"AND MY GUT WANTED TO SCREAM!
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?!?!?! OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!!!"
Read about church fatalism in our newest post on the Church v Sports blog.
"AND MY GUT WANTED TO SCREAM!
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?!?!?! OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!!!"
Reflections on #BlackLivesMatter and other Progressive Rally Cries:
If someone criticizes the Westboro Church and their hateful ways, I don't jump to their defense, and I don't see it as a criticism of my own ministry because I know the difference between good ministers that use their office to help people and bad ministers who abuse their power in ways that hurt the world. In fact, I am one of the voices that criticizes churches like the Westboro Church because their malpractice is a blight on all religion. Their racism/homophobia/BadTheology/etc/etc sullies the robe I wear. I became a minister not because I idolized the ministry but because I wanted to make it better, which takes honest self-reflection and critique.
In the same way, I hope any friends I have who serve valiantly as cops or in the military or who have loved ones in the service know that my critiques of the law enforcement system or the military industrial complex are not anti-cop rants, but are in fact rooted in a deep understanding of the value of your sacrifice and your labor. My critiques come from a deep desire to honor the respectable way with which you conduct yourselves. When I criticize what happened in Ferguson or New York, it's not a criticism of you, it's that I can't stand to see your uniform sullied by the missteps of a few or the few shortfalls of the noble system you serve, just as I can't stand the shortfalls of the system I serve.
If the Pope can stand in front of the Vatican and openly declare the 15 ills of church leadership, as he did recently, if the Pope can critique the church not because he's anti-church but because he loves the church so much that he wants to uphold it to its highest ideals, then certainly we can do the same with our law enforcement, not because we're anti-cop, but because we love our wider national community so much that we want to uphold our system to its highest ideals.
WE HAVE A NEW MINISTRY!!!!!!
It's a blog about Youth Ministry and facing the dominance of the sports culture.
"CHURCH v SPORTS"
How My Church Went From 8 Active Youth to Well Over 50
Taking on the sports culture and winning
Here's the first blog post!!!!!
WHY SHOULD YOU BOTHER READING THIS BLOG?
My first year leading the High School Youth Group in Redding, CT was touch-and-go. By the end of my first programatic year, I had around 8 kids who came regularly. As a product of an unbelievably strong Youth Group myself, that was a tough number to swallow.
Spoiler Alert: By the end of my third year, I had over 50 kids, not just participating, not just attending, not just part of the youth group, but LEADING Sunday morning worship. On one single Sunday, I got 50 kids excited to create, organize, and lead a worship experience. We went from 8 kids to over 50!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to that first year...
Knowing that the Youth Group had long existed in various forms, I assumed all I had to do was provide exciting programming and the rest would fall into place. What I found was that not only did I have to create exciting programming, but I had to explain to kids - - even convince the kids -- why that programming was worth doing at church.
Actual conversations I had multiple times that first year -
Me: Hey [high schooler who’s been part of this church since you were a baby]! You should come to do [awesome event I’ve put hours of planning into] with the Youth Group on Sunday.
Youth: Um... Maybe...
Me: You can even bring your friends!
Youth’s Mom: Yeah. You could invite [your bestie]!
Youth: Why would [my bestie] want to come to Youth Group?
[subtext: why would I want to come to Youth Group]
Me: uh..... [explain awesome event again]
Youth: Right... but why would I go to church to do that?
I’d never had to articulate that question before, even in seminary. Well, maybe I did, but not in a way that a 16 year-old girl would care about.
Luckily, having faced difficulties in past youth group start ups, I was mentally prepared to face the unexpected.
Before we get into what I’ve learned and how I’ve faced down sports, I think it’s important to cover a few basics about my philosophy for working with youth in church:
1.) It’s all about the kids.
Find out what they’re interested in. Do that.
When I worked at Camps, our boss used to say “Camp is for the campers.” It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprisingly hard to put into practice. Just because I want to talk about Jesus, doesn’t mean that’s what we should be doing.
In seminary we’d express the same thing by saying, “Meet people where they’re at.”
I’ve learned time and time and time again that Youth Ministry (or church as a whole) doesn’t work when you try to impose your ideal program onto a group when it’s not what they want or need, and even if they do want/need it maybe aren’t ready for it. You have to start where they are, and work towards
2.) Get them invested in me. Then get them invested in each other.
I saw my first year as me building relationships with the kids. I saw the second year as getting them to build relationships with each other. I saw the third year as getting them to build relationships with the church.
3.) Make church THEIR place.
Too much of church is adult space for adults. It’s important to have kid space for kids. Then it’s important to give adults a taste of that too.
A major part of this is to give kids opportunities to bring their passions and talents into the church arena.
4.) Relationship with multiple adults in the church community is crucial.
This is an area where I still fail. I can’t for the life of me recruit consistent non-parent adult leaders. I have had some minor successes. However, I’ll cover their transient and temporary nature in a later post.
I bring this us now for a specific reason, though. I want to be honest about my own limits. I don’t want to present this blog as an expert treatise on the perfected science of youth ministry. It’s more of a reflection on some experiments that seem to be working. In that regard, please e-mail me about your own experiments in Youth Ministry that have failed or succeeded. My successes may not work in your church and vice versa, but, as with God, in the sharing of our unique experiences, we might just find some kernel of truth.
Following these guiding principles, and adapting them in light of everything I have learned in my quest to face the culture of sports head on, our church’s Youth Group has steadily fortified with each new season.
On a regular “Chill Night” (as I call them), I typically expect anywhere from 15 to 25 high schoolers. Kids regularly invite their non-church friends, even brag to their friends about the awesomeness of our Youth Group. Our special events can run upwards of 30.
Now, it’s important to remember that numbers aren’t everything. In fact, they’re a terrible way to measure the success of a program. Sometimes, large numbers can even be the death of a great program.
So I offer you this snapshot of one of my proudest moments. In June 2014, on Pentecost Sunday, we held our annual Youth Sunday. While the world complains about how hard it is to even get young people to church, we had 50 teens in church, leading worship. 50 kids for a mission trip is one thing. 50 kids going on a ski retreat is one thing. 50 kids at laser tag is one thing. But 50 kids, coming to church, on a Sunday morning, standing up in front of the church, excited to LEAD worship for the entire church is a whole other thing. That’s not measuring success by a number alone, that’s measuring success the quality and spirituality of the experience. We had 3 high schoolers preaching. We had 10 kids acting out scripture. We had 15 playing in the band, and not “cool” praise music. They played everything from traditional hymns to gospel 1 to silly kids’ songs. We had people praying by spiking beach balls in the air. There was laughter. There were shouted prayers from 5-year-olds and 90-year-olds. Church was fun. Church was meaningful. Church was full: full of the Holy Spirit, full of people.
I’m not here to pretend I have the best Youth Group in the world, although we’re pretty damn close. =) I’m not here to tell you how you should run your youth group either. I’m just here to share the joy of success, to spread the good news, to proclaim the gospel that the church is alive and well in the world. And then maybe we’ll be able to draw strength and inspiration from one another.
I focus my writing on the sports culture: what the church can learn from it’s successes, how the church can overcome it’s idolatry, how the church can compliment it’s good works. When people lament the waning of the church, they often point to the waxing of the sports culture. My first post will tell you how I decided to face this invincible giant. Each post after that will illuminate successes, failures, and lessons learned along the way.
Our first homemade project, the band MotherHen is up and running! Check them out!
Today, on this 13th anniversary, we rang our steeple bell to celebrate life, and all who safeguard it, and all who shelter it, and all who risk it for good, and all who lost it in tragedy, all whom we carry with us still today and everyday in our heart of hearts. May we ever be perpetrators of peace and compassion. May we be mercenaries of mercy and forgiveness. May we be bearers of good news for all peoples. Let us never confuse terror for faith. Let us instead reach out in love, with love, and reach out again, and reach out again, and reach out again, always with a listening ear, always with a discerning mind, always with an awe for possibility. In this way, our grief will not be forgotten, but neither will it be our god, for our God is the God of Resurrection, New Life, Love. Hallelujah.
I spent a semester as a teacher in a public middle school.
You know what I miss about teaching?
You didn't have to spend any time recruiting.
The kids were required to show up every day.
So I got to spend just about all of my energy on
building community and making my program the best it could be.
Now as a minister I spend 90% of my time on recruiting
so I only have about 5% of my energy left to work on building community
and only 5% of my energy actually making the program awesome.
We need to fix that about church somehow.
Less time recruiting.
More time making Church awesome.
That's all to say, we are currently in recruiting mode.
Building up our collective of authors.
Trying to make this a thing.
God said let there be light...
and so we shone all over the cosmos.
Welcome to the brand new Breach Collective!
We are live. We are living. We are loving.