is about incorporating young people into the self-giving love of God that is loose in the world.”
A few thoughts:
I don’t like the inference that we have a cultural pressure as congregations to get our young people to supress their passions. Unfortunately I agree with it. I see it, but in order to give examples I’d have to use my own congregation and I’m a bit uncomfortable with that in this forum…but I do bring them up behind the scenes to those that have influence. They aren’t necessarily in disagreement with the observation but we have different views on the causes and the solutions. I view the discussion as healthy and think they do as well.
One of the aspects of Jesus life that I’m drawn to is the revolutionary side of Him, so obviously, I’m drawn to the idea of flipping not only society’s cherished ideals but also the Christian community’s ideals upside down. I get discouraged when I hear moms talk about how they want the church to be a “safe place” for their kids or see an advertisement for Christian radio that says “safe for the whole family.” I’m not sure “safe” is necessarily good. What I do know is that spirituality has nothing to do with college or middle-class or good grades. What I also know is that those things can enhance spirituality, too. Or at least be the result of spirituality.
The flip-side is that it’s pretty easy to topple anything but it’s much more difficult to tear it down with the intent of building something else in it’s place. It can’t be destruction of ideals for the very sake of destruction. It has to be a positive re-construction…which may or may not involve demolition of various ministries or practices we have in place.
It’s also easy to take shots at conformity as well. But what makes a spiritual oddity? I mean, it’s gotta be more than tatoos and long hair. But khaki-wearing Republicans have their place in the Kingdom, too. And is it conformity to drive a Toyota? Seems difficult to find out what the end result of oddity is. Can you be odd and vote Republican or be a cheerleader or a homemaker or a schoolteacher? Does it make you a conformist if you like those things? Seems to me the oddity is not found in the appearance, but rather the authentic walk with Christ and your pereception of WHY you are a homemaker or have tattoos or cheerlead or vote or wear khakis…assuming your measuring them with Truth…makes you odd. So, I’m guessing that a khaki-wearing accountant with a wife and two kids could actually be radical if it’s done His way. And a long-haired tattooed pastor who wears Birkenstocks could be a conformist of sorts if done the world’s way.
And the “corporate mimicry of Jesus.” What’s scary is that too many youth ministries have bought into that. Again, I can’t really point it out without harming some good folks in good ministries in other churches (and there are spots in mine I’d rather not air here, thank you very much) but it’s gotta be real, man. Kids will eat you alive if you don’t…or, more likely, just vote with their feet and go somewhere else.
So, what I left my staff with was this:
How do we model an authentically passionate walk with Christ and allow it to shape us in genuinely odd ways? How do we create a ministry that does these very things in the lives of our students?
Which is why I pay them the big money. I’ll let you know what they come up with.
And if you’ve got anything along those lines, I’m all ears.
But, yeah…I had fun at work today. Sorry if I muddied the waters on this more than I helped you, but they are huge & meaningful issues, man. I’m not through thinking about them, either. I just started. So, bear with me while I think out loud.