The Diner Interview, Part 1

NOTE: Since my return from vacation, people have been e-mailing, calling, or dropping by to ask me questions about my “return” to student ministry. The questions tend to be very similar, so I thought I’d just compile them and ask them to myself in the form of an interview. So, until I get tired of this bit, I’ll do my best to answer the questions over our daily cup o’ joe.

The Diner: So, what’s the real story behind Nathan leaving?

Me: Well, to quote Nathan’s blog, “It’s cliché but true to say that the decision was not easy, however, as far back as the months prior to our wedding, Kim and I discussed whether God wanted us to stay at Crossroads. We knew that, at least for that time, CBC was where we needed to be. The question was brought up again in December of last year and this spring we took steps to see if God opened a way for us and presented a ministry opportunity. We received several inquiries from churches around the U.S. but the position at South Hills was unique among the ones we considered. The church is positioned in an area that is greatly lacking in solid, biblical teaching and ministry. South Hills stands to do great things there. It is a mission field in many ways and we are excited about a new chapter in ministry for us.”

So, while it’s always fun to develop conspiracy theories, it’s best to apply Ockham’s Razor (“Ockham’s Razor is the principle proposed by William of Ockham in the fourteenth century: “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”, which translates as “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”.) to this situation. Sometimes it’s as simple as praying and following what you believe to be God’s will.

Besides, as with most conspiracy theories, they’re really just idle talk. Oswald acted alone. End of story. But it’s awfully hard to make an interesting movie about that.

The Diner: So, are you excited to be coming back to student ministry?

Me: In the sense you’re asking the question that answer is unequivocally “yes.” But, see, the question presupposes that I actually “left” student ministry…and I’m not sure that’s how I view it. You have to remember the context of my transition a little over 18 months ago. Our church was in the midst of reorganization as we were without a teaching pastor and our current staff was sharing the Sunday pulpit load.

This reality required shifts of responsibility in all sorts of day-to-day operations, and at that time, I was functioning as the high-school director and had a 3/4 time assistant, Nathan was running middle school, and we each had hourly-wage assistants. One area we were fully staffed was our student ministry.

That staff was already planning some changes in student ministry to make us more effective as a ministry, and part of that would involve me working in a more formal manner with parents. This was based on my observations that if we really believed that parents were the primary disciplers of their teens, then we’d better design our ministry in that light.

So, I was the obvious choice to assume that role within student ministry. My desire was to focus on adult ministry in such a way that we were creating a “youth group for grownups.” You know…basically run a ministry for grownups that allowed them the same opportunities for students. Time in the word together. Praying with & for each other. Fellowship opportunities. Using your gifts & talents to serve and help the church mature. Mission trips. All that stuff, man. And all within a more “family friendly” context (which, as an added bonus, would align our student ministry better with the commitment to the family as espoused in our “values & beliefs” document at CBC)…which would give us a better chance to more effectively disciple teens.

And that’s where we were headed with our discipleship ministry at CBC, too. We did a lot of good things with our adult Christian education department over the last 16 months and placing me under that umbrella allowed me to work in other areas that CBC needed assistance with in addition to the focus on parents.

Well, over time, our church has been through some other staff transitions and with Nathan’s move I’m simply going to be diving into students’ lives again and continuing the plans that Nathan and our staff were developing all along. While over the next year or so I’ll be focusing on developing deep relationships with the teens in our ministry, I still believe that ministry with parents if vital and still want to give them their “youth group experience.” Early on, though, my focus has to be direct contact with students and serving them full-throttle.

So, I went a long way to say that, in my mind, I never really left student ministry. I was discovering and designing new ways to do it more effectively.

The Diner: Is this move an “interim” type move for you?

Me: Again, since I didn’t really view my situation as leaving student ministry, it’s hard for me to understand those type questions. But, in the sense you’re asking it, the answer is “no.” See, this year’s senior class of students has had an interesting journey, with their senior pastor stepping down, then their youth pastor being less accessible with his new responsibilities, and now their current youth pastor being called to the Pittsburgh area. That’s a lot of transition for a church that’s only had 3 youth pastors in their ENTIRE 20-YEAR+ HISTORY. It may not be much transition compared to other churches, but they’ve weathered it all well.

I say that to let you know that it would be the least loving thing I could do to accept the role with an “interim” tag on it. I guess that means I will eventually go to a high school football game having to use a walker with little cut-open tennis balls on the side that doesn’t have wheels on it.

The Diner: When do you start?

Nathan’s last day is August 15. So, I’ll be on the clock then. The weird thing is that I scheduled my vacation plans around an adult C.E. calendar which has a nice break in August…when a student ministry calendar is starting to ramp up (a student ministry calendar has nice breaks in October, December and July) attention. So, I have vacation from the 15th until the 24th. But we can get up to speed pretty quickly from where we are.

(cont’d tomorrow, and feel free to interview me yourself through the comment section and I’ll see what I can do to answer them!)